Vera Manuel devoted her life to encouraging others to free ourselves through the use of our personal voices. Telling the truth is disarming, speaking your truth is a generous and healing gift.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Gratitude: Honouring the Strength of Indian Women

Thank you to all who came out for the launch of Honouring the Strength of Indian Women at the Sty-Wet-Tan Great Hall, First Nations House of Learning aka the Longhouse at UBC.  The gathering was a part of Congress, an ILSA gathering, and part of the Indigenous Voices Awards mentorship day. I saw some of Vera's dearest friends alongside emerging and established Indigenous writers, fans, and scholars from across the land. 

Thank you to my wise and loving co-editors, Emalene, Michelle, and Deanna, and to Warren and Glenn and all the collaborators at University of Manitoba Press/First Voices, First Texts for your support in bringing this project full circle.

If you'd like to order the book online check out Strong Nations, a BC-based, Indigenous owned and operated book distributor.

image: twitter

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Vera's book: Honouring the Strength of Indian Women

Honouring the Strength of Indian Women

Plays, Stories, Poetry
Vera Manuel (Author), Michelle Coupal (Editor), Deanna Reder (Editor), Joanne Arnott (Editor), Emalene A. Manuel (Editor)
This critical edition delivers a unique and comprehensive collection of the works of Ktunaxa-Secwepemc writer and educator Vera Manuel, daughter of prominent Indigenous leaders Marceline Paul and George Manuel. A vibrant force in the burgeoning Indigenous theatre scene, Vera was at the forefront of residential school writing and did groundbreaking work as a dramatherapist and healer. Long before mainstream Canada understood and discussed the impact and devastating legacy of Canada’s Indian residential schools, Vera Manuel wrote about it as part of her personal and community healing. She became a grassroots leader addressing the need to bring to light the stories of survivors, their journeys of healing, and the therapeutic value of writing and performing arts.
A collaboration by four Indigenous writers and scholars steeped in values of Indigenous ethics and editing practices, the volume features Manuel’s most famous play, Strength of Indian Women — first performed in 1992 and still one of the most important literary works to deal with the trauma of residential schools — along with an assemblage of plays, written between the late 1980s until Manuel’s untimely passing in 2010, that were performed but never before published. The volume also includes three previously unpublished short stories written in 1988, poetry written over three decades in a variety of venues, and a 1987 college essay that draws on family and community interviews on the effects of residential schools.


“An invaluable contribution to our literature about residential school experiences and the effects of transgenerational trauma. With so many current projects focused on “reconciliation,” this republication of Vera Manuel’s works recalls the often forgotten side of the equation: the truth, unvarnished by politics or bureaucracy.”
– Jesse Archibald-Barber, Associate Professor of Indigenous Literatures and Performance, First Nations University of Canada
“Layered with intergenerational wisdom, replete with lived experience, this collection deftly presents both the devastating legacy of residential schools and the complex systems of care that sustain Indigenous women and fuel Indigenous resurgence.”
– Carleigh Baker, author of Bad Endings


Vera Manuel (1948-2010) was an Ktunaxa-Secwepemc writer at the forefront of Residential School writing who did tremendous work as a dramatherapist and healer.
Michelle Coupal (Bonnechere Algonquin First Nation) is Canada Research Chair in Truth, Reconciliation, and Indigenous Literatures, and Associate Professor at the University of Regina.
Deanna Reder (Métis), Associate Professor in First Nations Studies and English at Simon Fraser University, leads The People and the Text.
Joanne Arnott (Métis/Mixed Blood), writer, editor, and arts activist, received the League of Canadian Poets’ Gerald Lampert Award and Vancouver Mayor’s Arts Award for Literary Arts.
Emalene A. Manuel (Ktunaxa-Secwepemc) worked with her sister, Vera, in Storyteller Theatre. In 2018 she completed her Masters of Education at the University of British Columbia.


  • Honouring the Strength of Indian Women: Plays, Stories, Poetry
  • Vera Manuel (Author), Michelle Coupal (Editor), Deanna Reder (Editor), Joanne Arnott (Editor), Emalene A. Manuel (Editor)
  • Published April 2019, 296 pages
  • Paper, ISBN: 978-0-88755-836-8 , 5.5 × 8.5, $24.95
  • Topic(s): Indigenous StudiesLiteraturePerforming Arts
  • Part of the U of M Press series: First Voices, First Texts

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Style Guide excerpt & 2 plays about residential school

Deanna Reder:

“In 2006, in my last year of grad school, I had the privilege to see a play by dramatherapist Vera Manuel, daughter of Secwepemc political leader George Manuel and Ktunaxa community worker Marceline Paul. The play was produced in Vancouver by the Helping Spirit Lodge Society and when I went to speak to its director, Geni Manuel, I discovered that she was Vera’s niece. It was in that conversation that Geni gave me several unpublished plays that her association had put together under Vera’s direction. I really wanted to do something with these plays for a long, long time, but was overwhelmed when I began my new job in 2007 and by my uncertainty about what to do with them. At the same time, I was working with Metis scholar Jo-Ann Episkenew and Algonquian scholar Michelle Coupal. At one point, Jo-Ann gave Michelle a photocopy of the only play Vera had ever published, in 1986, which had fallen out of print: Strength of Indian Women about residential school experiences. Jo-Ann insisted: “You’ve got to teach this.” In a later conversation, Michelle told me, “We’ve got to get this play back into publication,” and I realized that this was the chance to work together with her on the plays entrusted to me several years previously. This itself was an amazing chance to work together, but then, a few months later, we bumped into Joanne Arnott, a Metis poet I’ve known for years, only to discover that, in the last year of Vera’s life, Joanne had begun curating a collection of Vera’s poetry. At first it was a shock. Michelle and I immediately recognized that we as academics had a lot more access to publishing and power. What could we do to support a project directed by an independent poet? And then of course it just seemed obvious: we should work together. This snowballed when we connected with Vera’s sister, Emalene, who had saved Vera’s archive. Imagine our sense of wonder when we came across some of Vera’s stories that were written in 1988, stories that are drop-dead gorgeous, needing practically no editing. And suddenly what was going to be “The Plays and Poetry of VeraManuel” became “The Plays, Stories, and Poetry of Vera Manuel.” The title of the volume, due in 2018, is Honouring the Strength of Indian Women.”

Deanna Reder in conversation with Sophie McCall, Culturally Appropriate Publishing Practices, p. 35-6, in Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing By and About Indigenous Peoples
By Gregory Young-Ing © 2018 Brush Education Inc.


Two Plays About Residential School 20th Anniversary edition, paper ed

Two Plays About Residential School (Indigenous Education Press) honours the fearless voices of residential school survivor Larry Loyie (Cree, 1933-2016) and intergenerational survivor Vera Manuel (Secwepemc / Ktunaxa, 1949-2010).