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Long-time friends collaborate on books

dolly and lucille

Dolly Yellow Wings (left) and Lucille Provost of the Piikani Nation collaborated on two books.

Two longtime friends have teamed up to publish a pair of children’s books.
Writer Lucille Provost and artist Dolly Yellow Wings drew on Blackfoot lore to create How the Earth Was Created and If I Could Dream for Piikani Today.
Publishing the books is the realization of dreams long held by the two Piikani Nation women, who grew up together and have remained friends.
“For years now I’ve wanted to write books and for years she wanted to illustrate,” Provost said.
It was through her job with Pincher Creek Adult Learning Services that the creation of the two books got started.
Provost was looking for ways to reach out to her community.
Many Piikani families are still suffering the residual effects of residential schools, which stripped them of parenting skills and their identity.
Provost decided to write the Blackfoot Piikani creation story in a form that children in Grade 1-7 could enjoy and understand, as a way to connect them with their identity.
“Writing this book would give a foundation to our people,” said Provost, who enlisted Yellow Wings to do the illustrations.
“She’s a great artist,” Provost said.
The two women would get together on weekends and evenings by the Oldman River or outside Provost’s house to talk about the book and share ideas.
Provost spent months planning the book, followed by about six months of collaboration with Yellow Wings.
“This is the creation story that goes back many generations,” Lucille said of How the Earth Was Created. “Everybody has their creation story. This is Blackfoot Piikani’s creation story.”
“I wrote the creation story to be age-appropriate so we could share it with the young children and the young moms, so they can get a sense of our identity.”
Provost sat with adult members of the Piikani Nation and had focus groups to get their ideas for If I Could Dream for Piikani Today.
The ideas shared by Piikani people were far ranging, such as, “If I could dream for me today, I would want to be treated equally,” and, “If I could dream for me today I would want the children to learn native dancing and teach them dancing,” and, “If I could dream for me today I would want Peigans to be on good terms with fellow Peigans.”
Each person’s dream is written in English and translated into Blackfoot in the book.
Advanced Education paid for the writer and artist’s work, as well as printing.
Holding the first book in their hands was the realization of a dream for both women.
“We just kind of sat, and we kept reading it and looking at it,” Provost said. “We finally snapped out of it and said, ‘Let’s get it out’.”
The two women showed the books to family and friends, and are now making presentations to young audiences at schools in the area.
During those presentations, the two women encourage children to do as they did: dare to dream and to make those dreams come true.
A third book is in the works.