Thursday, July 27, 2017

Round Up: Letters About the "Indigenous Experience" Panel at USBBY's October 2017 Conference

For the convenience of activists, scholars, parents, teachers, caregivers, and others who study issues specific to Native peoples in children's literature, AICL offers this timeline about USBBY's October 2017 "Indigenous Experience in Children's Books" panel. For each item, an excerpt is provided. Click on the link to see the full post/conversation. Additional items will be added when they are available. 

Monday, July 24, 2017

Debbie Reese's post to USBBY's Facebook page
"I looked at the schedule for the conference in Seattle, and saw that there will be an Indigenous Experience in Children's Books panel. In the midst of such a visible effort to promote Native and Writers of Color, I am stunned that not all people on the panel are Native. Can anyone here share some background on the rationale for the panel's composition?(One of the White women is married to a Native man and is a co-author with his mother who was in boarding school, which makes her presence understandable.)"

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Naomi Bishop's Open Letter
"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?"

Debbie Reese's Open Letter
"I was--quite frankly--furious to see Nancy Bo Flood's name on the "Indigenous Experience in Children's Literature" panel. As regular readers of AICL know, I've been studying the ways Native peoples are depicted in children's literature for decades. In that time, I've come to know the work of many people who--like Flood--are not Native, but write books about Native peoples. Amongst that body of White writers, there are many instances in which the writer has done particularly egregious things."

Wednesday, July 27, 2017

Christy Jordan-Fenton's Response to Conversations
"It is not my mother-in-law’s job to defend her people’s right to control how their stories are told. Her voice is for sharing her experiences. It was under an invitation for her to do so that we agreed to participate. If the panel is now openly forcing her into a position of defence, we will have to decline the invitation. However, if we can all work together to realize our learning opportunity from this, and use it as a catalyst to find a better way together, we would be honoured to participate."

Thursday, July 27, 2017 

USBBY President Therese Bigelow's Announcement 
"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."

Naomi Caldwell's Letter to Therese Bigelow 
"Notwithstanding, I am compelled to share my thoughts and a suggestion as past president of the American Indian Library Association, founding chair of the American Indian Youth Literature Award, and advocate for the accurate portrayal of Indigenous books for youth. One would think that in 2017 that organizations such as USBBY would be practiced and astute about planning programs to highlight diversity. After all, the membership is comprised of diverse, devoted well-educated and well-read children’s literature professionals who genuinely care about the quality of literature for youth from a national and international perspective."

Christy Jordan-Fenton's Response to Therese Bigelow
"I understand that to many in the non-indigenous literary world, the issue of appropriation feels like navigating a mine field. However, the ultimate goal is not conflict, but rather finding a better way together. When Indigenous perspectives are considered and dialogue is opened, everyone benefits. As I said previously, the act of appropriation or taking up Indigenous spaces is ingrained in our society, and in the mythologies that society is raised on and maintained by. Issues such as the one with the “Indigenous Experiences” panel will come up. And when that happens, they need to be validated and addressed so that we can all work toward a better way. The change in the make up of the panel shows that we can find that better way together. I hope that in the future other organizations will be open to such dialogues and to listening and acting on ways to facilitate and maintain Indigenous space."

1 comment:

Mia Wenjen said...

Why are there NO Americans represented on this panel? What about Tim Tingle, Cynthia Leitich Smith, Joseph Bruchac, Sherman Alexie, Gwen Jackson (Lump Lump and the Blanket of Dreams among others? The panel really needs American Native Tribal representation. This is as crazy as the four white guys at Book Con!