by Rudy Wiebe. Paintings by Michael Lonechild
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by Olga Stein
Hidden Buffalo is Rudy Wiebe's wonderfully crafted tale of Sky Running, a young Cree boy of a time "long past but not forgotten." Sky is helping his tribe look for the much-needed prairie buffalo herds. He has stood all day on the higher ground overlooking Sounding Lake and the endless expanse of grassland to see whether he the animals could be spotted. It is the time of "Changing Leaves" and unlike previous autumns, the buffalo are nowhere to be seen. Wiebe's story recalls a time and way of life which held no guarantee of survival. Sky, despite his young age, is fully conscious of the peril his people face if they fail to find the buffalo in time to dry the meat¨food that would see them through the long months of winter.
That evening, gathered around the fire, Sky's grandmother tells the children a story about how the Creator brought forth the Buffalo. She explains that the Creator made a pact with the animals, promising to make them plentiful if they gave of themselves to the people in exchange. Underlying Sky's grandmother's story is the Cree's profound faith in nature's capacity to sustain human and animal life, to maintain a rewarding symbiosis.
After his grandmother's story telling is over, Sky wanders along the lakeshore and finds a stone shaped like a buffalo, and when he falls asleep with this talisman-like object at his side, he dreams of a herd of buffalo grazing by a river surrounded by "layers of black and light brown and white cliffs." Sky's dream prompts the entire tribe to make the long and arduous journey to the place along the Red Deer River that matches the scene in the boy's vision. Approaching the river with its surrounding cliffs, the tribe is greeted by the sight of "numberless" buffalo. The Chief invites Sky to ride with the hunters. The boy's marvelous dream has saved the tribe and he is suitably rewarded. "Sky cannot speak for happiness."
Rich and vivid artwork by Michael Lonechild combine perfectly with Wiebe's text in this lovely book for young readers aged 7 to 10.