When a storyteller weaves a tale, it awakens memories in the minds of listeners.
Soon those listeners are eager to share their own experiences, which can lead to stronger communities and a greater understanding between people of different cultures.
“People share stories. It’s an experience we all have,” said author and illustrator Julie Flett, adding children are especially keen to share their tales.
Flett, a Cree-Métis author, said it would be nice to get more First Nations stories into the mainstream publishing world.
“It would be nice if the stories continued to make their way into the world,” Flett said.
Over the past decade there has been a shift, she said, with more First Nation work entering the mainstream market, but more work still needs to be done.
Flett said her books are meant to be accessible to everyone. She said change occurs when “we can appreciate each other’s languages, stories and art.”Flett illustrated her first book The Moccasins by Earl Einarson in 2004 for Theytus Books, a First Nations owned and operated publisher.It was during that time that Flett realized this was a way she could contribute to getting more First Nations culture into the mainstream. The project also opened up the world of writing to Flett when the publisher asked her is she had any of her own work she could submit
She submitted a proposal and her first book was published, Owls See Clearly at Night (Lii Yiiboo Nayaapiwak lii Swer): A Michif Alphabet (L’alfabet di Michif).
In 2014 Flett became the first-time recipient of the Aboriginal Literature Award, sponsored by the Periodical Marketers of Canada.
“Our First Nation, Métis and Inuit communities vitally need books with text and artwork that reflect our cultures and realities,” said Flett. “Our works are also critical resources for increasing awareness and understanding in Canadian society, contributing relevancy to literature programs, improving curricula, at all levels, across Canada and adding significantly to the body of Canadian literature.”
The award-winning author and illustrator reads her book Wild Berries at the Nanaimo Art Gallery Saturday (Oct. 17) at 1:30 p.m. During the event she’ll also share her newest books. Admission is by donation.
Wild Berries was inspired by family memories. Her father and grandmother used to pick berries when he was a child and the tradition continued when Flett was a child. She spoke to her father often while writing the book.
The little boy in the book “talks about sour blueberries and berries that go pop in his mouth,” said Flett.
“That’s from my dad,” she said.
The book was chosen as a First Nation Communities Read. The program was created in 2003 by the Ontario First Nations public library community. It is meant to encourage family literacy, intergenerational storytelling and information sharing.