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Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance

de Jesse Wente

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1063261,615 (4.06)9
NATIONAL BESTSELLER Part memoir and part manifesto, Unreconciled is a stirring call to arms to put truth over the flawed concept of reconciliation, and to build a new, respectful relationship between the nation of Canada and Indigenous peoples. Jesse Wente remembers the exact moment he realized that he was a certain kind of Indian--a stereotypical cartoon Indian. He was playing softball as a child when the opposing team began to war-whoop when he was at bat. It was just one of many incidents that formed Wente's understanding of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person in a society still overwhelmingly colonial in its attitudes and institutions.      As the child of an American father and an Anishinaabe mother, Wente grew up in Toronto with frequent visits to the reserve where his maternal relations lived. By exploring his family's history, including his grandmother's experience in residential school, and citing his own frequent incidents of racial profiling by police who'd stop him on the streets, Wente unpacks the discrepancies between his personal identity and how non-Indigenous people view him.       Wente analyzes and gives voice to the differences between Hollywood portrayals of Indigenous peoples and lived culture. Through the lens of art, pop culture, and personal stories, and with disarming humour, he links his love of baseball and movies to such issues as cultural appropriation, Indigenous representation and identity, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty. Indeed, he argues that storytelling in all its forms is one of Indigenous peoples' best weapons in the fight to reclaim their rightful place.      Wente explores and exposes the lies that Canada tells itself, unravels "the two founding nations" myth, and insists that the notion of "reconciliation" is not a realistic path forward. Peace between First Nations and the state of Canada  can't be recovered through reconciliation--because no such relationship ever existed.… (més)
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A very important book for all Canadians, especially those who are not indigenous. At the same time, it's a great read.

Jesse Wente is able to talk about his own experience, and the broader cultural and political history of Canada, in a way that explains the real basis for a new relationship between indigenous people and those who came later. I loved his use of story telling and his recognition of the importance of telling our own, true stories.

The author has a vision for Canada that is truly inspiring. By deepening our understanding of our past and how it continues to shape our present, Mr. Wente allows us to see a genuine, achievable way forward. Achievable in theory, at least. It will take acceptance of historical fact and a will to change course.

I've worked with Aboriginal people and have read a lot on this topic and still found new insights in this book. Read it! ( )
  LynnB | Jul 14, 2022 |
VNFC Library Volunteer Review (Feb 2022)

Unreconciled hit the bookshelves in the fall of 2021. As Thomas King put it “One hell of a good book… Very powerful and a joy to read.”. So, yes, I’d say it hit the bookshelves with considerable vigour. The author, Jesse Wente, is described on the fly leaf as an Anishinabe writer, broadcaster and arts leader, and he is, indeed, all of that, and much more. He is also a truth-seeking storyteller who will only stand for and offer to us his truth. It is this same truth, which is so gob-smackingly real that it can’t be denied, that can also be so challenging for many people to face and accept. But reading this book can, at the same time, help the reader come to terms with and, in fact, accept that truth.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was formed in 2007 and was concluded in June 2015 with its final report published in December of that year. Since then, numerous activities, actions and decisions have been undertaken in an attempt to implement even some of the 94 TRC calls to action.

Wente is asking us to examine what those involved with Truth and Reconciliation are really doing and working towards. He is asking each of us who is not First Nations, Metis or Inuit, what we are doing or are even thinking about doing in the context of this issue. The truth is many/most/lots of ’mainstream Canadians’ have not yet given this subject much thought and even less action. What percentage of the average mainstream Canadian has even looked at, let alone read the 94 calls to action as laid out in the summation of the TRC Report?

Before the first TRC Day in September 2021, Justice Murray Sinclair was a guest on the CBC radio program, Unreserved, hosted by Rosanna Deerchild. When asked about that day, the first National TRC Day, Justice Sinclair suggested that not very many mainstream Canadians would likely be participating. But, he said, by entrenching this day into our days to be recognized, as Remembrance Day is, for example, then it becomes part of our national memory and cannot be forgotten. That’s the important part. He said it will take time, but the TRC Day is an important step in helping us acknowledge, come to terms with and never forget what was done.

Justice Murray Sinclair, and all those on the committee who travelled across this country with him, listened and listened. For 6 years he did that and they all did that! It was difficult work. Eventually the final report was written and Justice Sinclair asked the writers to think carefully about their audience…..who were they writing this for? Who would be reading this report? Who would BE their audience? They were confused. So, he suggested to them, the writers, to write so as to ‘arm the reasonable’. Are you and I part of that ‘reasonable’ group of people? I hope so. And if you’re not quite there yet, then I hope and believe that in reading with care and thoughtfulness and an open mind Jesse Wente’s book entitled, Unreconciled, it can help you find and embrace your ‘reasonable qualities’. Wente writes with strength, skill and more than enough personal experience to reveal to us the truth in what he has to say and the truth in what we need to acknowledge and take action on. The First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples have been working on this since they were first colonized. Now it’s up to us, Wente emphasizes, we ‘mainstream Canadians’, to get to the truth of the matter and work alongside the First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples to move us all forward in a new and equal way. We have so much to gain from reaching out, taking action and doing the work. We have all these nations, over 160, within our nation of Canada, to support us and enrich us with their wisdom, their cultures and their friendship.

