This Is Not a Peace Pipe: Towards a Critical Indigenous Philosophy


182 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-3792-5
DDC 323.1197'071





Reviewed by David Mardiros

David Mardiros is a lawyer and anthropological consultant in Terrace,
British Columbia.


For nearly 30 years, the Canadian state has been engaged in a struggle
to define the nature of Aboriginal rights and determine the content of
those rights. The Supreme Court of Canada and successive federal
governments have struggled with both issues and have overseen a
comprehensive land claims process that, with a few notable exceptions,
has accomplished remarkably little in advancing the issues and improving
the lives of Canada’s indigenous peoples.

Dale Turner, an associate professor of government and Native studies at
Dartmouth College, argues that the source of this failure is twofold.
The first is a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of Canada of the
place of Aboriginal peoples in Canadian society. The second is a lack of
participation by indigenous Canadians in helping define that place.

The first part of this book is a very useful review of the current
political context. It starts with a brief review of some of the
intellectual antecedents of the Trudeau government’s 1969 White Paper,
which was supposed to mark a departure in the way that the Government of
Canada would deal with Aboriginal claims. As Turner points out,
developments since the White Paper have served to entrench a particular
and very limited view of Aboriginal rights. Turner argues that this is
perhaps inevitable, given that these developments arose from and are
defined by a liberal (i.e., European) philosophical discourse about
indigenous peoples rather than a model formulated with their active

In the second part of the book Turner develops his thesis that in order
to develop the relationship between Canada and Aboriginal peoples, a
relationship that at heart is political, Aboriginal worldviews and
understandings of that relationship must be recognized and incorporated
into future discussions. In order to accomplish this, Turner introduces
the intriguing concept and role of the “word warrior”—a new
generation of indigenous intellectuals who can bridge both worlds. By
virtue of their training in and knowledge of the dominant legal and
political discourse as well as their roots and relationships within
indigenous communities, Turner sees these intellectuals as the future
spokespersons and defenders of the philosophies of knowledge that stem
from those communities. While Turner freely admits that questions remain
about whether such disparate worlds can in fact be bridged, his vision
is one of hope and empowerment for indigenous youth and communities that
change in their relationship with Canada can occur. As such, it is a
vision of progress in an arena that has shown such little progress to


Turner, Dale., “This Is Not a Peace Pipe: Towards a Critical Indigenous Philosophy,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed November 29, 2023,