Every June, Canadians celebrate National Aboriginal History Month, which is an opportunity to honour the heritage, contributions and cultures of First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities across Canada. Canadians are also invited to celebrate National Aboriginal Day on June 21 each year. Canada boasts many fine indigenous writers of fiction, non-fiction and children’s literature. The following list presents a few writers that I have admired and enjoyed.
The late Richard Wagamese is known for his truthful and inspiring fiction. One of his most well-known works, Indian Horse, tells the stories of individuals affected by racism and residential schools. In 2016, Wagamese created a beautiful book of spiritual writing called Embers.
Award-winning author of the Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America, Thomas King’s works examines the history and situation of indigenous people with insight and dark humour.
Eden Robinson’s novels explore the lives and experiences of indigenous coastal peoples in small communities, their harrowing struggles, families and resilient spirits. Her new novel, Son of a Trickster, follows a youth who must learn to navigate both the magical and the seemingly normal worlds.
Wab Kinew, a prominent Canadian journalist, musician and Ojibway leader, tells the story of his father’s childhood spent on traditional Anishinaabe lands in Ontario, in his memoir, the Reason You Walk. He recounts his father’s abuse in an Indian residential school, his rise to become an elder and elected leader and a search for peace that takes his family across the Americas and to Rome.
Tomson Highway has won many awards for his renowned plays such as The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing. He has also written fiction and picture books, including the bilingual Cree and English Caribou Song.
Julie Flett is an author and illustrator of beautiful picture books that have won numerous awards. Dolphin SOS presents the story of how a community rescues a dolphin trapped in the ice. She also illustrated a board book written by Monique Gray Smith called My Heart Fills with Happiness, which gives examples of what makes us happy, such as holding the hand of a loved one..
From renowned First Nations storyteller Richard Van Camp comes Welcome Song for Baby, a lyrical lullaby for newborns. Complemented with stunning photographs, this evocative board book is perfectly suited as a first book for every baby.
Loosely based on author Monique Gray Smith’s own life, Tilly: A Story of Hope and Resilience is a work of creative non-fiction that tells the story of a young indigenous woman coming of age in the 1980s. The book presents Tilly’s struggles and eventual spiritual journey toward peace. This unique story captures the irrepressible resilience of Tilly and of indigenous peoples everywhere.
Author of the award-winning novel The Break, and a Governor General’s award-winning book of poetry, North End Love Songs, Katherena Vermette beautifully renders tragic and heartwarming stories of indigenous lives in Winnipeg.
Joy Hubert is a public services librarian at the Oak Bay branch of the Greater Victoria Public Library.