Representation of Children literature in Canada is being increased by new Indigenous writers

Image credit: Shayla Raine

#NewIndigenousWriters; #IndigenousRepresntation; ChildrenLitarature; #TheWayCreatorSeesYou 

As part of a new generation of writers, two first-time authors are bringing more Indigenous representation to children’s literature in Canada.

With the intention of empowering Indigenous children to be confident in who they are and where they come from, Shayla Raine, from Maskwacis, Alta., has just independently published her first book called The Way Creator Sees You“. 

“Whatever role you hold when you’re reading a book like The Way Creator Sees You and you’re sitting down with a child speaking these empowering words to them, not only are you spending quality time with them, but you’re also planting a seed in them to be proud of who they are,” she was reported to say.

In her long book and contains a free verse poem about a Plains Cree boy who finds himself struggling with things like having long hair and his name. His grandmother explains to the boy the values behind his hair and his name. 

With the support from the Indigenous community, Raine is reportedly said she is feeling both overwhelmed and happy about the book being published. 

“Knowing my intention behind the book has been realized is incredible,” she said. 

Another first-time author, Michael Redhead Champagne whose book, “We Need Everyone, is set to be released in September by Highwater Press.

Champagne said it was his dream since he was little to have a book published and is excited that it’s finally happening. 

The book acknowledges that everyone has unique gifts that need to be shared to create a strong and safe community.

Michael Redhead Champagne is a child welfare advocate and community planner in Winnipeg whose first book will be published in September. (Submitted by Michael Redhead Champagne)

Champagne serves as a narrator in the book telling children three ways to find out what their gifts are. His cat Sushi also makes an appearance. 

“They need to have children-specific content that represents and reflects the way those children think and look and feel about the world will help us address challenges like family separation, like suicide,” Champagne said. 

“Hopefully what this book does is it gives kids a basis to help themselves and their friends address their mental health.”

A child welfare advocate and community organizer, Champagne has family roots in Shamattawa First Nation in Manitoba and was raised in the north end of Winnipeg.

Still work to be done 

Another award-winning Swampy Cree author of books for children and young adults based in Winnipeg, David A. Robertson, said while Indigenous creators are contributing across all mediums, the representation of Indigenous writers in the broader Canadian literary landscape is still relatively low.

“I think children’s books, picture books are one area where you’ve seen a lot of growth,” said Robertson. 

As an established author, he wants to make sure he’s opening doorways for new and emerging writers. 

The Great Bear is a middle-grade book by David A. Robertson.   (Puffin Canada, Amber Green)

Looking at the large volume of work being published across all genres, Robertson said Indigenous writers are feeling more empowered to share their stories.

“I think that we feel the gravity, the importance of sharing our truth because we haven’t had that platform,” he said.