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Bios of the Courageous

May 28th, 2012 by Carrie Gleason

Some boys, like some adult men, prefer non-fiction to fiction. For these boys, stories of battles, bravery, and intrigue are just the ticket in movies, in video games, and, yes, in their books.

We have three stirring, short and readable biographies of aboriginal heroes to grab these readers. (And for you educators, the topics of these books coincide with grades 6-8 social studies curricula, depending on province.)

 last of the beothuk

The Last of the Beothuk is an accessible retelling of the first contact between the Beothuk of Newfoundland and the earliest Europeans who came to fish off the coast. The Beothuk moved further inland as the European fishers set up camp and took over the coasts. Tragically the Europeans kidnapped Beothuk, taking them back to Europe, where the Natives were paraded as curiosities or used as slaves. This story of contact, conflict, and misunderstanding between two cultures is not well known to many young people. With this background, this book tells the story of the last Beothuk, a woman named Shanawdithit, who died in 1829 of TB in St John's Newfoundland.



This is the story of the greatest Native warrior, leader, and ally of the British and Canadians in the War of 1812. Tecumseh was a Shawnwee warrior who created an alliance of First Nations to fight with Sir Isaac Brock in the first period of the war. He lost his life in the Battle of Moriantown (near present-day Chatham, Ontario) in 1813.

Legend says that Tecumseh saw his first battle with the Long Knives (American Militiamen) when he was just twelve years old. That day he ran to hide at the first sound of enemy fire, but that battle affected him so deeply that he never turned his back on an enemy again until his death.

Readers will enjoy this true tale of courage and bravery, of battles between Americans and Aboriginal groups and their British allies, and learn a little more about the importance of the war for First Nations on both sides of the border.


Louis Riel

The Incredible Adventures of Louis Riel tells the story of Canada's most famous rebel and Métis hero. Riel was born in a log cabin in the isolated Métis settlement at Red River, in present-day Manitoba. He grew up in a religious household and left home at just thirteen to attend a Quebec seminary. Riel dropped out of his training to become a priest after his father died, and did not return home to his people until he was in his twenties. That year, 1868, was especially hard on the Métis people, who were suffering the effects of drought and dwindling game. When tensions rose between the Métis of the Red River Settlement and the Canadian government, Riel led a rebellion which sought self-government for the colony and respect for their rights.

After his later involvement in the 1885 rebellion in Saskatchewan Riel was hung for treason. But for many Manitobans and Canadians he is one of the true heroes of our history.


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