Sacred Legends


160 pages
ISBN 0-921254-77-6
DDC 398.2'089'973





Illustrations by Carl Ray
Reviewed by John Steckley

John Steckley teaches human studies at Hunter College in Toronto.


Sacred Legends is a collection of traditional stories obtained from
speakers of Severn dialect Ojibwe who identified themselves as Cree,
living far up the Severn River system southwest of Hudson Bay. Although
the book is billed as a “completely revised” edition of the earlier
Sacred Legends of the Sandy Lake Cree (1971), the only changes that
appear are a much-appreciated article on the visionary Cree artist Carl
Ray—in which we learn about his often sad but creative life and of his
violent death in 1978—and an article titled “Sandy Lake in 1995.”

The book invites comparison with C.D. Ellis’s more scholarly Cree
Legends and Narratives from the West Coast of James Bay (1995). It falls
short, especially concerning the glossaries. While Ellis put together an
excellent 100-page work that teaches the reader about the language,
Stevens’s three-page effort contains such errors as his assertion that
the Ojibwa are “a large group of Algonquin Anishnabek who extends from
Sault Ste. Marie to the plains.” (The numerous Ojibwa who live east of
the Sault would have something to say about that.) And while Ellis
painstakingly explained the context and meaning of the different genres
of traditional stories, Stevens somewhat haphazardly lumps them together
according to subject.

The greatest strengths of this book are Carl Ray’s excellent artwork
and the stories themselves.


Stevens, James R., “Sacred Legends,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024,