Author Archives: Daniel Rueck

About Daniel Rueck

Historian of Indigenous Lands and Colonialism | Faculty Lecturer, McGill University

Some Good Introductory Books on Indigenous History

A friend who recently moved to Canada told me he would like to read something about the history of Indigenous peoples in Canada / North America, and asked for introductory book suggestions. His request inspired me to come up with list of books that would provide someone with little background a good introduction to the subject, in no particular order. I also asked for suggestions on twitter and facebook, and some of those found their way onto my list.

King, Thomas. The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People In North America. Toronto: Doubleday, 2012.

Wright, Ronald. Stolen Continents: The “New World” through Indian eyes. Toronto: Penguin, 1992.

Brown, Chester. Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography. Montréal: Drawn & Quarterly, 2006.

Brody, Hugh. The Other Side of Eden: Hunters, farmers and the shaping of the world. Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre, 2000.

Mann, Charles C. 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. Vintage, 2006.

Dickason, Olive Patricia, and William Newbigging. A Concise History of Canada’s First Nations. Toronto: Oxford University Press, 2015 (3rd edition)


Freeman, Minnie Aodla. Life among the Qallunaat. Edmonton: Hurtig Publishers, 1978.

Byrne, Nympha, and Camille Foulliard, eds. It’s Like a Legend: Innu Women’s Voices. Charlottetown, PEI: Gynergy Books, 2000.

Many thanks to all of you who submitted suggestions by twitter and facebook:

Please use the comments section to let me know about books you would recommend.

Mapping Trails and Surveyors

One of my research projects concerns Otto J. Klotz, a German-Canadian surveyor in the 1870s and 1880s. Klotz is not well-known today, but he left a rich personal diary with an entry for every day of his adult life. He was involved in creating the property grid of the Dominion Land Survey on what would become the Canadian Prairies, and would later go on to become Canada’s top astronomer. I say “what would become the Canadian Prairies” because the prairies Klotz first encountered were not Canadian: the majority populations were Indigenous, Indigenous nations were politically and militarily powerful, and the primary languages spoken were Indigenous languages including Michif (the language of the Métis). The eventual dominance of the Canadian state was still far from certain. It was surveyors like Klotz, along with police officers, railway engineers, and Indian Affairs officials, who made the Canadian state a reality on the Prairies.

Screenshot of Work in Progress: Cart Trails of the Prairie West in the 1880s

This summer I have been mapping out Klotz’s travels, as a way to better understand Canadian colonization of the Prairie West. The above image is a screenshot I took while using GIS software to trace out the cart trails that crisscrossed the northern Prairies in the 1880s. Using Klotz’ professional surveying notebooks, it is relatively easy to spatialize his travels for the days when he was working to create the Dominion Land Survey (the rectangular property grid that covers the Prairies from western Ontario to parts of British Columbia). His notebooks give his geographical coordinates for every day he was in the field, but not for the days when he was traveling to and from his worksite. Using only Klotz’s diaries and notebooks there was no way to precisely map his travels. His diaries sometimes indicate which cart trail he traveled, but those cart trails no longer exist, and I needed to find where they used to be. Thankfully I was able to find some high quality digital images of Northwest Mounted Police map and a Dominion Lands Survey map from the 1880s that showed cart trails (thank you University of Alberta libraries!), then georeferenced them, and began to trace out the trails.

This screenshot shows a work in progress along with a georeferenced DLS map of eastern Manitoba and western Ontario. For the purposes of orienting the viewer, the purple lines are largely focused on Manitoba, and the yellow lines on what is today Saskatchewan and Alberta. The network of trails revealed by the image shows that the pre-railroad land transportation network was well-established and wide-spread, and that certain places that are ghost towns today (like Fort Elice, the busy node where maroon and yellow lines meet) were central transit hubs 130 years ago. When I complete this work, I will provide the University of Alberta libraries with the georeferenced maps and shape-files for the cart trails so they can be made available to other researchers. With few traces of these trails remaining on the ground, this will help us to better understand life on the Prairies before and during colonization.


