Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Following up on "What Neil Gaiman said..."


Debbie Reese (me). Tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo (for those who don't know, that means I'm American Indian) and Assistant professor in American Indian Studies. As a Native woman, mother, and aunt who is deeply connected to my family and community at Nambe Pueblo (I was raised there, and I have a home there) and as a professor who studies the ways that American Indians are portrayed, I view the world from a place that is distinctly different from most people who rarely give much (if any) thought to American Indians. Said another way, my context, and framework, and perspective for viewing the world are distinct. Like many, I believe there is great power in words. Written, or spoken, they can empower and inspire, but they can also hurt and demean. Most words about us (American Indians) are in the latter category. There is a whole lot of good intent that goes very badly. My work is not a blame-game. It is a 'hey, let's all look at this carefully and think about it!'

Neil Gaiman. His novel, The Graveyard Book, won the prestigious Newbery Medal in 2009. He is also a very popular and prolific writer. Visit his website, Neil Gaiman. Sometime back I started following him on Twitter, reading his blog entries when he tweeted them. I have not read any of his books, but I've bought several of them as gifts for my family. Contrary to what some people seemed to think, my questions about the words he said ("a few dead Indians") had nothing to do with the book itself. I was not suggesting he should have set the book in the U.S. I was not suggesting that he should have included American Indians in the book. I was noting the words he said in the interview.

Kynn Bartlett. A self-employed writer, and, I think, a game developer. He's She's got a site called "Bold Pueblo Games" but he she is not Pueblo Indian, and I'm not sure why "Pueblo" is in the name of his site. He She has a LiveJournal (LJ). I do not know if you must have a LiveJournal account to read his her LJ. (2:15 PM, April 21: My apologies to Kynn, who submitted a comment saying "preferred pronouns for me are along the lines of "she" and not "he." I'm correcting that error using strikeout technique rather than erasure.)

BGF Central.  I don't know who BGF Central is. From Gaiman's tweets, I gather BGF Central's name is Pam. At the top of her blog, AND WE SHALL MARCH are the words "BLACK. GEEK. AND FINE WITH THAT."


First, my post, "What Neil Gaiman said..." prompted Kynn to post it on his her LiveJournal.

Second, Kynn's post, "Neil Gaiman's racist fail" prompted Neil Gaiman to tweet on his Twitter page.

What followed was called "a brouhaha" by some, or a "sh*t storm" by others.  A couple of days have passed, and the post you are reading now is my attempt to do two things. First, I will lay it out chronologically. For clarity sake, I'm writing it in third person.

Part of why I am taking the time to lay it out is my second reason for this post. I think it important that we see how celebrity fandom can obscure the work that my original post (and all my work on this blog) is trying to do. That is, pushing everyone to think about HOW they think about American Indians, what they THINK they know about American Indians, and how all of that comes together in the words they write and speak aloud.

April 18, 2010

9:06 AM
Debbie Reese posted "What Neil Gaiman said..." to her blog. 

11:24 AM
Kynn posted "Neil Gaiman's racist fail" to his her LiveJournal.

4:56 PM
Yukari m (yucaree) tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself :: I'm assuming you mean European-style graveyards but someone's not happy with you ::

(Note: Whenever you see the @ symbol in front of a name on twitter, it means that the person who wrote the tweet (yucaree) sent it to the person named right after the @--in this case, Gaiman).

7:13 PM
Gaiman tweeted to yucaree:
@yucaree of course they aren't. It's the Internet. I left a clarification, but it's not yet posted.

7:04 PM CST
Neil Gaiman's comment to "What Neil Gaiman said..." was approved for upload by Debbie Reese. (Gaiman submitted his comment at 6:39 PM CST. Reese moderates comments to keep spam from appearing as comments on her site.)

(No time stamp available)
Gaiman tweeted:
I'm called a racist by someone who has taken a comment about European graveyards in US out of context Sigh. #twits 
As you will see, Gaiman deleted this tweet from his page. It is archived elsewhere. If you clicked on the link he provided, you saw it was a bad link. (Note: The pound sign in front of a word is a "hashtag." It is a technique in Twitter for compiling tweets with the specific hashtag on a single page. Hence, there is a page where all tweets in which people who used "#twits" in their tweet are compiled.) 

