A recent work by Dr. Mary Jane Logan McCallum, UWinnipeg’s Canada Research Chair in Indigenous People, History, and Archives and a Professor in the Department of History, has been shortlisted for an Indigenous Literature Award.
The First Nations Communities READ program announced Monday that Dr. McCallum’s book, Nii Ndahlohke: Boys’ and Girls’ Work at Mount Elgin Industrial School, has been listed as one of five finalists for the prize in the young adult/adult category. It was selected for the shortlist by a jury of Indigenous librarians across Ontario.
“I am very proud to be shortlisted for a First Nations Communities READ Award,” Dr. McCallum said. “This group has been identifying and promoting Indigenous literature for twenty years and this year’s longlist of 42 beautiful and beautifully written books represents the best of Indigenous stories and histories today.”
Published in September 2022, Nii Ndahlohke: Boys’ and Girls’ Work at Mount Elgin Industrial School explores the history of student labour at Mount Elgin Indian Residential School. Divided into two sections, the book begins with a focus on the work done by boys, such as maintenance and farm labour, continuing to examine the girls’ work, including cooking, cleaning, and laundry work.
“Nii Ndahlohke was inspired by a challenge to commemorate the Mount Elgin Industrial school that was undertaken by the Munsee Delaware Language and History Group,” she said. “We wanted to write a book that addressed gendered and forced labour, student resistance, and how student work at the school played into the expanding local settler area agricultural economies. It also had a significant role in ill health at the school and student deaths. We wanted this story to be learned as part of Ontario Canadian history curriculum.”
Dr. McCallum said the theme of student labour featured prominently in the history of Mount Elgin and the book serves as a way to educate young people about this history. The book includes words and phrases related to the work the boys and girls did at the school, and an audiobook version of the story allows readers to hear these words and phrases spoken aloud.
The book also features contemporary art created by Munsee artists, which Dr. McCallum and Julie Tucker, who wrote the afterword for Nii Ndahlohke, have turned into an exhibition. The show, titled Nii Ndahlohke / I Work, will open on Tuesday, September 26, at Art Windsor Essex in Windsor, Ontario.
Winners and an award presentation for First Nations Communities READ 2023-24 will take place during First Nations Public Library Week, which begins October 2, and the prize-winning authors will receive a $5,000 prize. Launched in 2003, First Nations Communities READ encourages family literacy, intergenerational storytelling, and intergenerational knowledge transmission while increasing awareness of the importance of First Nation, Metis and Inuit writing, illustration and publishing.
Those interested in purchasing Nii Ndahlohke: Boys’ and Girls’ Work at Mount Elgin Industrial School, 1890-1915 can do so at FriesenPress Publishing and other online booksellers. All proceeds from the sale of the book go to support Indigenous language and history learning.