Some people like to imagine what type of car they would buy, designer clothes, upscale homes or places they would visit should they win the lottery. I have a list like that too except mine is for art. I would love to have my own collection one day and my dream has always included owning one of Dale Auger’s vivid and striking pieces.
Auger is one of the most talented and accomplished First Nations artists this country has produced and his works grace private collections of dignitaries and A-level celebrities like Brad Pitt and Anthony Quinn. He was also a playwright, comedian and held a Doctorate in Education. From what I’ve learned about his life he was also a devoted family man and passionate about learning.
No surprise that Dr. Auger penned and illustrated an award-winning picture book, Mwawka – Talks to the Loon: A Cree story for children (Paperback version, ISBN: 9781894974325, Heritage Press 2007). This tale is of the gifted Cree hunter Kaya who starts paying more attention to his own hype and soon loses his way. The elders and the loon spirit are there to help him find his way again. Kaya learns to respect the gifts his is given and to honour the world around him.
In today’s age where arrogance and overconfidence abound and are applauded and a desire to land your own reality TV show trumps doing the right thing, this is a mighty important lesson.
The stunning illustrations add to the impact of this lesson and create such a breathtaking visual reading experience that this book will become a treasured classic of any child’s library. You can feel Auger’s great ability as a storyteller through this tale and I think this book would make a beautiful gift for a beloved grandchild or treasured niece or nephew. (Side note: I have always found that children remember the lessons told in the traditional First Nations way more saliently, perhaps because the traditional storytelling often integrates people and nature and children tap into that visceral connection easier? I would love to hear any thoughts on this.)
This book also contains the Cree language interspersed with English within the text and a glossary of the Cree terms used in the book with their English translations and pronunciation guide. The language is beautiful and although I feel quite proficient, my husband has proactively banned me from telling anyone I can speak now speak Cree (crumbs!)
So while I may not be able to own an original Auger painting anytime soon, I somehow don’t feel short-changed….Mwakwa-Talks to the Loon will hold me over until my numbers come in.
Respect your gifts!
PS. One of my favourtie Auger paintings: