Mixed-blood urban Native peoples in Canada are profoundly affected by federal legislation that divides Aboriginal peoples into different legal categories. In this pathfinding book, Bonita Lawrence reveals the ways in which mixed-blood urban Natives understand their identities and struggle to survive in a world that, more often than not, fails to recognize them.
In “Real” Indians and Others Lawrence draws on the first-person accounts of thirty Toronto residents of Native heritage, as well as archival materials, sociological research, and her own urban Native heritage and experiences. She sheds light on the Canadian government’s efforts to define Native identity through the years by means of the Indian Act and shows how residential schooling, the loss of official Indian status, and adoption have affected Native identity. Lawrence looks at how Natives with “Indian status” react and respond to “nonstatus” Natives and how federally recognized Native peoples attempt to impose an identity on urban Natives.
Drawing on her interviews with urban Natives, she describes the devastating loss of community that has resulted from identity legislation and how urban Native peoples have wrestled with their past and current identities. Lawrence also addresses the future and explores the forms of nation building that can reconcile the differences in experiences and distinct agendas of urban and reserve-based Native communities.
Bonita Lawrence is an assistant professor of women’s studies and Native studies at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. She recently coedited (with Kim Anderson) Strong Women Stories: Native Vision and Community Survival.