Summer reading with substance

Recommendations for summer reading usually focus on lighter books. I know I have a tendency to use the warm, sunny weather as an excuse to speed read my way through mysteries and thrillers, setting aside more serious reading for gloomier weather.

Mi’kmaw lawyer, professor and activist Pam Palmater wants to turn us in a different direction with her online national Reconciliation Book Club.

Each month, she will announce a book that she hopes “will foster conversations that help Canadians turn the page toward reconciliation.”

As she told the Toronto Star:

“How can we celebrate National Indigenous Peoples Day and have hot dogs and picnics when we haven’t addressed the National Inquiry’s finding of genocide? What do we do with all that? These are hard conversations. There’s a big lack of understanding, and I’m trying to bridge the divide between what people think they know about history and what they don’t know about right now.”

Just hit subscribe

Members of the Club (it’s easy to join – just hit the subscribe button under her YouTube video and you are a member) are encouraged to read each book and send Palmater questions and comments. At the end of the month, she will post a video review that incorporates readers’ comments and answers their questions.

Then, on to the next book.

So far, Palmater’s idea has received a very positive response from Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada and the United States. Teachers have told her they plan to work her book club into their curriculum. Park People, Canada’s city parks network, “is following the book club and using it to inform our work.” Others are sharing the book club with family members to initiate discussions around their dinner tables.

What’s on the list?

The first book is “Whose Land Is It Anyway? A Manual for Decolonization,” which is available free online as either a PDF or an ebook. It was published by the Federation of Post-Secondary Educators of B.C. and consists of essays written by leading Indigenous academics, writers and activists in Canada as well as two essays by former chief of the Neskonlith Band and Chairman of the Shuswap Nation Tribal Council, Arthur Manuel. Manuel, who died in 2017, was a lifelong activist at both the national and international levels and was a spokesperson for the Defenders of the Land:

“a network of indigenous communities and activists in land struggle across Canada – indigenous-led, free of government or corporate funding and dedicated to building a fundamental movement for indigenous rights.”

On July 27th, Palmater will review the book on YouTube, and readers can move on to the second book: “An Act of Genocide: Colonialism and the Sterilization of Aboriginal Women” by Karen Stote.

Let’s get started

The Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Calls to Justice of the National Inquiry on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women and Girls speak to the responsibility of the non-Indigenous population in this country to become better informed. So I, having never before joined a book club, signed up for this one as soon as I heard about it. It also appeals to me because I can participate from home, reading the books on my own schedule and watching Palmater’s book review videos when I have time.

I am not very far into the first book yet, but I am already inspired by the words of Bev Sellars, former chief of the Xat’sull First Nation in Williams Lake, British Columbia, who wrote in the Preface:

“I often imagine what might have happened if the newcomers were respectful of the indigenous peoples. I wonder what our lives would be if we learned from each other and took the best of our cultures for everyone? . . . Imagine if we could right the wrongs. What if we dared to believe that it is still possible to do that? The truth is, if you are armed with knowledge, you have the power to make it a reality.”

The Reconciliation Book Club offers one way for many of us to arm ourselves with the knowledge – let’s all join the conversation.

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