Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve: "...so little is known about the women."

In Completing the Circle, Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve says "so little is known about the women." In history textbooks, and in children's books, Native women and girls are largely absent. When they are present, they're anonymous figures and beasts of burden who prepare food, haul wood, tan hides, and take care of children. They are usually nameless and called "squaw," even by others in their tribe. Does that make sense? Would the Native peoples of the southwest or northeast use the same word for woman? Not likely, but as a society, we've come to think that all Native peoples call their women squaws (or "princess" --- but I'll save that discussion for another time). When we read "squaw" in Elizabeth George Speare's 1957 book Calico Captive, or her 1983 Sign of the Beaver, or Dalgliesh's 1954 The Courage of Sarah Noble, we don't even pause. It fits with our flawed ideas about Native culture and Native women.

In reality, each tribe has its own word for woman. And, women in Native societies past and present were not marginalized in the ways that history textbooks and childrens books suggest. Some books by Native authors give us a different picture, and that's what today's post is about. Instead of Calico Captive, Sign of the Beaver, or The Courage of Sarah Noble, read the books listed below. These authors provide readers with well-rounded female Native characters whose lives more accurately reflects the lives of Native women and girls.

For readers in elementary school:
Birchbark House, by Louise Erdrich
Daughter of Suqua by Diane Johnston Hamm
Children of the Longhouse, by Joseph Bruchac
Sees Behind Trees, by Michael Dorris

For readers in middle and high school:
Waterlily, by Ella C. Deloria
Night Flying Woman, An Ojibway Narrative, by Ignatia Broker
Halfbreed, by Maria Campbell


jcrit said...

Here's some great news, at least for 4-Corners area people: A Native Literature Book Fair.

The announcement:

KUSD Native American Resource and Material Book Fair is scheduled for Friday, August 4, 2006 beginning at 10:00 a.m. at the Kayenta Unified School District No. 27 Cultural Center, the Book Fair will conclude at 7:00 p.m. There will be door prize drawing; winners must be present to claim the prize.

Kayenta Unified School District is taking up a joint effort in working with vendors that are selling Native American resources and instructional materials by bringing the vendors on site to make cultural related instructional materials readily available to educators, staff, students, and community members purchase.

We extended our invitation in welcoming twenty-one vendors to bring as much Native American resource such as, instructional materials, and videos, culture posters, calendars, Native American music and ample catalogs. So far the following vendors agreed on coming:

San Juan Curriculum Center
Selina Bookshelf
Rock Point Community School
Rough Rock School Press
Northern Arizona Teacher Supply (who was The Book Nest)

Other vendors who were sent the invitation to join us in this effort are still coming in.
We know this is very short notice and we apologize, however, we need everyone to help in advertising this event at large and extend our invitation to the surrounding schools: Kayenta Community School, Shonto Preparatory School, Chilchinbeto, Dennehotso Boarding School and Monument Valley #2, and Pinon Unified School, Rough Rock School. 

If you have friends, relatives, or an educator who is in need of Native American instructional materials and resources, pass this announcement to them.

Wouldn't it be nice to have a traveling Native Literature book fair going across this whole country? It's got me thinking....

Debbie Reese said...

jcrit ---

I forwarded your announcement to listservs for librarians and teachers, and I've had a few inquiries from people who want contact info for acquiring the resources. Can you post that, or write to me directly?


jcrit said...

I forwarded your comment to our Cultural Center director, but neither she nor I are able to get through to you at dbreese(at)uiuc.edu, so I will try to get some info and forward it to you through a comment here on the blog.

Karen Gorss said...

Thank you! I came here specifically looking for historical fiction, to stand against a book my son is reading for school this summer: The Ransom of Mercy Carter. I appreciate your list of recommendations at the end of this post.