________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 3. . . .September 26, 2008


Men of Courage From Our First Nations. (The First Nations Series for Young Readers).

Vincent Schilling.
Toronto, ON: Second Story Press, 2008.
117 pp., pbk., $10.95.
ISBN 978-1-897187-43-2.

Subject Headings:
Indians of North America-Biography-Juvenile literature.
Courage-Juvenile literature.

Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.

Review by Joanne Peters.

*** /4



What defines courage? I have heard many explanations of courage in my life. "Courage is fear holding on one moment longer" is one definition that has always stayed with me. I have done "courageous" things in my life, and I have held my breath while I did them, but I usually didn't realize what I had done was courageous until the moment passed. I was sure about one thing though, I was scared and it took a lot of courage to finish what I needed to do.

When the opportunity came to write a book about courageous men, I became excited. Now was my chance to meet some real heroes.


Heroism does not always involve acts of physical courage and dangerous situation, although the Golden Eagles Hotshots (a group of Native American men who fight wildfires) and Lieutenant Mark Bowman, a Choctaw police officer, truly engage in heroic action in the course of their work. However, the courage demonstrated by the other eight men profiled in this book is the courage of conviction, of pride in their heritage, and of steadfastness in continuing what they need to do. The 10 men profiled in this book are all contemporary men of courage. Canadians are represented by the following: Patrick Brazeau, National Chief of the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and Algonquin in heritage; Frank Abraham, Chief of the Little Black River Ojibwe Band; and Stanley Vollant, an Innu who is currently an Assistant Professor of Surgery at the University of Ottawa. The others are Americans: Red Hawk, Chief and President of the Cherokee Nation, public speaker, story-teller, and an ambassadorial figure in Native American relations; Larry Merculieff, a key figure in community activism on behalf his people, the Aleuts of Alaska; Senator Ben Whitehorse Campbell, a Cheyenne whose diverse talents include membership on the 1964 U.S. Olympic Judo Team, jewellery design and production, and finally, election to the U. S. Senate; Chief Tom Porter, a Mohawk whose commitment to his traditions has made him a leader in cultural preservation and whose spirituality leads him to minister to the needs of native inmates within New York State's correctional system; and finally, Raymond Cross, of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara ancestry, whose legal talents would culminate in the award of a massive settlement to his ancestral tribes, as compensation for flooding and damage to tribal lands, resulting from the Garrison Dam project in North Dakota.

     Most of these men grew up in very difficult circumstances, experiencing poverty, family breakdown and systemic racism. Still, all found the strength and courage to make the most of opportunities presented to them, to overcome the odds, and to show resilience in the face of challenge. As much as possible, Vincent Schilling has these men tell their own life-stories, rather than his being the primary reporter and narrator. In doing so, he allows them to "show" rather than "tell" the qualities that make them "men of courage." And, truly, their stories are compelling.

      Men of Courage From Our First Nations is the third in "The First Nations for Young Readers" series, and like Great Women of Our First Nations, its biggest limitation for Canadian classrooms is the preponderance of American profiles. Students seeking sources for "write a biographical profile" assignments, driven by provincially-mandated inclusion of Aboriginal content, will most certainly find the information in this book readable and accessible. The trouble is, only three Canadians are profiled. This book is co-published in the United States, and the much larger American market is undoubtedly the reason for 70% American content. Still, at $10.95, the book is reasonably priced and can be considered for acquisition as a library resource.


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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