Saturday, April 04, 2009


On Thursday, I was in La Crosse, Wisconsin to give a couple of lectures in the Curriculum Center at the university. It was a great visit, and I especially enjoyed meeting the people that work in the library. (Thanks again, Michele Strange, for arranging my visit.) We had an engaging conversation at lunch. The warm welcome was continued later in the day by faculty in the College of Education, Peg Finders and Richard Gappa. If you were in the audience and have a question, please do write to me or use the Comment option below.

The next day, I was at the Cleary Center on campus to participate in the Act 31 conference, which is a 2-day symposium about Wisconsin Indians. The conference is designed for teachers and takes place every year. If you're in Wisconsin, I urge you to attend next year. It is a valuable opportunity. Children from a local elementary school are brought in as part of the conference for some mini-sessions geared toward them. So, in addition to the session where I worked with teachers, I spent the morning visiting with 4th and 5th graders, talking about Wisconsin Indians, stereotypes, and books.

Many hands eagerly shot up when I asked if any of them had read Birchbark House. It was wonderful to see their enthusiasm for the book.

I also asked them if they had read Little House on the Prairie. Again, several hands went up. I asked if they remembered that the phrase "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" is in the book three times. They shook their heads. I asked them to imagine how a Native girl might feel when they read that phrase, or heard the teacher read those words. One boy said "She'd feel horrible." I asked "Why would she feel horrible?" And he said "She'd feel worthless."

Powerful words "she'd feel worthless." Obviously, he understands.

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