Letters From the Dragons Son ~ Birthday Sneak-peak!

I was going to wait until White Wolf’s re-release party to give this to you–but–hey–it’s my birthday! I’m getting presents (yippeee!) so why not you, too? (And, yes!! You’re invited to the party. Click on it if you’d like to go!)

I had a difficult time finding a chapter in Letters that didn’t have spoilers in them. I don’t want to give away toooooooo much–there are many reading White Wolf yet. I crossed off the chapters I definitely couldn’t share and chose one of my favorites that was somewhat free of them (Caution: there are two!!). Seriously, allll of the chapters are my favorites–because of how Jonathan has shaped them–but chapter six has a super neat scene in it that I think you’ll like, too. It exposes who Jonathan is just enough and it’s a chance for me to introduce to you a few new characters–one in which is like a splinter under Jonathan’s nail. Keep in mind while reading this excerpt that Letters From the Dragons Son is spoken in a different voice. It’s Jonathan’s story and it takes place eight months after White Wolf and the Ash Princess.

There are seventeen chapters written in Letters so far (wahhhooooo!) and it’s all mapped out in my head and ready for my laptop. Now–if life, time and my aging eyes would only cooperate! So…..Happy Birthday to me!!!!……and I hope you enjoy your birthday present!

 

log-cabin-1886620_960_720CHAPTER SIX

“Miss Izzy says if you do it, it won’t hurt.”

“What’s that?” I ask. I was aiming for a single bean before he came. Now I have to grab up the entire cluster instead. The branched stem they were attached to gets stuffed in the basket with them.

He tries to answer but his words are replaced with the sound of metals smashing against wood. The pounding has started back up again on the small cabin being built on the edge of our woods. It’s been two weeks of this—energetic chatter, tapping tools and dark-skinned, shirtless men with shiny, untarnished backs darting around like industrious ants.

Odedeyan wants the printing press in a house of its own. He says the press has no place in a newly married couple’s home—too many people in and out—no privacy—it’s intrusive—those are the things he said. The guns will be coming soon, too. He said this will gain me the workspace that I need. Those are all good and valid, but I think at the core of the excuses, the finding of the gun can be found smack dab in the middle. He probably thinks I have more and I’ll hide more—but I can’t hide what I don’t have. Lost trust is just part of the process. It is what it is. I get it.

“My tooth.” William shouts his answer for the second time just as the hammering stops. He shines an apologetic smile and shows me how loose it is by pushing his tongue up behind it. When it twists onto his top lip he snickers. “Miss Izzy thinks it’s disgusting, and she won’t touch it.”

It’s hot for late September. I wipe my forehead with my sleeve. I’m getting good at timing my tremors. My forearm landed on the intended spot on my face. Izzy’s comment to William makes me add my own snicker. She’s told me stories of her time on the trail and she’s seen worse things than a dangling tooth. My wife has an agenda.

“It’s practically out on its own. You can do it.” I eyeball another cluster of beans and wait between spams to reach for it.

“Your hands are doing better.” He pinches the tiny tooth between two fingers and winces.

He’s just being nice. They aren’t.

“I can’t, White Wolf. It hurts. Daga?” He’s using the eyes Izzy used to use. Are all children gifted with this talent?

“Are you sure you want me to?” I sit back on my heels and shove my hands under my arms to hide them. It’s a pointless gesture. The boy knows about them. Everybody does.

He nods. “Eya’.”

“Alright.” I keep a hand tucked and use the other to push myself up. It almost didn’t work. The exhale wasn’t for the teeter that almost sent me back down, it’s for the pointless hard work I insist on doing every day to keep my hands disguised. I brush clean the hand I plan on using and tuck it from view.

“Close ‘em up,” I nod.

When his eyes are squeezed beneath wrinkle, I shake out my hands. I have yet to pinch a single bean. Somehow, I have to get these uncooperative fingers around a pebble of a tooth.

“Open up.”

I can feel the heat rising into my cheeks when his head shakes in rhythm with the hand I use to steady it. He’s a polite kid. He doesn’t react. He closes his mouth long enough to swallow and pops it back open. The inability to use his lips doesn’t stop him from talking.

“Did you get it?” He says over his tongue.

“Give me a minute. I just got here,” I sneer. The boy needs patience. He knows how crazy my hands are.

The tremor works to my benefit. When I finally manage to clamp two fingers over the tooth, my jarring yanks it free. The tip of his tongue goes straight to the fleshy, open spot.

“You got it!”

I hand him his tooth and hum a congratulation. I attempt to go back to wrestling with the beans, but his eyes stop me. He’s doing it again.

“Miss Izzy says you took care of her lost teeth the Native way when she was little. You buried them under a tree. Will you do mine like you did hers?”

Last time I checked, the girl was picking corn. She’s not there. I hear a sneeze. I find her sitting on her knees in waist-high basil. We catch eyes, and she grins before burying her nose in her arm to sneeze again.

“We’ll see. Finish up for Miss Izzy and I’ll think about it.”

The answer is enough for him, and he bounds over to her like an energetic puppy. He takes her place and on her way to me, Izzy holds her finger up with a wince before bending over for a final sneeze.

“Girl, why do you insist on planting that when it just stuffs you up?”

She shrugs. “Miss Margaret says every garden needs it. Our garden needs it,” she grins. She tugs my hands from their spot and swings them. “So? Are you going to bury his tooth when he’s done?”

