Children’s book brings the teachings of the Seven Grandfathers to life – Bemidji Pioneer

RED LAKE — The seven ancestral teachings of love, respect, courage, honesty, wisdom, humility and truth are deeply embedded in Anishinaabe culture.

A recently released children’s book by Red Lake author Elizabeth Barrett and illustrator Jonathan Thunder brings these lessons to colorful life for young and old.

The book is illustrated by Jonathan Thunder, a member of the Red Lake Band, an artist based in Duluth.

Minnesota Historical Society Contribution/Press

“Mashkiki Road,” published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press, is the brainchild of Thomas Barrett, CEO of the Red Lake Boys and Girls Club. He contacted his niece, Elizabeth, and artist Thunder with the idea. The result is a delightful 30-page book, the royalties from which will benefit the Boys and Girls Club for years to come.

“I’m really proud of the book,” Thomas said. “It’s a really cool way to show the world a piece of our Ojibwe culture. Being from Red Lake, I take great pride in knowing that I brought together two members of the Red Lake group to create the book. I am very committed to the seven teachings, incorporating them into any type of teaching, programming or presentation. »

In the story, three young cousins ​​explore the woods in search of medicine that heals and purifies, while gaining advice from wise beings who offer cherished life lessons across generations.

“I’m out of medicine,” says their grandmother Mindy. So the cousins—Lily, Ogimaa, and Ellie—are ready to help. Together they will travel Mashkiki Road, the road where medicine grows, in search of sage and cedar for Grandma.

During their journey, they receive teachings from the Eagle (love), the Ox (respect), the Bear (courage), the Sabe or Sasquatch (honesty), the Beaver (wisdom), the Wolf (humility ) and the Turtle (truth). ).

All scenes are beautifully illustrated by Thunder, who was born in Red Lake, grew up in the Twin Cities and now lives in Duluth.

“I had been researching because I had worked on a few murals over the past few years that were about the Seven Teachings,” Thunder said. “I was able to work with the concepts and create visual content from it. I try to live by those general teachings, even before this project. It’s common sense for most people. The world could use more.

This is the first book by Elizabeth Barrett, a 2021 Dartmouth College graduate who majored in English and minored in Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies with a concentration in Creative Writing.

While she hopes to write more books, she was recently hired as Red Lake Chemical Health’s Prevention Program Editor.

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Author Elizabeth Barrett reads part of “Mashkiki Road” at a recent book signing event.


Elizabeth, 22, recently enjoyed the signings and is proud to be part of the ‘Mashkiki Road’ project.

“It’s really great,” she said. “It was super exciting to see the book fall into the hands of young people, just knowing that they love it and enjoy it a bit.”

Readers will get a glimpse of the Red Lake scenes as they flip through the book. It was intentional on the part of Thunder, 45, who attended the Institute of American Indian Art in New Mexico and the Art Institutes International Minnesota.

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Artist Jonathan Thunder incorporated landscapes from the Red Lake area when he illustrated “Mashkiki Road”.


“When I started creating the artwork (on ‘Mashkiki Road’), I wanted to incorporate landscapes you would see around Red Lake, like the Red Lake Water Tower, and take inspiration from areas of the town of Red Lake,” Thunder said. “So when people look at it, if they know the area well, it will be interesting for them to find these little Easter eggs.”

“Mashkiki Road” is available on Amazon or the Minnesota Historical Society Press website at