Deanna Reder: Autobiography as Indigenous Intellectual Tradition

Sincere congratulations to Deanna Reder on the release of this beautiful new book from Wilfrid Laurier Press. kimamihcihinân – You make us proud. It was an honour to see the work in progress, and to offer support for its use of nêhiyawêwin. Of all the things I love about this book (and there are many), perhaps the most significant is the graceful way it says tawâw: “come in, welcome; there is room.” It opens the metaphorical door between “Indigenous Literature” – a discipline that has, of necessity, evolved primarily in English – and the kind of intensive Cree language work in autobiography (such as the work of the late Dr Freda Ahenakew) that has long been dismissed as “something else.”

Here’s what Wilfrid Laurier University Press writes in its catalog:

Since the 1970s non-Indigenous scholars have perpetrated the notion that Indigenous people were disinclined to talk about their lives and underscored the assumption that autobiography is a European invention. Deanna Reder challenges such long held assumptions by calling attention to longstanding autobiographical practices that are engrained in Cree and Métis, or nêhiyaw, culture and examining a series of examples of Indigenous life writing. Blended with family stories and drawing on original historical research, Reder examines censored and suppressed writing by nêhiyaw intellectuals such as Maria Campbell, Edward Ahenakew, and James Brady. Grounded in nêhiyaw ontologies and epistemologies that consider life stories to be an intergenerational conduit to pass on knowledge about a shared world, this study encourages a widespread re-evaluation of past and present engagement with Indigenous storytelling forms across scholarly disciplines.

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One Response

  1. Thank you so much for your encouraging words. It means a lot to me. I am so indebted to the work of Solomon Ratt and Arden Ogg, a litany of Cree and Métis thinkers, and to my family. I am so grateful.

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