June 19, 2007


THE ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF THE CHIPPEWAS OF NAWASH is just what it proclaims to be. Specifically, it describes how Europeans stole the Canadian tribe's land and how the Chippewas are fighting for and winning back their rights today.

As its website notes, the graphic novel is

  • thoroughly researched and referenced ... 18 pages of references to original documents, 5 coloured maps, all the relevant treaties reprinted in full, and a page of Ojibway words used in the text.

  • educational ... Each of the 11 episodes tells a story that is familiar to all Anishnabe and which should be familiar to all Canadians. Together the episodes show how First Nations lost their lands and resources and how, now, they are re-gaining them.

  • The historical episodes detail how the Canadian government managed to take most of the Chippewa land: by playing on the Indians' lack of knowledge; by pitting one faction against another; by stalling, making empty promises, or lying outright; by threatening dire consequences if the Indians didn't sign; etc. You get a sense of how the Canadian government (and by extension, the US government) dealt with Indians unfairly, manipulated and misled them, every step of the way.

    This is simultaneously the book's strength and weakness. Since there's no central character or storyline, just a series of loosely connected episodes, it's rather tough slogging. I suspect many youngsters will be bored rather than stimulated by the "educational," "thoroughly researched" material.

    The standard framing device--a grandfather enlightening his uncaring grandchildren--offers only a bit of relief. This is where a series like CHICKASAW ADVENTURES shines--at least in theory. Via magic, it thrust a modern-day boy into the middle of the action, so he could experience historical events firsthand. Something like that is needed here.

    Therefore, I can't recommend the ILLUSTRATED HISTORY to anyone looking for an entertaining read. It's basically for educational purposes only. Completists may want to get a copy, but others can give it a pass.

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