Indigenous Histories

This October, our Ground Floor Display celebrates Indigenous Histories. Describing the events, experiences and heritage of Indigenous Peoples in Canada, this month’s collection includes narratives, biographies and creation stories from Indigenous authors, as well as resources on treaties and historic events. Common throughout these resources are themes of celebration of identity and resistance.

This Place: 150 Years Retold Foreword by Alicia Elliot, with stories by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and 10 others

This brand new anthology of graphic narratives showcases Indigenous histories, focusing on the last 150 years. In its pages, you will find the stories of “Annie of Red River” – a glimpse into the life of Annie Bannatyne, a prominent charity organizer whose rebellion against a newspaper article attacking Métis women in Red River that may have very well inspired Louis Riel; “Migwite’tmeg: We Remember It”, a story recounting the salmon raids during the 1970’s and 80’s in the Lisstuguj First Nation; and “Warrior Nation”, describing the Oka Crisis, the 78-day standout between Mohawk protestors, Quebec police and the Canadian army for the land between the Haudenosaunee of Kanesatake and Oka in 1990. Other stories include “Like a Razor Slash”, following resistance efforts against the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline led by Fort Good Hope Chief Frank T’Seleie in 1975, and “Kitaskînaw 2050”, a story of Indigenous futurism in a post-apocalyptic world. Each of the ten graphic narratives is prefaced with a contextual description by the author, and a timeline of events framing the emergence of each story.

Thunder in My Soul: A Mohawk Woman Speaks by Patricia Monture-Angus

At the time of its publication in 1995, Monture-Angus’ biography was the first collection of essays from a Canadian university to specifically address Indigenous experiences with education, racism, feminism and criminal justice. Drawing on her life as a Mohawk lawyer and professor, Monture-Angus uses storytelling to reflect on her experiences of the injustices faced by Indigenous people. Beginning with the essay “Flint Women”, the first section of the book tackles Monture-Angus’ troubling experience at an academic conference, leading on her to reflect on her sense of self and community. Other sections of the book focus on law school, women and politics, and justice for Indigenous peoples, making Thunder in My Soul a multi-disciplinary reading that can be used in a variety of post-secondary classrooms.

Nation to Nation: A Resource on Treaties in Ontario produced by the Union of Ontario Indians

As described in the introduction by Maurice Switzer, “First Nations believe…that their rights to govern their own affairs were given to them by the Creator. These rights include the rights to land, resources, the right to self determination and self-government, and to practice one’s own culture and customs”. This handbook explores how these inherent rights are affected by treaties – agreements between First Nations and colonial governments on sharing land and resources. Nation to Nation unpacks the history of treaties in Canada and Ontario, carrying readers from first contact the present day. Accompanied by photographs, maps and illustrations, this handbook is a useful guide to navigating historical and contemporary issues surrounding the rights of Canada’s Indigenous peoples. The French version De Nation à Nation is also available at OISE.

Travellers Through Empire: Indigenous Voyages from Early Canada by Cecelia Morgan

Beginning in the late 18th century, an influx of Indigenous travellers voyaged across the Atlantic Ocean, arriving in the British Empire. Focusing on the histories of Ontario First Nations, Travellers Through Empires explores the stories of Haudenosaunee, Anishinaabeg, and Cree people who journeyed to Britain in pursuit of advocacy, missionary and fundraising work, as well as education. Examining the written remnants of their travels including letters, logs, and diaries, Travellers Through Empire relays a narrative of resistance. Stories of the Mississaugas of New Credit peoples including Anishinaabe Methodist minister Peter Jones (Kahkewāquonāby) and missionary Catherine Sutton (Nahneebahwequa) are also recounted.

To borrow these titles and more, visit the Indigenous Ground Lobby Display case on the first floor of the Library. You can take books out directly from the display, or ask a librarian for assistance.


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New Titles for Autumn!

Tetris: The Games People Play

A very interesting read: this book dives into the complicated history of one of the most recognizable and beloved video games. It is a graphic novel that is all about the history of Tetris and traces how Alexey Pajitnov created it during his spare time while developing software for the Soviet government. Furthermore, it is not simply a linear history of how the game was created; rather, it uses Tetris as an opening to explore the role of video games in our culture and society, as well as looking at the science and psychology behind our enjoyment of them. Perfect for young adults and older who are into pop-culture history, science and psychology or just looking for a fun read!

A quick & easy guide to they/them pronouns

This book is a graphic novel that is an accessible and easy resource for both people who use they/them pronouns as well as those who want to learn more about they/them pronouns. The book is written by two best friends: Archie a “snarky genderqueer artist” and Tristan, a “cisgender dude” who discuss in this comic why pronouns matter, what they are and how to use them respectfully. A helpful book for those who have questions about using they/them pronouns.


