Saturday, November 10, 2007
I was referred to a bibliography about the topic. If you're interested in it, I encourage you to read Holly Tomren's paper, "Classification, Bias and American Indian Materials."
She reviews previous studies of cataloging of American Indian materials, noting that they are generally assigned to the 970 "General History of North America" section, even if they're not necessarily history. In that area, you'll find art and religion. Bias is unavoidable, but, she asks, how might a Native student feel when, in looking for info about his tribe, the librarian sends him to the history shelves? That student obviously knows his people are not extinct, but does his non-Native peer know that? Does finding the material in the history section affirm the idea that we've all vanished?
Tomren also discusses the Library of Congress subject headings and drawbacks in them, too, and she describes alternative systems developed by Native people in the US and Canada.
Her article is definitely worth reading. It's a little technical in parts, but overall, much can be learned about the ways that bias is present in shelving systems.
Friday, November 09, 2007
Note from Debbie: To learn more about boarding schools, visit these websites:
Carlisle Indian Industrial School, located in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Paula Giese's essay about Cheyenne Again provides in-depth information about Intermountain Indian School.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Was reading Cynthia Leitich Smith's blog this morning and saw this graphic. Isn't it nifty? If you click on the graphic, a larger image of it will open in another window.
Cyn's first three books are perfect for November reading.
- They are works of fiction by a Native author.
- They are about Native kids and their families.
- They are set in the present day.
Cyn has extensive info about each one at her web page. Click on the title to get to her page on each one:
I said "perfect for November" because this is designated as "Native American Month" but... Read her books all year long! Don't confine them or any/all of your reading/teaching about American Indians to November... Do your part to bring us out of the past and into the present.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Right after he was introduced, he said something like "I'm glad to be here... Just for you, I'll put on my Cleveland Indians baseball cap." His remarks were greeted with laughter and applause.
I understand his gesture, an effort to connect with his audience, but that particular gesture indicated that he has not considered the effects of these mascots on American Indian people. It was especially troubling because, as I listened to his speech, he spoke of the need for mental health workers to become culturally competent so they are better prepared to serve diverse populations.
I can be cynical and label him a hypocrite, but I don't think he is a hypocrite. I think that he---like most Americans---has never critically looked at stereotypes of American Indians, nor has he considered the effect of those stereotypes on American Indian children.
The American Psychological Association, and the American Sociological Association, both issued statements calling for an end to the use of American Indian imagery in sports mascots.
The APA's statement reads, in part:
Self-esteem is an important ingredient in resiliency and positive mental health adjustment. It is important that a group does not feel compromised in this important area of psychological functioning, as impairment of self-esteem can contribute to negative behaviors such as substance use and abuse, self-harming, and interpersonal violence (Witko, 2005; Cook-Lynn, 2001; Coombs, 1997).
It also reads:
For American Indian people, whose history is not often portrayed accurately in public education systems, the stereotypes that mascots, symbols, images, and personalities portray become the norm and miseducate American Indians and non-American Indians about American Indian culture, society, and spirituality (Gone, 2002; Connolly, 2000; Moses, 1996; Churchill, 1994, Nuessel, 1994; Banks, 1993).
And here's part of the statement by the American Sociological Association:
WHEREAS the American Sociological Association recognizes that racial prejudice, stereotypes, individual discrimination and institutional discrimination are socially created phenomena that are harmful to Native Americans and other people of color;
WHEREAS the American Sociological Association is resolved to undertake scholarship, education, and action that helps to eradicate racism;
WHEREAS social science scholarship has demonstrated that the continued use of Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport reflect and reinforce misleading stereotypes of Native Americans in both past and contemporary times;
WHEREAS the stereotypes embedded in Native American nicknames, logos and mascots in sport undermine education about the lives of Native American peoples;
These statements are issued by professional associations, and both address stereotypes in the form of mascots. I think it necessary for we, as educators, to look at stereotypes of American Indians in children's books. They are rampant this month, in the children's books about Thanksgiving, in the lesson plans about "Pilgrims and Native Americans," in the bulletin boards teachers are putting up this month, and in the decorations going up in your local grocery stores.
It is easy to feel defensive if you're using stereotypical materials. It may feel like a personal attack on your decisions. Please know that I view us all as products of a society that "did this" to us all---not in an intentionally harmful way---but in an unthinking way. There is no one place to lay blame for this massive lack-of-knowing, and laying blame is not the purpose of my writing on this blog.
Instead, my purpose is to provide a different perspective on American Indians as taught by books, schools, and society. I ask you to set aside that book, or that lesson plan, or that bulletin board display, and provide your students with solid information about American Indians.