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Sheila Thompson

Vanderhoof (B.C.), Yinka Dene Lan­guage Institute, 1991. 32pp, cloth, $8.95, ISBN 1-895267-02-1.
Available from the Yinka Dene Language Institute, R.R. 2, Hospital Road, Vanderhoof, B.C. VOJ 3AO. CIP

Grades 3 to 6/Ages 8 to 12
Reviewed by Adele Case.

Volume 19 Number 5
1991 October

Cheryl's Potlatch is a visually arrest­ing book written by a young girl in the Caribou Clan as told to author Sheila Thompson. Cheryl's family's roots go far back in the Lake Babine Band, and the book helps to clarify the long tradition of giving and sharing that is a major part of the native culture of all the west-coast tribes. As Cheryl talks of the plans for her "name day," the reader can identify with the respect the native people have for their tribal elders and for the ceremonial aspects of the great day. All clan members in the commu­nity arc personally invited, a great mountain of gifts is purchased by the family giving the potlatch, and special holiday foods are cooked. The host family is in charge of all these arrange­ments.

Cheryl's potlatch clothing is selected with care or (as with hoi lovely hand-beaded leather vest) is given to her for the occasion. Seating is ordered in the potlatch assembly hall by clan. The elder recognizes invited guests by using the "talking stick," and the great feast is then shared among all present. Tradi­tional foods and delicacies make up the menu, and dancing and singing follow the banquet. Cheryl's Indian name (Deele) is embroidered on her head­band, and her name is formally given her in the presence of all tribal mem­bers. Gifts are then distributed to all who attend, and each clan spokesman later speaks for his group. Prayers for the safety of all until the next potlatch end the festive day.

The book is enlivened, page by page, with colour photos of every phase of the potlatch and even the colour of the pages (a suede brown) adds a warmth and friendly feeling to the book. The cover shows Deele/Cheryl smiling in front of a huge pile of bags of sugar. These are given to all the guests after the other presents are distributed, as a sweet reminder of the day. The book also contains a companion text in the Carrier language.

The book will interest all who wonder about the traditions of the native potlatch, and it makes clear the sense of community and brotherhood essential in all tribal groups.

Adele Case, Britannia Secondary School, Vancouver, B.C.
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