Flowing words by Carole Lindstrom and lush art by Michaela Goade appear in immaculate synchronicity on every page of We Are Water Protectors. A young girl, instructed by her wise Nokomis--grandmother--acts as the story's guide, creating a beckoning entry for even young children to become conscious of the plight of Mother Earth.
"Water is the first medicine," the girl repeats Nokomis's lesson, "It nourished us inside our mother's body. As it nourishes us here on Mother Earth." Despite humanity's irrefutable dependence on water, the man-made perils of the modern world are an expanding global threat. "My people talk of a black snake that will destroy the land," the girl cautions. What was thought to have been something far away, something that might have transpired in a distant future, is undeniably happening now: "the black snake is here" wreaking poisonous destruction. "TAKE COURAGE!" the girl demands, gathering her people: "We stand/ With our songs/ And our drums./ We are still here" becomes her rallying cry as she promises to "fight for those/ Who cannot fight for themselves." As united stewards of Mother Earth, "We are water protectors," she claims. "WE STAND."
Like their brave young protagonist, Lindstrom (Girls Dance, Boys Fiddle) and Goade (Encounter), too, are Indigenous water protectors: Lindstrom is Anishinaabe/Métis and tribally enrolled with the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe; Goade identifies as Tlingit and is enrolled with the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. Both their ancestral identities are intimately woven into their affecting collaboration, with Ojibwe, Tlingit and Lakota words imbedded in the text and a glossary at book's end. Goade further incorporates Lindstrom's Ojibwe culture into her stupendous illustrations by including Anishinaabe/Ojibwe clan symbols and floral designs throughout. Every double-page spread is a richly hued, intricately detailed visual feast. Goade artfully, ominously hints at what Lindstrom's black snake represents, manifesting the environmental threats by turning living beings into partial skeletons. For humans, she emphasizes "We are all related" with a showcase diversity of ages, genders, distinctive physical characteristics, clothing and accessories.
"Humans have been mistreating Mother Earth for millennia, and Indigenous Peoples have long acted as stewards of the planet, giving a voice to our silent home," Lindstrom writes in her afterword. "This is not just a Native American issue," she reminds, "this is a humanitarian issue." Author and artist press for action with a thoughtful final-page pledge waiting to be signed and dated: "I will do my best to honor Mother Earth and all its living beings, including the water and land." This urges early awareness, inviting even the youngest readers--from all backgrounds--to be stewards of our shared planet. --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon
Shelf Talker: To combat growing threats against Mother Earth, Indigenous creators Carole Lindstrom and Michaela Goade inspire young readers to become the newest generation of water protectors.