BOOK REVIEW:

How we go home : voices from indigenous North America

Sara Sinclair compiled interviews and stories from twelve different Indigenous people whose ancestral tribes and families are from North America (The United States and Canada). These interviews came about because of Sinclair's work with a non-profit oral history project, Voice of Witness. Each person's point of view is unique, but there are common themes to be found in all of them: coerced residential and boarding schools; foster care; and the resulting trauma due to mistreatment, forced assimilation, loss of emotional family connection, loss of family and tribal identity.

The interviews allow each person, from different tribes and regions, to express themelves about their past history, thoughts and feelings that may have been repressed but influenced each individual’s life. Because Sinclair is based in Canada there is a sizable section of the book with stories set in Winnipeg, which is the home of Canada’s largest Indigenous population. Those people who live in Canada are not any different from Indigenous peoples throughout North America because, for the most part, they do not have adequate housing, food, education, job opportunities and are discriminated against openly and/or covertly. As the book was going to the printer COVID-19 was in its infancy as a global pandemic and many thought this horrific event would prove to be a type of equalizer among all of us because the disease did not discriminate who it attacked. However, for Indigenous peoples that was disproven because factors in their lives made them more vulnerable: poverty, overcrowding, and a lack of of running water and/or clean water on reserves and reservations. All of this resulted in higher rates of COVID-19 infections among Indigenous populations.

Each person’s life has been affected by the past history and experiences of their ancestors, and by their own present-day experiences. It is their spirit of resilience and connecting with their tribe's full, rich heritage that has sustained each individual and given them a foundation to move forward.

The book includes footnotes, a glossary and historical timeline which provide background and context for an understanding of Indigenous people's history. The Historical Timeline of Indigenous North America is 10,000 BCE - present, “Indigenous settlements and communities are present from coast to coast in North America and establish complex religious, artistic, and literary practices and economic, social, and political structures.” Starting with 1492 and ending with 2020, major historical events are documented by a specific year. She asks all of us, who live on the North American continent, to think and be aware of whose land we now inhabit, and question how this came to pass. In a chapter, Ten Things You Can Do, Sara Sinclair offers practical advice about how everyone can improve the lives of Indigenous people.

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