"Real" Indians and Others: Mixed-blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood

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U of Nebraska Press, Jan 1, 2004 - Social Science - 303 pages
Mixed-blood urban Native peoples in Canada are profoundly affected by federal legislation that divides Aboriginal peoples into different legal categories. In this pathfinding book, Bonita Lawrence reveals the ways in which mixed-blood urban Natives understand their identities and struggle to survive in a world that, more often than not, fails to recognize them.

In ?Real? Indians and Others Lawrence draws on the first-person accounts of thirty Toronto residents of Native heritage, as well as archival materials, sociological research, and her own urban Native heritage and experiences. She sheds light on the Canadian government?s efforts to define Native identity through the years by means of the Indian Act and shows how residential schooling, the loss of official Indian status, and adoption have affected Native identity. Lawrence looks at how Natives with ?Indian status? react and respond to ?nonstatus? Natives and how federally recognized Native peoples attempt to impose an identity on urban Natives.

Drawing on her interviews with urban Natives, she describes the devastating loss of community that has resulted from identity legislation and how urban Native peoples have wrestled with their past and current identities. Lawrence also addresses the future and explores the forms of nation building that can reconcile the differences in experiences and distinct agendas of urban and reserve-based Native communities.


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Excellent and balanced analysis of the diversity and porous cultural bridges that still exist when in comes to the question of Metis identity across Canada; that is all parts of Canada and even North America. This book is a great addition to nuance the often cut and dry Metis nationalism we see in Western Canada. The author's analysis underlines the tendency of such nationalism to fall for newly constructed essentialist definition of the Metis Nation (as per defined by the Metis National Council), here often influenced more or less consciously by court definitions and/or fear of loosing what could be exclusive privileges granted by the government of Canada.  

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Many mixed blood Indians doubt their heritage and feel cut off from their roots. Lawrence puts the story into a personal perspective that includes a personal search, years passing before acknowledging that heritage, and a final attempt to confront the reasons why culture shame and silence was brought upon her family, in an attempt to rectify what hegemonic control is all about. The struggle to understand the differences between rural and urban Indians, as well as the struggle to explore and reclaim one's culture and defy assimilation in later life, are themes I see portrayed time and again. Her delving into "identity legislation" is on target and worthy of further study.  


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About the author (2004)

Bonita Lawrence is an assistant professor of women?s studies and Native studies at Queen?s University in Kingston, Ontario. She recently coedited (with Kim Anderson) Strong Women Stories: Native Vision and Community Survival.

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