Two Onkwehon:we Christmas tales

Aboriginal CarolAn Aboriginal Carol and The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood

An Aboriginal Carol is a 2008 release from Red Deer Press that truly represents the collaboration of Métis author David Bouchard, Inuk musician Susan Aglukark, and Ojibwe artist Moses Beaver. Each artist brings their unique talents to a revised version of the “Huron Carol.”

Based on the original “Jesus ahatonhia” written by Jean de Brebeuf around 1643 this song was translated into English by Jesse Edgar Middleton in 1926. It was Middleton who incorrectly added the Ojibwe terms Manitou and Gitchi Manitou to the song originally written in Wendat.

This picture book contains an audio CD with the readings of the carol in English and Inuktitut as well as the Huron Carol performed in Inuktitut by Susan Aglukark. Susan also translated the original carol from English to Inuktitut syllabics.

Written in English and in Inuktitut the book provides a dual language experience. The Woodland style artwork by Moses Beaver compliments the song poem. In the introductory notes, author David Bouchard states that according to some First Nations knowledge, Jesus Christ first appeared in North America (Turtle Island) as the Haudenosaunee Peacemaker who is responsible for the Great Law of Peace.

This makes an excellent read-aloud book for children and adults. Ideal for the Christmas season.

Christmas Coat-900The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Lakota storyteller Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve takes readers back in time to her childhood during the 1940s.
This picture book offers the heartwarming Christmas story about her family living on the reservation in South Dakota where her father is the Episcopal minister. As her family looks with anticipation on the coming Christmas events, Virginia dreams of receiving a new winter coat.

As the minister’s family, Virginia and her mother are among the first to view the Christmas bundles sent to the reservation by wealthy women from the East. Slightly worn clothing was sent by church ladies to reservations in the United States every year.

In this year’s supply, Virginia sees an amazing fur winter coat. But her mother asks Virginia to leave this coat and make the selection available to others in the community. Virginia knows it is the right thing to do but she feels some reluctance in doing so.

All the while, the community prepares for a large Christmas concert. The event is all set and the Nativity Story is told by children who wear traditional Lakota clothing. The cover art of the book shows small boys playing the Wise Men of the story; only these Wise Men represent the Lakota version as the boys wear Plains headdresses representing their Elders and Chiefs.

In the end, Virginia learns that her dream coat goes to another child who desperately needs a warm coat. But there is a special surprise for Virginia after all, as her unselfishness is rewarded. Watercolour and gouache illustrations by Ellen Beier capture with detailed accuracy this woman’s memories of her childhood at Christmas.

The Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood is the recipient of the American Indian Youth Literature Award, Picture Book category, given by the American Indian Library Association (AILA), an affiliate of the American Library Association. Highly recommended.

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