As promised, I’m going to post a review for all of the books I review on Netgalley, even if I don’t post reviews for anything else. This is a review for a kind of book, unlike any I’ve posted on here before. After reading the blurb on Netgalley, I knew I had to request it, as I want to learn more and know more about the past of the aboriginal / first peoples of Canada, and this is the story of one character and his experiences across time. For more continue under the cut!
Concentration Camps of Canada by: Baron Alexander Deschauer
For those of you who don’t know about the history of first nations people in Canada, from the 1800s residential schools became a way for the Canadian government to assimilate first nations people into mainstream culture. These schools were usually often/always run by different religious groups and were meant to strip away culture and language and create good Christian blue collar workers. Students were even forced to take on a European / Anglo name. If students did not follow the rules they would often be brutally punished. For the majority of residential school history, students were also not allowed to go home for holidays, only during the summer recess. According to my research, during the time of residential schools approximately 150 000 aboriginal children were placed in residential schools and at least 6 000 of these children died. The children were often subject to brutal conditions and abuse, while having any semblance of their cultural identity stripped away. If students died while in the residential schools, they would often be placed in an unmarked mass grave. Unfortunately the last residential school was closed in 1996, meaning it’s still a part of our recent history. These days there’s a struggle to retain and maintain first nations cultures and languages, because of everything that was lost to them during this dark time in Canadian history.
This book is based on a true story, and revolves around the fictional account of one person in the first nations named Migizi (who adopts the name David while in a residential school). He goes through the residential school system and experiences many of it’s horrors, including some rather traumatic events. After getting out of school it outlines some issues he has with racism, alcoholism, issues with how aboriginal people were treated in broader society, issues he came across on and off the reservation, issues and experiences with his family, a time getting more in touch with his roots, people’s assumptions about aboriginal people, his experiences in the war and people who held his first nations status against him. I feel like I can’t go into any greater degree of detail, as this entire story revolves around one man’s life and if I detail his life than I will give away the story.
Without a doubt this is an important story, and one that needs to be told more often. One comment that I have about this story is that I believe the author is not aboriginal (although I may be wrong). This is not to hold anything against the author, as again these stories need to be told and in so much as I am aware, this could be a story of an actual real life person. What concerns me in a more general sense, however, is that I’d like to see more aboriginals telling their own stories and histories. I really wish and hope that more stories like this and more stories in general can be told from not only a Canadian first nations perspective but from aboriginal perspectives in general.
Overall I felt this story was a little too straight forward in the sense of one thing happening after another and not enough exploration of the feeling behind it. I still….enjoyed is not quite the right word…felt it was an important book to read and was invested in reading it. As a result I gave this four out of five stars. I really suggest reading this if you want to know more about this dark time / some dark experiences in Canadian history, if you want to know more about the history of first nations people in Canada or what some marginalized groups have gone through around the world or more specifically in Canada. I also feel like this book would be a really good basic introduction to the situation in educational settings for middle, high school or adult students.