Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bernelda Wheeler's WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR MOCCASINS

Early childhood classrooms generally have a "Show and Tell" segment of the day during which one child talks about a special item he or she has brought from home. Bernelda Wheeler's Where Did You Get Your Moccasins? captures one of those moments.

The book is meant for reading aloud in an early childhood classroom. Here's an excerpt:

"Hi, Jody! Where did you get your moccasins?"

"My Kookum made my moccasins for me."

"Who is your Kookum?"

"My Kookum is my Grandmother. She made my moccasins for me."
This pattern continues throughout the book. With each page turn, Jody provides a little more information about his Native culture. The illustrations, by Herman Bekkering, depict a modern day elementary school classroom with low bookshelves. The children, Jody included, are shown wearing jeans and t-shirts. These pictures convey something a lot of children need to know: Native people are part of today's society.

Published in Canada, please order it from an independent bookstore! Or---order two copies. One for yourself, and one to give to a teacher!

[11/20/06 Note: For more information about the book, visit Waller Hasting's webpage.]

Friday, November 17, 2006

Marlinda White-Kaulaity's article in ALAN REVIEW

Thanks to Cynsations (Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog), I learned of an article I want to highlight today. The article is in ALAN Review and is written by a Dine (Navajo) woman in the PhD program in Curriculum and Instruction at Arizona State University.

Here's the first paragraph from "The Voices of Power and the Power of Voices: Teaching with Native American Literature":

"The weight and thickness of Mike's new literature book in English class intimidated him. He opened the book searching for Native American writers whose work he loved to read. Sherman Alexie was his favorite. As he fingered through the table of contents, all he found was a poem about Hiawatha, two stories in the mythology chapter, and one short story in the "Other Literatures" chapter in the back of the book. Sighing heavily, he gazed out the classroom window feeling bored and knowing that this English class would be more of the same. He closed his eyes and his mind, questioning the system and wondering to himself, 'Why can't we read the good stuff in English class?'"

Fortunately, the article is on-line in pdf. A sidebar features comments from Simon Ortiz, Cynthia Leitich Smith, and Laura Tohe, all of whom give us outstanding literature about American Indians.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Joseph A. Dandurand's Please Do Not Touch the Indians

[Note: This review used by permission of its author. It may not be published elsewhere without written permission of the author.]

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Dandurand, Joseph A. (Kwantlen), Please Do Not Touch the Indians. Renegade Planets, 2004. 55 pages, grades 7-up

There’s a moment between sleeping and wakefulness that we’ve all experienced: a moment of transformation that may manifest itself as a falling tree, or a visit from a long-dead relative, or rain on the roof, or a memory too horrible to speak of; a moment of transformation in which time is timeless and reality is surreal.

Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman sit on a bench in front of Hank Williams Sr.’s Bait and Gift Shop. Visited by Sister Coyote, Brother Raven and Mr. Wolf, Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman exchange stories that weave forward, back and around, the way good stories do. Stories about a kind-hearted woman who wouldn’t hurt a fly and a two-headed baby in a jar, a boat full of fish and a salmon who seeks to seduce a raven, a grandma besieged by prankster grandchildren and a life bet for one ugly horse. And the Tourists who think that Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman are as they appear to be.

As Tourist transforms into a movie director shouting orders—“Let’s get some close-ups of those bleeding scalps. I want them to drip and drip…I want to see the children and the women screaming and crying.”— Wooden Indian Man and Wooden Indian Woman tell the lives of Indian people, speak their truths to power. Bitter, painful memories of all the indignities, large and small, heaped upon the people over the generations. And the children, slaughtered on the “battlefield,” the survivors raped and abused at residential school, left to the ravages of alcoholism and suicide. Now the children—Sister Coyote, Brother Raven and Mr. Wolf—jump and transform themselves into the sacred Beings they are. And Wooden Indian Man comforts Wooden Indian Woman:

Rest now. We will come back tomorrow and see what spirits come to visit us. Go to sleep, my love. Sleep and dream of days like this. Days filled with wonderful and alive spirits that play and sing, forever…

—Beverly Slapin