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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

At the Heart of It, written by Raymond Taniton and Mindy Willett with photographs by Tessa Macintosh. Fifth House Publisihers, Fizhenry & Whiteside. 2011. $16.95 ages 10 and up

"I tell people there are many reasons why we are a strong and healthy community. But one thing is for certain. We have never given up our responsibility to govern and look after ourselves. We are responsible for our healthy families and our connected community. We are responsible for ensuring that our youth know who they are as Dene people and for keeping our land and water clean."

I think that this series of books being published by Fifth House is a wonderful, and much needed, addition to the aboriginal literature we can share with all children. The Land is Our Storybook offers a clear look at contemporary First Nations in the Northwest Territories. This is the tenth book and each has provided a clear picture of the people, their culture and their day-to-day life in Canada's northland.

The format is familiar, using colour photographs, maps and personal stories. This one focuses on Raymond Taniton, a Dene drum maker and the community of Deline on the shore of Great Bear Lake where he lives a full and happy life with family and extended family. He is a leader in his community and a tough negotiator, which he proved while chief.

Raymond's family is large, his love of the land and his community is strong, and he is very proud of his heritage. He passes that love to other members of his community and to those of us who read this book. There is history here, as well as geography, spiritual teachings, instructions on drum making, stories and games.

Raymond is a gifted teacher and elder to his children and grandchildren. He wants them to know the struggles of those who came before them, and he wants them to know their land:

"The land is our storybook. It is our school, our library, our church. It is where we learn our stories and where we discover who we are as true Dene people."

An afterword contributes many interesting details, the meaning of the Dene Nation logo, and a timeline of events, as well as a map showing Canada's treaties and the years they were signed. This is a book worthy of your attention and of interest to many!

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