Sunday, September 14, 2014

Review: The Winter We Danced

[The Kino-nda-niimi Collective. The Winter We Danced: Voices from the Past, the Future, and the Idle No More Movement. Winnipeg MB: ARP Books, 2014.]

I'm not sure I have a lot to say about this important book beyond giving it an emphatic thumbs-up. It is a collection of dozens of short pieces by dozens of authors, most of which were written during and shortly after the height of the Idle No More movement in late 2012 and early 2013. Many of them were widely circulated online at that time, so I had read some and seen more go past my eyes on news feeds without actually having the time to read them. Still, in reading this book I encountered lots that I hadn't seen, and there was also something powerful about reading them all together.

There are lots of things about this book that make me happy it exists. It is, for one thing, an impressive example of a movement attending to memory, which is something I think all of our movements need to do more of. It also captures, in a way that was at points quite affecting for me, something about the specific moment that was those few months -- a spirit, a feel, a sensibility. But more than that, it captures something about what underlay that moment, something that far surpasses one narrow band of time to embody, even if only in the limited way that text is capable of, a kind of multivocal, grounded, persistent spirit that (to my settler senses, at least) is central to the little glimpses I've been lucky enough to catch, here and there, of mostly-hidden-from-settler-view Indigenous resurgence going on before, during, and after Idle No More in spaces across Turtle Island.

This book is ideal for teaching: There are so many voices, the pieces are almost to a one so accessible, and the specific focus on Idle No More is such a topical way of getting students to begin thinking about these five century-old issues and struggles. And if some guilty settler billionaire wanted to donate a copy to every public and school library in the country, I think that would be a good thing.

Mostly, though, this book is a valuable challenge. Or, at least, that's how I experienced it. At least two of the contributors to the book -- Naomi Klein and Leanne Betasamosake Simpson -- wrote of Chief Theresa Spence's fast in those terms, as an act that pushed each of them (and many others), as people who weren't themselves fasting, to make sure they were doing as much as they possibly could in other ways. In a sense, this book is a vessel carrying reminders not only of Chief Spence's brave stand but also so many other acts of bravery and determination. Which means that not only is it a terrific tool for learning, it is also a great way for those of us who benefit from settler colonialism to re-encounter that challenge and re-focus our attention on the great amounts of work that need to be done on our side of the relationship if the visions of a just, decolonial future underlying Idle No More are ever to become a reality.

[For a list of all book reviews on this site, click here.]

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