2014 Review: We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us

We Are Born With The Songs Inside US

We Are Born with the Songs Inside Us

By Katherine Palmer Gordon

(Published by Harbour Publishing)

Review by Shari Narine


Recent health developments surrounding former Vancouver Canucks’
hockey player Gino Odjick is a clear indication that he is a man, who
has broken through the racial divide.

Odjick is one of 16 First Nations people in British Columbia
highlighted in Katherine Palmer Gordon’s book We Are Born with the Songs
Inside Us. And Odjick’s song is strong.

Odjick, who is Algonquin from Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg First Nations
in Quebec, is claimed by Gordon as a west coast face because upon
retiring from hockey in 2002, Odjick made B.C. his home. Gordon refers
to Odjick as “put(ting) his money where  his mouth is, investing in
numerous initiatives and partnerships supporting First Nations
development and employment.” Odjick’s commitment to bettering other
peoples’ lives was recognized by fans, who gathered outside Vancouver
General Hospital to show their respect when Odjick made it known through
the Canucks website that he had been diagnosed with AL amyloidosis, a
rare terminal disease.  And Odjick, despite shortness of breath, went
outside to acknowledge his fans, once more showing his commitment to

“I believe that seeing us as human beings, as people with our own
unique perspectives and lives, is a fundamental first step toward
understanding who we are, rejecting false and imposed stereotypes, and
ultimately reaching reconciliation,” writes former Assembly of First
Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo in the foreward of We Are Born with
the Songs Inside Us.

It is this connection between First Nations people and the rest of
Canada that Gordon strives to relay through the array of people, whose
lives she celebrates.

Reading about these people, who range from artists to
environmentalists to scientists to actors, it is clear that they have
one thing in common: a belief in the importance of their cultural
heritage in all aspects of their lives. However, not all of them were
raised with this belief. Some of them came to this understanding through
trial.  But all of them are now at that point and it is no accident
that they are successful both in their professional and personal lives.

Gordon does not gloss over the struggle that continues for First
Nations people when it comes to etching out a place for themselves.
Individual stories talk about growing up in the face of racism and
continuing the battle to be respected.

What stands out about Gordon’s collection of people is that they
exist in the modern-day realm and whether the reader is Aboriginal or
non-Aboriginal, references to such events as the 2008 residential school
apology from Prime Minister Stephen Harper or the Idle No More
movement, are relevant today. This is not a collection to be considered a
history book.

By highlighting the people she has chosen and their variety of
careers, Gordon also highlights that First Nations people are active
participants in today’s society and have a bright future.  First Nations
people are by no means to be relegated to the past.

Writes Gordon, “… there really are literally thousands upon thousands
of creative, energetic, ordinary and extraordinary and inspirational
people in this country who happen to be of First Nations heritage and
are simply living their lives…”

Writes Atleo, “We need these stories to be told, read and celebrated.”