Saturday, December 07, 2013

"Mom, when Jesus was born, where were all the women?" Marcie Rendon's response is HANNAH: THE MIDWIFE WHO DELIVERED JESUS

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Marcie Rendon's daughters were raised in a matriarchal home. On Christmas Eve, 1990, one of her daughters asked her "Mom, when Jesus was born, where were all the women?" When I read that question, I thought to myself 'Oh yeah! There's only one female in that story!'

Marcie's response to her daughter's question is this e-book, Hannah: The Midwife Who Delivered Jesus. 

As I read the story Marcie created, I felt such warmth and goodness radiating from Hannah, and from that scene in the stable, and from the newborn babe, too. It is a deeply satisfying story. In addition to Hannah, you'll meet the innkeeper's daughter. It isn't graphic and it isn't anti-male in any way. It's just a beautiful story. I highly recommend it. 

Hannah: The Midwife Who Delivered Jesus is one of those books that you can't pin to a particular grade level. If you're not afraid of talking with students/patrons or your own elementary-aged kids about how babies are born, you can read this aloud to them. Older kids can read it on their own.

I had to create an account with SMASHWORDS to download it, but that was simple enough to do. The book itself is priced at $4.99. 

Thursday, December 05, 2013

2013 Virginia Mathews Scholarship Awarded to Debbie Reese

In today's email, I received the Fall 2013 newsletter of the American Indian Library Association. In it is an announcement that I was selected as the recipient of the 2013 Virginia Mathews Scholarship Award.

Receiving the scholarship means a lot to me. There are a lot of terrific Native people in library school. Within that context, I'm humbled and honored to be recognized by the scholarship committee.

Here's a screen capture of the newsletter page. For your convenience, I'm including the full text below the screen capture.

The purpose of the Virginia Mathews Memorial Scholarship is to provide tuition to an American Indian individual who lives and works in an American Indian community, and who is enrolled, or has been accepted and will enroll, in a master's degree program at a university with a library and/or information sciences program accredited by the American Library Association for the 2013-2014 academic school year. The scholarship has been named to honor Virginia Mathews, one of the original founders of AILA. 

Further details and scholarship criteria are available at 

The American Indian Library Association is pleased to announce that its 2013 Virginia Mathews Memorial Scholarship has been awarded to Debbie Reese. Debbie is an enrolled member of Nambe Pueblo and is pursuing her Master of Library and Information Science at San Jose State University School of Library and Information Science. 

Debbie exemplifies the scholarship criteria of “sustained involvement in the American Indian community and sustained commitment to American Indian concerns and initiatives,” and she has specific intentions and vision for returning to her community as a librarian. She has a track record of making an impact on the community and the profession. As one committee member stated, “Her blog, American Indians in Children's Literature, is one of the best resources available for discussions, book reviews, etc. In addition, her publications are hard-hitting truths on what libraries should and should not have in their collections concerning Indigenous literature, and she lectures extensively on the issues. Not only does she work with the Nambe community, but she also strives to inform the dominant culture about issues facing Indian people today.” 

In 2012, the American Library Association published a press release about the scholarship. It reads, in part:

In 1971, Virginia Mathews, Lotsee Patterson and Charles Townley formed a Task Force on American Indians within the Social Responsibilities Round Table of the American Library Association. She was a member of the first OLOS Subcommittee on Library Service for American Indian People, which led to the founding of the American Indian Library Association in 1979. She was involved with the Library Project at the National Indian Education Association, which supported three demonstration library projects — Akwesasne Library and Cultural Center, the Rough Rock Demonstration School and the Standing Rock Tribal Library—and all three served as models for the early development of tribal libraries on reservations. She worked tirelessly with the National Council of Library and Information Services to create the first White House Pre-Conference on Indian Library Services in 1978 whose delegates attended the 1979 White House Conference on Libraries and Information Services. She was responsible for inclusion of Title IV for tribal libraries in the Library Services and Construction Act Reauthorization in 1984. This special status and funding for tribal libraries is retained in current Library Services and Technology Act legislation. She was the first American Indian to seek candidacy for the ALA presidency and was a proud member of the Osage Nation.
While I never knew Ms. Mathews, I do know Lotsee Patterson and the work they did in the 1970s. Lotsee's work, in particular, touched my life through the librarianship programs she provided to the Pueblos. My aunt was one of her students. 

