Dallas Hunt on Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock
University of British Columbia professor Dallas Hunt's poetry, critical and creative writing is steeped in the Cree language. The Wapisewsipi (Swan River First Nation) writer's first children's book Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock, illustrated by Amanda Strong, is no exception.
It's a gentle story about a young girl taking her Kôhkum's (grandmother's) world-famous Bannock to a relative. But she has a little mishap along the way and turns to other-than-human relatives for assistance. There is a Cree word list in the back as well as a recipe for Kôhkum's world-famous bannock.
"People are pretty territorial or a little protective of their bannock recipes. I've had some people say, 'What do you mean there's milk in your bannock? That's some bougie kind of thing.' Then others say, 'I put raisins in my bannock.' I'm not of the raisins persuasion, personally.
"The recipe that's in the book is actually my Kôhkum's recipe. That's the one I'm most used to and that's the one I enjoy eating the most, but I'm open to any and all bannock. Unless it has raisins."
Building Cree language skills
"What's really important to me, or what drives the book, is actually the Cree itself. I wanted to make that accessible to the young people in my life. We've gone through a variety of different colonial mechanisms that have tried to essentially take our language away from us.
"What I wanted to show in the book is that while that is the case on the one hand, on the other hand our languages are still alive, they're still vibrant, they're still circulating and there are a lot of people in a variety of different communities actively working to revitalize our languages. I wanted to gesture to that, or at least open the door in terms of learning Cree."
Relationship with nature
"I wanted to have a story wherein the relationship between the main characters, in this case Awâsis and all of the animal characters, was a relationship that was really premised on notions of reciprocity. I wanted it to be a relationship that is about sharing and mutual understanding and care.
"Often when we think about the 'natural world' and the animals that inhabit it, we sometimes have a very extractive relationship to those beings, to the lands and waterways that house them. I wanted to really get away from this logic of pure extraction that sometimes facilitates a particular kind of violence, both very materially to the body of these creatures, but also symbolically. We don't really think about them as much as we should and we don't think of them as our relations."
Dallas Hunt's comments have been edited for length and clarity.