Joseph Boyden Talk on Race Relations Engages Thunder Bay

Joseph Boyden Book signing after a fantastic talk at Lakehead University
Joseph Boyden Book signing after a fantastic talk at Lakehead University


THUNDER BAY – As part of Lakehead University’s Research and Innovation Week, award-winning author Joseph Boyden discussed what he learned about race relations before Canada’s Confederation; knowledge he gained while researching his 2013 bestselling novel The Orenda.

There was a massive crowd that came out to Lakehead University to hear the author discuss the issue. The Lecture Theatre was filled to capacity, and the University Staff had to scramble to set up several hundred more chairs in the Agora so that the overflow crowd could tune in on the GO-LIVE© broadcast.

Joseph Boyden Book signing after a fantastic talk at Lakehead University
Joseph Boyden Book signing after a fantastic talk at Lakehead University

Thunder Bay City Councillor Paul Pugh was in the audience. Looking at the size of the crowd, and the enthusiastic reception Pugh commented, “Tonight, along with Walk a Mile’s reception in the city shows that something exciting is starting to happen”.

The overflow crowd in the Agora at Lakehead University listening to Joseph Boyden talk on race relations.
The overflow crowd in the Agora at Lakehead University listening to Joseph Boyden talk on race relations.

Boyden gave a free talk at 7:00PM EST on Wednesday, March 5 at Lakehead University in UC 1017.

His talk was called The Past and the Future are Present: Race Relations in Canada.

“The old cliché is that to know where you’re going you have to know where you came from,” Boyden said. “Many people believe everything started in Canada in 1867 with John A. Macdonald but there were forces at work before that.”

When the Europeans first arrived on Turtle Island, they brought with them their ways, their traditions and their customs.

Determined to ‘civilise’ those who already inhabited the land, the Europeans did not recognize nor appreciate that the Original Peoples of this land were already living a rich life with fully developed and sophisticated systems of governance, customs, traditions, and knowledge.

“Many Canadians don’t know our own history. In order to understand what First Nations issues are – and they are some of the most pressing environmental, social and political issues – we need to think about how we treat the fastest growing segment of our population, and this relates to The Orenda,” Boyden said.

“We must look at our roots to understand how the tree grows,” Boyden said, adding this will be the first time he has come to Thunder Bay.

Boyden has written three novels, a short story collection and a non-fiction book. His first novel, Three Day Road,was awarded the Rogers Writers’ Trust of Fiction Prize. His follow-up, Through Black Spruce, won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize; both novels are national and international bestsellers. His most recent novel, The Orenda,has been drawing critical acclaim and is a national #1 bestseller.

Race relations discussion with Nadia Verrilli and Joseph Boyden at Lakehead University
Race relations discussion with Nadia Verrilli and Joseph Boyden at Lakehead University

“Joseph Boyden’s talk will be of interest to anyone who is studying or passionate about history or race relations in Canada,” said Dr. Umed Panu, Associate Vice-President (Research, Economic Development and Innovation).

“This will be a popular evening that will fill up fast. Anyone who wants to attend this talk should arrive early,” Dr. Panu added.

Boyden signed books after the talk. The University Book Store ran out of copies of The Orenda.

This event is sponsored by Lakehead University’s Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities, the Office of Research Services, the Department of Political Science, the Office of Aboriginal Initiatives, and the Department of English.

Lakehead University’s Research and Innovation Week runs from March 1-7. For more information, please visit www.lakeheadu.ca/ri.