________________ CM . . . . Volume XII Number 5 . . . . October 28, 2005


The Kids Book of Aboriginal Peoples in Canada.

Diane Silvey. Illustrated by John Mantha.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2005.
64 pp., cloth, $19.95.     
ISBN 1-55074-998-6.

Subject Headings:
Native peoples-Canada-History-Juvenile literature.
Native peoples-Canada-Social life and customs-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Gail Hamilton.

**** /4


A number of secondary fish were also caught, such as herring, smelt, ling cod, sturgeon and eulachon. Eulachon were boiled down into a valuable oil. The oil was a delicacy- food was dipped into it to add flavour. Eulachon oil was in high demand and was traded with the peoples living inland. The trails used by the traders have been dubbed “grease trails” because of the oil. It has been said that the eulachon were so full of oil that if a wick was placed inside one and lit, the fish would burn like a candle. For this reason, eulachon are sometimes called candle fish.


Carefully researched, this book examines seven major Aboriginal groups- the Northwest Coast, Plateau, Plains, Arctic, Subarctic, Eastern Woodland Iroquoians and the Eastern Woodlands Algonquians. The book begins with an introduction which includes a large map of Canada indicating the areas where each of the groups settled. Each of the next seven chapters is devoted to a specific group and the various peoples within it. Topics include shelter, clothing, food, hunting methods, weapons and tools, warfare, trade, transportation, leisure activities, such as games and art, and spiritual beliefs. Fact boxes provide additional information, one example being the many uses of a buffalo, while profile boxes feature famous Canadians, such as Louis Riel. The final chapter discusses the impact of the arrival of the Europeans on Aboriginal traditions and lifestyle. On a positive note, the author highlights the many contributions of Aboriginal people to the exploration of Canada, particularly their role as guides for European explorers, such as Champlain, and to the western spread of the fur trade. However, readers will also learn about the negative impact- how diseases brought by traders, soldiers and missionaries wiped out 75% of the Aboriginal population in some areas, how settlers took the land for themselves and moved the Aboriginal people to reserves, and how residential schools isolated young children from their families. The Riel Rebellion, Canada’s Indian Act, and a realistic look at the problems facing Aboriginal people today are also discussed.

     Abundant maps, diagrams, cross-sections, and illustrations, based on museum artifacts and historical records, not only enhance the text, but they also help readers to understand the historical time periods and to appreciate the rich and diverse cultural heritage of Canada’s Aboriginal people. Measurement is given in both metric and Imperial form. A table of contents and an index are provided. One minor flaw in an otherwise excellent book is the lack of a pronunciation guide for the various names of the peoples within each major group.

     Well-researched, easy to comprehend and lavished with wonderful illustrations, this book should have a place in every school library.

Highly Recommended.

Gail Hamilton is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.


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

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The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
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