Saturday, January 02, 2010

Native blog: "Last Woman: Political & Cultural Snaps"

Julia Good Fox (Pawnee) publishes Last Woman, a blog that I read. Julia is on the faculty at Haskell Indian Nations University, in its Indigenous Nations and American Indian Studies department.

I was especially thrilled to learn that she reads my site. In fact, I'm one of her "Seven Must-Read Blogs." Also on her list are a couple of blogs I read (in addition to hers): Turtle Talk, a blog on Indigenous Law and Policy, and, Brenda Norell's CENSORED NEWS.

Thanks, Julia, for including my site.

I encourage people who read my site to read Last Woman, Turtle Talk, and, Censored News. By reading these sites, you'll gain a lot of insight into how to think critically about the ways that American Indian peoples are portrayed in children's and young adult literature.  To do a good job of selecting books about us, you must know what we care about. What world and legal matters affect us? How? Why?

As you start this new decade, I want you to help me to help us all. I don't mean to spout self-righteous pap. I'm serious. I'm one person out of literally hundreds of thousands involved with children's and young adult literature. Some of you are already doing what you can, but we must do a lot more.

Friday, January 01, 2010

California Indians Critique Lesson Plans on California Missions

A colleague, Deborah Miranda, publishes a blog called When Turtles Fly. A few days ago, she wrote about the California Missions and how they're taught. I'm copying her first four paragraphs below as a sample of what you'll find if you click on over to "4th Grade California Mission Projects: A Thought Experiment for Parents, Educators, and Students."

Deborah's site has links to books you should read if you're interested in developing a critical understanding of American Indians in California. One example is Rupert Costo and Jeannette Henry Costo's 1984 The Missions of California, A Legacy of Genocide. The information accompanying the book reads:
For two hundred years the native people of California have borne the stigma of "Mission Indians." The names of their nations and tribes are Hupa, Kumeyaay, Chuilla, Pauma, Malki, Cupa and Pamo to name a few.
Do you refer to the indigenous peoples of California as "Mission Indians" or do you use specific names? Deborah's site has much to offer. Do add When Turtles Fly to your reading this year.  


In California schools, students come up against the "Mission Unit" in fourth grade, although the same children have been breathing in the lies most of their lives. Part of California’s history curriculum, the unit is entrenched in the system, and impossible to avoid.

Because this assignment is typically started over Winter Vacation, I’m posting this note for parents and children who are starting their research now. Please be aware that I have other blog posts about the missions as well; please take a look at them too.

The Mission Unit is a powerfully authoritative indoctrination in Mission Mythology against which fourth graders have little if any resistance, and intense pressure is put upon students (and their parents) to create a "Mission Project" that glorifies the era and glosses over both Spanish and Mexican exploitation of Indians, as well as American enslavement of those same Indians during American rule.

In other words, the Mission Unit is all too often a lesson in imperialism, racism, and Manifest Destiny than actually educational or a jumping off point for critical thinking or accurate history.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

News from Oyate

Earlier this week I received an email from Oyate. I'm sharing that news today.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Oyate co-founder Doris Seale and the Board of Directors are pleased to share with you the beginning of a new season for Oyate. After a long and distinguished career with Oyate, Beverly Slapin has resigned as executive director.  We thank Beverly for her twenty years of service and wish her the best moving forward. Board members and current staff are excited about maintaining day-to-day operations while we enter into our new phase.  Oyate continues to be up and running.  We appreciate your patience during this growth period as we smooth out the usual transitional wrinkles.  The Board is in the process of developing a new leadership structure and is currently communicating with several well-qualified and talented Native American candidates to fill open staff positions. 

Thank you for your support as Oyate continues to grow.

Doris Seale, CoFounder (Dakota, Cree, Abenaki)

Robette Dias, President (Karuk)

Janet King, Vice President (Lumbee)

Judy Dow, Secretary-Treasurer (Abenaki)

Nellie Adkins (Chickahominy)

Danielle DiBona (Wampanoag)


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)