________________ CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 17 . . . . January 5, 2018


Turtle Island: The Story of North America's First People.

Eldon Yellowhorn & Kathy Lowinger.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2017.
116 pp., pbk., hc., EPUB & PDF, $16.95 (pbk.), $24.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55451-943-9 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-944-6 (hc.), ISBN 978-1-55451-945-3 (EPUB), ISBN 978-1-55451-946-0 (PDF).

Subject Heading:
Indians of North America-History.

Grades 2-5 / Ages 7-10.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

*** /4

Reviewed from F&Gs.



We humans know good ideas when we see them. New ideas that today can be shared with the click of a button used to be carried by invaders, by enslaved people taken from their homes, by explorers, but most often by traders. The people of Turtle Island were skillful traders. Thanks to them, the trade routes that crisscrossed the continent became highways for ideas.

You had to have a lot of knowledge to be a trader. You had no printed maps, so you had to know how to read the stars above and the way that rivers flowed. Along the way, you would have to communicate with people who spoke different languages, so you would have to be fluent in sign language. You would have to know the rules of how to behave in a stranger's home. And you'd need amazing stamina to travel hundreds of miles on foot or by canoe, carrying baskets full of goods.

From first impression to last, Annick Press' celebration of the indigenous inhabitants of North America, Turtle Island: The Story of North America's First People, is positive. The first impression is formed on the basis of a beautiful cover showing a raven, a full moon in a star-strewn night sky, a turtle shell, and a forested island silhouette reflected in water. As one flips past that enticing cover, the book is attractively presented. The striking design includes full colour photographs, paintings, and drawings, and chapters augmented by text boxes containing snippets of information to complement the main narrative.

      Turtle Island begins with a brief introduction in which the book's purpose is stated as being to "celebrate the wisdom and ingenuity of the people." This is followed by the Haudenosaunee story of the creation of Earth on Great Turtle's back and hence, "the land has been called Turtle Island ever since."

      Turtle Island is the product of a skilful collaboration between Eldon Yellowhorn and Kathy Lowinger. Yellowhorn is a member of the Piikani First Nation (of the Blackfoot Confederacy) and is a professor of archeology at Simon Fraser University. It is the marriage of his knowledge with the writing and publishing experience of Lowinger that works so well. Yellowhorn and Lowinger used traditional stories, the science of archeology, and their imaginations to fill in gaps to, as they say, "form a map of Turtle Island."

      The book is divided into nine chapters, but most of the focus is primarily upon life on Turtle Island prior to the arrival of Columbus and other Europeans in 1492. Chapter 8 switches focus from 1492 to the present. Chapter nine looks into the future to discuss the prospect of truth and reconciliation.

      As a non-indigenous person, I found much to enjoy and learn from in Turtle Island. I believe the book will be of value and interest to indigenous and non-indigenous readers. This is an excellent resource for school and public libraries.


Dr. Gregory Bryan is a member of the Faculty of Education at the University of Manitoba, where he teaches children's literature classes.

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