Through a collaboration with The Winnipeg Foundation and donor Janet Simpson, The Winnipeg Boldness Project was able to purchase children’s books from various Indigenous authors to donate to the community. Granny’s House—a program created by the organizational collective Gwekaanimad and acts as a safe place for parents to bring their children when they need temporary childcare—was an obvious choice for the book donation, as Winnipeg Boldness has been supporting the development of Granny’s House as a scaling effort of the project’s work.
Several of the books donated to Granny’s House were written by David Robertson, a Manitoba-born Indigenous author who has won several awards for his books and graphic novels. Robertson’s writing centres around Indigenous history and culture, aiming to tell stories that help provide Indigenous children with a better understanding of who they are.
“The whole thing about storytelling—especially storytelling from Indigenous voices—is that kids can see themselves in picture books [and] they can also read about themselves from a place of truth,” states Robertson. “It helps them to connect with who they are, either from understanding history… or just seeing a positive character in a book that’s truthfully represented.”
Robertson reflects on his own experiences as a young Indigenous person and points out the misrepresentations of Indigenous peoples that he remembers seeing in books and movies at that time. His intent is that through telling stories from an Indigenous perspective, he and other Indigenous authors like him will be able to create change for future generations.
“The increase in books that are being written by Indigenous writers across Canada is such a positive movement,” says Robertson. “The fact that publishers want to publish more and more of our stories means that more kids now are growing up with a kind of centredness that we didn’t have when we were kids.”
This surge of Indigenous books and authors is important to not only young people of Indigenous ancestry, but for non-Indigenous kids alike. Robertson hopes that children reading books with truthful reflections of Indigenous characters will lead to a universal appreciation for diversity amongst young people and allow Indigenous kids to feel accepted and respected for who they are.
“All of these Indigenous writers that are creating these books of truth – It’s creating a new sort of belief system… in these readers that is going to help change things over the long term,” states Robertson. “Kids are going to be growing up with a degree of knowledge that we’ve never had before. And so it’s going to help us to build better leaders, because they’re growing up with knowledge and before we were growing up with ignorance.”
When asked about how he feels that the reality of the COVID-19 pandemic has added to the need for accessible reading material for kids in the community, Robertson noted that stories provide a way for kids to connect even while having to social distance.
“Stories bring us together,” states Robertson. “Stories create community. Even though there might be physical distance from kids down the block, or classmates, or friends… reading stories, reading books, and having books read to them creates a different kind of community, but I think it’s an important connectedness – especially in a time that we’re isolated.”
Editors note: The Winnipeg Boldness Project and Blue Thunderbird Family Care—managing partner for Granny’s House—want to express their sincere gratitude to the Winnipeg Foundation and Janet Simpson for their generous donation, and to David Robertson for taking the time to help make this article happen.