Kundawho'haa (thank you) AILA committee members, for your confidence in what I strive to do in my professional work. 

Wednesday, December 04, 2013


Have you heard of the INJUNUITY project? It consists of a series of short videos about Indigenous people. The one I'm pointing you today is called Two Spirit. Here's some screen captures that convey the visual power of the videos.

Two Spirit starts without any music. We're shown a graphic of the title, and then we see a definition:

As the video unfolds, we meet several people who recount their experiences coming out. We start with a woman who is shown as a string puppet. She's transformed, though, and we see the string puppet dissolve into pieces. All the while she's talking, words slowly drift down the sides of the viewing window. They add an aesthetic dimension to the video:

There's a bit of history in Two Spirit. Prior to colonization, two spirit people were revered within Native Nations. That changed with the overwhelming force of Christianity:

Native resiliency and sovereignty are pushing back and embracing Two Spirit people. The stories shared in the Two Spirit video are evidence of personal resilience, and actions taken by some Native Nations to grant marriage licenses to individuals--regardless of gender--who are enrolled in a federally recognized tribe demonstrate the exercise of a tribal nations sovereignty.

I talked at length with Irvin Harrison, a close friend, about the Two Spirit video. I asked him if he could provide a comment about the film. He is the Director of the Native American Student Center at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona. Irvin is a smart and nurturing individual. Students at Cal Poly Pomona are fortunate to have him there. Here's what he said:

"I really enjoyed the use of visuals to create meaning to the words. I can directly relate to each person's perspective. For myself, I use the terms - gay, two spirit, nádleehé - interchangeably depending on with whom I have a conversation. I did not become fully open of who I am until I moved out of my family home. I learned the two spirit history from readings and articles. It was my "professional" family who were the first to acknowledge and appreciate me and my partner's relationship. However, it was when both of our parents came to accept that being who we are, as gay, two spirit, or nádleehé couple, that it came full circle." 

I highly recommend Two Spirit. It is beautiful and empowering and makes an additional point about where Native peoples live and what we aspire to:

I also recommend the other films at the INJUNUITY site and look forward to ones in development, too. They're ideal for use in high school classrooms. To read more about the project, check out their About page.

I'll also point you to a resource Irvin directed me to... It is called the Indigenous Ways of Knowing (IWOK) Tribal Equity Toolkit. Here's the description:

The Native American Program of Legal Aid Services of Oregon, the Indigenous Ways of Knowing Program at Lewis & Clark Graduate School of Education and Counseling, the Western States Center, the Pride Foundation and Basic Rights Oregon collaborated on the nation’s first guide for Two Spirit and LGBT equity in Indian Country.
It, too, is evidence that Native peoples are moving in positive directions with regard to Two Spirit and LGBT people.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


Note from Debbie on Nov 28, 2023: Due to my concerns over Art Coulson's claim of being Cherokee, I am no longer recommending his books.  

Coulson has a way with words. English ones, and Ojibwe ones, too, as he tells this story about Travis, a sixth grade Ojibwe boy who is starting out playing lacrosse.

Set in the present day, Travis lives with his mom and grandmother. He's struggling with the game and bummed each day after practice. But his grandma has confidence in him.

So does his grandfather, who passed away some time back, but comes to Travis each night. His grandfather was a strong and swift lacrosse player that everyone called Hummingbird.

There's a terrific blend here. Coulson's storytelling delivers nuggets of info about the ways that Ojibwe people play lacrosse, and, the way that Cherokee's play it.

Oh yeah--Neil Gaiman's The Sandman: Dream Country figures in the story, too.

Perfectly paced, The Creator's Game is a terrific book. I think I'll give my copy to the Pima boys around the corner. I suspect they'll like it, and I'm going to send a librarian a link to this review. Just a few days ago, she wrote to me, asking for recommendations for a 4th grade reluctant reader. I suggested Joe Bruchac's Children of the Longhouse, which coincidentally, Coulson includes in his list of books for further reading.

Illustrated by Robert DesJarlait, The Creator's Game is published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press. You can get a copy from Birchbark Books. And check out Indian Country Today's interview with Coulson.