'Encounter' Imagines A 1534 Meeting From An Indigenous Perspective "Growing up I would hear about our peoples being 'discovered' ... " says author Brittany Luby. "I would go home and my parents would tell me: That's not actually how things happened."
NPR logo

A Sailor Meets A Fisherman In 1534: It's An 'Encounter,' Not A Discovery

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/764733881/765480477" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
A Sailor Meets A Fisherman In 1534: It's An 'Encounter,' Not A Discovery

A Sailor Meets A Fisherman In 1534: It's An 'Encounter,' Not A Discovery

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/764733881/765480477" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

"Encounter" is the story of two men, Fisher and Sailor, on one day in 1534.

BRITTANY LUBY: It's a day we know Jacques Cartier, a French explorer, let his crew go to shore. And I wanted to imagine what happened when an ordinary gent bumped into a Stadaconan fisherman who had been using those waters for generations.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's written by Brittany Luby, drawing from notes kept by Jacques Cartier on his first expedition to what is now North America. But in "Encounter," Luby tells the story of the peaceful, friendly meeting that could have been from an indigenous perspective.

LUBY: I'm of Anishinaabe descent. I was born and raised in northwestern Ontario. And growing up, I would hear about, you know, our peoples being discovered. And it was really confusing when I would go home and my parents would tell me, that's not actually how things happened.

So I wanted to tell a story that showed that the Stadaconans were already here and that they had knowledge that was valued and valuable in this space. So it's Fisher who knows how to eat the sunflower seed, and it's Fisher who knows where to swim. And I really just wanted to showcase that indigenous presence and cultural vitality.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: We've been asking authors and illustrators how they work together or separately to bring stories to life. Luby worked with illustrator Michaela Goade, who is of Tlingit descent. They both say their pairing was a blessing.

MICHAELA GOADE: I think sometimes there's a sensitivity there when you're both from a shared experience. And even though I don't quite know at the beginning the details or the specifics of, you know, Anishinaabe or Ojibwa cultures or Metis or Cree or Upper Skagit, throughout the course of these books, I learned so much. And I formed these relationships and these bonds, and that's really something. And I'm very proud to be involved in these books.

LUBY: One thing that I really appreciated about working with Michaela and, I think, a sensitivity she brought to her reading of the text is that whenever there was a question, she would take a moment of pause to go back and do some research. So when Fisher needed a pocket, we were like, OK, did the Stadaconans have pockets? And in 1534, the Stadaconans were present on the territory. And when Samuel de Champlain, a later French explorer and colonist, came in the 1600s, the Stadaconan people were gone.

And so we turned to later Jesuit texts to get a sense of what other Iroquoian people would have dressed like. And we started looking at, you know, museum online image databases. And we're like, OK, he might not have had a pocket, but he might have worn a pouch. You know, Michaela didn't make assumptions.

GOADE: So I work primarily in watercolor. My style sort of lends itself more towards, you know, imaginative, more magical landscapes. And I'm really deeply inspired by the natural world. And any time that I can help, you know, sort of elevate the role of Mother Nature or, you know, feed my spirit or the spirit of others through my work is just a really big treat.

So you know, I spend a lot of time on building up the landscape. And this is on the eastern coast of Canada. And so actually, to my surprise, the landscape wasn't dramatically different from what I know in southeast Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. There's lots of sweeping cliffs and coastal vistas, deep, rich forests, lots of jewel tones. The book follows a day. And so the sun tracks left through right throughout the story. And so it's just, you know, sunrise through sunset. And it's just a very rich, I hope, magical world.

LUBY: One of the things that I really love about Michaela's illustrations is they have this dreamlike quality, and they're very calming. The color palette is so inviting and so beautiful. And for me, it was important that we didn't have an ominous, scary story because, in 1534, Fisher and Sailor didn't know what we know today. They didn't know what was coming - that France would eventually use knowledge extracted from North America to colonize indigenous lands. Fisher and Sailor didn't know that Samuel de Champlain would build a French settlement in the territory in the 1600s. And I wanted to imagine what might have unfolded if two people thought perhaps they were just spending this moment in time together.

But the other thing that I really wanted to do was to highlight that, you know, Fisher and Sailor had a choice in how they interacted. And we have a choice in how we choose to interact today.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was author Brittany Luby and illustrator Michaela Goade talking about their new book "Encounter."

Copyright © 2019 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.