Tag Archives: indigenous

Powwow Summer by Nahanni Shingoose

by Nahanni Shingoose
4 out of 5 stars

River is looking forward to starting university in the fall, but then her mother’s life upheaval, which also affects her, is too much and she runs away to her father’s house in Winnipeg. He lives on the reserve and she is soon in over her head with reserve life, which is much different than her life on a farm surrounded mostly by white people like her mom. River finds herself making bad decisions and in trouble with the Indian gangs, but she is saved by the grace of a kind soul and a healing circle before things escalate too far. However, she grows and changes over the summer and is a different person when she comes home – to her new home, with her mother’s new partner.

I am aware that other cultures’ storytelling norms are different than what I’m used to, so I want to not be too critical. I will say that I was surprisingly compelled by River’s story, even though the writing did not always follow conventions that I’m used to. Shingoose is a contributor on If I Go Missing, so it was not surprising that the story included some real teaching about missing and murdered Indigenous girls and women. River makes some truly bad decisions, most fueled by being drunk for the first times in her life. That she was encouraged to drink by her father, and not punished for it by her grandmother, is addressed by her father during the healing circle and also highlights the difference between her farm life and her reserve life. I appreciated the chance to spend a summer on a reserve with River and her dad and Nokomis, learning along with her about her culture.

There are parts where River’s boyfriend is pressuring her to have sex, but playing the role of patient boyfriend. (As an aside, I sure would love to see a story where a boy isn’t ready to have sex!) There’s also a pretty violent scene near the beginning where River’s stepfather is smashing plates, and one where River gets beat up.

Fry bread : a Native American family story by Kevin Maillard

9781626727465by Kevin Maillard
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

This book is so gorgeous! I loved the poetic text and how sensory and concrete it is. It would be a great addition to a storytime based on senses. I also loved how the images reflect the diversity of Native American families. I’ll refer you to Debbie Reese’s glowing review, including important information about the endpapers and footnotes Maillard included.

The Case of Windy Lake by Michael Hutchinson

9781772600858by Michael Hutchinson
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

Turns out this might be the second book in the Mighty Muskrats mystery series, but it didn’t bother me at all to jump right in. Chickadee, Atim, Otter and Sam are four cousins growing up in a First Nations community. Native values infuse the story, from the attitude toward Elders to protecting the land to watching the birds to solve the crime to smiling and nodding a lot (the effect of which is to make me feel like they are not real kids, but it’s also possible Native kids do that and I just don’t know. Overall I liked the story and I liked learning more about Native culture as it’s lived now, with computers and internet and not always talking about historic trauma inflicted on them by white people as is the trend right now. I do think it’s important to learn about the boarding school traumas and abuses that raged through Native communities in the US, not to mention the other atrocities throughout history, but I’m glad we’re starting to have more of a range of representation in children’s literature.

I Can Make This Promise by Christine Day

9780062871992by Christine Day
Overall: 5 out of 5 stars

12-year-old Edie discovers a box in her attic with photos of a woman named Edith who looks just like her. In a flash, she and her best friends, Serenity and Amelia, are deep in the mystery. All Edie knows is that her mom was Native American and was adopted as a baby by a white family; she knows almost nothing of her heritage (though the book opens with a scene of her and her parents at a fireworks event on a reservation, seemingly engaging with other American Indians for the first time).

Along Edie’s journey of family discovery, she comes to grips with her changing relationships with her best friends and her family, and matures into an almost-teen who is ready for the truth. Spoiler alert: it turns out that Edie’s family story involves forcible separation of her mother as a baby from her mother, and it was awful and traumatic and systemic, even in the 1970s.

Debbie Reese, the gold standard for questions of American Indians in Children’s Literature (and has the website to prove it), gives this one a “recommended” rating on her website, so I made sure to snag it, and it does not disappoint! There is a reference to a boy of interest, but in general Edie’s focus is so laser-like on her family and on the dog she meets at the same time, so if young readers aren’t into romance, they will barely notice it.