Aimée Craft's children's book Treaty Words offers an Indigenous perspective on treaties
Aimée Craft is an Anishinaabe Métis lawyer and author from Treaty 1 territory in Manitoba. She is an associate professor at University of Ottawa and a leading researcher on Indigenous law, treaties and water.
Treaty Words is a book for children ages 10 and up about the importance of understanding an Indigenous perspective on treaties. It looks at the first treaty, the one between the earth and the sky. A man sits with his granddaughter on a riverbank, to teach her the power of silence in nature — so that she might learn her standing in the world.
The book features illustrations by Luke Swinson, an Ontario artist with Anishinaabe roots.
Craft spoke with Shelagh Rogers about writing Treaty Words.
The properties of water
"Water has spirit. One of the things that water does for us is it holds memory. It also flows. We're dealing with different water and different memories all the time. Thinking about all of the life that water brings, it seems like the perfect location for an intergenerational sharing between people — activating ideas, thoughts and inspiration that's within the individual themselves, like the young girl in the book.
Water has spirit. One of the things that water does for us is it holds memory.
"I go to the water for inspiration and for thought. Indigenous people use waterways as the primary mode of communication and connection. I am using that as a metaphor, and connecting people and ideas through water is an important part of how to understand this story."
Me and my Mishomis
"What's great about this book — and I'm very deliberate about this — is the girl doesn't have a name. She is meant to be every person. My niece, she looked at me and she said, 'This is me and my Mishomis. We are the characters.'
"I smiled at her. And I said, 'You're right. That's your vision of this.'
What's great about this book — and I'm very deliberate about this — is the girl doesn't have a name.
"That's the vision that I would hope that every child could have, is that they can relate to someone in their life that has been able to give them what this grandfather is gifting to his granddaughter."
The sound of silence
"Silence is the space in which we can actually hear. Silence does a few things for us — it allows us to hear things beyond words, things that are non-human, but it also allows us the opportunity to think and to absorb. When I say absorb, it's not only what we've heard, it's actually going beyond the ideas. Part of the inspiration for the book was a long moment of silence that I spent on my own, by a lake on a spring day. The ice was breaking up, and the sun was beating down on this ice.
Silence is the space in which we can actually hear.
"I thought, 'Oh, what a beautiful place.' When it got a little bit warmer in the afternoon, I laid down on the rocks by the water, and that's when the breakup started to happen. You could hear all the sounds that are described in the book. It was like an orchestra."
Aimée Craft's comments have been edited for length and clarity.