Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Joseph A. Dandurand's Please Do Not Touch the Indians

[Note: This review used by permission of its author. It may not be published elsewhere without written permission of the author.]


Dandurand, Joseph A. (Kwantlen), Please Do Not Touch the Indians. Renegade Planets, 2004. 55 pages, grades 7-up

There’s a moment between sleeping and wakefulness that we’ve all experienced: a moment of transformation that may manifest itself as a falling tree, or a visit from a long-dead relative, or rain on the roof, or a memory too horrible to speak of; a moment of transformation in which time is timeless and reality is surreal.

Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman sit on a bench in front of Hank Williams Sr.’s Bait and Gift Shop. Visited by Sister Coyote, Brother Raven and Mr. Wolf, Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman exchange stories that weave forward, back and around, the way good stories do. Stories about a kind-hearted woman who wouldn’t hurt a fly and a two-headed baby in a jar, a boat full of fish and a salmon who seeks to seduce a raven, a grandma besieged by prankster grandchildren and a life bet for one ugly horse. And the Tourists who think that Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman are as they appear to be.

As Tourist transforms into a movie director shouting orders—“Let’s get some close-ups of those bleeding scalps. I want them to drip and drip…I want to see the children and the women screaming and crying.”— Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman tell the lives of Indian people, speak their truths to power. Bitter, painful memories of all the indignities, large and small, heaped upon the people over the generations. And the children, slaughtered on the “battlefield,” the survivors raped and abused at residential school, left to the ravages of alcoholism and suicide. Now the children—Sister Coyote, Brother Raven and Mr. Wolf—jump and transform themselves into the sacred Beings they are. And Wooden Indian Man comforts Wooden Indian Woman:

Rest now. We will come back tomorrow and see what spirits come to visit us. Go to sleep, my love. Sleep and dream of days like this. Days filled with wonderful and alive spirits that play and sing, forever…

—Beverly Slapin

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