Professor Paul Watkins
Location: Online
Class: VIULearn and Zoom
Zoom on Thurs 2:30-3:30 pm
Office Hours: Wednesday 2:30-3:30 pm on Zoom
(or by appointment)

‘There are no truths, Coyote,’ I says. ‘Only stories’ (Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water).

The stories we tell matter, especially since Canada’s story is often about the country’s strained relationship with Indigenous people. We will read, watch, and listen, as we engage with a range of Indigenous literatures (published in Canada) in media as far ranging as fiction, poetry, art, comics, literary theory, film, and music (including folk, throat singing, “powwow-step,” and hip-hop). While many of these stories deal with the lasting effects of Canada’s colonial past, they are also about healing, reconciliation, and hope. Given all the explored texts are written by authors living in Canada (although they all cross and straddle borders), questions of what defines Canada and one’s citizenship/ nationhood/ identity within that space will be explored. Remaining attentive to contemporary injustices and Indigenous resistance movements, we will also witness how the authors are engaged with the communities from which they write and to whom they respond. You will also get a chance to share your own experiences (or lack thereof) with Indigenous Literatures, film, and music, and there will be a creative intervention project. It is my hope to deal with the material as fully as possible while being attentive to a number of important critical concerns on how we interpret the literature. We will include space for Indigenous theories of interpretation, which tend to be personal, holistic, processual, and situated. As a settler scholar, I have limitations and I will get some things wrong, but I will be open to correct them and receive greater understanding. Ultimately, I feel the literature is really important and deserves a forum for deep critical thinking in the way that any great literature does. The hope in this course is to open up spaces that challenge the colonization that affects us all, whether we are aware of it or not. Due to COVID-19, the course will be conducted through video/ audio lecture, email, VIULearn discussion, as well as Zoom discussion on Thursdays for most weeks of the course.

Primary Texts:

    • Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water
    • Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach
    • Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Carpe Fin: A Haida Manga
    • Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves
    • Leanne Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love
    • Selected music, poetry, essays, and film


Participation 10%
Reflection Papers (4 x 500 words) 40%
Creative Intervention (w/ 500 word write up) 20%
Research Essay (2500-3000 words) 30%

See the course outline on VIULearn for a detailed breakdown of assignments.


Music for the Course Page:


Listed dates are for our Zoom Sessions (2:30-3:30 pm on Thursdays).

Asynchronous lectures are released on Tuesdays and Zoom classes take place on Thursdays. Please note that this schedule is subject to change as the term progresses. Complete all viewings and readings before our weekly Zoom.

Jan 14
Introduction exercise; course outline; standards and expectations
Reading: Thomas King, “You’ll Never believe What happened”; audio
Listening: Willie Dunn, “I Pity the Country” (1973)

Jan 21
Reading: Tanya Talaga, All Our Relations (Chapters One, Two); Alicia Elliott, “Not Your Noble Savage”
Discussion of Reflection Papers

Jan 28
Reading: Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (part one, until page 100)
See Reading Notes by Jane Flick
Reflection Paper, Option 1 [on King, “You’ll Never Believe” or Talaga]

Feb 4
Reading: Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (part two and three, pp. 101-324)
Secondary Readings: Armstrong, “Disempowerment of First North American Native Peoples” and Kahente Horn-Miller, “Finding Balance and a ‘Good Mind’ Through the Rearticulation of Sky Woman’s Journey”

Feb 11
Reading: Thomas King, Green Grass, Running Water (par four, pp. 325-431)
Home Viewing (Documentary): Reel Injun or The Inconvenient Indian
Secondary Reading: Carlton Smith, Postmodern Trickster”
Reflection Paper, Option 2 [on Green Grass, Horn-Miller, or one of the two documentaries]

  • Click here to read my review of King’s The Inconvenient Indian
  • Bad Water on First Nations in Canada
  • On Coyote

Feb 16-19
Reading Week (no classes)

Feb 25
Reading: Michael Yahgulanaas, Carpe Fin: A Haida Manga
Home Viewing: Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown, SGAAWAAY K’UUNA, Edge of the Knife (2018| 100 min) [VIUTube]

March 4
Reading: Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach (part one and two)
Reflection Paper, Option 3 [on Carpe Fin, Red, or Edge of the Knife]

March 11
Reading: Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach (part three and four)
Home Viewing: Loretta Todd, Monkey Beach (2020 | 103 min)
Reflection Paper, Option 4 [on Monkey Beach—book or film]

March 18
Reading: Leanne Simpson, Islands of Decolonial Love
Secondary Reading: Simpson, “Land as Pedagogy”

Mar 25
Reading: Indigenous Poetry Reader (see VIULearn)
Reflection Paper, Option 5 [on Simpson]

April 1
Reading: Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (1-153)
Secondary Reading: Please read “Introduction” (1-22) from Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (available on VIULearn)
Reflection Paper, Option 6 [ Indigenous poetry]
Creative Interventions Due (Zoom option for sharing)

April 8
Reading: Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (154-230)
Secondary Reading: “Calls to Action” (319-338) from Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (available on VIULearn)
Home Viewing: Stephen S. Campanelli, Indian Horse (2017 | 100 mins) [Criterion on Demand][Reflection Paper, Option 7 on Dimaline, Campanelli, or The Final Report]

April  15
Home Viewing: Jeff Barnaby, Blood Quantum (2019 | 138 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Reading: Jeannette Armstrong, “Keepers of the Earth”
Research Paper Due

Enjoy your summer!