Friday, August 25, 2006

Are you reading "American Indians in Children's Literature" in Finland? Italy?

According to the stats report of the blog, readers are logging in from Finland, Italy, Belgium, Bermuda, Australia, Ireland, the Philippines and Canada (note: the report does not provide personal information that can be traced directly to a reader; only "location" such as Makati, Rizal, in the Philippines).

If you come back to read the blog again, I'd really like to hear (send me an email) what children in your country know and are taught about American Indians. What children's books do they read? Little House on the Prairie? While it is hailed as a classic here, it has a lot of problems with regard to its representation of American Indians (some of which are noted in the linked review).

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Most people are surprised to learn that the author of The Education of Little Tree is Asa Carter, the former Klansman and speech writer for George Wallace. In addition to discussion of his identity, leading scholars of American Indian literature have soundly criticized the story Carter tells.

Apparently unaware of the controversy and shortcomings of the book, teachers use the book in classrooms across the country. A google search of “Education of Little Tree” +K12 returned 12,600 hits.

Amy Kallio Bollman has an essay that captures the debate over the book. Titled “The Education of Little Tree and Forest Carter: What is Known? What is Knowable?”, it includes an extensive bibliography.

Two articles from my files that are not included in Bollman’s bibliography are:

Krupat, Arnold (2005) “Representing Cherokee Dispossession” in Studies in American Indian Literature, volume 17, no. 1, pp. 16-41.

Smith, Paul Chaat (1996) “Be Like Nick” in Winds of Change, volume 11 no. 2, pages 53-57.

And here’s one an article from, from 2001:
“The Education of Little Fraud” by Allan Barra. If you’re not a Salon subscriber, I think I can email the article to you.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Critical Literacy Podcast

I'm taking time this morning to listen to the Critical Literacy in Practice (CLIP) podcast. It is far easier than I expected. All I did was click on the "listen" button. I didn't have to open an audio program like RealPlayer, so I don't know how this works, or if it will work on your computer.

As noted in an earlier post, Vivian Vasquez's CLIP podcast was planning to feature Arigon Starr's song "My Heart is on the Ground." She did that, but it looks like there are two segments featuring Native content. I'm listening to the podcast as I write this post, to a song by Jesse James, who is the lead singer for Diga. According to the Diga website, James is from the Tlicho (Dobrib) community of Fort Rae in the Northwest Terrorities, and Diga's music "tells the stories of the culture, the elders, and the land." On that podcast (Show #6 "Unpacking Stereotypes Continued..., dated Monday August 14th, 2006), Vasquez poses a series of questions about the Tylenol ad I noted a few weeks ago.

The previous week (Show #5, August 7th) the podcast was titled "Rising up against stereotypes." It was on that show that Vasquez played Arigon Starr's song. In this show, Vasquez plays a clip by Dianne Lafferty, who relates an experience her daughter had in a skating show with a Walt Disney theme.

Take time to visit Vasquez's site and listen to her podcasts. And if you know of Native people doing podcasts, let me know. If they're related to education and/or children's book, I'll link to them.


Monday, August 21, 2006

INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD series by Lynne Reid Banks

The software that monitors traffic on my site includes a list of words and phrases people use that bring them to American Indians in Children's Literature. (Note: the software doesn’t provide names, email addresses or any information that can be traced back to you.) One that pops up often is “Indian in the Cupboard” and “lesson plan.”

Due to the many problems with that book, I do not recommend Indian in the Cupboard or any of the sequels. Here are some on-line reviews and an article about the book:

“A Demand for Excellence in Books for Children” by Jan LaBonty, published in the Journal of American Indian Education

And here’s another article, not available on-line. If you don't have access to it through a library, send me an email (dreese dot nambe at gmail dot com) and I'll send you a copy:

Tyler, Rhonda Harris (Jul/Aug 2000) Indian in the Cupboard: A Case Study in Perspective International Journal of Qualitative Studies in Education (QSE), Vol. 13, Issue 4

If any readers know of other reviews/discussions of this book, let us know. I have some notes on the first chapter, and, a link to an outstanding article about toy Indians here: Indian in the Cupboard, chapter one

Sunday, August 20, 2006

A Review of Ruth Bornstein's BRAVE BUNNY

[Note: Beverly Slapin at Oyate compared Indian Bunny and Brave Bunny (for background see the blog post on August 14, 2006). She sent her review to me. With her permission, I'm posting it below. Her review may not be published elsewhere without her written permission. Remember to visit the Oyate site to order children's books about American Indians. And if you want more of their reviews, you won't regret getting Oyate's Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children, and A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. --Debbie]


In 1973, Golden Gate Junior Books published Ruth Bornstein's little book, INDIAN BUNNY. In the same year, it was picked up by Scholastic, "by arrangement with Children's Press." Bornstein dedicated INDIAN BUNNY "to Noah, Jonah, Adam, and Jesse," whom we can presume to be her children. Here is the entire text of INDIAN BUNNY:

One day a bunny said,
Good-by, I'm going to be an Indian.
I'll follow the stream
And I'll walk along a hidden forest trail
—so silently
that not even the deer will hear me.
In the stream I'll find a tadpole
and he'll tell me how he turns into a frog.
I'll come to a meadow
and do a deer dance when the sun is high.
I'll climb a tree
and look far out.
An eagle will come to his nest,
so I'll hide in my friend the Owl's house
and watch him.
I'll climb down and find a feather the eagle
has floated down to me.
Then I'll follow the hidden trail
to the place where the animals meet.
and I'll watch them.
And when the sun is low
I'll silently steal away.
I'll gather round stones
to mark a place.
And I'll rub two sticks together
to make a fire.
I'll sit by my fire.
Maybe I'll hear the drums far off—
And I'll beat my drum in the night.
My friend the Owl will hear me.
And when the moon is high
and I crawl into my tepee,
my friend will fly over to say,
Sweet dreams.

That's all of it. A quiet, gently told tale with soft cadence; perfect to read in a dim light to little kids warmly tucked in bed. A sweet little goodnight story for the littlest kids to fall asleep to. Except that it's racist in its inception and imagery. A little bunny goes off and plays Indian, doing all the things that "Indians" do in the imaginations of non-Indian kids and their parents.

In 2003 (thirty years later), Gibbs Smith Publisher morphed INDIAN BUNNY into BRAVE BUNNY. Ruth Lercher Bornstein dedicated BRAVE BUNNY to "Jacob, Gabriel, Joseph, Rebekah, Kalia, and Olivia," whom we can presume to be her grandchildren. According to the publisher, BRAVE BUNNY was edited by Jennifer Grillone. The CIP summary: "A bunny decides that it is time to go into the world to meet and learn from other animals, especially his friend Owl."

So what kind of editing was done? The second line and the last line.

One day a bunny said,
Good-by, I'm going out into the world.

And when the moon is high
and I crawl into my tepee,
my friend will fly over to say,
Good night, Brave Bunny.

Some green and blue tint was added to the pictures. That's all. "Brave Bunny" is still sneaking around, wearing a feather, doing a "deer dance," rubbing two sticks together to make a fire, beating a drum, and going to sleep in his "tepee." I wonder how much Jennifer Grillone was paid for her "editing," and who thought it was a good idea to bring this offensive little book back into print.—Beverly Slapin