Review: This Place Retold: 150 Years Retold

Book cover for This Place: 150 Years Retold. Illustration of a young Indigenous child with facial tattoos.

Title: This Place Retold: 150 Years Retold
Author: foreword by Alicia Elliott
Genre: Short Stories | Graphic Novel
Publisher: HighWater Press
Publication date: April 30, 2019
Format / source: Paperback / library
Purchase: Portage and Main Press
Own voices: Indigenous (Métis, Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, Inuit, Anishinaabe, Dene, Mi’kmaq)
Content warnings: colonization, racism, violence, war, child abuse, death, suicide
Rating: ★★★★★

This was one of my most anticipated reads a couple years ago and I loved following the publishing journey. So glad I was able to read it this year and could listen to the new podcast based on the series!

Explore the last 150 years through the eyes of Indigenous creators in the graphic novel anthology, This Place: 150 Years Retold. Beautifully illustrated, these stories are an emotional and enlightening journey through magic realism, serial killings, psychic battles, and time travel. See how Indigenous peoples have survived a post-apocalyptic world since Contact.

Each story includes a timeline of related historical events and a personal note from the author. Find cited sources and a select bibliography for further reading in the back of the book. The accompanying teacher guide includes curriculum charts and 12 lesson plans to help educators use the book with their students.

This is one of the 200 exceptional projects funded through the Canada Council for the Arts’ New Chapter initiative. With this $35M initiative, the Council supports the creation and sharing of the arts in communities across Canada.

This was a beautiful collection and I think the first collaborative graphic novel collection I’ve ever read. It was so cool to see all the different styles of art and colours, even from the same artist in different stories.

I also loved that it was so personal, with each author sharing what inspired them to write the story before we got into it. It provides context and a connection between the author and their characters as well as with the reader as it instills more importance in why this story is important to tell.

While I was familiar with some events like the potlatch ban, Sixties Scoop, protests over the pipelines, and identification tags for Inuit, there were many names I was unfamiliar with so I’m grateful for this introduction and inspired to learn more about each of these stories!

Also glad that I’ve now got many more authors and illustrators on my list to check out their other works! I’ve previously read Katherena Vermette and David A. Robertson, and have several others already on my TBR, so always happy to see their names come up.

Each of these stories has something special but I do have my favourites:

  • “Red Clouds” by Jen Storm with illustration and colours by Natasha Donovan – about Jack and Joseph Fiddler, leaders in their community who were charged with murdering a windigo, a spine-tingling story and comment on the Canadian justice system ;
  • “Tilted Ground” by Sonny Assu, illustration by Kyle Charles and colours by Scott A. Ford – about the potlatch ban and how people fought to continue their traditions, one of my favourite illustration styles of the book
  • “Nimkii” by Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, illustrations by Ryan Howe and Jen Storm, colours by Donovan Yaciuk – a powerful story about the strength of generations and the impact of the Sixties Scoop

In more recent exciting news, CBC recently released a podcast based on this anthology called This Place. Each episode features a dramatization of one of the stories from the collection, plus an interview with the author(s). I still have a few episodes to go as I’ve been taking my time with it, but so far so good! There are added sound effects which make it like a really immersive audiobook and it’s great to hear directly from the author. There are even some stories that I didn’t totally connect with in the print version that won me over with the audio.

Even as these stories are beautifully told, it’s incredibly frustrating and heartbreaking and painful to see all the ways that Indigenous peoples have had to fight for their rights and their lives over the years. So not an easy read by any means but a worthwhile one. And the futuristic story by Chelsea Vowel that rounds off the anthology is truly a way to go out.

About the Authors:

Katherena Vermette is a Métis writer from Treaty 1 territory, the heart of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Her first book, North End Love Songs won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry.

Sonny Assu is an interdisciplinary artist whose diverse practice is informed by a deep connection to Kwakwaka’wakw art and culture and melded with western/pop principles of art making.

Jen Storm is an Ojibwe writer from the Couchiching First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. Born and raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Jen completed Deadly Loyalties, her first novel, at age fourteen. Fire Starters was her first graphic novel.

David A. Robertson (he/him/his) is the 2021 recipient of the Writer’s Union of Canada’s Freedom to Read Award. He is the author of more than 25 books for young readers including When We Were Alone, which won a Governor General’s Literary Award and was a finalist for the TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award.