“We’ll see.”

“We’ll see? What does that mean? You didn’t think twice about it for me.”

I did think twice about it. I didn’t like the memories that came with each tooth I pulled for her. I did it because she’s—well—she’s Izzy. I don’t need to coddle the boy the way I did her. He’s a boy, for crying out loud.

“We’ll. See.”

Izzy didn’t appreciate the way I repeated my answer. She’s scowling. I should have done it softer with less bite, but my senses all feel pricked and on edge.

The pounding is starting back up again. The perfect, bronzed men are now on the cabin’s roof. Izzy doesn’t notice, but I do. I feel exposed with my droopy, sweat-drenched shirt.

“Well, if you don’t, I will.” Her eyes have their copper spark, but not enough of it to make her let go of my hands.

“You’re getting too attached to the boy, Izzy. I told you, I’m talking with Odedeyan. I’m getting better. I don’t need his help.” We both know that isn’t true. I’m not getting better. I just don’t want the boy around. Unfortunately, I know I may not have a choice. I’m sure I’ll still be stuck with him even after I talk to Odedeyan. The boy is, after all, part of my punishment. “I’m talking to him about the rotation, too. We’re supposed to be in mourning. Mikonan and Binidee are supposed to be in mourning. All of us are supposed to be in mourning.”

Why Odedeyan included all of us in the rotation is beyond me. It’s just going to add more stress to our—my— already stressed-out life. According to William’s daily morning report, his countdown has reached the single digits. He and his sister are to come for their month-long stay in a week.

“Supposed to be.” Izzy had repeated my words under her breath.

I squint at her. “What does that mean?”

“Mourning when it’s convenient.” Izzy’s eyes are filling. She drops her head to hide from me and her toes are lost when she curls them into the garden’s dirt. I get my hands back so she can hold herself until the emotion passes. “I’m sorry. If you don’t want to be a part of the rotation, you don’t want to be a part of it. I understand.” She looks up after the apology and adds a weak smile. Her blotched complexion and glassy eyes adds weight to the pressure I feel building in my chest. She adds a cleansing breath. “I will accept your decision. Don’t worry about William’s tooth. I’ll handle it. It was selfish for me not to take it in consideration that it’d bother you.”

I’d feel her forehead for fever, but my stupid hands would probably just knock her over. The fiery flecks are gone from her eyes, but I know Izzy. This isn’t her. Something’s up.

“Girl, don’t make me feel guilty. Taking on the children—it’s more than we can—wait—take it in consideration that it’d bother me? Why would a child’s tooth bother me?”

I’ve never told anyone about the teeth. No one. Miss Margaret, Alexander, Odedeyan, Mikonan—no one. The only one who knows about them is Edward. The monster who made me collect them for him. A jar of them is with me—in the wardrobe.

The wardrobe.

“The wardrobe,” I say. “You’ve been in it.”

Her gaped look answers that I’m correct. It’s been two months since I’ve reached for her. It horrifies me that the first time I finally touch my wife it’s with a rough squeeze to her raised wrists.

William is here. The look on his face is one I wore at his age—when father grabbed mother the same way. Realization at what I’m doing to my wife burns my insides. It’s a consuming pain much worse than the flames that ravaged my outside. I’m hurting the last person on earth I thought I would. The transformation is starting, just like I always knew it would. Everyone is right. People can change. I’m proof of that.

~ ~ ~

“I have a key,” Izzy explains. “It’s alright, Jonathan. I’ve seen it all. None of it scares me.”

“You have a key? How?” I still have her wrists. William is tugging at my shirt. He says the men on the roof are starting to stare. “You’ve been in it? You’ve seen it?—and it doesn’t scare you? How can it not scare you? You’re lying. Lying!”

My ears are filled with the last word, and it’s my voice that I hear. All I can do is repeat it. Lying, lying, lying—and the squeezing. I can’t let go of her wrists. William’s pleas are growing in intensity because now the men are coming. I sound insane. They’ll think Waabishkaa Ma’iingan has gone completely mad. Perhaps I have. I can’t stop.

Mikonan pulls William back from me and directs his body in which way to go. He tells him to go find Binidee and to bring her back with Valerian Root. Finally—my root. There’s the immediate positive side to having a head-full of English language reduced to a single word. Mikonan is trying to pry my hands free from Izzy’s wrists and as he does he’s telling the gawking circle of men to get back to work. They leave, but they take their sweet time doing it.

“Well, he has gotten his strength back. You have done well there, sister.”

A drop of sweat slips off the tip of his nose and plops onto my forearm. I wish I could tease him about it and defuse the situation, but I’d only succeed in calling him a liar. He’s got nice teeth. I’ve never noticed them before. They’re grinding together in his growled struggle to pull my fingers from Izzy.

“This is not Nimaamaa’s way, but this is all I can think of to do. Look away, Biis Nigig.”

Izzy knows what’s coming. I know what’s coming. She pleads for him not to. She says I’m hurting enough, and that she’ll talk me down if he’d just give her a chance. It’s too late. His arm is already drawn back. My grip unintentionally tightens on Izzy when I brace myself for my brother-in-law’s blow. I’ve felt his punch before. It has brain jarring power. Good. Maybe it’ll rattle me back. My anaconda grip drops her to her knees with a wounded howl and my arms are yanked down with her.

