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Reveiws by: Native Peoples, CHOM FM, and Ottawa Citizen

Native Peoples
Anne Cameron's newest collection of myths from the native people of the northwest coast is a welcome addition to the growing body of native content books. In style, it is close to her two previous books of myths, How Raven Freed the Moon and How the Loon Lost Her Voice. All of her books have that unmistakable, narrative style. Easy to read, it flows whether you are reading to yourself or others, so it is universal, suitable for elementary school students as well as adults.

The stories are concerned with human kind and its relationship with its environment. This relationship is not always easy to understand. Stories were a way of passing on a world view. Anne Cameron was fortunate enough to have heard these stories when she was a child. We are fortunate that she chooses to share them with us. In fact, the book's foreword, in which Cameron discusses how she first heard the stories, is as interesting and readable as the stories themselves.

The stories often concern admirable character traits and how the strength of these will allow the possessor to triumph in the end. In one strongly feminist story, a young woman cultivates in herself all of those characteristics that young men find most repulsive in women. She does this so no young man will want to marry her and thus she can remain the independent head of her household. This tactic is carried so far that she eventually grows a beard that makes her repulsive to the men who would dominate her and is, at the same time, a symbol of her ability to take control of her life.

While some of these myths have an obvious feminist bent, this theme is secondary to their being well-written recountings of legends that have, until now, been passed on orally. Dzelarhons is highly recommended for any library with a native content collection, but it could be as easily used in the classroom, filling the imaginations of students, both native and non-native, with an endless source of possibilities.
-Sharon A. McLennan


Q’s Reviews CHOM FM
If you are interested in mythology, particularly Northwest Coast legends you are in for a treat with a new book by B.C. author Anne Cameron. Dzelarhons: Mythology of the Northwest Coast is a collection of eight stories ranging from humorous accounts of the Raven to the more serious tale of a mythical goddess/super woman.

The stories originated from remembrances of childhood when an aunt of the author shared with her the many myths of the past. The Raven pieces are humorous, light and make much of the fact that the bird is gluttonish, selfish and very much a trickster. Orca's Child explains how through the mating of an eagle and a whale the orca is black and white and very sensitive to sounds and vibrations. Legend has it that anyone splashed by a whale has good luck and will have happiness. The blessing of an orca is supposedly the mark of a love that blended two very different realities.

Dzelarhons - First Mother, Frog Mother, Weeping woman is a journey through the development of the Matriarcheal society of the Coast Indians.

Through the many forms of life that this woman becomes, she protects and teaches her people. This collection is well written and has a very magical, mystical quality.

Anne Cameron has previously published the novel The Daughters Copperwoman as well as stories and poems. She currently lives Powell River, British Columbia.
-Judy Capes



Stories for troubled time
It is Several years ago now since I discovered Anne Cameron's first collection of native myths, Daughters of Copperwoman. I've been waiting for its successor for years. This is it: Dzelarhons: Myths of the Northwest Coast. And well worth waiting for, too.

I knew I'd like it from the very first paragraph: "When I was eight to nine - or maybe ten to eleven - I don't remember for sure now, Klopinum would share her stories with me. My Mom was working as an aide in the white hospital at the top of the hill where black-haired kids with eyes like sad holes burned in wool blankets stared through windows at the roiling fields their TB lungs would not allow them to run in, or to jump or yell or chase or ride bikes or do any of the things kids were intended by creation to do."

If the warmth and humor and generosity of an opening like that doesn't grab you, nothing will. And that's only the beginning. Anne Cameron's writing continues to deliver what her introduction promises: good stories, told with energy and wit.

Of course, she's starting with excellent material. Like the creation myths of any culture, these have that depth and resonance that comes from constant telling and re-telling, adding on and digressing until you are able to hear not just what happened back then, in that other time but the whole history of a people since, a whole way of looking at the world.

Orca and Eagle Flies High became very good friends, and their relationship grew until they loved each other so strongly it was as if light came from their bodies when they saw each other.

But one was a creature of the air, and one was a creature of the sea, and neither could live in the world of the other.

Still, they loved each other, and love has a way of making sure it gets shown and expressed.... [from Orca's Child].


Part of the power of this collection, aside from the writing itself, is the arrangement of the stories. We start with relatively simple myths, moral fables, really, like Raven and Snipe and progress through increasingly richer and more complex tales until we reach the final title story, Dzelarhons.

In those days there were no people here, and no islands, either. The huge bulk of the continent stretched uncharted, covered with trees and mountains, bright with rivers and lakes, and there were animals and birds, fish and insects, flowers and all things, except people and islands. The sun rose as it always had, and warmed the earth. It travelled across the expanse of this part of the world, and fell to sleep beyond the rim of the sea. It is said that this enormous mass of land lay balanced on the back of Frog Woman, who slept in the water, and whose breathing caused the waves which lapped on the shore.

In this long story, Dzelarhons, named after Frog Woman, herself becomes partly supernatural, a savior of her people, an embodiment of their religious beliefs in the right relation between men and women, between people and other animals, people and Nature. All of the stories explore these themes of course, but Dzelarhons explores them most powerfully.

It's good to work up to it though. Along the way, there's the wonderful humor of Muddlehead, and the Raven tales. the gentle feminism of The Bearded Woman and the all-around delight of pieces such as Orca's Child and Lazy Boy.

There’s a temptation here to say something like "good stories for these troubled, divided times," and I'm not going to ignore it. That's exactly what these stories are. Keep them nearby as an antidote to the daily poisons flooding the planet, more Chernobyls, more Nicaraguas. There's a worldview, a respect for life here that we would do well to honour - while we still can.
-Bronwen Wallace,Ottawa Citizen