8:25 PM
Debbie tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself No... I did not call you a racist. Ignorant, perhaps. In fact, you misspoke.

(No time stamp available)
Gaiman tweeted: 
Linkfail on 'racism' : (Perhaps the person thinks that Indian Burial Grounds were European-style Graveyards.)
Realizing the link was bad, he provided one that worked. It went to Kynn's LiveJournal. 

8:30 PM
Gaiman tweeted:
I should point out that the actual site the #twit LJ linked to - - is perfectly sane. And my reply wasn't sarcastic. 
The link he included is my post "What Neil Gaiman said..."

8:31 PM
Gaiman tweeted to Reese:
@debreese not Deb, you didn't at all. The "racist" comment was in which I think misunderstood your point.
Note: I do not know Gaiman personally. This episode is the first time I have ever interacted with him. His use of "Deb" should not be taken to mean that we know each other.  

8:32 PM
Gaiman tweeted to Reese:
@debreese and I was happy to clarify on your site what I meant. (Sad about the comment after mine though.)

8:33 PM
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself Shall point out that you're calling this individual person a twit to your 1.4+ million followers.
Apparently (as you will see), BGF Central is someone Gaiman relies on for advice. 

8:35 PM
Gaiman tweeted to KurtBusiek:
@KurtBusiek Throwing a term like racist around like that cheapens it in a way I find offensive. It's a real, bad thing & that's just cheap.

I don't know who KurtBusiek is---could be a fan or a friend (or neither). 

8:36 PM
Gaiman tweeted to BGF Central:
@BGFCentral Yeah. Point taken. But people had twittered it, and it was coming on the FAQ line. And there are words you don't use lightly.
8:38 PM
Gaiman tweeted to BGF Central:
@BGFCentral and Pam, twit is a much, much milder term than racist. But yes, #ishouldusethesepowersonlyforgood

8:39 PM
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself words you don't use lightly=Truth. But power dynamics factor into #agame reality....

8:40 PM
Gaiman tweeted on his Twitter page:
The wise @BGFCentral points out that calling someone a twit in front of 1.4 million people is not using these powers for good. Sigh.
8:40 and 8:42 PM
BGFCentral tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself ..Twitter is not the format to respond to that. Your homeport, where there is room for Big Picture & Nuance, is. Otherwise.. it looks like you're PA unleashing a bum rush, which will blowback. No FAQ line filter on Twitter.
Notes: I think "homeport" is Gaiman's blog; "PA" might be Public Affairs At 2:13 PM, April 21, Pam wrote to me, saying that PA is Passive Aggressive; I don't know what "No FAQ line filter on Twitter means." 

8:41 PM
Gaiman tweeted on his Twitter page:
And @bgfcentral is right for she is wise, so I will delete those tweets.

8:47 PM
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself You r sweet, DON'T DELETE THEM. Also an #agame reality re Omission v Take The Hit Move On. No room here; check email later.

8:47 PM
Yucaree tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself: I'm sorry, my intention wasn't to make you sigh, but I'm glad you're aware of what's being said so you can clarify your point.

8:58 PM
Reese tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself I responded to your comment. And of course, your fans are commenting. Context/perspective r crucial
9:13 PM
Gaiman tweeted to Kynn:
@kynn I assumed that the apostrophe on "Neil Gaiman's racist" was short for "IS".
9:13 PM
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself You're right. Calling someone a twit is *nothing* compared to calling them a racist. I believe that person is *wrong*.  

9:14 PM
Gaiman tweeted to Kynn:
@kynn Happy to have a real discussion. @Bfgcentral pointed out that it was wrong of me to get offended on Twitter, so I deleted comments.
 9:15 PM
Kynn tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself you seriously thought I wrote "neil gaiman is racist fail" and not "the racist fail belonging to neil gaiman"? reeeeeally? 

9:15 PM
Gaiman tweeted to Kynn:
@kynn follow me & I'll send email.