As long as grass grows: the indigenous fight for environmental justice, from colonization to Standing Rock

In this book, Dina Gilio-Whitaker—an Indigenous researcher and activist explores the fraught history of Indigenous environmental justice by looking at the histories of treaty violations, food and water insecurity, violation of sacred sites and much more. She also highlights Indigenous women and their ongoing involvement and leadership in the Indigenous resistance throughout the centuries. The overarching argument from Dina Gilio-Whitaker is that modern environmental movements need to acknowledge and learn from the history of Indigenous environmental defence and resistance.

The Witch Boy

Written by Molly Ostertag, the plot of this YA graphic novel is centred around Aster who is unable to shape-shift like the rest of the boys in his family. However, he is also not allowed to practice the magic that he’s actually interested in because it is only for girls. This book is an excellent resource to use to talk more about gender roles and expectations and is beautifully illustrated. It is a good read for children around 8-12 years old.


United University Professions: Pioneering in Higher Education Unionism is a book that traces the history of United University Professions (UUP) which is the largest higher education union in the United States. Growing from humble beginnings, this book details how the UUP grew from its early accomplishments to become a leader in the struggle to preserve academic freedom and tenure. The book is divided in chronological order detailing how The State University of New York was prior to unionization, the decades that followed as the UPP matured, while also keeping an eye on future challenges.

You can find all of these titles in the New Books shelf that is across from the Reference Desk on the main floor!

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October Lobby Display: Women’s History Month

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, and this year, we celebrate the women who have made lasting impacts in their fields under the banner #MakeAnImpact. Here at the OISE Library, we’ve pulled a number of books highlighting examples of women and girls who have made an impact, both past and present, in this month’s lobby display.

As an education library, we’re particularly struck by the impact that women have had on education. Women Teaching, Women Learning: Historical Perspectives, edited by Elizabeth M. Smyth and Paula Bourne, is a collection of scholarly essays exploring the histories of various women involved in education through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, simultaneously tracing the trajectory and development of the discipline. Building on the work of feminist historian and OISE professor emerita Alison Prentice, these essays examine the roles of formal and informal education in women’s lives in Canada, Australia, and Sweden. They are divided into three thematic sections: 1) The Lives of Women Teachers, 2) Regulating Women: Social Work, Teaching and Medicine, and 3) Women’s Public and Private Lives, and provide a launching point for various studies into the history of education, women’s social history, and feminist history.

OISE has a strong connection with feminist history, and Feminism in Canada: From Pressure to Politics, is just one title among many produced by our faculty. The book is co-edited by OISE faculty member Angela R. Miles and Geraldine Finn, and it contains a collection of essays exploring the ways in which feminism can and should be applied to a number of academic disciplines, of which history is only one. This powerhouse collection includes an extensive bibliography for further feminist reading, and would be well-paired with titles exploring other intersectional feminist issues, like Making Space for Indigenous Feminism, edited by Joyce Green.

For younger readers, feminist stories and the histories of women who have made an impact are beautifully described and illustrated in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 Tales of Extraordinary Women, by Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo. This crowd-funded book contains one hundred stories of inspiring women throughout history and from around the world, written in a charming, fairy-tale style that always begins, “Once upon a time…”. Featured women include Queen Elizabeth I, activist and politician Eufrosina Cruz, supermodel Alek Wek, orchestra conductor Xian Zhang, and geneticist Nettie Stevens, among many others.

Women’s history is constantly unfolding, and countless girls and women are making an impact today. Titles like I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, by Malala Yousafzai (another girl featured in Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls!) and Vital Voices: The Power of Women Leading Change Around the World by Alyse Nelson, emphasize the international scope and attention being given to women’s rights and the support systems that are being built by women for women around the world. Vital Voices, in particular, explores the work of the Vital Voices Global Partnership, an NGO with its roots in an initiative fostered in 1995 by Hilary Clinton and Madeleine Albright in the United States that has since grown to support the work of twelve thousand women leaders in 144 countries. In its pages, it details the work of many women who are making an impact.

These books are only a few among many currently on display in the OISE lobby, across from the cafe. Please ask a library staff member for assistance if you would like to check out an item from the display case!

For more about Women’s History Month in Canada and the women it celebrates, see the Government of Canada’s new digital gallery, Women of Impact in Canada, showcasing photos, maps, and timelines of women who have made significant contributions to the arts, sciences, politics, human rights, and more. This digital gallery also includes a learning toolkit with useful resources for educators seeking to share women’s history with students of all ages.

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New OISE Web Exhibit: Canadian Public Figures on Tape

An OISE photograph of staff working with reel-to-reel-tape. The original interviews were similarly recorded on reel-to-reel tape and reproduced as cassette tapes.

Calling all Canadian history buffs! This week the OISE Library is launching its first web exhibit, Canadian Public Figures on Tape. The online exhibit features ten audio interviews with famous Canadian politicians conducted in the early 1970s and published by OISE Press. The interviews were originally produced as a series of cassette tapes and have recently been digitized by the University of Toronto Libraries.  The tapes were distributed to Ontario civics and social studies classrooms as an effort to bring politics to life for students. The interviews also offered politicians – including Lester B. Pearson, John Diefenbaker, and René Levesqué – a unique opportunity to reflect candidly on their careers and life achievements.

