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Otinawāsowin: Birthing the Stories of Kayasochi Kikawenow

CRYTC Team Members: Mavis Reimer, Deborah Schnitzer, and Larissa Wodtke

From 2008 to 2013, the Centre for Research in Young People’s Texts and Cultures managed the development of a picture book for young people about the life of Kayasochi Kikawenow, Our Mother from Long Ago, a young Cree woman who lived in northern Manitoba in the late-seventeenth century and whose burial site was discovered in 1993. Mavis Reimer and Deborah Schnitzer, scholars from the Centre, worked in collaboration with William Dumas, storyteller and educator, and a group of scholars and educators from the University of Winnipeg, the Manitoba Museum, and the Government of Manitoba. In addition, this collaborative group consulted with several land-based members of the South Indian Lake community regarding mapping, traditional cultural activities, language, and land use. This picture book, entitled Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow and illustrated by Leonard Paul, is available now. On the edges of the words and pictures of the story, readers will find supplementary material — photographs, maps, diagrams, Cree vocabulary — to help them to situate and to extend the meanings of the story.

This team also produced a teacher’s guide for Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow, which includes four main units of study that incorporate various themes and activities related to Midwifery, Miskanow, Journey Making, and Storytelling. The exercises and activities suggested in the Guide can be used to support the learning outcomes included in Grade 5 People and Stories of Canada to 1867; Kindergarten to Grade 12 Aboriginal Languages and Cultures Manitoba Curriculum Framework of Outcomes; and Integrating Aboriginal Perspectives into Curricula: A Resource for Curriculum Developers, Teachers, and Administrators for Middle Years.

This project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Marsha Hanen Global Dialogue and Ethics Program, the University of Winnipeg Research Office, and the Canada Research Chair in Young People’s Texts and Cultures.

Awards and Recognition

Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow won the 2014 Public Communications Award from the Canadian Archaeological Association, and was shortlisted for the 2014 McNally Robinson Book for Young People Award (Older Category), the 2014 Manuela Dias Book Design of the Year, and the 2014 Lillian Shepherd Award for Excellence in Illustration. Pīsim was also recommended as one of the 2014-15 titles for the First Nation Communities Read program supported by the Southern Ontario Library Service.

Teaching Resources for Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow

CRYTC has assembled various teaching resources for using Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow in the classroom, including a teacher's guide.

Reviews for Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow:

The story of the young girl, Pisim, is a fictionalized account that had its genesis in the discovery of the remains of a young Cree woman at Nagami Bay, South Indian Lake, Manitoba in 1993. In recreating and interpreting a week of the life of this young woman in the mid-1600s, author William Dumas, a Cree Elder, and illustrator Leonard Paul, Mi’kmaq, effectively bring to life the people and setting of that time….The episodic story offers background information, excitement and adventure and is warm and satisfying….Pisim Finds Her Miskanow is a must addition for all collections of First Nations material in elementary, middle school and junior high libraries as well as public libraries.
– Canadian Review of Materials

The brilliant teamwork between archaeologists, the Cree, and an accomplished storyteller gives us … a beautifully written and illustrated journey into a centuries-old world … the book promises to be a classic of Canadian history.
— Brian Fagan, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology, University of California, Santa Barbara, and author of The First North Americans

In imagining the life of a young Cree woman, this volume provides a wonderful evocation of the wisdom and language of Cree elders that seamlessly incorporates archaeology, ethnology, and oral tradition.
— Stephen Loring, Arctic Studies Center, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

This enchanting book deserves a place in every school in the province. It is a beautiful rendition of historical fiction that can give all young people a collective understanding of the power of our history in shaping who we are.
— Dr. Lloyd Axworthy, Former UWinnipeg President and Vice-Chancellor

This rich story … brings alive the history and language of Asiniskow Ithiniwak in Manitowapow while illustrating the cultural breadth of a dynamic community. It is a joy to read, teach, and share with my daughter.
— Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Assistant Professor, Dept. of Native Studies, University of Manitoba

Pīsim finds her Miskanow …is a wonderful bringing together of archaeology, anthropology, history, and Cree language to make a story that brings these disciplines to a living place in our hearts and minds. William Dumas has presented Pisim and her family in such a way that their lives will be etched into our memory. The story is complemented by the beautiful and realistic illustrations of Leonard Paul….This book is wonderful!
— Joe McLellan, Author of Nanabosho

Media Attention for Pīsim Finds Her Miskanow:

Reclaiming Rocky Cree Culture, UWinnipeg Magazine

Award-winning book a look back into Northern Manitoba’s past, Thompson Citizen

UWinnipeg Congratulates Pisim Finds Her Miskanow Collaborators on Award, UW News Centre

Book inspired by discovery of remains, The Winnipeg Free Press

Art, History Tell Story of Cree Woman in New Book, ChrisD.ca