When P’eska wakes up to the First Salmon Ceremony, he sees that the ceremonial tray has been left behind. From Canadian author and illustrator, Scot Ritchie, comes a pleasant tale about a lesser-known First Nations people. In P’eska and the First Salmon Ceremony, readers will learn about the Sts’Ailes people, who have lived on the Harrison River in British Columbia, Canada, for centuries. While I found myself wishing the story had been set in modern times instead of 1000 years ago, I appreciated the inviting illustrations and the educational text.
Woven into a rudimentary plotline is a lot of interesting information about the Sts’Ailes people. As P’eska makes his way with the ceremonial tray to the chief, details are provided about the importance of salmon, cedar, and everything in the forest and river to the Sts’Ailes people. The ceremony is the way the people say thank you to the river for all the salmon it brings. Cedar can be used to make canoes, something P’eska will do when he is an adult. In the woods are found blueberries, one of P’eska’s favorite snacks. Many of these details seem less about trying to entertain and more about providing facts, but the story also has enough of a framework to make it more engaging than a straightforward reference.
The illustrations are created with brush strokes and short-loosely drawn pen lines. Combined with a brown and green palette, the artwork contains warmth. Of special interest is the fact that on every page is a wooly dog. The back pages refer to a white woolly dog native to this area of North America that is now extinct. The Sts’ailes used the fur of these dogs in blankets and clothing. Not only will young readers appreciate the inclusion of a dog, but to me this suggests much attention was given to creating accurate visuals.
My main criticism lies in the historical setting of P’eska and the First Salmon Ceremony. From my research, it seems that many Indigenous groups still hold this special ceremony. If so, why place this tale in the past? It seems unnecessarily misleading, suggesting that such events no longer happen. Also, given the abundance of stories which already exist about ancient times, it seems the best way to educate our young people about the ways of the First Nations people is to show their current world.
I couldn’t find any information about Scot Ritchie’s background. However, his details about the First Salmon Ceremony seem accurate. Also, it speaks volumes that a chief of the Sts’Ailes People expressed pleasure in seeing P’eska and the First Salmon Ceremony. Despite minor complaints, I recommend this picture book as a good initial introduction to a lesser-known First Nations.
My rating? Read it: Borrow from your library or a friend. It’s worth your time.
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