________________ CM . . . . Volume IX Number 3. . . . October 4, 2002

cover As Long as the Rivers Flow.

Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden. Illustrated by Heather D. Holmlund.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2002.
48 pp., cloth, $16.95.
ISBN 0-88899-473-7.

Subject Headings:
Loyie, Larry-Childhood and youth.
Cree Indians-Alberta-Biography.
Authors, Canadian (English)-20th century-Biography.

Grades 2-6 / Ages 7-11.

Review by Dave Jenkinson.

*** /4

Reviewed from prepublication copy.

 

excerpt:

Mama spoke quietly. "Kokum keeps hearing that children are being taken from their families and are being put in a school far away." She looked at Lawrence, then lowered her voice even more. He could only hear part of what she said. It was something about prison.

"What are they going to do to us next?' Grandma said.

"Lawrence didn't understand. What was this school? He didn't want to leave home. He played with the other children all day. He was learning to hunt and fish to help feed the family, and he was already pretty good at it, too.

In this brief book, Larry Loyie shares with readers some of the happenings during the summer of 1944 when he was 10-years-old and living with his family in the bush near Slave Lake in Northern Alberta. Because this account is true, there is no "plot." Instead, the book's four chapters, which are supported by Holmund's watercolours, contain episodes that were meaningful to Laurence, as he was called as a child. In "Ooh-Hoo Means Owl," Laurence, the eldest of the family's four children, describes his father's bringing home an abandoned baby owl that he found while checking his trapline. Everyone in the family assumes some role in helping to raise the owl. In that same chapter, Lawrence watches his kokum (grandmother) making winter moccasins from moose hide, and he goes fishing. As the family starts to make preparations for their two-week stay at their summer camp near the river, Lawrence overhears a bit of the adults' conversation about something called "school." (See the excerpt above).

internal art

     The second chapter, "The Summer Camp," follows the family as they prepare to go to their summer encampment by horse and wagon. Once there, they are joined by another family to pick and dry berries. However, for younger family members, there is also time to swim and play after their chores are done. Papa also sets Lawrence the challenge of "fooling" the beaver by which he means that Lawrence must get as close to the beaver as he can without scaring them, a skill Lawrence would need in the future as a hunter.

     In "Grizzly," Lawrence joins his grandmother as she goes to gather medicinal plants. Fortunately, she takes her single shot .22 rifle with her for the pair encounter a giant grizzly bear which Grandma kills with one shot from her small weapon.

     The final chapter, "As Long as the Rivers Flow," initially sees the family having a feast to celebrate the bravery exhibited by both Lawrence and his grandmother during the bear episode. Following the celebration, Lawrence's grandfather gives him a new name, Oskiniko, which means Young Man. Grandpa also speaks to his assembled grandchildren:

"This land has always given us what we need to live," he said gravely. "Like they told us long ago, as long as the rivers flow, this land is ours. It is up to all of us to care for it. Now it's your turn, grandchildren. The future is in your hands."

     The next day, however, Lawrence discovers that carrying out his grandfather's charge is going to be delayed for he and his three siblings are to be taken away "to a school far away." Any parents who refuse to send their children will be jailed. The "story" part of the book closes with the children sitting in the back of a high backed truck that is carrying them to an unknown location. A three page epilogue provides a very brief overview of what the residential schools were and some of the impacts they had upon the First Nations children who were required to attend them. As well, this section contains nine black and white photographs, most being of the family snapshot variety.

     Although the book's "story" seems somewhat disjointed, it is the book's subtext which is the really important part of the As Long as the Rivers Flow. Daily, Lawrence is shown receiving a natural education from the various members of his extended family as they go about their day to day activities. However, as the "Epilogue" points out:

When Lawrence finally went home at age fourteen, he felt like a stranger. He tried to
recapture the feeling of freedom he had felt when he lived with his family in the bush,
but things were never the same.

     As Long as the Rivers Flow is a book that will likely be more enjoyed in a shared
child/adult setting where, after reading, its contents can be discussed and explored.

Recommended.

Dave Jenkinson teaches courses in children's and YA literature at the Faculty of
Education, the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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