Tracey Lindberg on Telling Indigenous Stories

Host, CBC Radio

February 1, 2016 – CBC's Canada Reads is coming up on March 21-24, and this year's theme is “starting over.” In the coming weeks, Shelagh Rogers will be chatting with the five authors whose books have been selected for the annual battle of the books. The series kicks off this week with Tracey Lindberg, the author of Birdie, which will be defended by G Adventures founder Bruce Poon Tip during Canada Reads.

Lindberg grew up in northern Alberta, in the Kelly Lake Cree Nation. She studied law, and now teaches indigenous law at Athabasca University and the University of Ottawa. In law school, she often found herself drafting stories instead of taking notes, and she's still writing now on top of her career as a successful lawyer and professor. Her debut novel, Birdie, is the story of a young woman who is struggling to recover from an abusive past. It deals with some dark themes, but it's also a luminous, funny novel that brings Cree stories and cultural traditions to life. Tracey Lindberg spoke to Shelagh Rogers in Toronto before the Canada Reads shortlist announcement.


As I hear people talk, at the law school or on the news, I keep thinking: Whose voices aren't we hearing? Who haven't we listened to? And then sometimes when a person's voice comes through that's powerful and resonates and you don't expect it, I think: Now that's a story.


I do a lot of work with indigenous communities and nations that govern themselves inherently. They're not people who subscribe to the Indian Act — they continue to govern from the lodge. And I've sat down with them and said: Tell me about how it is that your laws relate to child welfare. And they look at me like: What language is that? And then I'll say things like: Who is it that make decisions about kids? Who makes decisions about women? Who is it that makes decisions about the best way to live? And they can tell you that. And it somehow colonizes it to even call it [the law]. I'm asking them to put it through a filter that doesn't necessarily look like the Cree place that they come from. And with the book, what I've hopefully done here is not tried to colonize the way that [Birdie protagonist] Bernice or her family think about the law, but to put out very clearly that as women, there are lawful obligations to be followed. Particularly when there is lawlessness within the community.

READ FULL ARTICLE:,. “Tracey Lindberg On Telling Indigenous Stories“. N. p., 2016. Web. 4 Feb. 2016.

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