As author Sara Florence Davidson grew up, much of her love of storytelling was inspired by her father, renowned carver and artist Robert Davidson.
“It’s a beautiful way of both my parents’ continued contribution to my passion for reading and writing, for stories about reading and writing,” Sara said in an interview with Windspeaker.com. “I have that kind of love for reading that comes from my mother. And my love of stories comes from my father telling 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 HighWater Press’s Sk’ad’a Stories series, which is aimed at primary school children aged six to eight in Grades 1-3. Learning to Carve Argillite, and Jigging for Halibut With Tsinii, both out September 2021, are the first two books in the series.
The four books focus heavily on the Sk’ad’a principles of Haida culture.
“They were living principles based on the stories my father told me,” Sara said. “Well, I would look at that as a kind of pedagogical principle. And when we think of sharing indigenous knowledge, we think of the different types of principles.”
Sara and her father had previously worked together on the book Potlatch as Pedagogy, which also focused on 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 every summer to follow the salmon. While her father is fishing, the girl and her brother spend their time in the countryside, playing and learning from Tsini, her grandfather.
Dancing With Our Ancestors is about a potlatch. Guests come from around the world to witness a “bittersweet but joyful celebration of Haida culture and community.”
Sara hopes the books will have a lasting impact on their readers.
“I think of my brother’s children who can read these books and have connections with them [the stories]. And that’s really important to me. It’s important to me to have knowledge and pass it on,” says Sara. “It’s also really important to have stories, other types of stories about tribal peoples than just responding somewhat to the media coverage that we get.”
Sara speaks of the “thread of intergenerational learning” that she explores in the series.
“As I contemplated the possibility of four books, I started thinking what if we chose the stories that reflected my father at different stages of life?” she said. “And so in the second book he learns from his father and his grandfather a son and in the third book he is a father sharing the knowledge with my brother and me and my cousin who is a father and then in the last books, he shares his knowledge with his grandchildren.”
Sara is an Assistant Professor in the School of Education at Simon Fraser University.
“A lot of my work revolves around teaching and learning… how do we share knowledge? And something like that was neat with me [these books], the sharing of knowledge and learning,” she said. “An example is that my great-grandfather taught my father, and so there was an intergenerational knowledge exchange that took place in the countryside. And my father learned on the spot.”
Sara Florence Davidson’s research interests focus on transforming “current pedagogical and research practices to make Indigenous contributions more respectful and inclusive, particularly in the field of English-language arts,” according to her SFU biography.
“It took me a while to find out that education is really a passion for me. And so I think my desire to explore the implications of storytelling as a form of instruction in the stories really influenced how those stories worked,” she said. “As an educator, it’s so exciting to be able to dive into different types of learning and knowledge sharing 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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