By Roche Sappier
Yes, it is my first book. I am however, writing and illustrating a series of new books based on the success of my first.
My Writing Background
I started writing in High School when I was the editor, writer and illustrator of the very first Aboriginal Community Newspaper/newsletter in the province of New Brunswick. It was called “NewSound News” and we were based at the Tobique First Nation, funded by the Secretary of State for three years running (From Grade 10-Graduation,1970-72). I employed five other high school students to report on items of interest, cultural, sports and news events on a weekly basis. I also contributed poetry and articles for our high school newsletter called “The Green & Gold.”)
At eighteen, I became the first editor, writer and illustrator for the very first Aboriginal Newspaper in Atlantic Canada called “The Augnutemagen” (The Language in Maliseet) which was created and funded by the Union of New Brunswick Indians, which at the time was the main Aboriginal political organisation.
At 22, I became the Communications Officer for the “Aboriginal Crime & Justice Commission” based in Ottawa and funded by the Solicitor General of Canada. For two years we travelled across Canada visiting 26 Federal Prisons and interviewing over 1000 Aboriginal inmates before writing and presenting our findings to the Federal Government. It was my first job at doing technical writing for the federal government.
I went back to College at 24 to an all-Aboriginal College called Manitou in the province of Quebec. It was there I met many Aboriginal Elders and Storytellers who liked my writing and drawing style and it was there I began doing small scale full-coloured booklets on Aboriginal legends and stories from tribes such as the Montagnais, the Cree, the Mohawks and the Hurons.
I began serious writing again in 1997 when I started doing draft illustrations for Aboriginal Education Groups and Literacy Organizations. It was then I did the original works for The Glooscap Tales & The Legends of Red E.A.R.T.H. as drafts.
I returned to University and earned my BBA in 2010 and my BA in 2016, and worked on short term contracts writing for Aboriginal First Nations, organizations and education groups in New Brunswick. During this time, I wrote poetry, short stories, essays and two novels, as well as, research material and business plans for my companies.
The Premise of the Book
My grandfather, Dr. Peter Paul, or “White Pete” aka, was the very first Aboriginal person to be awarded an Honorary Doctorate from UNB for his work in history, archaeology, linguistics and research, as well as, his work with Harvard University and the Peabody Museum, taught us the Ancient History of the Maliseets. And through his renditions was able to give us an account of Aboriginal history that went far back into antiquity- perhaps even into the antediluvian epoch. He asserted that our history was tens of thousands of years old and that contemporary history books did not give a good accounting of our people, their achievements, technology, way of life, traditions, religion, ceremonies, where we really came from and who we really are. He maintained that our language is so old that at one time it was the language of commerce and trade with many other ancient cultures-including the Basque and the Norsemen. Our people, according to my Mo-Mo, (Grandfather in Maliseet) believed in the Great Spirit (Za-zeus) and in the brotherhood of Man. And he also taught us that to be truly Aboriginal all you had to be was a decent human being and to do unto others what you would have done to you. Friendship, loyalty and devotion served as a basis for Aboriginal culture many millennia ago. It was that friendship from Aboriginals which allowed for the survival of the European cultures since 1620 and augmented the proliferation of many peoples to this North American continent. Even after that, Aboriginal people are still portrayed in schools as mindless savages who live in the woods, are blood thirsty, backward, stupid, wage war continuously, and are foreigners who came across the “Bering Land Bridge” and are considered as those denizens whom God created to grub for food on the forest floor. Nothing could be farther from the truth according to Dr. Peter Paul, and he worked and devoted his whole life to change that perception. His stories and tales of long ago Aboriginal folklore and folk heroes were always inspirational, full of light and filled with magic and mysticism. And he told us all about our Aboriginal Culture right from our Spiritual Source and beginnings where there were gnomes, elves, sprites, fairies, little folk, giants in the earth, monsters, spirits, real elementals depicted, and real miracles happening. He painted glorious pictures of a time when we, as Aboriginal Peoples, were one with our creative spirit and one with all there is. And he related to us about a time (or golden era) when there really was true harmony with nature and with all of the flora and fauna and other living beings. My grandad knew that Aboriginals had forgotten this and so had the world. According to him a renaissance was in order and I wanted to be a part of that shifting paradigm.
My Motivation to Write the Book
FYI, I have been drawing and illustrating since I was six years old. I used my art as a way to cope with the pain and trauma of Indian Day School. I drew and wrote my first comic book of Thor and the Tales of Asgard when I was ten, and since then I have completed all kinds of projects at many different levels over the past fifty years or so, including oil & acrylic paintings (over 300 in all) of Glooscap, landscapes, seascapes, skyscapes and animals and Indian Art- but for the most part graphic novels and comic books of my heroes. My work sells and it is appealing because I take a very soft approach in re-introducing my culture to other cultures. In this way I make my work highly attractive by using bright colours and I use generic figures and symbols which are easy to understand by everyone. Also, I use my work as a literacy tool to encourage people to look at the beautiful illustrations and match the words in the stories and to make an extra effort to find out for their own interest what my work is all about and the message (s) contained therein. And basically, my work is to reintroduce my culture to the many other cultures in NB and the world in a more interesting way- devoid of politics, racism, stigma, dogma and ill feelings. My introduction to the written word was done hand in hand with art and that is, and has been, my approach right from the beginning. You cannot make friends with other peoples by taking an adversarial approach. In educating those who are willing to listen to you with their hearts and minds, it is essential for me to bring an olive branch and an Eagle Feather at the same time. I believe by being friendly and partnering up with those who are like minded will we succeed in changing some of the negative perceptions about Aboriginal people in this province and country. Since reconciliation there has been an enhanced interest in Aboriginal people, culture and traditions by the government and the public at large and I want to put my best cultural foot forward with my book. (s)
Why is “The Glooscap Tales & The Legends of Red E.A.R.T.H.” Important to Read.
First, it is the only book written and illustrated by an Aboriginal of New Brunswick about creation Myths and Legends that have been passed down from generation to generation, by word of mouth, going back thousands of years. Second, the book depicts Aboriginal people in a very good light and is highly educational. Third, the book is appealing to the young and elder alike and everyone in between and it is written in English, French and Maliseet. Fourth, the book is well done, is of high quality and is endorsed by the ex Lieutenant Governor, Graydon Nicholas who is a champion of Aboriginal/non-Aboriginal literacy and is currently the Chancellor of STU. Fifth, the book introduces material that had not been published previously. Sixth, the book is the first in a series of other beautiful books. Seventh, the book is included in the NB school curriculum for 2017-18. Eighth, the book will encourage people to emulate what I had done. Ninth, the book depicts a true Aboriginal perspective with regard to spirituality. Tenth, the book is priced fairly and is available online at Amazon.com and Indigo.com.
Nominations and Awards for My Book
FYI, I have won many awards and competitions for my work over the years especially in the art and illustration sector. Currently, my book is on the suggested reading list for “Indigenous Reads” (see website) across Canada. Also, my book was used as the template for Atlantic Canadian Aboriginal Culture by the University of Kiev, in Ukraine.
A Brief Passage from The Book
“The Land of the “Wabanaki” (or Red EARTH) as this is called, is the land nearest to the sunrise and to the “Eastern Gate” where the sun first touches the earth. This is where the name of “Wabanoag” or the “People of the Dawn” originates. These Eastern Woodland Tribes including the Mi’kmaqs, the Maliseet, the Penobscot and the Passamaquoddy dwell here and consider these lands holy and sacred”.Taken from the introduction: “Wabanaki Mythology & Legends of Creation -Glooscap and the Red E.A.R.T.H. Tales”. (Page iv)