Looks Like Daylight

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

We’ve reached National Aboriginal Day! Here at Groundwood, we feel the perfect way to celebrate is by hearing from Indigenous kids themselves. Author and activist Deborah Ellis travelled across the continent, interviewing and gathering stories that we’ve included here. Plus, all royalties from the sale of Looks Like Daylight go to the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada.

Looks like DaylightI go to a Sun Dance. They have this circle. On the first day, you feast and dance. On the second day, you do a fruit and vegetable feast — that’s all — and you dance. The third day is a fast. On the fourth day, we dance until noon. Then we take the circle apart and take down the tree of life and take down our tents. Then we eat. It makes me feel good because this year I actually completed it. On the second day it was really hard. The weather was hot and I felt like quitting. But I found the strength to keep going and I completed it. I like who I am and where I’m from. It’s special.
— Tyrone, 13

Looks Like DaylightEven white people who know I’m Native can sometimes act like jerks. They’ll say, “Heading home to your teepee?” or go “Woo-woo-woo-woo!” and pound their hands to their lips, doing some lame Hollywood version of a war dance. Others ask me questions and they’re respectful. You can tell when people really want to know something in order to get to know you better. But some questions go too far. Like, because I’m Ojibwe they think I was born on some sort of different spiritual plane or something.
— Brittany, l7

Looks Like DaylightMy chenai [grandfather] and my nana and others ran away from the residential school they were put into. Some of the older generation, like my great-grandparents, looked at the residential school as a good thing, but the schools weren’t as bad for their generation. For my nana and chenai it was a whole lot of abuse. They were treated really badly.
My mother says there is no way to make up for the crimes of the past. There’s only forward.
— Cohen, 14

Looks Like DaylightI live just over the hill from where the Wounded Knee massacre took place, over by Wounded Knee Creek. For white kids it’s just something in a history book. For me it’s my family. It’s my ground that they bled on. It’s personal.
— Destiny, 15

Looks Like Daylight by Deborah EllisAbout Looks Like Daylight
After her critically acclaimed books of interviews with Afghan, Iraqi, Israeli and Palestinian children, Deborah Ellis turns her attention closer to home. For two years she traveled across the United States and Canada interviewing Native children. The result is a compelling collection of interviews with children aged nine to eighteen. They come from all over the continent, from Iqaluit to Texas, Haida Gwaai to North Carolina, and their stories run the gamut — some heartbreaking; many others full of pride and hope.

You’ll meet Tingo, who has spent most of his young life living in foster homes and motels, and is now thriving after becoming involved with a Native Friendship Center; Myleka and Tulane, young artists in Utah; Eagleson, who started drinking at age twelve but now continues his family tradition working as a carver in Seattle; Nena, whose Seminole ancestors remained behind in Florida during the Indian Removals, and who is heading to New Mexico as winner of her local science fair; Isabella, who defines herself more as Native than American; Destiny, with a family history of alcoholism and suicide, who is now a writer and powwow dancer.

Many of these children are living with the legacy of the residential schools; many have lived through the cycle of foster care. Many others have found something in their roots that sustains them, have found their place in the arts, the sciences, athletics. Like all kids, they want to find something that engages them; something they love.

Deborah briefly introduces each child and then steps back, letting the kids speak directly to the reader, talking about their daily lives, about the things that interest them, and about how being Native has affected who they are and how they see the world.

As one reviewer has pointed out, Deborah Ellis gives children a voice that they may not otherwise have the opportunity to express so readily in the mainstream media. The voices in this book are as frank and varied as the children themselves.

Learn More About Inuit Culture

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

Raquel Rivera’s two books about Inuit culture include an educational resource and a novel. Arctic Adventures features biographies and stories, with pictures and descriptions of four Inuit artists she interviewed herself. Below you can read an excerpt from her novel Tuk and the Whale, set on the eastern coast of Baffin Island.


