Volume 51, Issue 2: Spring 2017

First choice for a younger generation

  • Indigenous Nationhood: Empowering Grassroots Citizen

    Pamela Palmater

    Fernwood Publishing, 2015

No doubt for a younger generation of activists, Palmater’s Indigenous Nationhood will be a first choice. Her cadences — and anger — capture the mood of an emerging generation of social justice, broadly Left-oriented, ground level activists. When she writes that one of her goals is to “help us kick the colonizers out of our heads,” (4-5) she puts her finger on an enduring problem within and around Indigenous social movements. Yet, to my mind, Indigenous Nationhood may leave the least lasting impression of these four texts. The book is based on extensive blog posts written by Palmater, a well-known Indigenous activist (and a columnist with Canadian Dimension). They are powerful, blistering even, but basically directed at the now passed Harper regime. Hence they read already like political postcards from the past. Though there is material in them that will inform readers — historical, sociological and legal information around many of the issues engaged in — these tend to be so focused around Harper’s activities that they lose their purchase. This is too bad, because Palmater has a sharp, critical sensibility tied to a grounded sense of struggle (she is involved in Idle No More): for my part, I will be eager to read whatever genuine book-length study she produces with an eye to broader historical, theoretical or ethical questions. I have no doubt that she will emerge as a strong and important voice in this struggle — the “loon” in my colleague Niigaanwewidam Sinclair’s short story in his elegant foreward — but this particular vehicle does not serve her well.

Peter Kulchyski is head of the Department of Native Studies at the University of Manitoba, author of several books including Aboriginal Rights Are Not Human Rights: In Defence of Indigeous Struggles and a frequent contributor to Canadian Dimension. He is co-director of the Canadian Consortium on Performance and Politics in the Americas.

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