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Tomson Highway

Tomson Highway was born in a tent near Maria Lake, Manitoba in 1951. He was the 11th of 12 children born to Joe and Pelagie Philomene Highway. His father, Joe, was an accomplished hunter, fisherman and sled-dog racer. His family lived a nomadic lifestyle and his first language was Cree. His parents, with no access to books, TV or radio, would tell their children stories, and Tomson fell in love with the oral tradition of storytelling. When he was six, he was taken from his parents and family and placed in residential school in The Pas. Although he resented being taken away from his parents and family, he did learn music, and had plans to become a concert pianist. He traveled to London to study, and earned his music degree in 1975 and a Bachelor's of Arts in 1976 from the University of Western Ontario. But instead of becoming a professional concert musician, Highway instead decided to dedicate his life to the service of his people.

Highway was drawn to the performing arts and helped to organize three major Native festivals in 1982: the International Native Music Festival in London, Ontario, the Navajoland Festival of the Arts at Window Rock, Arizona and the World Assembly of First Nations in Regina. He composed music for Native theatre, and in 1984, Highway joined the Native Earth Performing Arts Company in Toronto, the first and most enduring Native professional company in Canada. There, he also worked with his brother who was a dancer, choreographer, and like Tomson, openly gay.

His first published play is The Rez Sisters (1986). It features a group of Native women from the same reserve and their voyage to the BIGGEST BINGO IN THE WORLD. But the story is less about the voyage and more about each individual woman's tragic and hopeful stories. Heavily influenced by Michel Tremblay's Les Belles-Soeurs, Highway masterfully incorporates familiar Western modes with traditional Native aspects, such as the Trickster figure and Native languages. His second play, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing (1989), takes place on the same reserve and features the men. More controversial than The Rez Sisters, Highway pushes the envelope and looks to expose the problems, challenges and injustices that the Native population faces.

Both plays won the Dora Mavor Moore Award. Highway has also published a novel, Kiss of the Fur Queen (1998), which is based on the events that lead to his brother's death of AIDS. Highway is currently workshopping his latest play, Rose, in Toronto. The play is a musical that uses different genres of music to explore gender and race identity. It was performed by a group of student actors at University College (Toronto) in 2000. (Lee Skallerup)

Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian;

Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing tells another story of the mythical Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve, also the setting for Tomson Highway's award winning play The Rez Sisters. Wherein The Rez Sisters the focus was on seven "Wasy" women and the game of bingo, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing features seven "Wasy" men and the game of hockey. It is a fast-paced story of tragedy, comedy, and hope.

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From Oral to Written: A Celebration of Indigenous Literature in Canada, 1980-2010
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian;

Aboriginal Canadians tell their own stories, about their own people, in their own voice, from their own perspective.

If as recently as forty years ago there was no recognizable body of work by Canadian writers, as recently as thirty years ago there was no Native literature in this country. Perhaps a few books had made a dent on the national consciousness: The Unjust Society by Harold Cardinal, Halfbreed by Maria Campbell, and the poetry of Pauline Johnson and even Louis Riel. Now, three decades later, Native people have a literature that paints them in colours that are psychologically complex and sophisticated. They have a literature that validates their existence, that gives them dignity, that tells them that they and their culture, their ideas, their languages, are important if not downright essential to the long-term survival of the planet.

Tomson Highway’s From Oral to Written is a study of Native literature published in Canada between 1980 and 2010, a catalogue of amazing books that sparked the embers of a dormant voice. In the early 1980s, that voice rose up to overcome the major obstacle Native people have as writers: they are not able to write in their own Native languages, but have to write in the languages of the colonizer, languages that simply cannot capture the magic of Native mythology, the wild insanity of Trickster thinking. From Oral to Written is the story of the Native literary tradition, written – in multiple Aboriginal languages, in French, and in English – by a brave, committed, hard-working, and inspired community of exceptional individuals – from the Haida Nation on Haida Gwaii to the Mi’kmaq of Nova Scotia’s Cape Breton Island.

Leading Aboriginal author Tomson Highway surveys the first wave of Native writers published in Canada, highlighting the most gifted authors and the best stories they have told, offering non-Native readers access to reconciliation and understanding, and at the same time engendering among Native readers pride in a stellar body of work.

