Permission to Land

A Memoir of Loss, Discovery, and Identity

By Judy LeBlanc

Categories: Memoir
Imprint: Caitlin Press
Paperback : 9781773861357, 162 pages, February 2024

In this courageous memoir, Judy LeBlanc delves into a lyrical and moving exploration of her Coast Salish heritage, unravelling the deep-rooted consequences of erasure that have shaped her family.


When Judy LeBlanc’s mother died in 2015, she embarked on a personal journey of discovery and reconciliation with her known but unacknowledged Coast Salish ancestry on her mother’s side. She was to discover that both maternal great-grandparents had Scottish fathers and Coast Salish mothers. Her great-grandmother was from the W̱SÁNEĆ people in what is now known as Saanich on Vancouver Island, and her great-grandfather was the son of a woman from either the Suquamish in Washington state or the Tsleil-Waututh in Burrard Inlet, North Vancouver. Finally, LeBlanc discovers that her great aunt attended Chemawa, an American Indian boarding school where, at the age of fourteen, she contracted tuberculosis and was sent home to die.  

In this intimate and moving memoir-in-essays, LeBlanc reflects on the impact of erasure in her family, particularly on the women through four generations. Marked by grief for the loss of her mother and the discovery of buried family secrets, LeBlanc sets out on a journey, both literary and cultural, in the form of a voyage by canoe to the home of her ancestors. Permission to Land is a powerful and vulnerable exploration of the complexities of family, heritage and identity, courageously questioning whether it is possible to seek renewal after irrevocable loss.


“How can we acknowledge our debt to ancestors whose histories have been largely erased? How can we connect to an unspoken past? In this probing and poetic memoir, Judy LeBlanc reflects on her Scottish and Coast Salish matrilineal heritage—naming the institutional and internalized racism, tracing the patterns of plague and plenty, offering her people’s stories as tribute to them and gift to her readers, in language as supple as cedar and strong as heartwood.”
—Susan Olding, author of Big Reader

“Judy LeBlanc’s intimate yet sweeping memoir affirms the pull of place and kin in finding one’s footing. In beautiful prose, she delves into family stories and complicated truths, touching the tender wounds of disconnection and estrangement. Insightful and candid, these interconnected pieces are a compelling call to belonging.”
—Lorri Neilsen Glenn, author of The Old Moon in Her Arms: Women I have Known and Been

"Judy LeBlanc has written a courageous memoir through interconnected pieces of prose that honour her Scottish and Coast Salish matrilineal heritage."

The BC Review