This animated short film is subtitled in Anishinaabemowin and features the artwork of Leo Yerxa.
Leo Yerxa (1947 – 2017) was an Anishinaabe artist, poet and Residential School Survivor. Yerxa was born on Little Eagle Reserve near Fort Frances in northern Ontario where his father was a trapper who lived off the land. At a young age Yerxa was drawn to art and went on to study at Algonquin College and the University of Waterloo. His work blended a wide variety of mediums and formats. “He really rejected the stereotype of Indigenous art,” said longtime friend and fellow Anishinaabe artist, Barry Ace. “He didn’t want to be pigeon-holed into a particular category.” Although his work did not conform to the Woodland style, his close friend, former Ottawa Centre MP Paul Dewar said, “He believed deeply in the importance of his culture. He was reclaiming it through his art. You see it in all of his art, the symbols and the stories… They weren’t just drawings of stories, they were deeply imbedded in Indigenous culture and symbols.”
Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall featured a series of images constructed of thin paper, acrylic paint and line drawings. It was first published as a children’s picture book by Groundwood Books in 1993. In 2017 the North America Native Museum (NONAM) in Zurich, Switzerland featured the series of images as part of the exhibit, “Stories from the Woodland.” Long before Paper Art became socially acceptable, Yerxa turned layers of fiber and color into layers of memories as he recalled a journey between seasons. The original works, which became two children’s books, took about thirty years to complete. As part of the exhibit NONAM created an animated version of the story which was translated by Margaret Noodin and Michael Zimmerman who then also read the story for the film with help from Fionna Noori.
The full translation of the book is available here for you to read and download in both Anishinaabe and English. The translation has three lines, the Anishinaabemowin, Leo’s original English, and a literal translation of meaning, so that you can see the gaps and differences as it moves from English to Anishinaabemowin. As you watch the film you will see the narration begins at line 36. Enjoy the magic of Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall which, although first written by Leo Yerxa in English, expresses a purely Anishinaabe view of life as it was long ago, and still is today, if one pays attention to seasons changing and the way the woods and waterways are connected to the sky.