Graphic Narrative

Drawn-out dramas of the North

A squalling baby held aloft, its umbilical cord falling into a moose-skin boat beached on a riverside. Sinew nets bursting with fish. Dogs hauling laden sleds through the deep taiga forest. The fatty underside of a hide scraped with a flint rock. A cadre of kin working together to erect a camp along the Mackenzie River. These interweaving scenes, which open Paying the Land, come with a feeling of a history long since passed. But history is close at hand in the Northwest Territories — and the images are revealed to be a recreation of Paul Andrew’s childhood. Recalling his years spent living on the land, Andrew, a former chief of the Shúhtaot’ine, or Mountain Dene, describes a difficult but satisfying life, one “dictated by the environment, by the animals,” where youth, by watching, listening, and imitating their elders, found themselves woven into the circle of community and tradition.

Circles arise...