A student recently asked me in class, “Why are there reprints of books? Why do they get reprinted?” Among the reasons I gave them was this one: “Sometimes new information emerges and something important needs to be added. Or, sometimes, the content of the book becomes relevant again, given certain events or things that are happening right now.” I added, “Remember, history is less about the past, than it is a reflection of our present moment or our desire for what we want our future to look like.”
Sterling’s My Name is Seepeetza, the 30th anniversary edition epitomizes this reason. The recent discovery of several hundred bodies of indigenous children buried and hidden at several residential schools across Canada — Fort Pelly, St Phillip, St John, just to name three — is a heavy reminder that the state sanctioned annihilation of Canada’s indigenous culture and peoples over the past four centuries is not a remnant of the past, but a living monster that still lives and looms over the lives of the 150,000 children and their countless descendants.
This is a living trauma, its horror and long reach remain unknown.
For this reason alone, I am considering using this book in my next iteration of a 100-level history course I teach to undergraduates for this reason.
Sterling’s accessible, authentic prose in the voice of a young girl only gives me more reason to assign it as a course reading. The length is perfect for a semester and the format in epistolary style as a diary allows me to use this in class, for small group work within the time constraints of a class session or for short individual activities.
The content though is the main appeal here. Sterling’s own experiences makes My Name is Seepeetza all the more powerful, opens an avenue for an educator to discuss this in more depth as a primary source, as a part of historical record, opens the door for historical discussions and framing it within a larger landscape of indigenous history, gendered and racial violence. My Name is Seepeetza hits on the major nerves: language weaponized, education as violence, eugenics, parenting as cultural intervention, skin color and its tormented relationship with race and ethnic autochthony. History.
A reprint is not merely a revival, it is a reflection and delivery of knowledge we need right now.