Publishers’ Weekly Review of Spirit Builders

Spirit Builders: Charles Catto, Frontiers Foundation, and the Struggle to End Indigenous Poverty

James Bacque. Rocky Mountain (PGW, U.S. dist., Heritage Group, Canadian dist.), $25 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-77160-136-8


Bacque (Other Losses) has produced a fascinating biography of his lifelong friend Charles Catto, an unheralded United Church minister who created a Canadian organization that brought together volunteers from around the globe to build thousands of homes, community centers, schools, and other facilities intended to improve life for indigenous communities at home and abroad. This generously illustrated title is a loving tribute to the oft-forgotten postwar social engagement by many men and women of the cloth. It is also an angry indictment of the stomach-turning mistreatment of indigenous peoples, whose wounds from colonial abuse and rural poverty Catto sought to address in a respectful and just manner. Combining fully rounded character studies of program participants and beneficiaries with entertaining anecdotes about battles with church and government bureaucracies, Bacque writes with a real flair and passion for his subject, though he can veer into metaphorical overkill. At a time when non-indigenous Canadians struggle to build new and more just relationships with First Nations people, this title is a valuable contribution that celebrates a success story whose template—though created over half a century ago—holds valuable lessons for the future. (Jan.)


Reviewed on: 07/03/2017 
Release date: 01/01/2017