Dear Book Friends, how have you been? It's somehow July already and there is so much happening in the world to unpack. Since news broke in May of 215 Indigenous children's remains in Kamloops we have seen a marked increase in readers of all ages looking to learn more about the residential school system, Indigenous history, First Nations' cultures, and stories.
In my searching to learn more, I came across Canada’s Residential Schools: Missing Children and Unmarked Burials. I was heartbroken to learn that Indigenous elders and communities knew about these deaths and unmarked graves long before news broke to the wider public. This report published in 2015 confirmed 3201 deaths in their work up to that point, but called for further resources and cooperation from various government bodies for more thorough and comprehensive documentation. As more and more such unmarked graves are uncovered across the country, we should prepare for greater numbers than this 3201. We must prepare to reckon with both the past and ongoing impacts of colonial genocide and racism against Indigenous people.
We have a number of titles in-store for more mature audiences on the subject of Indigenous history and Canadian race relations. But how should we handle the subject with children? How can we honour Indigenous children without unwittingly othering, traumatizing, or pigeon-holing them and their experience? While it is crucial to face the grim impacts of Canada's nation building, I believe it is likewise important to immerse ourselves continuously in positive and empowered stories of First Nations people and children, especially in their own voices. It is crucial to not fall into the trap of associating tragedy and sadness with groups because of the particular circumstances of history and actions of others that have caused ill events.
It is important for non-Native people, especially non-Native children, to be guided in the understanding that the stories we are hearing and seeing in the news now, the sadness and trouble we feel about them, are about what has been and is being done to Indigenous people, not qualities that are intrinsic to a nebulous monolithic concept of Indigeneity. If we choose to, we can see and learn from Indigenous friends, classmates, teachers, colleagues, writers, artists, neighbours, customers, and leaders what dignity, humour, resilience, and grace mean every day.
You may remember my blog post about Tusaayakset Magazine. The Land is Our Storybook is a similarly beautiful series I love recommending to readers of all ages for this purpose. It's impossible to not fall in love and be moved by these beautiful books that highlight the proud and varied cultures, practices, and languages of Indigenous peoples up North. Joyful and intimate photographs accompany engrossing first person narratives, inviting you into the lives of Sheyenne, Darla, Tom, James, Pete, Raymond, Henry, Theresa—into their families and communities.
We carry these books in both English and French. The full series is also available at the publisher's website: Fitzhenry and Whiteside. I am often asked if there is a Land is Our Storybook series for Coast Salish peoples and I wish there was. If any readers out there know of any visual information books similar to this series by and about Coast Salish peoples, please let me know.
I'd love to welcome you to come browse and read these and other beautiful books online or in-store (as with most subjects we have a lot more available in our physical shop than online). If after searching you do not see these and other Indigenous titles in your school or local library, please consider making a request. If you have suggestions for us too, please message us, we'll be grateful for them. As always, I consider books little monuments. They send powerful messages to people, especially children, about who deserves to be seen and heard. Let's do our best to see, hear, celebrate, honour and support Indigenous people and Indigenous children today and every day, always and in all ways.
On a different note, you may have noticed some painting afoot in the hallways if you've visited us in the past couple of months! It's been a long and slow process due to some family health matters, but I'm making some good progress. Spreading the project over time has also allowed me to make richer edits from the original design proposal for Kids Market. Soon you'll be able to search and find some beloved storybook characters—both classic and new featuring diverse faces—something that is as important to me as I know it is for you too, our beloved readers. For now here are some photos of one of the mural wall so far! The wall on the opposite side will feature designs inspired by Indigenous classic Storm Boy and Julia Donaldson's Snail and the Whale. I will share updates on our Instagram as more progress is made.
In May we were sad to say goodbye to Charlotte, who had been with us since reopening last summer, but we are excited to welcome Jacqueline too, our newest hire. With summer in full swing and covid numbers down I’m hoping to hire one or two more good eggs. If you are a booklover looking for part-time work in a fast-paced environment please check out the job posting below and see the questionnaire to apply.