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“Great spread” of 20 presses take part in Indigenous Editors Circle at Humber

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In August, Toronto’s Humber College hosted its first Indigenous Editors Circle, a program launched (as the Aboriginal Editors Circle) in Saskatchewan in 2014 to help support Indigenous literature and educate the country’s publishers and editors on the due diligence necessary when handling manuscripts by Indigenous authors. The course, which took place Aug. 13–19 at Humber’s Lakeshore Campus, was led by a faculty comprising Gregory Younging, Cherie Dimaline, Warren Cariou, and Gregory Scofield. It offered a stream sharing best practices among Indigenous editors, and either a week-long or new two-day stream outlining basic knowledge of cultural protocols and specialized editing skills, titled Editing Indigenous Manuscripts, aimed at non-Indigenous publishers.

Consultant and guest speaker Cynthia Good – who formerly helmed the college’s Creative Book Publishing program – said the Circle saw fair representation from all types of presses, from academic to trade, and small to large. She was particularly pleased with the presence of children’s publishers, as that’s “where everything needs to start, in texts that our children would be reading.” Multiple professionals from 20 different houses were present, alongside freelancers and members of the Editors Association of Canada. The inaugural Editing Indigenous Manuscripts course hosted 34 non-Indigenous participants, while nine Indigenous editors took part in the circle. The faculty will be sending out additional take-home educational resources, based on questions and topics brought up by the group to participating publishers in the coming months.

“It was so important to share the information, perceptions, and messages between participants. … Many of the Indigenous participants were writers, so we benefitted from hearing what it’s like being edited from a writer’s point of view,” Good says. “And there was a lot of great practical advice. For example, we know each Indigenous community is different, so publishers need to identify which community [a work is] dealing with, and make sure the proper permissions and research have been done.”

Jenny Kay Dupuis, a Toronto-based educator and consultant on Indigenous issues, says the experience was empowering and healing, and helped raise more consciousness around “the realities of handling Indigenous texts,” such as dealing with sensitive or triggering topics, employing the correct language and terminology, and verifying who has the rights to share which stories. “Through the circle, I also came to understand my responsibility to give back,” Dupuis says. “This includes supporting new, emerging Indigenous voices who may simply need someone who’s walked a similar path to guide them and offer a safe, supportive space to share their stories.”