Cape Breton storytelling book free to all Mi’kmaw schools
At the annual Mi’kmaw Symposium in Dartmouth, Laurianne Sylvester, director of the First Nation School Success Program—mi'kmaw Kina'matnewey (Mk)—unveiled the book called Great Cape Breton Storytelling to be used throughout the Mi’kmaw family of schools, on Cape Breton and away.
Published by Breton Books as a Canada 150 gift for all Cape Breton classrooms, Great Cape Breton Storytelling was created by publisher Ronald Caplan. It is a digital ebook to be downloaded free of charge by every teacher and student in the Mi’kmaw school system.
“The dream,” says Caplan, “is that Cape Breton teachers will want to use this book as an addition to the regular curriculum. It brings more Cape Breton stories into the classroom. And as an ebook each student can keep the book as their own, to read it anywhere they want on their computer or phone—for schoolwork and for pleasure.”
On video, Ron Caplan introduced Great Cape Breton Storytelling to all Mi’kmaw schools. Caplan read several Mi’kmaw tales as well.
Great Cape Breton Storytelling includes a generous batch of stories from the Mi’kmaw culture—stories told by Rita Joe and Max Basque and Noel Morris, and many others. And an added feature of the ebook is that there is a link at the end of every story that carries the reader on into Cape Breton’s Magazine online.
“A student can read Max Basque telling about the Mi’kmaw storytelling tradition in his childhood home. That’s a good story in itself. But if she touches the link at the end of that story, she will be taken immediately to another twenty pages of Max Basque telling much more about his life, about growing up in various Nova Scotia communities as his father pursued opportunities for work, and his adventures all over the globe in the Second World War. That’s how he told it in Cape Breton’s Magazine, and that’s where the link takes the reader.”
There’s the wonderful story of how Noel Morris beat the Devil in a dance contest in his kitchen. Frank Doucette tells about Mi’kmaw ruggedness and then, at the end of the story, touch the link and the reader is taken to that same story told in the Mi’kmaw language in Cape Breton’s Magazine online. Lee Cremo tells about his father, Simon, who was an itinerate fiddler, selling tunes from doorto-door.
A tribute to Cape Breton tradition, Great Cape Breton Storytelling is a collection of 56 stories. Besides the Mi’kmaw, the book gives examples of the extraordinary diversity of Cape Breton Island. There are folk tales and life stories rooted in the experiences of the island’s Polish, Croatian, Pakistani, Czech, Ukrainian, Jewish, Black and Lebanese communities, as well as the Acadian and Scottish traditions. Caplan adds: “But most of the book is good old Cape Breton storytelling such as ‘But we went out after mackerel...!’ and ‘Fighting the Bear and ‘Mine Rescue Team Memories’ and ‘The Drunken Hens’—stories that belong to us all.”
While free to all students and teachers in the Cape Breton schools, 56 of the stories in Great Cape Breton Storytelling are also available in paperback, distributed throughout Cape Breton and across Canada. It is also available online at www.capebretonbooks.com.
The late Mi'kmaw writer Rita Joe is featured in Caplan's collection of Cape Breton stories, along with several other First Nations authors.