Young Adult Lit: “Manitou island”

I’m developing a screenplay into a piece of fiction for young adults. It’s a story of native legends and magic realism, set in Northern Ontario on Manitou Island.

It was bright and hot; it almost felt like summer. I arrived at the island in the outboard and saw my mother sitting on the dock with a dark thin man, an Ojibwa.        

“We have a visitor, Gerbi.” Norma tied the bow of the boat. “This is Asawaswanay.”           

“Mr. Norberg.” He bent down and shook my hand. 

“Asawaswanay has come to us about the good spirits,” my mother said.      

“I am the Midewewin of my people,” he said. “What you might call a priest or a shaman.”        

“I didn’t realize there were any shaman left.”          

“The Midewewin was forbidden to practice the traditional ways some 80 years ago. We were forced to hide our ceremonies. Many of my people came to reject these ceremonies. The Manitou were forgotten.”  


“The Manitou are the spirits of the land. They inhabit the world, the forests, the waters, the sky, everywhere. The Midewewin communicates with the Manitou. They have spoken to me of this lake and this island.”

“Are you making a claim on our land?” I asked.      

He smiled and then said, “We have no interest in the gold.”

As I have mentioned in previous blogs, research can be one of the greatest aspects of the work. I spent a few afternoons in the Ontario Archives and was lucky enough to acquire a copy of The Robinson Treaty. IMAG2685This became a virtual gold mine for both historical information and Ojibwa names, two of which I used for characters: Asawaswanay and Pamequonaishcung. IMAG2687The question is whether to shorten them or not. I think not.

2 thoughts on “Young Adult Lit: “Manitou island”

    • This blog entry is intended as a glimpse into the process of research. The treaty gives access to historical names which can be used (either in full or shortened forms) for character names. The next stage is to talk with the Ojibway people themselves.

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