March 25, 2019

This Place: 150 Years Retold

Written by Katherena Vermette, Sonny Assu, Jen Storm, David A. Robertson, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Richard Van Camp, Brandon Mitchell, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Chelsea Vowel

Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, Kyle Charles, Natasha Donovan, GMB Chomichuk, Ryan Howe, Jen Storm, Tara Audibert, Andrew Lodwick

Colour by Donovan Yaciuk, Scott A. Ford, Natasha Donovan, GMB Chomichuk, Andrew Lodwick

HighWater Press
274 pp.
Ages 13+
May 2019
Reviewed from advance reading copy
...what this anthology does. It takes stories our people have been forced to pass on quietly, to whisper behind hands like secrets, and retells them loudly and unapologetically for our people today. 
 Foreword by Alicia Elliott

This Place: 150 Years Retold is an anthology of graphic novels that covers stories by Indigenous writers about historical figures, events and more, providing a new perspective for all to read. They should have been allowed to be told sooner and more frequently but This Place: 150 Years Retold starts that here.
From Annie of Red River by Katherena Vermette, illustrations by Scott B. Henderson, colour by Donovan Yaciuk in This Place: 150 Years Retold
In ten stories, told in chronological order from the 1850 story of Annie Bannatyne to the world of 2350, This Place chronicles in graphic format Indigenous lives lived, struggles endured and work pursued. These are the stories of the Inuit, Cree, Métis, Wiwéqaýl, Mi'gmaq, Mohawk, Anishinaabe and others from the north to the Pacific, the prairies to Quebec and New Brunswick.

The first story, Annie of Red River by Katherena Vermette and illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, highlights Métis Annie Bannatyne's 1800s feminism and refusal to allow a newspaperman's disparaging remarks about Métis women to go unpunished. David A. Robertson's story Peggy, illustrated by Natasha Donovan, also focuses on an important Indigenous person whose name should not be forgotten. Francis "Peggy" Pegahmagabow was the most decorated Indigenous soldier in Canadian history though he returned from World War I, including battles at Ypres and Passchendaele, to combat discrimination on the homefront.
From Peggy by David Robertson, illustrations and colour by Natasha Donovan in This Place: 150 Years Retold
Sonny Assu's story, Tilted Ground, illustrated by Kyle Charles, focuses on the banning of the potlaches and honours his ancestor Chief Billy Assu's efforts to learn the white man's ways while protecting his community. Other stories of protest and civil disobedience include Richard Van Camp's Like a Razor Slash, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, about Chief Frank T'Seleie's 1970s fight against the Mackenzie Valley pipeline project which was significant in returning unceded lands; the 1980s salmon wars in Migwite'tmeg: We Remember It by Brandon Mitchell and illustrated by Tara Audibert; and Warrior Nation by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair and illustrated by Andrew Lodwick which chronicles discussions on the Meech Lake Accord and the Mohawk resistance at Oka in 1990.

A horrific story of starvation and killing, Red Clouds by Jen Storm, illustrated by Natasha Donovan, recounts the true story of the shaman Zhauwuno-Geezhigo-Gaubo a.k.a. Jack Fiddler who was imprisoned for the murder of those who subsumed the wendigo.
From Rosie by Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, illustrated by GMB Chomichuk in This Place: 150 Years Retold
Other stories tell of those who would attempt to usurp the identities and cultures of Indigenous People. Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley's Rosie, illustrated by GMB Chomichuk whose graphics are both surreal and subtly evocative, demonstrates the complexity of the Inuit traditions for naming and the importance of protecting those names. Nimkii by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and illustrated by Ryan Howe and Jen Storm speaks to those taken into foster care, losing family but finding it among themselves.
From Warrior Nation by Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, illustrations and colour by Andrew Lodwick in This Place: 150 Years Retold
Finally, This Place: 150 Years Retold ends with a futuristic story in which fifteen-year-old Wâpanacâhkos is sent back in time to learn about those who'd left the kisiskaciwani-sipiy (a.k.a. Saskatchewan River) valley three centuries earlier.  Her mission is to learn what happened and how best to welcome the 1.5 million Returners. Even for Wâpanacâhkos who witnesses the racism, the struggles and standoffs, and the injustices, it is too much. In kitaskînaw 2350, writer Chelsea Vowel and artist Tara Audibert show the darkness of our current world from the Indigenous perspective and sadly it is overwhelming.

This is the power of storytelling. It's going deeper and truer than the history books and the newspaper accounts. It's bringing the stories to the people for the people and doing it for the right reasons: to teach and to illuminate. This Place: 150 Years Retold is the dawn to a new storytelling tradition that doesn't need to be held back. It should be shouted forward from now on.

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