October 10th is designated as Indigenous People’s Day, when we honor Native American history and culture. It is a holiday that has been a long time coming; consider spending the day learning from the best resources.
Dr. Debbie Reese’s American Indians in Children’s Literature website is an excellent resource, with analyses on books and resources on indigenous people in literature: Dr. Reese provides insight on the good, the bad, and the downright ugly.
If you are interested in research the indigenous land you occupy, and you are in the United States, you can text your zip code or your city and state to a number that will respond with the names of the Native lands that correspond to your region. I live and work on land taken from the Canarsie, Munsee Lenape, and Matinecock nations. Thanks to Code for Anchorage and Native Land for this service.
Returning to the Yakoun River is based on author Sara Florence Davidson’s childhood memories of a Haida fish camp. Seen through the eyes of a young girl, a family travels to the Yakoun River to fish for salmon and spend time with their Tsinii (grandfather). The artwork unfolds like a dream; the art appears to be oil painting; Haida artist Janine Gibbons draws from nature for her palette, with early morning blues and grays moving into cool weather steel blues and and greens; food and cheerful faces warm up the spreads. Endpapers show a calm river scene in the early morning. Sara Florence Davidson, a Haida/Settler Assistant Professor in Indigenous Education, draws heavily on themes of family and connection to the ancestors in her work. Her father, co-author Robert Davidson, is of Haida descent and is one of the most respected and important contemporary artists in Canada. The story is a peaceful meditation on intergenerational relationships and family and on recognizing the importance of ritual and connection. A gorgeous book for collections and an excellent purchase.
Dancing With Our Ancestors, by Sara Florence Davidson & Robert Davidson/Illustrated by Janine Gibbons, (Sept. 2022, Highwater Press), $21.95, ISBN: 9781774920244
A potlatch is an important ceremony to First Nations in the Northwest and parts of Canada. In Dancing With Our Ancestors, Sara Florence Davidson remembers the last time she danced with her late brother, all the while bringing the importance, excitement, and joy of a potlatch to younger readers. What most stands out in the narrative is the determination to continue tradition in the face of adversity: “Unlike our father, we were born after the laws that outlawed our culture practices were changed. The potlatch ban did not exist during our time, so we grew up dancing and singing side by side”; “They wanted us to stop being Haida”; “Today we dance with our children so our culture cannot be stolen again”. Joy and pain live side by side in the storytelling. Davidson beautifully describes the excitement and anticipation, with attendees arriving by boat, plane, and cars and RVs; the community makes “mountains of food” and set up the gym where the event is being held. Janine Gibbons’s illustrations show a crowd that spans generations, with bold, vibrant regalia and a sense of wonder that comes through. Endpapers show bold, colorful crests and masks, proudly displayed during the potlatch. An author’s note provides context to the story and a note on Ben Davidson, the author’s brother, is a lovely tribute. An absolutely essential purchase.
For the complete Sk’ad’a Stories Series list, visit Highwater’s page. Highwater also sells a Teacher’s Guide available for working with the Sk’ad’a Stories on their website.