The book is accessible to young readers and also speaks powerfully to adults. Featuring a story within a story, the book opens with a Nósisim (my grandchild), asking her Nókom (her grandmother) about things that are different about her. The girl notices that her grandmother wears colorful clothes "like she dresses in rainbows," that she wears her hair in a long braid, speaks in Cree, and spends time with her family.
With every answer, Nókom tells a short story about how when she was young she was sent to a school far from home. For example, at the school, the girls had to wear clothes that "weren't colorful at all. We all mixed together like storm clouds." Nókom says, "They wanted us all to be like everybody else." So now, her grandmother loves to wear colorful clothes.
When Nósisim asks why her grandmother wears her hair in a long braid, she explains that they cut all the girls hair and "Our strands of hair mixed together like blades of dead grass."
"But sometimes when we were alone, we would pick the blades from the ground. We would braid them into the short hair they had given us, and we would have long hair again."
With lovely rhythm and repetition, Nókom explains how whenever something was taken from them, she and her friends would come together "when they were alone" and find a way to remember their home, their language, and their people.
Educators, you will find an excellent classroom resource here for K-3rd grade. This would be a great book to use on Indigenous Peoples' Day is October 14th.
David Robertson (Norway House Cree Nation) and Julie Flett (Cree-Metis) are significant contributors to Native Nations literature and artwork. Joyce Hostetter and I are giving away this book, courtesy of Portage & Main Press, through our Native Nations issue of Talking Story to be published on October 9. Leave a comment (alone with your email address if you are new to my blog) and I'll enter your name. If you leave a comment through the newsletter, I'll enter your name twice. Giveaway ends October 14.