Monday, August 27, 2007


Some time back, I discussed Beverly Blacksheep's board books that include English and Dine (Navajo) language. Today, I draw your attention to Eugene Sekaquaptewa's Coyote and the Winnowing Birds: A Traditional Hopi Tale.

The story is presented in English, but also in the Hopi language. And the illustrators are twenty-two children of the Hotevilla-Bacavi Community School at Hopi.

It is based on a story told by Eugene Sekaquaptewa, translated and edited by Emory Sekaquaptewa and Barbara Pepper.

In addition to the inclusion of Hopi language, note the style of telling the story itself. The first page reads:

Yaw Orayve yeesiwa.
Everyone was living at Oraibi.

One line of text, providing basic information in a straightforward way. There is no "many moons ago" or "in the days of the ancient ones" in this book. There is no romantic, waxing prose found in too many retellings of Native stories.

From my read of the story, the straightforward text communicates that the Hopi people are a people of the present day. Not vanished, or exotic. Any child picking up this book will recognize the art as something he or she could have produced. It is child art. But it is child art done by Hopi children, which communicates (as does the text) that Hopi children are part of the present day.

Designed for children at the school, the book includes information about the Hopi alphabet, a Hopi to English Glossary, and an English to Hopi Glossary. Still, any child will enjoy Coyote and the Winnowing Birds, and the other book in the series, Coyote and Little Turtle. They will go a long way in countering the misperception that Native peoples no longer exist.