NIGHT FLYING WOMAN: AN OJIBWAY NARRATIVE, Ignatia Broker, Illustratd by Stephen Premo; Minnesota Historical Society, Orders: Dept. 121, 345 Kellog Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1983, 135 pages, index, black and whit illustrations, paperback, $8.50, 0-87351-167-0
Ignatia Broker, member of Minnesota's White Earth Ojibwe tribe who died in 1987, was a storyteller and local teacher in both the Ojibway tradition and modern schools. She was the founder of the Minnesota Indian Historical Society. She found school materials for true history, feeling, and values lacking, In addition to this, her masterpiece, she wrote booklets and teacher guides for the Minneapolis public schools and the Indian education program at Cass Lake Ojibwe reservation (her ancestral home), as well as authoring a filmstrip.
In this partly-fictionalized book, she tells the true life story of Nibowissegwe (Nicknamed Oona in her childhood), a great-great-grandmother to many Minnesota Ojibwe, born during a lunar eclipse at a time when white influence in Northern Minnesota was just beginning to manifest. When she's 5, Some of the clan group decides to move away from their forest homeland to the Rainy Lake area, where fur traders and trappers are disturbing the land much less than farmers and loggers. Oona's family goes with part of the group to the Nett Lake area.
"The forests have never failed the Ojibwe," her grandfather says, as they choose a new spot to settle. Oona grows up, learning from all who teach the lifstyles, customs and visions shared by the Anishnaabeg peoples. "We sustain our (Ojibwe) beliefs, and the beliefs sustain us. That is a circle. From seed to harvest, the life of the Ojibway is full, and it is sufficient. This is what must not be lost, and this is what you must tell my great grandchildren," Oona's own grandma tells her.
All too soon, a white man shows up with a paper that must be obeyed, rquiring the people to move to the Whie Earth reservation. It was government policy at that time -- the 1840's -- to move all northern midwest U.S. Indians there in a kind of concentration camp. They resume thir traditional life until anothr white man shows up with an order that the kids must all go to a school located in the main rservation village. The people don't want to move, and the alternative will be that the kids are taken from them and boarded. People knew of the sicknesses and most did not want to live in the white way. If the band doesn't move and the children are taken to board, Oona's grandfather points out that "If the children live in the school longhouse, they will never know our ways. Our strength will be lost. If we move close to the big village, the children will stay home at night and we can still teach them the old ways." The people decide to move to the village and remain close to their children.
There is more adoption of white ways. The big logging efforts are underway. Oona grows up, marries, and, by 1879, involved in white-style work in the new village environment, has little time to observe and meditate. Her husband works as a logger. Her children and grandchildren increasingly become involved in the news lifeways, and seem to lose interest in the old. When she is 80, she wonders if the new generation will care at all about the old beliefs, since no child has asked to learn them for a long time. There's a knock on the door, and a child says she wants "to hear the stories of our people." The book ends with Oona, giving her formal name, and starting to tell -- the story of this book.
Through Indian Eyes reviewers said "This beautiful book is a blessing, a gift, an antidote to all the poisonous lies about our past we have had to endure. It is full of courage and love. This is how it was." Very highly recommended for grades 6+ through adult. Reviewed by Paula Giese
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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996
Last Updated:Friday, April 26, 1996 - 5:22:11 AM