People of Terra Nullius: Betrayal and Rebirth in Aboriginal Canada

May 15th, 1995 | By | Category: 7-1: Tribal Colleges Looking to the Future, Media Reviews

TERRA NULLIUS COVERBy Boyce Richardson
University of Washington Press
393 pages, $19.95

Review by Carolyn Casey

More Than Lines on a Page

Boyce Richardson uses an unusual style of writing to discuss Canada’s treatment of the aboriginal, or First Nation, people in his recently published book, People of Terra Nullius. 

Richardson blends his experiences as a non-native trying to understand the Native culture, using historical documents, personal narratives and a touch of soapbox- style berating of the Canadian government.

To the unprepared academic, Richardson’s book might seem a bit disorganized. The reader might find himself urging Richardson to get to the point. Richardson will shift from an analysis of Canadian policy to the retelling of someone’s personal story.

His meandering through history with recollections from elders, newspaper clippings and actual treaties is intentional. The treaties only make sense if you meet the people they govern. The outcomes of government policy are just lines on a page unless you travel with Richardson to the remote villages.

His thesis is this: the Indian Act of 1876 has been a disaster and must be changed. He argues convincingly that the time for change is now because the aboriginals in Canada have gained political power and international attention.

The book ends on a hopeful note with Richardson telling of the emerging new Native leaders, a group that is highly educated and filled with passion.

Richardson has spent twenty years documenting aboriginal life in articles, books and films. He published two other books, including the internationally acclaimed Strangers Devour the Land. He also edited Drumbeat, an anthology of Native resistance, for the Assembly of First Nations. People of Terra Nullius was inspired by a series of articles Richardson wrote for Reader’s Digest about the Native people of Canada.

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