Sunday, January 10, 2010

American Indians/American Presidents

Last semester, Matt Gilbert gave me a book called American Indians/American Presidents: A History. Published by the Smithsonian, it looks to be quite promising, and something libraries ought to get. I say "looks to be" because I've not had time to read or study it. I'm drawn to the photographs.... 

The book is full of photographs. Richard Nixon in a headdress? Wondering why he's in a headdress?!

The book includes an introduction by Clifford E. Trafzer, followed by:

  1. "Native Nations and the New Nation, 1776-1820," by Robert W. Venables
  2. "Native Nations in an Age of Western Expansion, 1820-80," by Donna Akers
  3. "Dark Days, American Presidents and Native Sovereignty, 1880-1930," by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
  4. "From Full Citizenship to Self-Determination, 1930-75," by Duane Champagne
  5. "The Era of Self-Determination: 1975-Today," by Troy Johnson

As I look at the photographs, I like that they're straight-up black and white. They have not been reproduced in that sepia tone that we've come to associate with the past in a romantic way (or at least that's what it seems to me.) Some are in sepia, but I'm guessing they were originally preserved that way. A lot of photo software programs allow users to turn photos into sepia, and it seems to me people do that a LOT with Native photos. Its an aesthetic choice, but I don't like it. I think its one of the ways that representations of American Indians are done to frame us in the past, or, in a timeless way.

Check out Matt's blog, Beyond the Mesas. Reading what he writes provides you with the opportunity to become deeply knowledgeable about the Hopi Nation, thereby becoming a more-informed librarian or teacher. Being more-informed will help you better-select children's and young adult literature.

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