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Suggested Reads

Written and Recommended by: Deborah Chansonneuve

This reading list was developed in response to requests from participants at Minwaashin Lodge’s recent workshop titled “Strengthening Connections” – ‘Best Practices are Decolonizing Practices’ aimed at educating non-Indigenous service providers about an Indigenous approach to ending violence against women. As suggested, listings begin from basic 101’s to more advanced readings. I’ve further included as requested the titles of my two publications for the Aboriginal Healing Foundation.

Anderson. Kim (2000). Recognition of Being: Reconstructing Native Womanhood. Toronto: Second Story Press.

Ten years later and this is still one of my favourites! The author shows how colonialism undermined Native women’s traditional roles by constructing racist, sexist versions of Native women’s identity. Through acts of self-determination Native women are reclaiming their cultural traditions and creating positive, powerful images of themselves true to their heritage. This book links Indigenous women’s collective strength and vitality to recognition of a time when they were honoured and respected. It describes women’s work and commitment toward revitalize their roles in ways that are relevant to contemporary life.

Battiste, Marie (2005). Indigenous Knowledge: Foundations for First Nations. University of Saskatchewan, Regina, SK.

This paper examines the frameworks for understanding Indigenous knowledge. ‘Cognitive imperialism’ is identified as a form of cognitive manipulation used to deny other cultures their language and cultural integrity. Reversing this process is an act of intellectual self-determination and decolonization which is necessary or Aboriginal consciousness, language and identity to flourish without being hindered by further racist interpretation.

Clark, Erin (2009). Dangerous Intersections: An Examination of Approaches to Sexual Violence Against Native Women. Unpublished thesis, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

This BA thesis draws from the works of Andrea Smith and others who name violence against Native women as a form of colonialism that is enabled by the state, especially the legal system. The limitations of the mainstream VAW movement to address this violence are also discussed in terms of flaws and possible solutions.

Chansonneuve, Deborah (2005). Reclaiming Connections: Understanding Residential School Trauma Among Aboriginal People. Aboriginal Healing Foundation, Ottawa:ON.

This manual was developed as an educational tool for service providers about direct and intergenerational impacts of residential schooling and other strategies of colonization so they can better serve Indigenous people who access their programs. By beginning with a description of pre-contact Inuit, Métis and First Nation history and cultures, it promotes a strength-based approach that links healing strategies with self-determination and revitalization of Indigenous knowledge, values and practices.

Chansonneuve, Deborah (2007). Addictive Behaviours Among Aboriginal People in Canada. Aboriginal Healing Foundation Research Series, AHF, Ottawa:ON

Stating that “No other population group in Canada’s history has endured such a comprehensive, deliberate, and prolonged assault on their human rights” ,this report places addictive behaviours in the context of colonialism and its strategies of genocide and ethnocide. Includes a chronology of activities toward health and healing through cultural revitalization, as well as promising practices drawn from successes in prevention and intervention.

Fournier, Suzanne and Ernie Crey (1997). Stolen from our Embrace: The Abduction of First Nations Children and the Restoration of Aboriginal Communities. Vancouver, BC: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd.

This classic in the field provides a powerful account of residential school abuses and underscores the horrific impacts of profound racism among non-Aboriginal church, government, police and ‘child welfare’ authorities that led to the devastation of Aboriginal families and communities in Canada. The stories reflect courage in the struggle against unjust systems as well as the restorative power of grassroots human rights activism and healing.

Freeman, Victoria. (2000). Distant Relations: How My Ancestors Colonized North America. Toronto, ON: McClelland & Steward Ltd.

At 535 pages, this book is a well-researched and honest personal account of colonization and its impacts from a non-Indigenous perspective. Using her own family history, she makes a compelling case for Canadians to take responsibility for their own decolonization and for insisting Canada be accountable for living up to its image as a world leader in human rights.

Highway, Tomson (2003). Comparing Mythologies. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press.

Read anything by Tomson Highway!! This book is especially fun – it’s a transcript of his University of Ottawa lecture in 2003 where he compared Greek mythology (polytheism), Christianity (monotheism) and Cree mythology (pantheism). Highway is a writer who celebrates matriarchy and women’s creative power – and he’s funny and irreverent with an unfailingly wise acuity.

Jaimes,Guerrero, M. Annette (2003). “Patriarchal Colonialism” and Indigenism: Implications for Native Feminist Spirituality and Native Womanism. Hypatia (June 2003), 18 (2), pg. 58-69.

