Two generations of a Nipissing First Nation family have teamed up to create their own children’s book, one that teaches understanding of Indigenous culture and individuals.
George Couchie, a retired police officer who teaches cultural awareness of Indigenous people through his company Redtail Hawk Training and Consulting, and granddaughter Grace, a Grade 11 student at St. Joseph-Scollard Hall Catholic Secondary School (SJSH) and resident of Sturgeon Falls, released Creation of the Spark this month.
The self-published book not only teaches lessons of empathy and inclusivity, but also passes on an Anishinaabe story of creation.
“How it was started, the Creator took a spark and put it in the sky – we call it grandfather sun – and from that spark, he put it inside of the earth to keep humans warm, and from that spark, he put it in everyone’s hearts,” says George. “Everybody carries a spark in life and if you’re very angry, that spark is very dim; but if you’re loving and caring, that spark is very bright. So, when we meet people, I always say you’re going to meet two people: the person that you can see and the person that you can’t see.”
A member of the Red-tailed Hawk Clan, George was often viewed through a surface-level lens growing up. Racist stereotypes depicting First Nations people could be found everywhere, from food packaging to Bugs Bunny cartoons, which made it difficult to have an appreciation for where he came from.
“When I was in school, I’d hear all the other kids talking about why they were proud of who they are,” he recounts. “The French have their language and their music, but when it would come to Indigenous people, I didn’t know why I should be proud of who I am because there was so much alcohol, there was so much violence in our community. It was really hard to see why you should be proud of that. So that book was about, how do we make those connections back into our community?”