QUOTES OF NOTE

“We gratefully acknowledge the work of those artists who have come before, and those that continue, building bridges across our cultures through their authentic words. Tomson Highway’s readings each demonstrate that within our stories, we pass along our teachings and we build upon the strength inside each one of us. We are arriving. Back to our lands, back to our stories, back to our truths, unwrapping old words and sharing wisdom. We, are coming home.”
—Terri Mack, Strong Nations

“A rich compilation of Indigenous literature that will be a gift for Canadian school curriculums, also well suited for those Canadians in search of understanding and reconciliation. More importantly this book is what Indigenous people need because, like me, they will discover their lives in the many stories. If I had this as a teenager, I would have understood that I was not alone in the darkness I lived. I would have seen that others found a way out. Bravo, Tomson Highway!”
―Bev Sellars, author of They Called Me Number One: Secrets and Survival at an Indian Residential School and Price Paid: The Fight for First Nations Survival

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Masculindians: Conversations about Indigenous Manhood
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous;

What does it mean to be an Indigenous man today? Between October 2010 and May 2013, Sam McKegney conducted interviews with leading Indigenous artists, critics, activists, and elders on the subject of Indigenous manhood. In offices, kitchens, and coffee shops, and once in a car driving down the 401, McKegney and his participants tackled crucial questions about masculine self-worth and how to foster balanced and empowered gender relations. Masculindians captures twenty of these conversations in a volume that is intensely personal, yet speaks across generations, geography, and gender boundaries. As varied as their speakers, the discussions range from culture, history, and world view to gender theory, artistic representations, and activist interventions. They speak of possibility and strength, of beauty and vulnerability. They speak of sensuality, eroticism, and warriorhood, and of the corrosive influence of shame, racism, and violence. Firmly grounding Indigenous continuance in sacred landscapes, interpersonal reciprocity, and relations with other-than-human kin, these conversations honour and embolden the generative potential of healthy Indigenous masculinities.

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Our Story: Aboriginal Voice on Canada's Past
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian;

A collection of original stories written by some of the country's most celebrated Aboriginal writers, and inspired by pivotal events in the country's history Asked to explore seminal moments in Canadian history from an Aboriginal perspective, these ten acclaimed authors have travelled through our country's past to discover the moments that shaped our nation and its people. Drawing on their skills as gifted storytellers and the unique perspectives their heritage affords, the contributors to this collection offer wonderfully imaginative accounts of what it's like to participate in history. From a tale of Viking raiders to a story set during the Oka crisis, the authors tackle a wide range of issues and events, taking us into the unknown, while also bringing the familiar into sharper focus. Our Story brings together an impressive array of voices Inuk, Cherokee, Ojibway, Cree, and Salish to name just a few from across the country and across the spectrum of First Nations. These are the novelists, playwrights, journalists, activists, and artists whose work is both Aboriginal and uniquely Canadian. Brought together to explore and articulate their peoples experience of our country's shared history, these authors grace, insight, and humour help all Canadians understand the forces and experiences that have made us who we are.
Maria Campbell, Tantoo Cardinal,Tomson Highway, Drew Hayden Taylor, Basil Johnston Thomas King, Brian Maracle, Lee Maracle, Jovette Marchessault, Rachel Qitsualik

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The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito
Artists:
Sue Todd
Format: Hardcover
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 12; University/College;

Timely, Fun, Challenging and Wise!
Tomson Highway's musical cabaret, The Incredible Adventures of Mary Jane Mosquito, couldn't be more vividly presented unless you were sitting in the middle seat of the front row watching the Cree playwright, performer, musician and poet himself. The story of a wingless little mosquito from Manitoba has all the whimsy and wise humour any audience could ask for.
The ageless theme of a misfit, who finds her voice through song and who learns to make friends by communicating directly with her audience, is a timely treat for anyone who has felt like an outsider, dealt with bullying, moved to a new place, or was different from the rest of the pack.
The entire script is here, complete with song lyrics, stage directions, Cree vocabulary, and challenging tongue twisters to delight all ages. A perfect book for drama students, teachers, and theatre enthusiasts, this beautiful full—colour volume serves as an interactive read—aloud for the young, or a great way to introduce students to the joys of staging a musical production.

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The Rez Sisters
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian;

Winner of the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Play

Nominated for the Governor General's Award

This award-winning play by Native playwright Tomson Highway is a powerful and moving portrayal of seven women from a reserve attempting to beat the odds by winning at bingo. And not just any bingo. It is THE BIGGEST BINGO IN THE WORLD and a chance to win a way out of a tortured life.

