Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of View by Howard Adams

image“The oppression of the Native people is so deeply rooted in the capitalist system that it cannot be completely eliminated without eliminating capitalism itself” – Howard Adams

“Prison of Grass: Canada from a Native Point of View” is an in-depth look at post-colonial Canadian history from an Indigenous perspective. The book was originally published in 1975, with a revised edition being released in ’89. One might wonder why I would review a book that’s been out of print for over 20 years. I assure you that “Prison of Grass” is every bit as relevant today as when it was originally published and to my knowledge is the only book of its sort written by an Aboriginal author.

Howard Adams begins the book with an overview of the extensive forms of racism encountered against First Nations people in Canada; from early colonial efforts to completely dehumanize Indians to the racial stereotyping he personally encountered in his lifetime. Adams goes on to offer a thorough recounting of Metis and Indigenous resistance to imperialism in Canada. The author takes the time to dispel the countless misconceptions surrounding Louis Riel and the uprisings of the late 1800s. Upon presenting the foundation of knowledge necessary to understand the origins of contemporary issues, Adams addresses the plight of modern First Nations communities in white-supremacy Canada. It is disheartening to realize how many of the issues discussed in this book continue to plague our communities today.

In closing Adams offers some possible solutions to the major problems facing Indigenous people in Canada. Adams tackles the failures of modern Native leadership and the need to move back towards a traditional tribal form of governance, he talks about the downfalls of Native organizations operating under government funding and he addresses the divide and conquer tactics used against our communities. Adams brings up the need for First Nations to decolonize themselves and to unite and organize to work toward goals decided through community consensus. He also talks about the positive potential of Indigenous nationalism. The information Adams presents in this book is as applicable today as ever.

I would recommend reading “Prison of Grass” for anyone hoping to educate themselves on the ignorant misconceptions of Fist Nations people that predominate mainstream Canadian society.


Prison of Grass is available at the Vancouver Public Library

you can also purchase the book here

Julian Napoleon, Dane Za/Cree
Project Coordinator, Redwire
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