The stories are van Camp’s contribution. Although it was James Croizier who told him a story about a samurai suit of armor at the Northern Life Museum and Cultural Centre in their hometown, Fort Smith, NWT – so he credits him with the idea for A Blanket of Butterflies. Scott B. Henderson illustrates and there are some stunning bits. A double-spread fight scene has detailed figures in the foreground, but the background, surrounding the larger figures, contains small images of select moments during the fight. Background and foreground are used in an interesting way later, too, to illustrate the past and present of an object’s historical significance.
Three Feathers is illustrated by K. Mateus and this is her first graphic novel. There are a lot of teaching moments in this story, in which young people commit a crime, serve a community sentence of nine months on the land, and return with newfound understanding. (There’s a hint of an instructive tone in the other comic too, with a chart of Dene Laws, but it’s a useful reminder that these are independent and sovereign peoples with their own cultures and traditions, of which many others know little.) For instance: “All people must live in a respectful relationship with the land. The land provides for all and is our best teacher.”
Much of the dialogue is earnest and edifying, but there are humourous bits too. Like: “Rupert is deaf and can lip read, but he taught us sign language on the land, and now he won’t shut up.” This particular image appeals to me because I imagine some artists would have chosen to focus on the speaker with the microphone in his hand, but in this image, readers see his back and part of his profile, so that the bulk of the page is devoted to the audience. The shape and size of panels vary and close-ups on facial expressions and the attention paid to certain details (e.g. foods, goods, flora and fauna) provide glimpses into culture and everyday life. The publication is also available in English/Cree, English/Slavey and English/Chipewyan editions.
And you? What have you been carrying in your bookbag?