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Monday, January 12, 2015

Dreaming In Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices, edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale. Annick Press, 2014. $19.95 ages 12 and up

"Today is Pink Shirt day at my daughter Naia's school. All the kids wore pink to send the message that bullying won't be tolerated. I'm happy that bullying has a negative social stigma these days. It wasn't like that when I was a kid growing up in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. But today, I would personally like to thank everyone who bullied me as a child..."

I was keen to read this anthology featuring aboriginal writers and artists from both Canada and the United States. In a welcome note, Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale tell readers:

"This book stemmed from a desire to showcase the real life of indigenous people. Not the life portrayed in  mainstream media and certainly not the life of Native People as it is seen through the lens of Hollywood. We wanted to give people a fresh perspective on what is means to be Native in North America."

Wab Kinew (Anishinaabe), Director of Indigenous Inclusion at the University of Winnipeg adds:

"There is no one Indigenous perspective ... no one Indigenous story. We are tremendously diverse peoples with tremendously diverse life experiences. We are not frozen in the past, nor are we automatically just like everybody else. That is why it is so important for everyone to share their own story."

And so they do ...

The strong poetic voices, the telling photographs, the poignant stories, the incredible artwork, and the personal experiences shared shed light for readers on what it means to be First Nation, Metis, Inuit today. This is a masterful anthology that begs to be read in classrooms and with families. It is a telling look at the tough and the triumphant, the pain and the hope, the true genius of young artists, and is a resource that is tremendously valuable to inform ourselves and to share with others.

There are four parts to the book: roots, battles, medicines and life lessons. Within each part, you will be privy to the variety in experience. We hear from a throat singer, grateful to those who bullied her in school for making her strong, compassionate and resilient; an acclaimed writer who did not always make the best choices for himself as he struggled through a difficult adolescence; a dancer who changed his course from break dancing to traditional hoop dancing; a Canadian Olympic team member whose love of sports changed her life; a hunter who connects through it to his culture and the land; a musician who offers advice to other young musicians; and a poet who dreams of the future. The list is long.

There is pain and there is joy; there is heartbreak and there is hope. They are young and they are older. They are always emotional and honest. Each artist deserves to be seen and heard. In this wonderful new book,  you have the opportunity to see and hear them. Please do.

"Home is Family

The sound of music and jingle dresses
The smell of sweetgrass
The feel of smudging
The sight of yellow, red, black, and white on the medicine wheel
The taste of fry bread
Home is not where I live but who I live with.
My family is my home.
My favorite people in the world.
The ones who mean the most to me
I love them with all my heart
And nothing can take us apart
Family means home to me.
And it always will be.

Abigail Whiteye
(Moravian Delaware First Nation)"

"Hunting is a reset button. When I'm working in my office in the city, it's
a reminder of where I come from and why I do the things I do. When we
do bring down a moose, I always cut the tip of the heart off and I'll find a
birch tree and offer up a prayer to the Creator and leave my tobacco and
thanks. I think that's why I'm successful every year. I respect the animal
and I eat it. And I give it away to other people who eat it.

JP Gladu
(Ojibwa, Sand Point First Nation)"

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