About the Project

The People and the Text: Indigenous Writing in Northern North America is collecting and studying one of the most neglected literary archives in English Canada, an archive neglected because settlers used literature to consolidate a narrative of Canada starring the British-descended.

Rather than subject this archive to the typical methods of a field that until recently has ignored or appropriated Indigenous intellectual production, we prioritize specifically Indigenous literary research methods to study it. For example, we are mindful that those educated in universities are conventionally situated as “experts” with Indigenous peoples relegated as “objects of knowledge.” Foundational to the TPatT team, composed of both Indigenous and settler scholars, is a devotion to upend this power dynamic. We are mindful of the complex webs of obligation that connect our work with writers and their communities and families, as well as our commitments to our fellow researchers.

In the first stage of The People and the Text (funded by SSHRC from 2015-2021):

  • we brought scholarly attention to understudied or forgotten works;
  • we prioritized Indigenous literary research methods that consider our responsibilities to relevant Indigenous communities and individuals;
  • we built a sustainable open-access bibliography of Indigenous texts, in partnership with the Canadian Writing Research Collaboratory (CWRC) as well as made available secondary materials to the general public;
  • we advocated for systemic change in collection systems and the Indigenization of pedagogical approaches

In the next stage of The People and the Text, we plan to continue with these goals but also expand our focus. Initially, TPatT limited its scope to work prior to 1992, a date chosen as the quincentennial of Columbus’ so-called “discovery” of the so-called “New World” but also the publication date of An Anthology of Canadian Native Literature in English, edited by Daniel David Moses and Terry Goldie, and released by Oxford University Press. This publication hearkened a new era when literature professors could assign a textbook to a topic that had previously been understudied.

In the next stage, we will continue with the project’s original mission but will extend our focus to the date 2012, the start date of Idle No More. Initially established by four women—Jessica Gordon, Sylvia McAdam, Sheelah McLean, and Nina Wilson—to protest the eradication of Indigenous rights and therefore environmental safeguards, Idle No More grew into a national and international movement about Indigenous sovereignty. It is also the year before the establishment of the Indigenous Literary Studies Association, or ILSA.