Nearly fifty years after the original interviews were recorded, the new Canadian Public Figures on Tape exhibit offers a renewed glimpse into 1970s Canadian politics and Canada’s emerging national identity. Digitized versions of each interview (including the condensed cassette interviews as well as several of the original, unedited recordings) are featured alongside biographies, contextual summaries, and accessible PDF transcripts. The exhibit also includes a brand new video introduction with interviewer Richard Alway, delving into his experience at OISE as an emerging research institution in the late 1960s and sharing his memories of the project.

cassette tape - lester pearson

Cassette tape packaging of the Lester B. Pearson interview.

The Canadian Public Figures on Tape exhibit captures a fascinating piece of OISE’s history, and is as relevant for teaching history and politics as when it first debuted. The exhibit is available to the public through the Exhibits U of T platform.

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Indigenous Science Literacy Week: Oceans, Water and Lakes.

This month’s Indigenous display features works in line with the Science Literacy Week theme of Oceans, Water and Lakes. Water and Waterscapes play an  important role in Indigenous life and cultures. They are often at the centre of lifeways, and many Indigenous stewardship efforts focus on preserving and taking care of Land and water spaces. Indigenous stewardship also plays an important role in protecting Land and Indigenous voices are often in opposition to the pressures of agriculture and urbanization, and to bring attention to the issues of water quality and scarcity within their communities.

Science Literacy Week runs from September 16th – 22nd, and encourages children to engage and learn about the world around them.


A Walk on the Shoreline written by Rebecca Hainnu and illustrated by Qin Leng

This children’s novel introduces young readers to plants and animals native to the Arctic. Many plants and animals are part of the Arctic ecosystem during the summer months of 24 hour sunlight. Children can follow young Nukappia as he walks along the shoreline and learns about the plants and animals that live there and how the Inuit have used them for generations in medicine, food or as tools. The arctic is just not filled with ice and snow!

The Water Walker written and illustrated by Joanne Robertson

Follows an Anishinaabe grandmother (Nokomis), Josephine Mandamin and the Mother Earth Water Walkers, as she walks around the great lakes to raise awareness for their protection and continuation of future generations. Nokomis loves and respects Nibi, the Anishinaabemowin word for water, for the life that it gives our planet. Nokomis is upset about how humans are disrespecting the water and wasting it, and so she starts to walk to raise awareness. As Nokomis walks for Nibi, she sings and prays for the trees, birds, insects, animals and families yet to come who will require the clean precious water for survival.


Stewardship written by Anita Yasuda

Indigenous peoples have long taken on the role of protector in taking care of the Land. Stewardship highlights this role and its importance in protecting Land today. Indigenous peoples have lived for centuries across the diverse areas of Canada, and their lives are touched and influenced by the unique geographic areas that they call their homes. By living on the Land, Indigenous peoples have learned how to take care of it and respectfully use its resources. This book highlights the importance of their shared lands to Indigenous peoples and their efforts to protect their Land, and negotiate land claims within the Canadian government. In particular, water has played great importance in the lives of Indigenous, Inuit and Métis communities. It is part of their stories, and is often used in their ceremonies to cleanse and heal. However, access to safe drinking water is becoming a crisis for Indigenous communities in Canada, and it is through education and the stewardship efforts of indigenous peoples that changes are starting to be made


Sacred Water : Water for Life written by Lea Foushee and Renee Gurneau

Sacred Water - Water for Life, extremely limited stockThe North American Water Office heralds readers to follow their call to action, centring around Indigenous science solutions and strategies. This instruction manual incorporates spiritual, emotional, mental and physical aspects of human life to draw attention to the current water crisis, and the generations long effects of industrialization on indigenous health and lands. Along with original photography and art this book introduces readers to the traditional Anishinaabe sacred story of creation, and how the creator bestowed foundational values to respect all living things.  Through creation, we are all relatives with the same Mother. This book is written in English and Anishinaabemowin, with contributions from spiritual leaders and Spiritual leaders of the Three Fires Midewiwin Medicine Society

As Long As Grass Grows: the indigenous fight for environmental justice, from colonization to Standing Rock written by Dina Gilio-Whitaker

Continuing her thesis work, Gilio-Whitaker draws attention to the importance of building alliances across social and racial divides, in order to support the environmental justice work done by Indigenous peoples.  Often  forced into the role of educators, this impacts the already contentious relationships Indigenous peoples have with those around them.  Through her work Gilio-Whitaker points to a need for an educational foundation to build productive relationships. The goal of this book is to provide an overview of environmental justice work done by Indigenous peoples, and what exactly the term environmental justice means to them and how it affects their lives. For change to happen alliances need to be built, government officials and settlers need to educate themselves and learn how environmental justice can be responsive to the needs of Indigenous peoples in their communities.

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