Mi'kmaw artist receives $1K grant to make graphic novel about Mi'kmaw heroes

Riley Bernard believes Mi’kmaw folklore is not told enough, and he is doing his part to change that. The 27-year-old received a $1,000 grant from a provincial program to support Indigenous artists, for his proposal to make a graphic novel which tells the stories of Mi’kmaw legends, shamans and heroes. 

Graphic novel is about Mi'kmaw chiefs with superhuman abilities

Riley Bernard received a $1,000 grant to work on a graphic novel he hopes will spread the stories of Mi'kmaw legends. (Submitted by Riley Bernard)

Riley Bernard believes Mi'kmaw folklore is not told enough and he's doing his part to change that.

The 27-year-old has received a $1,000 grant from a provincial program to support Indigenous artists, for his proposal to make a graphic novel which tells the stories of Mi'kmaw legends, shamans and heroes. 

"It means so much to have that support and the interest," Bernard told Matt Rainnie on Mainstreet P.E.I., about receiving the grant.

"I was overcome with happiness, and joy and pride that I was given this opportunity."

Bernard was inspired to begin work on the graphic novel based on a 19th century book, Legends of the Micmacs, by a Canadian missionary at the time, Silas Tertius Rand. Rand retold the stories he heard from Mi'kmaw chiefs about their legends. 

"I've been reading some of them and I was thinking, how do I not make a comic book out of this," Bernard said.

Once a performer for Indigenous theatre group Mi'kmaq Legends, Bernard said he is grateful for the chance to reach a new audience with his graphic novel. 

"It's kind of hard to process really. I am just kind of enjoying myself right now and trying to make a story with these characters and hopefully people find it interesting," Bernard said.

"It's definitely going to capture people's imaginations, I'm sure."

Tales of superhuman legends

The stories in his novel are about chiefs and captains in Mi'kmaw villages, some of which had superpowers, Bernard said.

"They have this ability to harness power from both within them or outside of them. They can use that power to make themselves invulnerable to damage, super strong, some of them can go invisible," he said.

"It's basically just stories of survival. You go out to the woods and essentially your life is in danger constantly."

Working on the graphic novel has been very educational, Bernard said.

Riley Bernard's graphic novel tells the stories of how Mi'kmaw legends overcame challenges. (Submitted by Riley Bernard)

"Just looking back in the history and finding out all this stuff about the Mi'kmaw people is really awesome. It's almost eye opening as well. It's like this whole other world of history that nobody has ever really heard before, unless you grew up in Mi'kmaw communities."

Folklore is an important part of keeping a culture alive, and unfortunately, there hasn't been much about Mi'kmaw people, Bernard said. 

"Storytelling is a huge part of most cultures in the world. The bad thing is when those stories start to get lost. Nobody wants that to happen about their past," he said.

"There's not a lot of widespread storytelling for Mi'kmaw people."

Bernard hopes to complete his graphic novel in the near future.

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With files from Mainstreet P.E.I.