Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"Native Americans" category on Jeopardy

In 2011, one of the clues on Jeopardy was "The National Museum of the American Indian." None of the contestants selected a clue in that category until they had no choice:

NMAI (the National Museum of the American Indian) made a video of that episode. The image (above) is from their video.

On April 12, 2016, "Native Americans" was the category. Just like in 2011, contestants avoided it. Martie Simmons, snapped a photograph of it and put the photograph on Twitter and on Facebook. It is circulating widely in Native social media (a shout out to Martie for letting me use her photo):

One of the contestants responded to her:

What does this avoidance point to?  Fear of saying the wrong thing? Or, fear of their ignorance being on national TV? Or, fear of answering the question wrong and hurting their chance of winning?

The same thing happened in February of 2014, too. The category then was African American History:

This avoidance is, to say the least, disappointing. Frank Waln, a hip hop artist from the Rosebud Reservation responded to it, too, on Twitter. He said:
"This [is] what 100s [of] years of erasure and colonial propaganda masquerading as history does."
If you missed his interview on NPR's here & now on April 6, 2016, listen to it and his music, too.

Teachers and librarians: this points to a huge gap. Our job is clear. Start with getting books written by Native writers.


Thanks to Todd, a librarian on YALSA, for pointing me to an archive of the clues for the Jeopardy episodes. Here's screen caps from yesterday's show:

If you roll over the dollar figure, the answer appears:
$200 - Cherokee
$400 - steamboat
$600 - lacrosse
$800 - Little Big Horn
$1000 - Navajo

Though some of the comments below are defensive or critical of my post, what I've seen on YALSA's listserv has been positive and helpful (like the link for the archive). It'd be interesting, next, to analyze the clues, but I'll leave that be, maybe, for another day.


Jacinda Ramsey said...

Fear of being called a racist if they get the question wrong.

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with Children's Literature. Please stop spamming every listserv you belong to with any Native material that is irrelevant to the subject of children and teens.

I, too, noticed that the three contestants went to the Native Americans category last - but how can a sample of three people choosing categories on a game show possibly prove anything? You are reaching, and this is beneath you.

meow said...

I agree with both posters. People are afraid of unintentionally offending someone. I think in this case, it's about lack of knowledge more than anything.

There are definitely gaps, and as teachers we don't always have a lot of choices available regarding books. My school can't buy 200 history students the books I want them to read. I can make some copies of primary source readings,so that is what I do. On the wall next to my standard USA map, I have a map of over 500 Nations from Panama to Alaska. I have students from Navajo, Cherokee, Apache and Tigua tribes, as well as indigenous tribes from Mexico, and I make sure to include discussions and contributions about the interactions and impact on Native peoples from colonial times to modern day.

However, I don't think educating people should be done with belittling, name-calling or insulting people. Not knowing a people's history doesn't make you a racist. Remember the fable about the Sun and the Wind, and how they made a bet as to which one of them could get a man to remove his coat...

Linda said...

This does not belong on the Young Adult listserv either. Besides, it's a game show where the contestants are using their best strategies to win the most money--a reason you did not mention with your other three. Is this because it's a positive view that doesn't fit in with your preconceived ideas?

Anonymous said...

Yes, according to the mission statement it does belong on this list serve:
Established in 2006, American Indians in Children's Literature (AICL) provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society. Scroll down for links to book reviews, Native media, and more.

And, if you took the post as belittling, that says more about you then it does the original poster.

Debbie Reese said...

Several librarians on YALSA (the young adult listserv) pointed me to a page with the clues.

Go here to see them:

Anonymous said...

This seems to be a case of looking to be offended.

Jswartz said...

I would not have avoided the category as I would have gotten most of the questions right. I also majored in African American studies as an undergraduate as well as history.

Rob said...

Some info on the questions from someone who watched the show:

One referred to the Trail of Tears (answer: the Cherokee); one referred to the largest US tribe (Navajo); another referred to a eyewitness to an 1876 event (it was Little Bighorn); one referred to and described the equipment used in Native stickball--so I sat there saying stickball, but the answer turned out to be "lacrosse" which annoyed me a bit; and finally a passage from Longfellow's poem, and the answer was Hiawatha.

Unknown said...

However, I don't think educating people should be done with belittling, name-calling or insulting people.

And if you could point to any place in this post, or indeed, any other she has written, in which Debbie has done this, this comment might be relevant. But it's not.


Lee Stacy said...

The entire point is that 87% of history books do not include any mention of Natives after the 1900's. Our children's curriculums are failing because there isn't enough information given to them and it speaks volumes. This isn't really a reflection of the contestants but America as a whole. No one is trying to belittle, we are trying to show that there is a huge problem in the curriculum for all children. Thank you Deb for posting this.

Dana Seilhan said...

We could prevent scenes like this by exposing ALL our kids to more Native and black childrens' literature.

Quit concern-trolling.

Darina Davis said...

Wow, so I just wanted to say I got 3/5 correct. As a history teacher I try to pull in different perspectives so I was able to have a Native American from Washington state speak with my class about her history. It only takes a reach out to get informed.

Beverly Slapin said...

Debbie, I don't remember ever reading anything you've written that has been "belittling, name-calling or insulting," nor do I remember you ever calling someone a racist. Rather, for years, you've shared honest analyses and critical perspectives of how Native peoples are represented in literature, curricula, and popular culture; and provided a valuable forum for young people, parents and educators as well.

I would've flunked these "Jeopardy!" questions, which is why I no longer watch "Jeopardy!"

$200: Who are the Tsalagi?

$400: What is Wata Peta?

$600: What is the Creator's Game?

$800: What was the Battle of the Greasy Grass?

$1,000: Who are the Diné?

Anonymous said...

It's Debbie's blog. She can post anything she wants on it.

If the questions Beverly posted are the questions that were on Jeopardy, I would have got 2 of 5 correct. I think part of the problem here is related to pan-ism. As Debbie has repeatedly said, "Native Peoples" or "Native Americans" are not a monolith. There are differences in history, culture, religion among them. These questions would be like having a category for Christianity and then expecting people to know things that are unique to the Catholic, Methodist, Baptist, Mormon, or Anglican Church.

It is certainly also a problem that there is a lack of exposure in education and in society, generally, to native cultures and history.

It could be that the contestants recognized either a lack of knowledge about Native People's generally, or that the contestants recognized that it was unlikely that they would have knowledge about more specific questions. Someone who knows a lot about one tribe's history and traditions may be aware that he doesn't know much about others.

Connor Mcleod said...

I was shocked, which brought me to this blog now.

Also how did NONE of them know that the largest tribe is Navajo? I am from New Zealand and have never studied Native American culture or met a Native American but I knew the answer to that. Shameful that these people don't know their own countries history, when they obviously have a wide berth of general knowledge.