Saskatchewan Sage Review - Askiwina
Doug Cuthand is best known for his work as a newspaper columnist and independent film producer, but lately he had been expanding his repertoire by adding book author to his list of credentials. A few years back, he published Tapwe, a collection of some of the columns he has written over the years, and this year, he's written Askiwina - A Cree World. Askiwina, Cuthand explains, is a Cree word that roughly translates as "over the years", and is a fitting title for a book in which Cuthand attemps to provide an overview of the Cree people, from past to present. At times throughout the book, the author diverges from that tastk, broadening his focus to include all of Canada's First Nation people, but for the most part, Cuthand works to provide some insight into the history, culture and beliefs of the Cree people.
The book starts, fittingly at the beginning, with Cuthand retelling the creation story from a Cree perspective. The narrative continues on from there, providing a primer on Cree beliefs and ceremonies, an overview of the settling of the west and the impact it had on the First Nation people already there, and an examination of the historic struggle of Aboriginal people to have their rights recognized under the Canadian Constitution, and the continuing struggle twoard self-government. The book concludes with a chapter dealing with the challenges facing First Nation people in the present day, including poverty, health problems, high rates of incarceration, suicide, high unemployment rates, housing shortages, the multi-generational effects of residential schools, and seemingly never-ending struggles to have their Aboriginal rights recognized.
And if you think that isn't enough information to cram into 115 pages, Cuthand has also peppered the book with profiles of Aboriginal people throughout history whose contributions he feels need to be remembered. These include well-known individuals like Harold Cardinal and Tom Longboat, and less celebrated individuals like Gladys Johnston, a political pioneer who worked to improve the lives of Aboriginal people in Saskatchewan.
By trying to cover so much information in one small book, Cuhand set quite a challenge for himself, but in the end product accomplishes what the author set out to do--providing a glimpse of the past to help people better understand the present.