Arrows in a Quiver: From Contact to the Courts in Indigenous-Canadian Relations: A Book Review

 

 

Indigenous-settler relations, sovereignty, and legalities have a long and tumultuous history in Canada. Unfortunately, this means that the average Canadian does not have the context nor perspective to understand this history, resulting in widespread acceptance of half-truths, racial bias, and a lack of empathy towards different cultures. On the positive side, a wealth of peer-reviewed literature exists in the academic ethos that can assist in closing the gap that exists in Indigenous-settler relations. One of the best examples of this literature can be found in James Frideres’ newest book, “Arrows in a Quiver: From Contact to the Courts in Indigenous-Canadian Relations.” This literature is also complimented very well by the striking painting found on the cover of this book, provided by artist Lawerence Paul Yuxweliptun.

This 2019 release by the University of Regina Press discusses the implications of a colonial government structure in Canada and how a restructuring of many policies and the structure that systematically represses Indigenous people must take place in order for reconciliation to occur. However, the book is not all on the deficits that Indigenous people face. The title in itself, “Arrows in a Quiver”, refers to the tools that Indigenous people in Canada are utilizing to make these reforms such as grassroots political movements, nonviolent protest, engagement with provincial and federal politics, and Indigenizing Canadian law at the courtroom level. Frideres expertly provides the historical and legal contexts required for any reader, regardless of education on Indigenous-Canadian relations, to understand the necessities that are required in Canadian legal reform to achieve reconciliation. As one may guess, this book is chock full of Canadian laws and policies both historical and current but do not need to be intimidated by this fact. Unlike other law texts that I have read, I found this book to be surprisingly easy to follow. Frideres finds the incredibly fine line between adequately describing law and not littering the text with jargon or an academic dialect that may alienate casual readers.

Not only does Frideres describe the laws and policies that affect Indigenous people in Canada but also actively applies them to examples via cases and academic research. The weight of this evidence truly makes this book feel like an in-depth review of the political and legal landscape in Canada and the level of care and research put into this book cannot be understated.

In conclusion, “Arrows in a Quiver” is a fantastic and enlightening read for anyone to further their understanding on Indigenous-settler relations and to become a part of the solution for the reconciliation that is needed to close the gap in our ever-divisive nation.

 

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Gravity Proof… A New Universal Law… Zone State and Other Unusual Short Stories: A Book Review

“Gravity Proof… A New Universal Law… Zone State and Other Unusual Short Stories”
by Karl G. Blass
Reviewed by Ben Charles
ISBN: 9871775110705
CDN $19.99

“Gravity Proof… A New Universal Law… Zone State and Other Unusual Short Stories”, written by Karl G. Blass is the result of a delightful passion project from a truly brilliant mind. As a scientist by trade, the Austrian-born Karl G. Blass has made a new trail for himself with the release of this short story series. That being said, Blass is no stranger to publications as he has been published and patented over eighty times throughout his career on various topics within the field of Clinical Biochemistry. After obtaining a PhD and an M. Sc. from the University of Windsor in the 1970s, Blass went on to become a professor of chemistry at the University of Regina and a clinical biochemist at the Regina General Hospital from the mid-seventies until the new millennium.
Blass’ aptitude for the sciences rings loud and clear in the first chapter of this book, named “Gravity Research Stories”. By the author’s own admission, the third chapter is the most appropriate place of the book to start if the reader is seeking a casual short story experience. The first chapter, however, is a thought experiment that challenges the reader to consider how gravity functions within the context of the reality in which we live. I must admit that Blass’ explanations of slow-motion states, atom density, repulsion forces, and Einstein’s theories were over my head, but I found them to be fascinating thought experiments, nonetheless. I would recommend that anyone with even a passing interest in physics and the sciences check this book out for the first two chapters alone.
Although the book begins with the fruits of a mind well-versed in the fields of science and research, the following chapters are rife with stories from the author’s fencing career, as well as anecdotes of his personal life and the Old Country. A personal favourite of mine comes with a brief story of his grandfather being a respected hunter both in the Old World and the New but promised his wife a fur coat made of coyote. After many unsuccessful attempts of finding one in the harsh Saskatchewan winters of the 1920s, he finally sees two within firing range. Unfortunately, it was also when he was driving his wife ten miles by horse and carriage to the doctors due to a hand injury and never did get his Saskatchewan coyote. The book is also filled with tales of drama and gossip from the University of Regina and a cool introspection into the budding years of the institution.
“A Gravity Proof…” is testament to the fact that academic and creative writing need not be two separate entities. Blass has created a truly one-of-a-kind literary experience that both stimulates the mind and tickles the soul. It seamlessly transitions from complex physics equations and tense fencing duals to the mundane but observant quips on the English language and life in Saskatchewan. This is a must-read for those seeking a unique literary experience.

