Hello, once again everyone!
I have been absent from blogging for quite a while due to a few upcoming books. For those who don’t know, my day job now consists of writing for children. My first children’s book Buffalo Wild! came out September 2021. This coming May (2023), I have a middle grade book coming out with Little, Brown and Company. It’s called Indigenous Ingenuity: A Celebration of Traditional North American Knowledge. This book is an important milestone for me because it takes a look back to appreciate Indigenous contributions to STEM all while looking forward toward building a better future for us all.
What does all this have to do with God?
I have been on a great big God journey these last few years, a journey that has taken me back to my roots, so that I may better navigate my future. I want to share this journey with you so you can understand what Jesus is doing through people like me in order to ready us to participate in the new thing. (If you had no idea that God is working to do something completely new then my suggestion is to read this post first – A Flood is Coming.)
When I first began writing, soooo many years ago (1997), I wrote primarily picture books. I wanted, in those early years, to be a children’s author and my subject of choice was what I knew — being part of a Cree family. My dream was that Cree kids would be able to see themselves in a picture book, that they would actually be able to read about themselves since this was something that I had never experienced as a child — never, not once.
I wrote a few manuscripts that got a lot of interest, but in the end none of my books were picked up by publishers. Once I became heavily involved in church, I put writing for children on the back burner and I instead began writing about God as Mother, and well…we all know where that led me (pushed out of church and right here to eventually establishing this website/blog). It was during this time that Holy Spirit told me to go live in the USA — and BOOM, just like that I was officially in the wilderness.
In 2014, I started thinking about buffalo, or bison if you prefer. Indigenous Peoples tend to call bison “buffalo” simply because the word carries a long-standing, deeply-heartfelt familiarity with it — buffalo is a symbol that carries both meaning and emotion (more so than the word bison does). Everywhere I went, I was somehow reminded of buffalo. I saw signs and photos and words all dealing with buffalo. I even bought myself a large picture of a lone buffalo standing in the snow at Elk Island Park — the place where I saw my first buffalo when I was a kid. I told God, “I seem to be obsessed with buffalo… are you sending me a message through buffalo?”
With buffalo in mind, I pulled an old manuscript out of my drawer that I wrote back in 2008 or so — this was a story about a Cree boy who managed to get millions of buffalo to return to earth from heaven — the story was a nighttime adventure — wild, wonderful fun! The story also spoke to me prophetically, letting me know that restoration and blessing was coming to Indigenous Peoples. I sent the story to the We Need Diverse Books’ mentorship program and I was accepted into their 2016 program (this also happened to be the year that I returned to Canada and was given the gift of a beautiful grandson.)
My mentor was the wonderful author Nikki Grimes. Together, we edited that manuscript but it did not sell, not right away. It seemed everyone was interested in the book, but no one was willing to take a chance on it — rejection after rejection came. I prayed about that book finding a home often, and every time I prayed I felt as though I was up against a wall. It was at this time that Holy Spirit said to me in a dream that I was in for the fight of my life.
The rejections and that seemingly insurmountable wall took their toll on me and depression set in. My prayers for much of 2017 were filled with tears while a dark cloud hung over me constantly. I literally felt trapped. No matter what I did or prayed I received no answers from Creator Spirit and the depression stayed. Then in September of 2018, things finally shifted. I was shown in a dream this sign — ; — yes, a semi-colon. And these words went through my mind, “That was then; this is now.” I then heard myself prophesy over myself, saying “The semi-colon that God has shown you means today your life changes; nothing will be the same.” (BTW, the semicolon is actually a symbol used for suicide prevention and advocacy. Check out Project Semicolon.)
Knowing I was now in a different season of my life, I began again sending out my manuscript to publishers and in February 2019 Buffalo Wild! was bought by Annick Press to be published in 2021. The book was fabulously illustrated by Azby Whitecalf, also Cree. Notice the beautiful, big, full moon symbolizing prophetic understanding and guidance through Holy Spirit, taking center stage on the cover–so gorgeous! (Thank you, Azby.)
It was while editing Buffalo Wild! that I had a dream–I was at an adoption center. There were many Indigenous people at this center looking to adopt a baby. I didn’t want the baby so I sat quietly at a table working on a few children’s manuscripts that I had brought along with me. Then a woman sat down next to me to fill out her adoption papers. She asked me what I was working on. I told her and she said, “how interesting” then she left to hand in her adoption request. As I sat there someone announced that the adoption of the baby was decided. The woman who had sat next to me was the one who had been chosen to adopt the baby. She was given the baby and then she made her way over to me. “Please, take this baby,” she said.
“I can’t take your baby!” I stammered. I was in shock. First of all, I really did not want a baby (I wanted to write, not take care of a baby) and secondly, I knew how much she — and everybody in the room– wanted the baby. Why would she want to give her beloved baby away?!
“You need this baby,” she said, pushing the baby into my arms.
I didn’t know what to say. I just took the baby. (It’s considered rude not to accept a gift). As I walked away, I said to myself, “Now what will I do with baby Buffalo.” And that’s when I realized that THE BABY’S NAME WAS BUFFALO!
