By: Jessica McDiarmid Published 2019
The Highway of Tears
This book is a journalist take on one aspect in the legacy of Indian Residential Schools. The main part of the book deals with the brutal truth of British Columbia’s systemic issues, which have affects the main public systems. Which has leads to a culture of indifference and what the author stated Indigenous women are over-policed yet under protected. The different takes on how when Indigenous Girls and Women went missing and the reaction of the community when others go missing. The book also gives a glimpse of the family’s loss and their fight for justice.
The Target audience for Highway of Tears
This book is a nonfiction reader and really any other reader who want to understand the second Genocide that Canada has pushed on the Indigenous peoples.
nonfiction/ crime/ history/ true crime/ challenging/ informative/ Race (Indigenous) /reflective /medium-paced (audio)
I know about the Missing and Murdered Women, Girls, and 2-Spirit People (MMIWG2S+) more abstractly for some time. However, this book gave names and pictures to the individuals’ and their family’s stories. Specifically, along a stretch of road dubbed the Highway of Tears, this is a small snippet in the overall issue MMIWG2S+ that the main report has a supplementary legal analysis that made a case for MMIWG being a genocide.
The book shows how systemically deep that the MMIWG2S+ is part of the genocide of the Indigenous people of Canada that has not ceased. Jessica was blunt and did not fluffy the events or the responses in the book. Showing a side of the victims that needed to be shown many times over till we as Canadian society humanizes Indigenous women. Jessica shows this when she talks about Tamara Chipman and her love for her grandfather, Jack, who was a heavy-duty mechanic. Tamara was “nicknamed Jack’s shadow. She spent hours with him in the shop, playing, chatting, helping as he worked on big machines. They went everywhere together.” Page 148.
The author supports one of the main points of the book with family’s accounts of their loved ones. Also corroborated with the newspaper articles that were printed or not written around that time that the teenagers and women went missing. The author also spoke with private investigators and Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers that were involved with the missing women and teenagers on the highway of tears. The facts are relevant as up to the time of publishing this non-fiction book, as many of the teens and women who went missing the cases are still open investigations. The book is as relevant as it can be.
The author, who is also a journalist she relied on recollections of people who were involved in the missing teenagers and women’s lives. When one finishes reading the book, one may understand this book discusses traumatic events that can be directly linked to the horrific atrocities that occurred at the Indian Residential schools that were throughout Canada.
This book changed me in that we, as settlers, need to do so much more than we are doing now. Reading this book, it emotionally moved me to tears and anger. I will not go into this as it will give away part of the book. The book was mostly chronological; however, the author did some jumping around with each individual’s story. It was hard to follow. Especially to tell the stories that society has forgotten and, in the author’s words, “not nearly enough people gave a damn when these girls and women went missing. We did not protect them. We failed them.” page 7.
There is no such thing as a perfect book in saying that I believe the author put out the best she with a topic that was a nightmare for every family went through. Then relieved while telling the story. As this is a true crime book that is putting forth the continued genocides of Indigenous communities, specifically MMIWG2S+. So, I agree with the author’s thesis enough was not being done. I am not exactly sure what has changed to ensure girls do not encounter these same situations just trying to live their lives.
I would recommend this book to others who want to understand about the current reasons there is more “Indigenous children in the welfare system than at the height of residential schools. In fact, the system has been called a second generation of residential schools” page 229. This is a tough book, but if you do not take the time to understand the history of one’s country, what will stop it from being repeated?
Other books I would recommend—I have read all 4
- 21 Things You May Not Know About the Indian Act: Helping Canadians Make Reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples a Reality By Bob Joseph
- The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America By Thomas King
- Seven Fallen Feathers: Racism, Death, and Hard Truths in a Northern City By Tanya Talaga
- Unreconciled: Family, Truth, and Indigenous Resistance By Jesse Wente
*There is a quote the author used in the book that used Schizophrenia as a descriptor: “This dichotomy setup of a problem of organizational schizophrenia, a state which …” page 116.
*On Page 139, the author even brought up the ramifications of language. Many of the “victims (were referred to in the articles) as “young women” … the victims, their respective ages, were sixteen, twelve, fourteen, and fifteen.” I agree with the authors take on this as children are innocent victims and then receive more public concern. However, when you say the victim is a woman, it “unintentionally … tendency in our society to judge victims rather than perpetrators, to find reasons not to care.”