A University of Victoria student has turned his own experiences as a Nuu-chah-nulth child learning how to sing and drum into a picture book for children that celebrates Indigenous culture and identity.
Ren Wikinanish Louie, a member of the Ahousaht First Nation on Flores Island, B.C., is the author of Drum From The Heart, now available for pre-order from Medicine Wheel Education, which publishes culturally authentic Indigenous books with accompanying lesson plans.
It tells the story of a boy, appropriately named Ren, who is given a drum by his mother and discovers that through the drum, he is able to connect to his culture and gain confidence singing traditional Nuu-chah-nulth songs.
“The inspiration was to tell a story about Indigenous culture and identity that is not rooted in trauma,” said Louie, speaking on CBC’s All Points West.
Before writing it, he said he spoke with his grandmother who said it was a good story to share, and then to his mother who reminded him to bring his emotions into the story so other children could relate to it.
Ren’s feelings of nerves, timidness and blossoming confidence are woven into the story, as well as the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. The author says many relatives helped raise him and connect him to his Indigenous identity and he wanted to reflect that in this book.
“It’s just so beautiful to see a happy family of colour sharing these experiences together rooted in culture, identity and pride,” he said.
Louie wants kids who read it to be encouraged to explore their own culture and identity and the book comes with a lesson plan for educators to help guide classroom conversations.
Drum From The Heart can be pre-ordered online now and will be released early next year.
It is colour illustrated by Karlene Harvey, who is Tsilhqot’in and Syilx and grew up on territories of the Semiahmoo and Kwantlen Nations.
All Points West6:31Children’s book celebrating Nuu-chah-nulth culture set to hit shelves soon