"Unreconciled is one hell of a good book. Jesse Wente’s narrative moves effortlessly from the personal to the historical to the contemporary. Very powerful, and a joy to read."
—Thomas King, author of The Inconvenient Indian and Sufferance
A prominent Indigenous voice uncovers the lies and myths that affect relations between white and Indigenous peoples and the power of narrative to emphasize truth over comfort.
Part memoir and part manifesto, Unreconciled is a stirring call to arms to put truth over the flawed concept of reconciliation, and to build a new, respectful relationship between the nation of Canada and Indigenous peoples.
Jesse Wente remembers the exact moment he realized that he was a certain kind of Indian--a stereotypical cartoon Indian. He was playing softball as a child when the opposing team began to war-whoop when he was at bat. It was just one of many incidents that formed Wente's understanding of what it means to be a modern Indigenous person in a society still overwhelmingly colonial in its attitudes and institutions.
As the child of an American father and an Anishinaabe mother, Wente grew up in Toronto with frequent visits to the reserve where his maternal relations lived. By exploring his family's history, including his grandmother's experience in residential school, and citing his own frequent incidents of racial profiling by police who'd stop him on the streets, Wente unpacks the discrepancies between his personal identity and how non-Indigenous people view him.
Wente analyzes and gives voice to the differences between Hollywood portrayals of Indigenous peoples and lived culture. Through the lens of art, pop culture, and personal stories, and with disarming humour, he links his love of baseball and movies to such issues as cultural appropriation, Indigenous representation and identity, and Indigenous narrative sovereignty. Indeed, he argues that storytelling in all its forms is one of Indigenous peoples' best weapons in the fight to reclaim their rightful place.
Wente explores and exposes the lies that Canada tells itself, unravels "the two founding nations" myth, and insists that the notion of "reconciliation" is not a realistic path forward. Peace between First Nations and the state of Canada can't be recovered through reconciliation--because no such relationship ever existed.
“With Unreconciled, Jesse Wente proves himself to be one of the most influential Anishinaabe thinkers of our time. By telling his own story, Jesse provides Canada with an essential roadmap of how to move forward through the myth of reconciliation towards the possibility of a just country. There is much work to be done but reading Jesse’s words, soaking them in and letting them settle in your mind, will set us all on the right path.”
—Tanya Talaga, bestselling author of Seven Fallen Feathers
“Mahsi cho, Jesse Wente, for illuminating the biggest issue facing Canada’s relationship with Indigenous people: Canada fears Indigenous people because Canada is terrified of our power. Each language class, culture camp, graduation ceremony, each Supreme Court Ruling, each Treaty (that wasn't forged), each feast and naming ceremony… is part of the incredible Reclaiming happening right now. Please read this book. It's an infuriating read but a necessary one.”
—Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed and Moccasin Square Gardens
"With Unreconciled, Jesse Wente proves he's a storyteller through and through—one who is unafraid of telling hard but necessary truths, yes, but also one who knows that vulnerability is the quickest way to the heart. Wente shares so generously with his readers in this book, braiding together his own past with the problems of the present, ultimately offering us a way forward, together."
—Alicia Elliot, author of A Mind Spread Out on the Ground
“Part biography, part social and cultural manifesto, and part film analysis, Wente’s book tells us of his journey as a mixed blood kid in Toronto facing everyday racism, to becoming the face (actually more like the voice) of Indigenous film appreciation and criticism. A slim book but heavy in what it says, Unreconciled shows how the best journeys in life are derived from the obstacles the hero overcomes.”
—Drew Hayden Taylor, author of Chasing Painted Horses and Take Us to Your Chief and Other Stories
About the Author:
Jesse Wente is an Ojibwe writer, broadcaster, producer and speaker. Born and raised in Toronto, he is a member of the Serpent River First Nation. Wente is best known for his 22 years as a columnist for CBC Radio’s Metro Morning. He spent 11 years with the Toronto International Film Festival, the last seven as the Head of TIFF Cinematheque. Wente is currently co-producing his first film, a screen adaptation of Thomas King’s best-selling book, The Inconvenient Indian. An outspoken advocate for Indigenous rights and First Nations, Metis and Inuit art, he has spoken at the International Forum of Indigenous Peoples, Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian, the Canadian Arts Summit, the Cultural Summit of the Americas, and numerous Universities and Colleges. In November 2018 he delivered the annual Eva Holtby Lecture on Contemporary Culture at the Royal Ontario Museum. Wente currently serves on the board of directors for the Canada Council for the Arts and the Toronto Arts Council. In 2017 he was named the inaugural recipient of the Reelworld Film Festival’s Reel Activist Award and recently received the Association of Ontario Health Centres’ Media Award for 2018. In February 2019, Jesse started a new role as the first Director of the Indigenous Screen Office in Canada.