The Mothers of Xsan Series highlights the Gitxsan’s way of knowing the world by showing the integration of culture and nature. Each book highlights the Salmon’s role as a keystone species both ecologically and culturally for the Gitxsan people in Northern BC. In this instance, it highlights its roll for the eagle.
This book follows a pair of eagles across a year. It begins with Lasa Ya’a, the Spring Salmon’s Returning Moon. An eagle mother sits high in a cottonwood tree protecting the eggs in her nest against a spring snowstorm. Across the book we see the eaglets hatch, fledge, grow, and learn.
“Nox Xsgyaak and her partner may use this same cottonwood for up to 20 years. The time they spend there not only benefits the cottonwood, but the nitrogen rich skin and bone they leave at the bottom of the tree decays and leaves nutrients to spread throughout the ecosystem.”
Like the others in the series, the text uses Gitxsan terms and doesn’t hesitate to use scientific vocabulary. Most of these words are explained in small text boxes on the same page.
The back matter has additional information about the Gitxsan people with a chart of the different moons. It also shows a map of their unceded territory.
The biological, cultural, and spiritual connection between eagle, salmon and people is integral to this book. It’s there in the use of Gitxsan vocabulary in the text. It's there in Natasha Donovan’s stunning art. Her images, gorgeously coloured in the shades of the rainforest and river, integrate Gitxsan people in the background. What brings it all together is the use of traditional art into the landscapes.
The Eagle Mother is a book loaded with information about the eagle life cycle. What makes it unique is how it puts this information into a context of indigenous ways of knowing.
School Libraries should have at least 2 copies of each of the series. I can hardly wait to see what this team will offer up next.
Here are the other books in the Mothers of Xsan series.