North Spirit: Travels Among the Cree and Ojibway Nations and Their Star Maps by Paulette Jiles

It took me 8 years to read this book. No kidding. I first picked it up in Sioux Lookout when I lived there. I’d read a few pages from time to time and put it back on the shelf. Over the years, as I learned more about Nishnaabe culture, my culture, I could read longer and longer passages. I wasn’t born and raised in Northwestern Ontario, although my mom is from Weagamow Lake, one of the places visited in the book. So, I’ve often felt like I was about 20 years behind everyone. But! I’ve started hunting, learning my language and have visited some of the remote First Nations; so now I feel like I’m only about 15 years behind.

There are a few things that I like about this book. Firstly, one of the first “characters” that the author introduces to the reader is actually my uncle! No kidding. He’s a pilot. Secondly is the writing. Jiles has a punchy style, like a mischievous child about to let you in on a joke. Thirdly, there are legends, especially some discussion about the stars. Astronomy and ethno-astronomy are a couple of my areas of curiosity, so to have this knowledge readily available is great. Maybe someday I’ll have these legends memorized so when I’m out in the bush in the winter, I can share them with my grandchildren.

That would be good.

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