Honouring the Strength of Indian Women

Plays, Stories, Poetry

Vera Manuel (Author), Michelle Coupal (Editor), Deanna Reder (Editor), Joanne Arnott (Editor), Emalene Manuel (Editor)


This critical edition delivers a unique and comprehensive collection of the works of Ktunaxa-Secwepemc writer and educator Vera Manuel, daughter of prominent Indigenous leaders Marceline Paul and George Manuel. A vibrant force in the burgeoning Indigenous theatre scene, Vera was at the forefront of residential school writing and did groundbreaking work as a dramatherapist and healer. Long before mainstream Canada understood and discussed the impact and devastating legacy of Canada’s Indian residential schools, Vera Manuel wrote about it as part of her personal and community healing. She became a grassroots leader addressing the need to bring to light the stories of survivors, their journeys of healing, and the therapeutic value of writing and performing arts.

A collaboration by four Indigenous writers and scholars steeped in values of Indigenous ethics and editing practices, the volume features Manuel’s most famous play, Strength of Indian Women—first performed in 1992 and still one of the most important literary works to deal with the trauma of residential schools—along with an assemblage of plays, written between the late 1980s until Manuel’s untimely passing in 2010, that were performed but never before published. The volume also includes three previously unpublished short stories written in 1988, poetry written over three decades in a variety of venues, and a 1987 college essay that draws on family and community interviews on the effects of residential schools.


“An invaluable contribution to our literature about residential school experiences and the effects of transgenerational trauma. With so many current projects focused on “reconciliation,” this republication of Vera Manuel’s works recalls theoften forgotten side of the equation: the truth, unvarnished by politics or bureaucracy.”

Jesse Archibald-Barber, Associate Professor of Indigenous literatures and performance, First Nations University of Canada

“Layered with intergenerational wisdom, replete with lived experience, this collection deftly presents both the devastating legacy of residential schools and the complex systems of care that sustain Indigenous women and fuel Indigenous resurgence.”

Carleigh Baker, author of Bad Endings

“Bespeaks a profound ethical engagement as it foregrounds responsibility, collectiveness, and the need to grieve losses and honour survivors through creative acts of witnessing.”

Sylvie Vranckx, Canadian Literature

"With this edition, the editors of Honouring the Strength of Indian Women are ensuring that Vera Manuel's voice will be heard in all its fullness, range, and power for generations to come and beyond. It's evident that Vera Manuel was ahead of her time in reckoning with the history of injustice that Indigenous people have faced in this land since the arrival of the Europeans. She confronts this history fearlessly but with such compassion and wisdom arising from the richness of Indigenous knowledge and ways that we can find within her vision our own individual duty and responsibility to the past."

Dale Lakevold, Prairie Fire

"Consistently, the reader meets individuals who are seeking and sometimes finding a way out of the intergenerational trauma that residential schools and genocidal colonialism have wreaked. Recurring themes and even recurring memories within the five plays and four stories emphasize these impacts, never allowing the reader to lose sight of what transpired in so many Indigenous peoples’ lives over the decades since Europeans took possession of their territories. From early days with grandparents on the land to the force of religion, enacted often violently by priests and nuns within the schools, and from the subsequent painful and often abusive relationships within families to the healing power of speaking truth, the emotions are palpable, the words forceful."

Celia Haig-Brown, Native American and Indigenous Studies

"This book, as with other examples of Indigenous truth-telling, is in and of itself an act of powerful resistance, healing and resilience, ensuring that the experiences and knowledge of Vera Manuel's people are shared and remembered, and allowing space for wellbeing and the healing of historical traumas to take root."

Rachel K.M. Lee Soon, Drama Therapy Review

About the Authors

Vera Manuel (1948-2010) was an Ktunaxa-Secwepemc writer at the forefront of Residential School writing who did tremendous work as a dramatherapist and healer.

Michelle Coupal (Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation) is Canada Research Chair in Truth, Reconciliation, and Indigenous Literatures, and Associate Professor at the University of Regina.

Deanna Reder (Métis) is Chair of the Department of First Nations Studies at Simon Fraser University and member of the Department of English.

Joanne Arnott (Métis) A Métis/mixed-blood writer, originally from Manitoba.

Emalene Manuel (Ktunaxa-Secwepemc). Vera Manuel’s sister, Emalene Manuel recently completed her Master of Education in Educational Administration and Leadership at the University of British Columbia.

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