September 2, 2015 Digital Intern

A Roundup of Native Books to Read This Year

The new school year is about to start, and that means another year for students and parents alike to learn about Native history and issues. To celebrate the release of P’ésk’a and the First Salmon Ceremony by award-winning illustrator and author Scot Ritchie, we’ve rounded up a few other books that touch on a wide range of Native subjects, all of which are highly educational and worth a read in 2015/16 (and beyond!). Here are a few books we recommend picking up:

P'ésk'a and the First Salmon Ceremony by Scot Ritchie

P’ésk’a and the First Salmon Ceremony
by Scot Ritchie

It’s the day of the first salmon ceremony, and P’ésk’a is excited to celebrate. His community, the Sts’ailes people, give thanks to the river and the salmon it brings by commemorating the first salmon of the season.

Framed as an exploration of what life was like one thousand years ago, P’ésk’a and the First Salmon Ceremony describes the customs of the Sts’ailes people, an indigenous group who have lived on the Harrison River in British Columbia for the last 10,000 years. Includes an introductory letter from Chief William Charlie, an illustrated afterword and a glossary.


Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel

Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox
by Danielle Daniel

In this introduction to the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals, young children explain why they identify with different creatures such as a deer, beaver or moose. Delightful illustrations show the children wearing masks representing their chosen animal, while the few lines of text on each page work as a series of simple poems throughout the book.

In a brief author’s note, Danielle Daniel explains the importance of totem animals in Anishinaabe culture and how they can also act as animal guides for young children seeking to understand themselves and others.


The Outside Circle Written by Patti Laboucane-Benson Illustrated by Kelly Mellings

The Outside Circle
Written by Patti Laboucane-Benson
Illustrated by Kelly Mellings

In this important graphic novel, two Aboriginal brothers surrounded by poverty, drug abuse, and gang violence, try to overcome centuries of historic trauma in very different ways to bring about positive change in their lives.

Pete, a young Aboriginal man wrapped up in gang violence, lives with his younger brother, Joey, and his mother who is a heroin addict. One night, Pete and his mother’s boyfriend, Dennis, get into a big fight, which sends Dennis to the morgue and Pete to jail. Initially, Pete keeps up ties to his crew, until a jail brawl forces him to realize the negative influence he has become on Joey, which encourages him to begin a process of rehabilitation that includes traditional Aboriginal healing circles and ceremonies.

Powerful, courageous, and deeply moving, The Outside Circle is drawn from the author’s twenty years of work and research on healing and reconciliation of gang-affiliated or incarcerated Aboriginal men.


Winter Moon Song Written by Martha Brooks Illustrated by Leticia RuifernándezWinter Moon Song
Written by Martha Brooks
Illustrated by Leticia Ruifernández

Have you ever seen the rabbit-in-the-moon? Folktales from many cultures explain how the rabbit came to be there. When award-winning novelist Martha Brooks heard one such tale, she was inspired to write her own lovely story about a little rabbit who finds a special way to brighten the darkest month of the year.

Leticia Ruifernandez has graced the story with her tender illustrations.

 


Shi-shi-etko Written by Nicola I. Campbell Illustrated by Kim Lafave

Shi-shi-etko
Written by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim Lafave

In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school.

She spends her last days at home treasuring the beauty of her world — the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather’s paddle song. Her mother, father and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping.

Richly hued illustrations complement this gently moving and poetic account of a child who finds solace all around her, even though she is on the verge of great loss — a loss that native people have endured for generations because of the residential schools system.


Shin-chi's-Canoe Written by Nicola I. Campbell Illustrated by Kim Lafave

Shin-chi’s Canoe
Written by Nicola I. Campbell
Illustrated by Kim Lafave

This moving sequel to the award-winning Shi-shi-etko tells the story of two children’s experience at residential school. Shi-shi-etko is about to return for her second year, but this time her six-year-old brother, Shin-chi, is going, too.

As they begin their journey in the back of a cattle truck, Shi-shi-etko tells her brother all the things he must remember: the trees, the mountains, the rivers and the salmon. Shin-chi knows he won’t see his family again until the sockeye salmon return in the summertime. When they arrive at school, Shi-shi-etko gives him a tiny cedar canoe, a gift from their father.

The children’s time is filled with going to mass, school for half the day, and work the other half. The girls cook, clean and sew, while the boys work in the fields, in the woodshop and at the forge. Shin-chi is forever hungry and lonely, but, finally, the salmon swim up the river and the children return home for a joyful family reunion.

The four books below also touch on Native issues — click on a cover to learn more:

As Long as the Rivers Flow Written by Larry Loyie Illustrated by Heather HolmlundNiwechihaw / I Help Written by Caitlin Nicholson Translated by Leona Morin-NelsonLooks Like Daylight Written by Deborah Ellis Last Leaf, First Snowflake to Fall Written by Leo Yerxa

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