Book Review: 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality by Bob Joseph (2018)

September 1, 2023

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Book Review by Elena Kingsbury, Senior Educator

In this essential text, blogger and educator Bob Joseph navigates the complex history of the Indian Act eloquently and concisely. He creates an important entry point for non-Indigenous Canadians to deepen their understanding about the legal underpinnings of anti-Indigenous racism in Canada in the 21st century. Joseph highlights “how deeply the Indian Act penetrated, controlled, and continues to control, most aspects of the lives of First Nations.”


The author wrote the book in recognition that to move reconciliation forward as a nation, Canadians of all ages must first build awareness about the legal framework and paternalistic attitudes that have shaped the political, economic, and social lives of Indigenous peoples in Canada since before the introduction of the Act in 1876. For Canadian educators, "21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act" should is a critical read to deepen their knowledge.


One of the book’s strengths is its inclusion of a robust collection of pedagogical resources and activities, found in the Appendices (pg. 107-172). In this final section, Joseph’s expertise as a facilitator in training Canadians on Indigenous issues is evident. The included materials, designed to be easily integrated into classroom lesson plans, include a glossary of terms, a chronology of Indian residential schools, a full listing of the Calls to Action by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, classroom activities, and a selection of key quotes from John A. Macdonald and Duncan Campbell Scott. We highly recommend these resources to all Canadian educators and encourage you to explore creative ways to integrate them into classroom learning as we collectively work towards teaching young people about the importance of truth and reconciliation.