New children’s book to reflect Dene laws, available in four languages

Our Northern Rivers is published in Chipewyan, South Slavey and Cree, alongside English.


Denise Broomfield, holding up all three versions of Our Northern Rivers. (Photo courtesy of Denise Broomfield)

Inspired by all the North has to offer, Denise Broomfield decided to incorporate Dene culture and values into her first children’s book.

“I’m just so proud that I can take this book somewhere and say, this is your language,” she says.

Our Northern Rivers is about culture, learning and respect, she adds.

The book follows Broomfield on a canoe trip up the Nahanni river, where she reflects on the traditions, teachings and morals of the Dene.

The laws are reflected in the relationships shared between the main character and several northern animals.

“The Dene laws are universal,” says Broomfield, “and I want to help people.”

Her goal was in finding ways to bring these teachings to the children in her community.

By using the Dene laws as a guide, it can help also promote language, she says.

“You don’t have to be from somewhere to see how important language is to a region or culture.”

Broomfield is originally from Newfoundland and moved up to the North three years ago to be a teacher in the Dehcho region.

She understands her novel might be met with some hesitancy since she is not Indigenous, herself.

“I’m saying I am a friend. I know I’m not from here, but I respect who you are and I respect what you’re doing,” says Broomfield.

In the classroom

Paul Boucher is an Indigenous language and cultural specialist for Paul William Kaeser High School in Fort Smith.

Boucher teaches Chipewyan to a classroom of roughly 30 students ranging from grades 7 to 12.

He says the book makes for a valuable resource.

Even though the book was written by a non-Indigenous person, Boucher says the book is a fair and balanced depiction of the Dene laws.

Boucher says the novel “brings out the same [teachings] that our elders have passed down.”

“We all have knowledge that is not for us to keep,” he says, “but to pass on.”

Our Northern Rivers will be going home with students for literacy week at the end of January.

Our Northern Rivers is the latest children’s book, published by the South Slave Divisional Education Council (SSDEC) as part of the 3rd annual Children’s Story Book contest.

The SSDEC awarded her $500 and published 1500 copies of her book, to date.

This cost the SSDEC about $7,000, says the public affairs coordinator for the SSDEC.

Our Northern Rivers is available at the SSDEC regional office in Fort Smith and on the SSDEC’s First Nations Storybook app, available on both IOS and Android devices.

About the Author

Mariah Caruso
Mariah Caruso is a digital journalist, originally from Toronto, Canada. She graduated from the University of Toronto with a Hons. Bachelor of Arts and completed her Journalism post-grad at Sheridan College. She has an insatiable appetite for life, storytelling, connecting to the people, and getting to the heart of the issue. Mariah is excited to begin her journey and career in Yellowknife, NWT, and get involved with the community. If you have a story idea, feel free to send her an email at mariah.caruso@cklbradio.com