Dr. Robin Ridington co-wrote the book along with his wife Jillian Ridington who wrote the later chapters, in collaboration with the elders of the Dane-zaa. He says the book was written to help young people learn about their history.
“Doig River First Nation commissioned the book, because they realized that they had a huge amount of oral history, but the kids were not necessarily learning it because they don’t know the language,” Ridington explains. “So while there were elders around who speak the language fluently as their first language, and know all the stories, it was really important to document them.
Ridington says the book is a long time in the making which covers the history of the Dane-zaa First Nations.
“I’ve been documenting stories on audio and video for many years, but they wanted us not only to record them but then to write them down and incorporate them into a book that was a whole comprehensive history of Dane-zaa First Nations.”
Ridington started the project when he was 19 years old in 1959. He’s thrilled to have so many years of work put down on a finished product.
“It’s really exciting, really really exciting,” Ridington says. “The stories go back several hundred years, and we’re confident that several hundred years from now Dane-zaa descendants and other people from this area will be reading these stories and learning from them.”
Next for up for Ridington is a novel telling stories of Dane-zaa history using characters that he has made up. He’s hopeful for his current book to be read by First Nations and to be used at the high school and post secondary level.