Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Board Books

In some of my posts, I talked about words like "papoose" that some (incorrectly) think are "Indian" words that all Indians use, regardless of tribe or mother tongue.

Today, I want to talk about board books in which you'll find the real deal. By that, I mean these books are by Native authors, and they use their own language in the book. (Board books are those books meant specifically for babies and toddlers; the pages are thick cardboard.)

In 2003, a set of board books were published by Salina Bookshelf, located in Flagstaff, Arizona. The illustrator is a Dine (Navajo) woman named Beverly Blacksheep. They are bilingual books, which means that all the printed words are presented in two languages: Dine and English. The four are Baby's First Laugh, Baby Learns about Animals, Baby Learns about Colors, and Baby Learns to Count. Learn more about the Navajo Nation by visiting their website.

In the early 2000's (sounds odd to use that phrase), the Fond du Lac Head Start Program published two board books that use Ojibwe words. Boozhoo, Come Play With Us is a series of photos of children at the Head Start, doing the things children do in pre-school, but with the addition of Ojibwe words to name those things. The book is by Deanna Himango, with photos by Rocky Wilkinson; both individuals are Ojibwe. So is Lyz Jaakola, whose book Our Journey uses Ojibwe words for north, south, east, west, but also for sun and earth. And, here's the website for the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Reservation.

If anyone knows of other board books like these, please let me know.

As you may have noticed (above), I included links to tribal websites. By visiting these links and having children you work with visit them, we can let go of wrong ideas (Indians are extinct) or ideas that confine us to the past (Indians don't drive cars). We're very much are part of today's society. Nation nations and individuals are using the internet, just like everyone else.

I'm in New Haven, Connecticut this week, spending some time in the Yale library archives. I'm finding some interesting things that I'll use in my research and on the blog. Off to the archives!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

"Indian" words: Teaching about Indians, Part II

In children's books (and TV, movies, etc.) there are many words that are used to denote Indian people, their artifacts. These words are used uncritically, generally accepted as appropriate or correct. I want to poke at that usage a bit, prompting readers to pause a moment to think about those words.

For starters, there are over 500 different American Indian tribes/nations recognized by the US Government at the present time. Add to that the tribes/nations recognized by a state government and all those not recognized by the federal or state government, let alone the numbers of tribes/nations that existed prior to 1492, and you've got a huge number. They did not speak a common language, religion, material culture, etc.

Nonetheless, in children's books, a baby is a papoose, a woman is a squaw, a man is a brave or chief, and when they die, they go to the happy hunting ground.

The reality? Each tribe has its own word for baby, woman, man. If you're reading a story set at Nambe Pueblo (that is where I am from), and the author uses a word for woman, that word should be the Tewa (language we speak) word: kwee.

Course, the English word grandma would be fine, too.