June is National Indigenous History Month with National Indigenous Peoples Day falling on June 21st. The Circle for Reconciliation and Justice has put together a series of book reviews which will be published in the Synod Mailer every Friday throughout June. Please consider these resources as you do your own learning and further your own journey of reconciliation. If your congregation has yet to book some time to host the Red Dress Journey, please reach out to Liz Zehr at the Synod Office who can help you book your time. The Red Dress Journey is an interactive learning opportunity that will be making its way around the Synod over the coming year. For more information, please visit the Synod website.
Daughters of the Deer by Danielle Daniel
Reviewed by Michele Altermann
Marie is an Algonkin woman and healer of the Deer Clan who has lost her husband and daughters to Iroquois raids. Her parents were pushed further and further north from the Ottawa River area because of raiding by the Iroquois and their English allies, and this is where they ended up. Now her small village, on a site near Trois-Rivières, is the location of a small but growing French settlement and church. Most of the warriors and hunters of the village have been lost to raids and the Sachem is worried about the survival of the remaining 100 or so people. To ensure their survival he convinces Marie to marry a French settler. The People need the protection of the French soldiers against the ongoing Iroquois raids. Marie dutifully takes off her deerskin tunic and dons a blue cloth dress to marry Pierre.
Danielle Daniel is a descendant of Marie, her twelfth generation grandmother. It is a fictional story based on family history and explores the challenges faced by an Indigenous woman and her half settler children in Quebec of the mid to late 1600s. It tells the story of children who try to fit into two different worlds and the prejudices that existed even after conversion to Catholicism and living in a mostly European fashion. When it turns out their daughter, Jeanne, is Two-Spirited it creates more problems for Jeanne, her family and the community. We see highlighted the long history or violence against Indigenous women and the struggles to maintain an identity that the growing newcomer society sees as primitive and disdainful. Written with care and respect, this wonderfully engaging and powerful story (I couldn’t put it down and finished it in two days!) pulls on your emotions even when you can anticipate where the story inevitably goes.