This book is a must read for mainstream Canadians. It is also a very valuable book for First Nations, Metis and Inuit peoples to read. ( )
  vnfc | Feb 22, 2022 |
Jesse Wente is a Canadian film reviewer and arts and culture journalist. For over 10 years he had a weekly column on the CBC radio morning show I always listen to so reading this book, I could actually *hear* his familiar voice. He is Anishnaabe Ojibway and he brings his passion and unique perspective to his work. He is/was the first and often the only Indigenous person in the work he does as a voice for his people and I believe his mission is to be the first but not the last. He also spares nothing when expressing the truth about Canada and Canadian *history*.

Canada's real history is often at odds with the face we present to the world. Canada has a history of racism and appropriation towards its Indigenous population and Wente exposes it for what it is and was. In recent years, there has been an attempt at *Truth and Reconciliation* that Wente believes is a beginning but only a beginning. His premise is that reconciliation is only real when trying to repair a relationship. Canada and its Indigenous peoples never really had a sincere relationship so perspectives must change in order for it to be accomplished. Thus the title *Unreconciled*.

This memoir is very personal, emotional, at times very angry but also focused. At times repetitive, but necessarily so. Among topics he discusses are defunding police, inequalities in taxation and education, cultural appropriation. There is raw emotion, and anger, but also hope and creativity. His opinions on these topics are not necessarily what one might expect them to be, either.

- pgs 169/70 - story of Canada - "This country is a colonial settler state. Its origins lie in a massive resource extraction project - the exploitation of the land's natural bounty in order to enrich Europeans - that was often both illegal and murderous. In order to justify all that selfishness, greed, and violence, Canada used storytelling to craft an alternative history and identity. In this version, settlers arrived to find no *real* people here, only primitive groups situated somewhere between human and animal. It nevertheless dealt with these groups humanely, purchasing their land fair and square, elevating their societies toward a European ideal, educating their children, and just generally doing anything it could think of to help them become Canadians.

This is the story Canada can live with, the one in which it did nothing wrong and everything right, the one in which it remains, to this day, a nation of immense natural beauty and overwhelming politeness. It's not the story Indigenous people tell, of course, because we tell the truth. We are simply not given the space to speak.
This is why so many Canadians have grown up knowing so little of Indigenous life. In all my time travelling and speaking across this land, it's one of the most consistent responses my talks elicit: "I just didn't know"

And this is so true. Growing up, there was NOTHING in our history text books that exposed us to our own people, our own real history. One of the reasons is that we were taught only about the explorers, dates of who landed when, etc. Nothing of the Indigenous peoples who had been here forever.

- pg 182 - "I've always believed that since colonization is largely a destructive process - an extraction that gives nothing back - one of the simplest ways to decolonize is to create. Given the tools to tell their own stories the way they want, and to market and sell those stories, Indigenous communities can generate economic opportunity where currently none exists, without in the process taking anything from the land beyond the room to think. They can reshape our perception of what Canada can be. And they can do so not only by reimagining the relationship between the Canadian government and Indigenous peoples, though that reimagining is desperately needed, but also by introducing new possibilities for our relationships with nature, family, community, spirituality and ourselves."

He spares no one, including Trudeau, who, despite his first election promises, has really done nothing to ensure that Indigenous communities are provided with the basic necessities of life, such as clean drinking water and decent housing and education. To this day, there are many communities that lack these. How is this possible? (rhetorical question, shamefully)

Wente has 2 kids of his own and for them, he remains hopeful. This wasn't an easy read but a very necessary one and I am very glad to have read it. ( )
1 vota jessibud2 | Dec 3, 2021 |
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NATIONAL BESTSELLER Part memoir and part manifesto, Unreconciled is a stirring call to arms to put truth over the flawed concept of reconciliation, and to build a new, respectful relationship between the nation of Canada and Indigenous peoples. Jesse Wente remembers the exact moment he realized that he was a certain kind of Indian--a stereotypical cartoon Indian. He was playing softball as a child when the opposing team began to war-whoop when he was at bat. It was just one of many incidents that formed Wente's understanding of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person in a society still overwhelmingly colonial in its attitudes and institutions.      As the child of an American father and an Anishinaabe mother, Wente grew up in Toronto with frequent visits to the reserve where his maternal relations lived. By exploring his family's history, including his grandmother's experience in residential school, and citing his own frequent incidents of racial profiling by police who'd stop him on the streets, Wente unpacks the discrepancies between his personal identity and how non-Indigenous people view him.       Wente analyzes and gives voice to the differences between Hollywood portrayals of Indigenous peoples and lived culture. Through the lens of art, pop culture, and personal stories, and with disarming humour, he links his love of baseball and movies to such issues as cultural appropriation, Indigenous representation and identity, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty. Indeed, he argues that storytelling in all its forms is one of Indigenous peoples' best weapons in the fight to reclaim their rightful place.      Wente explores and exposes the lies that Canada tells itself, unravels "the two founding nations" myth, and insists that the notion of "reconciliation" is not a realistic path forward. Peace between First Nations and the state of Canada  can't be recovered through reconciliation--because no such relationship ever existed.

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