The Book: Honouring the Buffalo

HONOURING THE BUFFALO: A Plains Cree Legend told to Judith Silverthorne by Storyteller and Wisdom Keeper Ray Lavallee, illustrated by Mike Keepness.

You may also hear this in French: French version

And in German: German version

Cree name of the Book: Ēwako ōma ohci paskwāwi-mostos kā-kistēyimiht: nēhiyaw-ācimowin

Shortened version of the Cree name first used:

(Kiteyihtâkosiwin Paskwāwimostos):

A Plains Cree Legend

HONOURING THE BUFFALO is a bestselling, vibrant children’s picture book about the bison that once roamed the North American plains, and their use and connection to the Indigenous Peoples who live there.

In 2015, Raymond Lavallee and Judith collaborated on this award-winning book at his request to ensure that the oral legend about how vital the buffalo (bison) have been to all the Plains People throughout North America is not forgotten. The story describes the life-sustaining gifts the buffalo gave all Indigenous peoples through the many uses of every part of their bodies for sustenance and survival, both in day-to-day and ceremonial life, some of which continue to be used today.

HONOURING THE BUFFALO was printed in English and Cree, specifically because it is a Plains Cree legend, and as the storyteller, Raymond Lavallee, is of Cree descent (Piapot First Nation, Saskatchewan). Telling this story in both languages, side by side, ensured that both Cree and English speakers could read it.

A Wisdom Keeper and Medicine Man, Ray Lavallee was sought after for his traditional knowledge and healing, and his inspirational talks on Indigenous ways and teachings. Ray and Judith formed a mutually respectful relationship of teaching, learning, and sharing cultures over their 25-year friendship, and followed the appropriate Indigenous protocols in pursuit of this project.

Many other First Nations Elders in Saskatchewan were also consulted in the various aspects of the book, which includes an educational guide as well as facts about the buffalo, curriculum-specific discussion questions and activities, and bibliographic and reference data, all vital components of this book’s usability in a classroom setting.

The illustrations by Mike Keepness, a Cree artist and a member of Pasqua First Nation, enhance the text. His paintings depict animals, landscapes and people with skill and feeling. The book also includes full-colour professional photographs of First Nations artifacts made from various parts of buffalo (sourced from the Royal Saskatchewan Museum and professionally photographed with digital imaging by Sawatzky Studios of Regina, Saskatchewan.)

Books like HONOURING THE BUFFALO are a much-needed way to both begin conversations between cultures, but also to preserve the Cree language. The book is presented in both English and Cree, is told by Ray Lavallee, an Elder from Piapot Cree Nation, and contains vibrant and emotive illustrations by Mike Keepness, a visual artist from Pasqua Cree Nation. It is important that this book remain in print.

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