April 21, 2021

The Case of the Burgled Bundle (A Mighty Muskrats Mystery, Book 3)

Written by Michael Hutchinson
Second Story Press
208 pp.
Ages 9-12
April 2021

The four cousins from the Windy Lake First Nations, who were first introduced in The Case of Windy Lake which was Michael Hutchinson's award-winning entry in Second Story Press's 2018 Indigenous Writing Contest, are back to solve a mystery at the National Assembly of Cree Peoples.

The week-long event begins with the handover ceremony during which the kids' grandfather, the head of the Windy Lake Elders Committee, receives the pipe from the Elder from last year's host, Butterfly Narrows. But this auspicious event does not go to plan when the ceremony is held under cover of Butterfly Narrows's teepee, excluding the majority of event participants, and Grandpa makes a joke that annoys their Elder Eugene Lone Man. 
The lands of Butterfly Narrows have taught them to hold tightly to what they have, to protect what they haven't yet lost. (pg. 19)
Grandpa is ever respectful and circumspect about this slight and invites Elder Leon Shining Deer and Mrs. Shining Deer a.k.a Aunt Dee as Bundle Holders to share the bundle for Treaty 12 and the stories that are linked with it in hopes of easing tensions. Following the protocols associated with the bundle, Elder Leon conducts a welcoming ceremony to which all are welcome. But, though the bundle is guarded all night long in the Butterfly Narrows teepee, it disappears. Worried that his own misstep of toppling the Elders' pipes accidentally during the meal may have damaged the ceremony, Otter and his three cousins, Chickadee and brothers Atim and Samuel, help their Uncle Levi of the RCMP to investigate.

Though The Case of the Burgled Bundle is a great middle-grade mystery with a host of suspects and red herrings to confuse the young investigators, it's the lessons about treaties, treaty bundles, ceremony and customs that gives the story its unique perspective and opportunities for learning. Michael Hutchinson, a member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation, has not just told a story about a stolen item. He has taken us to an assembly of Cree Nations, each different in their histories, their needs and their expectations.
"Grandpa says, you are the land you live on. And the Cree people are spread across some pretty different landscapes." (pg. 8)
There is an appreciation for the differences between First Nations and the treaties they made (Treaty 12 is a fictional treaty), including how they were made and the responsibilities involved with them. Though the components of the bundle are never revealed in detail, its presentation provides the memories of its creation and the importance of guarding it and the stories for all time. With that and a culprit not easily deduced by the reader–the Mighty Muskrats are far more savvy than this reader–The Case of the Burgled Bundle has given us a whodunit rich in relevant Indigenous lessons of history, culture and people.

• • • • • • •
The Mighty Muskrats Mystery Series
The Case of Windy Lake (2019)
The Case of the Missing Auntie (2020)
The Case of the Burgled Bundle (2021)

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