A Story to Tell: Traditions of a Tlingit Community

Sep 15th, 1999 | By | Category: 11-1: 10th Anniversary Issue, Media Reviews

Photographs by D. Bambi Kraus
Illustrations by Carly Bordeau
Lerner Publications Company – Minneapolis, 1998, 48 pages
We Are Still Here – Native Americans Today Series

Review by Philip H. Red Eagle

A Story to Tell is a wonderful children’s book with several nice differences. It is about real Native American culture and real Native American people. It is written by a Native American writer and photographed and illustrated by Native American artists. Richard Nichols is Tewa Pueblo from Santa Clara Indian Pueblo and photographer D. Bambi Kraus is Tlinget from Kake. I have had the opportunity to view many children’s books about Native people written and illustrated by non-Native writers and artists, and it is good to finally see the change toward Native people telling about themselves.

The main character is an 11 year old Tlinget girl named Marissa who has come from Bellevue, Wash., an up-scale neighborhood near Seattle, to visit her relations in a Tlinget village in Alaska called Kake(KUH-ck). The village is located in southeast Alaska, also known as the Alaska Panhandle. Here in Kake, Marissa gets to meet her extended family and finally sees the village of her mother’s childhood. Her grandmother, Fran, immediately engages Marissa and takes her out to tour the village. Fran knows that Marissa has not been given the many experiences and knowledge that an ordinary Tlinget child would receive growing up there. She is patient and gives Marissa a gentle, undemanding walking tour of Kake, all the way up to the village totem on the hill behind the village. On this walk Fran tells Marissa the village’s history and the traditions of the people that have lived here for many generations, including clan structure and relationships.

The fact that color photographs are used instead of the normal color illustrations lends to the authenticity of the story. Therefore, the culture is real and living. I like this gentle story because it is told in a Native American way, nothing is forced, and all questions are answered. This little book is part of a series, “We Are Still Here – Native Americans Today.” Hopefully, the others in this series are handled in much the same way. I only wished that the book was longer.

Philip H. Red Eagle is a Pacific Northwest writer whose first book, Red Earth – A Vietnam Warrior’s Journey, is now available in its second edition. Philip is also the originator and a co-founder of The Raven Chronicles, a Seattle based multicultural literary journal. The 11 books in the “We Are Still Here” series are designed for grades 3-6. For information about them, contact The Lerner Group at (800) 328-4929.


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