Review of Linda Gray’s ‘First Nations 101’

A visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery VAG on January 17, 2020 led me to this book. On the third floor was an exhibition titled ‘Transits and Returns’ a display of Indigenous artist’s work from around the Pacific. Continuing to the fourth floor I found the works of Emily Carr and her inclusion (Some might say appropriation) of First nations themes. My mind opened to learning more as I walked through the VAG gift and bookstore on the way out.
Where to start in this I wondered, when I saw Linda Gray’s ‘First Nations 101’.
There is so much I don’t know. I have vaguely heard of the Residential Schools and know the Canadian government issued an apology. I had heard of the Sixties Scoop, and the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. But it was all just alluded to in school and the media. Background noise in a busy life and society.
I wanted to know more, but was also worried about learning more. I had good reason to worry.
This book is a wall I ran into. It stopped me cold. It hurt and stunned me. How could the country I had been born and grown up in been so cold and callous to people?
The book imparts a lot of information and history in less than three hundred pages. But I found I had to read it in installment. It is just too bleak and depressing to read in one session. And that was much of what I took away. This problem is far too big for anyone to address. Where do you start?
The last fifty pages felt like a bit of piling on. Ms.Gray was delivering a list of more and more issues that needed attention. My mind disengaged. I was clutching for something positive.
Well, the book closes with some hopeful messages and calls out the work being done by volunteers, athletes, artists and performers, writers and speakers. It is not all bleak. There is hope.
This is a very condensed book that delivers on what I would expect from an entry level course. It left me wanting to know more and I will actively seek out more. This week the North Vancouver Writers association had another presenter who talked about her book, ‘The North-West is our Mother.’ I will read and review that book too.
Linda Gray’s ‘First Nations 101’ is a great introduction to issues that all Canadians should be aware of. Well done.