A 2020 Canada Reads finalist, From the Ashes is Jesse Thistle’s account of being Indigenous in Canada and growing up with the intergenerational impacts of colonialism that led to the dislocation of Indigenous people from the land, from one another and from their own identity.
Jesse’s story begins in childhood as he recounts being separated from his parents and from the Métis way of life. He gives a stark account of how disconnection and feelings of shame around his identity led to years of intensive substance use and over a decade of being precariously housed, incarcerated and homeless in Toronto. Finding his way involved a year at Ottawa’s Harvest House, reconnecting and reconciling with family, learning about Indigenous history through university classes and research, and finally by returning to the Cree road allowances in Saskatchewan–home to his earliest memories of the land, family and culture.
Jesse’s life experiences illustrate that Indigenous homelessness is not simply a lack of shelter or housing, but a profound disconnect from ‘all my relations’, from the interconnection between all aspects of life. Reconnecting to the land, place, culture, family, kin, self, spirituality, emotions and identity were critical to finding his way home.