As Long as the Rivers Flow

Publisher: Vintage Canada
From the accomplished memoirist and former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario comes a first novel of incredible heart and spirit for every Canadian.

The novel follows one girl, Martha, from the Cat Lake First Nation in Northern Ontario who is "stolen" from her family at the age of six and flown far away to residential school. She doesn't speak English but is punished for speaking her native language; most terrifying and bewildering, she is also "fed" to the school's attendant priest with an attraction to little girls.

Ten long years later, Martha finds her way home again, barely able to speak her native tongue. The memories of abuse at the residential school are so strong that she tries to drown her feelings in drink, and when she gives birth to her beloved son, Spider, he is taken away by Children's Aid to Toronto. In time, she has a baby girl, Raven, whom she decides to leave in the care of her mother while she braves the bewildering strangeness of the big city to find her son and bring him home.

From the Hardcover edition.


First Memories

“IKWESENS, GEEYAWAAN! I KWESENS GEEYAWAAN! It’s a little girl! It’s a little girl!”

As the midwife held up the newborn baby for the happy mother, Mary Whiteduck, to see, the infant began to howl. That was the signal for Isaac, Mary’s husband, who had been...
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FINALIST 2013 – Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature

“As Long as the Rivers Flow casts an unflinching eye on the self-destruction that often befalls residential school survivors and their children. . . . Impressive.”
— Quill & Quire

“An extremely poignant novel that exposes the short-term and long-term damage of the residential school system. James Bartleman has skillfully illustrated an unpleasant but inescapable episode in Canadian and Native history and deserves recognition for shedding necessary light into the darkness.”
 — Drew Hayden Taylor, author of Motorcycles and Sweetgrass
 “James Bartleman combines the expertise of well-informed non-fiction with the compelling elements of fiction to tell a devastating, inspiring story. Only someone extremely well-informed and compassionate could have written it. My first teaching assignments thirty years ago were in Oji-Cree communities around James Bay. If only I’d had this novel to read then. It let me walk a mile in Martha’s moccasins, and her tracks remain on my heart. If you’re only going to read one book to glimpse what it’s been like to be Aboriginal in this country, this novel should be the one.”
 — Anne Laurel Carter, author of The Shepherd’s Granddaughter and Last Chance Bay