I know I am submitting this list late, but I’ve been working with our Ministry of Education here in Saskatchewan, Canada on a new and exciting continuum that compliments our First Nation, Metis and Inuit people and teaching all of our students about the recently released Truth and Reconciliation Report. Canada has a dark past with regards to how it has treated the First Nations, Inuit and Metis people and just now are we starting the healing process. This will take time, but there are some amazing books out there to help students understand what this looks like and what the Treaties that the Canadian government made with the First Nations people and how those treaties weren’t necessarily honoured the way the First Nations people expected due to a lack of proper translators and understanding.
My 10 for 10 list is about books that help teach students to understand what it means to be Treaty people (all Canadians living on Treaty land) and how to understand the reconciliation process.
Book #1: When I was Eight (Jordan-Pokiak)
This is the children’s story based on the novel “Fatty Legs“. This story follows a young girl from the Arctic named Olemaun who begged her parents to let her go to school so she could learn to read. What she did not understand, was that she was being sent away to a Residential school, whose goal was to strip away the “Indian” from the children.
Book #2: Not My Girl (Jordan-Pokiak)
This is the sequel to When I was Eight (Sequel to Fatty Legs is A Stranger At Home). Margaret (Olemaun’s new Christian name) returns home after 2 years away at school. She is an out-cast in her community because she can no longer remember her language or stomach the food. She will have to relearn the ways of her home community to feel as though she belongs.
Book #3: As Long as the Rivers Flow (Loyie)
This short chapter book (4 chapters) is wonderfully illustrated in water colour. This is the true story of author Larry Loyie and follows his last summer with his family before he is forced to go to Residential School. He tries to resist going, but his parents explain that it is the law and that if he and his siblings don’t go, then the parents will go to prison. It was great summer of 1944, full of adventures and fun with family- but that summer came to an end too quick for Larry. The epilogue in the end provides photos and stories of what actually happened in the Residential School.
Book #4: Shi-Shi-Etko (Campbell)
Shi-Shi-Etko is a very inquisitive and attentive little girl. She has 4 days to experience and remember everything around her before she is sent off to Residential school. Aside from what nature teachers her, she also learns from her family in hopes of remembering everything for when she comes home.
Book #5: Shin-Shi’s Canoe (Campbell)
Shin-Shi is Shi-Shi-Etko’s younger brother. It is now his turn to go to school. Just as Shi-Shi-Etko’s family taught her to remember who she truly is, it is her turn to prepare her brother for what to expect at Residential school. This story shows how Shin-Shi found ways to cope and live through his experience at Residential school.
Book #6: Nokum is My Teacher (Bouchard)
David Bouchard is one of my favourite, comptemporary First Nations authors. This book uses the amazing artwork by famous First Nation artist Allen Sapp. In this book, David speaks to his Nokum (Grandmother) about why he has to learn the ways of the white man and if the world of the white man is for him. Nokum teaches him to not only embrace the community he currently lives in with his family, but to also learn about the world. Very poetic and uses a lot of “voice” to help.
Book #7: The Elders are Watching (Bouchard)
Another amazing book with beautifully done artwork. On each page, an elder’s face is hidden within the painting. Bouchard beautifully depicts the importance of the elders messages of respecting the environment and keeping Mother Earth beautiful and healthy.
Book #8: Ancient Thunder (Yerxa)
Ancient Thunder is written and illustrated by Leo Yerxa. It talks about wild horses and their importance in the world and to the First Nations people. Each illustration is painted on paper, but made to look like a leather shirt that tells the story of the horses on the land.
Book #9: Seven Sacred Teachings (Bouchard)
In this book, Bouchard looks at the Seven Sacred Teachings based on the colours of the Medicine Wheel (East – humility, South – honesty, Fall – respect, North – courage) and the last 3 are the (Sky – wisdom, Earth – truth, Within – love). Again, beautifully illustrated, it shows the importance of what surrounds us and that we are to cherish it and protect it.
Book #10: Fiddle Dancer (Burton)
This is a contemporary book by Saskatchewan author, Wilfred Burton. It follows young Nolin who is beginning to understand his Metis heritage and looks to his grandfather (Mooshoom) to teach him about dancing. This contemporary story looks to the future of the Metis people and the preserving of their culture.
Please note that I did not include and cover photos of the books listed here as their are no CC images available. I did provide links for you to follow to see the books and provide more information.