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Our Evaluation Process

All of the books that appear in our educational catalogues are selected from publisher submissions by teacher-librarians. The titles are chosen for their relevance to school curricula and undergo a special annotation process by qualified evaluators who are teachers and librarians in BC schools.

Books in the BC Books for Schools catalogue are published by BC-based publishing companies, often reflecting local stories suitable for use in local classrooms. The Indigenous Books for Schools catalogue contains titles by publishers from across Canada. Since 2018, books in the Indigenous Books for Schools catalogue have undergone additional review to ensure that they meet criteria for authentic Indigenous Voice.

This process and resource was created by Books BC’s Indigenous Educational Consultant Jackie Lever for Books BC. Through our annotation and evaluation process, we seek to build a space of continual learning where positive and supportive discussions can take place.

Indigenous Voice

Greg Younging defines Indigenous Voice as “the creation and expression of culture by Indigenous Peoples—through any traditional medium, or any contemporary medium, or any combination of these” (Younging, Elements of Indigenous Style, 11).

When we are looking for texts that have Indigenous content in them, we want that information to be accurate and free from stereotypes and racism. We want to make sure the information shared is allowed to be shared. We want to privilege Indigenous people to speak about and have control over their own experiences and stories.

Indigenous Voice in text is:

  • an Indigenous community or person who communicates about their own lived experiences or about the Indigenous culture/community they live in
  • an Indigenous community or person who creates using experiences and information about their own culture/community
  • a person who writes in partnership with a particular Indigenous community or person about the experiences, culture or community in question

When we focus on Indigenous Voice, we lift up Indigenous people to tell their own stories and create space for Indigenous communities to share their knowledge—something that Indigenous people continue to struggle with in both the world of publishing and Canadian society in general.

Things to Consider Regarding Indigenous Voice

Ownership: An Indigenous community may decide a publication or that stories are created and owned collectively

Designs: Use of Indigenous images and designs may require permission, as Families/Clans/etc. own the use of their designs, such as those found on regalia

Protocols: Some stories are only told by designated people at designated times and places and to designated people; some permissions for stories are a single use permission only

Colonialism: Watch for colonizing ideas in materials. Even Indigenous authors may write material that promotes settler colonialism.

Copyright: Check out Greg Younging’s book Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples to learn more, specifically Appendix D (“Gnaritas Nullius (No One’s Knowledge): the Essence of Traditional Knowledge and Its Colonization through Western Legal Regimes”)

Ancestry: Even if the author is Indigenous, if they are not writing about their own ancestry, the work could be lacking authenticity. They could also be incorporating inappropriate terminology, such as old terminology or stereotypes. An Indigenous author should not speak for an Indigenous community not their own unless asked to.


“Appropriation is theft based on power and privilege. Appreciation is engagement based on responsibility and ethics.” –Niigaan Sinclair

Appropriation is an insidious problem in texts that contain Indigenous content. It looks like:

  • Writing about an Indigenous culture, person or community without permission
  • Blending many Indigenous cultures and communities into one culture, i.e. “Northwest culture” or “the First Peoples”
  • Borrowing elements of oral traditions, such as trickster characters from Indigenous cultures, without knowledge of or connection to the communities
  • Being “inspired by” and copying Indigenous cultural styles or culture, which disregards traditional meaning and takes knowledge out of context
  • Using imagery without permission or copying imagery used by specific Indigenous Nations
  • Non-Indigenous authors profiting off Indigenous content, themes or stories without connecting with and supporting Indigenous communities, which is a form of cultural theft and colonialism.

Appropriation is cultural theft, and it is an example of colonial violence. Authors who appropriate are exploiting Indigenous Peoples by stealing their culture and experiences, and occupying Indigenous spaces. One of the most concerning issues around appropriation is how these authors spread incorrect information because readers may assume the book is Indigenous Voice, and that the content is appropriate and accurate.

A Continual Learning Process

This process of evaluating a text for Indigenous Voice is complex and there is a long history that needs to be considered. As we learn more and continue to decolonize, we re-evaluate and improve the process by seeking to increase our knowledge through continued education.

In an effort to build a space where our learning is ever evolving, here are some points.

  1. Just because an author took the time to incorporate Indigenous content appropriately and accurately into their book doesn’t make it Indigenous. Specifically stating a book is not Indigenous Voice is not a judgement that the book is a poor-quality book, just that it isn't Indigenous Voice. The quality of a book will be judged by other methods.
  2. If the text has an Indigenous illustrator, it does not mean the text is Indigenous Voice.
  3. Prefaces and introductions written by an Indigenous person do not mean the book is appropriate or that it doesn’t contain racism or other issues.
  4. What if the author lived in the community/on the reserve for many years? If this is the case, ask yourself what story they are telling and with whom? That will determine if it is Indigenous Voice.
  5. The author feels very inspired by Indigenous Peoples/stories/culture – That does not make the text Indigenous. It may border on appropriation.
  6. How do I know if the author is really Indigenous? – Look at their biography in the book and ones online, use the info the publishers provide and do other research.
  7. What if I don’t know about the particular Indigenous community in the book? How do I know if the info is correct? – If the author is from the community and speaking with that POV, then it is correct. We are not here to judge how much someone is or to be a cultural expert. We are just checking whether the authors are using Indigenous Voice.

Evaluating for Indigenous Voice: Worksheet

Jackie Lever, Indigenous Education Consultant, has created a worksheet which you can use on your own to evaluate a text for Indigenous Voice. Download a copy here.

Jackie Lever, Indigenous Educational Consultant

Jackie has worked with Books BC as an Indigenous educational consultant since 2016. Her ancestry is Métis, English and Welsh, and she is a member of North Island Métis Chartered Community and Métis Nation BC. Currently, she is the Executive Director of North Island Métis.

In her roles as a classroom teacher, district teacher, and administrator over the years, Jackie has had the opportunity to work with teachers on incorporating Indigenous content into their classrooms, to develop curriculum, to work with teacher-librarians on finding Indigenous Voice texts for their collections, and to teach students a variety of subjects. As a curriculum developer, she was co-author on the first version of English First Peoples 10/11, and she co-authored the Indigenous Land Stewardship Program currently offered by Native Education College in Vancouver.

“My work with the Books BC catalogues has really been a passion project of mine over the years and has given me an outlet to assist people in accessing texts that contain what Greg Younging calls “Indigenous Voice.” I started working on the catalogues in 2007 and began to wonder about how books for the Indigenous catalogue were selected. I brought up my concerns around colonial systems, publishing, and the lack of Indigenous Voice.

“In 2016, we started working on ensuring that all the books included in the Indigenous catalogue contained Indigenous Voice, subsequently evaluating books in the BC Books catalogues as well. We have prioritized that all the books recommended to librarians and teachers be books that contain Indigenous Voice.

“If you are looking for resources with Indigenous content that is accurate, written by or with Indigenous people, and free of racism and appropriation, I proudly recommend Books BC’s catalogues.” - Jackie Lever