The Rez Sisters is hilarious, shocking, mystical and powerful, and clearly establishes the creative voice of Aboriginal theatre and writing in Canada today.

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Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout
Format: Paperback

Based on a deposition signed by 14 Chiefs of the Thompson River basin on the occasion of a visit to their lands by Canadian Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1910, Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout is a ritualized retelling of how the Native Peoples of British Columbia lost their fishing, hunting and grazing rights, their lands, and finally their language without their agreement or consent, and without any treaties ever having been signed. It is one of the most compellingly tragic cases of cultural genocide to emerge from the history of colonialism, enacted by four women whose stories follow each other like the cyclical seasons they represent.

Written in the spirit of Shuswap, a “Trickster language” within which the hysterically comic spills over into the unutterably tragic and back, this play is haunted by the blood of the dead spreading over the landscape like a red mist of mourning.

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Iskooniguni Iskweewuk: The Rez Sisters in its original version: Cree
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);

Winner of the Dora Mavor Moore Award for Best New Play and nominated for a Governor General's Literary Award when first published in 1988, The Rez Sisters has gone on to become an internationally critically acclaimed play, included in all major anthologies of Canadian literature world-wide. Now, in celebration of its twentieth anniversary, the play is being published in its original language: Cree. Included is a "Note on Dialect" by the author. The play tells the story of seven reserve women who decide to go to the "Biggest Bingo in the World," in Toronto, a night's drive from their Manitoulin Island home.
Of the many works that Tomson Highway has written to date, his best known are the plays The Rez Sisters, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing, Rose, and Ernestine Shuswap Gets Her Trout. He is also the author of the best-selling novel The Fur Queen. For many years, he ran Canada's premiere Native Theatre Company, Native Earth Performing Arts, in Toronto, out of which has emerged a generation of professional Native Theatre artists. He divides his time equally between a cottage on northern Ontario and an apartment in the south of France.

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Kiss of the Fur Queen
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 11; 12; University/College;

Born into a magical Cree world in snowy northern Manitoba, Champion and Ooneemeetoo Okimasis are all too soon torn from their family and thrust into the hostile world of a Catholic residential school. Their language is forbidden, their names are changed to Jeremiah and Gabriel, and both boys are abused by priests.

As young men, estranged from their own people and alienated from the culture imposed upon them, the Okimasis brothers fight to survive. Wherever they go, the Fur Queen--a wily, shape-shifting trickster--watches over them with a protective eye. For Jeremiah and Gabriel are destined to be artists. Through music and dance they soar.

Educator Information
Grade 11/12 English First Peoples resource for the unit Further Steps toward Reconciliation - Understanding Residential Schools through Text.

Note: This novel contains mature and challenging material (profanity, coarse language, depictions of sex, sexual abuse, violence, etc.). 

Additional Information
320 pages | 5.20" x 8.00"

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$22.00

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Paasteewitoon Kaapooskaysing Tageespichit: Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing in its original version: Cree
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);

Paasteewitoon Kaapooskaysing Tageespichit (Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing) tells another story of the mythical Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve, also the setting for Tomson Highway's award winning play The Rez Sisters. In The Rez Sisters the focus was on seven "Wasy" women and the game of bingo, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing features seven "Wasy" men and the game of hockey. It is a fast-paced story of tragedy, comedy, and hope.

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$12.95

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Caribou Song
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 2; 3; 4;

Joe and Cody are young Cree brothers who follow the caribou all year long, tucked into their dog sled with their Mama and Papa. To entice the wandering herds, Joe plays the Kitoochigan, his accordion, and Cody dances, whirling like a young caribou. They are so busy playing and dancing, they don't hear the rumble of the caribou. Bursting from the forest, ten thousand animals fill the meadow like a lake. Joe is engulfed; he can barely see Cody a few yards away, perched like a doll on the caribou moss. Their parents seem to have disappeared.

And yet what should be a moment of terror turns into something mystical and magical, as the boys open their arms and their hearts to embrace the caribou spirit.

A tale that is perfectly simple and satisfying, yet infused with layers of wonder that will open both children's and adults' minds to the intriguing possibilities of independence, separation and the strength of the spirit, Caribou Song is the first in a three-book series about Joe and Cody.

