Launch of Sagkeeng Legends (Sagkeeng Aadizookaanag): John C. Courchene’s Stories (Roseway Publishing).
John C. Courchene was born in Sagkeeng First Nation in 1914, where he attended the Fort Alexander Indian Residential School. Courchene’s time in the residential school was short; his brothers took John out so that he could help them cut wood in the bush. While this began John’s lifetime commitment to hard work, it also resulted in his “illiteracy” in the European sense of the word. In the ways of the forest and his native language, Anishanabemowin, however, John was far from illiterate.
Sagkeeng Legends is a testament to his cultural literacy and a monument in the face of eroding Indigenous language and culture caused by centuries of colonization. Originally recorded by John’s wife, Josephine Courchene, in the early 1980s and reprinted here in both English and Anishanabemowin by Craig Fontaine, the stories in Sagkeeng Legends represent two pebbles where a mountain of knowledge once stood. Nonetheless, this book is an important act of preserving and reintroducing Indigenous language and culture to a new generation.
Craig Fontaine is a researcher with the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre in Winnipeg. His home community is the Sagkeeng First Nation, Treaty One, where his grandfather John C. Courchene was born and raised and originally told these stories.