Road Allowance Kitten
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 25 January 2017

Road Allowance Kitten by Wilfred Burton, Illustrated by Christina Johns, Translated by Norman Fleury Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $15.00 ISBN 978-1-926795-72-0 This bilingual (English and Michif) children’s picture book – with the green-and-yellow-eyed, plot-important kitten on the cover – gently tells a true and unpleasant story in prairie history: the poverty, hardship and displacement of the Road Allowance Métis. Like it sounds – and as explained in the back-notes – a road allowance is “a strip of [government-owned] land adjoining a parcel of surveyed land … set aside in case roads will be built in the future.” One need not know the historical truth to appreciate this well-delivered story about family and friendship, sharing, and both the joys and hardships of living a basic lifestyle, but it bears a reminder. After the 1885 Resistance, numerous Métis displaced from their traditional homes and land used scrap materials to build new, often uninsulated and tar paper-roofed shacks on road allowances. They worked for local farmers (ie: clearing fields of rocks and trees), and picked Seneca root and berries, grew gardens, trapped and hunted (though a 1939 law made year-round and unlicensed trapping and hunting illegal, and…

Maskisina
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 27 May 2015

Maskisina: A Guide to Northern-Style Métis Moccasins by Gregory Scofield and Amy Briley, Historical Overview by Sherry Farrell Racette Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Shelley A. Leedahl $24.95 ISBN 978-1-926795-11-9 Here’s a test for the efficacy of a “How To” book: 1) select one on a subject you have no knowledge of, and perhaps no previous interest in. 2) carefully read it. 3) if said title inspires you to want to do the “How To,” then you’ve just read a successful book. I came to maskisina: A Guide to Northern-Style Métis Moccasins, by Gregory Scofield and Amy Briley, without knowing anything about the subject, though I spent years in northern Saskatchewan. The attractive, coil-bound guide is filled with step-by-step instructions and large photo illustrations that even the uncrafty could easily follow to create fur-trimmed, cuffed, or wrap-around moccasins from home-tanned moose hide or commercially-tanned leather. (Gorgeous beaded “vamps” that cover the forefoot are another skill, and literally, another book; see wâpikwaniy: A Beginner’s Guide to Métis Floral Beadwork, also published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute.) The actual instructions, “Helpful Hints,” and brief anecdotes\advice (ie: “Acknowledge and respect that you are making a connection. The pair of moccasins you…

Metis Soldiers of Saskatchewan
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 19 August 2014

Métis Soldiers of Saskatchewan: 1914-1953 by Cathy Littlejohn Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Keith Foster $25.00 ISBN 978-1-926795-10-2 They were there – at Vimy Ridge, Dieppe, Ortona in Italy, and Juno Beach on D-Day. In every major campaign of the First and Second World Wars and in a hundred skirmishes in Korea, Saskatchewan Métis soldiers were there, fighting for Canada. Their exploits are chronicled in Cathy Littlejohn’s Métis Soldiers of Saskatchewan: 1914-1953. Métis were readily accepted into the military because they already knew how to handle firearms and often brought certain skills useful in warfare. Littlejohn tells many of the stories in the soldiers’ own words, gleaned from transcripts in the Gabriel Dumont Institute. “My officer asked where I got the jug,” one Métis said, after crawling across no man’s land in the First World War. “I told him that I got it off the Germans in the frontline. He said that I had risked my life and they gave me a medal.” During the Second World War, Métis troops were among those captured when Hong Kong surrendered to the Japanese on Christmas Day, 1941. As prisoners of war, they endured near-starvation. One soldier was so hungry he…

Roogaroo Mickey
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 25 July 2014

Roogaroo Mickey by Wilfred Burton illustrated by Leah Marie Dorian translated by Norman Fleury Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Jessica Bickford $15.00 978-1-926795-12-6 Roogaroo Mickey, which is authored by Wilfred Burton and illustrated by Leah Marie Dorian, is an updated version of a story of the Roogaroo, which is a classic figure in Metis oral tradition. Mamayr tells Louis and Charlie a bedtime story about when she was a little girl and had an encounter with a big hairy beast of a Roogaroo. Roogaroos are like the Metis version of a werewolf, which combines the French Loup Garous and First Nations shapeshifters, which is all very helpfully explained in a little information section in the back of the book. The next morning Louis and Charlie fall asleep in the van while Mamayr drives them all to go get groceries, but Mamayr gets a fright when what should she see in the rear-view mirror but a pair of big hairy ears! Now, I won’t spoil the rest for you, but I will say that Roogaroo Mickey is just the right amount of scary for kids and is mixed with humour to take the edge off in the end. The…