9:17 and 9:20 and 9:23
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman: 
But because of the scale difference *you* must be clear-eyed practical in if/how/where you respond to an *individual* speaking from top-of-head impulse (benefit of doubt) in a space this person might consider a personal diary & is not prepared to deal with a flood of your readers who read your missive as a call to step up and "defend" you. You will be blamed if it goes badly.

9:22 PM
Gaiman tweeted to BFG:
@BGFCentral good advice, much too late. I had already deleted. Now being accused of hiding the evidence.
Gaiman's "hiding the evidence" is in reference to the conversation taking place on Kynn's LiveJournal.

9:26 PM
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself Arg very sorry to hear that, but not surprised. Couldn't type warning fast enough cuz doing bunches of things at once, here.

9:25 PM
Reese tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself Context in which I read interview:23 of 100 bks in SLJ Top 100 List hve American Indians (sort of)

9:36 PM
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself Clarify at your homeport next week (by Monday mean-time would be best). Be honest, do not equivocate. Then weather the hit.
9:37 PM
Gaiman tweeted to Kynn:
@kynn sent you an honestly apologetic email.
Kynn posted Gaiman's apologetic email on Kynn's LiveJournal at 10:07. (Update, 6:58 AM, April 22: If that link does not work, try this one: )

9:39 PM
Gaiman tweeted to Kynn:
@kynn Again, sorry.
9:38 PM
BGF Central tweeted to Gaiman:
@neilhimself From what I know of you the Weather The Hit part might be hardest. But you can take it and will come through Wiser. #agame
9:47 PM
Gaiman tweeted on his Twitter page:
Argh. Appear to have made a mess of that one in every possible way. Apologies to all, especially @debreese and @kynn.

9:50 PM
Gaiman tweeted on his page:
Too long on the road. Food, and sleep. And may the #volcanogod look kindly on my attempts to get to the UK this week.

That was his last tweet on this topic. At 9:51, I tweeted to Gaiman: "[Apology] to me? Not necessary. Interesting, though, to see people blasting me for pointing to the interview in the first place." I tweeted that to him because I don't know why he was apologizing to me. Or rather, what he was apologizing for. Maybe it was because his fans were blasting me.


Gaiman has over a million followers. His tweets sent ten thousand of them to American Indians in Children's Literature over a 24 hour period. Many of them submitted comments. in 2006 when I started blogging, I did not moderate comments. But then I started getting all kinds of spam, so I set the comments option to "moderate comments." I rarely reject a comment submitted by an actual person. The ones that just curse me, I ignore those. But I approve both, negative and positive comments.  When the comments started coming to "What Neil Gaiman said..." I read each one and approved all except one. Then on Monday, I posted a note saying the comments option was closed.

As of this writing, I have not gone back to study the comments. My impression is that most of the individuals submitting comments did so without reading and reflecting on what I said, and without reading and reflecting on comments submitted prior to theirs. Instead, it was mostly a dogpile.

Some people seemed to think that I was/am angry at Gaiman for NOT setting his book in a United States cemetery, and for NOT including American Indians in his book. Some people blasted me for "not reading the book." Some people said I was making a mountain out of a molehill, that Gaiman's remark did not merit being singled out. Privately, someone said that if he'd said "a few dead Jews" the response would have been very different.

My concern is not his book, so, it does not matter if I read it or not. My concern is that a very powerful figure said some things in a newspaper interview that I found troubling. I was (and am) sure that Gaiman knows more about American Indians than his words implied.

I want him to write something about this. Given his fanbase, he could push society to think about the ways we all think, write, and speak about American Indians. He said a little at my blog, clarifying what he meant, but, I want him to write about this on HIS blog. And I want him to tweet it when he does it.

As minutes passed on Sunday night, he worked pretty hard to make amends with Kynn for calling Kynn a twit, but that took him away from his "a few dead Indians" remark.

I think there is more for him to do and say, and I'd like him to do that.

(Note to Gaiman, Kynn, and BGF: I copied and pasted items from your tweets. If I've made errors, please let me know. My email address is dreese dot nambe at gmail dot com.)

