Atlantic Books Today-Holiday 2012

Sagkeeng Legends (Sagkeeng Aadizookaanag)
Stories by John C. Courchene

By Craig Fontaine  

The Sagkeeng Legends are two stories told by author Craig Charbonneau Fontaine’s grandfather, John C. Courchene and recorded by his grandmother. They are precious gems shared by the family for all of us to enjoy and learn from. The two stories “Aadizokaan Beshing” and Aadizokaan Niish” were lovingly told to Courchene’s family over the years, then preserved and shared with the world by his grandson.

I love these two stories for several reasons. As a Mi’kmaw person I come from a tradition of wonderful storytellers and value the richness of the oral traditions passed on through generations. Like my own grandfather’s stories, and in keeping with the multi-faceted elements of a native story, there is much to be learned from both stories told by Courchene.

Everything about this book is wonderful. The intricate colour illustrations by artist Lloyd Swampy tell the story visually. The artist’s work depicts the times and way of life of the Anishnabe with an incredible eye for detail. They not only complement the written stories, but are stories within themselves.

The stories provide a window into a time in Anishnabe history that speaks of the rich and powerful way of the people prior to European contact. These stories not only offer enjoyment, but also offer many hidden lessons and information to be explored. They give the reader a window into a place that only a privileged few enjoyed through the oral tradition of storytelling. Now that they are written down they are open to the world to enjoy.

In these stories we find valuable lessons about our connection to the land, about the existence and belief in the spirit world. It reaffirms and transcends through the cultural values of First Nations offering a much-needed perspective in this contemporary world.

Sagkeeng Legends is a very easy read for all ages to enjoy. An added featured value to this book is that it is translated in three languages, Inuktitut, Anishanabemowin and English. This offers a much wider audience the opportunity to read in their own languages, a valuable teaching tool. The foreword in this book is as interesting as the stories themselves. The life and accolades of John C. Courchene are mentioned in this introduction. I learned a great deal about his important person in our history that I had not known before. It tweaked my interest enough to learn more about him and I will do just that. I hope that inspires others the same way it has me.-Catherine Martin

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