Raymond Taniton & Mindy Willette, photography by Tessa Macintosh,
At the Heart of It: Dene dzo t'are (The Land is our Storybook Series)
Fifth House Ltd., 2011.
At the Heart of It is a lesson in responsibility. Former chief of the Deline, and grand chief of the Sahtu Dene, Raymond Taniton narrates this beautiful and passionate insider's view of his community on the shores of Great Bear Lake.
Engaging photography by Tessa Macintosh compliments every page as well as supports the text, which portrays a healthy and thriving community. In all aspects of their lives, Tantion maintains, the people of Deline have taken their responsibility to the land and its people seriously. He attributes this success to strong family ties and community leadership; a communal respect for the land and their elders; and a dynamic common history maintained through cultural traditions, storytelling, and spiritual beliefs. Like others in the series, there is a strong connection to the landscape, both in the Dene's daily activities and in their traditional storytelling.
A map at the beginning of the book is informative and allows the reader to visualise the geography of the area. A glossary, a brief description of the Dene Nation, and timeline of the Deline events from as far back as 8000 BCE further add to an understanding of this land and its people.
Though told from an adult perspective, children will relate to the many photographs of children interacting with the environment and their elders. Photographs of the natural landscapes give support to the stories and traditions, and young readers will enjoy finding the beaver pelts on Bear Rock; identifying the fish's tools represented by its anatomy; and seeing the steps to making a traditional drum from a spruce tree.
At the Heart of It would be a good resource for students studying the Dene people in First Nations and social studies curriculum.
Thematic Links: First Nations; Northwest Territories; Stories and Storytelling
Vol. 17, number 4
E - Excellent, enduring, everyone should see it!
G - Good, even great at times, generally useful!
A - Average, all right, has its applications.
P - Problematic, puzzling, poorly presented.