Reviewed by Mary Anne Cree
Metis author and teacher, David Bouchard, brings us two more collaborative works of art, poetry and music from different First Nations cultures. Red Deer Press has also published Bouchard’s An Aboriginal Carol, The Drum Calls Softly and Nokum is My Teacher. In the latest two, Long Powwow Nights and The Secret of Your Name, Bouchard continues to explore his Native heritage and to convey the beauty and complexity of it to a Native and non-Native audience of both children and adults.
In four-line stanzas, the author remembers his mother and how she danced the traditional dances at the powwow. He speaks of her desire to express herself and give voice to her culture through her dancing: “I remember you mother — still vibrant and young / Dancing beneath the warm prairie sun. / I now know those days were an endless desire / That burned deep within you like the flames of our fire.” She dances for 20 years, passing on to her son her wisdom and the traditions that will be his. When she dies, he remembers her as his teacher and guide through life. Every other page repeats an eight-line refrain. The text is bilingual — in English (or a French edition is also available) and Mi’kmaq.
The art is the real star here — magnificent paintings done by Native artist Leonard Paul in the style of high realism. They are portraits of the dancers in full regalia, occasionally in motion. There is fine detail in the costumes and a pensive look in the faces. The final painting echoes the text, “Meegwetch mystic dancers — dark Ravens you were,” with a dark painting of a giant raven head and dancers by the fire under moonlight.
The book includes a CD with a reading of the story in English by Bouchard and in Mi’kmaq by Patsy Paul-Martin, and includes the song, Darling Don’t Cry, by acclaimed singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Canadian Children's Book News (Fall 2010, Vol. 33, No. 4)