An image that includes a number of seminal Indigenous-authored texts in Canada. We chose an image that features a novel by Joseph Boyden to draw attention to the complex issues of appropriation and identity claims within Canada.

Indigenous literature in Canada is a vibrant cultural practice, beginning with the not unproblematic transcription of orature by European explorers and settlers, winding its way through issues of appropriation by non-Native writers such as W.P. Kinsella, and making its way to the present day with writers such a Thomas King, Jeannette Armstrong, and Eden Robinson. Today, Indigenous literature exists across the genres from sci-fi/fantasy to children's literature to realism. Indigenous writers have recently been gaining a lot of attention through events such as Canada Reads and the recently created Emerging Indigenous Voices Award. The topics covered in works by Indigenous writers include colonialism and its impacts, community, culture and tradition, healing, and humour. Below we have listed a number of articles on Indigenous literature and some exemplary literary texts. However, if you are considering teaching Indigenous literature and would like a more comprehensive picture, please consider consulting with Jessica Langston who has years or research, writing, and teaching in the area.

  1. From the Library and Archives Canada, this page contains descriptions of the context of traditional stories as well as links to their written transcripts.

  2. This website provides an overview of Indigenous storytelling practices and purposes as well as links to videos of contemporary storytelling events.

  3. This article and embedded video discuss an article that argues against cultural appropriation as well as the reaction to the article and the ensuing creation of the Emerging Indigenous Voices Award.

  4. Thomas King's essay "Godzilla vs. Postcolonialism" examines the ways in which First Peoples writing departs from and disrupts settler literature.

  5. Beth Cuthand's poem "Post-Oka Kinda Woman" is particularly useful for talking about issues around land claims, as well it is relevant to the history of Quebec. Full poem available in A Canadian Anthology of Native Literature in English.

  6. Thomas King's "A Coyote Columbus Story" serves as an excellent example of what he calls "interfusional" literature as it neatly merges written and oral styles. In addition, it could be used to introduce the figure of the trickster, which is seminal to much of Indigenous culture, as well as to talk about the misrepresentation of North American history by much of Western culture. See also Green Grass, Running Water for more about trickster and re-envisioning Western grand narratives.

  7. Maria Campbell's seminal memoir Half-Breed explores the impact of settlement on the Metis people as well as the difficulties of growing up a mixed race woman in Canada.

  8. Richard Wagamese's novel Indian Horse explores the key role hockey plays in Indigenous communities. More importantly, though, it examines the impact of residential schools on communities and individuals, including how the abuse and shame of culture created in these places leads to self-abuse, but, also, how healing can be found by reconnecting with the land.