Posts tagged Indigenous

In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day 2018, we celebrate the awards–and the wonderful young readers–who have recognized these three important Indigenous stories in the last year:

I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland has won an incredible three young readers' choice awards in the last month! :

  • Hackmatack Award Winner, 2018
  • Red Cedar Award for Information Book Winner, 2018
  • Diamond Willow Award Winner, 2017

As well as being a finalist/selection for:

  • Rocky Mountain Book Award, 2018
  • Silver Birch Express Award, 2018
  • Bank Street College of Education's Best Children's Books of the Year, 2017
  • CCBC Choices - Best Books of the Year, 2017
  • Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award, 2017
  • American Indians in Children's Literature Best Books of the Year, 2016

The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson has just won the First Nation Communities READ Indigenous Literature Award - Children’s Category! 

It has also won/been nominated for:

  • 2018 (Spring) - Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens
  • Ontario Library Association's 2018 Best Bets - Junior Non-Fiction
  • Indigenous Voices Awards 2018 - Finalist
  • AICL's Best Books of 2017 - American Indians in Children's Literature

Stolen Words by Melanie Florence and illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard has just won the 2018 Ruth and Sylvia Schwartz Children’s Book Award! 

It has also won/been nominated for:

  • Kirkus Reviews' Best Picture Books of 2017 to Give Readers Strength 
  • Shelf Awareness' 2017 Best Picture Books of the Year
  • The Children's Book Review's Best Picture Books of 2017
  • Ontario Library Association's 2018 Best Bets - Picture Books
  • 2018 (Spring) - Canadian Children's Book Centre's Best Books for Kids and Teens - Starred Selection

Women and the Water (Walking) Movement

For World Water Day 2018 we recognize the inspiring Indigenous women who protect water for us all.

"As women, we are carriers of the water. We carry life for the people. So when we carry that water, we are telling people that we will go any lengths for the water." — Josephine Mandamin

Across North America, Indigenous women have organized and participated in movements advocating for clean and protected water. Here are some of their stories.

Autumn Peltier

Autumn Peltier has advocated for water protection since she was eight years old. Now 13, she will be addressing the United Nations General Assembly on World Water Day. Inspired to speak about water issues by her aunt, Josephine Mandamin, Peltier spoke to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when she met him at the Assembly of First Nations' annual winter gathering in December 2017. Peltier was nominated for the 2017 International Children's Peace Prize. She is Anishinaabe, from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island.

Sharon Day

Sharon Day is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Peoples Task Force, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and founder of Nibi Walk, an organization that coordinates Indigenous-led water walks in the United States to promote people's spiritual and physical relationship with water.  Nibi Walk has a clear message: "We are not a protest. We are a prayer for the water." Sharon Day is Ojibwe, enrolled in the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe in northern Minnesota.

Shirley Williams and Elizabeth Osawamick

For the past 10 years, Elder Shirley Williams and her niece Elizabeth Osawamick have organized a group that hosts annual water walks held around Ontario's Kawartha region called Nibi Emosaawdamajig (Those Who Walk for the Water). In September 2017, they worked with the group Great Lakes Water Walk to organize a walk for hundreds of people along Toronto's waterfront, advocating for clean water. Shirley Williams is Midewiwin and a member of the Bird Clan from the Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island. Elizabeth Osawamick is also Anishinaabe Midewiwin-kwe. 

Winona LaDuke

In 1993, Winona LaDuke co-founded Honor the Earth, an initiative that helps to organize and finance Indigenous environmental movements. The group has re-granted over two million dollars to over 200 Indigenous communities for their environmental efforts. LaDuke has been active in fighting against oil pipelines, acting as a strong voice against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota that began in 2016. Winona LaDuke is Ojibwe and she lives and works on the White Earth reservation in northern Minnesota.

Josephine Mandamin

Known as the "Water Walker" for traversing the perimeter of the Great Lakes, Anishnaabe Elder Josephine Mandamin co-founded the Mother Earth Water Walkers, a group that walks to raise awareness about water pollution.  Since 2003, Mandamin has walked over 17,000 kilometers for the water walking movement, and has attended conferences to discuss issues about water quality. Josephine is from Wikwemikong First Nation on Manitoulin Island and now lives in Thunder Bay, Ontario.

