Sunday, December 31, 2006
In 1991, Naomi Caldwell-Wood and Lisa A. Mitten, officers of the American Indian Library Association, published "Selective Bibliography and Guide for "I" IS NOT FOR INDIAN: THE PORTRAYAL OF NATIVE AMERICANS IN BOOKS FOR YOUNG PEOPLE."
Now 15 years old, it is still one of the best articles out there for teachers, parents, librarians and others interested in learning how to look critically at children's books about American Indians.
It includes an annotated list of recommended books and books that should be avoided. It's a short article. It won't take long to read it, but will increase your understanding immeasurably. It is located on the website for the American Indian Library Association.
There's much to learn from the website. Click through the various links.
Friday, December 29, 2006
If you've got an account on MySpace, take a look at Van Camp's page.
Visit Richard Van Camp's website to see who his favorite Native authors are.
Thursday, December 28, 2006
[Note: This review is used here by permission of its author, Beverly Slapin. It may not be published elsewhere without the author's written permission.]
Miranda, Deborah (Ohlone-Costanoan Esselen/Chumash), The Zen of La Llorona. Salt Publishing, 2005. 106 pages, high school-up.
According to Miranda’s small gray Zen book, “everyone loses everything.” “Nonsense,” La Llorona howls back, “there’s always something left to lose.” La Llorona, for whom Miranda named her second book of poems and prose, appears and disappears throughout it. La Llorona, the Weeping Woman, eternally grieving for the children whose lives she ended in resistance to colonization, and knowing that the colonizer has eternally transformed her into a destroyer like himself.
“I am La Llorona’s daughter,” Deborah Miranda writes, “I should have drowned, but I didn’t.” Somehow, despite the rage and fear, depression and self-loathing and inconsolable grief and “this beast called bereftness” passed on to her from her own mother, she survived.
Along this hard life’s road, Miranda encountered racism, domestic violence, rape, abandonment, addiction, and ultimately, the loves of her life: her children and another Indian woman. She writes with clarity and grace; and her poems are so achingly beautiful, I want to copy them all into this review. In a love poem called “Mesa Verde,” she picks up “a stalk of some rosy blossom, unknown, unidentified.”
Tiny gold ants crawl on the hairy stem,
seek the deep center, enter it.
As we drive on, I leave the branch behind.
The ants will find their way home carrying
a burden so sweet it needs no name,
a story to tell about being taken up,
removed, finding the intricate paths back.
The Zen of La Llorona, poems of loss and despair, survival and strength, is, as acclaimed poet Sandra Cisneros, says, “wondrous stuff.” Deborah Miranda has a brave and loving heart, and I am honored to call her “friend.”
Saturday, December 16, 2006
A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children (edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin) is amongst the winners this year. Below are the remarks Beverly read at the event. Doris Seale was unable to attend. With Beverly were some of the contributors to A Broken Flute: Barbara Wall and her son, Ryan Potter, and Janet King and her daughter, Cora Garcia.
I don't know this for certain, but I'm willing to bet that there is no other book out there that has as many Native voices within its covers as does A Broken Flute. The work of Seale and Slapin mirrors the work of Native communities. That is, we work together towards a common goal.
Thank you, Doris and Beverly, for making it possible for Native voice to be part of the conversations about children's books. You and Oyate make a difference.
Friday, December 15, 2006
Tuesday, December 12, 2006
"The People looked around them and they saw Black People, Chicano People, Asian People, many White People and others who were kept poor by American wealth and power.
The People saw that these People who were not rich and powerful shared a common life with them.
The People realized they must share their history with them."
What you've just read is an except from The People Shall Continue, a poem written by Simon Ortiz. His poem was published as a picture book in 1977. If you read American Indian poetry, you are likely familiar with his work. He is from Acquemeh (Acoma) Pueblo, and "The People" are the indigenous peoples of the Americas.
Ortiz begins The People Shall Continue with Creation. Not Genesis, but Creation, as viewed by several different Indian tribes. From the opening pages of his book, children learn that there is more than one way to view Creation. And they learn about diversity in lifestyle, diversity that is dependent on place.
