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Holiday Gift Guide 2021: The Best Books for the Readers on Your List

Holiday Gift Guide 2021: The Best Books for the Readers on Your List

By Kirsten Phillips | Date: November 17, 2021

As the holiday season approaches, many of us are looking forward to shopping and celebrating with our loved ones. Books make meaningful gifts both in person and from afar—and our list has something for everyone! You can order our titles at your favourite local bookstore or online, from the comfort of your home. 

In this holiday gift guide, you’ll find:

  • Books for Kids (Ages 3–12)
  • Books for Teens (Ages 12–18)
  • Books for Adults (including books for teachers!)

To make sure your books arrive in time for the holidays (December 25), keep these dates in mind when ordering from our website:

Shipping Location Last Order Date

  • YK, NWT, NU – Monday, December 6, 2021
  • NL, SK, BC – Monday, December 14, 2021
  • AB, MB, PEI, NB, NS – Wednesday, December 16, 2021
  • ON, Montreal – Friday, December 17, 2021
  • Greater Toronto – Monday, December 20, 2021

Take advantage of our special offer for the month of November,* including Cyber Monday. And stay tuned to our special offers by subscribing to our e-newsletter

*Offer expires November 30, 2021.

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Books for Kids (Ages 3–12)

Stand Like a Cedar

Stand Like a Cedar

Written by: Nicola I. Campbell 
Illustrated by: Carrielynn Victor
Ages: 3 to 5 

Themes: nature, sustainability, environment, animals, land, friendship, family  

Perfect gift for: kids interested in learning about nature, animals, and Indigenous languages in British Columbia

When you go for a walk in nature, who do you see? What do you hear?

In Stand Like a Cedar, award-winning storyteller Nicola I. Campbell encourages children to pay close attention to the sights and sounds of nature. Using the names of animals in the Nłeʔkepmxcín or Halq’emeylem languages, and their teachings, this lyrical story celebrates sustainability and deep connections to land.

Order your copy here.

We Dream Medicine Dreams

WeDreamMedicineDreams

Written & illustrated by: Lisa Boivin
Ages: 6 to 8 

Themes: loss, grief, illness, animal teachings, learning through dreams 

Perfect gift for: families experiencing grief, kids interested in dreams and animal teachings

From Dene artist and bioethicist Lisa Boivin comes this healing story of hope, dreams, and the special bond between grandfather and granddaughter.

When a little girl dreams about a bear, her grandfather explains how we connect with the knowledge of our ancestors through dreams. Bear, Hawk, Caribou, and Wolf all have teachings to share to help us live a good life. But when Grampa gets sick and falls into a coma, the little girl must lean on his teachings as she learns to say goodbye.

Order your copy here.

Ispík kákí péyakoyak/When We Were Alone

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Written by: David A. Robertson
Illustrated by: Julie Flett
Translated by: Alderick Leask
Ages: 6 to 8

Themes: empowerment, resistance, perseverance, culture and traditions, importance of family, colonialism

Perfect gift for: Swampy Cree speakers and learners, kids interested in Cree culture, those interested in history

An empowering story of resistance that gently introduces children to the history of residential schools in Canada. 

In When We Were Alone, a young girl notices things about her grandmother that make her curious. As she asks questions, her grandmother shares her experiences in a residential school.

The bilingual edition of this Governor General’s Award–winning book features the text in Swampy Cree syllabics and Roman orthography, as well as the original English. 

Order your copy here.

Find related activities for both families and school communities in the free parent/teacher guide.

The Sk'ad'a Stories Series

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Written by: Sara Florence Davidson & Robert Davidson
Illustrated by: Janine Gibbons
Ages: 6 to 8

Themes: traditional forms of art, memories, traditions, knowledge, mentorship, Haida culture, harvesting food, celebrating the bond between grandchildren and grandparents

Perfect gift for: kids interested in Haida culture, carving, and fishing; families with grandparents and grandchildren 

Based on Haida artist Robert Davidson's own childhood experiences and written by the creators of Potlatch as Pedagogy, these books bring the Sk'ad'a Principles to life through the art of Janine Gibbons.

