Full interview: Joseph Boyden on his heritage

In an exclusive interview, Boyden addresses the recent controversy surrounding his Indigenous ancestral claims.
Author Joseph Boyden addresses the recent controversy surrounding his Indigenous ancestral claims. (Penguin)

Is Joseph Boyden really Indigenous?

It's a question a lot of people have been asking, and one the author himself addressed in an exclusive interview Wednesday with CBC Radio's Candy Palmater.

"Absolutely," Boyden said. "I'm a white kid from Willowdale (Ontario) with native roots — a small part of me is Indigenous, but it's a big part of who I am."

It was Boyden's first interview since the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN) released an investigation last month that called into question his Indigenous heritage and sparked a major controversy. The Giller Prize-winning author of Through Black Spruce is known for writing about Indigenous culture and communities in his novels, which also include Three Day Road and The Orenda. Boyden also has become a familiar voice when it comes to speaking on Indigenous issues in Canada.

Boyden said that his claims to Indigenous ancestry are based largely on stories he was told by his family growing up, and not necessarily any official documentation.

"I wish my heritage, my pedigree were so clear," he said. "We rely on the stories we've always been told."

Boyden did apologize for what he called "taking too much of the airtime" on Indigenous issues.

"I've become too much of a go-to guy and I should be allowing those with deeper roots in their communities to speak for their communities," Boyden said. "I'm pulling back and saying 'no, others need to speak.'"

What Boyden doesn't apologize for, he said, "is who I am and where I come from, and where I've always known I come from and where I'm going as both a person and an artist."

Listen to Candy Palmater's full interview with Joseph Boyden below.

By Jesse Kinos-Goodin

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