Cover image for Invisible north : the search for answers on a troubled reserve / Alexandra Shimo.
Invisible north : the search for answers on a troubled reserve / Alexandra Shimo.
Publication Information:
Toronto : Dundurn, [2016]

Physical Description:
174 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : colour illustrations ; 23 cm
Corporate Subject:


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
305.89707131 SHI Book Adult General Collection

On Order



A vivid first-person account of life on a troubled reserve that illuminates a difficult and oft-ignored history.

Globe and Mail 100: Best Books of 2016 * The Hill Times: Best Books of 2016 * 2017 RBC Taylor Prize -- Longlisted * 2017 BC National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction -- Shortlisted * 2016 Speaker's Book Award -- Shortlisted

When freelance journalist Alexandra Shimo arrives in Kashechewan, a fly-in, northern Ontario reserve, to investigate rumours of a fabricated water crisis and document its deplorable living conditions, she finds herself drawn into the troubles of the reserve. Unable to cope with the desperate conditions, she begins to fall apart.

A moving tribute to the power of hope and resilience, Invisible North is an intimate portrait of a place that pushes everyone to their limits. Part memoir, part history of the Canadian reserves, Shimo offers an expansive exploration and unorthodox take on many of the First Nation issues that dominate the news today, including the suicide crises, murdered and missing indigenous women and girls, Treaty rights, Native sovereignty, and deep poverty.

Author Notes

Alexandra Shimo is a broadcaster and former editor at Maclean's. An award-winning journalist, she is the co-author of Up Ghost River, winner of the CBC Bookie and Speaker's Book Awards for non-fiction. She lives in Toronto.

Reviews 1

Publisher's Weekly Review

What begins as a journalist's journey to discover the roots of a remote First Nations water crisis becomes a gripping first-person account of an outsider's short but intense experience of the brutal conditions that are daily life for many First Nations communities in Canada. Shimo's time in the northern Ontario Kashechewan reserve-a place that drew international attention in 2005 for abominable living conditions-serves as a microcosm of the obstacles First Nations face when the catch-22s of Indian Act provisions stunt economic development and condemn successive generations to despair and suicide rates that are among the highest in the world. Shimo (coauthor of Up Ghost River: A Chief's Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History), no stranger to these issues, barely contains a palpable anger, as each injustice she witnesses firsthand becomes the springboard for a deeper exploration of the social, historical, and political roots of a reality that encompasses annual flood-induced evacuations, mold-encrusted housing, astronomical food prices, and a war-zone atmosphere that leaves her with post-traumatic stress disorder. Her work can be painful to read, but, like other literature on reconciliation, it's a necessary contribution to addressing age-old wrongs. Agents: Chris Casuccio and John Pearce, Westwood Creative Artists. (Oct.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Author's Notep. 11
Prologuep. 13
Introductionp. 15
1 Moving Northp. 21
2 The Fourth Worldp. 32
3 Meeting the Chiefp. 41
4 A Lead at the Garbage Dumpp. 54
5 Welfarep. 65
6 Rumoursp. 74
7 Teaching the Childrenp. 81
8 The Double Standardp. 91
9 Comparisonsp. 98
10 When the Waters Rush Inp. 107
11 A Call for Helpp. 118
12 Moral Injuryp. 123
13 The Crisisp. 130
14 Where Next?p. 141
Getting Involvedp. 149
Timeline of the 2005 E. coli Water Crisisp. 153
Notesp. 155
Acknowledgementsp. 173