Thursday, June 21, 2007

Green Grass, Running Water

The news from Turtle Island* can be pretty grim - even today, National Aboriginal Day, when the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs urges us to Share in the Celebration! Steps forward on issues like residential schools or land claims seem overwhelmed by daily problems like homelessness and violence right here in the Edmonton area. Even Aboriginal Day itself seems overshadowed by the looming National Day of Action coming up on June 29th.

Not to minimize the real issues but … there are some really excellent, really funny books available from native writers! Perhaps a positive way to “share in the celebration”?

Tomson Highway was my introduction to native humour, when I saw a hilarious production of his play The Rez Sisters. The companion play is Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing.

Thomas King is essential. His most recent fiction book is another of his “DreadfulWater” mystery novels written under the Hartley GoodWeather pseudonym: The Red Power Murders. Go back to Green Grass, Running Water, from 1993, for an all round good read – very funny but with a serious heart. It was a Canada Reads nominee in 2004, but lost in the early going.

Sherman Alexie is an American native writer, from just down the road in the Spokane area. Reservation Blues is a powerful and amusing novel about Thomas Builds-the-Fire, of the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene band, who forms an all-Indian Catholic rock band and embarks on a cross-country tour when long-dead Blues legend Robert Johnson comes to the reservation.

* Turtle Island is the English translation of the name given to North America, from the creation myth of the Algonkian and Iroquoian people.


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