A University of Victoria student transformed his own experiences as a Nuu-chah-nulth child learning to sing and drum into a children’s picture book that celebrates Indigenous culture and identity.
Ren Wikinanish Louie, a member of the Ahousaht First Nation from Flores Island, British Columbia, is the author of Drum of the heart, now available for pre-order from Medicine Wheel Education, which publishes culturally authentic Indigenous books with lesson plans.
It tells the story of a boy, appropriately named Ren, who receives a drum from his mother and finds that thanks to the drum he is able to connect with his culture and gain self-confidence by singing traditional songs. Nuu-chah-nulth.
“The inspiration was to tell a story about Indigenous culture and identity that is not rooted in trauma,” Louie said, speaking on CBC. All points to the west.
Before writing it, he said he spoke to his grandmother who said it was a good story to share and then to his mother who reminded him to bring his emotions into the story so that other children can identify with it.
Ren’s feelings of nerves, shyness and growing confidence are woven into the story, as well as the idea that it takes a village to raise a child. The author says that many relatives helped him raise him and connect him to his Indigenous identity and he wanted to reflect that in this book.
“It is so beautiful to see a happy family of color sharing together these experiences rooted in culture, identity and pride,” he said.
Louie wants children who read it to be encouraged to explore their own culture and identity, and the book comes with a lesson plan for educators to help guide conversations in the classroom.
Heart drum can be pre-ordered online now and will be released early next year.
He is illustrated in color by Karlene Harvey, who is Tsilhqot’in and Syilx and grew up in the territories of the Semiahmoo and Kwantlen Nations.
All points to the west6:31Children’s book celebrating Nuu-chah-nulth culture set to hit stores soon