Mikonan takes a step back and drives his fist into the side of my jaw. The world spins and my legs give out. The ground isn’t where it should be. It’s feels tilted when I land alone. Mikonan catches his sister before she joins me in the bean row.

“Has he had water today?” Mikonan blocks out the sun overhead when he leans over me. He’s opening my eyes with his fingers and feeling the sides of my neck. For what? The switch to turn my normal back on? “Could be the heat. The man is dressed for winter. Did he hurt you?”

“My wrists are a little red—that’s all. It didn’t hurt a bit. You know me, I stub my toe and cause a fuss.” Izzy nudges her brother aside and takes both sides of my face. “I’m sorry. This is my fault—all mine. You didn’t do anything wrong, Jonathan. I should have told you when I first opened that beastly wardrobe. I didn’t know how to tell you.” I can hear fear in her voice. Fear over what—me? The wardrobe? Keeping the secret? “Williams tooth, Mikonan. It was supposed to be something fun for them to do together. I was just trying to get Jonathan to warm up to him.”

“William’s tooth got him upset?” I hear my brother ask.

“I can’t explain it. Not until he says it’s ok to. Look—look at me, Jonathan.” She has my cheeks smooshed between her hands and she’s shaking my head. I wish she’d stop. My brain feels loose already and it’s further scrambling it. I was looking past her to the sky. There’s a cloud that’s floating past her shoulder that looks like the dragon from the library rug at home. I was trying not to blink. You can see the shape shift if you don’t. “I see you, Jonathan. I know who you are. You’re not him, you hear me? I see you. You’re not him.”

She found the book.

I was William’s age when father brought home the book that now rests in the wardrobe. I remember I was disappointed. He said he found treasure where he went. I had hoped the surprise was a pocketful of gems. Miss Margaret’s birthday was coming and I was making her the owl necklace that Izzy now wears around her neck. Father laughed and said the land that he had just returned from didn’t have that kind of treasure. It didn’t have shops, towns, houses, or roads. It just had trees as far as the eye could see with red-skinned people hidden in their leaves. Gems weren’t the treasure, he said, the savages were. He told me the land was bursting with human fruit, and the waiting harvest promised great reward. In his excitement, my father forgot my gift. I didn’t know the book bought in haste from the shop in town was a foreshadowing of the monster that we would become together. My boyhood was to last just one more year. By eleven, I was harvesting my father’s treasure with him. Brinsop, the two headed dragon from the story in the gifted book, became a real beast. I, Righteous, the unwilling horned head. My father, Malevolent, the barbed, spiked one with a hunger for treasure.

My wife is mistaken. I am Brinsop, the Righteous head. I’ve seen things a boy shouldn’t, and was forced to do things no man should. I tried as best as I could to fight Malevolent, but he was a powerful head. Does his tainted blood now flow in my veins? Are the two separate beasts, whole? The dragon, Brinsop, must now be of one mind. I grabbed Izzy.

A bean tickles into the top of my ear. It feels like a creeping, hard-skinned caterpillar, but I don’t brush it away. I go for her wrists instead and attempt to massage away any pain I caused. The tremoring makes the gesture look disgustingly pitiful. Surely the girl will leave me. Divorce is highly frowned upon among the Ojibwe, but she has grounds to do it now. No one will argue against it. We had plenty of witnesses that saw what I did. If the wardrobe wasn’t enough to persuade her to leave me, hurting her is. She’ll go. I’ll have to deal with my disobedient hands, my evil wardrobe, and long nights drenched in nightmare all alone. I groan at the long, torturous life ahead without my girl.

“Ninaabem, I’m fine. See? Look—it’s just a teensy bit red. You know better than anybody that it doesn’t take much to do that.” She called me husband. She’s trying her best to reassure me. “I’m sorry, Ninaabem. I’m sorry I kept it from you. I was wrong to. Gi zah gin.” Izzy repeats the ‘I love you’ in English and back to Ojibwe, but it doesn’t soothe the noise coming from me. The only word in my vocabulary is encouraging the moans to continue. She can’t possibly still love me after what she’s seen—after what I’ve done.

Binidee is coming. I can hear the baby’s wailing, and the spine-snapping noise grows in its intensity the closer she gets. The tea is ready at my lips the moment her knees touch the ground. Odd. It shouldn’t be. For full potency the Valerian Root needs to be consumed fresh. It takes time to make it. My guess is that no one here is shocked that I snapped. It was made today. Most of the bitter brew ends up on the front of my already soaked shirt. It doesn’t get absorbed, but slips through the wet and rolls down my chest. I get enough in. My body is feeling deliciously heavy, and the wounded moose-like noise coming from me is easing.

“He got in the perfect amount, Binidee. We do not want him asleep; he may not wake. We need to cool him. His skin is hot and he has stopped sweating. The lake—”

“We can’t take him to the lake. Everyone will see him.” Izzy is mortified enough for the both of us.

“Would you rather his pride be wounded and still have him, or protect it and have him die?” Mikonan is already tugging my shirt off.

Mikonan is the only one who has seen my scars. My own wife hasn’t even seen them yet. I’ve kept myself hidden since I was fifteen. The root won’t let me protest. It would have been a waste anyway—my shirt’s off. Izzy does her best to muffle her sobs at the sight of me, but she can’t keep them back.

