The Eagle Mother
The Eagle Mother
Standing out amongst the thick brush of the riverbank, t’uutsxw am’mal, a black cottonwood, stretches high above the other trees. Woven into the fork of its strongest branches is the nest of Nox Xsgyaak, the eagle mother. She appears frozen to the tree, but she is protecting an important treasure.
The Eagle Mother begins in the month of April, during the time of Lasa Ya’a, the Spring Salmon’s Returning Moon. In spite of the chill and an unexpected flurry of snow, a mother and a father eagle care diligently for two large eggs. The eagles take turns incubating their clutch and are rewarded by the arrival of two eaglets; one male and one female. As the people along Xsan, River of Mists, gather berries in June for the coming winter, Nox Xsgyaak and her mate hunt to feed their brood. The eaglets wings grow strong, and their instincts awaken at the arrival of miso’o, sockeye salmon. Together, the eagles and the Gitxsan rely on the salmon for survival, both as a source of food and as a source of identity.
Hetxw’ms Gyetxw (Brett D. Hudson) shares the story of Nox Xsgyaak by tracing the Gitxsan Moons that connect each month for the Gitxsan people to the ecosystem of their unceded territory of the Northwest Interior of British Columbia. Readers see that time is measured in seasons both for the eagles and the Gitxsan, showing that people, animals, plants and the land are interconnected, following a cyclical shared rhythm. Throughout The Eagle Mother, words like “fledge” and “branching”, are defined to provide understanding and context for children learning about the life process of eagles. Natasha Donovan’s detailed illustrations incorporate Gitxsan imagery alongside beautiful panoramic drawings of black cottonwood forests and the banks of the River of Mists.
Lyrical and engaging, The Eagle Mother honours the knowledge and the language of the Gitxsan, showing all readers that the natural world is worth loving and protecting.
Chloe Humphreys works as a Youth Services Librarian at Surrey Libraries in beautiful British Columbia.