Grandfather suddenly stopped working.
He had been drilling holes through a flat piece of driftwood. Wood was a rare find. This piece would fill another gap between the sled runners of the family’s kamotiq.
Now he sat perfectly still. His bow-drill stopped spinning.
Tuk watched while Grandfather slowly leaned back on his heels. Did the old man hear something? Tuk strained his ears. All he could hear was the whump-whump of a raven’s wings beating at the wind.
“They are here,” said Grandfather. He went back to work, spinning the drill shaft deeper into the wood.
Tuk’s eyes widened.
They are here! Just the way Grandfather had dreamed. Tuk had to see this. He jumped up and ran toward the beach, stumbling over the snow-covered rocks.
“Sure, go,” Grandfather said to the air. “He’s young. He gets excited.”
Tuk climbed the crest that protected their camp from the wind. He reached the top and looked out over the bay.
There was the beach, cleared of snow by strong winds off the water. The sea ice stretched into the bay. It broke up into floes at the far edge.
Nothing unusual to see here. He waited a moment. Grandfather was hardly ever wrong.
There it was!
It looked like two great narwhal horns rising from the water, piercing straight through the sky. Tuk squinted against the glare that bounced off the ice. Those flapping white skins must be the “sails” Grandfather had mentioned. He said they could be turned to catch the wind, or turned away when the wind was too fierce.
Next into view came the great hull. It was the biggest boat Tuk had ever seen. What kind of creatures would travel in such a large boat? They must be giants!
Tuk felt a chill.
“Mother!” he called, even though he knew she couldn’t hear him. He turned and ran all the way back to camp.
Mother was outside the snowhouse. She was chewing on a scraped sealskin, making it soft enough to sew.
“Mother, when is Father coming back?” Tuk gasped as he reached her side.
“The light is still strong,” she replied. “He may return today.”
“Because the boat is coming! The boat that Grandfather dreamed about! I can see it already. Tomorrow it will be here!”

Arctic Adventures by Raquel RiveraAbout Arctic Adventures
The land, hunting, hunger, magic and extreme weather are themes that resonate for Inuit who live in the Far North. These stories, drawn from the lives of four Inuit artists, offer young readers a glimpse into this rich, remote culture, past and present. Accompanying each story are illustrations by Jirina Marton, who has spent time in the Arctic and whose deep appreciation for its subtle beauty shines through her art. In addition to the stories, there is a feature spread on each artist with a photograph, a brief biography and a reproduction of one of the artist’s works.

Tuk and the Whale by Raquel RiveraAbout Tuk and the Whale
This story is set on the eastern coast of Baffin Island in the early decades of the 1600s. Told from the point of view of a young Inuit boy, Tuk, it imagines what might have happened if the people of Tuk’s Baffin Island winter camp had encountered European whalers, blown far north from their usual whaling route. Both the Inuit hunters and the whalers prize the bowhead whale, but for very different reasons. Together, they set out on a hunt, though they are all on new and uncertain ground.

Scrupulously researched, this beautifully told story will inspire extremely topical discussion about communication between two groups of people with entirely different world views; and about a productive partnership that also foreshadows serious problems to come.

Coyote Columbus — National Aboriginal History Month

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

Thomas King, author of the Coyote Columbus books, is of Cherokee and Greek descent. Coyote Columbus is King’s way of retelling the Christopher Columbus story from a Native point of view. Here are a few illustrations from A Coyote Columbus Story, illustrated by William Kent Monkman, and A Coyote Solstice Tale, illustrated by Gary Clement.

A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas King

A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King

A Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas king

A Coyote Columbus Story by Thomas KingAbout A Coyote Columbus Story
A retelling of the Christopher Columbus story from a Native point of view turns this tale on its ear! Coyote, the trickster, creates the world and all the creatures in it. She is able to control all events to her advantage until a funny-looking red-haired man named Columbus changes her plans. He is unimpressed by the wealth of moose, turtles and beavers in Coyote’s land. Instead he is interested in the human beings he can take to sell in Spain.

Thomas King uses a bag of literary tricks to shatter the stereotypes surrounding Columbus’s voyages. In doing so, he invites children to laugh with him at the crazy antics of Coyote, who unwittingly allows Columbus to bring about the downfall of his human friends. And he makes the point that history is influenced by the culture of the reporter.

Coyote Solstice Tale by Thomas King About A Coyote Solstice Tale
Trickster Coyote is having his friends over for a festive solstice get-together in the woods when a little girl comes by unexpectedly. She leads the party-goers through the snowy woods to a shopping mall — a place they have never seen before.