As the story continues, Ortiz tells us that "something unusual began to happen." That something is the arrival of what he calls "strange men" who came "seeking treasures and slaves." This happened to the People, everywhere. He tells us about resistance as he recounts the many ways in which the People persevered in the face of government efforts to stop us from being who we were and are.
His book, in short, offers a history of American Indians.
Here we are, nearly 30 years after the publication of his book, and the rich and powerful continue to cause suffering.
The title of Ortiz's book THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE helps me when I read the news each day and learn of yet another incident in which the rich and powerful denigrate people of color. This morning I read about a parody of "Oh Come All Ye Faithful" written by students at Tufts. The re-written song is "Oh Come All Ye Black Folk." It takes aim at affirmative action, but also, specifically, at 52 African American freshmen at Tufts, who, it is suggested, are there regardless of D's and F's. For more on this, Inside Higher Ed has the story I read.
As noted in an earlier post, racial tensions seem to be on the rise on college campuses across the country. A student told me last week that over Thanksgiving break, she overheard students at a bar talking about their "Trail of Beers" party.
A comment to my post about Philbrick's book suggested that on this blog, I "doth protest too much." That individual is not paying attention. The pile of ugliness is huge and it is everywhere.
And so I will protest, and, THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE.
The People Shall Continue, written by Simon Ortiz, illustrated by Sharol Graves, was published in 1977 by Children's Book Press.
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Inside this beautiful hardcover book you'll see what growing up was like during Josefina's times in 1824 New Mexico. Look inside a Pueblo Indian village, and welcome a trading caravan from Mexico.To her credit, the student is critically analyzing the ways in which the series portrays dolls of color, and is finding problems with those portrayals.
One page of Welcome to Josefina's World includes an old, black and white photograph of two Pueblo women. One woman is sitting in front of the other. The camera position is behind and to their left. The woman in back has her hands on the shoulders of the woman in front of her. It is not clear what they are doing, but the caption says that lice were a problem, and that these two women were likely removing lice from each other.
Were lice a problem? Yes. Are they a problem? Yes. Only for Native people past or present? NO. Lice don't care about race, ethnicity, or class. Yet, it is one of those things that is attributed to lower class people of color. I'd have to get a copy of the "Welcome to..." book for each of the American Girls, but I'm willing to bet that the white dolls don't have lice. (If you're in a library with these books, you could help me and readers with this question... Send me an email or post your findings in the comments section of the blog.)
Thanks, Fi, for bringing this book to class.
Update: One of the other "Welcome to..." books (about Felicity, a white character) shows a lice comb as an artifact. I'm glad it is there, but I think that the two images are vastly different in what they convey and what they invoke in the reader. See comments below.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
In Me Oh Maya the boys find themselves in a Mayan ball court. A "short brown-skinned guy in a wild feathered headdress stood on top of the wall looking down" at the boys and says to them "Explain yourselves or your blood will be spilled in sacrifice."
This guy turns out to be an "evil high priest" stands over them. His name, they learn, is Kakapupahed.
The Time Warp Trio series is pitched to kids who are "reluctant readers." This sort of book provides readers with clever writing that functions as a hook to draw in a kid who might otherwise not read. In this series, that hook is puns, lots of action, and, as the reviewer at School Library Journal notes, "a little bathroom humor."
In Me Oh Maya, the boys hear the high priests name and think "Cacapoopoohead":
They struggle, unsuccessfully, to contain their laughter. This "evil priest" is corrupt, and with the help of one of his relatives and her son, they manage to trick him and remove him from his position.
Reviews of the book say that kids can learn a lot about Mayan culture by reading this book. I don't think so. What they really learn is that it is perfectly fine to denigrate Mayan names and hence, the people who carry them. They learn that the Mayan's are fools who can be easily tricked ("primitive Indians" you know).
Those are my initial observations. There is much more to say about flaws in Me Oh Maya.
For now, I consider the context. A children's book. A feature length film. Both deeply flawed, yet those flaws escape notice. Why is that?
