By Rick Littlechild
Story telling is a tradition among First Nations, handed down from generation to generation, the elders carry the stories that have been told in front of campfires and in tepees a thousand years ago and are retold in homes and friendship centers in the new millennium.
Thomas King and Eden Robinson are representative of a new generation of novelists, their stories are written by and about Native people and are reaching an audience that goes beyond a First Nations demographic. Chad Solomon is an illustrator who has created a comic strip know as RABBIT AND BEAR PAWS, he celebrates the Native oral tradition not with prose but with a illustrated novel based on two mischievous Ojibwa brothers.
The graphic novel has just been released, it is set in the 18th century and follows the stories of the brothers as they lay pranks and have amazing adventures using a traditional Ojibwa medicine that transforms them into animals for a short time.
Chad developed the stories along with writer Christopher Myer and the guidance of his Community Elders, the stories are based upon the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers ( Wisdom from the Anishinabek community) and convey a entertaining tapestry of Native traditions and oral history. He is from the Henvey Inlet band and moved to Toronto an obsessed self taught graphic illustrator.
He worked with Ty Templeton of BATMAN fame and slowly found his own niche before coming up with RABBIT AND BEAR PAWS.
The association for Native development in the Performing & Visual Arts selected RABBIT AND BEAR PAWS as one of the native representatives in the 9th Annual Fine Arts Exhibit being held at the Roger’s Skydome in Toronto November 26. RABBIT AND BEARPAWS was selected for representing the theme of the Fine Arts Exhibit this year which is ” SEEING IN A SACRED MANNER; THE SHAPES OF ALL THINGS.
”Then I was standing on the highest mountain of them all, but anywhere is the center of the world and round about beneath me was the whole hoop of the world. And while I stood there I saw more than I can tell and I understood more than I saw; for I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit, and the shapes of all shapes as they must live together like one being.
And I say the sacred hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy…… ”
The comic strip has been printed monthly in the community papers of Anishinabek News and Niiji Circle and now is available for the first time in book form. Chad is the grandson of native traditional healer and justice activist Art Solomon, he found commercil success in 2003 with the release of two children’s fairytales, ”Pied Piper’ and the ” Ten Commandments.
Chad became aware that there were no cool comic book stories for the young people of his own Native community and that many of those representions of the personalities and cultures of the native people in existing books were often negative sterotypes. With RABBIT AND BEAR PAWS, Chad has succeeded in creating a positive image for Native youth.