Identifying the failure of early feminism to address “Euroamerican patriarchy,” this author proposes that Indigenist female principles more fully challenge both colonialism and patriarchy. She points out this approach is already being used by Indigenous women who’ve taken a leadership role internationally in response to genocide, “ethnocide” and “ecocide.”

Paul, Daniel N. (2000). We Were Not the Savages: A Mi’kmaq Perspective on the Collision between European and Native American Civilizations. Fernwood Publishing, Blackwood:NS.

This book provides a male, Mi’Kmaq perspective on 300 years of colonization. It is thoroughly researched and detailed – an important and compelling read. It does have a troubling limitation in that the author is seemingly unable to accept the notion of matrilineal or matriarchal systems; he seems to share the dualistic Eurocentric dominance/submission perspective that men of such societies ‘permit their women to dominate’ them, missing the point that such societies promote gender equilibrium and mutual respect.

Sinclair, Raven (Ôtiskewàpiwskew), Hart, Michael Anthony (Kaskitémahikan) and Bruyere, Gord (Amawaajibitang), Editors. Wicihitowin: Aboriginal Social Work in Canada. Fernwood Publishing, Black Point, NS: 2009.

This is another ‘must-read’ as a Canadian social work book written by Indigenous authors who teach social work. It covers foundational theoretical perspectives, relational worldviews and philosophies that further an understanding of the history of colonization and theories of decolonization in the context of an Indigenist social work practice.

Smith, Andrea (2005). Conquest: sexual violence and American Indian genocide. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Smith, Andrea (2006). Boarding School Abuses, Human Rights and Reparations. Journal of Religion & Abuse, Vol. 8(2).

Smith, A. (2003). Not an Indian Tradition: The Sexual Colonization of Native Peoples. Hypatia, June, Vol. 18, no. 2, pp. 70-85.

Read anything by Andrea Smith! In the above two papers and book she places violence in Indigenous communities within the context of the larger global strategy of colonialism. Starting with widespread child abuse at state-sanctioned boarding schools from the 1880s to the 1980s, she expands the concept of violence to include: appropriation of ‘Indian’ cultural practices by whites; environmental racism; and population control. By situating violence in Native communities within the context of impacts of continuing human rights violation she frames the work to end gender violence as an anti-colonial strategy.

Valaskakis, Gail Guthrie, Dion Stout, Madeleine, and Guimond, Eric Ed. (2009). Restoring the Balance: First Nations Women, Community, and Culture. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

This is another ‘must-read’ that celebrates the work, ideas and strength of women despite centuries of colonization that undermined their traditional roles.  Grounded in traditional approaches, it underscores the immense, creative contributions of Indigenous women in the areas of law, politics, education, community healing, languages and art. I especially enjoyed the chapters on women’s writing, arts and culture.

Waziyatawin, Angela Wilson and Yellow Bird, Michael, Ed. (2005). For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook. Santa Fe, NM: School of American Research.

Colonialism continues to impact the lives of Indigenous Peoples mentally, emotionally, physically and spiritually. This series of exercises helps readers develop their own personal practical strategies for change based on their cultural teachings and experiences of colonialism. It includes decolonizing our diets – crucial in a population with such high rates of diabetes and heart disease.


Alfred, Taiaiake (2005).  Wasàse: indigenous pathways of action and freedom. Forward by Leroy Little Bear. Peterborough, ON: Broadview Press.

Wasàse is a ceremony of unity, strength, and commitment to action toward rejecting white societies control over Indigenous people in order to create a society based on respect, justice and peace. Such action includes “massive restitution” including land, financial transfers and other compensation for past harms as well as ending persistent injustices against Indigenous Peoples. Alfred is one of the all too rare male authors who celebrate female strength and women’s leadership.

Tuhiwai Smith, Linda (2006). Research Through Imperial Eyes, in Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, University of Otago Press.

This book describes an approach to academic research that assumes Western ideas are the only rational and legitimate way to make sense of the world, of reality, of social life, and of humans. She reveals its assumed superiority over Indigenous knowledge coupled with “an overabundance of desire to bring progress into the lives of Indigenous peoples – spiritually, intellectually, socially and economically.


Google Robert Houle – his art and thinking has taught me so much about decolonization and innovation; also Louise Erdrich – anything by her but especially ‘The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse” – a great read!

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