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A level playing field

How Canadian publishers are recognizing the need for more trained Indigenous editors BY SUE CARTER

ELEVEN YEARS AGO, JOANNE GERBER, A PROGRAM consultant for literary and multidisciplinary arts at the Saskatchewan Arts Board, began collaborating with writers, publishers, and arts administrators to create a training program for Indigenous editors. At the time, such a program was not considered an urgent need by the Canadian book industry. Despite the fact that Theytus Books – Canada’s first Indigenous-owned press – was desperate to find trained editors for its projects, issues surrounding Indigenous orality, traditional knowledge, and cultural protocols were not on the radar of many traditional publishers.

This was, of course, before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s damning 2015 report, documenting the horrors of the residential school system. It predated the controversy surrounding Joseph Boyden’s writing and whether he followed proper protocols and permissions in crafting his bestselling novels, or whether he even has the right to claim Indigenous identity. And it was more than a decade before the latest CanLit crisis – Hal Niedzviecki’s editorial on cultural appropriation in an Indigenous-focused issue of Write, the Writers’ Union of Canada magazine – generated heated online discussions about privilege, power, free speech, and story ownership.

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155 + New Fall Books: From powerhouse novels to provocative non-fiction, our preview has got the season covered; Why publishers need Indigenous editors.