A vivid first-person account of life on a troubled reserve that illuminates a difficult and oft-ignored history.
Globe and Mail 100: Best Books of 2016 • The Hill Times: Best Books of 2016 •
2017 RBC Taylor Prize — Longlisted •
2017 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction — Shortlisted •
2016 Speaker's Book Award — Shortlisted
When freelance journalist Alexandra Shimo arrives in Kashechewan, a fly-in, northern Ontario reserve, to investigate rumours of a fabricated water crisis and document its deplorable living conditions, she finds herself drawn into the troubles of the reserve. Unable to cope with the desperate conditions, she begins to fall apart.
A moving tribute to the power of hope and resilience, Invisible North is an intimate portrait of a place that pushes everyone to their limits. Part memoir, part history of the Canadian reserves, Shimo offers an expansive exploration and unorthodox take on many of the First Nation issues that dominate the news today, including the suicide crises, murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, Treaty rights, Native sovereignty, and deep poverty.
What begins as a journalist's journey to discover the roots of a remote First Nations water crisis becomes a gripping first-person account of an outsider's short but intense experience of the brutal conditions that are daily life for many First Nations communities in Canada. Shimo's time in the northern Ontario Kashechewan reserve a place that drew international attention in 2005 for abominable living conditions serves as a microcosm of the obstacles First Nations face when the catch-22s of Indian Act provisions stunt economic development and condemn successive generations to despair and suicide rates that are among the highest in the world. Shimo (coauthor of Up Ghost River: A Chief's Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History), no stranger to these issues, barely contains a palpable anger, as each injustice she witnesses firsthand becomes the springboard for a deeper exploration of the social, historical, and political roots of a reality that encompasses annual flood-induced evacuations, mold-encrusted housing, astronomical food prices, and a war-zone atmosphere that leaves her with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her work can be painful to read, but, like other literature on reconciliation, it's a necessary contribution to addressing age-old wrongs.
As someone who studied anthropology at university, I was already aware of how badly off many Native American tribes are in the United States. But I was simply shocked at how much worse it is for the indigenous peoples of Canada. This is our liberal neighbor to the north! How could they let this happen? I'm grateful that the author made so many sacrifices in order to bring this story to light and I hope it brings results.