Wednesday, April 10, 2013

NATIVE WRITERS: VOICES OF POWER, by Kim Sigafus and Lyle Ernst

Native Writers: Voices of Power by Kim Sagafus and Lyle Ernest is part of the Native Trailblazers Series published by 7th Generation Native Voices. Here's the cover:

And here's an excerpt from the Introduction that I do not remember seeing before in a book meant for young readers:

There have been entirely too many falsehoods and myths written about the Native people of the United States and Canada. The depiction of Native people depends entirely on the writer's perspective. For example, a 1704 French and Indian raid on colonial settlers in the village of Deerfield, Massachusetts, was described as a massacre, whereas the annihilation of a village of sleeping Cheyenne Indians in 1864 was celebrated as a victory over "hostiles." Both are examples of the European American historical perspective, which has also been prevalent in movies, making Hollywood one of the biggest sources of distorted facts and stereotypes about Indians.

Teachers and librarians who use this book to do author studies... make sure you spend time with that intro! If you're into contests, challenges, or research investigations, you might ask students to look for examples of biased language.

Those of you familiar with Louise Erdrich and Sherman Alexie will recognize their photos on the cover. There is a chapter for both of them. I'm sure you've got their books, but you ought to have books by the other others, too. They are:

Joseph Boyden, Ojibwe

N. Scott Momaday, Kiowa and Cherokee

Marilyn Dumont, Cree and Metis

Tomson Highway, Cree

Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki

Maria Campbell, Metis

Nicola Campbell, Interior Salish of Nle7Kepmx and Msilx/Metis

Tim Tingle, Choctaw

For each author, there's several pages of biographical information, followed by a list of "Selected Works" and Awards. The works range from children's books to those for adult readers, but the audience isn't included, so you'll want to make sure you do a bit of research before ordering to make sure the book will work for your classroom or library. Though Native Writers is what is called "a slim volume" (just over 90 pages), it is packed with info. I highly recommend it, but don't assume it is complete...  To the authors it includes, I'd add Cynthia Leitich Smith and Richard Van Camp. Both are at the very top of my lists.

Order it directly from 7th Generation.


Anonymous said...

Here in Canada, this book was published by Second Story Press with a different cover and title (Great Writers from our First Nations). Based on Debbie’s summary of the writers profiled, however, I’m assuming that the Canadian text is identical to that of the American version.

We purchased a copy for our library, and while overall we consider it to be a pretty good addition to our collection, we were troubled by a few niggling problems in the text. The most serious of them appear in the authors’ coverage of the Métis in the Maria Campbell chapter. The sidebars on pages 62 and 63 (of the Canadian edition) were just downright inaccurate – to the point that we decided we had to alert readers. We ended up putting stickers next to the sidebars directing readers to more accurate discussions of those topics, including a definition of the Road Allowance People in Maria Campbell’s own words.

We’ve chosen to address other minor quibbles by adding notes to the text. For instance, the authors refer to Maria Campbell’s grandmother “speaking Métis” on page 63, so we’ve corrected it to read “speaking Michif,” which is the correct term for the Métis language. On page 75, we’ve added sexual abuse to the list of horrors that many residential school students faced, and on page 10, we’ve suggested “Ojibwe spirituality” as a more apt term than “Ojibwe religion.” These are small changes, but we hope they’ll cause readers -- especially non-Aboriginal readers -- to pause, evaluate their assumptions, and continue reading with a critical lens.

Like Debbie, we think this book is worth having on our shelves. Here’s hoping that future editions address some of the problems marring what is otherwise a valuable resource.

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for pointing out those problems. I'd love to see a snapshot of the stickers by the sidebars. Can you send me one at And, can I load it to the post, attributed to you?