Henry Beaver (Cree) shares truths about the Cree culture with his visiting grandchildren to pass on its traditional knowledge.
The first lesson he introduces is how to harvest salt on the salt plains of Fort Smith, located in the Northwest Territories of Canada. Colorful photos then show Henry and the grandchildren trapping beaver while Henry’s wife, Eileen, (Cree and Chipewyan) demonstrates how to skin the animal for hides used in making mitts, moccasins, and parkas. There’s actual step-by-step instructions for tipi setup with accompanying illustrations. Eileen shares the importance of smudging and offers descriptions of each of the sacred plants that are used for spirit cleansing. This is followed by traditional Cree stories told by Eileen and Henry as they spend the night in the tipi with their grandchildren. The importance of teaching as a vehicle for transmitting culture suffuses the narrative, with lessons gleaned from the smallest of details transmitted smoothly and naturally in the narrative; that learning never ends is emphasized in Henry’s description of himself as “an Elder in training for twenty years.” The trip is a heartfelt family experience, and the accompanying photos lend the book the feel of a family album packed with good memories, a visual connection made to be accessible to all readers.
An intimate gateway to learning about the Cree First Nations people from the perspective of its elders. (Nonfiction. 9-12)