2013 photo of a historical plaque in Southern Saskatchewan marking the location of the Weyburn Cart Trail.

Some Great Websites on Issues Related to Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Studies

Decolonizaton: Indigeneity, Education, and Society: “This is the blog site of the online, interdisciplinary, Open Access journal, Decolonization: Indigeneity, Education & Society, which can be found at www.decolonization.orgDecolonization is a journal which centers and privileges various forms of Indigenous knowledges, epistemologies and methodologies for the purpose of decolonization at all levels.”

Media Indigena: an interactive, multimedia magazine dedicated to Indigenous news, views and creative expression.”

Jarrett Martineau – Culterite: explores Indigeneity, politics, media, hip-hop, art, culture, philosophy & technology.”

âpihtawikosisân Law, Language, Life: A Plains-Cree speaking Métis woman in Montreal

Great articles related to Idle No More

Below is a list of some of my favourite articles and blog posts that have recently been written in the context of the Idle No More Indigenous rights movement.

Why Idle No More?

Leanne Simpson and Naomi Klein: Dancing the World into Being – Yes! Magazine

Tobold Rollo: Idle No More is an opportunity to realize the promise of democracy in Canada –

David McLaren: Mr. Harper’s Endgame

The Economist: Time We Stopped Meeting Like This

Treaties, Laws, and Proposed Legislation

Russell Diabo: Harper Launches Major First Nations Termination Plan: As Negotiating Tables Legitimize Canada’s Colonialism

The Treaties: A Primer on Recent Violations

A Legislative Road Map as Idle No More Revs Up

The proposed First Nations Property Ownership Act

Jody Wilson-Raybould: First Nations want property rights, but on our own terms – Globe and Mail

Challenging Stereotypes and Racism

Hayden King: We natives are deeply divided. There’s nothing wrong with that – Globe and Mail

Niigaan Sinclair: The words we have inherited – Winnipeg Free Press

Leanne Simpson: Idle No More: Where the Mainstream Media Went Wrong

Indigenous People’s Relationship with Canada

Dru Oja Jay: Know Your Rights: A treaty primer for non-natives

Tobold Rollo: I am Canadian! (because of treaties with Indigenous nations)

Chelsea Vowel: Assimilation is not the answer to the Aboriginal ‘problem’ – National Post

Chelsea Vowel: Canada, the natives are restless. It’s time to fix this relationship – National Post

Suggested historical readings

Tom Peace, Andrew Watson, and others: Ten Books to Contextualize Idle No More

Tom Flanagan and Idle No More

Derrick O’Keefe: Tom Flanagan Can Try To Blame Idle No More, But He Was Hoisted on His Own Petard –

Other Useful Collections of Idle No More Links

Culture and the Canada-US Border: “Idle No More” and the Border

Great Informational Videos Related to Idle No More

Here are a few of the best informational videos related to Idle No More. Of course there are many other excellent videos–this is only a selection.

Wab Kinew on George Strouboulopoulos Tonight


The Agenda with Steve Paikin – The State of Aboriginal Affairs (TVO). Guests: Pam Palmater, Douglas Sanderson, Randall Phillips, Mike Metatawabin, Ron Jamieson

The Agenda with Steve Paikin – Canadian Aboriginals: In or Out? (TVO). Guests: Pam Palmater, Paul Martin, Cynthia Wesley-Esquimaux, Clint Davis

The Agenda with Steve Paikin – Moving Beyond the Indian Act, Guests: Tobold Rollo, Douglas Sanderson, Christopher Alcantara, Jonathan Kay

On the Indian Act, Treaties, and Current Legislation

Breaking Down the Indian Act with Russell Diabo

Websites with Multiple Videos

The Ways: Great Lakes Native Culture & Language

Feel free to add your suggestions!