Story adapted from Cree legend aims to preserve culture

Judith Silverthorne adapted her children's book, Honouring the Buffalo, from an elder's telling of a Cree legend

Judith Silverthorne adapted her book, Honouring the Buffalo, from an elder's telling of a Cree legend

Author Judith Silverthorne reads to a group at the Indian Métis Christian Fellowship Centre in Regina during her book launch for Honouring the Buffalo. (Tory Gillis/CBC)

"The grandfather watched the herd pound across the prairie toward them," Author Judith Silverthorne reads aloud from her new book, Honouring the Buffalo. It's a Cree legend adapted from from an oral story from elder Ray Lavallee of Piapot First Nation. 

A room full of people gathered Saturday at the Indian Métis Christian Fellowship building in Regina to hear the story at Silverthorn's book launch. The words are enriched with artwork by Mike Keepness, projected on the wall behind her as she reads.

Silverthorne says it's an honour to bring Lavallee's words and his respect for the buffalo to the next generations. She's particularly excited about it reaching people who don't know much about the buffalo's history with Plains Cree people. She says it's important that people share the history of their culture, whatever their background. 

"Even for myself, our ancestors are getting older. A lot of them have passed on," Silverthorne said.

"They're gone. Everybody's getting older and the stories are going with them."

Silverthorne said it was somewhat intimidating to be tasked with making it into a book. She started with Lavallee's oral storytelling. 

"And then I had to figure out how to write it to capture exactly what he said," she explained. 

She said it was a relief when it was made into a book and Lavallee enjoyed her version. It's written in English with Cree translations in a simplified way aimed at appealing to kids.

"The idea is we want the youth to understand as well and to be able to know how wonderful the buffalo was." 

Silverthorne says the book is about preserving history and culture. It does that itself in adapting and publishing Lavallee's telling of the Cree legend.