Day 6

Indigenous writers paint picture of hopeful future in new essay collection

Tackling topics from politics to the environment to economics, the collection features essays written by Indigenous thinkers from across Canada.

Me Tomorrow was edited by celebrated playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor

Me Tomorrow is a book of essays edited by Drew Hayden Taylor. (Douglas & McIntyre)

Playwright and author Drew Hayden Taylor's latest collection of essays imagines a hopeful future for Indigenous peoples.

"It's quite common for both Canadians and, I'd have to say, Indigenous people to look backwards," said Taylor, editor of Me Tomorrow: Indigenous Views on the Future.

"The purpose of this book was to turn that lens around and turn the camera to the future and talk about where we will be — or where we should be — in 20, 50 or 100 hundred years from now."

Tackling topics from politics to the environment to economics, the collection features essays written by Indigenous thinkers from across Canada — including lawyer and politician Romeo Saganash and the late writer and educator Lee Maracle.

Me Tomorrow also includes an essay from teenage water-walker Autumn Peltier, "talking about what she thinks the world will be like when she's a grandmother," said Taylor.

"I feel very proud to have gathered this group of people together and given them the platform to ponder the future of their grandchildren," he added.

There's a substantial journey that has to be done. But I mean, 30, 40, 50 years ago, a lot of people might not have seen a light at the end of that tunnel of that journey.- Drew Hayden Taylor, playwright and author

Pondering the world that will be left for future generations is part of the Haudenosaunee philosophy of the seventh generation, which is at the core of the book.

"Basically, this seventh generation talks about the need to consider every decision we make today will have repercussions for the next seven generations," said Taylor. 

"We do not own the world. We merely look after it for our children."

History from 'old white men'

One of the futures imagined in Me Tomorrow includes a world where students are taught differently.

"Typically what has happened is everything that we have learnt in education has been from the voices of, you know, typically old white men," said Cyndy Baskin, a social work professor of Mi'kmaq and Celtic descent at Ryerson University in Toronto, who wrote a chapter for the book along with her son, Minadoo Makwa Baskin.

"Those are the folks who wrote the so-called history. And it's full of misconceptions, misunderstandings and outright lies, in my opinion."

Minadoo Makwa Basking, left, and Cyndy Baskin are pictured at an airport in Yukon. The mother and son have written an article about Indigenous education for Taylor's essay compilation. (Submitted by Cyndy Baskin)

"When I was in high school and that's very recent, history is always through that one lens … I'd never heard it from an Indigenous perspective my whole time," said Makwa Baskin, a university student who grew up between Toronto and Beausoleil First Nation.

Given how the story has been told, Cyndy Baskin adds it's crucial for Indigenous peoples to share their understandings and experiences of history. It's no longer acceptable for non-Indigenous people to speak on their behalf, she said.

Cyndy Baskin says the representation of Indigenous experiences is changing now. Over recent years, Indigenous creators have made their mark in writing, television, film and online. 

That shift is, in part, what inspired Taylor to compile Me Tomorrow.

"Several decades ago, we were known as the disappearing Indians — the poor, tragic Indians," he said. "But now, with the advent of an economic future, political future, we're having more of a, I don't know if I'd say positive, but we're beginning to realize there is definitely a future."

Taylor says there is plenty of work ahead on reconciliation, particularly in light of unmarked graves found at residential schools. 

But like the book, he says there's hope.

"There's a substantial journey that has to be done. But I mean, 30, 40, 50 years ago, a lot of people might not have seen a light at the end of that tunnel of that journey," he said.


Written by Jason Vermes. Produced by Laurie Allen.

Hear full episodes of Day 6 on CBC Listen, our free audio streaming service.

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