When I awoke, I wrote this dream down in my dream journal not knowing what to make of it. After all my book about buffalo was already written and sold — this dream couldn’t represent that book. Well, within a couple of weeks, I received a phone call from an editor who had read my Buffalo Wild! manuscript. When she found out that the book had sold, she ask me to pitch her a few books that I would like to write. Honestly, this was one of those moments when your heart jumps into your throat and you begin sweating immediately. Did an editor seriously just call me up asking me to pitch her a book? I quickly listed a few titles I was working on … then, suddenly, a book idea that I had thought about a year ago, jumped to mind. I told this editor I’d like to write a non-fiction book about buffalo conservation from an Indigenous perspective. After all, I knew how deeply Indigenous Peoples had been involved in reestablishing buffalo after their demise. The editor immediately loved the idea and just like that a non-fiction book called what else — Buffalo — was sold to Holiday House to be released in 2023.
So, What is God Doing Through All This?
God is having me (and people in general) take a good, long look back at history so that we may embrace certain truths that have been missed, forgotten, or even purposefully buried — God is in effect saying, “In order to move into the NEW, we have got to look back at some things that we have gotten wrong or missed altogether because I have hidden treasure throughout the world in different cultures that needs to be unearthed in this new season. For instance, take the image of Buffalo that over the years I have come to love. I grew up in Edmonton Alberta, Treaty Six territory. This is a place where buffalo roamed. In fact, my great, great, great grandfather Chief Little Hunter hunted buffalo — I have a book called Buffalo Days and Nights written by a translator of Treaty Six who knew my grandfather, and in his book he describes going on a buffalo hunt with him. This hunt would have been one of the last hunts to take place before the loss of buffalo. Many different Indigenous groups and nations across the Great Plains relied on buffalo for both food and clothing — our lives depended upon Creator God sending us buffalo. This makes buffalo a powerful symbol. Buffalo symbolizes life, abundance, and God’s provision.
I never saw buffalo roaming wild like my great, great, great grandfather, but as a child I did see a buffalo at Elk Island Park. That buffalo inspired me to buy a stuffed buffalo who then sat upon my bed for many years. That stuffed buffalo in turn inspired me to serve buffalo roasts when I started a catering business in my early 20s. I wanted to reintroduce Cree people to one of their original food sources. When I began writing, you can now see why my heart turned toward buffalo. God used my love of buffalo to bring me back to my dream of writing for Indigenous children.
In fact, it was while I was working on my non-fiction book about buffalo called Buffalo: The Enduring Story of Buffalo and the First Peoples of North America that I had a dream — I was standing in the middle of a very large circular table (thousands of Indigenous Peoples were seated all around this table). I suddenly knew these were “History Keepers” then I noticed that one of my aunts was sitting at the table (she is a teacher at a collage) so I made my way over to her. She asked what I was doing and I said, “I’m working on a non-fiction book about the history of buffalo in North America from an Indigenous perspective.” All of a sudden I was handed a massive book called The History of Buffalo. I read a paragraph from it out loud so everyone near could hear. The words I read made me cry — God had kept a record of the death of every buffalo across North America, and buffalo’s history was both breathtaking and heartbreaking. I could not believe how much God loved these animals.
I now have a saying, “If Jesus rides a horse, you can bet the Holy Spirit walks with buffalo!”
A New Perspective is Coming – Will You be Ready for It?
Now imagine how I felt when I told a friend of mine that I’d like to use the image of buffalo in Christian ministry and she said, “You can’t do that; it’s not Christian.” When I asked my friend what image was Christian and, therefore, acceptable imagery, she suggested I use the image of a shofar, a Jewish musical horn typically made of a ram’s horn. I was stunned, but her point was understandable. After all, to my non-Indigenous friend buffalo meant nothing, but to me (and to God) buffalo is a symbol that stirs up deep emotion and has a direct connection to God. This was something my friend could not understand without wanting to learn about the symbol from a different culture and perspective.
Now that I have shared the meaning of buffalo, you can now better appreciate its significance. I don’t think you will be looking at buffalo (or bison) the same way anymore. In fact, let’s look deeper into the symbol of buffalo. Like I said, buffalo represents life, abundance, and also God’s provision. This means, for anyone who depended upon buffalo to stay alive, the sudden appearance of buffalo means God is about to restore the person back to life. It’s like Creator is saying, “Look up and see buffalo coming toward you — don’t be dismayed because life is returning to you!” Buffalo can also symbolize teaching, since buffalo meat is a food source. Buffalo also represents “respect” — which is one of the seven sacred teachings. The coming of millions of buffalo (like in my first picture book Buffalo Wild!, tells us that restoration and abundant blessing is coming to Indigenous Peoples. )
So, if you are witnessing a culture change because of the influx of lots of Indigenous teachings, stories, or images — don’t get scared, get curious. God is doing a new thing and this flood of Indigenous material is coming is for our benefit.