Update: April 21, 1:17 PM
I tweeted this follow-up to Gaiman. He tweeted back "definitely planning to blog about it. Still several blogs behind due to volcano travel madness." When his blog post is published, I will provide a link.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Following up on "What Laura Ingalls Wilder left out of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE"

On July 3, 2008, my blog post was "Selective Omissions, or, What Laura Ingalls Wilder left out of LITTLE HOUSE."  In a nutshell, it was about a speech she gave wherein she said some things were not appropriate reading for young children, so, she left them out of her book. The example she gave was of a family named the Benders. She said they were murderers, that many bodies were found on their property, and that Pa had joined a group of men from town to go find them. 

Soon after I uploaded that post, I got comments saying that Laura and her family were not actually living in Indian Territory when that whole incident with the Benders took place.

I suggest you go to that post and read it, and then come back here and continue reading...

A few days ago, I was reading a blog called Condensery, specifically the post titled "Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Bloody Benders." There, I learned that Rose (Laura's daughter) had actually written up that Bender story and included it in Pioneer Girl, which was the unpublished memoir of Laura's life, co-written by Laura and her daughter. The Pioneer Girl website says that the hand-written manuscript is not available for viewing or study, but that it is available via microfilm. Here's an excerpt, from the blog from laura ingalls wilder to cyberbessie linked to from Condensery.

One night just about sundown a strange man came riding his horse up to the door on a run. Pa hurried out and they talked a few minutes. Then the man went away as fast as he had come, and pa came into the house in a hurry. He would not wait for supper, but asked Ma to give him a bite to eat right away, saying he must go. Something horrible had happened at Benders.

Ma put bread, meat, and some of those good pickles on the table, and Pa talked while he ate. Mary and I hung at the table's edge, looking at the pickles. I heard Pa say "dead," and thought somebody at benders was dead. Pa said, "Already twenty or more, in the cellar." He said, "Benders-- where I stopped for a drink. She asked me to come in."

Ma said, "Oh Charles, thank God!"

I did not understand and felt confused. Mary kept asking Ma why she thanked God, and Ma did not answer... Then Pa said, "They found a little girl, no bigger than Laura. They'd thrown her in on top of her father and mother and tramped the ground down on them, while the little girl was still alive."

I screamed, and Ma told Pa he should have known better.

I'd really like to see the original manuscript! Laura, in her speech, said she left out the whole Bender story because it wasn't fit for children. Did Rose put it in? And then what... Was it cut at the publishing house? Details are a little (or a lot) murky...  Made all the murkier because the Ingalls family wasn't even in that area when the Bender family murderers were exposed! 

The ins and outs of the LITTLE HOUSE saga....  There's always more to learn. I'm glad to have come upon Condensery's blog and this post in particular.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Portrayals of American Indians in SLJ's 2010 "Top 100 Children's Novels" - compiled by Elizabeth Bird - PART ONE

In his July/August 2009 editorial in Horn Book Magazine, Roger Sutton poses a question about eligibility for the Coretta Scott King Award. I was looking at Horn Book's articles online, trying to find Neil Gaiman's speech (the one he gave when he won the 2009 Newbery). I was doing that because I'd just read an interview with Gaiman, in which he said something that surprised me, and I wondered if he repeated it in his Newbery speech. He did not.  Here's what he said in the interview:
"The great thing about having an English cemetery is I could go back a very, very, very long way. And in America, you go back 250 years (in a cemetery), and then suddenly you’ve got a few dead Indians, and then you don’t have anybody at all, unless you decide to set it up in Maine or somewhere and sneak in some Vikings.”