“He wouldn’t want them to see.”

“He needs to let them see. This is the perfect time to remind our people who Waabishkaa Ma’iingan is and what he sacrificed for you—for them—and for all in the Council. Kshiwe’ is on his way, and he is bringing much more than weapons. He brings with him a storm. Our people will soon be forced to choose a side.”

Mikonan has me up. My legs won’t work and he’s struggling with my dead weight on his own. Izzy is trying her best on her side of me, but she’s little and she doesn’t have the strength her brother does. My knee is partnering with my feet to pull up half the garden.

“Wiiji’—niswi!” Mikonan shouts for three men when we get to the cabin speckled with tanned un-working workers. The decided ones hop down and each take up a limb. The glossy men look different close up. They aren’t as perfect as I thought they were. Their chests are marked with my father’s dragon.

I’m on my back, and I can see my cloud again. It’s still in its dragon shape. Mikonan says a storm is coming. Funny, I could have told him that.

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Jaymie Campbell / White Otter Design Co.

Meet Jaymie….

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“We always talk about Native culture in a historical way, but it is very much alive.”

I met this lovely lady on Instagram last year in my search for a “celebration piece”. I had just published White Wolf and I wanted to find an artist who practiced the traditional ways of crafting. I did an “Ojibwe” search and I stumbled on her page. I completely fell in love with her work! It wasn’t just her stunning beadwork that captured my heart, it was the stories that went with the pictures of her art pieces. I was smitten even further by the culture and her moccasins lulled me deeper.

As a writer, it’s our responsibility to make sure we have our facts straight. It’s especially important when writing about the culture of a First People that many don’t recognize is alive and thriving. Jaymie’s moccasins inspired a “yet-to-be-written” moccasin scene in the new book, Letters From the Dragon’s Son. It’s still unclear how “big” this scene will be, but the thread of it has already been woven through the story that’s already there. Researching Native culture in the seventeenth century is difficult and most times it’s hard to find matching sources. Sometimes it’s difficult to find information at all, especially when researching clothing and functional art pieces. I finally mustered up the courage to message Jaymie and *gulp* just ask. What better place to go for information than from the artisan herself? Thankfully, Jaymie didn’t block me or run for the hills when I messaged her. She graciously agreed to become my teacher and she took time out of her busy, crafting schedule to answer some of my questions. I hope you find them as enlightening as I did.

Becoming an author has stretched me beyond what I thought imaginable and it has led me to some AMAZING people. Jaymie Campbell is one of them. I think after reading our interview you’ll agree. Miigwech (thank you), Jaymie!

1) I’d love to hear a little about you!

Okay! I was born in Jasper, Alberta in 1988. I lived there until I was about 3 and then moved to Southern British Columbia. When I was ten, my parents wanted my brother and I to grow up closer to family and culture, so we decided to move back to my father’s reserve, Curve Lake First Nation, in Ontario. My father is Ojibwe, or Anishnaabe, from Ontario, and my mother is a third generation Canadian. Her ancestors are Scottish, Polish and Ukrainian. Living on the reserve was very tough, it was a massive culture shock from the small community in BC I had grown up in. There was a lot of inter-generational trauma, substance abuse and lateral violence. My father went back to University in his 40’s and completed an undergraduate degree in Native Studies, the first in my family to do so. After about three years we moved just off the reserve to a small farming community while we finished school. When I graduated I moved to Thunder Bay, Ontario (which is very traditional territory of the Ojibwe people) and I went to Lakehead University. I completed a  dual degree in Biology and Natural Sciences, and Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Tourism. In my final year, I did an undergrad study with the Dene in the North of Canada, and it was there my identity was reignited. Following school, I found my way to a small Alberta Cree community where I became their Consultation Manager – I basically am like a liaison that works with industry and government, and helps to build capacity in the community – and have been with them for six years. I am happily married to my husband Simon and we have a dog, Ollie.

2) I LOVE your beadwork!! How long have you been crafting? What gave you the courage to start your own business?

Thank you! I have been beading since I was a little girl, though not quite like this. My mother had the opportunity to learn from many of my family members who all passed away before I got to know them, and she always made a point to teach me. After I left the reserve, I really disconnected with my culture and my identity, which was very easy for me because I am physically very light skinned and look a lot like my mother. When I traveled up north, I realized what a huge part of me it was. Something put me here, in this Cree community now, where I have had the privilege of learning from a very traditional community and being mentored by some really incredible leaders. I entered into an Aboriginal Healing Therapy Program a couple of years ago, and something inspired me to start crafting again. As I work through my identity struggle, of always feeling ‘not quite Native enough’ I realized then when I am practicing as an artist is when I feel the most connected to my culture and my identity. I also feel very connected to my ancestors, almost like they are working through me, and it makes me feel at peace. My grandmother and great grandmother were very strong independent women, as is my mother. My aunt was the first woman Chief ever in Canada. I have some strong women in my ancestry and I am meant to follow them somehow. So professionally I guess I have been an artist now for about two years. It was important for me to show young people you can be successful practicing your traditions.

3) I’ve NEVER been outside of the U.S. Tell me a little about the part of Canada that you live in.

