U of M assistant professor launches children’s book

Cree language skills are embedded in a fun story for children in a U of M assistant professor’s new book.

Dallas Hunt, who teaches in the faculty of arts, held the official launch and live reading of his children’s book, Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock, Jan. 22 at the Migizii Agamik foyer.

Awâsis and the World-Famous Bannock tells the story of a young Cree girl, Awâsis.

When Awâsis loses her kôhkum’s (Cree word for “grandmother”) freshly-baked pahkwêsikan, or bannock — a type of fry bread — she was supposed to deliver to a relative, she is faced with the task of finding fresh pahkwêsikan.

Thrown into an adventure, she seeks the help of animal relatives — including sîsîp (“duck”), wâpos (“rabbit”) and maskwa (“bear”) — all of which she meets along the way.

The story was based on an experience Hunt had on a trip from Vancouver to Edmonton. Hunt and his then-partner came across a sign in the Shuswap area that read “Bannock,” but after searching, neither could find the place advertised.

“We tried to find it and we couldn’t find it anywhere,” he said. “We must have drove around for 25, 30 minutes and never found it.”

“It was a lot of fun when we were trying to find it, it got ridiculous […] and so I was like ‘Well, that might be a kid’s book one day,’ and sure enough.”

The book includes a pronunciation guide for the Cree words used in the book and a bannock recipe.

“It teaches and that’s one of the primary functions, I think,” Hunt said.

“It’s targeted toward young kids and it’s really to naturalize or normalize the Cree language at a very early age.”

Hunt said the story, and the educational content within it, was written for children from all walks of life.

“It’s for Cree children specifically [and] other Indigenous children,” he said.

“But I also think that there are other ideas in the text that I think will be applicable to non-Indigenous children as well.”