Two new authors are part of a new generation of writers bringing greater Indigenous representation to children’s literature in Canada.
Shayla Raine of Maskwacis, Alberta has just independently published her first book titled The way the creator sees you with the goal of empowering Indigenous children to have confidence in who they are and where they come from.
“Whatever role you play when you read a book like The way the creator sees you and you sit with a kid who says those empowering words to him, not only are you spending quality time with him, but you’re also planting a seed in him to be proud of who he is,” she said.
His book is a long, free-verse poem about a Plains Cree boy who finds himself struggling with things like having long hair and his name. Her grandmother explains the values behind her hair and her name.
Raine said she felt both overwhelmed and happy about the publication of the book and the support she received from the Indigenous community.
“Knowing that my intention behind the book has been realized is amazing,” she said.
Michael Redhead Champagne is another newbie author whose book, We need everyone is expected to be published in September by Highwater Press.
Champagne has said since he was little that he wanted to publish a book and was thrilled that it was finally happening.
The book is about recognizing that everyone has unique gifts that must be shared to create a strong and safe community.
Champagne serves as the narrator in the book telling children three ways to discover what their gifts are. His cat Sushi also makes an appearance.
“The need to have kid-specific content that represents and reflects how these kids think, look and feel about the world will help us deal with challenges like family separation, like suicide,” Champagne said.
“Hopefully this book gives kids a foundation to help themselves and their friends manage their mental health.”
Champagne is a child protection advocate and community organizer with family roots in Manitoba’s Shamattawa First Nation, who grew up north of Winnipeg.
Still work to do
David A. Robertson, an award-winning Swampy Cree author of books for children and young adults based in Winnipeg, said that while this is an exciting time for Indigenous creators in all mediums, the representation of Indigenous writers in the Canadian literary landscape wider is still relatively moo.
“I think children’s books, picture books are an area where you’ve seen a lot of growth,” Robertson said.
He said that as an established author, it’s important to him to make sure he opens doors for new and emerging writers.
Looking at the volume of published works across all genres, Robertson said Indigenous writers feel more empowered to share their stories.
“I think we feel the gravity, the importance of sharing our truth because we haven’t had that platform,” he said.