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