This review is part of the Green Books campaign . Today 100 bloggers are reviewing 100 great books printed in an environmentally friendly way. Our goal is to encourage publishers to get greener and readers to take the environment into consideration when purchasing books. This campaign is organized by Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry by promoting the adoption of green practices, balancing out books by planting trees, and supporting green books. A full list of participating blogs and links to their reviews is available on Eco-Libris website . All That We Say Is Ours is printed on 100% recycled paper, and if you’d like to know more about green printing, please visit Ecolibris’ great page of resources..

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Between the Internet, teaching students from all over the world, and the copious number of documentary TV shows my parents watched with my brother and I when we were kids, I pretty much thought I had heard of every people group on earth. I was wrong, and perhaps that’s one of the central points of this book All That We Say Is Ours – the Haida have been forgotten as a people, and thus, they, like many First Nations, have been abused, robbed and mistreated because of it. This book helps to tell their story.

The Haida live on what are commonly known as the Queen Charlotte Islands (the Haida name for these islands is Haida Gwaii) off the Pacific Coast of British Columbia, Canada. They are a small indigenous group that takes much of its cultural knowledge from the landscape around it. Their songs, dances, art, and food largely come from the waterways, flora, and fawna surrounding them: ravens, eagles, salmon, totem poles, dug-out canoes. There are not people of teepees and horses, as many American stereotypes portray our aboriginal people – these are people of longhouses and boats. This is the story, in part, of their battle to keep their land and to preserve it. You’ll have to read the book to see (and evaluate) whether or not they were successful; the battle for their land rights, I assure you, is a powerful and heartbreaking journey through the struggles that many First Nations have had to restore the land or simply to receive the promises of treaties long broken. This is a story of colonization and the restoration of memory.

The book opens with a lovely and detailed description of a potlatch, where the community comes together to celebrate their heritage, bestow honor, revel in the artwork of its members, and, of course, to eat. Gill’s description both helps convey the action of the event but also its import, setting up the people and their stories for the rest of the book.

The remaining chapters describe the various people – particularly Guujaaw, a Haida elder and activist – and struggles through which they have come – from securing Aboriginal title for their land to battling the harmful and injust logging practices of corporations. Intermixed with the Haida story, Gill tells the stories of many Aboriginal people without overshadowing the story of the Haida with political rhetoric. The writing is very masterful and inspiring.

Gill is the president of Ecotrust Canada, a Portland, Oregon-based organization whose “mission is to inspire fresh thinking that creates economic opportunity, social equity and environmental well-being.” As Gill says in this video, they work to show that there need not be a dichotomy between jobs and working for the environment. Oh, I hope we are listening to that message.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in indigenous rights, indigenous cultures, First Nations, environmental stewardships, land rights, and the Pacific Northwest. The writing is immaculate, but the story – well, it’s one we all need to hear so that we don’t forget.

To read more about the Haida Gwaii, see the following:
Minnesota State University Mankato description,
“For Haida, journey by canoe marks a sea change “ from The Globe and Mail
“Haida Gwaii Welcomes the Olympic Flame” from The Northern View

To read more about their land struggle, see this link from Earth First!.

I am giving away my copy of this book to a randomly selected commenter. So leave a comment and tell me why you’d like to read it. I’ll contact the winner on Friday and send the book off ASAP. Please spread the word about this review, this giveaway, and the Green Books Campaign. An extra for the book will be given for every “extra” post added to Twitter, Facebook, a blog, or other public site. Thanks for sharing this book with folks.
Cover of All That We Says Is OursAll That We Says Is Ours: Guujaaw and the Reawakening of the Haida Nation by Ian Gill

Logo for Green Books Campaign Logo by Susan Newman