Margot Kinberg in her excellent blog, Confessions of a Mystery Novelist, inspired this post with her post, People Put Me Down 'Cause That's the Side of Town I was Born In. I appreciate her sparking my thoughts.
In The Mystery of the Moonlight Murder by Roderick Benns, a part of the Legacies and Leaders series involving young future Canadian Prime Ministers, a young John Diefenbaker in 1908 refuses to join the prevailing community view that an Indian, River’s Voice, has killed his neighbour. Diefenbaker’s white neighbours are all too ready to put the blame on River’s Voice.
Saskatchewan author Gail Bowen, in her Joanne Kilbourn series, sets out the way Indian people can be looked down upon in Saskatchewan while providing new perspectives that lack prejudice. It is little surprise Gail should have considerable insight into the issues as she taught at the First Nations University in Regina until she retired.
Midway through the series Gail breaks through the stereotype of White – Indian relations by introducing Inspector Alex Kequahtooway as a major character with whom Joanne becomes romantically involved for a time.
Most recently in her current book, The Gifted, she looks at current public perceptions. In the book her husband, Zack Shreeve, is working on a massive redevelopment plan that will change North Central Regina. The neighbourhood in fiction and real life has notoriety across Canada for its high level of crime. There are tensions between the developer and the residents, mainly indigenous.
Personally her daughter is living with Riel Delorme who has come from a difficult indigenous background, been involved with gangs and still has major personal demons.
Scott Young’s two mysteries feature another indigenous Canadian, Matthew “Matteesie” Kitogitak, who has achieved Inspector status. Matteesie, an Inuk from the North West Territories. It is striking that Matteesie is the first Inuk RCMP inspector in the late 1980’s on a force that has been in the Arctic at that time for a century.
Inspector Napoleon "Bony" Bonaparte had reached Inspector status in Australia in the 1930's in the series by Arthur Upfield.
In a fictional trial occurring a generation earlier in the early 1960’s in I’ll See You in My Dreams by William Deverell a young Indian, Gabriel Swift, is charged with murder. From a poor reserve near Vancouver the police look down upon him as a “lippy Indian”.
The same book touches upon the problems and abuse that took place in residential schools to which many rural Canadian Indians were sent, especially in the 1950’s and 1960’s. Indian children were sent away to the schools for up to 10 months of the year. Many were abused. All had to deal with efforts to remove their cultural identity.
In Arctic Blue Death by R.J. Harlick there is an exploration of the business of Inuit sculpture and art both historically and present. Inuit artists have gained great respect for their works around the world.
Louise Penny’s most recent book, How the Light Gets In, includes as part of the plot how senior corruptHHowH Quebec police officers had in the reserves in Western Quebec, far from the major cities, manipulated and killed Cree Indians. While I found some of that subplot over the top it reflected an attitude that still exists.
It is a topic that will continue to appear in Canadian crime fiction. Approximately 10% of Saskatchewan’s population is First Nations people. The issues of white and Indian peoples living together is not going to disappear in Canada.