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Books to Build On: Indigenous Literatures for Learning

Stories are an integral part of the human experience. That being said, how many of us had any real opportunity to read literature written by Indigenous authors while in school?

When talking about colonialism in literature, like in all the elements of colonialism, we are often unaware of its presence. It’s simply part of the system, historical knowledge, and therefore always resting upon individual judgment or misjudgment; personal interpretation or misinterpretation. This is why it’s such a challenge to deconstruct and rebuild another in its place. To quote Professor Edward Said, founder of the academic field of postcolonial studies:

Every empire… tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate."

By extension, Indigenous literature challenges the settler-colonial paradigm that has consistently torn down Indigenous connections to land, self, family and in the words of CFN’s Elder Council Lead Casey Eaglespeaker, “to our ways of being, knowing and doing.”

These Indigenous authors, by their very existence, are seeking to re-establish, cultivate and nourish these relationships in order to project them into the future we all share.

CFN's long-time partner, The University of Calgary, recently launched a truly remarkable portal for Indigenous Literature. Books to Build On: Indigenous Literatures for Learning is an interactive web resource designed to assist educators with merging Indigenous culture into everyday teaching and learning.

A response to the Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, this incredible resource is intended to help teachers build foundational knowledge in Indigenous education.

This interactive resource, with its searchable database, will be useful to anyone interested in discovering Indigenous literature and expanding their engagement with Indigenous Peoples and their communities.

First Nations writers challenge us to rethink our assumptions about Indigenous literature, while maintaining the undeniable connection of our shared humanity and the power of storytelling to effect change. This important effort by the University of Calgary welcomes contemporary audiences to Indigenous literary studies, while offering experienced readers a renewed appreciation for transformative literary traditions.

For information on Centre for Newcomers Indigenous programming visit

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