Written by: Robbie Robertson
Illustrated by: David Shannon
For Ages: 4-8 years
Topics Covered: Indigenous Voices, Historical Figures, First Nations People, Culture.
Summary: This hefty book catalogues the story of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker as they attempt to unite the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) tribes many years ago in the 14th century. Hiawatha is a Mohawk man who lost his family and entire village when another tribe attacked-led by Chief Tododaho. Distressed and enraged, Hiawatha sinks into a depression. One morning, a mysterious figure in a blinding white carved stone canoe paddle up to the shore near Hiawatha with a message. This figure has a pronounced speech impediment and wants well-spoken Hiawatha to accompany him to each of the other Iroquois tribes to unite them in hopes of defeating Chief Tododaho. Hiawatha and the Peacemaker visit the Cayuga, Seneca, Oneida, and Mohawk councils to gather allies before confronting Tododaho. When they reach Tododaho, they find a twisted and miserable beast. The Peacemaker quickly realizes he is being consumed by evil within and tells Hiawatha how to fix Tododaho a medicine to heal him and expel the evil. Hiawatha fixes him medicine and the evil is expelled. As a symbol of peace between nations, the warriors from so many tribes buried their weapons underneath a white pine.
This book has stunning illustrations as well as historical notes in the back of the book. The retelling of this important story takes place before Europeans were in North America. In the back of the book, there is also a CD as well as an author’s note about the first time Robbie Robertson experienced a First Nations elder tell a story. That story was of the Peacemaker and his disciple Hiawatha.
- How can you resolve conflicts peacefully, like Hiawatha and the Peacemaker?
- Do you think Hiawatha did the right thing in helping Chief Tododaho get better?
- When is a time that someone told you a story that changed your life, like the author had at the reservation longhouse with his family.
Continuing the Conversation:
- Learn about other peaceful activists like Hiawatha. What is something they all have in common? Why is it important to resolve situations with peaceful solutions instead of violence?
- Consider making a monument to peace in your community or on school grounds. What message would you like it to portray? Come together as a classroom, school, or community and make your plan for a symbol of peaceful activism.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Born of Mohawk and Cayuga descent, musical icon Robbie Robertson learned the story of Hiawatha and his spiritual guide, the Peacemaker, as part of the Iroquois oral tradition. Now he shares the same gift of storytelling with a new generation. Robertson is a Canadian musician, songwriter, film composer, producer, actor, and author. His career spans six decades. He is best known for his work as lead guitarist and primary songwriter for the Band, and for his career as a solo recording artist. His work with the Band was instrumental in creating the Americana music genre. Robertson has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Canadian Music Hall of Fame as a member of the Band, and has been inducted to Canada’s Walk of Fame, both with the Band and on his own. He is ranked 59th in Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the 100 greatest guitarists. As a film soundtrack producer and composer, Robertson is known for his collaborations with director Martin Scorsese, which began with the rockumentary film The Last Waltz (1978), and continued through a number of dramatic films, including Raging Bull (1980) and Casino (1995). He has worked on many other soundtracks for film and television.
Caldecott Honor–winning illustrator David Shannon brings the journey of Hiawatha and the Peacemaker to life with arresting oil paintings. Together, Robertson and Shannon have crafted a new children’s classic that will both educate and inspire readers of all ages.