First Nations Health and Wellness Colouring Book

By: Michelle Palansky, Canadian Red Cross
The First Nations Health and Wellness Colouring Book is bursting with life and love. It is a gathering of Manitoba First Nation artists invited to react to and create with the themes of health and wellness.
The front cover of the new First Nations Health and Wellness Colouring BookIn partnership with the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs, the Canadian Red Cross produced the colouring book as part of a continuing conversation with First Nation communities to support health and wellness.
AMC Grand Chief Arlen Dumas stated, “The Assembly is pleased to partner with the Canadian Red Cross to establish this First Nations focused colouring book to provide beautiful First Nation representations. Images and teachings representative of First Nations citizens are incredibly important especially for our younger citizens. The adage of ‘see it to want to be it’ comes to mind as we work to ensure that all First Nation citizens are proud of who we are and what we stand for. Some may think of this as only a colouring book, but I see it as art, a time to relax and reflect while colouring and a beautiful representation of First Nations that we can all be proud of.”
“At the invitation of First Nations, we work together to provide resources that nurture and inspire youth. In partnership with AMC, we are proud to provide the First Nations Health and Wellness Colouring Book to people across Manitoba. We envision the coloring book as a resource for creativity, hope and celebration of First Nation artists, youth and culture,” said Shawn Feely, Canadian Red Cross vice president, Manitoba and Nunavut.
In total, 19 First Nation artists contributed to this labour of love.
“Art has always been a significant way for healing to occur in all nations of people,” said Karen Swain, grandmother and member of the colouring book selection committee.
Artist Kale Bonham, a member of Swan Lake First Nation, is featured in two pieces: the cover art, Smudge Magic, and Dog Stars.
For Kale, the appeal of the project was the focus on art specifically created with First Nation youth in Manitoba in mind. She explained that often when people think of Canadian First Nations art, they think of West Coast Haida artists.
“I thought that this colouring book could show younger people that when you think of Indigenous art – this is what you can do with the stories and the pictures. We can create that memory for them as a young person.”
Creating the art for the colouring book, Kale took herself back to the life of a teenager.
“What kind of food are they eating? What kind of clothes are they wearing? What do they want to listen to? How do they have fun? I tried to keep those things in mind.”
It is no surprise that Kale felt a strong pull towards an art project for First Nations youth. Currently working as a tattoo artist apprenticing in California, Kale was a teacher for eight years in Winnipeg, where she worked at schools that integrate traditional knowledge practices, such as smudging and drumming, into their daily curriculum.
“When I was teaching at Niji Makhwa School I ran a lunch hour Hoop Group. It was hoop dancing and we had to make our own hoops. It was not easy. But that’s the idea behind Smudge Magic, people starting to understand these [traditional] objects and their significance.”
In Dog Star, Kale was inspired by the Star Guy, Wilfred Buck, a science facilitator at the Manitoba First Nations Education Resource Centre (MFNERC). Buck brings his inflatable planetarium to schools to teach students about constellations from a First Nation’s perspective. He tells them star stories.
“There are so many stories about Indigenous constellations. So, I picked one that was recognizable. Most people know the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper and their relation to Polaris. And I liked the idea that she is this tiny little girl and it’s so far up into the sky.”

Free digital copies are available on the Canadian Red Cross website at
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