In Learning to Carve Argillite, a boy on Haida Gwaii practises to become a skillful carver with help from his father and grandfather. As he carefully works on a new piece, he remembers a trip to Slatechuck Mountain to gather the argillite, as well as his father’s words about the importance of looking back to help us find our way.

In Jigging for Halibut with Tsinii, a boy goes fishing with his grandfather off the northern tip of Haida Gwaii. As they watch the weather, jig for halibut, and row with the tides, the boy realizes there’s more to learn from Tsinii than how to catch a fish.

Order your copies here. 

Siha Tooskin Knows Series

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Written by: Charlene Bearhead and Wilson Bearhead
Illustrated by: Chloe Bluebird Mustooch
Ages: 9 to 11

Themes: values, Nakota culture, sharing culture, emotional intelligence

Perfect gift for: kids interested in Nakota culture, kids starting at a new school, families with new babies, boys with long hair, powwow enthusiasts

Paul Wahasaypa (aka Siha Tooskin) is a young Nakota boy living in an urban community. He is guided by the knowledge and traditions of his family, his people, and his ancestors. Experience the spirit of love and community alongside this 11-year-old boy and his Indigenous relations.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Gifts of His People, Paul explores the origins of many modern conveniences and inventions. There’s so much to learn about the earliest forms of technology, travel, medicine, and food from right here on Turtle Island! 

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Sacred Eagle Feather, Paul’s Mitoshin explains the teachings about where eagle feathers come from and why they are so sacred.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Strength of His Hair, Paul is nervous about starting at a new school. Mitoshin reminds him how strength of character can be found in the strength of his hair. Perfect for boys with braids!

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Catcher of Dreams, Paul imagines the future of a new baby sister and listens to Mugoshin’s teachings about dream catchers.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Nature of Life, Paul learns how strength, generosity, kindness, and humility are shown to us by grandfather rocks, towering trees, four-legged ones, and winged ones.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Best Medicine, Paul isn’t feeling well, and he finds healing from both the traditional practices of his people and from Western medicine.

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Offering of Tobacco, Paul knows it is important to show honour and appreciation when taking plants from the earth or knowledge from a learned person. Join Paul and his teacher Mrs. Baxter as they learn about the protocol of offering tobacco. 

In Siha Tooskin Knows the Love of the Dance, Paul has invited his friend, Jeff, to his first-ever powwow! Follow along as Jeff learns all about the dances and their beautiful traditions.

Order all eight books as a set and save! Look for the red box labelled Siha Tooskin Knows Bundle on any book page in the series! 

Find related activities for both families and school communities in the free education guide.

Mothers of Xsan Series

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Written by: Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Huson)
Illustrated by: Natasha Donovan
Ages: 9 to 11

Themes: life cycles, ecosystems, sustainability, food webs, Gitxsan culture

Perfect gift for: nature and science lovers, kids interested in Gitxsan culture and language

The Mothers of Xsan series brings science to life with lavish illustrations and lyrical language. Interwoven with traditional Gitxsan formline art and language, these stories bring the poetry of the Xsan river valley ecosystem into your home. 

Follow each Mother as she teaches her young what they need to survive. 

The Sockeye Mother explores the life cycle of a sockeye salmon. 

The Grizzly Mother follows a mother bear and her two cubs from birth to adulthood.

The Eagle Mother shows how bald eagles enrich their entire ecosystem.

The Frog Mother  looks at the life cycle of Columbia spotted frogs.

The Wolf Mother follows a young grey wolf as she grows from a pup to the leader of a pack.

Order the books here.

Pīsim Finds Her Miskanaw (The Six Seasons of the Asiniskaw Īthiniwak, Bk. 1)

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Written by: William Dumas
Illustrated by: Leonard Paul
Ages: 9 to 12

Themes: coming of age, Rocky Cree culture, rites of passage, occupations and careers

Perfect gift for: history lovers, kids interested in Cree culture, Manitoba classrooms

Out of an important archaeological discovery comes this unique story about a week in the life of Pīsim, a young Cree woman who lived in the mid-1600s. In the story, created by renowned storyteller William Dumas, Pīsim begins to recognize her miskanaw—the path for her life—and to develop her gifts for fulfilling that path. Brought to life by the rich imagery of Mi’kmaw artist Leonard Paul, the story is accompanied by sidebars on Rocky Cree language and culture, archaeology and history, maps, songs, and more.

