Tomson Highway

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How are writing traits and specific text conventions used to construct a unique and engaging piece in Tomson Highway’s Caribou Song? What are the main ideas in the text?

Quick answer:

The conventions of children’s writing and the inclusion of Cree text construct a unique and engaging piece that doesn’t erase Cree language and that demonstrates that Cree people can have experiences not totally defined by Western oppression.

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One specific writing trait and text convention that constructs a unique and engaging piece is the inclusion of Cree language. The presence of Cree text makes the story singular and compelling. It demonstrates that Cree culture belongs alongside that of the West. At least in the context of Tomson Highway’s Caribou Song, Western writing neither dominates nor erases the writing of Cree. Throughout the story, there is an absorbing sense of equity, with the different languages occupying various spots in the book.

Another writing trait and specific text convention links to the kind of book that this is: it’s an illustrated book meant for children. The writing reflects the perspectives of the two young brothers, Joe and Cody. The childlike text conventions seem to give the story a simple kind of joy and positivity.

A fair amount of Indigenous stories—think Sherman Alexie’s young-adult novel The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian—tend to focus on the horrible ways that the West has impacted Indigenous people. By creating a text tied to two kids—children who may not be all that aware of their historical siltation yet—readers might get the idea that Indigenous people have a vibrant culture of their own and their experiences aren’t necessarily defined by Western oppression.

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