I live in the Foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I live in a very small remote community called Grande Cache, but the aboriginal community is called the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation (which means Rocky Mountain People). Their history is quite fascinating because they were displaced in the early 1900’s by the Federal Government when they began Jasper National Park (you can check our website for details). Because they relocated somewhere so remote (we are 1.5 hours from the nearest town), they didn’t feel the massive effects of colonization quite as early as some other southerly communities. This means they held on to a lot of their culture and traditions, and still practice a lot of what has been lost in other communities.

4) We’ve talked briefly before about you learning your craft(s) under the Cree. Can you share a little about the Cree people? Are their traditions closely related to the Ojibwe? How are they the same? Different?

That is a tough question. There are also many different tribes within both Cree and Ojibwe, which all have their own traditions. A lot of it is community specific. The Rocky Mountain Cree have different traditions than the Plains Cree, also different dialects of the language. In Ojibwe, we have a different creation story and different spirits in our stories than the Cree people do. In my community, our medicine wheel, the four colours, are white, red, black and yellow. Each colour represents an animal, a direction and a stage in life. In Cree, sometimes this is the same but sometimes it is completely different. It also really depends on who mentored you and which elders you learn your teachings from. I was raised that all animals have a meaning, and that when you smudge you are supposed to smudge the bottom of your feet because that is how you travel on mother earth. I haven’t witnessed those same teachings in Cree, but that is not to say they don’t exist. We also have different medicines, though some are the same. I have been to certain ceremonies both Cree and Ojibwe, and fundamentally they are similar, but there are elements of them that are very different. I know this probably doesn’t help, but it is the truth!

Traditional teachings from elders are also really unique. In my experience, there is no hand holding and no coddling. They will demonstrate for you – usually really fast and not step-by-step. You either get it or you don’t – and they don’t go out of their way to give you accolades you haven’t earned. When I first started beading I brought a piece down to the elder who was teaching me and she took one look at it and threw it in the garbage and told me to start again. It might sound harsh, but it pushed me to be better and keep practicing. Usually when the elders look at my beadwork they will look at the underside of it first. They check the thread work to make sure it is tight and that every bead is sewn down – some don’t even look at the actual work. It is the most nerve wracking part of being a beadwork artist is when it is inspected by the elders, because they are the masters. I thrived being taught this way, and I am very thankful for every second I have gotten to spend with the elders – it is a gift. I worry that the generation that is coming up has become too sensitive and they shy away from these teachings because they don’t get enough positive reinforcement all the time. You have to be tough and you have to keep trying. You have to be able to take the criticism and get better.

5) You mentioned you were Ojibwe. Do you celebrate or hold on to any of the customs of the Ojibwe?

I do, yes. I was raised with a lot of my spiritual traditions and I hold onto those. I attend ceremony whenever I can and practice the use of my medicines daily. I am Ojibwe, though to my people I would identify as Anishnaabe.

6) I’ve seen Ojibwe used in some of your posts on Instagram. Do you or anyone else that you know speak Ojibwe?

I took Ojibwe all through high school. It is a difficult language to hold onto if you are not practicing it everyday. I know a few elders back home who are our ‘language keepers’. My dad and I know a few words, mostly animals, relatives, commands that sort of thing. I usually use my Ojibwe name ‘Maang Kwe’ on my page, which means ‘Woman of the Loons’.

7) I learned VERY little in school about Native American culture. What would YOU like to see taught in schools about your culture?

I think a comprehensive and accurate telling of the history would be a great place to start – which would be different between the US and Canada. I think it is important to teach that there are many different cultures within Aboriginal Peoples (Dene, Cree, Ojibwe, Navajo, Blackfoot, etc). It would be neat to teach people about some of the teachings around our connection to the land and mother earth. The teachings about our relationship with the environment could go a long way to reconnecting youth with the land and animals. I also think it is important to teach people about where communities are at now, and what their aspirations are. We always talk about native culture in a historical way, but it is very much alive.

8) I heard that a baby’s first moccasins are important to the Ojibwe. Can you explain this important milestone?

There are parts of this that are so sacred I cannot share. The main part though is that Ojibwe people believe that gifting a baby their first pair of moccasins is really important because it wishes the baby well on their journey through life. The feet is also how we travel and most often how we are physically connected to the land. Whenever I enter ceremony I never ever wear shoes – but moccasins are ok.

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9) Can you explain your moccasin making process?

