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Thursday, December 31, 2009
Tomie de Paola's THE LEGEND OF THE INDIAN PAINTBRUSH
Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Doris Seale (Dakota, Cree, Abenaki) sent me this review in response to the query from Patricia O. a few weeks ago about Tomie DePaola's books. Judy and Doris are board members of Oyate, and Doris is one of its co-founders.
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola
As usually Tomie dePaola has done an exquisite job with the paintings in this book. The colors are bright; the pictures are simplistic and can easily be understood by a reader of the book’s intended age group. A spiritual leader does explain to Little Gopher that he has a “special gift” and “that he should not struggle” because “his path would not be the same as others”. Most Native people believe everyone has a special gift; life itself is a special gift and that nobody will follow the same path. However, it seems to be very unrealistic that a young boy would go out alone for a Dream-Vision without guidance of some kind from an elder or spiritual leader. Furthermore when this “spiritual event” is completed Little Gopher then interprets what his vision meant. Again this would be highly unusual.
Little Gopher eventually begins to paint pictures “of great hunts, of great deeds, of great Dream-Visions” so that “the people would always remember” says dePaola. This seems odd to us. How did Little Gopher learn of these great deeds, great hunts and great visions after all "his path was different then the others". Little Gopher was not a warrior or a hunter and had only one vision and no elders were present in the story to teach him of these great things? Curious isn't it.
One more thought crosses our mind. Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja Coccinea) are indigenous to Latin American not the plains of the west as the story implies.
However beautiful the paintings in this book are we would not recommend it or the companion video because of the complex issues that the intended audience would not understand.
Judy Dow (Abenaki)
Doris Seale (Dakota, Cree, Abenaki)