CM . . .
. Volume IX Number 3. . . . October 4, 2002
In this brief book, Larry Loyie shares with readers some of the happenings during the summer of 1944 when he was 10-years-old and living with his family in the bush near Slave Lake in Northern Alberta. Because this account is true, there is no "plot." Instead, the book's four chapters, which are supported by Holmund's watercolours, contain episodes that were meaningful to Laurence, as he was called as a child. In "Ooh-Hoo Means Owl," Laurence, the eldest of the family's four children, describes his father's bringing home an abandoned baby owl that he found while checking his trapline. Everyone in the family assumes some role in helping to raise the owl. In that same chapter, Lawrence watches his kokum (grandmother) making winter moccasins from moose hide, and he goes fishing. As the family starts to make preparations for their two-week stay at their summer camp near the river, Lawrence overhears a bit of the adults' conversation about something called "school." (See the excerpt above).
The second chapter, "The Summer Camp," follows the family as they prepare to go to their summer encampment by horse and wagon. Once there, they are joined by another family to pick and dry berries. However, for younger family members, there is also time to swim and play after their chores are done. Papa also sets Lawrence the challenge of "fooling" the beaver by which he means that Lawrence must get as close to the beaver as he can without scaring them, a skill Lawrence would need in the future as a hunter.
In "Grizzly," Lawrence joins his grandmother as she goes to gather medicinal plants. Fortunately, she takes her single shot .22 rifle with her for the pair encounter a giant grizzly bear which Grandma kills with one shot from her small weapon.
The final chapter, "As Long as the Rivers Flow," initially sees the family having a feast to celebrate the bravery exhibited by both Lawrence and his grandmother during the bear episode. Following the celebration, Lawrence's grandfather gives him a new name, Oskiniko, which means Young Man. Grandpa also speaks to his assembled grandchildren:
"This land has always given us what we need to live," he said gravely. "Like they told us long ago, as long as the rivers flow, this land is ours. It is up to all of us to care for it. Now it's your turn, grandchildren. The future is in your hands."
The next day, however, Lawrence discovers that carrying out his grandfather's charge is going to be delayed for he and his three siblings are to be taken away "to a school far away." Any parents who refuse to send their children will be jailed. The "story" part of the book closes with the children sitting in the back of a high backed truck that is carrying them to an unknown location. A three page epilogue provides a very brief overview of what the residential schools were and some of the impacts they had upon the First Nations children who were required to attend them. As well, this section contains nine black and white photographs, most being of the family snapshot variety.
Although the book's "story" seems somewhat disjointed, it is the book's subtext which is the really important part of the As Long as the Rivers Flow. Daily, Lawrence is shown receiving a natural education from the various members of his extended family as they go about their day to day activities. However, as the "Epilogue" points out:
Lawrence finally went home at age fourteen, he felt like a stranger.
He tried to
Long as the Rivers Flow is a book that will likely be more enjoyed
in a shared
Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature at the Faculty
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reproduction is prohibited without permission.
Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.