Of Inuit-Cree ancestry, Rachel Qitsualik-Tinsley was born in a tent on northernmost Baffin Island. She learned Inuit survival lore from her father, surviving residential school and attending university. In 2012, she was awarded a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for numerous cultural writings.

Of Scottish-Mohawk ancestry, Sean Qitsualik-Tinsley was born in southern Ontario, learning woodcraft and stories from his father. Training as an artist, then writer, Sean’s sci-fi work won 2nd place at the California-based Writers of the Future contest. 

Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (she/her/hers) is a writer, poet, spoken-word performer, librettist, and activist from the Saugeen Ojibway Nation, as well as an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing, Indigenous Literatures and Oral Traditions at the University of Toronto.

Richard Van Camp is a proud member of the Tlicho Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories. He is the author of 24 books including The Lesser Blessed (also a feature film), the Eisner Awardnominated graphic novel A Blanket of Butterflies (with Scott B. Henderson), and Three Feathers (also a feature film).

Brandon Mitchell is the founder of Birch Bark Comics and creator of the Sacred Circles comic series, which draws on his Mi’kmaq heritage. He has written five books with the Healthy Aboriginal Network, (Lost Innocence, Drawing HopeRiver Run, Making it Right, and Emily’s Choice).

Niigaanwewidam James Sinclair, PhD., (he/him/his) is Anishinaabe (St. Peter’s/Little Peguis) and an associate professor at the University of Manitoba. He regularly speaks and writes about Indigenous issues for national and international media outlets and his writing appears biweekly in the Winnipeg Free Press.

Chelsea Vowel is Métis from manitow-sâkahikan (Lac Ste. Anne) Alberta, residing in amiskwacîwâskihikan (Edmonton). Mother to six girls, she has a BEd, an LLB, and a MA, and is a Cree language instructor at the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta.

About the Illustrators:

Scott B. Henderson (he/him/his) is author/illustrator of the sci-fi/fantasy comic The Chronicles of Era and has illustrated select titles in the Tales From Big Spirit series, the graphic novel series The Reckoner Rises, A Girl Called Echo, and 7 Generations.

Donovan Yaciuk
(he/him/his) has done colouring work on books published by Marvel, DC, Dark Horse comics, and HighWater Press including the A Girl Called Echo and The Reckoner Rises series, as well as select stories in This Place: 150 Years Retold.

Kyle Charles is a writer/illustrator living in Edmonton, Alberta. He has drawn for several series including Roche Limit: Clandestiny and Her Infernal Descent. He has also written and illustrated short stories for publishers like Heavy Metal and OnSpec Magazine.

Scott A. Ford is an award-winning comic creator, illustrator, and designer from Winnipeg, Manitoba. His comic projects include Romulus + Remus, Giants’ Well, and Ark Land. His work has been featured in galleries and publications, on beer cans and book covers.

Natasha Donovan (she/her/hers) is a Métis illustrator originally from Vancouver, British Columbia. Her sequential work has been published in This Place: 150 Years Retold, Wonderful Women of History, and Thomas King’s graphic novel Borders.

G.M.B. Chomichuk is an award-winning writer and illustrator whose work has appeared in film, television, books, comics and graphic novels. His most recent work with HighWater Press, Will I See?, was a collaboration with writer David A. Robertson and singer/songwriter Iskwē.

Ryan Howe is a prairie Canadian cartoonist and graphic designer who fell in love with comics’ unique storytelling language at some point earlier than he can remember, and has been hooked ever since.

Tara Audibert is a Wolatoqiyik artist, film maker, and illustrator with 20 years’ experience in animation, comics, and fine art. Tara aspires to combine traditional First Nations art and storytelling with contemporary design and digital mediums.

Andrew Lodwick (he/him/his) is the illustrator of The Rebel: Gabriel Dumont and the story “Warrior Nation” in This Place: 150 Years Retold. A lifelong resident of Winnipeg, he has a BFA (Hons) from the University of Manitoba School of Art.

Have you read any graphic novel anthologies?

Own voices identification based on information made public by authors.
Cover image, blurb, and author info from publisher’s site.

2 thoughts on “Review: This Place Retold: 150 Years Retold

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