'Real' Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood

Article excerpt

Lawrence, Bonita, 'Real' Indians and Others: Mixed-Blood Urban Native Peoples and Indigenous Nationhood. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2004. 328 pp. ISBN 0-7748-1103-X Paper, CDN$34.95.

Bonita Lawrence begins 'Real' Indians and Others with an autobiographical account of her experiences as a mixed-blood Native person. She shares how her own self-exploration into her Native heritage and the need to seek out 'experiences of belonging and not belonging' among other urban mixed-blood Native people set the groundwork for the development of this book. As she interviewed other Native mixed-blood peoples, the recurring histories of oppression formed the underlying premise of her book: "that urban mixed-blood Native identity cannot be adequately understood except as shaped by a legacy of genocide" (p.xvii).

Within this framework, Lawrence examines how Native people negotiate their identities in relation to community and external definitions of lndianness. She divides her book into three parts: Native identity regulation, mixed-blood identity in Toronto, and identity entitlement in the urban community. In part one, Lawrence overviews the colonization processes in Canada and describes the regulatory systems that were developed by both the Canadian and American governments to determine who could be considered Native. She spends a significant amount of time exploring the ways in which the Indian act, Canada's primary vehicle for controlling Native identity, defined Nativeness by gender and by race, and thus shaped Native peoples' own understanding of who they are.

Part two is shaped from the extensive interviews that Lawrence conducted with twenty-nine individuals from the urban Native community in Toronto. Through the shared oral histories of the participants, Lawrence explores the issues that caused families to leave their communities in the first place, and the challenges that they faced coming to the city. …