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Cover of Him Standing

Him Standing

By Richard Wagamese. Orca Book Publishers, 2021. 105 Pages, $9.95.
Courtney Morgan

Him Standing connects old-time Ojibway wood carving with present-day life through a young character named Lucas Smoke. Lucas is heartbroken when his grandfather passes away. His grandfather was a respected spirit mask carver. Before he died, he encouraged Lucas to pick up the turtle shell blade to carve the faces he saw.

The reserve felt empty without his grandfather and Lucas decides to move to the city. As his family starts to squabble over who gets what, Lucas feels a growing ache in his heart and misses his grandfather deeply. Lucas begins carving masks on the boardwalk in his hometown to make money. He quickly becomes a well-loved street artist.

He possesses an amazing gift for creating people’s faces in wood.

One day, he is approached by a mysterious stranger and asked to bring a long-dead legend back to life through carving a spirit mask. Lucas begins having dreams. Through these dreams he acquires the knowledge that the dark shaman “Him Standing” has returned. He sees his grandfather in his dreams and learns that in all things there must be balance. He comes to know there are two faces, Light and Dark. The dream world teaches Lucas that all things are possible. His friends Amy One Sky and Sally Whitebird help him on his journey to see how his people understand the universe. His wood carvings, masks and relationships are all impacted by his new knowledge and understanding.

Him Standing can be used in an intermediate classroom in literacy, social studies and visual arts. It provides insight into Ojibway culture and beliefs. It leaves the reader thinking about the connections and relationships of all things and spirits, seen and unseen, and the power of your dreams. Stories published by Indigenous authors are knowledges to be shared. Educators can support this book by inviting an elder from the Ojibway community to teach cultural knowledge and to share their perspectives.

This is a beautiful story illustrating the gift of carrying on legacy and traditions.

Courtney Morgan is a member of the Peel Teacher Local.