The Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge (Canada)~ Entries Accepted Until March 31st

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

The Historica-Dominion Institute, the largest independent organization dedicated to Canadian history, identity and citizenship, is calling on Aboriginal youth between the ages of 14-29 to explore a moment or theme in Aboriginal history through the literary and visual arts. The Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge is celebrating seven years of the Writing Challenge and the first year of the new expansion to Arts. Participants have a chance to earn national recognition and win cash prizes and a trip for two to a Canadian city for a special Awards Ceremony attended by Aboriginal leaders, writers and artists.

“The Institute encourages young emerging Aboriginal artists from coast to coast to coast to participate in the new expanded Challenge this year, ” says Jeremy Diamond, Managing Director of The Historica-Dominion Institute’s National Office. “We anticipate receiving wonderful and creative submissions, in both writing and arts, and celebrating Aboriginal achievement once again!”

Deadline for submissions is March 31st. The stories and artwork will be assessed by two impressive juries made up of some of Canada’s most celebrated Aboriginal leaders, writers and artists.

The Canadian Aboriginal Writing Challenge was born in 2005 out of the success of Our Story: Aboriginal Voices on Canada’s Past published by Doubleday Canada in which nine leading Aboriginal authors from across the country, contributed a short fictional story about a defining moment in Aboriginal history. Since then, the Challenge has quickly become the largest and most recognizable essay writing competition in Canada for Aboriginal youth and has earned large scale support from the Aboriginal Arts and Literary community. More than 1,000 emerging Aboriginal writers from every province and territory in Canada have submitted essays to the Challenge since 2005. Click on the Winners Gallery to read the past winners’ stories and follow along with this year’s Challenge here on Facebook.

Guest Post: David Bouchard on "Seven Sacred Teachings"

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

Seven Sacred Teachings by David Bouchard with Dr Joseph Martin, illustrated by Kristy Cameron, flutes and music by Swampfox (More Than Words, 2009)If you haven’t read our recent interview with Métis author David Bouchard yet, then head on over there right away! In the interview we talked only a little bit about his recent book Seven Sacred Teachings of White Buffalo Calf Woman (More Than Words, 2009), which he co-wrote with Dr Joseph Martin, is stunningly illustrated by Kristy Cameron, and has an accompanying DVD with music by Swampfox, and for which Swampfox created seven flutes out of seven different woods, each in a different key.

David considers Seven Sacred Teachings to be one of his most important works to date. The seven teachings (Humility, Honesty, Respect, Courage, Wisdom, Truth, and Love) are universal to First Nations peoples, and are the strongest link between First Nation, Inuit and Métis communities. Read on to find out more, for in this post David explains in more depth the background to this fascinating and ambitious project, which brought together six languages: English, French, Ojibwe, South Slavey, Bush Cree and Chipewyan.

The Aboriginal people in Canada have had to deal with many negative experiences over the past century and more: but one of the golden, shiny spots from coast to coast in our country is the spirituality that remains intact. If you go into any one of our schools, any school from coast to coast in Canada with Aboriginal kids, you’ll see posters or writings on the walls that refer to these teachings. Different people call them different things. Among the Ojibwe people they’re called the Grandfather Teachings, amongst the Lakota and Dakota people (who used to be called the Sioux), they’re called the teachings of White Buffalo Calf Woman. Among the Dene of the north and their cousins the Navaho in America, they call them the Dene Laws.

But the teachings are very, very (more…)

Aboriginal Storytelling and Writing

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

“The oral traditions of the Aboriginal people taught them from an early age the art of listening and remembering”, says Nyoongar Elder Rosemary van den Berg, PhD, of the south-west people in Western Australia, in a paper titled “Aboriginal Storytelling and Writing”. Among other things, her paper explores the different roles storytelling played/plays in traditional times and contemporary times, and talks about the legacy of traditional stories transcribed into the written word. To illustrate the latter, she uses as an example a story about the Nyoongar sacred serpent (the Wagyl or Waakal) told by two different generations and gender of Nyoongar people. I encourage you to read the paper and the two versions of the story (they’re not long).

