Manitoba

A colourful take on learning: Author hopes to help kids understand Indigenous cultures through colouring books

For the better part of two decades, Calgary's Diana Frost worked as an engineer, surrounded in a world of numbers. But now, the Algonquin francophone is hoping to help pass on what she's learned about Indigenous culture through a series of colouring books.

Colouring It Forward books explore Ojibway, Dene, Cree and Blackfoot cultures

Diana Frost created four editions Colouring It Forward, a series of colouring books that aim to help kids learn about different Indigenous cultures. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

For the better part of two decades, Calgary's Diana Frost worked as an engineer, surrounded in a world of numbers. But now, the Algonquin francophone is hoping to help pass on what she's learned about Indigenous culture through a series of colouring books.

"With all the technology around, the youth aren't spending as much time with the elders as they used to," said Frost, the author of Colouring it Forward — which is both the name of her series of colouring books, and a not-for-profit social enterprise she's created.

"Having a colouring book, which is very popular these days, allows the youth to learn on their own a little bit."

Frost has actually written and complied four different colouring books — one each focused on Ojibway, Dene, Cree and Blackfoot culture. All four are available in French and English versions, in an effort to make the content more accessible to all Canadians.

"I just feel that if you if you can offer books in different languages it gives people a window into the culture," she said.

Colouring It Forward is a set of four different colouring books that teach kids about Cree, Ojibway, Blackfoot and Dene culture. (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

Frost is hoping to draw some attention to the colouring books with a booth set up at the RBC Convention Centre in Winnipeg this weekend as part of the Manito Ahbee Festival, which celebrates Indigenous culture and art.

Learning from elders

She spent years learning from Indigenous elders to compile information, then simplified it as best she could in books that kids could read.

"I've learned from Blackfoot elders and Cree elders and Dene elders, and I feel like there are some transferable things in the teachings … respect, honour, sharing back with your community," said Frost.

It was a big learning experience, she said, "to sit down with them and and really just listen to them and soak in all of that wisdom, and then together to produce something beautiful."

Frost says the colouring books are a way for kids to learn, and 'to look at the art, but also make it their own art, and to feel proud of their own artwork.' (Ahmar Khan/CBC)

It wasn't until her mid-20s that Frost began to learn her own culture, which her mother didn't know because she had been forced to attend a residential school.

"I never had the opportunity to learn my culture through her and it's been very difficult for me to learn the positive teachings," said Frost.

"I want to help other people, including children, to be able to learn positive teachings from elders from different nations more easily and in a fun way."

For Frost, her culture is full of beautiful art which encompasses a wide range of vibrant colours — and nothing beats customizing art to your liking through something like a colouring book, she says.

"It's a way for them to look at the art, but also make it their own art, and to feel proud of their own artwork — proud that they learn the culture, read the stories and learn the teachings."

She also hopes her books will be a shining light in efforts toward reconciliation.

"If people don't learn the positive teachings, I don't know if we'll get to reconciliation, because a lot of people are learning the negative things that are happening and have happened in the past," she said.

At the end of the day, while the books aren't created only for Indigenous people, according to Frost, her main goal is to help bridge the gap in society and open minds.

"I think if both sides learn something positive about the culture then they all of a sudden have something to talk about — they have something to be proud about," she said.

"When I meet them, it'll make them feel happier if I can greet them or I know a little bit about their culture, and we have something we can talk about."

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