Courageous Spirits: Aboriginal Heroes of Our Children


74 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-919441-51-3
DDC 971'.00497





Edited by Jo-Ann Archibald et al
Illustrations by Jo-ann Archibald
Reviewed by Kelly L. Green

Kelly L. Green is the co-editor of the Children’s Literature edition
of the Canadian Book Review Annual.


What great books! In 1992, the Mokakit Education Research Association
sponsored an “Aboriginal Heroes” writing contest for Native children
across Canada. The rules were simple: write about your hero (this could
be any male or female aboriginal person), telling why that person is a
hero to you. The children responded with great seriousness, creativity,
and even humor. Some picked famous figures from the recent past (Chief
Dan George); others picked currently famous people (Graham Greene); and
many picked people they knew very well (My Dad, My Grandmother, My
Chief). The finished book includes a selection of the children’s
writings, some of their original artwork, and a short biography on each

The editors organized the selections by province and, as a narrative
device, use the ubiquitous aboriginal trickster of eachwriter’s own
heritage (e.g., Raven in the west, Wesakejak the shape changer in
central Canada, Nanabosho in Ontario) to introduce the individual

The essays are inspiring, thought-provoking, poetic, elegant in their
simplicity, and surprising. One teenager said her hero was her infant
daughter, who changed her life. Several others picked “tricksters”
representing both the positive and negative attributes of humanity.

The accompanying teacher’s guide provides crucial background and
explanatory material as well as hundreds of useful ideas for how to use
Courageous Spirits in educational programs, in small groups, or at home.
These superlative books should be a part of every Canadian Studies or
Canadian history program—not just to provide cultural and historical
perspective, but also to encourage teachers and students to explore both
First Nations heritage and other aspects of Canada’s history in
personally meaningful ways. Highly recommended.


“Courageous Spirits: Aboriginal Heroes of Our Children,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 27, 2024,