I blogged that remark and provided some context for how I interpret it, too. [Update, April 18, 9:00 PM---Mr. Gaiman responded, clarifying his remarks, so please do go read what he said.] I'm reading his words after having spent the better part of the previous 24 hours studying (again) the ways that American Indians appear in Elizabeth Bird's Top 100 Children's Novels. I conclude that the ignorance on display in the Top 100 novels is alive and well---frighteningly so---in Mr. Gaiman. While he exhibits ignorance about American Indians in that remark, his book (at #80 on the list)  does not actually have anything to do with American Indians. Neither does L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, published in 1900. It is #40 on the list. Baum, however, was outright racist in the editorials he wrote for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer. Here's an excerpt from the editorial dated December 20, 1890:
"The Whites, by law of conquest, by justice of civilization, are masters of the American continent, and the best safety of the frontier settlements will be secured by the total annihilation of the few remaining Indians. Why not annihilation? Their glory has fled, their spirit broken, their manhood effaced; better that they die than live the miserable wretches that they are. History would forget these latter despicable beings, and speak, in later ages of the gory of these Grand Kings of forest and plain that Cooper loved to heroism."
Turning, now, from ignorance and racism of authors, to portrayals of American Indians in Elizabeth Bird's Top 100 Children's Novels. Here's my list (see notes at bottom):

#99 - The Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks, published in 1980
#94 - Swallows and Amazons, by Arthur Ransome, published in 1930
#90 - Sarah, Plain and Tall, by Patricia MacLachlan, published in 1985
#87 - The View from Saturday, by E. L. Konigsburg, published in 1996
#85 - On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published in 1937
#78 - Johnny Tremain, by Esther Forbes, published in 1943
#68 - Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech, published in 1994
#63 - Gone Away Lake, by Elizabeth Enrich, published in 1957
#61 - Stargirl, by Jerry Spinelli, published in 2000
#59 - Inkheart, by Cornelia Funke, published in 2003
#50 - Island of the Blue Dolphins, by Scott O'Dell, published in 1960
#46 - Where the Red Fern Grows, by Wilson Rawls, published in 1961
#42 - Little House on the Prairie, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published in 1935
#41 - The Witch of Blackbird Pond, by Elizabeth George Speare, published in 1958
#34 - The Watsons Go to Birmingham, by Christopher Paul Curtis, published in 1995
#31 - Half Magic, by Edward Eager, published in 1954
#25 - Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott, published in 1868/1869
#24 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling, published in 2007
#23 - Little House in the Big Woods, by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published in 1932
#17 - Maniac Magee, by Jerry Spinelli, published in 1990
#16 - Harriet the Spy, by Louise Fitzhugh, published in 1964
#13 - Bridge to Terabithia, by Katherine Paterson, published in 1977
#1 - Charlotte's Web, by E. B. White, published in 1952

If I studied the Library of Congress info for these books, I think only one---Julie of the Wolves---would be categorized in some way as having to do with Native people. None of the authors above is known to be an American Indian, with the possible exception of Wilson Rawls. He said his mother was part Cherokee. He does not assert that identity for himself.

In a video interview, Elizabeth Bird talked about the lack of diversity on her list. There, she talks about how she developed the list. It was a tremendous amount of work, and I'm grateful to her for doing it. Her list provides us with a snapshot that is worth mulling over, for lots of reasons. My particular lens, of course, is American Indians. At 2:48, Elizabeth notes that the list lacks diversity.

It lacks diversity, I agree. Sherman Alexie, Joseph Bruchac, Louise Erdrich, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Richard Van Camp---none of the more successful Native writers are on the list. But overall, it does not lack for portrayals of American Indians.

I say that in jest, of course, because most of those portrayals are in some way, stereotypical or biased. If you are a librarian, and you use this list to build your collection, you will not be providing your readers with a single worthy image of American Indians. A few of them are innocuous---like the Indian blanket in Charlotte's Web---but most are problematic. From "Honest Injun" to sitting "Indian style" to hunting Indians, there's a lot to say.

In the coming days I will work with my notes and develop some observations, but I am pasting the notes below and invite your thoughts. (I apologize in advance for inconsistencies in style and format of presentation. Some of what you'll find was posted before to American Indians in Children's Literature.) If you use some of this info for something you write, please cite this blog as the source of your information.



Number 99 is The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, published in 1980. See Feb 10, 2010.

