Yakari and the White Buffalo; Yakari and Coyote

white-buffaloThese two volumes are English translations of a long running series originally published by Le Lombard in French. The series, first published in 1973, written and illustrated by two Swiss Francophones (with the first ten issues translated into English beginning in 2005) is intended for younger readers. The hero of the series, Yakari, is a young male Sioux who is able to understand and speak with animals. Other recurring characters are Rainbow, a young female Sioux, Little Thunder, Yarkari’s best friend and pony, and Great Eagle, his totem animal. The human characters appear to be around eleven or twelve but look much younger. The setting is the American Great Plains and, while horses feature prominently, there is no mention of white people at all. At all times Yakari wears a headband and a single feather. While the Sioux are identified as the tribe, there are no indicators of Sioux history, culture, or belief systems. They are, in short, pan-prairie Indians.

Yakari and the White Buffalo (Volume 2), originally published in 1977, relates the story of Yakari’s saving of the tribe by dreaming of a white buffalo. Acting on his dream, Yakari and his faithful pony find the herd of buffalo and convince White Buffalo to return to the plains to provide sustenance for the starving people. Colourful action filled panels provide excitement and momentum, but the text, or perhaps the translation, is problematic. The tribe, sitting around the campfire, suggest agreement with the chief with a series of “How!” comments, followed immediately by the chief calling his wife “Squaw” (page 5). Several of the warriors have outlandish names such as Eye-of-broth, Slow Motion, or Rapid Arrow and, in one instance, the Sioux live in Bivouacs (page 16).

Originally published in 2000, Yakari and the Coyote is textually less problematic, but this reviewer had problems with the illustration of the female coyote with very long feminine eyelashes while her partner had no eyelashes at all. Yakari and his friends Rainbow and Buffalo Seed repair a canoe given to them by the beavers and embark on an adventure involving a family of coyotes and a cougar. This tale celebrates Yakari’s bravery and the cleverness of the coyote trickster character. The animals, however, are anthrophmorphised degrees beyond the conversations that they have with Yakari and while they are portrayed in a very cute manner, the lessons for readers are laid on with a heavy hand.

Yakari and the White Buffalo
ISBN: 1905460058
Yakari and the Coyote
ISBN: 9781849181013
by Job (Andre Jobin)
Art by Derib (Claude de Ribaupierre)
Cinebook, 2005, 2011
Publisher Age Rating: 6-10