This is quite a long process! It always begins with the hunt. Many native people offer tobacco in exchange for taking something from the land, whether it be an animal or harvesting medicinal plants. Once the animal is killed, there is a vast amount of ceremony that may or may not take place depending on the hunter or the tribe. Usually, tobacco is left. The hide is taken off the animal in one large piece – which is a skill in itself. You have to be careful not to get knife marks or scrapes on the hide while it is being taken off or it will be damaged. Once that happens, the hide is tanned traditionally with the animals brains. I am NOT an authority on hide tanning, and because I am learning the process of hand tanning right now, I don’t feel it is appropriate to share the detailed process. The hide is stretched onto a large frame and from there it is scraped down to just the skin. From there is goes through a variety of washing, smoking, and brain tanning until it is ready. For a really talented, well trained individual you can do the whole process in a couple of days, but I have mostly seen people work together and finish a hide in 3-4 days. From there, I purchase the hide from the elders and get to work. I always smudge the hide before I cut into it as a sign of respect for the animal giving its life. I will usually offer tobacco also. I start by getting a tracing of the person’s foot and I cut my patterns. I like to talk to the individual about what colours they like or patterns they have in mind. Some people give very specific instructions, while others give me creative freedom. When I am really focused, usually a pattern will just come to me for the individual and I know it is meant for them. I start the process with the bead work always – it takes the longest and is the most complex. The traditional Cree style of beading is to use two needles and threads, and you sew down every individual bead. You eventually adapt some of the really traditional teachings to your own style – some of the materials I use, like the material I use for tracing my patterns, are new materials that the elders wouldn’t have had access too. I always keep the integrity of the beadwork the same, I sew down every individual bead, but sometimes I have to adapt the materials or even the methods to have my own style. The front part of the moccasin where the beadwork is is called the vamp or the tongue. Once that is finished, I start sewing together the actual shoe part. This take a couple of days usually, only because it is very hard on your hands to be hand sewing hide all the time. My fingers get sore and I have to take breaks if I have been doing a lot of it. You sew the moccasin inside out, and once it is all sewn together you flip it right side out. Many different cultures, people and artists all have different patterns and methods for moccasin making. Mine has become sort of a hybrid of a Metis pattern with some Cree and Ojibwe modifications that make them my own style. The higher booties though, called wraparounds, are traditionally a Cree style. Once they are flipped right side out, I add the fur or the hide cuff, depending on the style I am making. I source all my fur locally from local trappers. Moccasins should always be about one size too small because the hide will stretch them into the perfect size.

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10) What would you like to see of the Ojibwe passed down to the next generation? The Cree?

The language. I think that is paramount. I never got to fully learn my language, and everyday it is like there is a part of me missing. Our languages are dying off here incredibly fast and we will lose a part of our identity if it does. I also think the arts are incredibly important, our games too. I recently met a woman who still practices birch bark biting (so cool) and there are only a handful of people left who know how to do it. We have incredible art mediums – quilling, basket making, weaving, beadwork, painting, dying, horse hair wrapping, tufting – and it would be a shame to lose our art. It is also important to pass down things like making dry meat. I also think we need to focus on passing down the information about our medicinal plants as well. There is a crazy wealth of knowledge here that is mostly orally passed down because of fear it will be stolen, but it is deep and powerful stuff.

11) How do you feel you are viewed as a Canadian Native? Do you feel supported? No?

This is a really tough question for me to answer. I have a really unique take on this, because though I was raised in my home community and I practice a lot of my culture, I look white. I don’t experience the blatant racism that exists to my face, but I experience a different kind where people say and do really cruel things in front of me because they assume I am not native. I have seen my father and my friends be racially profiled, and it is painful. It is really complex here in Canada too because we have an Indian Act. The act governs a lot of what can and can’t happen on reserves – an example of this is the act has a way of determining who gets ‘Indian Status’. They are literally cards and a number – called status cards – that define who is considered and ‘Indian’. It is really really complicated, but many reserves have their membership dictated by these same status requirements. It was essentially designed to eventually ‘breed out the Indian’ in Canada. My home communities’ membership is this way, and because my mother is non-native I do not qualify for status, which means I cannot be a member of my own community. I cannot vote in elections for our leadership and I would not qualify to live on reserve. It is really tough and it really messes with your head, and there are A LOT of people who are in this same boat.

But I also think things are getting better. I work for this really amazing progressive community. They work a lot on reinvigorating their governance and building their traditional laws into a constitution. I think awareness in Canada is starting to build, and we have more and more native people getting educated in the western systems and working to rebuild really happy and healthy communities.

12) What are the concerns you have pertaining to your culture?

I think I covered most of this already! I worry about our youth – feeling very lost and displaced. We have more of our populations living in urban centres now instead of reserves. I know first hand how difficult it is to not feel like you belong anywhere or you are ‘not Indian’ enough or ‘not white’ enough. I worry about high numbers of youth suicides we have, and I think reconnecting with our cultural values and fostering those in our youth would go a long way to helping our next generations.

13) What would you like to say to this generation of Canadians/Americans who may not know anyone who is Native?

Keep an open mind and an open heart and try to learn. Look past the stereotypes you may have heard. Read some of the excellent books that have been written about our history and about our culture. Support tourism initiatives, artists and locations that are authentic and benefit native people. Do not be afraid to ask questions – we cannot rebuild and reconcile until we understand each other. Most importantly, we still exist, and not just in a historical context. We have a vibrant, living culture and communities.

14) Are  there any terms that are offensive to you? Here in the U.S., no one is certain what to call our First People. American Indian, Indian, Native American. What would you say to someone who is struggling in this area?

I find ‘Indian’ very offensive when used to refer to my people. I know it is an accepted term in the US, and I know friends that it does not bother. This is a difficult question, but I always tell people that Aboriginal and Indigenous are usually safe. I am not American, so I do not want to comment on what they might feel comfortable with. I would always self identify as Anishnaabe, but I don’t find Aboriginal, Indigenous or First Nation (another term we use in Canada) offensive. I also think Native is ok, and if I am travelling I will identify as Native American because it is easy to understand.

If you’d like to visit Jaymie and see more of her work, you can click on the following and find her on InstagramFacebookEtsy.

