Blackfoot Stories of Old

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” leave a haunting afterglow.

At first glance, the Blackfoot language seems incredibly difficult to master, and it is. That’s why the book contains a pronunciation guide and a handy glossary of Blackfoot words with their English meanings.

In addition to enjoying the stories, who knows, you may even learn a few words in a new language.


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