“My dad always used to say that our story isn’t a story of trauma. We have trauma in our history, in our lives, in our family. But really our story is a story of resiliency and a story of cultural reconnection and a story of love. I feel like that will help people understand what healing really means.”
~ David A. Robertson, speaking about his memoir, Black Water, and reconnecting with his Cree heritage in a October, 2020, interview with Ryan Porter of Quill & Quire magazine
(A version of this article first appeared in Kingston Neighbours magazine, June, 2021)
June in Canada is National Indigenous History Month. Established in 2009, it honours the diversity and heritage of Canada’s First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities. Specifically, #IndigenousReads is a federal initiative to promote reconciliation and awareness of Indigenous issues through sharing literature from First Nations, Inuit and Metis writers. So to celebrate National Indigenous History month, let’s highlight one of the many compelling Indigenous-Canadian authors you should be reading!
David A. Robertson is a member of the Norway House Cree Nation in Northern Manitoba. He currently lives in Winnipeg where he has authored many books for children and adults in the last decade about residential school survivors, Indigenous foster care, missing and murdered Indigenous women and his Cree heritage. He has won numerous awards, including most recently the The Writers’ Union of Canada’s 2021 Freedom to Read Award.
Picture Books, ages 4+
- When We Were Alone, 2016 – A Kokom (grandmother) shares her residential school experiences with her granddaughter as they garden together; winner of the 2017 Governor General’s Literary Award.
- On The Trapline, 2021 – A Moshom (grandfather) takes his grandson on a northern journey to the trapline where he grew up.
Middle School Novels, ages 9+
- The Mesewa series: The Barren Grounds (2020, Book #1) – Two Indigeneous foster children discover a magical portal to Aski, a frozen land; finalist for the 2021 Silver Birch Fiction Award.
Middle School Graphic Novels, ages 9+
- Tales From Big Spirit series, 2014 – A biographical series of notable Indigenous people, including: Pauline Johnson, Gabriel Dumond, Tommy Prince, John Ramsay, Thanadelthur, Nancy Shanawdithit, Mistahimaskwa.
YA Novels, ages 12+
- The Reckoner Trilogy: Strangers (2017, Book #1), Monsters (2018,Book #2), Ghosts (2019, Book #3) – A series following the adventures of an Indigenous teen superhero as he solves murders and mysterious illnesse
YA Graphic Novels, 12+
- 7 Generations series: Stone (2010, Book #1), Scars (2010, Book #2), Ends/Begins (2010, Book #3), The Pact (2011, Book #4) – A Plains Cree man’s journey to learn his family’s history.
- Betty: The Helen Betty Osborne Story, 2015 – The true story of the circumstances surrounding a Norway House Cree woman’s 1971 murder.
- The Reckoner Riser series: Breakdown (2020, Vol. 1) – A graphic novel continuation of The Reckoner Trilogy.
- Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story, 2012 – Based on a true story, a boy interviews a residential-school survivor for a school assignment.
- Will I See?, 2016 – A shadowy, surreal tale about a teenage girl unknowingly gathering keepsakes belonging to murdered Indigenous women, then facing her own danger.
- Black Water: Family, Legacy and Blood Memory, 2020 – A memoir exploring intergenerational trauma and healing.
- The Evolution of Alice, 2014 – A novel about loss and friendship as an Indigenous single mother copes with a tragic death.
This month, I highly recommend you and your kids pick up one of these riveting reads; you won’t be disappointed! You can also check out #IndigneousReads on social media, or visit the #IndigenousReads June 2021 campaign website to discover more illuminating books from Indigenous authors.
- About National Indigenous History Month, Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada, https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1559222623218/1559222644174.
- David A. Robertson Biography, https://www.darobertson.ca/.
- #IndigenousReads, https://www.rcaanc-cirnac.gc.ca/eng/1472674362414/1557776582786.
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