10 Books to Celebrate Mi’kmaq Heritage Month
On October 24, 2018

The month of October celebrates the history of the Mi’kmaq. For hundreds of years, in spite of the struggles and tribulations they’ve faced, they’ve proven to be among the most resilient and resourceful people in Canadian and Nova Scotian history. We’ve collected ten titles, old and new, from all age groups, that we think you’ll enjoy reading this month.

 

1. Mi’kmaw Wisisk = Mi’kmaw Animals by Alan Syliboy

This sweet and simple board book is a great way to introduce your kids to their first words in the Mi’kmaw language. The paintings by the author that accompany each animal’s name are a beautiful touch, and it’s very helpful to have their pronounciations given phonetically below them.

 

2. The Gathering by Theresa Meuse, Illustrated by Arthur Stevens

There’s a fair amount of interesting educational bits sprinkled into this great little story from Meuse. Young readers can see themselves in Alex in that it’s always a little nerve racking to be away from home and your family for the first time. What’s great is that while Alex is human in being a little shy, she’s brave in her willingness to try new things and learn about her heritage. Kids will love this book for both its resonating story and its insight into Mi’kmaw culture and its traditions.

 

3. Counting in Mi’kmaw by Loretta Gould

There is a lot to be impressed by in this small, unassuming book. The first thing you notice is the exquisite artwork with colours that invite your eye to explore. The next thing is the fact that the reader’s not offered just a translation of the number but a sentence describing each illustration as well, that’s also translated. The third thing to love is that the number of each object is shown in the picture (two women, five branches, etc.), giving you the opportunity to practice each number again and again as you count.

 

4. Humpback Whale Journal by Alan Syliboy

If the stunning cover painting of this cushiony journal doesn’t grab you, the inside illustrations will; they like the cover are all the work of Maritime artist Alan Syliboy. This is the perfect gift for yourself or anyone in your life who likes lists or keeping a diary. November is NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), a perfect opportunity to take a stab at that writing project you’ve always wanted to try. Some folks might want to bullet journal with it too- the possibilities are endless.

 

5. Mi’kmaq Medicines: Remedies and Recollections by Laurie Lacey

The subject of plants and the medicinal properties they maintain has always been a source of interest and curiosity among all kinds of people. This collection of plants and stories from the author is nothing short of fascinating. There are lovely illustrations alongside each plant, as well as charming anecdotes and poems preceding each informative chapter. Lacey has practiced Mi’kmaw medicine for over forty years and his obvious knowledge on the topic and gift for storytelling make this book a double delight to read.

 

6. Niniskamijinaqik = Ancestral Images: The Mi’kmaq in Art and Photography by Ruth Holmes Whitehead

This book is a beautifully curated portrait of some of the best images of the Mi’kmaq. The commentary from the author’s very informative as well. Most interestingly, unlike other books on this list this one lets the photographs first tell the story, and then the text explains them. It’s an inspired way to learn about Mi’kmaw history and to gain insight into their tribulations.

 

7. Muin and the Seven Bird Hunters: A Mi’kmaw Night Sky Story by Kisi Amalwi’kmi’tij

The illustrations shine in this old legend about the passage of time. The author adapts this story to show the reader how the Mi’kmaq mark the passing of a year based on the stars as their calendar. What’s especially wonderful about this book is that you have the text told completely in the Mi’kmaw language with the English translation running along the bottom, and it’s great to visually compare the two.

 

8. L’nu’k–The People: Mi’kmaw History, Culture, and Heritage by Theresa Meuse

This book is great because it touches on so many different aspects of Mi’kmaw history and culture. The writing is clear and to the point, making it interesting for kids and adults alike, reading like a little introductory textbook. It’s full of fascinating facts from how to make Luski to the history of the Indian Act. Residential schools are touched on, and a Mi’kmaw historical timeline is given as well.

 

9. The Old Man Told Us: Excerpts from Mi’kmaq History 1500-1950 by Ruth Holmes Whitehead

A classic book of Aboriginal history, the author manages to give one of the fullest accounts of the Mi’kmaq to date. She takes centuries of collected information (from journals, letters, and court documents among other sources), and pieces it together to tell a full and rich story. Photographs and artwork compliment the narrative and give it context. Whitehead’s work has always focused on bringing Aboriginal History to the forefront of Canadian minds and this is one of her biggest achievements.

 

10. Indian School Road: Legacies of the Shubenacadie Residential School by Chris Benjamin

The residential schools were a tragic time in Mi’kmaw history and it’s only in the past few years that they’ve received the proper scrutiny, and their survivors the attention and voice they deserve. The author goes into detailed accounts of the people and events involved with a particular school, which only closed in 1967. You can feel their pain but also a sense of hope for justice and acknowledgment as they continue to heal. You get to know the backstory of these institutions as well as the Shubenacadie school’s, and hopefully come away with a more informed understanding of this period.

 

Blog post by Meaghan Steeves

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