Gabriel Dumont: Li Chef Michif In Images and In Words
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 2 March 2012

Gabriel Dumont: La Chef Michif in Images and In Words by Darren R. Préfontaine Published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Chris Ewing-Weisz $65.00 ISBN 978-0-920915-87-5 On postage stamps and place mats, bronze plaques and sculpture, Gabriel Dumont, military leader of Riel’s 1885 Rebellion, continues to be remembered. In recent years he has been freshly appreciated as a genuine community leader, and a touchstone of Métis identity. Now he is the subject of a large, colourful, coffee-table anthology from the Gabriel Dumont Institute. Drawing together a wealth of photographs, artwork, archival documents, artifacts from his life, and newspaper accounts past and present, it explores how Dumont has been perceived through time and by different individuals and communities. Browsing these pages, you will see Dumont through many different eyes: Métis and settler, government and military, French and English Canadian, American and British. You will see Dumont pictured with hostile bitterness, racist suspicion, equally racist romanticism, revolutionary fervor, political pragmatism, and more. You will also discover a wealth of period detail: the difference between French and English billiard tables; how bison hunters reloaded on the fly (and sometimes lost fingers); war reporting prior to instant communications; and Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild…

Relatives With Roots
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 11 January 2012

Relatives With Roots: A Story About Métis Women’s Connection to the Land by Leah Marie Dorion translated by Rita Flamand Published by The Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Jessica Bickford 978-1-926795-00-3 Leah Dorion has given her all to Relatives With Roots, being the writer, illustrator, and also lending her voice to the English audio narration. Rita Flamand, a Métis elder, provides Michif-Cree translations and narrates the Michif audio track which is fascinating to listen to, as I have rarely heard the Métis language spoken. This is a lovely story about a Grandmother and her Granddaughter leaving their bush camp to go out and pick medicine, all while learning about Métis traditions. It focuses on the harmony that exists in Métis tradition between people and the earth, specifically how respect must be given to our “relatives with roots”. It includes a couple of little stories about Wisakechak (the Cree trickster) that help to further the ancestral teachings that this book is based on. The story of Relatives With Roots is both educational and endearing, but for me, the best part was the illustrations. This is the most beautiful picture book I have ever seen. Dorion’s paintings are alive with colour, authenticity,…

Stories of the Road Allowance People, The Revised Edition
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 11 November 2011

Stories of the Road Allowance People, The Revised Edition By Maria Campbell Published by Gabriel Dumont Institute Reviewed by Jackie Blakely $30.00 ISBN 978-0-920915-99-8 Stories of the Road Allowance People by Maria Campbell is a beautifully woven tapestry of Métis remembrances and story telling by Métis elders. Carefully translated into print, Campbell captures the true nature of the Métis people and their culture through stories that are delightfully illustrated with paintings by Sherry Farrell Racette. By retelling these stories using phonetically-correct vernacular of the Métis culture, Campbell is able to recreate a place and time in history. These stories are populated with unforgettable characters, such as Dah Red-Headed Fur Buyer, Crow and Chi Kaw Chee. And the stories take place in the early 1900’s, set in the context of World War, Diefenbaker, early automobiles, and canned ‘buloney’, set in and around Batoche and Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. The stories are peppered with interesting asides, like how in Rou Garous, it’s mentioned that not all Métis embraced Catholicism and many of them still fooled around with ‘dah ole way’. And how in La Beau Sha Shoo, a story of how one man obtained inspiration for his song, we hear also of how…

Dancing In My Bones
Gabriel Dumont Institute / 3 November 2009

Dancing in My Bones by Wilfred Burton and Anne Patton Published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute Review by Arnold J. Isbister $12.95 ISBN 978-0-920915-89-9 I found this book insightful and entertaining. It is a good read for young people and adults as well. It takes you into a young boy’s life and shows how his culture plays such an important part in his upbringing. The language of the story is simple with the words written as the people would talk in such situations. I love the full page (21x28cm) colored illustrations with the story in English and below in Michif. These dimensions make the book more entertaining and engaging and make it feel good in the hands as you read, especially to kids who want to see the images whilst peeking over your shoulder. They are big, full of color and full of life, making the imagination ‘dance’. I greatly admire the imagery like the supper scene or the scene where Uncle Bunny is sitting and starting to play his violin as his foot taps the floor. These bring back fond memories that most can identify with. This is why I recommend this book for adults as well because most…