Price Paid: The Fight For First Nations Survival
Bev Sellars, with contributions from Hemas Kla-Lee-Lee Kla, 211 pages, Talonbooks Publishing, talonbooks.com
The author of 2013’s They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School, Bev Sellars has written Price Paid to educate us about Canada’s history of injustice against First Nations peoples. Sellars is perfectly placed to write on this subject; she possesses a degree in both history and law, served twice as Xat’súll chief, and was on the B.C. Treaty Council from 2003 to 2009. Referencing her own experiences in her community in northern British Columbia, she draws on her extensive knowledge of the challenges of the the Secwepemc Nation which the Xat’súll are a part of. The book is built from the community level up into the broader history of Canada. Melding the social and political, she demonstrates how legislation developed over time and what the disastrous results were for First Nations peoples.
Sellars asks us to look at our history through a different lens: “Canada projects an international reputation that does not match the reality at home.” She opens each chapter with a house as a metaphor for Canada. For example: “What if you are forced to appeal to newcomer institutions and laws to try to get your house back?” Stern without being pessimistic, the chapters themselves provide ample political data to support the author’s assertions. Sellars writes that, as “ugly as it may be sometimes, we cannot do a proper job of examining history without looking at the whole picture.”
The readable yet data-rich density of this book is ideal in that it provides the minimum every Canadian newcomer/settler (i.e. non-First Nations) ought to know about the darkest part of their country’s history and present day. I’ve noticed living in Canada that a typical “well-meaning” reaction to sad news stories about First Nations is a sigh of consternation and a mumble about how these problems just don’t seem to have solutions. The logical reaction to having no idea what to do about an ongoing tragedy in your own country is to put some effort into understanding where the problem came from. This book is a great place to start. (Feliks Jezioranski)