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Fort Severn polar bear story tells tale from community perspective

Thursday January 24, 2013
A children’s book, Wabusk of Wasaho: A Part of History and Everyday Life, is being created by Armanda Cimon at the Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute for the community of Fort Severn based on stories shared by community Elders in a series of interviews with researchers from 2005-2009. The book should be completed by the end of 2013.

Children in Fort Severn will soon be reading about polar bear cubs from their own community’s perspective.

“It’s silly, it’s fun,” said Armanda Cimon, a Cree writer from Peguis First Nation in Manitoba, about the children’s book she is creating for Keewaytinook Okimakanak Research Institute in Thunder Bay.

The book is called Wabusk of Wasaho: A Part of History and Everyday Life.

“Because it is about cubs, they are playful and they are fun,” Cimon said. “It is part of their own community’s history, so it is very relevant to specifically Fort Severn.”
Cimon has been working on the 20-page book since September 2012 and expects it to be completed by the end of 2013.

“I’ve got a three-year old, so I’m at the perfect stage to tell a good story of polar bears,” Cimon said.

The book features stories about polar bears, which were shared by Fort Severn Elders through a series of interviews conducted with researchers from 2005-2009, and photographs captured by community members.

“I just used all their traditional stories and most of their own words are all used in the book to point out their own facts and their own history and knowledge,” Cimon said. “And I just gave it a bit of a twist. I used the grandmother to tell the story to her granddaughter, and through that it went through the eyes of the polar bear, so you get a bit of a different angle, through cubs and learning and teachings.”

Cimon said the two photographs of grandmothers in the book feature the same person, as the baby portrayed with her grandmother near the end of the book is the grandmother portrayed with her granddaughter near the beginning of the book.

“This lady in the very beginning, that’s her when she was a baby,” Cimon said. “So it’s very tied in to the community.”

Cimon said the Fort Severn community will have an opportunity to revise and proof the book before it goes to print.

“So it really is their story,” Cimon said. “They get to change what they’d like to. It’s not about how I wrote it and I feel it needs to be in there. It’s their story so I don’t want to take anything away from them.”

The book features the story of a grandmother teaching her granddaughter about polar bears and polar bears teaching cubs about hunting for food and avoiding humans.

Cimon said the main goal of the project is to provide a copy of the book to each child in Fort Severn.

“Hopefully it will be passed along through generations,” Cimon said. “We are also trying to get the book voice recorded ... in English and Cree.”

Cimon said some other people have expressed an interest in using the book to educate children in their own communities.

“I think this could be something all communities could try to do with their community members,” Cimon said. “It’s a great way to bring stories to the children.”

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