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What do we bring with us from our many homes?

Updated: Mar 28, 2023

My new book uses family history to thoughtfully interrogate Canada’s settler past and ask: What stories are we passing on to our children?

For a long time, I have wanted to better understand where I come from, as well as the broader context of the places my ancestors lived and settled in Canada. Like many settler-Canadians, for a long time I knew little about my most recent ancestors who built their lives on Indigenous land. I realized without a thoughtful exploration of these stories, I wouldn’t be able to pass on the fullness of our history, the good and the bad, to my own daughter. I wanted to be able to share with her the richness and the complexity of this country, so she would be prepared to contribute to a more thoughtful future.

After years of research and writing, my new book, Our Homes on Indigenous Lands: Stories of My Ancestors Across Turtle Island, is the result of that work. Our Homes is a place-based family history. It looks at one family (mine) but makes connections between land, identity, colonization, and family that might emerge for many families. Since completing the research and writing for that book, I have had the good fortune to encounter others who are also writing their family history.

Here’s a snippet of the introduction:

Years ago I attended a workshop (hosted by WUSC on Treaty 6 territory, Calgary) where, as participants, we stood on a map of Canada. The facilitator, an Indigenous woman, asked us to stand where we were born; then where our parents were born; then our grandparents.

By the time she got to our great-grandparents, the room had cleared to the edges of the map. But she was still standing there, in Treaty 6 territory, where her people had been since time immemorial. In each of the places my ancestors have lived, Indigenous peoples can go back two, five, 15 generations and bring back a simple answer: since time immemorial, we have been in and of this place.

I feel a sense of responsibility to know my own people, to know where I come from, and perhaps from that journey, I will have a better sense of what I bring with me—consciously and unconsciously.

In the end, I wrote the book to examine that one question: What do I bring with me? What assumptions and beliefs do I carry within me as I raise my daughter, do my work, contribute to my community? My research took back to the 1600s in New Sweden (Pennsylvania), the 1800s in PEI, and the early 1900s in Alberta, Manitoba, and southern Ontario.

I wrote this book for my daughter, my niece and nephews, my cousins, and my cousins’ children. And maybe for yours.

The book is now available for order here. The launch event is online on Tuesday, April 18, 2022 - registration here. Join to hear behind-the-scenes stories of the book creation. I would be honoured to have you join me on my journey across Turtle Island. More importantly, I look forward to reading your version one day!

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