One Book UWinnipeg

About 1BUW 2019

1BUW 2019 is a student-focused events program for Fall 2019, organized around a new landmark anthology of Indigenous comics about post-Confederation Canadian history by Highwater, a division of the Winnipeg publisher Portage & Main. In addition to a series of events related to reading and discussing the book itself, there are a number of other campus events planned at UW for Fall 2019 that focus on Indigenous history, art, and popular culture.

1BUW seeks to bring these different events into dialogue with each other and support ongoing conversations about what it means to Indigenize the university. We believe this program will allow students, faculty, staff, and community members to engage in both formal and informal conversations about Indigenous history, storytelling, and visual culture in ways that are meaningful and thought-provoking, while also promoting the pleasures of reading and the enjoyment of a popular art form.

One Book Programs: A Brief History

The “One Book” movement started in 1998 at the Seattle Public Library, which sought to promote reading through bringing people together to discuss the same book over a period of several months. Over the past fifteen years, numerous cities, communities, and universities have also undertaken “One Campus, One Book” programs aimed at fostering connections between all members of the university community through the mass collective reading of the same book at the same time.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, which has been running one such program since 2005, describes it as an opportunity to create organic connections between the work students are doing in the classroom and the culture of the university more broadly: “Programs and curriculum are built around the selection, lectures are held and discussion groups ignite exciting dialogue. The featured book becomes a touchstone that provides individuals with learning opportunities and promotes a sense of fellowship as the community reads together” 

In Canada, numerous provincial, municipal, and county libraries run “One Book” programs:

  • The Vancouver Public Library ran the “One Book One Vancouver” program from 2002-2011, selecting a wide range of titles by Canadian writers to encourage community discussions on contemporary social issues.
  • The city of London runs a “One Book One London” program and the 2018 choice, Métis author Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, was selected by the public library to focus discussion on Indigenous issues.

A number of Canadian universities also run “One Book” events:

  • The University of New Brunswick’s “One Campus, One Book” program ran from 2013-2015 with the goals of promoting reading and giving first-year students a way to connect to each other outside of class.
  • The Simon Fraser University Library launched “One Book One SFU” in 2015, through which they select one book and distribute it to their entire university community.
  • Queen’s University runs the “Queen’s Reads” book campaign, giving away 5,000 copies of the book in the first few weeks of classes and organizing events throughout the year, such as speakers, hosting the author as a writer-in-residence, and creating reading “nooks” around campus where people get together to share the reading experience in a designated space.

Indigenous Comics: An Introduction

For the first 1BUW selection we have selected a collection of short Indigenous historical comics for the following reasons: Indigenous comics offer accessible and engaging pathways into contemporary issues in Indigenous-settler relations; Winnipeg is a centre of Indigenous comics publishing and we have access to some of the leading writers in the field; UW faculty are already teaching Indigenous comics in Arts and Education courses; and, we have established faculty research expertise, community contacts, and student interest in Indigenous comics and graphic novels.

Indigenous comics and graphic novels are a vital part of the efflorescence of Indigenous literature, art, and popular culture in Canada today, and they are a major component of the cultural work of reconciliation.

Over the past decade, Indigenous writers and artists have turned to comics and graphic novels to share their own stories, rewrite settler colonial histories, and imagine alternate Indigenous futures. Aimed at both Indigenous and non-Indigenous readers, these comics work to educate and entertain, from short health education comics distributed by Band councils on reserves, to young people’s comics about Residential Schools used in classrooms, to speculative fantasy comics that draw on legends and traditional knowledge and appeal to hardcore comics fans. Indigenous comics are as stylistically and culturally diverse as Indigenous people themselves, and so there is a rich variety of stories, themes, and artistic practices on display in this growing field.

An increasing number of university courses across Canada now include Indigenous comics as an essential part of the curriculum. As well, dedicated panels at conferences, journal articles, graduate theses, and scholarly books in the field attest to the importance of Indigenous comics across a variety of disciplines, including English, History, Political Science, Sociology, Environmental Studies, Media and Communications, Cultural Studies, and, of course, Indigenous Studies. Teaching and researching Indigenous comics is a powerful way that Arts and Social Science departments can respond to the TRC’s Call to Action for universities to integrate Indigenous knowledge, perspectives, and worldview into our curricula and culture.


1BUW consists of overlapping programs in Fall 2019 which, combined, will draw together a number of communities within the university, engaging students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community members in important conversations about Canadian and Indigenous history, Indigenous art and popular culture, and the university as a place of learning and knowledge sharing.

See the 1BUW Program page for a full list.