Autobiography as Indigenous Intellectual Tradition

Cree and Métis âcimisowina

Table of contents

Table of Contents
Glossary: Cree terms
Introduction: She Told Us Stories Constantly: Autobiography as Theoretical Practice
1. âcimisowina: Autobiography as Indigenous Intellectual Tradition
2. kiskêyihtamowin: Seekers of Knowledge, Cree Intergenerational Inquiry
3. Interrelatedness and Obligation: wâhkowtowin in Maria Campbell’s âcimisowin
4. Edward Ahenakew’s Intertwined Unpublished Life-Inspired Stories: aniskwâcimopicikêwin in Black Hawk and Old Keyam
5. Contradiction and kisteanemétowin in Edward Ahenakew’s “Old Keyam”
6. Traces of âcimisowina left behind: James Brady and Absolom Halkett


Autobiography as Indigenous Intellectual Tradition critiques ways of approaching Indigenous texts that are informed by the Western academic tradition and offers instead a new way of theorizing Indigenous literature based on the Indigenous practice of life writing.
Since the 1970s non-Indigenous scholars have perpetrated the notion that Indigenous people were disinclined to talk about their lives and underscored the assumption that autobiography is a European invention. Deanna Reder challenges such long held assumptions by calling attention to longstanding autobiographical practices that are engrained in Cree and Métis, or nêhiyawak, culture and examining a series of examples of Indigenous life writing. Blended with family stories and drawing on original historical research, Reder examines censored and suppressed writing by nêhiyawak intellectuals such as Maria Campbell, Edward Ahenakew, and James Brady. Grounded in nêhiyawak ontologies and epistemologies that consider life stories to be an intergenerational conduit to pass on knowledge about a shared world, this study encourages a widespread re-evaluation of past and present engagement with Indigenous storytelling forms across scholarly disciplines


  • Winner, Gabrielle Roy Prize 2022
  • Winner, Gabrielle Roy Prize 2022