Canadian publishers have released books by and about Indigenous Peoples for decades. Yet, most of those books were written, edited and published by outsiders who had little knowledge about stories and Indigenous knowledge within the publishing industry. The results, as Daniel Heath Justice says in the introduction to Why Indigenous Literatures Matter, are a mix of “stories that wound, stories that heal.”
In recent years, Indigenous scholars and researchers have brought several poorly published stories to public attention. These stories that wound include Mini Aodla Freeman’s Life Among the Qallanut, Maria Cambell’s Halfbreed and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairies series. The wounds range from the perpetuation of racist stereotypes of Indigenous Peoples, to the erasure of Indigenous stories that don’t fit the dominant historical account of settler/Indigenous interactions, to disrespect for Indigenous storytelling traditions.
In 2010, recognizing the need to shift the narrative, the Saskatchewan Arts Board, under the leadership of Joanne Gerber and Indigenous advisors, began a conversation about how to decolonize the Canadian publishing industry. By 2014 the first Indigenous Editors Circle workshop ran in Saskatoon. A second followed in 2015 and in 2017 the program was moved to Humber College in Toronto.
At each Circle, Indigenous editors and non-Indigenous members of the publishing industry shared stories and knowledge and devised ways to decolonize the Canadian publishing industry – to shift the narrative from appropriation to collaboration. The IEC helps industry stakeholders better understand Indigenous writers and their stories. It also provides a foundation for building the relationships that are at the heart of working with Indigenous stories and writers. Most importantly, it advocates on behalf of Indigenous editors with publishing houses by demonstrating how internships and training for Indigenous peoples can benefit publishers.
The Indigenous Editors Association (IEA) formed at the Humber meeting in 2017 when IEC faculty recognized the need for an organizing body to meet the increasing demand for Indigenous editors by industry professionals. There is growing support for using Indigenous editors for stories by and about Indigenous Peoples, but there is no mechanism for connecting editors to publishing houses.
Through this website and future Indigenous Editors Circles, the IEC will attempt to bridge the gap between the publishing industry and Indigenous editors.