Canada 150: Explore Canada through Aboriginal Stories

June 5, 2017 | Naomi

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Fishing with Grandma by Susan Avingaq and Maren Vsetula; illustrated by Charlene Chua

This beautifully told story takes two children and the reader on an ice fishing adventure. Anaanatsiaq (grandma) teachers her grandchildren how to layer for warmth, test the ice for safety, drill holes in the ice and prepare fishing lines to jig.  After all the fish have been caught, she teaches them to think of others who may not be able to make it to the lake. The family then delivers their catch to many of the elders living in the town. After their long day, they feast on some of their catch.  



The Country of Wolves retold by Neil Christopher; illustrated by Ramon Perez; additional work by Daniel Gies

This graphic book is based on the acclaimed animated film, Amaqqut Nunaat: The Country of Wolves. The story is an adaptation of a centuries-old traditional Inuit folktale. The adventure starts as an average hunting trip for two brothers but they find themselves lost in the frigid ocean.  When they come upon a mysterious village, the brothers find that the safety of the land is more dangerous than the ocean.  



How Summer Came to Canada retold by William Toye; pictures by Elizabeth Cleaver

In this Micmac legend, Summer and Winter live in harmony. But as the legend goes, it wasn't always like that – once, there was only winter.  Pick up and experience this legend through words and exceptional illustrations. Read The Loon's Necklace description to learn about the award-winning illustrator, Elizabeth Cleaver.


The Loon's Necklace retold by William Toye; pictures by Elizabeth Cleaver

In this Tsimshian legend, the reader learns how the once all black Loon gets its beautiful white flecks. This legend became popular when it was the subject of a distinguished short film of the same name released in 1948. Cleaver created her own interpretation of the legend in her unforgettable rich and beautiful style.  

Cleaver was a Canadian illustrator, who won international recognition and election to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts (1974). Most concerned with myths and legends of transformation, she developed distinctive, stylized collages representing a symbolic world. She assembled her colourful, carefully researched illustrations from torn and cut monoprints (textured paper), linocuts and such natural and manufactured objects as leaves and lace. She received major awards for The Loon's Necklace.



Sometimes I Feel Like a Fox by Danielle Daniel

This beautifully poetic book journeys into the Anishinaabe tradition of totem animals and their meaning.  Each page introduces a different animal, 12 in total, each inspiring 12 different children. Danielle Daniel writes in her notes, "The word totem, or doodem in Anishinaabe, means clan. In the Anishinaabe tradition, everyone belongs to an animal clan which is decided at birth..." So pick up this book and jump into the amazing world of the totem.  



Lost in the Barrens by Farley Mowat

Lost in the barrens is a must read for every person living in Canada, young, old and everywhere in between.  A classic tale of man versus nature set in the Arctic north, two boys battle against the odds, lost in the barren lands of the Arctic. Mowat's detailed description is fascinating and informative and draws the reader into the story as if experiencing the boys' journey with them. Come along for an adventure of a lifetime.  


Once Upon a Northern Night by Jean E. Pendziwol; Pictures by Isabelle Arsenault

 Not specifically an Aboriginal tale, this beautiful bedtime lullaby introduces readers to the sights and sounds of the North.  The northern lights dance, the snowshoe hares scamper and chase, and a grey owl drifts down, down, down.

Hiawatha and the Peacemaker by Robbie Robertson; Illustrated by David Shannon

This is an enchanting story of five warring nations struggling to reach peace.  The nations of  Cayuga, Mohawk, Seneca, Oneida and Onandaga lived at war with each other until one day, the Peacemaker comes to the heartbroken and mourning Hiawatha and asks him to help spread the word of peace and forgive the evil that had hurt him. Hiawatha believes in the Peacemaker and follows him on a journey to to end the war and unite the nations. Beautifully written by Robbie Robertson, musician and songwriter, the book includes a CD with a song written as a companion to the book.  David Shannon, Caldecott Honor winner (and one of my favourite author/illustrators), created the breathtaking and emotional images.  


The Ghost and the Lone Warrior: An Arapaho Legend by C.J. Taylor

In this Arapaho legend, Lone Warrior leads a hunting party in search of the precious buffalo.  But Lone Warrior is injured along the way and must stay put until his ankle heals or his friends return.  But much time passes with no healing, no friends and a great snow storm. Lone Warrior is tested but he perseveres. Finally he is visited by a ghost who sheds light on Lone Warrior's predicament and returns him safely to his home as Chief of his tribe. In this griping legend, we learn what it takes to make a great leader.  

Cloudwalker by Roy Henry Vickers and Robert Budd; Illustrated by Roy Henry Vickers

In this story, readers hear the legend of how the rivers in British Columbia came to creation. Cloudwalker was the strongest in his tribe and loved providing for his people.  One day, he devises a plan to catch a flock of swans but things don't go as planned and Cloudwalker is lifted into the sky and left in the clouds.  Read this wonderful legend to find out what happens when Cloudwalker finally returns to his people.  The message in this book is clear: it's important to look after our environment.  This book is also beautifully illustrated in the Haida tradition, commonly found in BC.