How Frog Brought Winter, a children’s book honouring traditional Dene storytelling, was published at the end of May as the second in a Yellowknife-Education-District-1 (YK1) series focused on reclaiming Indigenous stories.
The series, organized by Scott Willoughby, YK1 Indigenous education coordinator, seeks to gather Elders’ stories in their traditional languages to be translated and passed on to students across the territory.
For How Frog Brought Winter, Gameti author Joe Lazare met with Richard Van Camp to recount legends of the land, the animals and their people’s history.
Van Camp and Lazare worked with Tlicho language instructor – and Lazare’s niece – Madeline Pasquayak for the translation.
The story depicts a frog, the smallest animal in the group, being a hero who helps the others find their cool in the harsh heat of summer. Demonstrating to readers’ that “no matter how small, you have a purpose in life,” Pasquayak said.
She said it is important to document these stories about the role that animals have played in our lives to cultivate respect for the land.
Through stories like these she hopes students “develop a love for the land so that we could protect the land for these animals.”
“The behaviour of these animals all tell a story if we pay attention,” she said.
Pasquayak said it is important to have stories like these in both the Tlicho language and English so that the stories carry on as a resource. Plus, collaborating with her uncle was an added bonus, she said.
As Elders age, traditional languages are in decline, Willoughby said. Stories like How Frog Brought Winter have been around for thousands of years but are not always getting passed along or are losing meaning in translation.
The YK1 series seeks to preserve Elders’ stories and share them as they were told in their original language with translations that retain their meaning.
The first book in the series, How Raven Returned The Sun, was published in North Slavey in 2016.
How Frog Brought Winter is now published in Tlicho. YK1 hopes to share more stories in all nine of the territory’s officially-recognized Indigenous languages, accoding to YK1 communications managert Mike Gibbons.
“Collaborative projects like the one to bring Joe’s story to life should become more commonplace as we all work towards true reconciliation.”
A third book in the series is underway, Willoughby said though it is too early to indicate when it might be released. He said the team is constantly on the lookout for Elders’ willing to share their stories and pass on the knowledge to future generations.
“I am reminded once again how important it is not to wait to record your Elders, Knowledge Keepers, artists and family,” NWT writer Richard Van Camp wrote in the book’s forward.
“We are living in a time of great reclaiming in which Indigenous people are saying loudly and proudly, ‘I am taking responsibility to learn my language and culture,’ and this is a powerful time to witness that empowerment and support it.”
“May we all learn from Joe’s sharing of this precious story: everyone has medicine power.”