Personal Narratives & Indigenous Graphic Novels


This library program explores the graphic novel Surviving the City by Tasha Spillet-Sumner (2018) because it is a current and ongoing publication which highlights feminist topics about missing Indigenous women and urban Indigenous identities in Canada, written by an Indigenous woman from “Inninewak (Cree) and Trinidadian bloodlines” (Spillet, 2022, para. 1). Storytelling is a powerful way to convey Indigenous Teachings, Culture, and History (Bidwell, 2012; Justice, n.d.). Students, in particular, use personal narratives as ways to connect to and express their culture (Brown & Begoray, 2017) and graphic novels are well suited to explore complex topics about identity and convey meaning with multimodality to connect and engage with the reader (Henzi, 2016). Moreover, in Indigenous Ways of Knowing and Being, “stories are social actions” which impact the ways in which we, and others around us, understand, connect with, and influence one another (Bidwell, 2012, para. 3). Therefore, students will use Storytelling and art to tell a personal narrative which recognizes the influence of Land, Community, and Culture in their lives. They will also learn that Indigenous Peoples are not products of the past and are an integral part of modern society, dealing with the ongoing and prevalent effects of colonialism. And that Indigenous Texts and Literatures have always existed beyond Oral Traditions.

Alyssa Backs:

Alyssa Backs (she/her) is an MLIS graduate student at the University of Alberta, living on Treaty 6 land in Kapâwin, colonially recognized as Athabasca, Alberta. She also received her B. Ed in Secondary Education from the University of Alberta. Currently, she works at Edwin Parr Composite School teaching English Language Arts to grades 7 through 9. Backs is the Central Region Representative for the ATA’s English Langauge Arts Council and EPC’s Sexual Orientation and Gender Indentity(SOGI) School Lead. Her dream job is to become a School Librarian, where she hopes to foster a love of reading and learning in students from all backgrounds and ethnicities through decolonized education practices and resources.


Bidwell, K. F. (Ed.). (2012). What Stories Do: A Response to Episkenew. Canadian Literature, 109–116.

Brown, A. & Begoray, D. (2017). Using a graphic novel project to engage indigenous youth in critical literacies. Language & Literacy: A Canadian Educational E-Journal. 2017;19(3):35-55. doi:10.20360/G2BT17

Henzi, S. (2016). “A Necessary Antidote”: Graphic Novels, Comics, and Indigenous Writing. Canadian Review of Comparative Literature/Revue Canadienne de Littérature Comparée, 43(1), 23–38.

Justice, D.H. (n.d.). Indigenous Literatures, Social Justice, and the Decolonial Library. [Web Lecture]. CHOICE Media Channel. Youtube. Retrieved from

Spillett-Sumner T. Donovan N. Yaciuk D. & Sumner J. (2018). Surviving the city. HighWater Press.

Spillet-Sumner, T. (2022). About Tasha Spillet-Sumner. [Webpage]. Retrieved from