First In Canada: An Aboriginal Book of Days

27 June 2012

First in Canada: An Aboriginal Book of Days
by Jonathan Anuik
Published by Canadian Plains Research Center Press
Review by Chris Ewing-Weisz
$24.95 978-088977-240-3

Every schoolchild has heard of La Vérendrye, but how many know the name of the Cree guide who made the canoe route map he relied on? We all know about the Plains of Abraham and Sir John A. Macdonald, but how many of us know about the numbered treaties, or when Native Canadians got the vote?

Jonathan Anuik’s sumptuously illustrated, made-for-browsing book brings a hidden history to light. Hundreds of intriguing facts, arranged by date, alternate with photographs and short writeups about First Nations, Métis, and Inuit people across Canada, from earliest prehistory to the present.

First in Canada celebrates Native achievements in every field: art, literature, music, architecture, politics, medicine, sports, religion, theatre, education, and more.

Also noted are the darker elements of our shared history: conflicts from the North West Rebellion to Oka; Richard Cardinal’s suicide and David Marshall’s wrongful imprisonment; the long and tangled history of legislation and activism attempting to sort out the relationship between Native and more recently arrived Canadians.

Many items are only briefly noted; readers will want to turn to other sources to learn more. As Anuik himself describes the book, it is “a touchstone to learning,” a taste tempting us to the feast. And what a feast! From Buffy Sainte Marie to the First Nations University of Canada, there’s a lot here worth knowing. First in Canada is a treasure for all Canadians.


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