White Wolf and the Ash Princess

CHAPTER ONE

Jonathan brushes past the open library door and one of the paper leaves on its front coasts to the floor. We had glued them to the barren oak carved on its front when we were younger. Every time one loses its grip on the door, I fasten it back up. It’s one of my favorite memories of our time together. It looks like later I’ll be making a fresh batch of egg-white glue.

“I got him! It took me awhile but I finally cornered him behind your door.” He has his hands cupped. The bat, I assume, is folded in them.

It has to be close to morning. I can see a faint line of light in between the curtains. The fire’s out. I didn’t get up to stoke it. Jonathan knew I wouldn’t. He didn’t know how long it would take to wrangle the bat in my room so he made sure I was bundled in an extra covering. He lit all the candles on the library table just in case so the room wouldn’t go dark.

“Do you want to see him?” Jonathan beams.

“Not particularly,” I tell him in yawn. I sit up on the couch to make room for him because I know he wants to show me. I run my fingers through my hair and toss its weight over my shoulder. It must be an unruly mess but his look doesn’t reveal that. This look is a mystery to me. I’ve spent plenty of time with him and have gotten to know most of his faces. This one, I noticed, came home with him from his trip last summer.

“Help me with this glove.” He keeps hold of the bat with one hand while flinging the other about wildly.

“Hold still so I can grab it!” I giggle. “You are not going to touch him, are you?” The thought makes me shiver and I scrunch my nose at him to show my disgust.

“Sure, why not? I’ve never caught one before. He’s cute. Look at him.” Jonathan moves his thumb back and the bat turns his head towards me. I scream when it’s beady-eyes find mine.

“Mercy sakes, girl, I’ve got him. He’s not going anywhere,” he laughs.

He sounds like Miss Margaret, our head housekeeper and “mother”. She uses that phrase all the time. It’s catchy—I find myself using it, too. Our clean and orderly Miss Margaret, I’m sure, wouldn’t approve of him touching it. When I tell him this, he gives me a crooked smile and airy exhale.

“Of course she wouldn’t approve. To her he’d be a vermin with wings. To me, he’s a creature I haven’t had the chance to examine before. Come on. If I touch him, will you touch him? Scratch that. This is a dare. I dare you.”

Now he did it. He knew what it would take to get me to touch it.

“I’m scrubbing my hands  down after, Jonathan, and if I get sick, it’s your fault. He looks like a mouse.”

“I’ll wipe your nose for you…deal?” he grins.

When I nod, he tucks the bat’s face back under his thumb and he pulls a wing out between pinched fingers. It looks leathery and bird-like. There are several books here on ships and this wing almost looks like a sail to me. I tell Jonathan this and he agrees.

“That it does. Good observation. Look, a thumb—just like the drawings I’ve seen.” He nudges into what looks to be a finger on the top of the bat’s wing. “Alright, your turn. Touch.” He raises a brow at my hesitation to deepen the dare.

“Jonathan,” I sigh. I’m tempted to back down but I haven’t done that yet with any of our dares. “He’s completely and utterly horrific,” I moan.

“No, he’s not. He’s amazing. He’s a flying bug trap. They love mosquitos. You hate—dislike—mosquitos,” he corrects. “So, that makes you and this bat practically friends!”

He had over-pronounced the replaced word with stretched brows and widened eyes and it made me giggle. He looks over his shoulder and flashes me a sideways grin. Miss Margaret is much like a ghost in this house. She can come and go without anyone noticing. Jonathan had changed his word for her. She dislikes us to use the word “hate.” She says it’s too strong of a word and strong words can lead to bad things.

“Friends?! I should say not!” I chuckle. This creature will never be a friend of mine. He had me so terrified last night diving about my room, I belly-crawled all the way to Jonathan’s room with a blanket over me. No, most certainly we are not friends nor ever will we be. I reach for the bats featherless wing but pull back when it trembles.

“I can’t!” I shudder in giggle.

“Give me your hand, I’ll help you.”

“That’s cheating. I’m not doing it on my own.”

“I always help you and you always win. Why would this be any different?” He shrugs.

It’s true. In all our games, if he wins, he plays on until I win, too.

He hasn’t taken up my hands since he’s been back from his latest journey and I can tell he’s hesitant, but he takes one up and helps guide one of my fingers over the bats wing.

“Oh!” I shrug my shoulders up into ears. “That’s enough!”

“See. He’s not so bad.”

“I suppose he’s a tiny bit cute–tiny.” I squint and show him how minuscule it was by leaving the smallest gap that I could between the two fingers that I held up.

“He’s gone from utterly horrific to a tiny bit cute. Mission accomplished. I’m proud of you, Izzy—well done.” Jonathan is up and he’s heading towards a window. “Open the window for me?” he asks over his shoulder.

“Absolutely!” I hop up to race past him.

“Unless you want to cage him and keep him,” Jonathan offers.

“No. Let him be free to have his fill of our mosquitos.” I tug open the tall curtains from the window. They’re heavy and it takes two hands to handle each side.

“It’s morning. Bats are nocturnal. He may zip back up to whatever hole he found in the house and find his way back in,” Jonathan warns.

“Or he may just learn to endure the sunshine and flap his little way to some glorious cave somewhere—with an endless supply of bugs and friends of his own kind. That’s much better than a perch behind a door, wouldn’t you think?”

Jonathan’s brows pinch. “I don’t know. If I were a bat this place wouldn’t seem so bad to me. What would you do? If you were a bat?” He’s looking at me in that strange way again.

