Can’t recommend this one highly enough. A lot of books are required reading (or should be) for subject matter alone, but this book has the one-two punch of being about something educational and important that everyone living in a colonized country that used to belong to native peoples should read, and also being entertaining and extremely well-written. I finished the introduction and said out loud (to my cat), “I already love this.” Or maybe it was a Goodreads status update. Either is likely.
It’s been a couple of months since I read this, because I didn’t feel equal to writing the review. Well, good news, I feel even less equal to doing so at the moment, but I am doing it anyway! I mention this because I’m a little shaky on details, and this was a library book I’ve already returned, so I can’t really reference it. I know he explains in the introduction to the book that it’s history, but not really, and he had some really interesting things to say about his method, but I forget them all now. I suppose all you need to know is that it was good and interesting. But I wish I could provide you with more anyway.
Worth noting, I immediately added this to my Bookshop.org wishlist as soon as I finished it. It’s the kind of book that is eminently re-readable, the kind that makes you laugh while slapping you in the face. It’s quite the experience.
Quotes (I could have quoted half the book):
“You know what they say. If at first you don’t succeed, try the same thing again. Sometimes the effort is called persistence and is the mark of a strong will. Sometimes it’s called perseveration and is a sign of immaturity. For an individual, one of the definitions of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again in the same way and expecting different results. For a government, such behavior is called . . . policy.”
“A great many people in North America believe that Canada and the United States, in a moment of inexplicable generosity, gave treaty rights to Native people as a gift. Of course, anyone familiar with the history of Indians in North America knows that Native people paid for every treaty right, and in some cases, paid more than once. The idea that either country gave First Nations something for free is horseshit.”
“Or, if you want the positive but somewhat callous view, you might wish to describe Christianity as the gateway drug to supply-side capitalism.”
“To be sure, they have had the occasional success, but there is little chance that North America will develop a functional land ethic until it finds a way to overcome its irrational addiction to profit.”
“The fact is, the primary way that Ottawa and Washington deal with Native people is to ignore us. They know that the court system favors the powerful and the wealthy and the influential, and that, if we buy into the notion of an impartial justice system, tribes and bands can be forced through a long, convoluted, and expensive process designed to wear us down and bankrupt our economies. Be good. Play by our rules. Don’t cause a disturbance.”
“Indians were made for film. Indians were exotic and erotic. All those feathers, all that face paint, the breast plates, the bone chokers, the skimpy loincloths, not to mention the bows and arrows and spears, the war cries, the galloping horses, the stern stares, and the threatening grunts. We hunted buffalo, fought the cavalry, circled wagon trains, fought the cavalry, captured White women, fought the cavalry, scalped homesteaders, fought the cavalry. And don’t forget the drums and the wild dances where we got all sweaty and lathered up, before we rode off to fight the cavalry.”
“The fact of Native existence is that we live modern lives informed by traditional values and contemporary realities and that we wish to live those lives in our terms.”
“A great many intelligent and compassionate people have called residential schools a national tragedy. And they were. But perhaps “tragedy” is the wrong term. It suggests that the consequences of residential schools were unintended and undesired, a difficult argument to make since, as Ward Churchill points out, the schools were national policy.”
“This somewhat uncomfortable point I’m making is that we don’t seem to mind our White drunks. They’re no big deal so long as they’re not driving. But if they are driving drunk, as have Canada’s coffee king Tim Horton, the X premier of Alberta Ralph Klein, actors Kiefer Sutherland and Mel Gibson, Super Bowl star lawyer Milloy, or the Toronto Maple Leafs Mark Bell, we just hope that they don’t hurt themselves. Or others. More to the point, they get to make their mistakes as individuals and not as representatives of an entire race.”