The book contains four Dene stories, as told by Raymond Yakeleya. "Flight Through the Rainbow" is about flying through a rainbow in a small plane and experiencing multi-sensations of colour. It also tells the legend of the spider and how its web catches raindrops that create the rainbow. "The Midwife and the Spirit of Life," dedicated to Raymond's Granny Harriet Gladue, is about the birth of babies and bringing their spirits into the world. "The Slingshot and the Songbird" is about a boy's sadness over killing a friendly songbird. "The Medicine Brothers and the Giant Birds" is a tale told to Raymond by his uncle George Blondin about the hazards of giant animals when the world was new. The book also contains Dene language translation throughout. An animated film and videogame can also be accessed though QR codes in the book.
About the authors
Raymond Yakeleya is an award-winning Dene television producer, director and writer. Originally from Tulita in the Northwest Territories, he now calls Edmonton, Alberta home. Raymond is author of the Dene children’s book The Tree by the Woodpile and editor of We Remember the Coming of the White Man and Indigenous Justice. He wrote an extensive foreword in Nahganne: Northern Tales of the Sasquatch. Says Raymond, “Indigenous Peoples need to have a voice in mainstream media in order to tell our stories, our way. With the passing of many of our Elders, the telling of these stories has become more important.”
Rich Théroux is illustrator of Flight Through the Rainbow. Besides being a caveman, Rich is a genius talent at painting and drawing. His art hangs in prominent homes and galleries but he prefers not to boast about it. Rich is founder of Rumble House and also teaches junior high school art. He is the author and illustrator of Stop Making Art and Die, and The River Troll and is the co-author of the poetry book, A Wake in the Undertow with his partner Jess Szabo. He and his gang exist/co-exist in Calgary, Alberta, Canada.
Samantha Gibbon is illustrator of The Midwife and the Spirit of Life. She is a member of the Métis Nation of Alberta and a descendent of Peayasis Band in Northern Alberta. Raised an otipemisiwak (Metis) and Nehiyaw Iskwew in Treaty 6 Territory on Papaschase Land (Amiskwaciywaskahikan/Edmonton), she’s a senior medical student at the University of British Columbia. Although she currently lives on Syilx territory, her heart forever lies in the prairie brush of her ancestral homelands of Northern Alberta.
Antoine Mountain is illustrator of the Bird stories and is from the Radelie Koe/Fort Good Hope area of the Dene Nation in Northwest Territories.. He is a Dene artist, painter, and activist who focuses on depicting the Dene way of life, his love for the land, and the spiritualism of his faith. He holds a Master’s in Environmental Studies from York University, and is currently doing a PhD in Indigenous Studies at Trent University. Mountain uses his voice and art to ensure that today’s youth do not forget their Dene identity.
Excerpt: The Rainbow, the Midwife & the Birds: 4 Dene Tales (by (author) Raymond Yakeleya; illustrated by Samantha Gibbon, Rich Theroux & Antoine Mountain)
Flight Through the Rainbow
This story is about the wondrous time I flew through the rainbow in a small bush plane up North. First there was a big rough storm. Our poor little airplane was shaking. Clouds were rumbling and crying down heavy rain. Lightning was flashing and thunder was roaring in the sky. Bouncing around in the dark, we felt like a little leaf being blown about every which way. The pilot asked me, “Raymond are you scared?” I kept thinking, What if a thunderbolt of lightning hits us? We’re going to go down. I remember the pilot saying, “Don’t be scared, we’ll be fine.” So, I put my trust in her. She steered our way through the dark, black storm and got us out.
I thank the Creator for allowing us to survive that flight. It scared me half to death. As we flew out of the storm, the clouds opened up end we burst out into the sunlight. In front of us was the rainbow. Ah, it looked beautiful. As we got close to a rainbow in the sky it had its own energy. It felt like it was alive and that we could reach right out and touch God’s colours of power and light. The Creator was appearing to us that day as a fire of many colours.
The pilot and I looked at each other and our faces were both glowing with magnificent colours of the rainbow that were pure and clean. It felt like these colours were brand new and alive.. Violets, blues, greens, the yellows, the oranges and the reds, They were all there in the palette, like we were being bathed in God’s colours. It’s as if we could even hear the sound of angelic voices and little bells tinkling and ringing.
We passed through too quickly. The plot said, “What do you want to do?” and I said, “Let’s do it again!” She banked a turn and circled around and we got into position and blasted through the rainbow again, flying through the Creator’s magic light.
Our Elders often talk about the special spiritual relationship we Dene People have with all animals, including the spider. They talk about how the spider can weave a web that catches the raindrops that creates the rainbow. When there was a big flood, the spider set its net and stopped the rain, allowing our Dene people to survive. Spiders have powers beyond our Earth and they deserve our respect. We Dene consider the spider to be the greatest hunter of all. We call him grandpa spider.
Going way back in my mind, the most spiritual thing about the experience of flying through the rainbow was the wonderment. As boys in Tulita, Northwest Territories we realized the rainbow would disappear or evaporate then shoot out somewhere else from the clouds. The white kids would talk about a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow but we asked, “How would you get there when it is always constantly moving?” I remember once in the autumn it rained and then snowed and the next day a rainbow showed up through the snow. That was something beautiful. Magic does happen and I know this to be true through that holy, blessed experience of touching the rainbow.