Friday, April 15, 2011

Audio archive of "An Indigenous Scholar's Use of Social Media"

On Wednesday (two days ago) I gave a lecture at the University of Illinois Graduate School of Library and Information Science. It was cosponsored by the Community Informatics Initiative and the Center for Children's Books.

The talk itself is titled "An Indigenous Scholar's Use of Social Media." The audio recording and slides I used are available at GSLIS Lectures. Please note: The slide with "Skype" across the top has a typo at the bottom. "Florida Illinois State" should be "Florida" on one line and "Illinois State" on the next line.  (As I made edits and created new slides the morning of the presentation, my computer blue-screened. As you'll hear at the top of the audio, I gave a shout out to Sarah Park for pointing me to Dropbox a few months ago. Thanks to Sarah and Dropbox, I didn't have to start all over. But I didn't catch this typo.)

I ended my presentation by playing the Google Search Story video I made a few months ago. Each time I show that video, I learn that people in the audience created one for their own site. Case in point: Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert added one to his blog, Beyond the Mesas. Take a look at Matt's video. Matt's is enrolled with the Hopi Tribe in Arizona.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Free lecture: An Indigenous Scholar's Use of Social Media

On Wednesday at 3:00 4:00, I'll be giving a lecture at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Illinois. The talk is sponsored by UIUC's Community Informatics Initiative and the Center for Children's Books.

Community Informatics is (quoting from their website):
a research and teaching center focused on working with communities to address their information and technology needs. Our mission is to address literacy in the Internet age, equitable access to the means of digital production, and policy related to communities and information technology.

And the Center for Children's Books is (quoting from their website, too):
a crossroads for critical inquiry, professional training, and educational outreach related to youth-focused resources, literature and librarianship. 
My talk is titled "An Indigenous Scholar's Use of Social Media." I'll talk about how/why I use available social media tools (my blog), Twitter, Facebook, listservs, contrasting their reach with traditional print materials (books and journals), and their audience, too.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Better Book Titles new title for INDIAN IN THE CUPBOARD

Better Book Titles. The site is new (to me) and interesting...  Its description is
"This blog is for people who do not have thousands of hours to read book reviews or blurbs or first sentences. I will cut through the cryptic crap and give you the mat of the story in one condensed image...."  
The blog archive reaches back to July 2010. There are Better Book Titles for a handful of children's and young adult books. To the right you see the Better Book Title for Indian in the Cupboard, by Lynne Reid Banks, posted on April 5th, 2011.

For those of you who object to obscenity, you best not look at the site. For those of you who enjoy bawdy and edge humor, you can see thumbnails of the entire set here.

Relocation---for those who did not learn about it in school---was a federal government policy where the goal was assimilation that would also result in the weakening of tribal identity and thereby the ultimate demise of Native Nations.

The creator of the Better Title suggests that putting Indians under the full control of children, where the child has power over the life and death of an Indian by putting (relocating) that Indian in a cupboard, is worse than the actual Relocation policy.

Update on Berenstain Bears Give Thanks

Last week I published an excellent letter from Kim, a reader who wrote to tell me about The Berenstain Bears Give Thanks.

I ordered a copy from the library. It arrived Thursday. I read it the next day. (My thoughts are in italics.)


The book begins by telling us "It was autumn in Bear Country" with leaves turning colors, cooler air, geese heading south, and Farmer Ben harvesting his crop. Papa Bear had made some furniture for Farmer Ben, and Papa, Brother, and Sister Bear were delivering it. In payment, Papa was going to get something from Farmer Ben's farm. Papa Bear thinks about some honey, but Farmer Ben suggests his tom turkey, Squanto. Sister Bear asks why he is named 'Squanto' and Ben tells her:
"That was the name of the Native Bear who helped the Pilgrims plant their corn when they settled in their new home. Squanto celebrated the first Thanksgiving with them after their harvest. I couldn't think of a better name for a turkey."
Debbie's thoughts: Native Bear? But not Pilgrim Bear? Why the difference?

Sister Bear doesn't like the idea and asks Papa Bear if she can keep Squanto for a pet. Papa tells her no, that turkeys don't make good pets. Sister Bear likes Squanto and visits him every day, growing more and more attached to him, and sadder over what is going to happen to him. Mama Bear consoles and distracts Sister Bear by suggesting they put on a Thanksgiving show. It works. Sister Bear throws herself into writing a script for the show. They make "Pilgrim and Native Bear" costumes using Squanto's feathers.

Debbie's thoughts: The text doesn't say "Pilgrim Bears" anywhere, but "Native Bear" appears several times. 

On Thanksgiving Day, they perform the play. Sister kicks it off, dressed as a "Pilgrim maiden."

Debbie's thoughts: Not a Pilgrim Bear maiden---just a Pilgrim maiden. 

Brother Bear says:
The Pilgrims lived in the Old Country. They wanted to worship God in the way they believed was right. But the rulers of the Old Country would not let them do this. The Pilgrims wanted to leave their home and seek a new land where they could worship in freedom.
Debbie's thoughts: Ok, but what did the people seeking freedom from persecution do once here?! In case you don't know... they set out to "civilize" and Christianize the Indian people here who were living in well-established societies with religious practices of their own.  

The show continues:
After going to shore, they found a good place to live. They called it Plymouth.

They gave thanks to God for bringing them safely to the new land. Then they got to work building houses for their village. Finally it was finished. Everyone had a home.
Then, Sister Bear points to a doorway where the illustration shows a silhouetted figure on all fours. Sister Bear's line is:
Look, who is that coming into the village? It is a Native Bear. I hope he is friendly!
Turning the page, we see a bear in the turkey feather headdress. This bear is on hands and knees, but raises one paw up.

Debbie's thoughts: I could say she's waving, but it is also likely she was raising that paw to say "How" (because pop culture has persuaded us that is the way Indians say hello). 

The "Native Bear" doesn't actually say "How." Instead, she says "ME, SQUANTO." Her line is in caps. All other dialogue (in voice balloons) are in lower case.

Debbie's observations: I gather we're meant to understand that she speaks loudly. I'm saying "she" because this Native Bear is wearing a headband with a heart on it. On one of the last pages in the book, she is shown in a high chair. Given her age, I could say that she entered the room on all fours because she doesn't yet walk. But let's consider some larger context.  Native characters are often "less than" other characters, and they're often portrayed as animal-like.

The dialogue continues, with Brother Bear saying:
Squanto was friendly. He helped the Pilgrims grow more food. He showed them how to plant corn. Without Squanto, they would have starved.
The show continues with the Thanksgiving feast. Squanto came to it, too, joining all of them in bowing their heads and giving thanks to God for their new home "where they could live in peace and freedom."

Debbie's thoughts: Who is "they" that lives in peace and freedom?

The show is over, and it is time to eat. Sister Bear suddenly remembers Squanto. Papa Bear tells her that he changed his mind. She can keep Squanto as her pet.

Debbie's thoughts: As I noted last week, the Squanto storyline is very troubling. This Squanto lives in a pen, is traded as a foodstuff, fattened up, saved from death, and then turned into a pet. And who does all of that to him? The Bear family who is meant to be the Pilgrims. They've got full control over his life and his death---a life meant to represent Indians.

In the story, the Pilgrims are never called Bears, but Squanto the Native is always a "Native Bear." Isn't that a double standard? They're ALL bears, right?!

And why is this Squanto played by a baby who has no name of her own? Why does she speak that way ("ME, SQUANTO")??? In caps??? Overall, the book is worse than any other book about Thanksgiving that I can think of. I hope it isn't in your home or your library.