Coyote gleefully shops with abandon, only to discover that filling your shopping cart with goodies is not quite the same thing as actually paying for them. The trickster is tricked and goes back to his cabin in the woods — somewhat subdued — though nothing can keep Coyote down for long.

Award Winning Aboriginal Titles

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

Nicola I. Campbell is Interior Salish and Métis, and author of two award-winning Groundwood titles. Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi’s Canoe tell the tale of a pair of siblings who are going to a residential school for the first time. Here are a few illustrations created by Kim Lafave from the books.




Shi-shi-Etko Cover About Shi-shi-etko
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 CoverAbout Shin-chi’s Canoe
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.

Lessons from Mother Earth — National Aboriginal History Month

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

Elaine McLeod, the author of Lessons from Mother Earth, is a member of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation. The stories she writes were originally told to her children so that they would know their history and understand their roots. Here are just a few of the illustrations created by illustrator Colleen Wood.

Lessons from Mother Nature


Lessons from Mother Earth

Lessons from Mother Earth

Tess has visited her grandmother many times without really being aware of the garden. But today they step outside the door and Tess learns that all of nature can be a garden. And if you take care of the plants that are growing, if you learn about them — understanding when they flower, when they give fruit, and when to leave them alone — you will always find something to nourish you. This gentle story demonstrates the First Nations’ tradition of taking care of Mother Earth.

Explore Aboriginal Languages with Groundwood Books

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

What makes today’s titles particularly special is that they offer two languages on each spread. Ningeokuluk Teevee, an Inuit artist from Cape Dorset, wrote Alego in both Inuktitut and English. For Niwechihaw / I Help, author and illustrator Caitlin Nicholson originally wrote the text in English, which was then translated to Cree by Leona Morin-Nelson.

Alego by Ningeokuluk Teevee



Alego by Ningeokuluk TeeveeAbout Alego
Written and illustrated by Ningeokuluk Teevee, one of the most interesting young artists in Cape Dorset, home to the great tradition of Inuit art, this is a beautifully simple story, written in Inuktitut and English, about a young Inuit girl who goes to the shore with her grandmother to collect clams for supper. Along the way she discovers tide pools brimming with life – a bright orange starfish, a creepy-crawly thing with many legs called an ugjunnaq, a hornshaped sea snail and a sculpin. This is an enchanting and utterly authentic introduction to the life of an Inuit child and her world.

Niwechihaw I HelpAbout Niwechihaw / I Help
This simple story in Cree and English explores a young child’s relationship to his kôhkom, his grandmother, as they go for a walk in the bush to pick rosehips. The young boy follows his grandmother, walking, listening, picking, praying, eating, just as she does. In doing so, he absorbs the rich cultural traditions and values of his Cree heritage.

Celebrate the Beginning of National Aboriginal History Month with Leo Yerxa

For National Aboriginal History Month we’ll be dedicating our June posts to Aboriginal titles published by Groundwood Books.

Ancient Thunder and Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall were both written and illustrated by Leo Yerxa, an artist of Ojibway ancestry. To create the following images for his books, Yerxa uses various types of paper to make beautiful collages.



Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall

Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall


Ancient Thunder by Leo Yerxa

A beautiful and visionary book, Ancient Thunder celebrates wild horses and the natural world of the prairies. Using an extraordinary technique, Leo Yerxa, an artist of Ojibway ancestry, makes paper look like leather, so that his illustrations seem to be painted on leather shirts. The art is accompanied by a rich song of praise for the wild horses that came to play such an important role in the lives of the First Peoples.

Years in the making, the book is truly a work of art — one that reflects Yerxa’s sense of nature and the place of the First Peoples within it.

Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall
Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall takes us on a dreamlike voyage into nature at that secret moment when fall turns into winter. We find ourselves in a kind of paradise, which humans may be part of but which they have not despoiled.

A father and son lead us through forests, down rivers, over lakes and ponds. Along the way we experience the primordial beauty of the physical world. This is nature as we all feel in our hearts it must once have been.

Through lyrical words and a masterful collage technique, Leo Yerxa has created an exquisite and poetic evocation of this moment.

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