Monday, December 04, 2006
Sunday, December 03, 2006
LeBeau asks readers to consider these statements:
Stereotypical representations of Michigan's Indians are what most people of Michigan understand and recognize.Material in the book is teacher-friendly. "Objectives" are listed at the beginning of each lesson, followed by a narrative about the lesson topic, and then a set of Activities.
The U.S. Constitution protects and upholds Michigan Indian treaty rights.
Michigan's Indians are alive and well in the modern world and are not artifacts of the past.
Michigan's Indians change and adapt to circumstances and events; therefore, they are not frozen in any one image or time period.
Some lessons are:
- Defining Our Terms and Exploring Stereotypes: Building a Specific Context
- Challenging the "Great Man" Theory of History
- Indian Treaties and the U.S. Constitution
- How Historical Maps Influence Thinking about Michigan's Indians
LeBeau is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota and is the former director of Michigan State University's American Indian Studies Program.
Thursday, November 30, 2006
Dartmouth's recent experiences around racist activity and representation of American Indians is in today's NY Times. This latest incident is a cartoon in a conservative Dartmouth paper not affiliated with the campus. The cartoon shows an Indian holding a bloody scalp, and the caption reads "The Natives are getting restless." The NY Times article quotes the editorial:
In an editorial, Linsalata wrote: ''While the onus may fall partly on the student body to facilitate an environment more hospitable to Indians, nothing can be done until the Indians themselves lay out measurable goals and steps for how this harmony can be achieved. Patronizing advertisements and excessive use of the race card are antithetical to this goal.''
"...the Indians themselves"?!! Linsalata's remark is outrageous. Dartmouth's Native students speak up regarding negative representations of Native people, and Linsalata says THEY must lay out measurable goals and steps for harmony. Where, in Linsalata's view of the world, is his own responsibility for that harmony?
For more, go directly to Dartmouth's school paper, The Dartmouth.
THIS societal context is the one in which all of you---parents, teachers, librarians, professors, students---must work. THIS mindset is why your work towards helping children know who Native people are, and what US history has been, is crucial. We are all responsible for the views that children hold, the views that they take to heart, that they rely on when they are adults. We can intervene, and we must.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
The program has many components. If you are interested in learning what they're doing, and how you might use their work to modify your teaching, or your district's curriculum, visit the website:
Montana Office of Public Instruction, Indian Education
Note: Today (Jan 22, 2013), I removed dead links to the articles referenced below.
The National Indian Education website has an article about it, posted in June of 2005: Montana's Public Schools to Teach about State's First People. Indian Country Today ran an article about the program in May of 2006: Montana prepares to implement unique 'Indian education for all' law.
And, the November 2006 issue of PDK features the program on its cover and has several articles about it.
If you are a teacher, parent, librarian, student, or professor in Montana and have first-hand information on the initiative, please share with us. Send me an email, and I'll post it to the blog. Or, use the comments option (below) if you prefer.
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Saturday, November 25, 2006
Index of Books Reviewed (or otherwise referenced) in A BROKEN FLUTE: THE NATIVE EXPERIENCE IN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN
1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving
- Amee-nah: Zuni Boy Runs the Race of His Life
- Doe Sia: Bannock Girl and the Handcart Pioneers
- Kunu: Winnebago Boy Escapes
- Moho Wat: Sheepeater Boy Attempts a Rescue
- Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran
- Om-kas-toe: Blackfeet Twin Captures an Elkdog
- Pathki Nana: Kootenai Girl Solves a Mystery
- Soun Tetoken: Nez Perce Boy Tames a Stallion
American Indian Mythology, Kiowa Voices, Vol. II: Myths, Legends and Folktales
- Charlie Young Bear
- The Day of the Ogre Kachinas
- Fire Mate
- From the Ashes
- Heart of Naosaqua
- Navajo Long Walk (Armstrong)
- Nesuya's Basket
- Quest for Courage
- Changes for Kaya: A Story of Courage
- Kaya's Escape! A Survival Story
- Kaya's Hero: A Story of Giving
- Kaya and Lone Dog: A Friendship Story
- Kaya and the River Girl
- Kaya Shows the Way: A Sister Story
- Meet Kaya: An American Girl