Number 94 is Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom, published in 1930.
  • On page 16, Roger is "keeping a sharp lookout lest he should be shot by a savage with a poisoned arrow from behind a tree."
  • On page 137, the children come across what they call a "Red Indian wigwam" from which emerges "a very friendly savage".  Ransom's use of "Red Indian" was (is?) common in the United Kingdom.
  • On page 231, Nancy shouts "Honest Injun" .
  • On page 267, Nancy writes that John had "come at risk of his life to warn you that savage natives were planning an attack on your houseboat."
I think I'll have to find some time to study Swallows and Amazons.... 

Number 93 is Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink, published in 1935. I wrote about it on Feb 10, 2010

Number 90 is Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan, published in 1985. On page 17 is "Indian paintbrush".

Number 87 is The View from Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg, published in 1996. Early in the book, there is a discussion of what constitutes diversity. Mrs. Olinski tells Mr. Rohmer that the Academic Bowl team includes "a Jew, a half-Jew, a WASP, and an Indian." (p. 22). Mr. Rohmer tells her the first three don't count, and that the proper term for the Indian is "Native American".  (The Indian on the team is East Indian.) 

Number 85 is On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The word "Indian" appears 12 times in the book, most of them about their time in Indian Territory. 
  • On page 143, Mary tells Laura to keep her sunbonnet on or "You'll be as brown as an Indian, and what will the town girls think of us?"
  • On page 218, Laura says "I wish I was an Indian and never had to wear clothes!" Course, Ma chides her for saying that, especially for saying it "on Sunday!"
I've written a lot about Wilder's books (see set of links at the bottom of this page), specifically, Little House on the Prairie, which I expect will be in the top tier of Elizabeth's survey. 

Number 78 is Johnny Tremain, written by Esther Forbes, published in 1943.  I'm going to have to reread that one...  I pulled it up on Google books and it looks like Forbes may have done a reasonable job describing the way the colonists dressed for the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. The popular perception in America (thanks to a lithograph titled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor" done in 1846, 73 years after the event took place) is that the colonists dressed in fringe, face paint and feathered headdresses, but they did not do that. Here's what Forbes wrote in Johnny Tremain about the colonists getting ready (p. 140):
...they started to assume their disguises, smootch their faces with soot, paint them with red paint, pull on nightcaps, old frocks, torn jackets, blankets with holes cut for their arms...
See? No fringed buckskin. On page 141, Forbes writes that Johnny "had a fine mop of feathers standing upright in the old knitted cap he would wear on his head..."

I have notes on this somewhere....  I don't recall red paint and feather caps, but the rest of what Forbes writes matches what I recall. I'm mostly glad to see the accuracy of her description of the disguises, but disappointed when I get to page 143:
"Quick!" he [Rab] said, and smootched his face with soot, drew a red line across his mouth running from ear to ear. Johnny saw Rab's eyes through the mask of soot. They were glowing with that dark excitement he had seen but twice before. His lips were parted. His teeth looked sharp and white as an animals.
The character, Rab, in his painted face, becomes animal like. That is a familiar frame: Indian people and animals, very much alike. And of course, it is wrong.

In her discussion of Johnny Tremain, Bird includes a clip from the 1957 Disney film of the movie. In the clip, the colonists, some in fringed clothes, some in knit caps with feathers stuck into them, some with headbands and feathers, and some with painted faces, sing "Sons of Liberty."

Number 73 is My Side of the Mountain, by Jean Craighead George, published in 1959. The word "Indian" appears on six different pages.
  • On page 22, Sam writes that he read that river birch "has combustible oil in it that the Indians used to start fires."
  • On page 31, he remembers that Indians made dugout canoes with fire.
  • On page 43, he refers to feathers in an Indian quiver.
  • On page 65, Sam has pancakes that are flat and hard, which he imagines Indian bread is like. 
  • On page 108 is a reference to "playing cowboys and Indians."
  • On page 141, it is springtime, but aspens and birch trees "were still bent like Indian bows."

Number 66 is Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. On February 5, 2007, I published Beverly Slapin's review of the book here. In a nutshell? Not recommended! [Note, April 16, 2010: Also see my review essay, "Thoughts on Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons", published on Feb. 25, 2010.]

