Saturday, May 21, 2016

Stereotypes of Native peoples, in children's books in Switzerland

This morning, Drew Hayden Taylor (author of The Night Wanderer), posted a photo of children's books... in Switzerland. Taylor is there to give some lectures. Here's the photo he shared on Twitter (sharing it here with his permission):

He captioned it with these words:
Some of the children's books on Native people available in Switzerland book stores. I brought the wrong wardrobe.
Within Native circles, we sometimes joke about what people expect us to look like. And when we don't, they think we aren't "real" Indians. Depictions in children's books, no matter where they are published, carry a lot of power. They shape those expectations, and because those images are so bad, are a reason I write about them so much. It isn't one image here or there. It is pervasive.

Some of the words on the covers ("Minitou" and "Winnetou") tell me the people who wrote, illustrated, and published those books were/are deeply influenced by Karl May's stories, which were nothing more than stereotypes of Native peoples of the U.S.

I may see if I can get copies of one of those books, or at least see some of them online in greater detail. If you know of others, let me know.

They are worth studying, for those of us who study stereotypes, but I think their factual misrepresentations mean they ought not be given to young children.

There are many great books, Taylor's included, that you can give to them! See the lists at my Best Books page.

If you like scary books, or know a teen who does, give them Taylor's The Night Wanderer. I vividly recall reading it, in a hotel room at a Native writer's conference. Once the sun went down, I did not want to look out the window.


Heather said...

I've read several of Drew's books and loved each one.

Monica Edinger said...

Curious to see what came up, I did a search on the German amazon site using "Indianer." First of all, it is then translated to "Redskins" (I think that is Google Translate doing that rather than Amazon, but not sure). And then the books themselves. I selected "Children's Books" and "Release Date" and then got the following.

(FYI I did a post on Germans and their American Indian obsession yesterday, inspired by our brief twitter conversation: