In the era of information and as a person who enjoys reading, check out my top reads of 2023 along with my reflections and ratings (in no particular order):
Rez Rules by Chief Clarence Louie
Anyone in land management, governance and economic development should know about Chief Louie, and his work within the Osoyoos Indian Band. I admire his radical honesty, insight, directness and humour, or rather bringing the rez life to the forefront. He highlights and shares his wisdom on establishing the necessary governance structure to move communities forward, rooted in values of hard work, opportunity, and development, that begin with our youth. He also shares the hard truth about rez politics and the internal racism, colonialism, and need to shift away from Indian Act governance. He also notes, that economic development is not sacrificing our teachings, traditions and rez hospitality, that the approach requires balance along with hard conversations.
What struck me the most is the need to shift away from "social program" governance and towards building work ethic, self-belief, healing and economic development that builds communities. The ad hoc band-aid social programs does address the systemic barriers and learned helplessness, there needs to be a revive of our true First Nation traditions which takes time. Again, highly recommend for anyone working with First Nations, band administration and Chief and Council work.
Keeper'n Me by Richard Wagamese
I find community separation challenging; the impact on families, children, and our way of life that was taken from us. This was a challenging read however, I found the book was able to provide wisdom and insight on the lived experience, story and a way of life that is restored when we are able to connect with community.
Valley of the Bird Tail by Andrew Sniderman and Douglas Sanderson
I have a big space in my heart when learning about racism and reconciliation. I appreciate learning about the historical, legal and policy implications of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, even though we have many reports and calls to actions, it is interesting to see it interactions woven within community, to see the beliefs, systemic barriers, and structural policy implications, that happened historically and present day. I found this book interesting and intriguing as it unpacked our education and learning systems, however, I believe for others it may have been an undertone theme.
I also found this book very applicable to my own community, we live so closely together, we are neighbours with many overlapping areas of community, however our lived realities are radically different from one another. It is through understanding, taking time to learn from one another, and unpacking truth.
If you are in the work of reconciliation, add this one to your list. 8/10
Noopiming by Leanne Simpson
Poetic, radical, lively, healing, lessons, commitment. Take a minute and jump into it. No words, it is an experience. 7/10
Unreconciled by Jesse Wente
If you work in communications, take a leap into this. He provides insight on reconciliation, navigating a space that needs more Indigenous journalism, arts, culture and writing. However, his work talks about the lived experience, working through his career, going to school, raising children, and defining himself or shaping himself in the modern world, that is still very much rooted in colonialism. How do we tackle reconciliation and define our relationship with Canada?
Land of the Decolonial Love by Leanne Simpson
I found Leanne's work on a different path however, her writing is something I'll continue to follow as Indigenous people continue to take up space, talk about truths, and unpack stories. Racism and colonialism is deep and complex; this was an experience.
Spiral to the Stars by Laura Harjo
I am over the moon thrilled that I found this book during my thesis writing era. I struggled deeply and immensely to find Indigenous planning and community scholars. Her paradigm, methodologies, knowledges and practices were instrumental in stepping into the Indigenous planning paradigm that worked for my "thesis" work.
I am a fellow beader, and her analogy and knowledge linking, makes a direct connection to space, place, doing, kinship, knowledge and power that is worth exploring and unpacking into mainstream planning. Her work also, exemplifies clear examples of different planning engagement and mapping activities, as a means to engage and share knowledge in a decolonial manner.
What struck me is that beading is ceremony, knowledge, power to enter a space differently. Simply, add this one to your planning research list.
The Truth about Employee Engagement by Patrick Lencioni
I read this book a while back, it provided insight and an opportunity to shift my insight on motivation, engagement, and drive to work, however, not many pieces stuck with me. It was an easy read, not rooted in theory or frameworks, perhaps day-to-day observation and leadership.
Surrounded by Bad Bosses (and Lazy Employees) by Thomas Erikson
I hope this does not shake up any of my previous and/or former bosses. This book was picked up simply to unpack and unravel the color personalities. The book gave insight in a direct and forward manner, using strong humor that was not my flavour (hence the title) however, it did not prevent me from picking up and diving into the book. I also do not believe it is rooted in any strong organizational research, tools or frameworks, so this one was simply a "read through with ease" type of book
If I recall correctly, I might be mostly Blue and Green? What are you?
