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Publisher's Summary

A new, fully restored edition of the essential Canadian classic.

An unflinchingly honest memoir of her experience as a Métis woman in Canada, Maria Campbell's Halfbreed depicts the realities that she endured and, above all, overcame. Maria was born in Northern Saskatchewan, her father the grandson of a Scottish businessman and Métis woman - a niece of Gabriel Dumont whose family fought alongside Riel and Dumont in the 1885 Rebellion; her mother the daughter of a Cree woman and French-American man. This extraordinary account, originally published in 1973, bravely explores the poverty, oppression, alcoholism, addiction, and tragedy Maria endured throughout her childhood and into her early adult life, underscored by living in the margins of a country pervaded by hatred, discrimination, and mistrust. Laced with spare moments of love and joy, this is a memoir of family ties and finding an identity in a heritage that is neither wholly Indigenous or Anglo; of strength and resilience; of indomitable spirit.

This edition of Halfbreed includes a new introduction written by Indigenous (Métis) scholar Dr. Kim Anderson detailing the extraordinary work that Maria has been doing since its original publication 46 years ago, and an afterword by the author looking at what has changed, and also what has not, for Indigenous people in Canada today. Restored are the recently discovered missing pages from the original text of this groundbreaking and significant work.

©1973, 1982, 2019 Maria Campbell (P)2019 McClelland & Stewart

What the critics say

“You can almost feel this book vibrating in your hands, it is so compelling. You read it with a kind of agonized heart-in-the-mouth sensation, halfway between laughter and tears.... Truth is stronger than fiction.” (Victoria Times-Columnist)

“Sometimes a book tells us what we have always known but in a way that makes it seem as if we have not heard it before.” (Toronto Star)

“Powerful, simple, direct, and passionate without being bitter.” (CBC Radio Vancouver)

What listeners say about Halfbreed

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  • 2020-03-02

WOW!

Not just a great memoir...there is a history lesson for all Canadians. Loved the reference to Diefenbaker and what the locals thought of him as I know the CCF side of the story as the one belonging to my family. The performance is impeccable. And one can hear the touch of emotion in the sad parts and I can almost see the twinkle in her eye at the mischief. I definitely recommend.

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steadfastly pursuing callings of justice

Maria Campbell’s autobiographical work, Half Breed, first published in 1973, is a provocative and brutal account of a young Metis woman’s struggle with degradation, oppression, and sorrow, as she journeys from her childhood in Northwestern Saskatchewan towards Western Canada. The story begins situated in a historic context where her community is threatened by the arrival of white settlers. Disenfranchised and displaced, her community and family, at the hands of state forces, are swiftly destructed through the appropriation of children, apprehension of parents, the prohibition of language, and prohibition of traditional hunting. As her community and family become desperately impoverished and increasingly disempowered through state violence, Campbell demonstrates how Indigenous Peoples are constructed as inferior in the settler colonialist narrative, which is internalized by Indigenous peoples as shame and impacts Indigenous capacity and potential. Most importantly, she candidly uses her story to portray exactly how settler colonialism relies upon this construction of inferiority to maintain a hegemonic and paternalistic relationship between Indigenous Peoples and government. As the story progresses, Campbell uses her life trajectory of displacement, single motherhood, substance use, sexual abuse, poverty, and sex work to highlight historic problems of urban struggles faced by Indigenous women within Canada. In a story of fortitude and survival, Campbell transforms years of internalized shame, rage and oppression to criticize political systems which disproportionality impact Indigenous women.

Long-standing systemic racism and colonial violence are the main themes in the works of Campbell. Interestingly, the original edition of Halfbreed was edited to exclude important documentation of dark experiences of Campbell’s life. In May 2018, researchers at Simon Fraser University discovered pages revealing how Campbell was raped at the age of fourteen by members of the RCMP. The newly restored edition of Halfbreed includes these striking, searing, perspective-shifting stories of survival which document the critical history of police brutality, an issue that is so critical in today’s political arena. These omissions draw attention to the injustices faced by Indigenous Peoples at the hands of state forces. It goes without saying that the very act of omission is exemplary of the historic avoidance of accountability, and of tarnishing the exceptional narrative of freedom and democracy.

By exposing racist state actions, the author creates a comprehensive picture of entrenched, systemic inequality which has impacted and disrupted the lives of Indigenous Peoples and continues to impact BIPOC Peoples within Canada. Halfbreed is a vehicle of activism, steadfastly pursuing callings of justice, with clarity and grace, and without sacrificing emotional resonance.

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  • 2021-01-27

Heart-wrenching, yet uplifting.

I found some parts of Maria's journey heart-wrenching, yet overall the story is very uplifting.

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  • 2020-11-01

Maria is “life experience on the prairies”

I love the honesty and nuances that are laced in her story telling. Half breed remarks at the life that is a young Métis woman who experiences colonialism throughout the expansion and growth of a young country and province. They manner in which she weaves her knowledge is felt through this medium and her emphasis and context are heard with the telling of her journey. This book is amazing and this audio reading from her is even better. It’s like nohkum (my grandmother) is telling me of her life as I sit there and absorb her voice.

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Excellent.

Such an important and inspiring read. Hai' choo for sharing your life and lessons with us.

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Iconic

this book is Iconic and a must read/listen. Thank you Maria for sharing your story.

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Quintessential.

Halfbreed should be mandatory reading for all Canadians. I wish I could read the original 2000 page version they made Maria Campbell trim down.

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couldn't stop listening

So glad this is available on here. it's a must for every Canadian. loved that the author read the book too.