By Colin Samson. Published 2013. ISBN 9780957521001
A World You Do Not Know explores the wilful ignorance demonstrated by North America’s settlers in establishing their societies on lands already occupied by indigenous nations. Using the Innu of Labrador-Quebec as one powerful contemporary example, Colin Samson shows how the processes of displacement and assimilation today resemble those of the 19th century as the state and corporations scramble for Innu lands. While nation building, capitalism and industrialisation are shown to have undermined indigenous peoples’ wellbeing, the values that guide societies like the Innu are very much alive. The book ends by showcasing how ideas and land-based activities of indigenous groups in Canada and the US are being maintained and recast as ways to address the attack on cultural diversity and move forward to more positive futures.
This is a powerful, articulate and troubling book about many kinds of poison. It is a journey to the devastation that colonial history has brought to indigenous peoples around the world, from land seizure to transformation of diet, from losses of resources to the loss of self. At its centre are the Innu of Labrador. Colin Samson has a wonderfully detailed knowledge of Innu history and life. But it is the reach from this foundation to the global forces at work, and the urgent need to resist them that makes this a book of immense importance.
Hugh Brody, author of Maps and Dreams, Canada Research Professor, University of the Fraser Valley
This is a thoughtful and erudite monograph, a book which will change the way we settlers approach indigenous peoples and our own place in society. A key contribution of the author is to problematize the arrogance with which we approach indigenous ways of knowing and being, while also highlighting the continued resistance of indigenous peoples to western colonization. I highly recommend this book. It is a thought-provoking and timely study of the Innu, based on decades of original research and personal insight. Samson ably contrasts the Innu people, and their sophisticated and nuanced ways of knowing the world, with the hypocrisy of what passes for liberal humanism. The book also explores aspects of indigenous peoples’ revitalization in the midst of the voracious western appetite for natural resources and the onslaught of destructive western diets and diseases. In doing this, we come to understand how a return to traditional ways offers the best hope, not only for the future prosperity of indigenous peoples, but also offers important lessons for those of us living in the metropolitan world as well.
David MacDonald, Professor of Political Science. University of Guelph
Based on nearly two decades of ethnographic research with the Innu of Labrador, A World You Do Not Know should be read by everyone interested in Native American societies and their political and economic struggles. In lucid and impassioned prose, Colin Samson describes elegantly the indigenous cultural distinctiveness that arises from a particular history and experience. The author conveys a profound understanding and empathy for the Innu way of life which has been consistently misunderstood from the earliest point of European contact onwards, and the book is a powerful indictment of the continued neo-colonial practices of the Canadian state and society. A World You Do Not Know represents the best in engaged scholarship that seeks to renew a dialogue with indigenous peoples that is a little less unjust and one-sided.
Richard A. Wilson, Gladstein Chair of Human Rights, University of Connecticut