Friday, August 06, 2010

TEN LITTLE INDIANS dolls/counting toy

Gabrielle, a colleague, messaged me this morning to say she'd seen a Ten Little Indians counting toy set at a shop in Cambodia. She'll see if someone can take photo of it for me. In the meantime, I searched Google images and found several. I don't advocate buying any of these sets, and I think the song or poem should not be taught to young children because it dehumanizes and stereotypes American Indians. That is a bad thing for Native children, but for non-Native children, too.

It is far better to count or sing objects that aren't human beings. You could count toys that are occupations (police, fire fighters, etc.) or animals, or, familiar objects. Below is some of what I found in the image search I did.

The "Indians" on one website are white. Completely white. As white as the Pillsbury Dough Boy. They're about 6 inches tall and their teepee is 20 or so inches high. They have a canoe and a fire. On another site, they're bright orange. On some they are brown. Precious Moments offers ten little "Indians" and a teepee, and, an entire family. Stereotypes abound, from names to clothing the dolls wear. Sadly, there's a lot of teacher resource sites that include worksheets using the poem.

The history of the rhyme/poem/song is important. See "Commentary: Ten Little N***** Girls" at the Essence website. Do read the commentary.

Also see:
A Teacher Reconsiders Ten Little Indians
Instead of Virginia Grossman's TEN LITTLE RABBITS, read Michael Kusugak's MY ARCTIC 1, 2, 3

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Beka books?

I'm on vacation. Yesterday, riding a train in Pennsylvania, a woman struck up a conversation with me. I was wearing a t-shirt my daughter designed for a conference for Native students at Ivy League schools. Once I told her what I teach, she wanted a couple of book recommendations. I told her about Jingle Dancer right off, because she had two early-elementary-aged children with her.  I gave her a quick overview of what to choose and why. I really enjoyed telling her about Jingle Dancer!

She homeschooled her own children (the two with her are grandchildren) and asked if I'd ever seen the Beka books. She said they portray Indians as heathens, and that the one she'd read one so awful, she didn't use it.

I don't know the Beka books, but my experience is that the materials provided for homeschool education are deeply patriotic. Or maybe I should say blindly patriotic. I will see if I can find a Beka book and if I do, I'll write about it.