Number 63 is Gone Away Lake written by Elizabeth Enrich in 1957. I did a search of content (used Google Books) and found four uses of "Indian" in the book.
  • Page 141: "Now and then (unnecessarily since they never looked back), he would freeze and stand still as an Indian in the shadows."
  • Page 198: "She just sat there, Baby-Belle did, with her arms folded on her chest staring at Mrs. Brace-Gideon severely, like an Indian chief or a judge or somebody like that."
  • Page 217: "the pale little crowds of Indian pipes and the orange jack-o'-lantern mushrooms that pushed up the needles."
  • Page 756: "in the distance, by the river's edge, a tiny Indian campfire burned with the colors of an opal."

In Gone Away Lake, one of the characters is named Minnehaha, which is from Longfellow. I don't know why she's named that. It is commonly regarded as an "Indian" name, but it is not. We can thank (or blame) Longfellow for so much of the mistaken information that circulates!

Number 61 is Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, published in 2000.   On page 10, Spinelli writes that Stargirl wears outrageous clothes to school. Among them is "An Indian buckskin." 

Number 59 is Inkheart by Cornelia Funke, published in 2003.   On page 206, Flatnose tells Basta that it will be hard to find Meggie, Mo, Elinor, and Dustfinger's trail in the dark. Flatnose replies "Exactly!" and "We're not bloody native trackers, are we?" 

Number 50 is Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell, published in 1960.  I have not yet read this...  And that is a huge problem, given its status... 

Number 46 is Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls, published in 1961.  

  • On page 10, "The land we lived on was Cherokee land, allotted to my mother because of the Cherokee blood that flowed in her veins." 
  • Page 43, "I reached way back in Arkansas somewhere. By the time my fist had traveled all the way down to the Cherokee Strip, there was a lot of power behind it.
  • On page 143, where Rubin says "A long time ago some Indians lived here and farmed these fields."
  • On page 254, Billy recalls that he "had heard the old Indian legend about the red fern. How a little Indian boy and girl were lost in a blizzard and had frozen to death. In the spring, when they were found, a beautiful red fern had grown up between their two bodies. The story went on to say that only an angel could plant the seeds of a red fern, and that they never died; where one grew, that spot was sacred."
According to Bird, much of the book is based on Rawls childhood in Scraper, Oklahoma where he lived until he was 15 or 16. Given his birthyear (1913), he was in Oklahoma from 1913 to 1928 or 1929. Scraper is in Cherokee County, Oklahoma, and is near Tahlequah, which is where the Cherokee Nation's offices are located. I was surprised, on reading Scholastic's guide for the book, to learn that Rawls's mother, Winnie Hatfield Rawls, was part Cherokee. The guide says (page 6):
"...she had been given some land in Oklahoma by the federal government. (The United States gave land to some Native Americans who had been displaced from their original land.)"
Gave?! Gave?!   Nope. The guide is referring to the process by which the United States government forcibly moved several Indian Nations from their homelands TO what came to be called Indian Territory, and then, took that land from them, too, through acts passed by Congress that were designed to break up their identity as Native Nations and allot them parcels of land.

But going back to the book itself, Rawls, who (if the guide is correct) was part Cherokee. It seems to me he was not at all familiar with that identity. He has the character, Rubin, saying "A long time ago some Indians lived here...." Was Billy part Cherokee? Maybe he was hiding that identity. Maybe Rawls and his family hid that identity. The violence inflicted on Native people during that time prompted many to hide it...  I'm curious about the legend, too. I wonder if that is a story from the Cherokees oral tradition? And I wonder why, when Billy went to Tahlequah to get the puppies, he doesn't mention any Cherokees there?

Number 42 is Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Published in 1935, I've had a lot to say on American Indians in Children's Literature about the book. Scroll down to the bottom and see the set of links, or, look over in the sidebars...

Number 41 is The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, published in 1958. Given its setting (1687, in Connecticut), there are references to fights with Indians, fights with Indians and wolves, and Indian attacks (see pages 40, 51, 59, 145, 187, 191, and 192).

Number 34 is The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis.
  • Page 50: "...looked like we were in the Wild West and I was a wagon train and Byron was the Indians circling, waiting to attack
  • Page 88: "This looked like the Indians circling the wagons again, but this time it was Byron who had to be the white people!"

