Best First Nations non-fiction 2021! MIND BLOWING GOOD!

Permanent Astonishment by Tomson Highway

Permanent Astonishment is a book by Tomson Highway. (Doubleday Canada, Sean Howard)

Permanent Astonishment is a memoir by acclaimed writer Tomson Highway. Highway was born the 11th of 12 children in a nomadic caribou-hunting Cree family. Surrounded by the love of his family and the vast landscape of his home, he lived an idyllic far-north childhood. But five of his siblings died in childhood, and his parents wanted their two youngest sons, Tomson and Rene, to get big opportunities. This memoir offers insight into the Cree experience of culture, conquest and survival.

Permanent Astonishment won the 2021 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Highway is a Cree novelist, children's author, playwright and musician. Born in Manitoba, he is a member of the Barren Lands First Nation. His work includes Canadian theatre classics The Rez Sisters and Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing and the novel Kiss of the Fur Queen.


Spílexm by Nicola I. Campbell

Spílexm is a book by Nicola I. Campbell. (Highwater Press)

Spílexm is a memoir that tells the story of one Indigenous woman's journey to overcoming adversity and colonial trauma to find strength and resilience through creative works and traditional perspectives of healing, transformation and resurgence. Nicola I. Campbell weaves poetry and prose into what it means to be an intergenerational survivor of residential schools. 

Campbell is the Nłeʔkepmx, Syilx and Métis author of the children's books Shi-shi-etkoShin-chi's CanoeGrandpa's Girls and Stand Like a CedarShin-chi's Canoe won the 2009 TD Canadian Children's Literature Award and the 2008 Governor General's Literary Award for children's literature — illustration.


Nishga by Jordan Abel

Nishga is an autobiographical book by Jordan Abel. (Penguin Random House Canada/Submitted by Writers' Trust Canada)

In Nishga, Jordan Abel grapples with his identity as a Nisga'a writer, being an intergenerational residential school survivor and his own Indigenous identity while consistently being asked to represent Nisga'a language and culture. Blending memoir, transcriptions and photography, Nishga is an exploration of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person and how both Indigenous and non-Indigenous people engage with the legacy of colonial violence and racism.

Nishga was a finalist for the 2021 Hilary Weston Writers' Trust Prize for Nonfiction.

Abel is a Nisga'a writer from British Columbia. He is the author of the poetry collections The Place of ScrapsUn/inhabited and Injun, which won him the Griffin Poetry Prize in 2017.


Peyakow by Darrel J. McLeod

Peyakow is a book by Darrel J. McLeod. (Douglas & McIntyre, Ilja Herb)

Peyakow is a follow-up to Darrel J. McLeod's memoir Mamaskatch. The title is the Cree word for "one who walks alone." Peyakow tells the story of his childhood and youth. He was bullied by white classmates, lived in poverty, endured physical and sexual abuse and lost several people he loved. But the story is one of love and triumph, as McLeod goes on to become a teacher, the First Nations' delegate to the UN and an executive in the Canadian government. 

McLeod is a Cree writer from Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta. Before his retirement, McLeod was chief negotiator of land claims for the federal government and executive director of education and international affairs with the Assembly of First Nations. His first book was the memoir Mamaskatchwhich won the 2018 Governor General's Literary Award for nonfiction


Call Me Indian by Fred Sasakamoose

Call Me Indian is a book by Fred Sasakamoose. (Author photo: Battlefords Agency Tribal Chiefs Inc. composite image CBC sports)

Fred Sasakamoose was the first Indigenous hockey player with Treaty status to play in the NHL. He was sent to residential school when he was seven years old, and endured that horror for a decade. But he became an elite hockey player, joining the Chicago Blackhawks in 1954. He only played 12 games in the NHL, but the legacy he left would have a huge impact for decades to come. He became an activist, dedicated to improving the lives of Indigenous people through sport. He shares his story in the memoir Call Me Indian.

Sasakamoose was a member of the NHL Hall of Fame and the Order of Canada. He died in 2020.


One and Half of You by Leanne Dunic

One and a Half of You is a book by Leanne Dunic. (Talonbooks)

One and Half of You is a poetic memoir by artist, musician and writer Leanne Dunic. One and Half of You explores Dunic's biracial upbringing on Vancouver Island, her connection to music, her relationship with her brother and how she finds connection and community that helps her understand who she is and who she wants to be.

Dunic is an artist, musician and writer from B.C. She is the fiction editor at Tahoma Literary Review and is in the band The Deep Cove.


Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Muller

Clayton Thomas-Müller is the author of Life in the City of Dirty Water: A Memoir of Healing. (Thelma Young Lutunatabua, Penguin Random House)

A memoir by Cree activist Clayton Thomas-Muller, Life in the City of Dirty Water covers his entire life: from playing with toy planes as a way to escape from domestic and sexual abuse and enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; to becoming a young man who fought against racism and violence, but also spent time in juvenile prison; to becoming a committed activist. Along the way, Clayton remained tied to his Cree heritage and spirituality. This debut is a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility. 

Thomas-Muller is a member of the Treaty #6 based Mathias Colomb Cree Nation located in Northern Manitoba. He's campaigned on behalf of Indigenous peoples around the world for more than 20 years, working with numerous organizations. 


Richard Wagamese Selected, edited by Drew Hayden Taylor

Richard Wagamese Selected is a collection of essays by Richard Wagamese. (Yyvette Lehman, Douglas & McIntyre)

Richard Wagamese Selected is a collection of nonfiction works by Richard Wagamese, one of Canada's most celebrated Indigenous authors and storytellers. The book, edited and curated by Drew Hayden Taylor, brings together more of his short writings, many for the first time in print. 

Wagamese, an Ojibwe author from the Wabaseemoong First Nation, was one of Canada's most prominent writers. His novels included Medicine Walk and Indian Horse. His memoirs include One Native Life and One Story, One Song. He died in March 2017.

Taylor is an Ojibwe playwright, author and journalist from Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario. He has worked on over 17 documentaries examining Indigenous experiences. His books include Motorcycle and Sweetgrass and Take Us to Your Chief.



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