CM . . .
. Volume XXI Number 39 . . . . June 12, 2015
The Seven Sacred Teachings are the traditional basis for the code of conduct for First Nations, Métis and Inuit in North America. They are also known as the Teachings of the Seven Grandfathers, a legend in which seven wise spirits, seeing that people were not living in a positive way, chose a child as the vehicle to impart their principles. The child brought their wisdom to humanity to use as a guide.
The Seven Teachings are: Wisdom, Love, Respect, Courage, Honesty, Humility and Truth. They are taught in schools as part of the curriculum about First Nations and are incorporated into many schools’ on-going programs.
A variety of resources are being developed to help teachers and parents incorporate these values in children’s lives. Métis writer Katherena Vermette, winner of the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry in 2013, has written a series of brief, simple stories that a teacher can read to Early Years students. The small soft-cover format will appeal to an emerging reader who will be able to read them independently.
The stories are for all children, but the main characters are First Nations children in an urban setting, representing the current reality for that community. In The First Day: A Story of Courage, Makwa’s experience mirrors that of many First Nations families, making the transition from rural life to a busy city:
They also use First Nations traditions (sweat lodges, smudging) to suggest ways the child in the story can live a positive life. In What is Truth, Betsy? A Story of Truth, Vermette alludes to the challenges faced by First Nations people from societal disruption:
Children will identify with the characters’ problems. In Singing Sisters: A Story of Humility, an older sister overcomes her resentment of her younger sister. In Kode’s Quest(ion): Kode’s cultural teacher leads her to understand how to value all the gifts in her life. Amik learns about his grandfather’s experiences at residential school in Amik Loves School – A Story of Wisdom. In Misaabe’s Stories: A Story of Honesty, Missabe learns he should be honest with people, but he can use his imagination for enjoyment. In The Just Right Gift: A Story of Love, the child, Migizi, wants to find the best “just right” gift to show his ailing Gookom (grandmother) how much he loves her. Not surprisingly, money can’t buy the best gift; it’s a big hug Gookom appreciates most of all.
Irene Kuziw illustrated the stories using pencil crayons. She pays attention to detail and uses careful shading in drawing schools, homes, sweat lodges and other aboriginal structures. She draws many of the characters wearing traditional braids and shows people sitting cross-legged in cultural ceremonies, but she also shows them as children and their parents in typical family settings, at school, home, etc. Although they are not sophisticated, the drawings are capably done. Some characters, such as Mr. Bee, the teacher, seem to be “stuck” in certain positions. Amik’s Moshoom (grandfather) in Amik Loves School: A Story of Wisdom looks young enough to be the little boy’s father, and some of the children look older or bigger than their chronological age suggests in the story.
“The Seven Teachings Stories” series contains positive stories for young children and will bolster the confidence of young Aboriginal children who will see themselves,along with all the other different races and nationalities that make up the Canadian mosaic, reflected realistically in the stories and illustrations.
Harriet Zaidman is a teacher-librarian in Winnipeg, MB.
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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.
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.