'We've definitely made mistakes in the past': Incorporating Indigenous protocols in publishing

The complexities of publishing Indigenous stories and following Indigenous protocols is a hot topic in the publishing world, one that people are still trying to navigate.
Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush (Second Story Press )
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The complexities of publishing Indigenous stories and following Indigenous protocols is a hot topic in the publishing world, one that publishers are still trying to navigate.

"There are Indigenous protocols — plural," explained Emma Rodgers, the marketing and promotions manager at Second Story Press in Toronto. "There's not just one person who can speak for a community and who can speak for a story."

"We recognise that it's a very complicated process."

Guide pulled after offensive language complaint 

It's a process Second Story is familiar with. Last fall, they made the decision to remove a teaching guide they had produced to accompany the graphic novel, Susanna Moodie: Roughing it in the Bush, by Carol Shields and Patrick Crowe with a foreword by Margaret Atwood.

After an Indigenous student brought offensive language in the guide to the attention of the media, and to Second Story, they reacted quickly.

"We withdrew it as quickly as we could, and we apologized. We made a statement apologizing for the damage we had caused, and the hurt," explained Rodgers.

"We had to take that as as a time to stop and reflect and think about how that resource got out there and what in our processes we had to do differently," said Rodgers. "So that we didn't make that mistake again."

Rodgers thinks Book*hug made "the right decision" by pulling Shannon Webb-Campbell's poetry bookWho Took My Sister? because the author did not follow the protocol of asking the family's permission to write the story.

We've definitely made mistakes in the past and the best thing you can do from that is take it as an opportunity to learn and do better going forward.- Emma Rodgers

Doing better at Second Story Press has meant ensuring that Indigenous people are a part of the publishing process.

"Working with Indigenous consultants and editors and readers for everything we do, that is something that that has to be an imperative part of the process," said Rodgers.

For publishing houses that aren't Indigenous there's an "extra responsibility" to ensure that Indigenous protocols are followed, explained Rodgers.

'It's a really important conversation'

Rodgers wants to see more discussion of Indigenous protocols in publishing.

"It's something we talk about every day in our office," said Rodgers. "We've definitely made mistakes in the past and the best thing you can do from that is take it as an opportunity to learn and do better going forward."

"We as a press have learned so much from the authors that we've worked with, the Indigenous editors and consultants that we are working with more and more. That, I think, is not something to be to be quiet about."