The Conversation by Robert Livingston
Working in DEI and navigating the ever changing landscape of the knowledge, history, lived experience and practices, I needed a community and organizational tool/resource. As a professional, I will never claim to know it all, especially since our world has expanded significantly; being a remote worker, while also working in the public service, I find myself presented with a great challenge/opportunity to connect a broader group of individuals and communities to the important work of DEI.
I found stepping into Robert's paradigm digestible, refreshing, applicational and actionable. I would highly recommend as a resource for teams, departments and organizations to use this as a starting point to launch DEI work within your organization or rather simply "starting the conversation"
Note, this is one tool in your toolkit, it is not going to solve all your problems and hurdles.
Restoring the Kinship Worldview by Wahinkp Topa and Darcia Narvaez
I wish I found this book during my thesis work. This book gave insight and reflections on everything. I spoke about it endlessly in almost every encounter I had with folks at conferences, coffee shops, and almost any moment that I was able to connect with someone.
For me, this centers environment, land, community, kinship, family, governance, education, protocol, conflict resolution, child/community development, leadership, everything, into a our worldview. I highly recommend for any Indigenous researcher, scholar, and advocate.
I turned to a random page, as this book is also highly tabbed and annotated. Here are a few things that struck me:
"that natural law is the highest law. How do we know what is natural law? ...First, intergenerational residency. Observe nature over a long period of time...[wolf reintroduction project]...these guys come up there, and they have all their scientific models. They figure out what's going to happen with the wolf [all projected over a 10 year period]. Do you know what happened? About 5 years in they had to toss their model out....a wolf is a wolf. They are going to go where there is something to eat. They are going to go where they like it...you observe your relatives and how they live. Another source is spiritual knowledge."
This book deserves its own blog post. I can dive deep into many topics, quotes, stories, worldviews and beliefs.
One Spirit, One Song by Richard Wagamese
I was profoundly shifted by this book. I was reading this book when traveling to Vancouver for my new job at BC Housing. This book is greatly tabbed and highlighted with different excerpts of wisdom and insights. I flipped to a page and this is what is noted:
"I was asked to give a keynote at a national conference on homelessness...I was the only presenter who had lived on the street, which I found odd and unsettling. Instead of delegates listening to genuine voices of homelessness, they attended workshops and seminars led by people who earned their livings courtesy of others misfortunes...It struck me, native people and homeless people have a lot in common - we've both had industries built up around us...[government, social services, health care, social workers etc]... Homeless people should have a voice in any developments that affect them...it is not enough to survey, analyze and count them."
This is only a brief snippet of raw advice, observations and many things that I cannot put words, Richard is able to with ease.
What Comes from Spirit by Richard Wagamese
Although my work appears to be rigid, linear and rooted in legislation policy and community, I still find magic in the great mystery, creator and the unknown. Richard's work reminds me to leave the mental/intellectual space and lean into creation, intuition, and that it is okay to make mistakes, that it is in our power to learn and try again.
I also appreciate the magic in storytelling, learning by observing, drawing your own lessons/conclusions and stepping into humour, grief and joy.
Add this one to your collection, turn to a random page and use that as your magic for the day.
Speaking as a Leader by Judith Humphrey
Planning is rooted in community and as an emerging planning practitioner that works with different levels of government, organizations, communities, First Nations and stakeholders, I find it necessary to fine tune and adapt my communication style.
Communication is dynamic, fluid and lively.
I found "Speaking as a Leader" a practical and straightforward resource to elevate conversations, inspire others and to be able to communicate in an engaging and energizing manner.
Life in the City of Dirty Water by Clayton Thomas-Muller
Inspiring memoir of the adversity, racism and violence Clayton faced growing up in downtown Winnipeg as a Cree man. What struck me most, was the interconnections of lessons, the hardships faced and then, the transformation and relation to environmental activism, defending and Indigenous rights. I found great inspiration in this book and highly recommend.
I am interest in learning about your favourite reads of the year. Drop your recommendation into the comments!