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Child Stories Influence Writer

Eldon Henderson

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 2003      v33 n01 p04  
Book Cover

Harold Johnson is an emerging writer whose his first published book, "Billy Tinker" by Thistledown Press of Saskatoon, was nominated at this year's 10th Annnual Saskatchewan Book Awards in the First Book Award and First Peoples Publishing Award categories.

Harold Johnson The main character in the book, Billy Tinker, experiences vehicle problems during his trip to a mining camp. He soon realizes that he is there for the summer and takes a job as a bulldozer operator. While there, he encounters "little people" and this is where his life begins to change. Billy starts to re-evaluate his place in the world through the teachings of the little people.

The legendary story of the little people is a unique and powerful connection to the sacred existence of respecting Mother Earth (lakes, rivers, forests, plants and animals) and to continue following traditional beliefs, ceremonies and oral traditions. It is an inspirational dialogue of walking back into the past by using traditional spirituality as a healing journey. Being a good listener takes a long time and Harold considers it a rewarding reality to regain the oral tradition.

"I have loved stories since my mother first told me Wesakicak stories, which was before I could speak. In later years I learned techniques from some of the people I consider to be great story-tellers, James Auger, Rod McDermitt. Some of these people have gone to the other side, but I sometimes sense their influence upon my writing;" Harold says, adding that "I have yet to master the skill of incorporating humor into my stories with the seamless ease that experts in oral history have."

Harold is already working on his second book, which will center on Traditional Worldviews in today's society - but that's all he will say of his literary works. It is good for today's Aboriginal role models to provide the younger generations with positive career opportunities, as Harold has done, but he also understands that walking the fine balance of different worldviews has its rewards and challenges.

"My understanding of First Nation tradition comes from life experience and ceremonies. This experience of understanding carries me throughout the day. I find that I walk in two worlds and make the transition on a daily basis. While I am in my office, I am definitely in the white world and while I am away from it, I live and act traditionally. The understanding that comes from participation in a traditional lifestyle and prayer is a strong influence upon my workday. I do not try to teach people or preach to people, I show kindness and pity and teach by my own example."

Child Stories Influence Writer

Eldon Henderson

SASKATCHEWAN INDIAN      WINTER 2003      v33 n01 p05  

Harold is of Aboriginal ancestry from Northern Saskatchewan, where he learned to follow the traditional knowledge and cultural values taught by his Elders and uncles. The Elders reminded him that there will always be a time to return to one's sacred relationship with the Creator's ways and Harold is on that path.

Not only is he an accomplished writer, Harold is currently working out of Regina as legal representative for the Canadian Union of Public Employees. He also once provided legal interpretation for the Treaty Government Commission, where again he worked closely with the Elders.

Harold's first career was at Key Lake Mine, a remote Northern Saskatchewan mining camp owned by the uranium giant Cameco Corporation. After nine years of dedicated service, he felt a different calling. He wanted to represent and serve his people in a much more rewarding area of expertise. It was time to move on and focus on more educational pursuits and goals.

Harold was accepted into the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan. No sooner had he obtained an LL.B. (1995) than his strong desire to pursue his legal career continued at the prestigious Harvard Law School, where he graduated in 1996 with a LL.M.

There were a lot of different uphill obstacles to achieving his law degrees. "The hardest part of being in law school, and I think this is true of most Aboriginal students, was the lack of finances. If I could have devoted all of my time to study instead of chasing sustenance, I am certain that I would have done much better academically. School, while it held its share of thought provoking challenges, was not the major challenge. The major challenge was in maintaining myself and my family and handling all the unexpected catastrophes that tend to occur at examination time".