University professor cutting Joseph Boyden novels from her course

Trina Roache
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.

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7 thoughts on “University professor cutting Joseph Boyden novels from her course

  1. I have had Vancouver only ongoing Métis exhibition at the RBC Main Branch W Georgia 1025 for 6 years and no one talks about it in the media… have non-Aboriginal people speaking for me is an insult…..
    Throw this bum in Jail and Sue him for any monies he has received is my opinion.

    Mark MiLan

  2. And so the witch hunt continues.

    Have those of you condemning Boyden, including you Sandra Muse Isaacs, looked at the evidence (so-called) at the root of this controversy? Have any of you attempted to place the questions raised into any sort of historical context? Have any of you noticed the APTN accusations reference Indigenous heritage but employ only settler methods of ancestry determination? Have any of you noticed the motivations behind APTN’s attack have yet to be explained, or even questioned?

    I don’t know Joseph Boyden, but, based on Indigenous practices and traditions, his Indigeneity seems unquestionable.
    By imposing colonial practices and standards onto Indigenous questions are the accusers in this case not practicing the very thing they are accusing Boyden of? Perhaps it is time for leaders in the Indigenous community to step back from the precipice of sanctimony they have camped themselves on and realize embracing colonial standards as categorically as they have in this instance is a dangerous double edged sword that may ultimately lead them down a path they have no desire to travel. Not to mention the fact the hypocrisy on display is unseemly and, if left unchecked, will be damaging.

  3. Its funny, we didn’t figure this out beforehand… I feel bad for this author but being forthcoming of ones ancestry is paramount to ones authenticity. I hope it doesn’t happen again to native literature…

  4. Very good move by Isaacs. Nobody can stop Boyden’s fraud/literature from being sold to gullible people but shaming him is probably the only punishment that will be exacted on this con artist. Unless, of course, there is a co-ordinated effort to sue him for fraud and misrepresentation.
    Ponder this: at some point in the last month it would have occurred to Boyden that he could very quietly take a DNA test in the remote chance that the results could prove what he has been saying all along, that he has an indigenous ancestor somewhere in the roots of the family tree. In the USA, where he lives, he can have those results in 2 weeks or less and no one would know he had done this unless he chooses to go public with the results. If he doesn’t make an announcement to publicize his test results by the end of January then it becomes crystal clear that he’s a lying sack of moose plop. People who have been contemplating all the available info already know this but one more nail in his disrespectful liars coffin would be useful. To be clear, I don’t think evidence of having a few drops of indigenous blood will erase the fact he told a lot of lies and perpetuated ignorant stereotypes in his books.
    You might ask Boris, what’s up with all your commentary on this subject? What do you have a raging ___ on for this guy? I would answer that by saying it will take a while for most of us to have it sink in just how much damage Boyden has done. In white Canada he has reinforced the racist and/or willfully ignorant attitudes held by many who will look at the FN pushback against Boyden as confirmation of their pig ignorant points of view. Among First Nations people they will have even less trust of white people. It’s essentially a lose/lose situation because Boyden is such a completely greedy assclown fraudster.

  5. I agree with Ms. Issacs action. I have three of Joseph Boyden’s books. My great-uncle, a Saulteaux from St. Peter’s band near Selkirk, was killed in WW 1 at Passchendaele. In this regard, I related to Three Day Road, and also the movie Passchendaele by the Canadian actor Paul Gross. That Mr. Gross and Mr. Boyden are not of Indigenous ancestry is not an obstacle; they have things to communicate about the native experience in this country. But according to the 7 Grandfather Teachings, honesty & truth are vital, and Mr. Boyden needs to come clean; so far, he has fallen short of this.

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