Before Gabriola Island-based author Katherine Palmer Gordon started telling the stories of Indigenous people, she worked in treaty negotiations for the provincial government.
While Gordon wanted to help First Nations move towards getting treaties, she ultimately saw too many limitations on what the government was willing to do to help the process along.
She eventually left her job to move to Gabriola and become a full-time author.
Now Gordon tells the stories of the people she previously worked with, in hopes of breaking stereotypes and bringing to light the specific challenges faced by Aboriginal people in Canada.
Her newly released book, We Are Born With the Songs Inside Us, tells 16 stories from First Nations people in B.C. "They're very blunt stories," Gordon said.
"The people being profiled are very successful about whatever paths they've chosen to follow, but at the same time they're very candid about what challenges they've faced. And what challenges they continue to face."
Gordon spent years interviewing for the book without even knowing it, as she wrote profiles on aboriginal people in B.C. for various magazines.
Then, in 2005, she was at a luncheon celebrating the signing of a protocol between the Snuneymuxw First Nation and the Port Authority and the idea for a book came to her.
"I was sitting next to (AFN National Chief) Shawn Atleo and said, 'maybe I should do a book,' she said.
"And he told me, 'you have to.'" Gordon compiled some of her previous interviews along with conducting more in an effort to come up with a range of people that represented First Nations people in B.C. The book includes interviews with everyone from a doctor, to an artist and an NHL hockey player.
"Part of this was to really try to showcase all the First Nations people we see everyday," she said.
"My experience has been that non-Indigenous people don't know how to begin the conversation to get to know First Nations men and women that they work with, or live by, or see all the time."
The book features some candid stories from local faces - including John Marston of Stz'uminus and Bill Yoachim of Snuneymuxw.
She said she approached Yoachim after facilitating an agreement between the city and Snuneymuxw, and later wrote about him for a magazine article.
In the book, Yoachim tells the story of his experiences with abuse. He said he came forward not as a sob story, but to show the power of resilience and going forward.
Gordon said she wanted to tell Indigenous stories for the same reasons Yoachim wanted to tell his own, and she hopes it will help spark a change in attitude for non-Indigenous Canadians.
"We've got to do our part to support the interest of Coastal First Nations," she said. "Don't make them fight alone."
Gordon will be at the Harbourfront Library for a reading and book signing on Oct. 16 at 6:30 p.m.
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