Incorporating Indigenous Editorial Practices into Our Work

On May 29, 2018, Deanna Reder (Cree/Métis) and I published an article titled “’I write this for all of you’: Recovering the Unpublished RCMP ‘Incident’ in Maria Campbell’s Halfbreed (1973)” in the scholarly journal Canadian Literature. This article, published digitally, tells several stories. The first is about how at the age of fourteen, Maria Campbell, celebrated Métis author and activist, was raped by members of the RCMP. The second story is about how archival documents at McMaster University revealed that Campbell’s publishers, McClelland & Stewart, deliberately excluded this rape scene from her autobiographical work Halfbreed, despite assuring Campbell that it would be included. The two excised manuscript pages, crossed out with a red X, are reproduced fully in our article (with Campbell’s permission) and restore Halfbreed to the life-story Campbell had originally intended. 

This article was written collaboratively over the last six months, and with particular care for both acknowledging and respecting Indigenous protocols. This involved ongoing consultations with Campbell, by email and in person, to ensure that she felt supported and heard as our article evolved.

In our own academic work, Deanna and I have seen many examples of Indigenous writing that have been subject to destructive editing practices. In fact, many 20th-century collaborations between Indigenous writers and non-Indigenous editors/publishers reveal the ways in which the “dominant” narrative often set the terms for collaborative working relationships (see E. Pauline Johnson’s Legends of Vancouver, Mini Aodla Freeman’s Life Among the Qallunaat, and Anahareo’s Devil in Deerskins: My Life with Grey Owl, among others). These examples highlight the ways Indigenous writers were often forced to alter their writings to fit an ever-changing landscape of publishing venues, and how they have been historically denied proper recognition for their literary contributions.   

With the recent publication of these excised pages in Canadian Literature, Campbell’s autobiography can finally be read as she had intended over 45 years ago. Keeping in mind the publishing histories of works like Campbell’s Halfbreed, it is time now for scholars, researchers, publishers, and readers to critically revisit other 20th-century works of collaboratively authored Indigenous writing. And, in doing so, we must approach these texts by diligently and purposefully enacting and embodying Indigenous editorial practices from the outset.

Alix Shield

Alix Shield is a PhD Candidate and settler scholar in the Department of English at Simon Fraser University (Burnaby, BC). Her research uses contemporary digital humanities methods to analyze collaboratively-authored twentieth- and twenty-first-century Indigenous literatures in Canada, and is primarily focused on E. Pauline Johnson's and Chief Joe & Mary Capilano’s 1911 text Legends of Vancouver. Alix is also a Research Assistant for Dr. Deanna Reder’s “The People and the Text” SSHRC-funded project, and the recipient of a SSHRC Joseph-Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship for her doctoral work. Alix Shield est candidate au doctorat et chercheuse au département d’études anglaises de l’Université Simon Fraser (Burnaby, C.-B.). Elle utilise des méthodes propres aux sciences humaines numériques pour analyser la littérature autochtone du XXe et du XXIe siècle au Canada. Son axe de recherche se concentre principalement sur le texte de Legends of Vancouver, œuvre de 1911 de E. Pauline Johnson, inspirée des récits du chef Joe Capilano. Alix est également adjointe à la recherche dans le cadre du projet (financé par le Conseil de recherche en sciences humaines ou CRSH) « The People and the Text » de Deanna Reder (Ph. D.). Elle est récipiendaire d’une bourse d’études supérieures du Canada Joseph-Armand-Bombardier du CRSH pour sa thèse doctorale.

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