Order your copy here. 

Find related activities for kids in the free teacher guide and accompanying iOS app, which includes a Cree narration of the story read by an Elder.

Keep an eye out for The Gift of the Little People, a companion series coming in early 2022! To save his people from certain death, âhâsiw must overcome doubt to follow the traditional teachings of the Asinikaw Īthiniwak and trust in the gift of the Little People. You can pre-order it here.

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Books for Teens (Ages 12–18)

A Girl Called Echo Series

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Written by: Katherena Vermette
Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson
Colour by: Donovan Yaciuk
Ages: 12 to 14

Themes: resistance, empowerment, identity, intergenerational trauma, history, racism, colonialism, social justice, strong female character, family, legacy, coming of age

Perfect gift for: history buffs, comic readers, tweens, people interested in Métis history and culture, young adults

Métis teenager Echo Desjardins is struggling to adjust to a new school and a new home while in foster care. When an ordinary day in history class turns extraordinary, Echo’s life will never be the same. Follow Echo as she experiences pivotal events from Métis history, gains new perspectives about where she came from, and imagines what the future might hold.

In Pemmican Wars, Echo finds herself transported to another time and place—a bison hunt on the Saskatchewan prairie. She visits a Métis camp, travels the old fur-trade routes, and experiences the perilous and bygone era of the Pemmican Wars.

In Red River Resistance, Echo is transported to the banks of the Red River in the summer of 1869. All is not well in the territory, as Canadian surveyors have arrived and Métis families, who have lived there for generations, are losing access to their land. As the Resistance takes hold, Echo fears for her friends and the future of her people in the Red River Valley.

In Northwest Resistance, Echo travels to 1885. The bison are gone, settlers from the East are arriving daily, and the Métis and First Nations of the Northwest face hunger and uncertainty as their traditional way of life is threatened. The Canadian government has ignored their petitions, but hope rises when Louis Riel returns to help. 

In Road Allowance Era, Echo’s story picks up again as she travels back in time to 1885. As new legislation corrodes Métis land rights, many Métis settle on road allowances and railway land. Burnt out of their home in Ste. Madeleine, Echo’s family makes their way to Rooster Town, a shanty community on the southwest edges of Winnipeg. In this final instalment of her story, Echo is reminded of the strength and resilience of her people, forged through the loss and pain of the past, as she faces a triumphant future.

Explore each book in the series here.

I Will See You Again

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Written & illustrated by: Lisa Boivin
Ages: 15 to 18 

Themes: grief, healing, Dene culture, familial love

Perfect gift for: art lovers, families experiencing grief, youth interested in Dene culture

Presenting “a fresh understanding of death and grief” (Publishers Weekly), this book is a breathtaking journey through art, loss, and love from interdisciplinary artist and bioethicist Lisa Boivin.

When the author learns of the death of her brother overseas, she embarks on a journey to bring him home. Through memories and dreams of all they shared together, and through her Dene traditions, she finds comfort and strength. 

Find related activities and lesson plans in the free reader’s guide for teachers and families. 

Get your copy of this poignant book in time for the holidays.

Surviving the City Series

SurvivingTheCity

Written by: Tasha Spillett
Illustrated by: Natasha Donovan
Ages: 12 to 14

Themes: coming of age; friendship; identity; issues; gender roles; Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Two-Spirit People; young love; relationships; community; kinship; grief

Perfect gift for: tweens, young women, LGBTQ2S+ youth

A contemporary graphic novel series exploring the lives of two young women. Follow best friends Dez and Miikwan as they navigate the challenges of growing up Indigenous in an urban landscape.

In Surviving the City, Dez’s grandmother becomes too sick to care for her. With the threat of a group home looming, Dez can’t bring herself to go home and disappears. Miikwan is devastated, and the wound of her missing mother resurfaces. Will Dez’s community find her before it’s too late? Will Miikwan be able to cope if they don’t?

