Invisible North

Alexandra Shimo

Invisible North

When freelance journalist Alexandra Shimo arrives in Kashechewan, a fly-in, northern Ontario reserve, to investigate rumours of a fabricated water crisis and document its deplorable living conditions, she finds herself drawn into the troubles of the reserve. Unable to cope with the desperate conditions, she begins to fall apart.

A moving tribute to the power of hope and resilience, Invisible North is an intimate portrait of a place that pushes everyone to their limits. Part memoir, part history of the Canadian reserves, Shimo offers an expansive exploration and unorthodox take on many of the First Nation issues that dominate the news today, including the suicide crises, murdered and missing Indigenous women and girls, Treaty rights, Native sovereignty and deep poverty. (From Dundurn Press)


Excerpt:

We finish our meal, and then sit down to watch television. There's a knock at the door. I answer it. A middle-aged woman and her daughter of about six stand on the doorstep. "You like Cree art?" asks the mother.

I nod. The woman opens her plastic sack and holds it up. Birds are stacked on top of each other. I take one out and hold it to the light. Twigs curve at sharp angles, like a delicate exoskeleton. It smells like a spruce forest.

"I made them myself. They're geese. Ten dollars each. Or thirty-five dollars for a family."

I return to the living room and get my wallet. Returning, I buy two geese.

"Any more?" she asks. She gestures to her daughter. The child picks out a bird, and holds it up for me to see. Her wide eyes look like tiny saucers. Her mouth is smudged with something dark, and her hair is matted. She reaches forward, offering it, like it's a gift.

I know that I should keep buying. I can see that this family is desperate. Twenty dollars is hardly anything. Just about enough for a bag of oranges at the Northern Store. Not enough for a whole pizza. Certainly not enough for a full meal. That's what my conscience says. But I suddenly feel panicked. I shut the door.


From Invisible North by Alexandra Shimo ©2016. Published by Dundurn Press.