Read About Josephine Mandamin

Nibi is Water
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The Water Walker is a picture book that brings the story of Josephine Mandamin's water work to young readers aged 69.


Joanne Robertson, author of The Water Walker

Joanne Robertson is herself a Water Walker, helping to support many walks through live GPS spotting to make sure the water, and the walkers, are safe on their journeys. Joanne lives near Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

Follow Joanne on Facebook: @JoanneRobertsonStudio

Announcing the Winners of Our 2018 Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest!

We're thrilled to announce two winning authors and one winning artist for our 2018 Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest.

Congratulations to the co-winners for writing: Jodie Callaghan and Michael Hutchinson, and the winner for illustration: Niki Watts!


Jodie Callaghan

Mìgmaq Author

Listuguj, Quebec

Jodie Callaghan’s The Train is a deeply moving picture book manuscript that conveys much about the pain and lasting legacy of residential schools. When young Ashley comes across her Uncle waiting at an abandoned train station near their community, she wonders why he is there. He tells her that this was where he and other children were put on a train and taken to residential school, with no goodbyes to their families and no sense of what awaited them. Juror Monique Gray Smith loved the relationship between Ashley and her Uncle. She was struck by the power of dialogue in which a few sentences captures the impact of Canada’s legislative decisions, like residential schools. When Ashley asks why the children were treated so terribly, her Uncle tells her simply “Because we were different”. And when he tells her “I am waiting for what was lost that day to come back to us.” the young girl tells him she will wait
with him.

Michael Hutchinson

Member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Michael Hutchinson’s The Case of Windy Lake is a middle grade manuscript that the author describes as an Indigenous Hardy Boys. The story takes place on the fictional Windy Lake First Nation where a group of friends, known as the “Mighty Muskrats”, have set up a fort in an old school bus out of which they base their investigations into mysterious events in their community. The jury was struck by the story’s charm and originality, noting that it fills a needed space in children’s lit and successfully combines the kids’ mystery genre with some deeper themes. Juror Jan Bourdeau Waboose says Hutchinson “portrays native life and culture very well. He's very knowledgeable and respectful. Indigenous kids will relate to this, and so will those who aren't from those communities.”

Niki Watts

Cree Artist

Bella Coola, British Columbia

Niki Watts submitted a portfolio of beautiful illustration work done mainly in pencil, with a delicacy of line and realistic depiction of nature, animals, and people that immediately struck the jury. They liked that Watts noted in her bio that she believes that “art can be a catalyst for change and can be a voice for issues that need to be heard.” Juror Margie Wolfe was impressed by Watts’ ability, noting, “she has a great gift for drawing people, and particularly faces. It’s rare to find an artist who can capture such emotion. It’s something that is highly sought after for book illustration.” Second Story Press is looking forward to working with Niki Watts on a future book illustration project.


The winning submissions were chosen by a jury comprised of Second Story Press publisher Margie Wolfe; writer Jan Bourdeau Waboose, who is First Nation Anishinaabe and the author of The Spirit Trackers; and writer, speaker, and consultant Monique Gray Smith, who is of Cree, Lakota, and Scottish ancestry and is the author of Speaking Our Truth: A Journey of Reconciliation.

About the Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest

In December 2014, Second Story Press announced its inaugural Writing Contest to celebrate its 25th anniversary and to build on its already strong list of diverse children’s books. In the fall of 2017 the press, known for publishing independent, feminist-inspired books for adults and young readers, announced that it was once again looking for contemporary writing for a young reader audience that reflects the experience of Indigenous peoples written by an Indigenous writer. This time the contest included a new category for illustration, open to Indigenous artists.

IW&IC- Graphic.png

Media Coverage

Local artist Niki Watts wins 2018 Indigenous illustration contest  Raised in Bella Coola, Watts is of Cree heritage and is a well-known artist in the community

Local artist Niki Watts wins 2018 Indigenous illustration contest
Raised in Bella Coola, Watts is of Cree heritage and is a well-known artist in the community


Our Inaugural Contest Winners from 2015

Susan Currie

Melanie Florence

Stolen Words
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*The official name has JUST been changed (from Aboriginal Day) to Indigenous Peoples  - the preferred term used by those communities, and a more accurate reflection of Indigenous Peoples in Canada as distinct, separate nations. Many have already been using this name for the day (and month). 

