Categories
Autobiography Indigenous Violence

Halfbreed

HalfbreedMaria CampbellE P Dutton1973

Maria Campbell’s biography is a classic, vital account of a young Métis woman’s struggle to come to terms with the joys, sorrows, loves and tragedies of her northern Saskatchewan childhood.

Maria was a strong and sensitive child who lived in a community robbed of its pride and dignity by the dominant culture. At 15 she tried in vain to escape by marrying a white man, only to find herself trapped in the slums of Vancouver—addicted to drugs, tempted by suicide, close to death. But the inspiration of her Cree great-grandmother, Cheechum, gives her confidence in herself and in her people, confidence she needs to survive and to thrive.

Halfbreed offers an unparalleled understanding of the Métis people and of the racism and hatred they face. Maria Campbell’s story cannot be denied and it cannot be forgotten: it stands as a challenge to all Canadians who believe in human rights and human dignity.

From Wikipedia: Halfbreed is an autobiographical work discussing various stages of Maria Campbell’s life, including her early life in rural Saskatchewan, followed by her life in the sex industry in Vancouver. It discusses her later life and the challenges she faced associated with being a single mother, as well as her role in the Indigenous rights movement which occurred in Calgary.

The work criticizes political systems on the basis that they are both corrupt and prejudiced towards females in society. The text highlights the issues of systemic racism and colonial violence, as well as the effects that the sex industry has on the women involved in it.

The original manuscript of Halfbreed was two thousand pages however, discussion with editors resulted in the reduction of the text to two hundred pages. Campbell had originally included more focus on the dark stages of her life including her time in the sex industry struggling with addictions. It was requested by editors that she include more focus on her early life in order to reduce the appearance of negative aspects of her life.

In May 2018, researchers from Simon Fraser University published an article detailing the discovery of two missing pages from the original Halfbreed manuscript. These pages, discovered in the McClelland and Stewart fonds at McMaster University, reveal how Campbell was raped at the age of 14 by members of the RCMP, and how she was prevented from including these pages in her published autobiography by publishers McClelland and Stewart.

This page of Maria Campbell’s 1973 memoir was excised from the published copy. (calit.ca)

And yet we haven’t heard this key part of the story. And why? Because the editor decided it wasn’t worth the risk, even though she was ready — bravely, courageously ready — to do so and had her own legal counsel that said it was fine.

Deanna Reder, CBC Radio.

A new, fully restored edition of Halfbreed was published by McClelland and Stewart in November 2019 with the two missing pages included.