Indigenous books to put under the tree
- Julia Peterson | December 31, 2020
2020 has been a year for the books and this holiday season Saskatchewan authors, publishers and librarians are sharing their thoughts on the perfect books to gift to the readers in your life.
There is no shortage of exciting new works to choose from.
Kam Teo, executive director of the Saskatchewan Book Awards, says Indigenous works published in the province this year “run the gamut from popular fiction to academic genres.”
For the academically-minded, Teo recommended Loss of Indigenous Eden and the Fall of Spirituality, written by Blair Stonechild, an Indigenous Studies professor at First Nations University. This book explores the relevance of Indigenous spiritual teachings in today’s world. It follows Stonechild’s award-winning book The Knowledge Seeker.
For the sports fan, Teo’s top pick is Janice Forsyth’s Reclaiming Tom Longboat, which focuses on Indigenous self-determination in Canadian sport. In the book, Forsyth chronicles the history of Indigenous sport in Canada, with its pitfalls and its possibilities, through the lens of the prestigious Tom Longboat awards for Indigenous athletes.
Teo says young readers may particularly enjoy Cort Dogniez’ Road to La Prairie Ronde, a historical fiction about an ancestor’s journey from Batoche to the Métis settlement of La Prairie Ronde.
“It is an illustrated work, complemented with a nice glossary and a teacher’s guide so this is a great educational work,” he said.
For feminists and feminist allies, Teo recommended Carol Rose GoldenEagle’s newest book, The Narrows of Fear.
GoldenEagle says she wrote the book to celebrate Indigenous feminism and tell the stories of women who are committed to helping one another and fully participating in community life.
“In terms of Indigenous women, we’re always told ‘You’re not allowed to do this,’ whatever it is,” she said. “And I find it really hard to believe that Creator has said ‘Oh, you’re not allowed to do that because of your gender.’ It just doesn’t make sense to me,” she said.
From her own reading list, GoldenEagle recommends Randy Lundy’s “beautiful book of poetry” focused on male relationships, Field Notes for the Self.
She also had high praise for Paul Seesequasis’ Blanket Toss Under Midnight Sun, which presents portraits of everyday life in eight Indigenous communities. It won two Saskatchewan Book Awards this year.
“This is just a beautiful compilation of celebration, culture, fiction and photos,” she said. “It’s a beautiful piece of art.”
For children, Saskatchewan Indigenous Cultural Centre (SICC) librarian Jessica Generoux says receiving Indigenous-language books can have a lifetime impact.
“You can give the gift of our Indigenous languages,” she said. “We can be empowering our children and families.”
For the past two years, the SICC has organized a contest for children to write books in Indigenous languages and has made the winning stories available for purchase. Generoux believes these books can be a powerful way for young readers to connect with their culture.
“These books have come from the hearts of little kids,” she said. “For example, we have two books about dinosaurs written in Nakota - this little boy won two years in a row, and he combined his love for Nakota language with dinosaurs and creation stories.”
Bronte BigEagle’s The Legend of the T-Rex’s Short Arms and The Legend of the Duck-billed Dinosaur, along with a variety of contest-winning children’s books in Plains Cree, Dene, Saulteaux and Nakota can be found on the SICC website.
And whether you are shopping for a dinosaur enthusiast, a history buff, a poetry lover or a contemporary-minded reader, GoldenEagle hopes you will help support Saskatchewan authors and businesses this season by keeping your purchases local.
“If you have an independent bookstore in your community, shop there, rather than at the big-box corporate bookstore,” she said.