CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 32. . . .April 24, 2015
Weigl Educational Publishers’ Aboriginal nonfiction titles now include a series on First Nations culture including Tools and Weapons, Arts and Crafts, Ceremonies and Celebrations, Clothing, and Music and Dance.
The Ceremonies and Celebrations title begins with a brief introduction focusing on First Nations and their inspirations for ceremonies and celebrations. Life events, spiritual beliefs, and the changing seasons were all inspirations for these events. Following the introduction, the book looks in depth at ceremony and celebration practices from the perspective of the Algonquin, Blackfoot, Cree, Haida, Huron, Iroquois, Mi’kmaq, and Ojibwa.
Each nation has a dedicated two paragraph description explaining how specific First Nations created and incorporated ceremonies and celebrations into their daily life and the impact their unique environment played in shaping the development of these ceremonies. Celebration vary from well-known ceremonies, such as the smudge ceremony, the powwow, the vision quest, the potlach, and the sweating ceremony, to lesser known celebrations and ceremonies, including the Walking Out Ceremony, the Onoharoia, the Planting Festivals, the Green Corn Festivals, the Midwinter Festival, and the Feast of the Dead celebration.
The pages are artistically represented with colour photographs of current and historic First Nations in traditional ceremonies and celebrations or images of ceremonial items. On the adjacent page, artifacts are typically itemized in colour with a brief description.
Ceremonies and Celebrations is presented in language that can be easily understood by children. The book does include First Nations terms with which children may not be familiar. These complex terms are explained in the key words section at the end of the book to ensure the text remains accessible to all readers.
To complement the information presented, an activity section encourages readers to make their own celebration. Instructions on how create a celebration are well-suited for a classroom setting.
Finally, there is a dedicated section to promote what’s online. This section highlights reliable websites on First Nations celebrations, including Cree celebrations, Ojibwa celebrations, and Blackfoot vision quests. Ceremonies and Celebrations also includes an index for easy reference. This is a fabulous resource to drawn on when teaching children how to engage with information texts.
My only major concern with this title is the chosen verb tense used to communicate the content. Author Pamela McDowell often refers to First Nations ceremonies and celebrations in the past tense which gives the book an anthropological feel and sidesteps recognition of current First Nations ceremony and celebration practices and the revival of traditional ceremonies and celebration.
Despite this shortcoming, I would recommend this series for children age nine to twelve, both for school projects and general interest. I appreciate that McDowell took the time to single out specific First Nations ceremony and celebration traditions. This series acts as an excellent classroom resource to guide children learning about the basics of First Nations ceremonies and celebrations.
Rachel Yaroshuk is a Teen Librarian with Burnaby Public Library in Burnaby, BC.
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Copyright © the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.