________________ CM . . . . Volume XV Number 18. . . .May 1, 2009


Living Stories. (This Land is Our Storybook).

Therese Zoe, Philip Zoe & Mindy Willett. Photographs by Tessa Macintosh.
Markham, ON: Fifth House, 2009.
32 pp., hardcover, $16.95.
ISBN 978-1-897252-44-4.

Subject Headings:
Tlicho First Nation-History-Juvenile literature.
Dogrib Indians-Juvenile literature.

Grades 3-6 / Ages 8-11.

Review by Ellen Heaney.

*** /4


There is a growing awareness in schools and in public libraries of the need for materials about modern Aboriginal communities, and this book certainly fits that bill.

      "This Land is Our Storybook" is a new series from Fifth House published "about the diverse lands and cultures of Canada's Northwest Territories. In the books, storytellers, Elders, and cultural leaders from different language groups share real stories of everyday life in the North today."

      Living Stories is a heartfelt tribute to the culture of the Tlicho* or Dogrib nation, as seen through the eyes of a number of different individuals. History, geography, lifestyle and language are covered with the use of blocks of text supplemented by fact boxes. For example, one the latter explains the significance of the Tlicho flag:

The Tlicho flag has four symbols.

1. The royal blue background represents the Tlicho territory.

2. The tents represent the four Tlicho Nation communities Becheko, Whati, Gameti and Wekweti .

3. The sunrise and flowing river remind the people of the Treaty that the great Chief Mqnfwi signed.

4. The North Star is a hopeful symbol of a new era in which Tlicho people can choose their own future. The star also shows Tlicho commitment to protecting their language, culture, and way of life for future generations.

     We find out about the history of the Tlicho treaties and the movement for self-government. The practice of traditional medicine is contrasted with the care available at the local health clinic. How to preserve whitefish and a method for making a birchbark basket are explained according to the late Elder Elizabeth Chocolate's detailed instructions. All of the information is presented in a very personal way so that young readers unfamiliar with the first nations culture in the north can realize this is a real way of life for some people, not something from 'long ago and far away.'

      The last two pages of the text consist of a glossary and some information about the storytelling traditions of the Tlicho people.

      Photographer Tessa Macintosh, a southerner whose children are Tlicho, has done a wonderful job of including pictures of the land and the people, some posed to represent the subject under discussions, many in cheerful candid shots.

      The other books in the series to date are The Delta is My Home and We Feel Good Out Here.

*The name is the publisher's transliteration on the promotional material of a word written in the actual characters of this native language within the text of the book, and not reproducible with a standard keyboard.


Ellen Heaney is Head of Children's Services at the New Westminster Public Library, New Westminster, BC.

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

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