Saturday, August 05, 2006

"Indian Festival"

Leaving Pennsylvania today, after spending a few days in beautiful country in the NW corner, where a small town called Tionesta is located. Next week, Tionesta will hold its annual "Indian Festival." Activities include a "Princess and Brave Pageant" an "Indian Costume Parade" and dancing by the "Allegany River Indian Dancers."

The community and businesses of Tionesta sponsor the festival. Top sponsors are the "Tribal Council" followed by the "Chief Sponsors" who donate $100 or more in cash or merchandise, and last, the "Brave Sponsors." Icon for the "Tribal Council" is a shield with "TIF" on it; the icon for the "Chief Sponsors" is a headdress, and for the "Brave Sponsors, it is a single feather.

I don't know if any of the people participating in these events are Native, or part Native. My hunch is that is not the case. It is one example of the many ways and places that Americans play Indian. Everyone we talk to here (hotel/restaurant staff, etc.) is very friendly. I don't disclose my identity, nor have I queried anyone about the festival. I know they don't mean any harm by engaging in the festival activities. I haven't seen any "honoring" sort of rhetoric, so don't think that is what they're up to, but if their festival were challenged by American Indians, what would they do? How do we, as people (Native or not), help others see the flaws in their activities in such a way that they become our allies?

Back on the road!

(Note for jcrit: My email address is debreese@uiuc.edu.)

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