We Are the Water Protectors written by Carol Lindstrom, illustrated by Michaela Goode
We Are Water Protectors
Written by Carol Lindstrom
Illustrated by Michaela Goade
Review Copy from Macmillan Kids
We Are Water Protectors is a stunning picture book that and a call to action. It is also a work that is powerfully poetic and straightforward in its message and richly layered and complex for readers ready to dive deeper. Through the voice of her narrator, Lindstrom introduces readers to the ancestry, inheritance and communal responsibility of Native Nations, starting with these words, "Water is the first medicine, Nokomis [Grandmother, Ojibwe] told me. We come from water. It nourished us inside our mother's body. As it nourishes us here in Mother Earth. Water is sacred, she said." The narrator recounts the Anishinaabe prophecy that warns of a "black snake that will destroy the land. Spoil the water. Poison plants and animals. Wreck everything in its path," and Goade expands on these words with illustrations of a snake/oil pipeline hybrid with a fiery tongue and a haze of pollution surrounding it. This ominous, frightening threat is followed by my favorite illustration in the book, and possibly one of my favorite picture book illustrations ever (below).
Lindstrom and Goade inspire readers with images of community and unity, people fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves - the animals, plants, nature, the Earth - "We are all related. We are stewards of the Earth." The final, two page spread (below) shows the water protectors, standing together, fighting.
We Are Water Protectors includes essential notes from Lindstrom and Goade, as well as a glossary and further reading. Lindstrom is of Anishinaabe/Métis descent and is tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe. Goade is of Tlingit descent and is tribally enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Both share in their notes the symbolism from their lineages that appears in the words and images in We Are Water Protectors, from a ribbon skirt to the inclusion of animals that are "clan symbols or hold special significance in traditional teachings." For both Lindstrom and Goade, a powerful inspiration for their story comes from the historic stand that the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe took in 2016 against the Dakota Access Pipeline (a pipeline that, though declared safe, leaked before it was even completed) and the way that this grew into a movement that brought together "more than five hundred Indigenous Nations from all over the world to stand for clean water." Lindstrom and Goade show readers that, like the stand at Standing Rock, we need to come together, "rise up, resist, and join together in solidarity for Mother Earth regardless of where we come from. She needs our compassion, love, and respect, and she needs our voices now more than ever."
When reviewing a book by, about, or with characters from Indigenous Nations, I rely on American Indians In Children's Literature for their critical analysis. This post by founder, Dr. Debbie Reese, deepened my understanding of Lindstrom and Goade's beautiful book, especially the presence of the feather held by the narrator in many illustrations.
Thanks to the glossary in We Are Water Protectors, I can say, "Gunalchéesh for your story." to Carole Lindstrom and, "Chimiigwech for your illustrations." to Michaela Goade.