Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back
By Leanne Simpson
Review By Christine McFarlane
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence And A New Emergence, a new book written by academic and Niishnaabeg scholar Leanne Simpson, is a must read if you want to understand the philosophies of and pathways to reconciliation, what reconciliation means and what lay behind it for Indigenous peoples and the Canadian nation/state.
Simpson asserts reconciliation must be grounded in political resurgence and must support the regeneration of Indigenous languages, oral cultures, and traditions of governance.
She believes reconciliation is a, process that will take many years to accomplish and though reconciliation is promoted as a “new way” for Canada to relate to Indigenous people, it is anything but that.
Simpson writes “Indigenous peoples attempted to reconcile our differences in countless treaty negotiations, which categorically have not produced the kinds of relationships Indigenous peoples intended.”
She questions the ability of Indigenous people and the Canadian state to reconcile “when the majority of Canadians do not understand the historic or contemporary injustices of dispossession and occupation, particularly when the state has expressed its unwillingness to make any adjustments to the unjust relationship.”
She asserts that “reconciliation must move beyond individual abuse to come to mean a collective re-balancing of the playing field,” and “this idea is captured in the Nishnaabeg concept aanji maajitaawin: to start over, the art of starting over, to regenerate.”
She said Canada must engage in a decolonization project and re-education project that would enable its government and its citizens to engage with Indigenous peoples in a just and honorable way in the future.
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back: Stories of Nishnaabeg Re-Creation, Resurgence And A New Emergence is a book that weaves many issues together but helps readers understand that in order for reconciliation to be meaningful to Indigenous people, we need to interpret it broadly and support Indigenous nations by regenerating everything that residential schools attacked and attempted to obliterate.
Throughout Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back, Simpson examines Creation stories, works with the language, walks with Elders and children, focuses on celebrations and protests, and stresses the importance of illuminating Indigenous intellectual traditions to transform their relationship to the Canadian state.
This book provides a valuable perspective on the struggles of Indigenous peoples but also highlights the rich and vibrant ways in which Indigenous people continue to engage themselves.
Dancing On Our Turtle’s Back is published by Arbeiter Ring Publishing.