The first version is by a Whadjuck/Balardong man who was the Keeper of the Stories, the late Mr Tom Bennell; the second is by a Nyoongar woman, Mrs Dorothy Winmar. Dr van den Berg notes about the two versions that she transcribed herself: “Tom Bennell, The Keeper of the Stories, gives an in-depth, very detailed telling. His generation of Nyoongars were more attuned to their old people and lived more closely with the Dreamtime stories that were a part of Nyoongar life back in the early and middle decades of the twentieth century. Mrs Winmar’s version is more contemporary, makes more use of the English language and uses less Nyoongar words.” Then she goes on to ask: “Whose story is more authentic?”

Questions of authenticity in relation to literature are often tricky. In this case, it’s tempting to (more…)

Lessons from Mother Earth

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Lessons from Mother EarthFirst published in 2002 and recently reissued in paperback by Groundwood Books, Lessons from Mother Earth by Elaine McLeod and illustrated by Colleen Wood seems to be a perfect book to share with kids on Earth Day. I haven’t read the book yet (am about to head to the library to look for it), but judging by this recommendation (originally posted to Amazon) by librarian Laurie von Mehren at the Cuyahoga County Public Library in Parma, Ohio, it sounds lovely. It seems to convey two very important aspects of aboriginal cultures: a deep respect for nature and the role of elders as culture bearers:

This book by an author born in the Yukon and a member of the Na-Cho Nyak Dun First Nation is about respecting and caring for the planet. Five-year old Tess visits her grandmother’s mountain cabin and learns about her garden, which consists of nature itself. The first rule grandma teaches Tess is: “You must always take good care of our garden.” Following that, she tells Tess to say a prayer of thanks while picking fruits and vegetables; to harvest just enough and at the right time; and to take care not to trample the vegetation or leave rubbish behind. For dinner, they gather wild edibles-lamb’s-quarters, dandelion shoots, and blueberries.

Wood’s realistic yet impressionistic watercolors are glowing and lush, with dabs of color for close-ups of berries and woodland animals. This book would work particularly well for Earth Day or as part of a nature/ecology unit.

Lessons from Mother Earth is also mentioned in Paul De Pasquale’s article recently reprinted on PaperTigers, Imagining Home in Children’s Picture Books by Canadian Aboriginal Authors.

Q&A with Patsy Aldana of Groundwood Books, publisher of "My Little Round House"

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

Groundwood Books logoEstablished in 1978, Groundwood Books is a small children’s book publisher, associated with House of Anansi Press, that specializes in Canadian authored books (with a special interest in books by First Nations authors), bilingual books in English and Spanish, translations from around the world, and a non-fiction line aimed at young adults. Their catalog features a long list of award-winning titles that reflect individual experiences and are of universal interest.

Patricia (Patsy) Aldana, founder and publisher of Groundwood Books (and president of IBBY, the International Board on Book for Young Readers, since 1997), answered our questions about My Little Round Rouse, one of the seven titles selected for inclusion in our Spirit of PaperTigers Book Set Donation Project; her commitment to publishing books by First Nations authors; the multicultural titles on their Fall list, and more.

In our series of interviews with the publishers of the books selected for our Spirit of PaperTigers project, I normally start by asking how the book in question came about as a project for the publisher. Since we already know the answer to this question in relation to My Little Round House, both from our interview with author Bolormaa Baasansuren and from translator Helen Mixter’s article, My Little Round House: The Journey of a Picture Book from Mongolia to Canada, we’ll start by asking…

PT: What in particular attracted you to My Little Round House?

PA: I thought it was a really special book about people whose lives are very different from ours. I also thought it was a very unique look at a baby’s life, a life that despite being nomadic seemed wonderfully cosy and safe.

PT: The books you publish often tell the stories of people whose voices are underrepresented. What first motivated you to start on this path and how do you manage to stay true to your mission?

PA: Being a Guatemalan, I guess that seeing the world through the eyes of the marginal has always come naturally to me. There are so many books published from and for the mainstream that, for me, focusing on underrepresented authors and illustrators was one way to justify being a publisher. As a small Canadian house, this focus has also been a way for us to distinguish ourselves from the huge multi-nationals with whom we have to compete.

PT: How did the decision to stop selling rights to the American market and to start publishing your books in the US come about?