“If I were a bat—and I have no plans on ever becoming one if that will bring peace to your mind, Jonathan— I think I would fly for the cave.” I nod with the finality of my decision and against the lie I had just told. I wouldn’t do that and he definitely knows this. I get anxious when I venture too far past the stables. My chest tightens until I can’t breathe and my stomach will hurt. If I were a bat, I’d be curled up behind the door just as this one was.

His smile is a lie to what I see in his eyes. They look sad. The brown flecks in his eyes swell when he’s sad and they always threaten to swallow all the green that I love in them.

“Well, then. Maybe he wouldn’t like our home here. It would be no different than a cage to him. Let’s let him go and let him choose.”

He attempts to hide his sorrow by pressing his smile more tightly, but he fails. I know him too well.

When I push open the window, he releases the bat but we can’t see its chosen course. The morning is too thick with fog.

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This doesn’t seem possible…

It’s hard to believe it’s been three years! White Wolf began just as a concept. Scenes were daydreamed in the quiet while doing the dishes or to distract me from the torture of weeding  flower beds. Most of White Wolf was created in the van, on those loooooooong boring trips to U of M for the kids’ ortho. appointments. My son gets credit for the first words that appeared on the computer screen. We took a writing course together, One Year Adventure Novel, and he and the creator of the series, Daniel Schwabauer, gave me the confidence to try to push beyond my short stories and devotionals and give White Wolf life.So…bunches of thanks Austy and Mr. Schwabauer!!

There is still much to do! When will White Wolf be ready? I can’t even begin to say!! This journey is new for me. It’s scary and overwhelming at times, without a doubt, but I know who’s leading. I have an overwhelming confidence I’ll get there…in His time.

This cover totally geeked me out when I saw it! I got breathless and weak-kneed (possibly a touch of that Buck Fever my husband and boys are always talking about when they see THE deer!). For me, I saw my story. It was out of my head and in picture form. It’s the caffeine I needed to keep pushing beyond what I feel I’m capable of. Most days, I feel this project is beyond me. Who am I to think I can do this?? When these types of thoughts come, I am reminded that I can do all things through Him and…hey…why not me?

This reveal wouldn’t be possible without my amazing cover designer, Don Semora. Confident, secure in his talents and abilities and patience…all were the qualities that put me at ease in this experience with my first cover. Thanks, Don!!! Please visit him at http://www.donsemora.com to see a full range of his work.

To introduce you a little more to White Wolf, below is the legend that’s featured in the prologue and the book blurb that will be found on the back of the book.

Thanks for stopping by and checking out the book’s progress and many, many thanks for your prayers and support!

The Legend Of  White Wolf and the Ash Princess

In the midst of the Great War between the Wolf and the Boar, the claws of the black wolf and the grey fought against the ivory tusks of the gluttonous pig. The once fertile soil that the boars had ravaged turned red with blood from the furred creatures as well as the skinned. A chief prayed to the Eagle for help. His once peaceful paradise was now shriveled brown; the music of the forest was choked silent and replaced with the howls and grunts of warring.

Peace between the two beasts and his forests return is what he longed for. While his heart was lifted to the Eagle, and his ears plugged with sounds of battle, a boar crept past and found a prize among him. The chief’s eyes were blinded by the tears of great sorrow he had shed over his fallen allies. He didn’t see that White Boar, the grandest of the boars, had entered his wigwam and stole his only daughter.

The princess was the guardian of the light of the black wolf and the grey. White Boar greatly desired her light, though the boars had possession of their own. They were selfish, greedy and ravenous. They wanted both. When the princess refused to give up the light, both were given to the fire to do with them as it wished.

Fire was different back in the days of the Great War. It gave great heat, but it had no light of its own. The flames consumed the girl and in moments she was reduced to ash. The light it swallowed changed the fire’s form forever.

Though he lost much, the chief kept faith in the Eagle and continued to send up his prayers. The Eagle heard and had mercy on the great leader. He sent a white wolf to bring the girl back from the Great Beyond. With the touch of the wolf’s great paw, the girl rose out of the ashes a woman; a mighty warrior armed with a copper axe.

The furred creature gifted with claws of copper and teeth of iron, the black wolf and the grey call White Wolf; for he is the greatest of them with the power over flame and ash.

 

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Eighteen year old Izzy’s limited world begins to feel cramped after she completes her self-appointed book dare. After reading two-hundred and fifty books, a thought that had been once tucked away as tightly as the books on her library shelves becomes too irresistible to ignore… “Who am I?”

Memory loss prohibits Izzy from remembering her life before age seven when she was injured in a fire. Fifteen year old Jonathan Gudwyne and his head housekeeper rescued her and took Izzy in as their own, but who did she belong to before Jonathan took her in?

Crippling panic keeps Izzy from wandering beyond the stables but Tubs, the Gudwyne’s thirteen-year old stable boy, encourages Izzy to go beyond the property’s rock wall into a world that promises possible answers. A scorched castle in the woods and its mysterious cellar reveal secrets that push Izzy beyond her discomfort to embark in a journey to the New World with her young friend. Here, she finds love and a home in the most unexpected of places.

 

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Izzy’s ma’iigan (wolf) GORGEOUS!! And the trees…*gasp*…LOVE!! (*clap*, squeal)

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White Wolf Cover Reveal