“You’re going to learn a lot about … through the Cree World interview and learning the colors of values,” Flett said.
Jane Newland, an Associate Professor of French at Wilfrid Loire University in Waterloo, Ontario, working on an article about Felt, said, “I absolutely love Julie’s work. It’s the foreground of Nangai languages, indigenous languages . ” Millet’s alphabet book, “Owls See Clearly at Night,” “throws the English alphabet into chaos,” adding entries like the Northern Lights to a letter of the Michif alphabet. (C, if you’re wondering.)
It is a deliberate process to disrupt Western, non-Indigenous perspectives and provide an alternative worldview, not only to children, but also to caregivers who are reading books aloud.
Heather Jessup, assistant professor of creative writing at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said, “The more diversity we can bring to children through literature, the more they see that they are not their own.”
Flett’s books are rooted in real natural landscapes like the prairie of Canada. Plants and animals are those that live in those areas. Characters are definitely associated with the natural world – they are familiar with when birds migrate and frogs emerge in spring. When they take blueberries, they leave something for the birds.
“You’re going to read, whether you recognize it or not, indigenous values when you’re reading our books,” said Flett. “They are reciprocity, generosity, honorable harvest.”
Groups are needed as we have diversified books and accounts such as The Kinsius Kid’s push for diversity and inclusion on children’s bookshelves and promote stories written and illustrated by Blacks and Indigenous people and others of color. According to data compiled by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, only 46 of the 4,035 books for children and teens reviewed in 2019 were by Indigenous authors.
The wider publishing market has begun to react, including literature giant Harper Collins Children’s Books, which announced Hunterdem, an imprint focused on native stories that will launch this winter.
“I can’t think of anything more hopeful than working with children, but I also feel responsible and privileged to be able to do so,” said Flett. He said that over the years his work has been a measure of financial stability, and he previously did two or three works in his book work.
‘Our voices should be on the table’
Felt did his work in the larger context of advocating for full recognition and inclusion of indigenous people in all fields.
He said, “Our voices need to be put on the table, the owners of our land, our teachers, our storytellers, our artists. Our leaders and caretakers.” “At this point, it’s just so important … important for future generations, for our planet.”