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Friday, July 31, 2015

The First Flute: Whowhoahyahzo Tohkohya, written by David Bouchard and illustrated by Don Oelze. Red Deer Press, Fitzhenry & Whiteside. 2015. $24.95 all ages

"Dancing Raven was often
called upon to lead in the
Buffalo hunt. Yet his heart
was in the dance.

Kohne Waci, ohena pte
odaypi cheepe gash
chonteh etunhun waci
echena cheen."

This is, once again, a winning collaboration by author, artist and musician. David tells me that it is his eleventh book written with a First Nation language translation. The design is impressive; the accompanying CD shares the story in English, French and Dakota. Jan Michael Looking Wolf's haunting flute playing is wonderful and adds special meaning to David's retelling of this traditional Dakota story.

The naming ceremony is of great importance; it has value, honor and respect for the person named. Dancing Raven lives on the plains. His life is quite ordinary, except for his ability as a dancer.

"He was the best and most renowned dancer among all nations."

He learned the many skills needed for all young men - hunting, trapping, racing, shooting, wrestling, and tracking. He proved himself to be a wise leader; but, dance was his calling. When he fell in love and wanted to marry, he was rejected by the girl's father.

"What can you offer my daughter?" the respected
Elder asked. "What do you have to offer that has
any worth or value? Dancing will not feed my
daughter, nor will it feed my grandchildren."

In sadness, Dancing Raven sought solace with Grandfather Cedar, and the Creator. To his surprise, there he found the gift that he had been seeking. Thus, the first flute helped the young man prove his worth to his village and to the woman he loved.

Dan Oelze's detailed images are infused with light, and set in the beauty of the prairie landscape. His fascination with North American Native life is evident on every page, giving readers clear context for Dancing Raven's life and experiences.

David is a very accomplished flutist himself, and thankful for that first flute, I am sure!

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