'Owl of us Matter': Sask. author’s new book teaches children about Indigenous history

Natasha Halliwell with her book "Owl of Us Matter" outside of the First Nations University of Canada. (Luke Simard/CTV News Regina)

A University of Regina student has created a children’s book as a resource to teach kids about Indigenous history.

Natasha Halliwell wrote “Owl of Us Matter” as part of a school project, opting to replace humans with owls in the historical retelling.

“I do not like having labels like settlers and savages so I wanted to get rid of that,” said Halliwell. “I think that a way to do that was to get rid of the humans and bring in the owls.”

The book teaches children about the history of Treaty 7.

“There's a pretty dark history but it doesn't mean we all have to get angry about it,” said Halliwell. “We need to be able to learn to forgive and accept things in order to teach our young ones and get somewhere else in life.”

Halliwell admitted the process of going through the history was tough.

”When you're Indigenous and you hear about your ancestors it kind of gets you upset but then at the same time it leaves you hopeless and defeated because where are we now? What do you see out there?” said Halliwell.

Providing an educational tool for kids is important to Halliwell, as she said resources like her book were not widely available when she was a child.

“I think having something like this available, it gives you identity in yourself, and it gives you feelings of love and it doesn't reopen that scar,” said Halliwell.

Halliwell’s next goal is to get the book widely published, which can be a difficult process for some Indigenous authors.

Solomon Ratt, an associate professor at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUC), said large publishing companies often shy away from Indigenous writers.

“They're not interested in publishing First Nations authors because only a few people want to buy the books, there is no potential of making money out of this.” said Ratt.

Ratt added Indigenous authors should not shy away from trying to get published, due to the lack of publishers.

“Our stories tell our history, our experiences tell our history and this is why we have to make these stories available to our children or grandchildren,” said Ratt

“To be able to tell our stories and see where we come from because we are putting our stories out from our perspective, it really rather than colonial history perspective.”

Dr. Angelina Weenie, another associate professor at the FNUC, said Indigenous authors are a necessity, to help represent the community.

“For the longest time, other people wrote about us, wrote our stories and it's time for us to share perspectives or knowledge,” said Weenie.

The more Indigenous authors in the community, the more we can find these books in school systems.

Ratt hopes with increased Indigenous representation among authors, more books with an Indigenous perspective will be found in schools.

“It is so essential to have these in the public school systems because we have to create readers of our children,” said Ratt. “We have to be able to have these stories available to parents so they read them to their children.”

Halliwell is hoping her book teaches children about Indigenous history and forgiveness.

“Forgiveness for the ancestors, for all the newcomers, and then new ones,” said Halliwell.

Ratt said he plans to translate Halliwell’s book to Cree in the near future, to provide more books in Indigenous languages.