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A life of fighting monsters leaves coyote battling PTSD in new Indigenous tale

Blue Coyote sheds light on mental health issues while also incorporating the First Nation’s language nsyilxcən.

‘Blue Coyote’ is a new book published by the Okanagan Nation Alliance. (Billie Jo Kruger)

A new book teaches about mental health issues with Indigenous storytelling, incorporating the Okanagan language nsyilxcən. 

In Blue Coyote, interdisciplinary artist Billie Jo Kruger follows the journey of a coyote as he struggles with trauma and PTSD. Although the book is written in English, Kruger incorporated words in nsyilxcən throughout as a way to help preserve the First Nation’s language.

The coyote has always played an important role in oral traditions, said Kruger, who is from the Okanagan Indian Band.

The coyote is seen as a guardian who chases away the monsters harming people, she explained, and she had always wondered how the coyote’s behaviour might be affected by having to chase and fight monsters. 

“In the book he is confronted by a rather ferocious monster and he gets really traumatized by the event,” Kruger said on CBC’s Daybreak South.

“The behaviour that comes with [PTSD], from things like trying to run from his problems and sort of wandering the land, having outbursts, not eating properly, and also like, his wife putting up with that behaviour,” she added.

Author and illustrator, Billie Jo Kruger is an Okanagan Nation interdisciplinary artist. ( Okanagan Photostar)

The book was three years in the making, which Kruger said was needed to dig deeper into the psychology of trauma. Her fear, she said, was writing a book that would give people false hope. 

“There’s not just one thing that we can do to make ourselves better, it’s a continuous process on a journey to wellbeing,” she said. 

She’s hopeful the book will help those dealing with PTSD realize they are not alone. 

The book was commissioned by the Okanagan Nation Alliance as an educational resource for language and culture, according to a statement on its website.

“This book was created … in hopes that it will create a greater awareness of mental health issues while providing an opportunity for greater mindfulness of the importance cultural identity and community play in the well-being of First Nations,” the statement reads.

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