With the distressing elimination of Katherena Vermette’s The Break in week one, I lost all interest in Canada Reads for 2017. So in the wake of this unmitigated disaster, I’ve assembled a short list of texts I think all Canadians should be reading this spring.

Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada by Emma Battell Lowman and Adam J. Barker (Fernwood 2015)

Canada has never had an “Indian problem”— but it does have a Settler problem. But what does it mean to be Settler? And why does it matter?

Through an engaging, and sometimes enraging, look at the relationships between Canada and Indigenous nations, Settler: Identity and Colonialism in 21st Century Canada explains what it means to be Settler and argues that accepting this identity is an important first step towards changing those relationships. Being Settler means understanding that Canada is deeply entangled in the violence of colonialism, and that this colonialism and pervasive violence continue to define contemporary political, economic and cultural life in Canada. It also means accepting our responsibility to struggle for change. Settler offers important ways forward — ways to decolonize relationships between Settler Canadians and Indigenous peoples — so that we can find new ways of being on the land, together.

Indigenous Writes: A Guide to First Nations, Métis & Inuit Issues in Canada by Chelsea Vowel (HighWater 2016)

In 31 essays, Chelsea Vowel explores the Indigenous experience from the time of contact to the present, through five categories – Terminology of Relationships; Culture and Identity; Myth-Busting; State Violence; and Land, Learning, Law, and Treaties. She answers the questions that many people have on these topics to spark further conversations at home, in the classroom, and in the larger community.

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (Milkweed 2013)

Drawing on her life as an indigenous scientist, a mother, and a woman, Kimmerer shows how other living beings—asters and goldenrod, strawberries and squash, salamanders, algae, and sweetgrass—offer us gifts and lessons, even if we’ve forgotten how to hear their voices. In a rich braid of reflections that range from the creation of Turtle Island to the forces that threaten its flourishing today, she circles toward a central argument: that the awakening of a wider ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the earth, and learn to give our own gifts in return.

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