Indigenous summer reading: 3 top picks by Shelagh Rogers

CBC Aboriginal kicks off our summer reading series with three recommendations by Shelagh Rogers, host of The Next Chapter, on CBC Radio One.

Next Chapter's host lets us in on her 'must reads' for the summer season

Shelagh Rogers was an honorary witness at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events.
Shelagh Rogers was an honorary witness at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission events. (Shelagh Rogers)

CBC Aboriginal asked some of our favourite people to recommend some holiday reading suggestions.

In this on-going summer series authors, celebrities and CBC personalities share their favourite books, the ones they want to read this summer and the ones they think everyone should read. 

Here now is The Next Chapter's Shelagh Rogers to kick it.

To read this summer: Badger by Daniel Heath Justice

I think this will be a most playful read. This book by Daniel Heath Justice (the Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Literature and Expressive Culture at UBC) is part of a natural history series, examining the role a specific animal plays in nature and in culture.

Badger, by Daniel Heath Justice, is part of a natural history series, examining the role a specific animal plays in nature and in culture. ( Reaktion Books)
I have been leafing through it and I keep hearing the refrain from "Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" by (ahem) The Animals. It is both, as Daniel says, "ennobled paragon and feral brute." 

My first badger was Mr. Badger in The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame. Daniel writes "Badger is the voice of history, tradition and the power of the land itself."

I can't wait to read about the badger through page and screen. The book is richly illustrated (which I appreciate for a summer read) with photographs, cartoons, reproductions of paintings — from Japanese woodblock prints, to the paintings of Alan Syliboy to Bryan Talbot's badger inspector, hero of the graphic novel Grandville. In short, it looks like a lot of fun. Deep fun.

A fave: Bear Bones and Feathers by Louise Halfe

This collection of poems was published in 1994. I remember talking about this book with my producer Richard Handler in advance of her coming into our studio for an interview on The Arts Tonight. We were blown away by her guts, her strength, her unflinching gaze. 

(Coteau Books)
Louise is a witness, not only to her life but also the life of her parents. She honours their story.

This book is full of blood and bruises. It's visceral.

My overwhelming sense as I come away from the book is one of strength and power — Louise's, her family's, her people's.

Louise inscribed the book for me with these words "There must be a little spilled blood in every story if it's to carry the medicine." Carry the medicine she does. The writing is that good.

A recommendation: Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future

When the chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, Justice Murray Sinclair, delivered the executive summary of the TRC's final report, he said:  "We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you a path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing."

As an honorary witness to the TRC, I was in that ballroom at the Delta Hotel in Ottawa on June 2nd when he uttered those words. I felt directly called to climb and part of that call is reading the summary of the final report, called Honouring the Truth, Reconciling for the Future.

It lays out the origin, the history and the legacy of the residential school era, precisely how Canada has arrived at the present moment where there are so many wrongs to right.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission Chair Justice Murray Sinclair speaks during the Grand entry ceremony during the second day of closing events for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Ottawa, June 1, 2015. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)
I wrote in my journal how Justice Sinclair framed the recommendations: not as a national penance, but rather as a second chance at establishing a relationship of equals.

The summary is animated throughout by excerpts from the statements of survivors and others who presented at the seven national events held throughout the life of the commission. It is not like reading a report. It is an essential narrative of the "honest history" (to quote from the summary) of Canada.

If reading seems to daunting, there is a brilliant initiative on twitter, #ReadtheTRCReport, instigated byJoey Flowers, Zoe Todd and Erica Violet Lee where people are reading the report and uploading it to Youtube. 

Listen to Shelagh Rogers every week on The Next Chapter, CBC Radio One.


Shelagh Rogers

Host of The Next Chapter

Shelagh Rogers is a longtime broadcast journalist and currently the host of CBC Radio's The Next Chapter. She is also the chancellor of the University of Victoria. She first worked with Stuart McLean in the late 1980s on Morningside with Peter Gzowski.