It is winter and the people are starving. There are no fish. They must seek the help of a medicine man to save them. The Old Man with the Otter Medicine tells of medicine power, the struggle for survival and an important part of the history and culture of the Dene people as it has been passed down through stories and legends for generations.
These two picture books are jewels. They are Dene stories in the Dogrib family of languages with English translations. These two traditional stories that have been passed down orally over the generations have now been preserved in print and on CD. Each book tells a fascinating story and provides insight into First Nation peoples’ history and cultural heritage. Each story is accompanied by magnificent Native art work. Add to this an audio track in both languages and an interactive CD version of the pictures and text, and you have a many faceted precious gem.
And like gems are beautiful in their overall brilliance with each facet contributing to the value of the whole and none more so than the art work of Archie Beaverho in The Old Man with the Otter Medicine and Archie Beaulieu in Yamozha and His Beaver Wife. Each page is a individual piece of art that helps the reader enter into the traditional world of the story. The artists have unique styles that will add to any reader’s appreciation of the wide variety of Native Art and its influence on Canadian Culture.
The stories, themselves, are another brilliant facet of these “diamonds” of books. They have been told by elders over the centuries and now come to life for us in front of our eyes and ears. The Old Man with the Otter Medicine is a story about the medicine power of an elder who helps a small group of people living on the edge of a lake to overcome the threat of starvation during a hard winter. The legend is passed on so you can “discover one small part of Dene history and the lessons that have been passed on for generations.” It is told in Dogrib by Mary Rose Sundberg and in English by Dianne Lafferty.
Yamozha and His Beaver Wife is a tale used to help explain the naming of the landscape of the land of the Dene People. “The events told in his legends are recorded in the geographic landmarks of the Dene People. Place names appertain to the rules and laws on how we must live in accordance with the animals and land they inhabit. These stories help us to remember the laws that can determine our behavior in our travels to harvest.” This story is told in Dogrib by Francis Zoe and the English translation is by Dianne Lafferty.
Book Review The Old Man with the Otter Medicine
By: George Blondin
Illustrator: Archie Beaverho
Review By: Diana Rohini LaVigne (www.DianaRohiniLaVigne.com)
The Old Man with the Otter Medicine is a key publication in keeping the Dogrib language alive in today’s modern world. Acting as an advocate for the language and the culture, this book is retelling of traditional folklore about survival and the resilience of the Dene people and community.
The Dene culture and the Dogrib language are so under exposed in today’s literature, media and entertainment industries. This narrative is important to the language and culture’s continued survival and offers a wonderfully entertaining tale that will engage readers from young to old.
The supplemental compact disk offers an audio exploration while the Orthography and pronunciation guide gives readers a way to further their knowledge about this unexposed culture.
George Blondin’s retelling of the story is brilliant and deserves the appreciation of cultural experts, educators and Dogrib advocates everywhere.
Green Mountain Rd., Lot 45
RR#2, Site 50, Comp. 8
Pentiction, BC V2A 6J7