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Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life – A Book Review

“Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life”
by James Daschuk
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$27.95 ISBN: 978088776227

Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life, written by James Daschuk and published by University of Regina Press can be best described as a heart wrenching but enlightening review of the systematic destruction of Indigenous peoples and culture in the prairies via the purposeful introduction of disease, starvation, and health disparities by both the Canadian government and private companies. This 2019 New Edition and winner of the Aboriginal History Prize, Cleo Prize, Governor General’s History and ironically the Sir John A. McDonald Prize, was originally published in 2013 and since then has obviously been praised by critics and readers alike. In fact, this reviewer truly believes that every Saskatchewanian should have a copy of this book on their shelves.

James Daschuk, a PhD in history and a current associate professor with the Faculty of Kinesiology and Health Studies at the University of Regina showcases his unpresented capacity for research and provides the reader with fascinating (albeit sickening) review of the history of Indigenous health both pre and post-contact. During initial contact, while the country of Canada was either non-exist or in its infancy various systems where initialized by the country, by the church and by private organizations to ensure the continuous disadvantage of Indigenous people. Daschuk describes these imposed disparities and their brutal executions with such intricate detail and a level of historical research that makes it difficult for the reader to not seriously question the moral integrity of our nation’s roots and of the powers that be today.

Unlike many pieces of literature regarding Canadian literature, Clearing the Plains: Disease, Politics, and the Loss of Indigenous Life does not stick to the history found to the East but, as the title suggests, provides an in-depth review of the First Nations history that occurred right here at home in Saskatchewan. This is brilliantly documented from archival, academic research, interviews and a plethora of other resources.

The mostly-pleasant, comfortable life of an average Canadian typically leads them to think that Canada has always been one of the most progressive and tolerant countries in the world. In history class, we are led to believe that we have always been the “nice guys”. The thought that our nation has always been founded on the systematic genocide makes most people uncomfortable, it’s certainly not dinner-talk. Genocide is a heavy word but an appropriate one. Despite this book being an academic piece, Daschuk vividly paints the brutal treatment of Indigenous peoples both across the nation and within our own province.

In conclusion, this book is a juggernaut in the context of dark Canadian history and an invaluable resource to teach readers as to how the social climate regarding Indigenous people has evolved to what it is today. The only warning that I could possibly give for this book is a trigger warning. Please be advised that there are dark themes and incredibly violent truths found within these pages.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

 

“The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution” (A Book Review)

“The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution”
by Ann Travers
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$24.95 ISBN: 9780889775787

“The Trans Generation: How Trans Kids (and Their Parents) Are Creating a Gender Revolution”, written by Ann Travers and published by the University of Regina Press is an honest and enlightening review of the trials and struggles of growing up transgender in North America. The experiences contained in this book were gathered by a series of interviews with transgender kids and youth (individuals from a wide variety of ages, from 4 to 18) and the parents of trans kids in Canada and the United States between the years of 2012 to 2017.

As someone who is not transgender and knows relatively little about experiences of transgender people, I found this book to be an incredibly informative experience. This was in no small part due to Travers’ insane attention to detail and the obvious meticulousness that they poured into their research. Literature that is academic in nature has a tendency to be a little dry, somewhat hard to follow and littered with jargon. However, I did not find this to be the case with Travers’ work. In fact, I found it to be passionate, moving, and an intelligent review of the human condition. It is clear that Travers does not view their work as “a deliverable” or is driven by the self-back-patting ego that plagues the academic climate. The quality and quantity of the research, the commitment to ensure that the participants’ experiences are portrayed in an accurate manner, and the conviction embedded in the writing were all indicators to me of an author taking their work seriously, and with a great amount of respect.

