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Edited by Penny Petrone.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1983.
221pp, cloth, $19.95.
ISBN 0-8020-2515-3.

Grades 9 and up.
Reviewed by David Chadwick.

Volume 12 Number 2
1984 March

This worthy book is a collection of Canadian Indian letters, speeches, and drama from the early seventeenth century to Chief Dan George and Duke Redbird of the twentieth century. The author began researching the project when she discovered a paucity of material written by Indians prior to 1900. In retrospect, what is most surprising about the book is that it took until now for someone to see it through. Certainly it fills a gap in our understanding of Canadian history and should be in every public library and high school library.

The author, to her credit, spent eight years on the project and searched religious and public archives, as well as the published records of the past. As there was no Indian written language prior to the invention of syllables in the 1830s, most of the Indian works cited prior to then (and many others later) were translated and transcribed by English and or French Canadians, and as such may have lost some nuances and even meaning. Also almost everything in most of the book is addressed to whites. Understandably and regrettably, except for legends, we do not often hear natives talking or writing for natives exclusively. But we do get a very good portrait of people who are often very eloquent and perceptive of their conditions, ecology, motives, and actions of the outsiders, and power politics. Let me now give some examples of what I mean.

In 1676 a chief argued:

         I beg thee now to believe that miserable
         as we seem in thine eyes, we consider ourselves
         nevertheless much happier than thou in this,
         that we are very content with the little we
         have.. .. For if France as thou sayest is a
         little terrestrial paradise, art thou sensible
         to leave it?

In 1743 A Cree complained to a HBC factor:

         Last winter. . .the powder being short measure
         and bad, I say! Tell your servants to fill the
         measure and not put their finger's within the Brim.

Joseph Brant:

         We were struck with astonishment at hearing we
         were forgot in the treaty (1783 after having fought
         with the British).

Big Bear 1875:

         "We want none of the Queen's presents; when we
         set a fox-trap we scatter pieces of meat all round,
         but when the fox gets into the trap we knock him on
         the head; we want no bait, let your Chiefs come like
         men and talk to us."

Deskaheh 1925:

         We want none of your laws or customs that we have not
         willingly adopted for ourselves. We have adopted many.
         You have adopted some of ours, votes for women for instance...
         We have no jails and do not need them. You have many jails...
         and thousands of laws.

Besides quoting and thereby documenting Indians, noting their shabby treatment by governments, the book also features some legends, poetry, and portraits. All in all the book is very successful in evoking the other side of Canadian history. It is a book that deserves a wide audience.

David Chadwick, Norway House H. S., Norway House, MB.
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