Reviews
"Caribou Song is a story of family, tradition, spirit, and livelihood. Music weaves the elements together, making them soar just as Highway's words and Rombough's art beautifully and evocatively express a way of life that has slipped (or is slipping) away. Rombough's illustrations in Caribou Song are strongly influenced by the Woodland (or Anishinaabe) School, with its emphasis on dark outlines, vivid colours, and visionary imagery. Founding member Norval Morrisseau's iconic style lives on in Rombough's work, but where they diverge is in the almost effervescent quality of Rombough's paintings. Bubbling with circular imagery and spots of amethyst, sapphire and topaz, framed in black and laid over flat washes of colour, each scene is like a pane of stained glass; a mix of storytelling and spirituality that is simply magnificent." — 32pages.ca

"Tomson Highway's mastery creates an exciting, action-packed plot. Elements of suspense simultaneously entertain beauty, magic, and whimsy. Highway artfully crafts his scenes with the vivid river imagery capturing the full drama of the caribou's presence - the sound of their hooves beating on the earth like the pounding of drums. Caribou Song is an experience for the senses. — CM Magazine

Educator & Series Information
Written in English with Cree translations.

This is the first book in the Songs of the North Wind series.

Additional Information
32 pages | 9.00" x 10.50"

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Dragonfly Kites
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 1; 2; 3;

Dragonfly Kites is the third book in Tomson Highway's magical Songs of the North Wind trilogy. Like Fox on the Ice and Caribou Song, it has a bilingual text, written in English and Cree. And once again Tomson Highway brilliantly evokes the very essence of childhood as he weaves a deceptively simple story about the power of the imagination.

Joe and Cody, two young Cree brothers, along with their parents and their little dog Ootsie, are spending the summer by one of the hundreds of lakes in northern Manitoba. Summer means a chance to explore the world and make friends with an array of creatures, But what Joe and Cody like doing best of all is flying dragonfly kites. They catch dragonflies and gently tie a length of thread around the middle of each dragonfly before letting it go. Off soar the dragonflies into the summer sky and off race the brothers and Ootsie too, chasing after their dragonfly kites through trees and meadows and down to the beach before watching them disappear into the night sky. But in their dreams, Joe and Cody soar through the skies with their kites until it's time to wake up.

Reviews
"Unlike most fiction, Dragonfly Kites does not follow a standard plot line. Like the dragonfly kites that the boys follow, the plot simply glides along until the boys wake up from their dream. This is appropriate due to the significance the illustrations play in this picture book, as well as the age of the intended audience. Readers are not overwhelmed by the storyline and are free to appreciate the accompanying illustrations. The illustrations in Dragonfly Kites act as an extension of the story. The pictures in the book are colourful, beautiful, and have an austere, stark quality. This is consistent with other works produced by award-winning illustrator Julie Flett. This style suits the story as, aside from the nature that surrounds around them, Joe and Cody are depicted as being by themselves. While they live with the parents, their adventures occur when their parents are fishing without them. The full-page illustrations demonstrate the vast space that surrounds the boys." — CM Magazine

"At once a celebration of heritage, the wilderness, and imagination, this book is a breath of fresh northern air." — Kirkus Reviews

Educator & Series Information
This is the third book in the Songs of the North Wind series, a dual-language (English and Cree) series about two young Cree boys.

Additional Information
32 pages | 9.26" x 10.70"

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Fox on the Ice
Artists:
Brian Deines
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous Canadian; First Nations; Cree (Nehiyawak);
Grade Levels: 1; 2; 3;

One winter afternoon, Joe and Cody went ice fishing with their papa, their mama, and Cody's little black dog, Ootsie. It was the perfect day to fish. The sky was clear, and the sun made the snow sparkle like diamonds.

Brothers Joe and Cody are spending a chilly winter afternoon ice fishing with their parents. Cody is helping Papa fish, while Mama and Joe doze in the sled. Suddenly the sled dogs sit up and sniff. A fox is across the lake, her fur as bright as flames. The sled dogs give chase, pulling Mama and Joe along on a wild ride.

Written in both English and Cree, Fox on the Ice is a wonderful, lyrical story of celebration from award-winning author Tomson Highway, capturing a passing way of life for future generations. Illustrator Brian Deines has created an evocative masterpiece of shimmering oils depicting the beauty of northern Manitoba.

Educator & Series Information
This is the second book in the Songs of the North Wind series, a dual-language (English and Cree) series about two young Cree boys.

Additional Information 
32 pages | 8.50" x 10.25"

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$12.95

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