Past trauma

Richard Wagamese, and an Indigenous literary resurgence

Canadian literary criticism is made up of stories we tell ourselves about the stories we tell ourselves about who we are. The bulk of this writing has traditionally centred around literature that the dominant culture considers valuable, interpreted by voices deemed worthy of the task. Indigenous literatures continue to claim space in this territory, but the realm of critics and tastemakers remains predominantly white. Critics who don’t engage with cultural context may do more harm than good when reviewing outside of their wheelhouse. It’s simply not adequate to measure our writing—inspired and informed by lived experiences—by Northrop Frye’s tidy summaries of the “Canadian” aesthetic. For one thing, the settler literary preoccupation with land as either a mighty adversary or a seductive mystery suggests a desire for domination that is not reflected in our works, except maybe in parody.

In Why Indigenous...