The Next Chapter

Michael Hutchinson's Mighty Muskrats Mystery series reflects diversity within Indigenous communities

The Ottawa-based writer talks about writing a middle-grade book series that features mystery and discovery.
The Case of the Missing Auntie is a middle-grade book by Michael Hutchinson. (Second Story Press, @Mike_Hutchins0n/Twitter.com)
Listen3:44

Michael Hutchinson is a novelist and member of the Misipawistik Cree Nation. He currently lives in Ottawa and works at the Assembly of First Nations. 

He is the author of The Mighty Muskrats Mystery series about four cousins from the fictional Windy Lake First Nation who learn more about themselves and their Indigenous community in the books The Case of Windy Lake and The Case of the Missing Auntie.

Hutchinson spoke with The Next Chapter about writing the middle-grade book series — and why it was important to reflect the diversity of Indigenous perspectives and viewpoints. 

Origin stories

"The Mighty Muskrats are four young First Nation people who, in my humble opinion, represent a lot of young First Nation people. They're inquisitive, they're smart, they want to improve their community and they just want to live life to the fullest and experience what's out there.

Each book includes a mystery, but then there's also a secondary story that usually involves two poles of First Nation thinking

"The first book, The Case of Windy Lake, involves environmental protest versus economic development. It represents First Nation people fighting for their environment and First Nation people fighting for economic development. That's the conversation that is in the book.

"The second book, The Case of the Missing Auntie, sees Mighty Muskrats meet one young gentleman who is successful in the urban environment and one young gentleman who is being assimilated into a gang. Each book includes a mystery, but then there's also a secondary story that usually involves two poles of First Nation thinking."

What mystery holds

"Mysteries, for me, are always about an unfolding. It's always about a secret that has to come out. In writing to preteens,  I thought the mystery genre was a good way to get people in right at the beginning — and then to be able to pull them along as I'm unveiling information. 

"The idea is, of course, to inform Canadians that First Nation people have different ways of thinking. A lot of times we are seen as sort of monolithic in our thinking. The media often portrays us as either victims, activists, disturbers of the peace. Sometimes some of us are; many times we aren't.

The idea is, of course, to inform Canadians that First Nation people have different ways of thinking.

"First Nation people have different ways of thinking and whenever something comes up in the media in current events there are First Nation people on either side of the issue and thinking about an issue in different ways."

Michael Hutchinson's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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