news | Monday January 24, 2022

Scholarship on Bev Sellars's They Called Me Number One

Faculty of Education Professor and Associate Vice-President Indigenous initiatives Susan Dion (York University) and Jane Griffith (Ryerson University) have won the prestigious 2021 F.E.L. Priestly Prize for their article “Narratives of Place and Relationship: Bev Sellar’s Memoir They Called Me Number One.”

Dr. Dion and Dr. Griffith’s article is notable for how it diverges from traditional academic essays, using Sellars’s memoir as a starting point to develop a broader understanding of place and relationality building upon Indigenous scholarship. In this illuminating and engaging work, Dr. Dion and Dr. Griffith propose using a framework of recuperation (rather than reconciliation or resistance) to read the Secwepemc author’s autobiography. They argue persuasively that “They Called Me Number One offers the potential to learn from Indigenous knowledge acquired through place and story to act on obligations to live in relationship premised on reciprocity, protection, and care.” They go on to demonstrate how these reciprocal relationships are interrupted by institutions including residential schools as well as hospitals and jails, part of a systematic and deliberate “disruption of Indigenous ways of being in relationship with the land.” They conclude by looking at Sellars’s interest in strategies of recuperating land and Indigenous ways of knowing, connecting her memoir to her contemporary organizing: “Outside of her memoir, Sellars is literally taking back land and insisting on relationship.”

In sharing this article, we would like to gratefully recognize and acknowledge the English Studies in Canada journal where the scholarship was first published. Congratulations to Dr. Dion and Dr. Griffith for their significant new reading of They Called Me Number One:Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School by Bev Sellars.

Read the full article by downloading the PDF here.

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