________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 18. . . .May 2, 2008


Great Women From Our First Nations. (The First Nations Series for Young Readers).

Kelly Fournel.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2007.
84 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-897187-25-8.

Subject Headings:
Native women-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Women-Canada-Biography-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

**½ /4


In her introduction to Great Women From Our First Nations, Kelly Fournel writes of the difficulties she faced in selecting the women about whom to write:

It wasn't an easy job figuring out which great women to include in this book. Both Canada and the United States are filled with examples of women of all backgrounds who live their lives the best way they can and should be celebrated. By featuring women of First Nations backgrounds, I hope to bring attention to a minority group that is still largely ignored by our greater society and needs to be applauded for their achievements, sacrifices, and passions.

     Five of the 10 women profiled in the book are Canadian, and five are American; additionally, Fournel attempted to bring some historical balance to the collection by including the stories of Pauline Johnson-Takahionwake and Thocmetony (Sarah) Winnemucca, both of whom attained renown during the 19th century, the former for performance of her poetry and the latter for lectures and political activism on behalf of her people. As well, a variety of careers have been represented: Maria Tallchief (ballerina and ex-wife of George Balanchine) and Susan Aglukark (singer) both represent the arts; Suzanne Rochon-Burnett and Mary Kim Titla each achieved notice as journalists; Wilma Mankiller, Winona LaDuke, and Sandra Lovelace Nicholas have all had notable careers as community and political activists; and Lorna Williams has worked hard at the development of programs to foster the retention of Native language and culture in British Columbia. Indisputably, all of these women have faced tremendous odds, and all have demonstrated strength and resilience. Their ability to achieve and often to be "the first" Native American or Canadian to achieve a particular goal makes their stories worth knowing.

      Unfortunately, in trying to hard to achieve "balance" by selecting both Canadian and American subjects, Fournel has limited the usefulness of the book. Provincially-mandated demands for Aboriginal curricular content undoubtedly will lead to "write a biographical profile" assignments.

      Great Women From Our First Nations is just the type of book that middle school students can turn to for easily-accessible information. However, there are certainly plenty of accomplished Canadian women whose stories could have filled several books of this type, and I wish that Fournel had taken a completely Canadian focus. Still, at $10.95, the book is reasonably priced and can be considered for acquisition as a supplemental resource.

Recommended with reservations.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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