Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

August 1994


Published in Great Plains Research 4:2 (August 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


Canada's urban Natives, like their American cousins to the south, are resilient, proud people who have weathered broken families, unemployment, pervasive alcohol and drug abuse, and rampant racism to retain a strong cultural identity and a hope for better times. Lynda Shorten's moving account of nine urban Native people from Edmonton, Alberta, reveals the complexity and diversity present in contemporary Canadian Native society. Her stories also demonstrate the havoc one culture has wreaked on another.

Shorten, a lawyer, journalist, writer, and activist, became a "walking tape recorder" to produce this book. She notes that she believes in stories; this book is a collection of autobiographical vignettes collected through extensive interviews. Although she evidently immersed herself in her subjects' lives, sometimes to the point of assisting some to cope with Canada's failed legal system, she realized the importance of presenting, not representing, those she interviewed. Although it is impossible for any reporter to remain completely divorced from their story, Shorten tried to edit only for clarity, not for ideology. Questions are left unanswered, however, and the author made no attempt to seek outside verification for the autobiographical stories she recorded. In her introduction Shorten also explains her rationale as a non-Native for recording these stories. For her the book was an educational experience, and the process of writing allowed her to learn while she helped her readers learn.