i await the conversations: On Gregory Younging’s Elements of Indigenous Style

This piece originally appeared in Issue 3.36 (September 2018).

Guide. To guide. To teach. i think of nehiyaw words.

To take time. Slow down. peyatik

Gregory Younging’s Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing by and about Indigenous Peoples guides us through terminology and grammar, collaborative work, publishing practices, and Indigenous Rights. This guide respects and affirms the Indigenous Right to cultural expression, property, and distribution, and it aims to strengthen future publishing practices of writing by and about Indigenous Peoples. Younging is a member of the Opaskwayak Cree Nation, the publisher of the Indigenous-owned Theytus Books, and a teacher in the Indigenous Studies Program at the University of British Columbia Okanagan. He is an adept voice to guide us with his conversational but concise prose.


There are good reminders in this guide. Its beauty lies in its trust for the reader as it asks us to make conversations, to listen to and to compensate the writers, communities, and story keepers. It gives attention to the work and role of Elders. It asserts publishers’ and editors’ responsibilities to be accountable, to reflect on the consequences of words, and to build trusting relationships. Younging outlines these clear guidelines into twenty-two style principles throughout the guide, which he collects into an appendix. Guidelines much needed in a time of controversies, violence, and trauma in writing by and about Indigenous Peoples. Guidelines that will need to grow to ensure respect for Indigenous women and Indigenous Rights.

Time and listening. Trust — the amniotic fluid of relationships.


The guide reminded me that the spirits of terminology require different kinds of listening, trust, and time if we are to respect them. Guide becomes reference becomes manual, and this guide must be gentle for its many readers. Younging covers the appropriateness of terms, verb tenses, capitalization, and possessives; the different approaches towards property, words, and stories; and the Protocols and relationship-building necessary to respect writing by and about Indigenous Peoples. All important groundwork.

i found respect for capitalized words but crave more stories in these pages. Stories that take time and build trust. Listen. i see these stories in the case studies throughout the guide. Nurturing, generative stories demonstrating attentive, collaborative work to which i will return again and again. Each return deepening the story and asking me, “what is my purpose in writing”? mah

i grow restless in terms. i grow restless as i carry my own writing into a world of publishing, as a nehiyaw iskwew, and as i dream about working with Elders’ stories. i thirst for more stories on publishing and collaboration, and i seek the groundwork of an Indigenous-led publishing Protocol.

And i have great guides to teach me and remind me. Time and time again.

Trust. The stories are there and growing.

i await the conversations that are taking their first breaths in these pages.

Elements of Indigenous Style: A Guide for Writing by and about Indigenous Peoples was published by Brush Education in February 2018.

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