Heart Berry Bling, by Anishinaabe/Ojibway author Jenny Kay Dupuis, is a picture book that teaches readers about both beadwork and the Indian Act.
After being dropped off at her grandmother’s place in the city, narrator Maggie spends the day learning about her family’s history and making a pair of beaded strawberry earrings with her grandmother. Eva Campbell’s richly detailed illustrations and warm colour palette perfectly capture the loving relationship between Maggie and her granny.
Dupuis, co-author of the award-winning I Am Not a Number, informs readers about the ongoing impact of colonialism in Canada. From 1876 until 1985, women with “Indian status” – that is, women who the Canadian government recognized as Indigenous, a separate matter from Indigenous women holistically – who married a man not registered under the Indian Act lost their Status. This meant they lost many things, including the right to live on a reserve with their community, and their children lost the right to Indian status under Canadian law.
The history and politics of the Indian Act are complex, and Dupuis does her best to explain the impact of the act for a younger audience. Although the conversation between Maggie and her granny about why Granny doesn’t live on the reserve anymore is short, it is supplemented by backmatter that goes into further detail about the act and the changes that have occurred to it since 1985. The Indian Act is an important part of Canada’s relationship with Indigenous Peoples and Heart Berry Bling is both a gentle introduction for readers who are not already familiar with the act, and a validation for those impacted by it.
Told from Maggie’s point of view, Heart Berry Bling aims to draw young readers in through a narrator that could be one of their peers. Though Dupuis’s writing can, at times, be overly didactic, the book is an excellent educational resource for teachers, librarians, and parents looking to enrich collections of books about Indigenous histories in Canada.