When author Sara Florence Davidson was growing up, much of her love for storytelling was inspired by her father, famed sculptor and artist Robert Davidson.
“It’s a beautiful kind of ongoing contribution from both my parents to my passion for literacy, for stories to read, to write,” Sara said in an interview with Windspeaker.com. “I have this kind of love of reading that comes from my mother. And my love of stories comes from my father, who shares more of his stories orally.
Enter Returning to the Yakoun River and Dancing With Our Ancestors, written by Sara and Robert.
The books are the third and fourth books in the Sk’ad’a Stories series via HighWater Press, aimed at elementary school for six- to eight-year-olds in grades 1-3. both released in September 2021, are the first two books in the series.
All four books strongly emphasize the Sk’ad’a principles of Haida culture.
“They were living principles based on the stories my dad shared with me,” Sara said. “So I would think of these as a kind of pedagogical principles. And when we think of sharing Indigenous knowledge, we think of different kinds of principles.
Sara and her father had previously worked together on the book, Potlatch as Pedagogy, which also emphasized Sk’ad’a principles.
Returning to the Yakoun River is about a Haida girl and her family who travel up the Yakoun River on Haida Gwaii each summer after salmon. While the father fishes, the daughter and her brother spend their time on land playing and learning from Tsini, their grandfather.
Dancing with our ancestors speaks of a potlatch. Guests from all over come to witness a “bittersweet but joyous celebration of Haida culture and community.”
Sara hopes the books will have a lasting impact on her readers.
“I think my brother’s children are able to read these books and have a connection with [the stories]. And that for me is really important. It’s important for me to have knowledge and to keep passing it on,” said Sara. “It’s also really important to have stories, other kinds of stories about Indigenous people than just responding to some of the coverage we get in the media.
Sara talks about the “thread of intergenerational learning” she explores in the series.
“As I was kind of thinking about the possibility of four books, I started thinking about what would happen if we picked the stories that reflected my father at different stages of life?” she says. “And so in the second book he learns from his father and his grandfather, a son, and the third book he is a father sharing knowledge with my brother and myself and my cousin, who is a father , then in the last books, he shares his knowledge with his grandchildren.
Sara is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Education at Simon Fraser University.
“A lot of my work is about teaching and learning…how do we share knowledge? And so, what was great for me with [these books], knowledge transfer and learning,” she said. “And so an example is that my great-grandfather was teaching my father and so there was an intergenerational sharing of knowledge that was happening on the earth. And my father was learning on the job.
Sara Florence Davidson’s research interests focus on transforming “current teaching and research practices to be more respectful and inclusive of Indigenous contributions, particularly in the field of English-language arts,” it reads. in his SFU biography.
“It took me time to realize that education was really a passion for me. And so I think in the stories, my desire to explore the impact of storytelling as a form of teaching really influenced how those stories worked,” she said. “As an educator, it’s so exciting to be able to be immersed in different ways of learning and sharing knowledge and to be able to document those experiences in the moment.”
All four books in the Sk’ad’a Stories series are available now from HighWater Press and many major retailers.
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