In honour of June being National Indigenous History Month, we recommend some books for youth on Indigenous history, culture, and knowledge.
The Witness Blanket: Truth, Art and Reconciliation by Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson
In 2019, Carey Newman and Kirstie Hudson published their book Picking Up the Pieces: Residential School Memories and the Making of the Witness Blanket. Their new book The Witness Blanket: Truth, Art and Reconciliation is adapted from the 2019 book and made accessible to a younger, middle-grade audience. The book bears witness to the experiences of residential school survivors and ensures their stories are never forgotten. The Blanket is a living work of art—a collection of hundreds of objects from residential schools, such as photos, bricks, hockey skates, graduation certificates, dolls, and piano keys to braids of hair. The idea is to tell the story of each survivor – including Newman’s own father – through these objects. By doing so, Newman and Hudson are presenting a collection of truths about what happened at those schools, while at the same time also offering a beacon of hope and a step on the journey toward reconciliation. Grades 4-7
Caldecott Medalist Michaela Goade is from the Raven moiety and Kiks.ádi clan from Sitka, Alaska. She grew up along Alaska’s wild coast, where she picked berries every season. Her love for the land she calls home is expressed vividly through this new picture book Berry Song. In the book, a girl and her grandmother live on an island at the edge of a wide, wild sea and go foraging in the forest. They gather salmon from the stream, herring eggs from the ocean, and a world of berries from the forest. As they gather their bounty from nature, they offer thanks by singing, and doing so, they forge a deeper kinship with the earth and the generations that came before, joining in the song that connects us all. Filled with Goade’s signature, luminous illustrations, Berry Song is a celebration of nature and an ode to the powerful wisdom of elders. Grades 1-3
Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew by Susan Aglukark, illustrated by Amiel Sandland and Rebecca Brook
Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew is published by Inhabit Media, the first Inuit-owned, independent publishing company in the Canadian Arctic. Besides promoting local talent, the company’s books focus on Inuit mythology and traditional Inuit knowledge. Una Huna?: Ukpik Learns to Sew is a follow-up to Una Huna?: What Is This? In this book, acclaimed singer-songwriter Susan Aglukark again draws on the experiences of her grandmother’s childhood to examine the unique perspective of living in the Arctic. In the book, Ukpik’s mother wants to impart some lessons to Ukpik that will help her survive the harsh cold climate of the Arctic. She wants to show Ukpik how to prepare caribou skin, dry it, and use it to sew a pair of simple, useful mitts. Ukpik, though, can’t stop thinking about the beautiful new beads her mother traded the Captain for on his last visit. Ukpik’s mother can’t let her sew with the new beads just yet, but she does have a surprise for Ukpik after her lesson. And once Ukpik earns her little reward, she will not only enjoy her new-found treasures, but will also learn the skills she will need to provide for herself and her family. Grades Preschool-2