In honour of National Indigenous Peoples Day 2017, we would like to share a list of children's books that share the history and some of the stories of children who experienced Canada's residential school system

"Approximately 150,000 First Nations, Métis, and Inuit children were, for over a century, removed from their homes and sent to live in residential schools across Canada. The schools were created and funded by the federal government in the belief that Indigenous peoples were uncivilized and needed to be 'saved' from themselves. In reality, that 'education' cost Indigenous children the loss of their families and communities, their indigenous languages, and their traditions." -  From the afterword to  I Am Not A Number, by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer

Indigenous Writing & Illustration Contest - Now open to submissions!

Second Story Press is actively looking for Indigenous writers who want to see their stories for children published, and for Indigenous illustrators who would like to illustrate children's books. Find out more about our second Indigenous Writing and Illustration Contest, which is now open for entries. The winners of our 2015 writing contest can be found below. Stolen Words is included in the list of residential school books. The Mask That Sang  (co-winner of the contest) and The Water Walker (a wonderful book we received via the contest) are in our list of other Indigenous-themed children's books published by Second Story Press.

Books FOR CHILDREN About the Residential School System

  • I Am Not a Number, by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer, illustrated by Gillian Newland (Second Story Press) When eight-year-old Irene is removed from her First Nations family to live in a residential school she is confused, frightened, and terribly homesick. She tries to remember who she is and where she came from, despite the efforts of the nuns who are in charge at the school and who tell her that she is not to use her own name but instead use the number they have assigned to her. When she goes home for summer holidays, Irene's parents decide never to send her and her brothers away again. But where will they hide? And what will happen when her parents disobey the law?
  • When We Were Alone, by David Alexander Robertson, illustrated by Julie Flett (Portage & Main Press)  When a young girl helps tend to her grandmother’s garden, she begins to notice things about her grandmother that make her curious. Why does her grandmother have long braided hair and wear beautifully coloured clothing? Why does she speak another language and spend so much time with her family? As she asks her grandmother about these things, she is told about life in a residential school a long time ago, where everything was taken away. When We Were Alone is a story about a difficult time in history and, ultimately, a story of empowerment and strength.
  • Shi-shi-etko and Shin-chi's Canoe, by Nicola I. Campbell, pictures by Kim Lafave (Groundwood Books) In just four days young Shi-shi-etko will have to leave her family and all that she knows to attend residential school. She spends her last days at home treasuring the beauty of her world — the dancing sunlight, the tall grass, each shiny rock, the tadpoles in the creek, her grandfather's paddle song. Her mother, father and grandmother, each in turn, share valuable teachings that they want her to remember. And so Shi-shi-etko carefully gathers her memories for safekeeping. Shin-chi's Canoe is the moving sequel. Shi-shi-etko is about to return for her second year at residential school, but this time her six-year-old brother, Shin-chi, is going, too.
  • Stolen Words, by Melanie Florence, illustrated by Gabrielle Grimard (Second Story Press) The story of the beautiful relationship between a little girl and her grandfather. When she asks her grandfather how to say something in his language – Cree – he admits that his language was stolen from him when he was a boy. The little girl then sets out to help her grandfather find his language again. This sensitive and warmly illustrated picture book explores the intergenerational impact of the residential school system that separated young Indigenous children from their families. The story recognizes the pain of those whose culture and language were taken from them, how that pain is passed down, and how healing can also be shared. 
  • Fatty Legs, by Christy Fenton-Jordan and Margaret Pokiak-Fento, illustrated by Liz Amini-Holmes (Annick Press) Eight-year-old Margaret Pokiak has set her sights on learning to read, even though it means leaving her village in the high Arctic. Faced with unceasing pressure, her father finally agrees to let her make the five-day journey to attend school, but he warns Margaret of the terrors of residential schools. At school Margaret soon encounters the Raven, a black-cloaked nun with a hooked nose and bony fingers that resemble claws. She immediately dislikes the strong-willed young Margaret. Intending to humiliate her, the heartless Raven gives gray stockings to all the girls — all except Margaret, who gets red ones. In an instant Margaret is the laughingstock of the entire school. In the face of such cruelty, Margaret refuses to be intimidated and bravely gets rid of the stockings. Although a sympathetic nun stands up for Margaret, in the end it is this brave young girl who gives the Raven a lesson in the power of human dignity.
