“Métis Christmas Mittens”
By Leah Marie Dorion (Gabriel Dumont Institute Press)
Christmas gifts bring delight to young and old, especially if they are Métis Christmas mittens. A finalist for the High Plains Book Awards Indigenous Writer category, Métis Christmas Mittens, written in English and illustrated by Leah Marie Dorion and translated into Michif by Norman Fleury, tells the story of these traditional warm hand coverings made by the Métis peoples.
Beginning with old, brown paper patterns passed down from grandmother’s own design, family members hand-stitch each pair with love and prayer. Using a strong needle and sinew for thread to sew them, no two pair is alike. Made from different materials, the makers decorate each one using a variety of objects. From flower beadwork to fun pompoms, they show the care that goes into each mitten. One tradition includes a small beaded heart on the back of the thumb for good luck and love from the maker. Homes contain mitten boxes for those who pass by, be it family, friends, or the wayfaring stranger.
Dorion’s fabulous illustrations vividly depict the Métis culture’s love of their mittens. Adding a drawing of a map of the area mentioned in the story would have been helpful. For those interested in native languages, each page includes the Michif translation. The back pages have patterns children can copy to make their own set of Métis Christmas mittens for themselves or to give away. Actual photos of them from various museums show the extensive detail the makers employ when creating the mittens. For those who want to listen to the story, a CD is included with English and Michif readings. Métis Christmas Mittens is a wonderful book for families to share together and keep a great tradition from fading into the pages of history.
An award-winning author, Penelope Kaye’s debut book, “Making Crooked Places Straight,” will be on bookshelves in May of 2019.