Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Taylor Prize for Thomas King

We missed noting Thomas King's recent award of the British Columbia Non-Fiction Prize for The Inconvenient Indian, so let's add that in with yesterday's Charles Taylor Prize, which he also won.

King is reported as saying he wishes attention to his book will "spawn a serious conversation about the state of native peoples in Canada."  But he doesn't really expect one.

“That would be the most I could hope for and I won’t be alive to see that, because that’s going to be a slow conversation and it’s going to take years for that conversation to bear any fruit,” is how he's quoted in the Toronto Star's coverage.

There is work being done.  Some less widely covered, but also significant, titles from historians could also contribute to that slow conversation:  James Daschuk's Clearing the Plains, out last fall, and Michael Asch's On Being Here to Stay: Treaties and Aboriginal Rights in Canada, just out from UTPress.  But congratulations to Thomas King, and may his conversation flow.  

Following the business press discussion of development projects around the Circle of Fire in Nishnabe-Aski territory and the Northern Gateway pipeline across the land of many northern British Columbia First Nations, it's easy to understand Thomas King's assessment of how long it will take.  Those discussions still seems focussed on how the development companies could offer a few jobs, maybe some welfare, to aboriginal people affected by them.  The notion that ownership of the land and the resources is the point still seems very deeply buried.  

True, Jim Prentice, the former Conservative cabinet minister and oil exec recently appointed as Northern Gateway's emissary to the First Nations was recently quoted as saying 
he has long believed that 'First Nations should be full partners in resource development and they should be owners of projects like the Northern Gateway.” 
But do the developers accept that the authority to kill the project is part of such ownership rights? One of the key First Nations leaders says they have concluded Northern Gateway is already dead 
“It’s a last-ditch effort and a waste of a good man,” Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations in British Columbia, said Wednesday. “He’s well respected by me and many others. But this is a project that’s not just on its last legs, it’s in its last minutes [of life].”
Image: Writers' Trust

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