Books We Love: Ojibway Clans


Welcome to our 7 Generation Games Book Club! Don’t worry, this isn’t one of those book clubs where you join, don’t finish the book and then have to sit around in a group pretending you read it, debating things like what “the vase of flowers” really symbolized. 

The 7 Generation Games Book Club is our newest regular website feature that will review interesting books – whether adult, young adult or children’s books – that we’ve come across in our work at 7 Generation Games. As such, the themes of the books will ultimately be related in somewhat to the themes of our games, tied to Native American culture, Latin American culture, education, video games, who knows, maybe even Chilean history.

If you’re like me, always looking for a good book for yourself or your kids, maybe you’ll find some titles here you might want to check out.

Without further ado, we present our inaugural pick. 

Ojibway Clans: Animal Totems and Spirits 

Written and illustrated by Ojibway artist Mark Anthony Jacobson

You can get it on Amazon here. (And no, we don’t get any kind of cut or anything, just making it easy for you to get it if you’re interested.) 

Early today, our project manager was on the phone with a teacher who uses our games with her students. After going over a couple of questions regarding gameplay and best practices, the teacher had one more question: Do you have anything more on the Bear Clan? 

They are playing Making Camp Premium in her third grade class, and one student loves bears and had developed a fascination with the Bear Clan from playing the module in the game. He had been asking her questions about the Bear Clan and for more information. We love to hear that because we know that the best learning comes from engaging kids, from getting them to drive the learning and ask questions. Instead of telling them “You have to learn about X,” it becomes “How do I learn more about this?”

Over the years, we’ve created hundreds of resources, including number of video about the Ojibwe clans and social structure, he had already gone through our resources on the topic. But whenever people act like there’s only room for one math game on the educational market, I always say, “I disagree. You have more than one book on your bookshelf.” And in this case, my bookshelf is exactly where I went to pull a resource to send her way. 

If someone were to ask me the best book to introduce kids to Ojibway clans (there are various spellings: Ojibwe, Ojibwa, Ojibway), Mark Anthony Jacobson’s book would unquestionably be it. 

Jacobson’s Illustration for the Marten Clan. 

We had just started on designing Fish Lake, when one of our cultural consultants from Turtle Mountain gave us this book for inspiration and information. First of all, I love that it’s by a Native artist/author who comes from the tribe because that definitely shapes the perspective from which the book is written. 

The artwork is vivid and engaging. My kids love the images, and many times, I have found them just flipping through the book, looking at the pictures.

The book gives you a basic overview of the clan system and its role in Ojibwe society. It presents 12 of the clans (there are more depending on how deep in the taxonomy you go, but the largest clans are all depicted in this book). 

Ojibwe clans are represented by animal totems, and the members of each clans are seen to have traits reflective of the animals. For example, the Bear Clan is known for being protectors of the tribe and for their knowledge of the plants and berries in the forrest. Just as deer are known for their gentle nature, Deer Clan members are respected for their kindness. Ojibway Clans highlights the key traits of the clan members and totem animal. 

But perhaps my favorite part of the book is the clan teaching for each clan, which provides simple, yet valuable lessons that anyone can draw from and apply to life. From the Crane Clan teaching that “Being a leader means being kind and thoughtful about the needs of others” to the Butterfly Clan teaching “Even when times are touch, it is always wise to be grateful for who you are and what you have,” the book provides simple actionable messages. 

If you’re an elementary school teacher, this book is a great resource for teaching about Native history and culture.  

If you have preschoolers, it’s a book that you can read though with your kids in a short time. More than that, it’s not one of those books that will drive you crazy if you’re asked to read it over and over again. (If you have/had a preschooler, you know what I’m talking about.) If you have grade schoolers, it’s a book that you can read with them and discuss. Or if you’re an adult who likes a picture books, it’s an interesting and super quick way to learn a little bit more about the Ojibway Clans with some good teachings along the way.

One more cool thing about the book: A portion of the proceeds go to support early childhood development in Native communities. 

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