In From the Roots Up, Dez is grieving, living in a group home, and coming into her identity as a Two-Spirit person. Miikwan and Elder Geraldine don’t really understand what Dez is going through. Will Dez be comfortable expressing her full identity? And will her community relearn the teachings and overcome prejudice to celebrate her for who she is?

Find related activities and lesson plans in the teacher guide, which includes curriculum correlations and lesson plans for Ontario, British Columbia, and Manitoba. 

Order your copies here.

Sugar Falls: A Residential School Story

SugarFalls

Written by: David A. Robertson
Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson 
Colour by: Donovan Yaciuk
Ages: 14 to 18 

Themes: strength, family, social justice, healing from trauma, history 

Perfect for: older teens and adults interested in learning from residential school survivors 

Inspired by true events, this story of strength, family, and culture shares the awe-inspiring resilience of Elder Betty Ross.

Abandoned as a young child, Betsy is adopted into a loving family. A few short years later, at the age of 8, everything changes. Betsy is taken away to a residential school. There she is forced to endure abuse and indignity, but Betsy recalls the words her father spoke to her at Sugar Falls—words that give her the resilience, strength, and determination to survive.

Sugar Falls is based on the true story of Betty Ross, Elder from Cross Lake First Nation. This 10th-anniversary edition brings David A. Robertson’s national bestseller to life in full colour, with a foreword by Hon. Murray Sinclair, Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, and a touching afterword from Elder Betty Ross herself. 

Find related activities and lesson plans in the teacher guide.

Order your copy here.

The Reckoner Trilogy

TheReckonerTrilogy

Written by: David A. Robertson
Ages: 15 to 18

Themes: mental health and illness, coming of age, supernatural events, superhero origins

Perfect gift for: young adult superhero fans and mystery readers

Cole Harper is the hero Wounded Sky First Nation needs. In this page-turning trilogy, Cole and his friends must fight against the mysterious evils that threaten their community. 

In Strangers, Cole finds his home community in chaos: a series of shocking murders, a mysterious illness ravaging the residents, and reemerging questions about Cole’s role in the tragedy that drove him away 10 years ago. Will he find the answers in time to save his community?

In Monsters, a creature lurks in the shadows of Blackwood Forest, the health clinic is on lockdown by a mysterious organization, and long-held secrets threaten to bubble to the surface. Can Cole learn the truth about his father’s death?

In Ghosts, Cole Harper is dead. Reynold McCabe is alive and free. Mihko Laboratories has reopened the research facility and is working to weaponize the illness that plagued Wounded Sky. People are missing. The community has been quarantined. What deal did Eva strike with Choch? Who will defeat Reynold and Mihko? Time is running out.

With a brilliant portrayal of what it’s like to live with an anxiety disorder, this is a superhero origin story like nothing you’ve read before.

Order your copies here.

The Reckoner Rises

ReckonerRises

Written by: David A. Robertson
Illustrated by: Scott B. Henderson
Colour by: Donovan Yaciuk
Ages: 15 to 18

Themes: mental health and illness, coming of age, justice, determination, courage

Perfect gift for: superhero fans, comic book readers, mystery lovers, teens

Acclaimed writer David A. Robertson delivers suspense, adventure, and humour in this stunningly illustrated graphic novel continuation of The Reckoner trilogy.

In Breakdown, Cole and Eva arrive in Winnipeg, the headquarters of Mihko Laboratories. They are intent on destroying the company once and for all, but their plans are thwarted when a new threat surfaces. When Cole becomes mired in terrifying visions, Eva must harness her newly discovered powers to investigate Mihko without him. Are Cole’s visions just troubled dreams or are they leading him to a horrible truth?

Watch for the second volume, Version Control, coming in 2022.

Order the first volume here.

