Home is the Lands and Rivers: A Girl Called Echo Omnibus by Katherena Vermette

In the foreword to Katherena Vermette’s Omnibus edition of A Girl Called Echo, Dr. Chantal Fiola writes, “I remember learning almost nothing about my people, the Métis, when I was in school. What little was shared about us in history textbooks were written and taught by non-Indigenous people and did not have many good things to say about us.” Vermette’s four-volume series addresses what has been missing by providing a history of Métis People in Canada from a Métis perspective, both past and present. This comprehensive series explores the eras of conflict and displacement faced by the Métis People, both in the pre-Confederation period and in the post-Confederation period when Canada’s new government readily acted against the Métis to further its aims of expansion. The graphic novel format works well and provides an in-depth historical presentation that is educational and visually appealing.

This omnibus edition features all four original volumes along with new material, including maps, biographies, historical documents, a foreword by Dr. Chantal Fiola and an essay by Dr. Brenda Macdougall. The original four volumes, Pemmican Wars, Red River Resistance, Northwest Resistance, and Road Allowance Era illustrate key Métis historical events from 1814 to 1885. Vermette presents the Métis people as strong, courageous, and determined to fight for their rights to land and cultural identity. Through the actions of Métis leaders to negotiate with the Canadian government with regards to establishing the province of Manitoba and concerning the land titles held by Métis People, readers are introduced to key figures, Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont, who are shown to be reasonable leaders acting in the interest of and with the support of their people.

The main character, Echo Desjardins, a Métis teen living in Winnipeg’s North End is struggling to find her way in a new home and a new school. At various points, she is transported in time to key events experienced by her ancestors. Though she doesn’t know much about her history, she is learning more and engaging with her mother, her family, and through her school to find out about her people. Her Social Studies teacher, Mr. Bee tells her “You’re not any less Métis just because you don’t know your history.”

This high-quality publication features the dynamic illustrations of Scott B. Henderson and the intense colour work of Donovan Yaciuk. Vividly drawn scenes depict life in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, featuring the lands and waters that are so much a part of the Métis cultural and historical identity. The figures are effectively drawn and exude personality, making this a rich and visual reading experience that weaves together periods from the 19th century and the present day.

Vermette’s omnibus could successfully find itself in any Canadian middle or high school Language Arts or Social Studies program. First-person perspectives are complemented by more traditional visual supports like timelines and maps. With these stories centred in the Métis perspective and experience, there is an opportunity to consider the greater impacts of pre-and early Confederation Canada’s colonial practices, and with the main character situated in the present, the reader also sees the long-term effects of these events on Métis Peoples. However, this is not only a classroom resource; it is a well-written and produced series of graphic novels that will engage and inform youth of all backgrounds.

Katherena Vermette (she/her/hers) is a Red River Métis (Michif) writer from Treaty 1 territory, the heart of the Métis Nation, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

In 2013, her first book, North End Love Songs (The Muses’ Company) won the Governor General’s Literary Award for Poetry. Since then, her work has garnered awards and critical accolades across genres. Her novels The Break (House of Anansi) and The Strangers (Hamish Hamilton) were both national bestsellers and won multiple literary awards.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ HighWater Press; Combined Volume edition (Oct. 3 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 224 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1774920883
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1774920886

Christina Barber is a writer and educator who lives in Vancouver. An avid reader, she shares her passion for Canadian history and literature through her reviews on Instagram @cb_reads_reviews. She has most recently been committed to writing and staging formally innovative single and multi-act plays.