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Video: Storytime! An elder reads us a bedtime story written by Anishinaabe youth

"This is my Tobacco" is an Anishinaabe story about traditional medicines and teachings aimed to help youth make healthy choices

A collaboration between Public Health Sudbury & Districts and Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre has produced a beautiful book that aims to educate young people and community about the traditional uses of sacred tobacco.

Called "This is my Tobacco", the story includes a word search, picture maze and glossary of words that can be used to translate parts of the story that are written in Anishinaabemowin, to English.

The content of the book — from illustrations to story — are attributed to the work of five creative young people: Anik Chartrand, Page Chartrand, Logan Daviau, Braeden Manitowabi-Peltier and Lilly-Anna Osawamick. The five youth were inspired to further efforts to educate young children about sacred tobacco after a poster and brochure campaign they designed and were featured in was very successful.

“Utilizing the wisdom and inspiration of Elders, these very creative Indigenous youth wrote and illustrated a children’s storybook that will benefit our entire community,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, the medical officer of health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts.

Elder Hilda Nadjiwon helped the young people by sharing traditional teachings.

Clearly, the kids have been listening. The book reflects the wisdom of the elders when the family visits the grandparents' house to ask for knowledge, as well as within the drawings. Original sketches were made by Page Chartrand who also worked on a painting that is featured early in the book in collaboration with Osawamick and Manitowabi-Peltier.

"It's very special and it's easy to read," Nadjiwon said. "I'm just so very proud of our youth that went ahead with so much enthusiasm. They were always willing to do their part. I really admire the young man that wrote the prayer in the language — Oh, wow!"

At the end of the story, there is a long prayer written in English on one page. On the other, the prayer is repeated in Anishinaabemowin. In the story, the grandmother responds to her grandchild Migizi's question about whether Indigenous people should share traditional knowledge with people who are not Indigenous by saying, it is important because, “we are all connected and part of the human family.”

Angela Recollet, executive director of Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre, said that the objective of the health centre aligns with the desired outcome of the book: to honour the continuum of the life cycle and to reflect positive outcomes that happen when Elders interact with youth.

“This project celebrates the work of this relationship honouring the teachings of our ancestors passed on through our generational paths," Recollet said. "We believe that everything is possible when working in a reciprocal respectful relationship."

The storybook is being distributed to schools, health centres and community partners throughout the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts. If anyone is interested in a copy, please contact Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705-522-9200 or Shkagamik-Kwe Health Centre at 705-675-1596.