On June 12, the Jackman Humanities Institute held its inaugural Indigenous Writers Day, featuring author Amanda Peters, who spoke about her debut novel, The Berry Pickers. The event celebrated Indigenous voices and explored themes of truth, trauma, and love that resonate throughout Peters’ work.
The event started with a workshop for students interested in exploring the impact of North American Indigenous writers and storytellers. Peters, a writer of Mi’kmaw and European heritage who was born and raised in Annapolis Valley, Nova Scotia, says she draws inspiration from her Indigenous identity to resist the colonization of stories. Peters spoke about how Indigenous voices resist marginalization through various storytelling forms, particularly when addressing challenging subjects.
“There’s not even a definition — a really big definition — of Indigenous literature,” said Peters. “If it’s written in English and not the traditional language, can it be considered Indigenous? What if it’s written in the form of a novel and not oral storytelling, which is a colonial form?”
She emphasized the profound significance of Indigenous literature as literature that tells Indigenous stories, highlighting their role as carriers of language, history, instruction, and spirituality. Peters expressed concerns regarding the impact of colonization on the telling of these stories. “Indigenous culture stories aren’t just stories. They carry language, history, instruction, they carry so much more. So when the colonizers try to tell the stories, [instead of] us telling the stories, a lot of that nuance is left out and it’s left hollow,” she stated.
Attendees also gathered to listen to Peters read from The Berry Pickers, which is historical fiction about a Mi’kmaw family from Nova Scotia and a daughter’s pursuit of truth. Following the reading, Peters engaged with the audience regarding her writing process, inspirations, and the significance of Indigenous representation in literature. “If you’re a cis, white male in Toronto writing a story, there’s a certain way that your readership is going to relate to it. There’s a certain way you want to write it. But that’s not universal,” she stated.
The event concluded with a book signing session.