APTN National News
Sandra Muse Isaacs teaches Indigenous literature at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, N.S.
Last term, she taught one of Joseph Boyden’s books in her class.
For over a decade, Boyden has been a celebrated, award winning Indigenous author in Canada.
Muse Isaacs is crossing Boyden’s books of her list of required reading after APTN couldn’t find proof of his Indigenous ancestry last month.
“I think other scholars that teach Indigenous literature are feeling the same way as me, we’re not going to use his books anymore,” she said.
Boyden didn’t only become a popular author, but a spokesperson on Indigenous issues.
Muse Isaacs questions how he can speak on issues he never experienced.
“What does he know of those things if he does not have the lived experience? If he doesn’t personally know a family member of someone of a MMIW. How does he know, how does he understand those feelings or anything like that,” said Isaacs.
Isaacs is Cherokee, her husband is Haudenosaunee, part of the Mohawk Nation, even so, she says she can’t claim to speak for all Indigenous women, other tribes or cultures or for people and families impacted by residential schools.
“They have the right to tell their story, not me. And Joseph Boyden doesn’t have the right to tell stories for people who have their own voice.”
Boyden has since apologized, calling himself a “white kid from Willowdale with native roots,” and in a statement said, “a small part of me is Indigenous, but it’s a big part of who I am.”
She said that Boyden misrepresented himself, “I’m convinced now that Joseph Boyden has written his stories, even though he says he’s got stories to tell, to get out- I’m convinced now that the fame, fortune and money are much more important.”
However, Issacs said she admires Boyden’s quality of writing and says there is a place for his books in Canadian literature…just not in her classroom.