This Place: 150 Years Retold

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Foreword by: Alicia Elliott

Written by: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Sonny Assu, Brandon Mitchell, Rachel and Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley, David A. Robertson, Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, Jen Storm, Richard Van Camp,Katherena Vermette, Chelsea Vowel

Illustrated by: Tara Audibert, Kyle Charles, GMB Chomichuk, Natasha Donovan, Scott B. Henderson, Ryan Howe, Andrew Lodwick, Jen Storm

Colour by: Scott A. Ford, Donovan Yaciuk

Ages: 15 to 18 

Themes: resistance, empowerment, activism, social justice, colonialism, culture and traditions, racism

Perfect gift for: graphic novel readers, comic lovers, history buffs

This Place: 150 Years Retold is a groundbreaking graphic novel anthology that re-frames Canada’s history, present, and future through the perspectives of Indigenous writers. Through the anthology’s 10 beautifully illustrated stories, readers will encounter Indigenous wonderworks, psychic battles, and even time travel.

Gain a new perspective on the past 150 years—and beyond—by ordering your copy today.

Find related activities and lesson plans in the accompanying teacher guide,  revised to include an all-new lesson for teaching with the This Place podcast!

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Books for Adults

Perception: A Photo Series

Perception

Photo Series Created by: KC Adams
Foreword by: Katherena Vermette
Critical Essay by: Cathy Mattes

Themes: social justice, empowerment, stereotypes, bias, identity

Perfect gift for: art lovers, coffee-table book readers, teens and adults interested in social justice 

From award-winning artist KC Adams comes a mash-up of social action art and flash biography that compels readers to look, then look again.

After a racist, high-profile social media post surfaced in artist KC Adams’s home city, she decided to challenge people to “look, then look again” at Indigenous people in Winnipeg. This brilliant collection of portraits was first displayed on billboards, buildings, and bus shelters around the city. Each image aims to replace dehumanizing assumptions with positive truths about the subjects’ identities.

Get the book in time for the holidays.

Find related activities and lesson plans in the free teacher guide.

Spíləx̣m: A Weaving of Recovery, Resilience, and Resurgence

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Written by: Nicola I. Campbell

Themes: strength, transformation, resilience, the power of stories and creative works, overcoming adversity, traditional perspectives of healing, mental health

Perfect gift for: poetry lovers, memoir readers, people interested in Indigenous languages and cultures in British Columbia

If the hurt and grief we carry is a woven blanket, it is time to weave ourselves anew.

In the Nłeʔkepmxcín language, spíləx̣m are remembered stories, often shared over tea in the quiet hours between Elders. Rooted within the British Columbia landscape, and with an almost tactile representation of being on the land and water, Spíləx̣m explores resilience, reconnection, and narrative memory through stories.

Captivating and deeply moving, this story basket of memories tells one Indigenous woman’s journey of overcoming adversity and colonial trauma to find strength through creative works and traditional perspectives of healing, transformation, and resurgence.

Order your copy here.

The Stone Collection

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Written by: Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm

Themes: Anishinaabe culture and experiences, love, lust, mental health, survival, illness

Perfect gift for: Teenagers and adults, people interested in Anishinaabe cultures and experiences

In The Stone Collection’s 14 unique stories, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm takes on complex and dangerous emotions, exploring the gamut of modern Anishinaabe experience. Through unforgettable characters, these stories—about love and lust, mental illness and survival, illness and wholeness—illuminate the strange workings of the human heart.

The Stone Collection is also available as an audiobook and is narrated by the author. Order it here.

The Evolution of Alice (Reissued Edition)

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Written by: David A. Robertson
Foreword by: Shelagh Rogers

Themes: community, grief, healing, friendship, loss of a child

Perfect gift for: readers of women’s fiction, short story lovers

Peopled with unforgettable characters and told from multiple points of view, this is a novel where spirits are alive, forgiveness is possible, and love is the only thing that matters.

Alice is a single mother raising her three young daughters on the rez where she grew up. Life has never been easy, but she’s managed to get by with the support of her best friend, Gideon, and her family. When an unthinkable loss occurs, Alice is forced to confront truths that will challenge her belief in herself and the world she thought she knew.

The Evolution of Alice is the kaleidoscopic story of one woman’s place within the web of community.

Reissued with a new story by David A. Robertson and foreword by Shelagh Rogers! 

Get your copy of the new edition today.

