Aboriginal identity and the arts- a cultural lens

With the recent alleged exposure of Joseph Boyden’s identity by the APTN , the whitewater ripple in Canada is growing. I’m no expert. I’m just a reader and retired librarian but the storm is as chilling as our cold winter. 

As a librarian I read, purchased and advocated Joseph Boyden books. Why? Literature but also cultural relevance mattered. In an age where Canadians are tackling reconciliation matters legally and socially , embracing the pursuit of point of view and discourse led us to literature. 

Like the storm around Dan Brown’s DaVinci Code or Jonathan Earl Franzen’s Opra plagiarism fiasco, librarians struggled with the fallout. I don’t think censoring Boyden titles based on assertions is sound but even if this issue eventually is proven, authors of fiction should not be banned. 

I harken back to the Gray Owl biography. Canada and the world embraced his tales of Canada’s wilderness life. Culture even cheered his ‘indianness’ despite his true story exposing him as just a charismatic white man. 

These narratives may ultimately serve the genuine need for change in Canada’s racial problems if by exposure only. I pass no judgement on Boyden at this early stage but , as always, I do prompt my colleagues to consider their selections with the context in mind. Just providing book titles does not indicate prejudice but being informed is always part of a defensible plan. 

Joseph Boyden is a great writer and whether his identity issues do expose deception, I still posit that his body of work deserves reading. Perhaps this specific issue, even if true, may help us all address what racial identity in a multi-cultural society means? 

“Author Joseph Boyden’s Shape-shifting Indigenous Identity.” APTN National News. 23 Dec. 2016. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.

“Indigenous Identity and the Case of Joseph Boyden.” CBCnews. CBC/Radio Canada, 05 Jan. 2017. Web. 05 Jan. 2017.

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