Rebirth: Political, Economic, and Social Development in First Nations


147 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55002-194-X
DDC 971.3'00497





Edited by Anne-Marie Mawhiney
Reviewed by James S. Frideres

James S. Frideres is associate dean (research) in the Faculty of Social
Sciences, University of Calgary, and author of A World of Communities:
Participatory Research.


This slim book is the result of a conference at Laurentian University
sponsored by the Institute of Northern Ontario Research and Development.
The conference addressed the theme of “Community Development in First
Nations”; its ostensible purpose was to analyze existing political,
economic, and social development strategies in First Nations throughout
Canada, with a particular focus on northern and geographically isolated

Contributors to the book include aboriginals and nonaboriginals,
academics and nonacademics. The book is divided into four sections:
“Cultural Diversity and Division,” “Political Action,”
“Economic Development,” and “Social Development.” The first
section provides a historical context by identifying some of the
cultural differences (both past and present) between aboriginals and
nonaboriginals that have implications for both policy and research
activities. The remaining three sections respond to the problems
identified in the first section by offering alternative ways of
addressing the sociopolitical and economic needs of Canada’s Native

Most of the 12 papers are descriptive in nature and do not offer an
analytical assessment of the issue being discussed. Three of them make
an important contribution to the literature. Spielmann’s “You’re
So Fat!: Cultural Differences in Collaborative Research” is both
illuminating and frustrating. At its best, it shows how researchers
unfamiliar with specific cultural practices will produce “bad
research.” However, by assuming that research is only for the use of
government agents or academics, the author ignores the fact that
research is becoming a central activity for Native leaders.

Hudson and Taylor-Henley’s analytical paper “Linking Social and
Political Developments in First Nations’ Communities” should be
required for all students of Native studies as well as for
policy-makers. The paper is well-written and heuristic, demonstrating
the need to link self-government to various human-service goals. The
paper by Nabigon presents ideas as to how Native traditional teaching
about the sacred colors will help aboriginals regain their rightful
place in Canadian society. This moving piece is of particular value to
those who lack a full understanding of the guiding philosophy of the
Canadian aboriginal belief system.

Overall, the collection provides little new information regarding
aboriginal peoples in Canada; it is neither an applied nor a theoretical
book. The material lacks depth, and the linkage between articles is
never established. The authors would have been better advised to
contribute to the ongoing dialogue by publishing their work in
mainstream journals.


“Rebirth: Political, Economic, and Social Development in First Nations,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 7, 2023,