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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Teaching Culture Through Comic Books
by Wilhelm Murg - Indian Country Today correspondent

WINNIPEG, Manitoba – HighWater Press has just published “Stone,” the first comic book in the graphic novel series “7 Generations,” by author David Robertson and artist Scott Henderson. The ongoing “7 Generations” is a four-part graphic novel series that spans three centuries of an aboriginal family.

It tells the story of Edwin, an aboriginal teenager who attempts suicide. His mother realizes he must learn his family’s past if he is to have any future. She tells him about his ancestor Stone, a young Plains Cree man who came of age at the beginning of the 19th century. Following a vision quest, Stone aspires to be like his older brother, Bear, a member of the Warrior Society. But when Bear is killed, Stone must overcome his grief and avenge his brother’s death; only then can he begin a new life. It is Stone’s story that drives Edwin to embark on his own quest.

Book 2, “Scars,” features the orphan White Cloud, set against the smallpox epidemic of 1870-71, Book 3, “Ends/Begins,” features Edwin’s father and his residential school experience, and Book 4, “The Pact,” is a story of redemption, as father and son reconcile their past.

Robertson, Swampy Cree, was raised in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His realization that education could combat racism and sexism inspired him to write his non-fiction graphic novel “The Life of Helen Betty Osborne,” published in 2008. Osborne was a Cree woman who was brutally raped and murdered by four white men in 1971, but only one was convicted, and it took 16 years to bring him to trial.

“I wrote that book for the foundation in her name and it was picked up by HighWater Press. They approached me and asked if I had ever thought of doing anything else and I already had this concept of “7 Generations” in my head, so I gave them a proposal and they gave me the book deal to do this. HighWater Press did a request for proposals for an artist, and Scott Henderson was the best one.”

Henderson has worked as a colorist and illustrator for comics, portraiture, advertising art, and most recently two World War II web comics for the Canadian Air Force’s For Valour series. He is also the author and illustrator of the sci-fi fantasy comic “The Books of Era.”

“He was one of the first submissions and he just happened to be a Winnipeg guy, in town, so it worked out well while we were putting a storyboard together,” Robertson said. “We could just meet up for coffee and go over it.”

Like most people who end up in the comic book industry, Robertson has been a fan since his childhood. “I was a comic book geek when I was growing up. I loved Spider-Man and the whole Marvel universe, and Superman and Elfquest. But then I started getting into bigger graphic novels. I’ve always read comics so this was the logical thing for me to start doing. Windy and Richard Pini [Elfquest] were an inspiration as well as Todd McFarlane [Spawn].”

The current hit comic “Scalped” by Jason Aaron and R. M. Guera deals with the ugliest truths in Native culture today, including drug addiction and alcoholism. While “Stone” isn’t as gritty, it does deal in Native teenage suicide, and the harsh realities of the past.

“There are more difficult things that we are dealing with in the future books,” Robertson said. “The first book was an opportunity to present how an encampment would have looked, a daily life sort of thing, back before it was touched by colonization.

We could show justice, governance, how marriage worked, what they had for subsistence, and framing all of that around the character Stone and his ascension into the Warrior Society. The suicide attempt is our way of showing how history affects our youth today in terms of getting in touch with our history, like the residential school system, all that stuff that has affected us in a multi-generational way. We don’t shy away from the difficult stuff. Book 2 deals with the smallpox epidemic. It’s a difficult story, and obviously Book 3 with the residential school system is a very strong story. It’s also a very difficult story to tell.”

HighWater Press traditionally deals with educational material; this is its first comic book. “Although it is going into school, this is one of the first things they have done that also has a mass market appeal,” Robertson said. “Up here it’s doing really well in bookstores. Book 3 is set to come out in September, and Book 4 will come out in January, then all four will be combined into a graphic novel/trade paperback. We’re going to put in some additional scenes and some ‘making of’ stuff.”

Robertson is currently working on another comic about the residential school system and a science fiction/mystery title. For more information, visit

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