When The Trees Crackle With Cold: A Cree Calendar

When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar By Bernice Johnson-Laxdal and Miriam Körner Review by Michelle Shaw Published by Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing $12.95 9781927756935 Winner of the recent Saskatchewan Book Awards Children’s Literature Award, When the Trees Crackle with Cold: A Cree Calendar is a beautifully written and illustrated narrative of the author’s Cree childhood in northern Saskatchewan. Bernice Johnson-Laxdal comes from a large family of 14 children and grew up in the predominantly Métis community of Ile-a-la-Crosse, which is situated along one of Western Canada’s major fur trade routes. From an early age Bernice was involved in her family’s traditional activities: gathering, growing and preparing food, hunting, trapping and making clothing. Most of these activities were (and still are) dependent on the seasons of the year. The book beautifully combines story and image with Körner’s playful watercolors skillfully enhancing the simple word pictures. The narrative is based around the Cree calendar which consists of six seasons divided into twelve moons, which reflect the traditional knowledge of the natural cycle. I found the concept so much more enriching for my soul than the traditional Western calendar! I loved the way each of the 12 moons reflects the…

Blackfoot Stories of Old
University of Regina Press / 24 December 2014

Blackfoot Stories of Old by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee Published by University of Regina Press Review by Keith Foster $24.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-318-9 Blackfoot Stories of Old is the third in the series of books produced by the University of Regina Press, written in Aboriginal languages with English translations. The book was written, translated, and edited by Lena Heavy Shields Russell and Inge Genee, with illustrations by William Singer III. His etchings, in many ways, look like silhouettes. Fluent in her native tongue, Lena Russell, whose Blackfoot name is “Gentle Singer,” has published 13 resource books – the first Blackfoot resource books ever published and approved by Alberta Education – and helped develop the Blackfoot language curriculum. Blackfoot Stories of Old is a collection of eight very short stories, each about the size of a postcard. Each story is told in Blackfoot on one side of the page, with English on the other. The stories are short, simple, and powerful, with an almost poetic quality. They may well cause a reader to pause and reflect. These are true stories based on Lena’s childhood. Some of the stories, like “A finger bone and a rag doll” and “A Spirit”…

Cree: Words
Canadian Plains Research Center / 29 February 2012

“Cree: Words” / “nēhiýawēwin: itwēwina Compiled by Arok Wolvengrey Published by Canadian Plains Research Center Reviewed by Chris Ewing-Weisz $49.95 ISBN 978-0-88977-127-7 Words tell how people see the world. Not just by the things they’re used to say: words themselves, their history, the way they’re formed, the rules governing their use, speak volumes about the culture in which they originate. That’s one of the things that makes Arok Wolvengrey’s Cree: Words so worthwhile. Its two volumes document the Cree language (primarily Plains Cree) as used by fluent speakers across Western Canada. Although its main function, as a bilingual dictionary, is to help speakers of English and Cree find the right word in each other’s language, it also provides a window into the strikingly different cultural assumptions that first met on this continent several hundred years ago. The idea that the world is a web of relationships is embedded in every word a Cree speaker utters. To choose the right word you must think about whether your subject is animate (alive) or not. Some words, like those for family members, do not stand alone, but must be described in relation to someone else. You also have to consider whether the object…