Number 31 is Half Magic by Edward Eager, published in 1954. On page 45, the children are approached by a "ragged Arab" to whom Martha says "How!" Mark hisses to her, under his breath "What do you think he is, an Indian?"

Number 25 is Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, published in 1868 and 1869.
  • On page 201, "Laurie opened the parlor door and popped his head in very quietly. He might just as well have turned a somersault and uttered an Indian war whoop, for his face was so full of suppressed excitement and his voice so treacherously joyful that everyone jumped up..."
  • On page 245, "It was a pictorial sheet, and Jo examined the work of art nearest her, idly wondering what unfortuitous concatenation of circumstances needed the melodramatic illustration of an Indian in full war costume, tumbling over a precipice with a wolf at his throat, while two infuriated young gentlemen..."
Number 24 is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published in 2007.  Reading it aloud with my daughter when it came out, we surprised when we got to page 216. At that point in the book, Harry is looking at a photograph of Albus Dumbledore's family. We were surprised to read:
"The mother, Kendra, had jet-black hair pulled into a high bun. Her face had a carved quality about it. Harry thought of photos of Native Americans he'd seen as he studied her dark eyes, high cheekbones, and straight nose, formally composed above a high-necked silk gown."

Number 23 is Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder, published in 1932. I wrote about this on March 19, 2010, quoting the passage from the book where Pa, as a kid, played that he was hunting Indians. Here's the specific passage (from page 53), but do go read my entire entry on that day.
"I began to play I was a mighty hunter, stalking the wild animals and the Indians. I played I was fighting the Indians, until all woods seemed full of wild men, and then all at once I heard the birds twittering 'good night.' 

Number 20 is The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan, published in 2005.
  • On page 171: "It was one of those weird roadside curio shops that sell lawn flamingos and wooden Indians and cement grizzly bears and stuff like that.

Number 17 is Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli, published in 1990.
  • On page 80, a kid sits "Indian-style" and, 
  • On page 150, John tells Maniac what he imagines: "the blacks sweeping across Hector one steaming summer night; torches, chains, blades, guns, war cries; marauding, looking, overrunning the West End; climbing in through smashed windows, doors, looking for whites, bloodthirsty for whites, like Indians in the old days, Indians on a raid... That's what they are, Giant John nodded thoughtfully, "today's Indians."
Number 16 is Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, published in 1964.
  • On page 4, Harriet and Sport talk about what they will be when they grow up. Writing about character names and professions in her notebook, she says "You've got to have a doctor, a lawyer---" and then, Sport interrupts, saying "And an Indian chief."
  • On page 96, Ole Golly blushes when Mr. Waldenstein calls her attractive. The text reads "The crimson zoomed up Ole Golly's face again, making her look exactly like a hawk-nosed Indian. Big Chief Golly, Harriet thought, what is happening to you?"
Number 13 is Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, published in 1977. This is from page 128:
After lunch, they trotted through the drizzle to the Smithsonian to see the dinosaurs and the Indians. There they came upon a display case holding a miniature scene of Indians disguised in buffalo skins scaring a herd of buffalo into stampeding over a cliff to their death with more Indians waiting below to butcher and skin them. It was a three-dimensional nightmare version of some of his own drawings.

Number 1 is Charlotte's Web by E. B. White, published in 1952. The word "Indian" appears twice, both times in reference to a blanket that Lurvy won.


What Neil Gaiman said...

Oct 10, 2010 Note: If you've reached this page by following a link from Neil Gaiman's "Blog-on-a-train" post, I invite you to read my two responses to his post:
Friday, October 8: "Neil Gaiman on "a few dead Indians"
Sunday, October 10: "Part II---Neil Gaiman on "a few dead Indians"


In a 2008 interview about his The Graveyard Book, Neil Gaiman said
"The great thing about having an English cemetery is I could go back a very, very, very long way. And in America, you go back 250 years (in a cemetery), and then suddenly you’ve got a few dead Indians, and then you don’t have anybody at all, unless you decide to set it up in Maine or somewhere and sneak in some Vikings.”