CM March 8, 
1996. Vol. II, Number 21

image Iroquois Fires:
The Six Nations Lyrics and Lore of Dawendine.

Bernice Loft Winslow. Illustrated by C.W. Jeffries.
Ottawa: Penumbra Press, 1995. 160pp, paper, $19.95.
ISBN: 0-921254-75-X.

Subject Headings:
Iroquois Indians-Ontario-Poetry.
Iroquois Indians-Folklore.
Iroquois Indians-Social life and customs.

All grades / All ages.
Review by Grace Shaw.



[Father] still insisted on us knowing the things that belonged to the Indian, the history of our own people. . . . All during his life we kept that idea of being Indian before us.

image Bernice Loft Winslow's Iroquois Fires is a wonderful, celebratory volume of her poetry and the Iroquoian stories and legends she has recorded. Winslow's tales and folklore are enhanced by the pen and ink drawings of C.W. Jeffries, grandfather of the editor, Robert Stacy, who originally attempted to have this poet and orator's work published fifty years ago.


Winslow's Mohawk name, Dawendine -- "The Dawn" -- is appropriate to her task. This preserver of the past and caretaker of "the coming faces" (of future generations) lectured and recited in the manner of her mentor, E. Pauline Johnson, but was more interested in and involved with keeping native culture, traditions, and languages alive. In 1995 she was ninety-two years old and has now succeeded in her life-long goal of sharing her special knowledge. The theme that runs through Iroquois Fires is respect for and oneness with every aspect of creation.

Unfortunately the book's structure is confusing, with its preface, introduction, endnotes, histories, explanations, photographs and afterwords. Perhaps the editor has tried to provide us with too much of Winslow's story where a simple chronology would have sufficed.

But let us view the book as a collage, a potpourri, and not as a single thematic entity and then we can savour each delightful part.

Iroquois Fires will be of special interest to North Americans with native ancestry but can be read and enjoyed by all readers of all ages.

Recommended for all libraries.

Grace Shaw is a teacher at Vancouver Community College.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364