One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion

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Written by: Shelley Moore

Topics: inclusion, inclusive education, bias, differentiation, diversity, universal design for learning

Perfect gift for: teachers, educational assistants, school administrators, aspiring educators, special ed teachers, resource teachers, parents of children with disabilities

In One Without the Other: Stories of Unity Through Diversity and Inclusion, Shelley Moore explores the changing landscape of inclusive education. 

Presented through real stories from her own classroom experience, this passionate and creative educator tackles such things as inclusion as a philosophy and practice, the difference between integration and inclusion, and how inclusion can work with a variety of students and abilities. Explorations of differentiation, the role of special education teachers and others, and universal design for learning all illustrate the evolving discussion on special education and teaching to all learners.

Get this book for the teacher on your list. Or for yourself, get the audiobook that is narrated by the author.

Catch a Fire: Fuelling Inquiry and Passion Through Project-Based Learning

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Written by: Theresa Armstrong, Dr. Eva Brown, Will Burton, Jonathan Dueck, Bonnie Ferguson-Baird, Keith Fulford, Tom Lake, Dave Law, Glenys MacLeod, Jacob Mans, Bonnie Powers, Laura Sims, Sid Williamson, and Alex Wilson

Foreword by: Brian O'Leary

Edited by: Matt Henderson

Topics: project-based learning, inquiry, collaboration

Perfect gift for: teachers, educational assistants, school administrators, aspiring educators, parents who are homeschooling

Catch a Fire: Fuelling Inquiry and Passion Through Project-Based Learning will inspire, challenge, and engage you—and transform your teaching and learning.

Each chapter in this book is written by a different educator or team about their experiences with project-based learning, both in and out of the classroom. They reflect not only on the how of project-based learning, but more importantly, on the what and the why. They offer insight into how connecting with learners, honouring their experiences, and promoting deep and rich questioning can be the path to powerful projects and learning. Their writing and thinking is saturated with empathy, expertise, a desire to improve their practice, and an acknowledgment of the need to collaborate.

Get your copy in time for the holidays.

Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses: A Unique Approach to Literature Circles (2nd Edition)

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Written by: Faye Brownlie

Topics: literacy, literature circles, choosing books for students, teaching strategies for reading and writing

Perfect gift for: teachers, educational assistants, school administrators, aspiring educators, reading tutors, parents who are homeschooling

Faye Brownlie’s Say Something strategy will encourage your students to have not only grand conversations, but also thoughtful responses.

Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses is built upon the premise that all students can become active, independent, thoughtful readers. The structures and strategies in this book are proven to help students develop confidence and competence in their reading. Student engagement with text soars through participation in grand conversations with peers and reflecting on reading with thoughtful, written responses. This unique approach includes:

  • student choice in books
  • students reading at their own pace, thus creating flexible groups
  • literature circles where students discuss the shared text they are reading
  • strategies for teaching written response
  • strategies for co-creating assessment criteria
  • additional activities to develop and deepen comprehension
  • book lists

Find Grand Conversations, Thoughtful Responses here.

Potlatch as Pedagogy: Learning Through Ceremony

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Written by: Sara Florence Davidson & Robert Davidson

Topics: Haida people and traditions, contemporary educational practices, holistic learning models 

Perfect for: teachers, aspiring educators, those interested in Haida culture and traditions 

Banned for 67 years by the Canadian government, the potlatch—the foundational ceremony of the Haida people—determined social structure, transmitted cultural knowledge, and redistributed wealth. When these public ceremonies were revived in 1969 by the Elders who collectively remembered the historical ways, the potlatch was embraced by a new generation, who reclaimed practices that had almost been lost forever. 

Sara Florence Davidson, an educator, saw how these traditions, learned from her father, renowned artist Robert Davidson, could be integrated into contemporary educational practices. In this book, father and daughter present a model for learning that is holistic, relational, practical, and continuous.

Get a copy for the teachers on your list.

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Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out our catalogues for more ideas, as well as information about grade and reading level for each book.

Portage & Main Press catalogue (books for teachers and educators)

HighWater Press catalogue (books by Indigenous authors for kids, teens, and adults)