How does one describe such a well-researched and well-written book as Rachel Bryant’s The Homing Place: Indigenous and Settler Literary Legacies of the Atlantic (2017, WLU Press)? I find I must borrow words and phrases from a more scholarly source:
“This book shines new light on settler colonialism and Indigenous resurgence, historic and contemporary, through sharp analyses of some influential but lesser-discussed writers.” – Siobhan Senier, University of New Hampshire.
“Sharp analyses” indeed. This book, while it took me some time to read, is very pointed in its direction, and it left me with a renewed sense of how we, as settlers living on unceded Indigenous land can reach out to “help create a space where peoples historically separated can discuss painful histories, pressing local issues in which we are all invested.”
Broad Scope, Focused Intent
From John Gyles’ 1736 captivity narrative Memoirs of Odd Adventures, Strange Deliverances, etc. to Wabanaki wampum belts and Innu message sticks to Miq’maq writer Rita Joe’s poems to Douglas Glover’s 2003 novel Elle, Ms. Bryant authoritatively mines these literary forms to transform, in her words, “the ways in which we Settlers understand ourselves so that we can better understand and relate to our neighbours.”
Along the way, we the reader will repeatedly have our eyes opened as Ms. Bryant draws inarguable conclusions from history, particularly the way Indigenous people have been treated since the Loyalist invasion of Eastern Canada when hordes of white settlers escaping the United States pushed the Miq’maq, Maliseet and Passamaquoddy peoples off their traditional lands.
“Any assertion that English Canada, as a collective if amorphous and changing grouping, has ever done anything but fortify itself, its governing structures, and its visions against Indigenous interests and traditions must first contend with the degree to which Indigenous peoples have been pushed to the absolute margins of their own lands and to the outskirts of a dominant consciousness, to a position beyond the invisible wall that continues to protect Settler Canadian comforts and entitlements.”
If you are interested in Indigenous affairs, the history of how the eastern tribes came to be in such dire straits today, and how literature has reflected these changes – and even attempts to embrace and effect change for the better – then The Homing Place will certainly appeal to you. It has found a permanent place on my Reference shelf alongside other key Indigenous titles such as Chris Benjamin’s Indian School Road and John Tattrie’s Daniel Paul, Mi’kmaq Elder.
The Homing Place was shortlisted for both an Atlantic Book Award (for Scholarly Writing) and a New Brunswick Book Award (Writers’ Federation of New Brunswick Book Award for Non-Fiction), both nominations were well deserved in my opinion. I am also adding it to my 2018 longlist for a “The Very Best!” Book Award in the Non-fiction category.