The interviews contained in the book are dispersed and then utilized to provide a discourse on the experiences of either growing up transgender or raising a transgender child in five basic categories, these include transgender kids, schools, spaces, parents, and supportive healthcare. Of course, the information within is dissected and categorized further, and the result is a much-needed read for anyone who would like to understand the experiences of trans youth and the impact of socially enforced gender norms. Personally, I found Travers’ research on transgender youth in sport to be the most interesting segment of the book but can say with confidence that it is far more accessible than I had thought it would be. There is something for everyone to learn from and to be enthralled by.

I can admit that I will never fully understand the experiences of transgender people, and I realize that their challenges are significantly different from my own. However, thanks to all of the participants of this book, and to Travers’ excellent work representing them, I am much more educated on the topic than I have ever been before. Where I was expecting academic gender studies buzzwords, I found a gripping and seriously clever review of gender norms, politics, mental health, and much more. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would like to understand gender better but does not know where to even begin.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM

Dissident Knowledge in Higher Education: A Book Review

“Dissident Knowledge in Higher Education”
by Marc Spooner and James McNinch
Published by University of Regina Press
Reviewed by Ben Charles
C$34.95 ISBN: 9780889775367

Dissident Knowledge in Higher Education, edited and introduced by Marc Spooner and James McNinch and published by University of Regina Press is a highly astute evaluation of the current academic paradigm found within modern universities and educational institutions. Spooner and McNinch, both brilliant academics in their own rights, draw from an all-star cast of academics to review the historical and socioeconomic factors that have led to the neoliberal and corporate interest serving audit culture that can be observed in our post-secondary institutions today.

In the true fashion of academic literature, the thoughts and ideas that Spooner and McNinch present are supported by a nearly maddening amount of research, scholars, and peer-reviewed literature from a wide variety of sources. These sources used to support their arguments are also drawn from a range of interdisciplinary scholars and institutions, a detail that I found impressive as it was evident that this literature was written with great care in ensuring that bias was not included. The end result of this is an objective, yet shrewd and scathing critique of the educational system. It is also worth noting that this literature dedicates an entire section to Indigenous research methodologies, community-based participatory research, Traditional Knowledge, and the shifting academic climate that is beginning to rightfully perceive these modalities as legitimate, despite the lingering worldviews left behind by the colonialist foundations of academia. Not only that, but many of the authors in this book detail the lingering effects of colonialism, racism, power dynamics, and other thought-provoking and uncomfortable topics that provide the reader with the ugly context that unfortunately came with the foundations of post-secondary institutions.

The team of interdisciplinary and prestigious scholars such as Noam Chomsky, Yvonna S. Lincoln, Christopher Meyers, Marie Battiste, and many others, contribute ideas to form an absolutely essential review for anyone seeking to gain a deeper understanding of post-secondary politics, economics, and power structures. Any student, academic, professor, or person with an interest in the academic climate needs to pick up a copy of this book to save themselves from missing out on a truly thought-provoking, precise critique of academic culture.

That being said, this literature is an advanced read. Although Spooner and McNinch do an exceptional job editing and the authors avoid pedantic jargon as much as possible, the nature of academic writing does, unfortunately, require jargon to some degree. This book is incredibly well-written, intellectual, and follows scientific procedure perfectly; however, I would more strongly recommend this book to readers who are versed in reading academic literature.

In conclusion, Dissident Knowledge in Higher Education is a much-needed and refreshing examination of our post-secondary institutions and provides the reader with valuable insight on the seemingly impossible to decipher web of bureaucracy and colonialist policy that plagues the educational climate. Spooner and McNinch truly do succeed in providing the reader a window into questioning our institutions, and evaluating our scientific community as one that should strive to pursue a deeper understanding of existence and serve humanity rather than corporate interests.

THIS BOOK IS AVAILABLE AT YOUR LOCAL BOOKSTORE OR FROM WWW.SKBOOKS.COM