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Friday, November 16, 2012

Book Review: First Nations 101

Book Review: First Nations 101: tons of stuff you need to know about First Nations people
By: Christine McFarlane

Author: Lynda Gray
Published By: Adaawx Publishing
Pages:  275

“First Nations 101 written by author Lynda Gray is an informative and opinionated guide to First Nations issues. It is written in an accessible style and respectively offers sections on Identity, Social Control, Community Issues, Fairness and Justice, Health and Wellness, Arts and The Road Forward: Forging A New Path.

Author Lynda Gray states in the opening of her book “It is not fair that educating the public about First Nations people, and concerns is left for First Nations people to do,” but sadly it is often left to First Nations people to educate others about First Nations people and the issues that surround them.

First Nation 101 is different from other books written on First Nations issues because a First Nations author writes this book. Gray understands the issues and wants others to envision First Nations people in a more contemporary fashion and does not want the reader to see natives in the usual stereotypical and stoic viewpoint often depicted in books written by non-native authors.

The reader is given an overview of the history of First Nations people. Within the overview, Gray touches upon the many ways in which non-natives and Canada’s ensuing governments have imposed a form of social control over First Nations people through various actions, policies and laws, and the results of these actions.

As an example, Gray brings up community issues about First Nations people’s health, and explains how after being forced to abandon our traditional lifestyles, which were more active prior to contact, our physical health has declined due to a more sedentary life and the introduction of new foods. It is through the introduction of new foods such as white flour, sugar, and cow’s milk, that our bodies have a hard time processing these foods. Due to the inability of being able to process these new foods, various health problems have arisen and are growing throughout First Nations communities. Health issues such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity are just a few that are named.

Gray also raises awareness of the many abuses that we all as First Nations have suffered. She speaks about what circumstances and issues have led to poor mental health, which includes low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation. She also speaks about the residential school era, and post-residential school era and the issue of our 500 Missing and Murdered Women, amongst many other issues.

Juxtaposing negative issues, Gray also speaks of the resilience of First Nations people, stating “it is important to remember that our people have such rich and vibrant histories, traditions and beliefs to draw from that can help us to overcome anything." I like that she speaks about First Nations artists and how they play a vital role in First Nations culture, traditions and communities, and it is through their work they can inspire others to find their own voices and/or their own creativity.

A list of other resources is offered at the end of each chapter for readers to draw upon for more information. Educating the non-native population of Canada is needed in order to foster widespread and long lasting positive change.  First Nations 101 does an excellent job of starting the conversation especially since many First Nations issues have been caused by and/or perpetuated by external forces.

First Nations 101 is published by Adaawx Publishing. It is 275 pages. Please visit for more info about the book and where to buy it. 

P.S. I wanted to share this review with my readers because this book is a very vital source of information for those wanting to understand First Nations issues on a deeper level. Please note that a similar review will be published in an upcoming issue of Windspeaker.

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