Professor Paul Watkins
Location: 345.208
Class: Monday and Wednesday 2:30-3:50
Office Hours: Tuesday 3:00-5:0 pm on Zoom
(or by appointment)

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. The course includes Zoom visits from two award-winning authors: Jordan Abel and Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas. Due to COVID-19, we will follow current health guidelines in the classroom, which might change as we collectively respond to new developments.

Primary Texts:

    • Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach
    • Jordan Abel, NISHGA
    • Joshua Whitehead, Jonny Appleseed
    • Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, Red: A Haida Manga
    • Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves
    • Selected music, poetry, essays, and film


Participation 5%
Oral Witnessing 5%
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.


See a past version of a music playlist for the course:


Please note that this schedule is subject to change as the term progresses. Complete all viewings and readings before each class. [See the date changes in red]

Jan 10
Introduction exercise; course outline; standards and expectations

Jan 12
Reading: Thomas King, “You’ll Never believe What happened”; audio
Listening: Willie Dunn, “I Pity the Country” (1973)
Discussion of Reflection Papers

Jan 17
Reading: Tanya Talaga, All Our Relations (Chapters One, Two)

Jan 19
Reading: Alicia Elliott, “Not Your Noble Savage”; Leanne Simpson, “Land as Pedagogy

Jan 24
Reading: Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach (part one)
Reflection Paper, Option 1 [on King, “You’ll Never Believe,” Talaga, Simpson, or Elliott]

Jan 26
Reading: Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach (part two)

Jan 31      
Reading: Eden Robinson, Monkey Beach (part three and four)
Reflection Paper, Option 2 [On Robinson]

Feb 2 and 7 
Class Viewing: Loretta Todd, Monkey Beach (2020 | 103 min) [Crave]

Feb 9       
Reading: Joshua Whitehead, Jonny Appleseed (1-108, Ch I-XXVII)
Reflection Paper, Option 3 [on Todd’s adaptation of Monkey Beach]

Feb 14      
Reading: Joshua Whitehead, Jonny Appleseed (109-219, Ch XXVIII-LIV)
Viewing: Canada Reads clips; Whitehead on Appleseed
Reflection Paper, Option 4 [on Whitehead]

Feb 16
Drew Hayden Taylor, selected from Take Us to Your Chief (VIULearn)
Recommended Home Viewing: Tracey Deer, Beans (2020 | 92 min)

Feb 21-25
Reading Week (no classes)

Feb 28
Reading: Jordan Abel, NISHGA
Classroom visit with Abel at 3 pm

March 2       
Reading: Jordan Abel, NISHGA; selected poems
Reflection Paper, Option 5 [on Taylor, NISHGA, book and/or visit]

March 7 and 9 [date change]
Viewing: Gwaai Edenshaw and Helen Haig-Brown, SGAAWAAY K’UUNA, Edge of the Knife (2018| 100 min) [VIUTube]

March 14 [date change]
Reading: Michael Yahgulanaas, Red: A Haida Manga (online)
Viewing: Flight of the Hummingbird – Haida Manga
Class Visit with 
Michael Yahgulanaas at 3 pm

March 16 [date change]
Reading: Michael Yahgulanaas, Red: A Haida Manga (online)
Reflection Paper, Option 6 [on Yahgulanaas or SGAAWAAY K’UUNA]

March 21     
Reading: Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (1-55)
Secondary Reading: Please read “Introduction” (1-22) from Final Report of The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (available on VIULearn)     

March 23  
Reading: Cherie Dimaline, The Marrow Thieves (56-153)

March 28 
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)
Suggested Home Viewing: Stephen S. Campanelli, Indian Horse (2017 | 100 mins) [Criterion on Demand] or Jeff Barnaby, Rhymes for Young Ghouls (2013 | 88 mins)

[Reflection Paper, Option 7 on Dimaline, Barnaby, Campanelli, or The Final Report]

March 30
Reading: Indigenous Poetry Reader (see VIULearn)
Creative Interventions Due (option for sharing)

April 4
Reading: Indigenous Poetry Reader (see VIULearn)
Reflection Paper, Option 8 [Indigenous poetry]

April 6   
Reading: Jeannette Armstrong, “Keepers of the Earth” and Joshua Whitehead, “Writing as Rupture: A Breakup Note to CanLit”
Recommended Home Viewing: Jeff Barnaby, Blood Quantum (2019 | 138 min) [Criterion on Demand]
Research Paper Due

Enjoy your summer!