THE BEAD POT
Volume 21 Number 5
The Bead Pot is a simple but charming story that will appeal to youngsters. It focuses on one skill - bead making -which is handed down through the generations. But that one skill could represent any tradition that is passed on and, therefore, this story sparks ideas about one's own heritage.
Toniya Wakanwin is a young girl growing up on the Great Plains many years ago. Every day she sits beside her great-grandmother and watches as the old woman takes beads from a bead pot and stitches them onto the moccasins she is making. When the great-grandmother dies, Toniya inherits both the bead pot and the old woman's role. Empty at the end of each day, the bead pot is full of beads again by morning.
When Toniya marries, she takes the bead pot with her and continues beading the moccasins she makes for her friends and for the members of her growing family. Children especially enjoy the refrain: "Every night the bead pot was empty. Every morning the bead pot was full again." At the end of the story, Toniya passes the bead pot on to her own great-granddaughter.
The illustrations by Nona Foster are soft pencilled drawings using pastel colours. Featured on every page, the sketches form an integral part of the story by filling in many details that are not described in words. For example, Toniya spends her childhood living in a teepee with her family, but she marries a white man who is dressed in a cowboy hat. The marriage is pictured as a harmonious joining of two cultures, reflected in the fashions of the onlookers.
The illustrations also portray the way in which the outside world changes as it becomes more modern; but still the magic of the bead pot continues. At the end of the story, Toniya's great-granddaughter is wearing modern clothes, but she has a native feather and symbol in her hair. Life may change but traditions continue.
Recommended for use in the Primary grades.
Patricia Fry is a teacher-librarian with the Peel Board of Education in Mississauga, Ontario.
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