Magic Weapons

Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community after Residential School

Sam McKegney (Author), Basil Johnston (Foreword)


The legacy of the residential school system ripples throughout Native Canada, its fingerprints on the domestic violence, poverty, alcoholism, drug abuse, and suicide rates that continue to cripple many Native communities. Magic Weapons is the first major survey of Indigenous writings on the residential school system, and provides groundbreaking readings of life writings by Rita Joe (Mi’kmaq) and Anthony Apakark Thrasher (Inuit) as well as in-depth critical studies of better known life writings by Basil Johnston (Ojibway) and Tomson Highway (Cree). Magic Weapons examines the ways in which Indigenous survivors of residential school mobilize narrative in their struggles for personal and communal empowerment in the shadow of attempted cultural genocide. By treating Indigenous life-writings as carefully crafted aesthetic creations and interrogating their relationship to more overtly politicized historical discourses, Sam McKegney argues that Indigenous life-writings are culturally generative in ways that go beyond disclosure and recompense, re-envisioning what it means to live and write as Indigenous individuals in post-residential school Canada.


“Sam McKegney’s Magic Weapons is a thought-provoking introduction to the political and academic debates over the residential school system that scarred generations of Aboriginal, Metis and Inuit people in Canada. His holistic, interdisciplinary approach represents a new direction in Aboriginal Studies in Canada.”

Topia 20, p 238-240

Magic Weapons is an invaluable political as well as literary commentary, persuasively arguing that indigenous life writings are culturally formative in ways beyond simple disclosure. A highly recommended addition to Native American studies shelves.”

Midwest Book Review


Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title (2008)

About the Authors

Sam McKegney is the author of Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community After Residential School and numerous articles on Indigenous and Canadian literatures. He is an associate professor of English and Cultural Studies at Queen’s University.

Table of Contents

Foreward by Basil H. Johnston - Acknowledgements and Permissions - Introduction - 1. Acculturation Through Education: The Inherent Limits of ‘Assimilationist’ Policy - 2. Reading Residential School: Native Literary Theory and the Survival Narrative - 3. “We have been silent too long”: Linguistic Play in Anthony Apakark Thrasher’s Prison Writings - 4. “Analyze, if you wish, but listen”: The Affirmatist Literary Methodology of Rita Joe - 5. From Trickster Poetics to Transgressive Politics: Substantiating Survivance in Tomson Highway’s Kiss of the Fur Queen - Conclusion: Creative Interventions in the Residential School Legacy