  • A Stranger at Home: A True Story, and Not My Girl, by Christy Fenton-Jordan and Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, illustrations (Not My Girl) by Gabrielle Grimard (Annick Press) Traveling to be reunited with her family in the arctic, 10-year-old Margaret Pokiak can hardly contain her excitement. It’s been two years since her parents delivered her to the school run by the dark-cloaked nuns and brothers. Coming ashore, Margaret spots her family, but her mother barely recognizes her, screaming, “Not my girl.” Margaret realizes she is now marked as an outsider. Margaret’s years at school have changed her. Now ten years old, she has forgotten her language and the skills to hunt and fish. She can’t even stomach her mother’s food. Her only comfort is in the books she learned to read at school. Gradually, Margaret relearns the words and ways of her people. With time, she earns her father’s trust enough to be given a dogsled of her own. As her family watches with pride, Margaret knows she has found her place once more. Not My Girl tells the same story as the memoir A Stranger at Home, adapted as a picture book to make it accessible to younger children. 
  • No Time to Say Goodbye, by Sylvia Olsen (Sono Nis Press) A fictional account of five children sent to aboriginal boarding school, based on the recollections of a number of Tsartlip First Nations people. These unforgettable children are taken by government agents from Tsartlip Day School to live at Kuper Island Residential School. The five are isolated on the small island and life becomes regimented by the strict school routine. They experience the pain of homesickness and confusion while trying to adjust to a world completely different from their own. Their lives are no longer organized by fishing, hunting and family, but by bells, line-ups and chores. In spite of the harsh realities of the residential school, the children find adventure in escape, challenge in competition, and camaraderie with their fellow students. 
  • My Name Is Seepeetza, by Shirley Sterling (Groundwood Books) At six years old, Seepeetza is taken from her happy family life on Joyaska Ranch to live as a boarder at the Kamloops Indian Residential School. Life at the school is not easy, but Seepeetza still manages to find some bright spots. Always, thoughts of home make her school life bearable. An honest, inside look at life in an Indian residential school in the 1950s, and how one indomitable young spirit survived it.
  • “Mush-hole:” Memories of a residential school, by Maddie Harper (Sister Vision Press) Explains Maddie Harper’s years attending the Mohawk Institute Residential School in Brantford, Ontario. When she was seven years old Maddie was forced to attend the school until the age of fifteen. She writes with clarity and power as she describes her experiences. She includes a painful episode by physically and psychologically as she received a brutal disciplinary measure by a teacher at the school. Students from grades 6 and up will be moved by this brief 20-page illustrated memoir by activist Maddie Harper.  
  • As Long as the Rivers Flow, (Groundwood Books) and Goodbye Buffalo Bay (Theytus Book), by Larry Loyie with Constance Brissenden As Long as the Rivers Flow is the story of Larry Loyie's last summer before entering residential school. It is a time of learning and adventure. He cares for an abandoned baby owl and watches his grandmother make winter moccasins. He helps the family prepare for a hunting and gathering trip. In the sequel, Goodbye Buffalo Bay, Lawrence just has to make it through his final year of residential school and then he will never have to set foot in this horrible place again. But despite his best efforts to stay out of trouble, he finds himself in a few frightening predicaments. An escape attempt fails and a stolen gun misfires. Fortunately, his friendships and the tutelage of Sister Theresa help make his last school days bearable. When he returns home, Lawrence is not yet a man but no longer a boy. He struggles to find acceptance in a community that seems to have forgotten him. He tries a few different jobs and makes a name for himself as a hard worker. With increased confidence and the money he has saved up, he leaves Slave Lake to fulfill his dream of living in the mountains.
  • They Called It Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School by K. Tsianina Lomawaima (University of Nebraska Press) Established in 1884 and operative for nearly a century, the Chilocco Indian School in Oklahoma was one of a series of off-reservation boarding schools intended to assimilate American Indian children into mainstream American life. Critics have characterized the schools as destroyers of Indian communities and cultures, but the reality that K. Tsianina Lomawaima discloses was much more complex. Lomawaima allows the Chilocco students to speak for themselves. In recollections juxtaposed against the official records of racist ideology and repressive practice, students from the 1920s and 1930s recall their loneliness and demoralization but also remember with pride the love and mutual support binding them together — the forging of new pan-Indian identities and reinforcement of old tribal ones.

Indigenous-Themed Books FROM Second Story Press