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GoodMinds.com provides voices to Indigenous authors and their stories

By: Serena Habib, Contributor

GoodMinds.com is the largest Indigenous bookseller in Canada, but its impact extends far beyond that of a typical bookstore. It is a source of inspiration, a well of knowledge, a voice for Indigenous authors, an educational hotspot and a support for Indigenous communities across North America. 

Dave Anderson, whose spirit name is Wahwahbiginojii, is Bear Clan of Dene and Anishinabe descent born in Atikokan, Ontario. As an educator with a doctorate in Indigenous education, he has been involved with Goodminds.com on a number of projects and is constantly directing students and teachers to GoodMinds.com in order to help them learn about Indigenous peoples. 

Anderson described GoodMinds.com as an Indigenous way of doing business, with the purpose of helping Indigenous peoples and business grow economically due to disproportionate socioeconomic barriers faced.

The original vision for GoodMinds.com was to ensure there was a place where Indigenous authors could be supported and promoted. Founded over 20 years ago by Jeff Burnham and currently run by Achilles Gentle, the company’s owners have personally looked at every single book before choosing to sell it, ensuring it accurately represents Indigenous peoples in an honest and prideful way. Anderson described how each book will keep your mind growing in the spirit of having “GoodMinds”.

“Respect, responsibility and relationship: that’s what GoodMinds is about . . .  Understanding our relations, understanding the knowledge of each other, respecting that knowledge and being responsible to do what needs to be done,” explained Anderson.

Another important part of GoodMinds vision is to support Indigenous libraries through their initiative, Supporting Indigenous Libraries Today. Since many Indigenous communities have neither libraries nor access to books, five per cent of every sale goes towards SILT.

In addition to selling books, the company speaks to students, libraries and schools. They also support Indigenous education in both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities. The company tries to ensuring libraries purchase Indigenous books from Indigenous booksellers and reach out to schools and their teachers to help with the delivery of educational concepts and issues relating to Indigenous communities. GoodMinds have also begun to publish works by Indigenous authors and present interviews and reviews with Indigenous authors on their YouTube channel in their collection, “13 Moons 13 Reads.”

For Indigenous peoples, stories are a critical way of remembering and celebrating their life on this land. 

“We’re learning our teachings again, we’re learning to laugh again . . . The resiliency and the life that these authors bring in spite of what’s happened — that needs to be shared. There’s a vision . . .  there’s a life. And we need to celebrate that life,” explained Anderson. 

For non-Indigenous people, this is an important opportunity to finally listen to the stories of Indigenous peoples. We all can learn from these teachings and from the interactions of Indigenous peoples with the land we live on today.  They have been offering their teachings for 500 years to help us understand our land. It is time we embrace one another and learn so we can step towards a better future. 

“We are in a time of truth and reconciliation and educating everybody, understanding everybody,” said Anderson. 

As an example, Anderon spoke about the climate crisis. There are a number of books about Josephine-ba Mandamin, a Water Walker who walked around all five Great Lakes, carrying a bucket of water and a staff, singing Anishinaabe water songs and honouring the water because of how important it is.

The stories about her and the reasons behind her actions can teach us how to value water and ensure that our future generations will have clean water. The lessons from these stories are applicable to every one of us. To further explain our relationship with our land and water, Anderson recalled a statement from a Cree Elder he had spoken to.  

“It’s about Kenanow. It’s about all of us. That’s you and me and the water and the plants and the animals and the land. It’s about all of us living together,” said Anderson. 

Reading one story is taking one step on a road towards learning and understanding our place and responsibility as human beings on this shared land. The path of learning is ever-expanding; every book illuminates a path to infinite more for us to discover.

GoodMinds’ catalogue feature lists so that every individual can find multiple books for themselves. Anderson also recommended 500 Nations and the Truth About Stories as places to start reading Indigenous work.

To complement university courses, there are books in every subject ranging from engineering, medicine, astronomy and many more.  The children’s books, novels and poetry collections also share wisdom from an Indigenous perspective that are beneficial for everyone to become more aware of. 

“It’s your first step on [your] road — your road to knowledge [and], to being. If you’ve taken that first step, it means there’s something that has brought you here. And now, there’s more . . .  There’s so much for us to learn,” explained Anderson.

The truth about stories, as Anderson powerfully described, is that everything we need is in the story. GoodMinds provides us with these stories in a way that allows us to help our communities by making a purchase and by reading a book. Let us open a story and join hands and minds for a future of flourishing and friendship.

“It’s a time when we live together and for us to share with you. [Y]ou can listen in and we’ll grow together to build a better world, a world that we can be proud of to leave for our children [and] our grandchildren,” said Anderson.

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