Mashkiki Road teaches young children the seven Ojibwe life lessons

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Review by Deborah Locke

Minnesota Historical Society Press produced another sweet children’s book, this one with grownup messages about seven important Ojibwe life lessons. Mashkiki Road: The Seven Grandfather Teachings (Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2022) tells the story of three cousins who set out to gather sage and cedar from the forest for their Grandma Mindy. As they walk down Mashkiki Road, the children encounter seven animals. Each explains the importance of a particular virtue. The virtues are: courage, honesty, respect, humility, wisdom, truth, and the greatest of these, love.

The story, aimed at children ages three to seven, shows the warm relationship between the cousins and their grandmother. They set out to help her replenish her medicine supply of sage and cedar, collecting the plants in a respectful manner that would not harm the plant roots.

Enroute to completion of this task, the children encounter well-meaning, wise forest animals who are eager to pass along wisdom. Makwa, the bear, tells them that even when they are afraid, it is important to “find the courage to do what’s right.” Sa’be, or Bigfoot, represented honesty. The story takes on an advanced philosophical tone, pointing out that honesty and truth are not the same things. Turtle explains that being honest means not lying, whereas truth is about being genuine with yourself and others.

The children learn that as they gathered, Migizi, the eagle, watched and protected them as they walked Mashkiki Road. “I wanted to make sure you journey was safe,” Migizi said. “I represent the Grandfather Teaching of love. I’m showing you love by looking after you.”
Writer Elizabeth S. Barrett (Red Lake Ojibwe) and illustrator Jonathan Thunder (Red Lake Ojibwe) did a nice job of conveying important teachings. The story is well-told, and the illustrations nicely enhance the text.

Mashkiki Road: The Seven Grandfather Teachings, by Elizabeth Barrett. Illustrated by Jonathan Thunder. Minnesota Historical Society Press, 2022, $17.95.