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Children's Fiction Native Canadian

The Tree by the Woodpile

And Other Dene Spirit of Nature Tales

by (author) Raymond Yakeleya

illustrated by Deborah Desmarais

translated by Jane Modeste

Durvile Publications
Initial publish date
Mar 2018
Native Canadian
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Mar 2018
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2018
    List Price

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Recommended Age, Grade, and Reading Levels

  • Reading age: 7 to 12


“With the passing of many of our Elders, the telling of these stories becomes more valuable than ever.” — Raymond Yakeleya

The Tree by the Woodpile is a story about a “First Nations boy who is told an enchanting tale by his grandmother about how an old tree by the woodpile provides food and shelter for the birds and animals of the North. Other stories in the book are “The Wolf,” and “The Mountain, the Wind, and the Wildflowers.” The stories are suffused with Newet'sine, the Creator and Spirit of Nature, who brings a message of how we must to cherish our land. The book, written in English and Dene for middle-grade children, ages 7 to 12, supports the "First Peoples Principles of Learning," particularly recognizing the role of Indigenous knowledge and learning embedded in memory, history, and story.

About the authors

Contributor Notes

Raymond Yakeleya Biography

Raymond Yakeleya is an award winning Dene television Producer, Director and Writer. Raymond is originally from Tulita (formally Fort Norman) in the central Northwest Territories and he now calls Edmonton home.

Raymond has over 30 year experience in the television industry. The documentary films he has made have been selected for showing at festivals around the world including the John Grierson Film Festival, the Robert Faherty Festival and the Margaret Mead Film Festival, as well as the Museum of the American Indian in New York and the British Museum of Mankind in London. He has won national and international awards for his work. Raymond received his photography and advanced television production at the Banff School of Fine Arts and attended the University of Southern California summer cinema program in Hollywood, Los Angeles.

In 1979, Raymond produced, for CBC, the first award winning documentary titled We Remember, and in 1981 produced and directed The Last Mooseskin Boat, also an award winner, for the National Film Board. Since 1998, Raymond has produced five national television series and is currently in production of another.

Raymond has always believed that Canada's Native people need to have a voice in mainstream media in order to tell our People's stories, our way. With the passing of many of our Elders, the telling of these stories has become more important.

Raymond is a guest presenter at NorthWord NWT 2018 festival in Yellowknife.

Excerpt: The Tree by the Woodpile: And Other Dene Spirit of Nature Tales (by (author) Raymond Yakeleya; illustrated by Deborah Desmarais; translated by Jane Modeste)

I look at that old tree again, from top to bottom, from side to side and then slowly walk around, not sure what I am looking for. It is a riddle to me. Grandmother looks at me and smiles. She motions for me to come beside her and then she says, “You see, my boy, the moose eats the leaves of that tree and we eat the moose, so that is our food!” I understand at once, but she continues. “Do you see that nest in the tree? It is the home of the robins and it gives them shelter. Also, the squirrel lives there and he lives on the seeds of the tree, so it is his food.”

Editorial Reviews

"Family ties inform an Indigenous New Wave" by Carrie Tait. The Globe & Mail, January 6, 2018.

“Raymond Yakeleya has spent 20 years fulfilling his grandmother’s deathbed wish that he document ‘what happened to our people.’ He is among Indigenous people ‘taking control of messaging in interesting ways’.” — Carrie Tait, Globe & Mail

As a spider weaves a web which is fragile yet strong, Raymond Yakeleya weaves the beauties and truths of nature into tales told through the eyes of his Dene grandmothers. The Indigenous peoples of Canada’s far North keep alive their traditions and legends of the Creator’s world and human caring. Young people of all cultures can learn about respect for each other and for the gifts of life in Indigenous communities far from the urban centres. In the main story in the book, ‘The Tree by the Woodpile’, Raymond offers a delicate and compelling description of the great gifts of a single tree, our common ties to the land, and the gentle voice of a grandmother. This book could be a significant contribution to middle school classrooms across Canada and beyond, leading to greater reconciliation and recognition of our First Nations.

– Mary Stapleton, Permanent Observer, Arctic Council and Cultural Liaison, Arctic Institute of North America, University of Calgary

I always tell the students that my greatest teacher was an Elder who did not have more than a grade 6 education (in the White man's world). That said, he had a doctorate level in the school of life. This man was the wisest human being that I ever encountered and was a wealth of knowledge when it came to his people's teachings.

I was priviledged to learn from him for four years. This goes to say how important it is to value Aboriginal knowledge for what it is: KNOWLEDGE, and how important it is to for this knowledge to be passed on.

I read the two stories that you wrote. and I was deeply moved. Truth to be told, your grandmother was a great teacher. As for the Wolf story, it is so meaningful. Yes, animals come to us when there is a big teaching that must be passed on, but for this to happen one must have that magical connection with the animal world. One must be grounded.

Your stories teach our children the depth of our relation with Mother Earth, and how all forms of life relate to one another.

– Philippe Brulot, Principal, Chief Albert Wright School, Tulita Northwest Territory

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