PA: As US publishing changed from the editor-driven houses that I first came to know (Margaret K McElderry, Dorothy Briley, Susan Hirschman, Phyllis Fogelman, etc.), it became harder and harder to sell rights to our books in the US. At the same time Canada began to cut funding to school libraries and as a result (more…)

Books at Bedtime: Arctic Adventures – Tales from the Lives of Inuit Artists

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

Arctic Adventures: Tales from the Lives of Inuit Artists, by Raquel Rivera, illustrated by Jirina Martin (Groundwood Books/ Anansi Press, 2007)Each of the four stories in Arctic Adventures – Tales from the Lives of Inuit Artists, retold by Raquel Rivera and illustrated by Jirina Marton (Groundwood Books/ House of Anansi Press, 2007), makes a perfect bedtime story – but be ready to count in some extra time to look at the short biography of the artist protagonist in each one, along with an example of the art. This corelation between each story and an artist makes this a very special book. Older Brother read it on his own for the PaperTigers Reading Challenge in 2008 and you can read his reaction to it here.

All the stories describe events in the artists’ lives before their move away from the traditional Inuit way of life, through circumstances that are explained in each case. In “Pudlo and Kapik Go Hunting”, a hunting trip nearly ends in disaster when artist Pudlo Pudlat’s nephew Kapiq is stranded on an ice floe; “Kenojuak and the Goddess of the Sea”, describes Kenojuak Ashevak’s childhood encounter with Talelayu, Goddess of the Sea; in “Oonark’s Arctic Adventure” we join Jessie Oonark on her perilous journey “in off the land” in the Back River Area to Baker Lane; and Lazarusie Ishulutak shared his experiences with the author of two very different encounters with polar bears, for “Lazarusie and the Polar Bears”. Through the narrative young readers/listeners (and indeed adult readers) will absorb many details of Inuit culture – and there’s a map and a good glossary at the end too, as well as suggested further reading and an author’s note giving details of her sources for each story.

Marton’s atmospheric and expressive pastel illustrations transport readers to the Frozen North and provide a coherence between the stories – and the photograph of the artist that follows each story in a double-page spread, along with biographical details and discussion of their artwork, adds a very special dimension to the book that will intrigue young listeners/readers. And this is where sharing the book comes into its own, as the realisation that these stories happened to real, identifable people is something young people will want to talk through. And, of course, there are some interesting anecdotes too – like the following:

“When Pudlo was a child, he liked to draw on the walls of his family’s iglus, especially on the ice windows. But mothers discourage their children from doing this.

“Don’t carve up the wall, ” Pudlo’s mother would tell him.

Pudlo didn’t begin drawing on paper until the 1960s, when he was in his mid forties.”

So next time your small person gets creative on your walls…

And in the meantime, do seek out this beautiful book.

Larry Loyie's work

Monday, April 12th, 2010

GoodbyeBuffaloBayExpanding on our current focus on Canadian Aboriginal Children’s Literature, I’d like to remind readers about Cree author Larry Loyie’s work. He has written the following children’s books that focus on the modern history of Aboriginal people and deal with native traditions, residential school, HIV awareness and prevention, the meaning of war and other challenging topics: Goodbye Buffalo Bay (Theytus), As Long as the Rivers Flow (Groundwood), When the Spirits Dance (Theytus) and The Gathering Tree (Theytus). Study guides for all four books can be found on his website.

As Long as the Rivers Flow was selected as an honor book for the 2006 First Nation Communities Read Program, and this year, along with Goodbye Buffalo Bay, it was chosen for inclusion in a literacy project whose goal is to encourage learning and understanding of First Nations histories, cultures and perspectives in Ontario schools.

Together with his partner, writer and editor Constance Brissenden, in 1993 Larry created the Living Traditions Writers Group to encourage writing within First Nations communities. If you’re not yet familiar with his work, you’re in for a genuine treat.

You can read our 2007 interview with Larry here. His next book, The Moon Speaks Cree, will be published by Theytus in 2011.

Canadian Aboriginal Children's Literature – PaperTigers' issue now live

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

Canadian Aboriginal SymbolsOur April update over on the main PaperTigers website focuses on authors, illustrators and others involved in the field of Canadian Aboriginal Children’s Literature.

The First Nations peoples, along with the Inuit and the Métis are the three officially recognized aboriginal peoples of Canada. A tribute to their accomplishments, the new reviews, interviews and illustrators’ galleries currently highlighted on our website call attention to the richness of their literature and the distinctiveness of their voices and cultures. We hope you’ll take some time to enjoy these offerings and to encourage others to do the same.

Of course, we will be further exploring the theme of Canadian Aboriginal Children’s Literature here on our blog for the next two months. We would love for you to join in the conversation!