Treaty Words: For As Long As the Rivers Flow by Aimée Craft, illustrated by Luke Swinson. Annick Press, 9781773214962, 2021
Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 5
What did you like about the book? This is a small, quiet, and enormously powerful story of the Anishinaabe people. A girl spends time with her Mishomis (grandfather), taking in the natural surroundings through all of her senses. Mishomis recounts how he has spent his life connected to the earth – through scientific studies, sharing his understanding, and mostly spending time listening to its sounds. He explains to his granddaughter the meaning of treaties. The original Treaty was between the earth and the sky, and is renewed every day with the rise of the sun. Humans are the youngest grandchildren of grandfather sun and grandmother moon, the youngest children of mother earth, and the youngest siblings of the plants and animals. Treaties are built on mutual respect, responsibility, and trust. They are upheld by regular renewal through ceremonies. The Anishinaabe people observed, listened to, and learned from the original Treaty to help them make good treaties with deer and other beings. There is a clear frustration around the agreement with the Queen and her ancestors, who do not understand the true meaning of a treaty. Readers can feel the strong pride that the girl and Mishomis have in their culture, both in honoring it and continuing to pass it down to their own ancestors. Though the girl does not know the Anishinaabemowin language, she knows it has meaning and seeks to better understand it herself. Throughout all of this deep learning and understanding (both by the girl and the reader), we are immersed in the beauty of the land, coming through the illustrations and the sensory descriptions. The story has a quiet listening tone, which allows us to hear “the trees making their spring sounds, popping and cracking, … all of these sounds above that of the ice breaking, at once subtle and deafening, calming and distracting.” The small size of the book pulls the reader deep into the pages. The pastel pages and subtle colors of the illustrations add to the tone and cultural significance of this beautiful #ownvoices work.
Anything you did not like about the book. I can imagine the small book (4” x 7”) getting lost in library shelves easily.
To whom would you recommend this book? I would recommend this to anyone who wants to better understand Indigenous people, in particular their relationship with the earth. Young children will be able to understand and relate to the peaceful feeling and connection to nature. Older children will learn about the meaning of treaties in general, and better understand Indigenous people’s relationship with nature and between Indigenous people and settlers. Adults will love the poetic language, simple illustrations, and spiritual message of the book.
Who should buy this book? Elementary school librarians, public librarians, teachers, religious educators
Where would you shelve it? Nonfiction (970s) or possibly picture books
Should we (librarians) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? No
Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City: Sarah Bickel, Greenlodge Elementary School, Dedham Massachusetts
Date of review: April 21, 2021