Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Naomi Bishop's Open Letter Regarding the "Indigenous Experience" Panel at USBBY's 2017 Regional Conference

Eds. note on Jul 25, 2017: For context on this post, see the extensive conversation on USBBY's Facebook page

Eds. note: At 9:00 CST, on July 27th, Therese Bigelow, USBBY's Board President, announced that Nancy Bo Flood would not be on the panel. Bigelow said:
We are changing the program on Indigenous Voices in Children’s Literature. Nancy Bo Flood will no longer participate. Panel presenters are all from Canada which reflects the international scope of the conference theme. The panel had already begun working on their program together and the Fenton's, through Christy Jordan-Fenton, have requested that Sarah Ellis continue In her role as moderator. This change will be reflected on the program schedule as soon as I return to my home computer next week.


The United States Board on Books for Young People's (USBBY) 2017 Children’s Literature Conference is happening this October in Seattle at my alma matter, the University of Washington. It is a prestigious event, but I am not happy. 

One of the general sessions (that everyone attends) is titled: The Indigenous Experience in Children’s Books. The presenters on this panel include four Canadians (Lisa Charleyboy, Christy Jordan-Fenton, Margaret Pokiak-Fenton, Sarah Ellis -moderator) and one American, Nancy Bo Flood. In an email to me, the USBBY President stated that Nancy Bo Flood is not Native. 
“Nancy Bo Flood is the fourth speaker. She has written a number of children’s books several of which have Native American themes.  She is not Native American.”  

The problem with Nancy Bo Flood is not just that she is non-native, but that she appropriates Navajo culture. She states that she lived on the Navajo reservation, taught college students there, and writes books about Navajo’s, but she is not Navajo. It is disappointing to see Nancy on this panel because there are so many wonderful Native American authors and illustrators publishing awesome books here in the US. I am pleased to see First Nations writers on the panel, but wonder why the organizers did not select any writers from U.S. Tribal Nations?

US Native American children’s authors deserve to be on a panel for speaking about the Indigenous Experience in Children’s Literature!

Here are some names that should have been considered for the panel at USBBY: Joseph Marshall III, Tim Tingle, Evangeline Parsons Yazzie, Joseph Bruchac, Eric Gansworth, Anton Treuer, Louis Erdrich, Jonathan Nelson, John Herrington, Arigon Starr.

When will the publishing community reach out to the American Indian Library Association (AILA) for Indigenous Children’s Literature? AILA has advocated for Native Children’s literature for decades.

When will the library community and organizers of conferences on youth literature listen to Native voices and let our stories be heard?

Our libraries, schools, and communities deserve to have stories from Indigenous authors on bookshelves and in classrooms all across the United States and the world. We are still here and are still telling our stories through picture books, easy readers, young adult books, graphic novels, oral histories, songs, art, film, theater, dance, and other mediums. There is no excuse for the USBBY conference planning committee to not listen to our stories and voices. Native authors, illustrators, and publishers are here in the US providing opportunities for everyone to learn, read, and enjoy. 

If you are looking for authors to invite to your conference, library, or event take a look at those authors listed above. These writers are some of my favorite authors and deserve to be acknowledged for their amazing books!

Naomi Bishop, MLIS
Akimel O’odham, Member of the Gila River Indian Community

See Debbie Reese's Open Letter Regarding USBBY's 2017 "Indigenous Experience" Panel in Seattle


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