Canada Reads

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

Life in the City of Dirty Water is a book by Clayton Thomas-Müller.

Championed by Suzanne Simard

Suzanne Simard is championing Life In the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller. (CBC)

Suzanne Simard championed Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller on Canada Reads 2022.

Canada Reads took place March 28-31, 2022 The debates were be hosted by Ali Hassan and broadcast on CBC Radio OneCBC TVCBC Gem and on CBC Books

There have been many Clayton Thomas-Müllers: The child who played with toy planes as an escape from domestic and sexual abuse, enduring the intergenerational trauma of Canada's residential school system; the angry youngster who defended himself with fists and sharp wit against racism and violence, at school and on the streets of Winnipeg and small-town British Columbia; the tough teenager who, at 17, managed a drug house run by members of his family, and slipped in and out of juvie, operating in a world of violence and pain.

But behind them all, there was another Clayton: the one who remained immersed in Cree spirituality, and who embraced the rituals and ways of thinking vital to his heritage; the one who reconnected with the land during summer visits to his great-grandparents' trapline in his home territory of Pukatawagan in northern Manitoba.

And it's this version of Clayton that ultimately triumphed, finding healing by directly facing the trauma that he shares with Indigenous peoples around the world. Now a leading organizer and activist on the frontlines of environmental resistance, Clayton brings his warrior spirit to the fight against the ongoing assault on Indigenous peoples' lands by Big Oil.

LISTEN | Podcast: Life in the City of Dirty Water

In this introduction to the memoir Life in the City of Dirty Water, discover what the book is about and why author and forest ecologist Suzanne Simard chose it for Canada Reads 2022.

Tying together personal stories of survival that bring the realities of the First Nations of this land into sharp focus, and lessons learned from a career as a frontline activist committed to addressing environmental injustice at a global scale, Thomas-Müller offers a narrative and vision of healing and responsibility. (From Allen Lane)

Clayton Thomas-Müller 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 for social and environmental justice. Life in the City of Dirty Water is his first book.

From the book

In Canada today, and to a lesser degree in the United States, people are comfortable calling out mainstream, corporate media when it imposes non-Indigenous labels on Indigenous people— it's called extractive storytelling, and it's a form of institutional racism. Don't call me a "protester" when I call myself a "water protector"; don't call me an "eco-terrorist" when I call myself a "land defender." The corporate media is not entitled to choose a name for me. 

Native pride is such that people are comfortable defending their sacred spaces, especially when they're being documented. But the discourse around decolonization and white supremacy and patriarchy is different around the world. In 2002, I was part of the IEN delegation to the World Summit on Sustainable Development, in Johannesburg, and we were hosted by the Khoisan people. They're sometimes known as the world's first people, as they were the first inhabitants of southern Africa. You might know of the Khoisan people from the film The Gods Must Be Crazy. They have faced wave after wave of colonialism, of African tribal colonialism and then European. 

Excerpted from Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller. Copyright © 2021 Clayton Thomas-Müller. Published by Allen Lane. Reproduced by arrangement with the Publisher. All rights reserved.

The Canada Reads 2022 contenders

Interviews with Clayton Thomas-Müller

Clayton Thomas-Müller talks to Shelagh Rogers about his debut book, Life in the City of Dirty Water.

Book trailer: Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Müller

9 months ago
Duration 1:17
Clayton Thomas-Müller's memoir will be championed by Suzanne Simard on Canada Reads 2022.
Clayton Thomas-Müller survived abuse, discrimination, juvenile detention and gangs while growing up. He took those experiences and dedicated his life to protecting Indigenous rights and the environment. He tells us about that journey, which is detailed in his book Life in the City of Dirty Water: A Memoir of Healing.
In an adapted excerpt from his newly-released book Life in the City of Dirty Water: A Memoir of Healing, Cree author and activist Clayton Thomas-Müller reflects on his own family's history with residential schools, and the path forward.

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