‘Tani’s Search for the Heart’

// Brother and sister teach valuable lessons in delightful children’s book

Native American authors and storytellers Keith and Chenoa Egawa have written and illustrated a newly published children’s book, “Tani’s Search for the Heart.” As wonderful for adults as it is for children, “Tani’s Search for the Heart” tells the story of one young Coast Salish girl’s quest through the Pacific Northwest forests to search for “the heart of all things” in accordance with the parting words of her late grandmother. On her journey Tani enters into the world of Coast Salish legend and tradition and speaks with all kinds of wise animal friends along the way, as well as the magical and mysterious Stick Indian who lurks in the shadows to impart his own unique wisdom.

“It’s her gift,” Chenoa Egawa said. “She has the gift of speaking on behalf of the ones who don’t have a voice and so her grandmother recognizes that. In our teachings they always say every child is born with a specific gift and it’s up to the family and community to recognize that gift and nurture it so that child will have that full expression.”

Area locals should recognize the name Egawa from the late James Paul “Jim” Egawa (Lummi Nation) who devoted much of his life to the betterment of education for Native American students in Washington and across the nation. For more than 25 years he was Indian Education Director for Tacoma Public Schools where he had a major impact on reducing the Native American dropout rate.

The name Chenoa Egawa (Lummi S'Klallam Nations) is also familiar to many from hosting television’s Northwest Indian News and Native Heartbeat. She is a singer, ceremonial leader, medicine carrier, indigenous human rights activist, actor and professional illustrator. Chenoa has released five CDs – “Spirit of Salishan” (Swan Clan Productions, 2007), “Heartbeat of Life” (Swan Clan Productions, 2006), “Road of Life” (Swan Clan Productions, 2002), “Sacred Fire” (Sound of America Records, 1997) and “Songs of Strength and Beauty” (Cool Runnings Music, 2008) that she recorded with Johnny Monroe, Howard Byjoe and Alex Turtle. Visit http://www.swanclan.com.

Keith Egawa (Lummi and S’Kallam Nations) is already a published novelist, as his experiences as a social worker led him to write “Madchild Running” (Red Crane Books, 1999), available on Amazon.com. Called “intense” and “powerful,” the book tells the story of a young girl caught up in the harrowing world of urban violence and of the man who tries to save her. He’s currently working on a second novel, “Last Screams of Tabitha,” due to be published soon.

While out in the wilds of nature, Tani learns many valuable lessons about her purpose and place in the world, about self-confidence and being brave, and about loving the earth and respecting every living thing upon it. Coping with grief and loss is also part of Tani’s tale. An undercurrent of environmentalism and responsibility to protect the planet and its resources is reflected throughout “Tani’s Search for the Heart,” which the authors discuss with children during presentations the pair has made to schools in our area, such as Discovery Primary School in Milton. Before he started reading from the book, Keith explained to the children that the book includes lessons on how to be a good individual and a good member of the community – "…teachings to carry with you in your life and make you a better person," he said to the little students.

“It’s a universal message that’s more important now than ever,” he said in a later interview. “Even if kids are too young to grasp that idea, my hope is that they will feel the sense that every kid has unique and special gifts and the responsibility to find them and nurture them. I want kids who hear or read the story to know they have gifts and feel motivated to find out what they are.”

When his sister Chenoa began drumming and singing for the children, they were enthralled with her gentle, beautiful voice. She sang a Family Song that she said her great-great-grandfather had received from two swans upon their final visit to a pond, a song to remember them by. She said her great-great-grandfather heard the language of the animals, rivers and trees because he listened with his ears and his heart.

“I feel like it’s a wonderful opportunity for them to know they can have a voice in how this world is taken care of,” Chenoa said of the children. “In our Native storytelling we really talk about how a story contains all the different parts and whatever it is you’re ready to hear is what you’re going to get from that story. Each time you hear it a different message will come to you; whatever you’re going through in that time of your life it will pertain to that and you’ll see a whole new side of the story. This book is a lot like that.”

To order “Tani’s Search for the Heart” (a Christmas gift anyone would love to receive), visit http://tanissearchfortheheart.com.

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