“My Grandfathers Teachings”: A Children’s Book Written by Quinn Franks and Emily Hedges

About Us

Quinn Frank and Emily Hedges are both attending the University of Victoria. They are now in their final full academic semester of their undergraduate degree in which they are majoring in Geography and minoring in Environmental Studies. Quinn is originally from La Ronge Saskatchewan and is of Woodland Cree ancestry. Emily is from Fort St. John British Columbia and is of settler ancestry. Both being born in the north, Quinn and Emily have a passion for the territories that they grew up on and their loved ones who continue to live there. Quinn and Emily wanted to create a meaningful project that would feature Quinn’s grandparents teaching so they could be shared with the generations who deserve access to Woodland Cree ways of life. We also wanted to create a project that would capture our friendship and our love for art.

About the Project

Together, we have chosen to write and illustrate a children’s book that follows a story of a young Woodland Cree child who asks their grandfather why he places tobacco on the land (aka a tobacco offering) when they go on walks together. This story will showcase the cultural and spiritual importance of offering tobacco as a way of expressing thanks and gratitude to the land and all relations. Through offering tobacco, nīhithaw peoples offer their thanks to the natural world thus encouraging positive relationships with the natural world. This children’s book will work as an educational tool for young children in Quinn’s home community who may not have access to traditional/cultural practices. This book is working to serve all children and their caregivers who are wanting to learn culturally-significant teachings within their own community, in hopes of inspiring the youth to continue the path of enlivening nīhithaw traditional ways of being and knowing.

Project Rationale


From a very young age, my adoptive/stepmother and her family have played an integral role in my life. When my father left in high school, my mom and her family became my sole caretakers. This project is an opportunity to gift something culturally significant to my family and community, who have always raised me as one of their own. This story is my way of showing my community how much I value our nīhithaw ways of knowing and being, our language, and the teachings of my grandparents. Through this story, I am paying respects to the land and ancestors that have raised me while providing an opportunity for other children in my community to learn the teachings and language I have been gifted through my grandparents.

Emily –

Last semester Quinn and I took Indigenous Environmental Activism together (GEOG 491). For our final project, Quinn invited me to work on a collaborative art project in which we combined our preferred textile art forms to create a tapestry (beading, rug hooking, embroidery, sewing, and weaving). This was an extremely exciting project for me to partake in and I am equally excited for what we have planned for this project. It is a privilege and a pleasure to have the chance to offer my skills in combination with Quinn’s to create an incredibly meaningful project that we will be proud to present to Quinn’s community. In addition, this project will and already has helped me to learn in many ways.

Project Background and Context

Quinn –

This book was inspired by the teachings of my mōsōm, Elder Ron Ratte, who from a young age has taught me the importance of giving tobacco offerings to the land as a way of expressing gratitude and thanks. When I was old enough, my mōsōm started to encourage me to place offerings of tobacco at the base of a poplar tree facing East. Through this story, I want to share the cultural significance behind these acts. With his permission and guidance, I am sharing his protocols and teachings through story. It is a beautiful gift to be able to create a piece of art that is a physical embodiment of my grandfather and his ancestor’s knowledge. 

Within my community, fewer and fewer folks of the younger generations speak nīhithaw. Within four generations of my family, the language has gone from being a first language with no understanding of English, to our nīhithaw language being almost completely lost. This story has been an opportunity for me to learn from my kohkom, who is helping me to translate, understand, and pronounce the story in nīhithaw. I wanted to write this story in English and Woodland Cree, so that children within my community who may not have access to our language in their everyday lives, can reignite the language that lays dormant within their bodies and minds.

Emily –

Art is something that Quinn and I are extremely passionate about as we have both been honing our skills since young children. We have found time to practice art on our own time, however, within our Bachelor of Science degrees we have not had many chances to showcase our creative and artistic perspectives. Now that we are in our fourth year, we have been taking any chance we can to express how important art is to us. We are very thankful that this class offers us the chance to communicate through this lens. 

Creating and Holding Space for Community

At a group level: 

Though Emily is working on the illustrations for the story, it has been a collaborative process. By understanding Emily’s art style, capabilities, and interests Quinn is making sure to direct each illustration to make sure that the story is being told in an appropriate and authentic way. Throughout history, settlers have appropriated Indigenous peoples stories and knowledge through books. Thus, it is important to Quinn and their family that Emily approaches this project as a vessel for artistic creation, and does not try to interpret this story through their own illustrations. 

Emily identified and applied for a grant application through UVIC’s CEL office that fit the characteristics of this project. Emily and Quinn were approved for this grant. They will be receiving funding to cover any printing, art supplies, scanning, and community honourarium that will be needed for the creation of this book. Through the grant, we will be able to print off lots of copies of the book to share with Quinn’s community. Emily has been making sure to take on this work load so that the brunt of it is not pushed onto Quinn. It is too often that these exhausting processes have to be taken on by Indigenous peoples. Emily and Quinn want to make sure that this does not arise from this grant process. 

At a community level: 

Throughout the process of writing, translating, and illustrating this story, we are collaborating with Quinn’s home community (Lac La Ronge / mistahi sakahikanihk). In the process of acquiring the protocols and knowledge to write/illustrate the story, we are working with Quinn’s grandfather who is a respected Elder, peace-pipe holder, and knowledge keeper in their community. We are also working closely with Quinn’s grandmother, who has worked for several years as a Cree immersion teacher to translate the story. Depending on the number of books we are able to print, we are hoping to gift them to elementary schools, libraries, women’s shelter, and caregivers with young children within the community.



Together, we have learnt much through this project. As we had to meet deadlines for the completion of our project, we needed to work very hard to have everything done in time. Creating a children’s book was a challenging and yet a highly rewarding task. Quinn and Emily both spent dozens of hours completing all parts of the project. Quinn worked extremely hard on the creation of the storyline with their Grandparents as well as painting the cover page (the first illustration that can be seen above). Emily also worked hard painting the other 11 illustrations. Everything turned out very well and we are extremely happy with the final deliverables! This will be an ongoing project for us so we are very much looking forward to perfecting the story and illustrations so that we can print the book and share the book!

Thank you!

We would also like to say a big thank you to those who were involved in the planning and coordination of the “Climate & Sustainability Initiative”. Thanks to you this project was indeed possible and successful.