Saturday, January 07, 2017

Dear Teachers: Do You Teach Joseph Boyden's THREE DAY ROAD?

Editors note: Saturday, January 13, 2017. Scroll down to the very bottom of this post to see links to reviews of Boyden's books, written by Native people from the communities a book is about.  

January 7, 2017

Dear Teachers,

I know that some of you assign Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road to students in your high school classes. Some of you may be doing author studies of him. This letter and information I share beneath the letter, in two parts, is for you, and for anyone who is interested in discussions of Boyden's identity. It is an archive of items about Joseph Boyden's identity.

I'm a former school teacher, too. I particularly enjoyed reading aloud to the kindergarten and first graders I taught in the 90s, and teaching kids about the authors and other books they wrote. I'm not teaching anymore. Now, I research and write articles and book chapters about the ways Native peoples are depicted in children's and young adult books. And, I publish this site, American Indians in Children's Literature, which is now in its eleventh year.

In 2014, I learned about a writer named Joseph Boyden. A novel he'd written, The Orenda, was in Canada Reads, which is an annual battle-of-the-books competition. The Orenda was being defended by Wab Kinew. I'd become familiar with Kinew's work via social media. Always on the look-out for books I can recommend, I looked into Boyden and saw that his first book, Three Day Road was in the Canada Reads competition in 2006, when it came out. He was being put forth as a Native writer. I got Three Day Road. I was drawn into the story and thought I might write about it here on AICL. I wanted to know more about Boyden. So, I read Hayden King's review of Orenda. He had concerns with Boyden's depictions of the Haudenosaunee. I started looking around some more and talking with colleagues. I learned that there were a lot of questions about Boyden's claim to Native identity. What I saw was enough for me to set aside Three Day Road. I didn't finish it and didn't write about it.

On December 22, 2016, I saw a series of tweets from the IndigenousXca account. That week, the IndigenousXca host was Robert Jago. I learn a lot by following that account. Each week, there's a new host. I was the host in March. Jago's tweets that night were about Joseph Boyden's identity. The next day, Jorge Barrera, a reporter with Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, published a news article about Boyden. Jago and Barrera's work prompted many discussions on social media, and, many more articles and news segments.

This "Dear Teachers" letter is a place for me to archive what I've seen about Boyden and identity.

Part One of my archive started as a thread on Twitter that I added to whenever I saw something that added to the discussion. Rather than re-create the thread, I'm pasting it directly from a Storify I did. I hope that all the links work, though some may not. People delete tweets, and sometimes their entire account. Beneath the Storify is part two.

Part Two is items I'm entering as I see them. It is "in process" -- because new items are published in the media, or on social media (primarily Facebook and Twitter), almost daily.

I hope it is useful. If you see something somewhere that you wish to share, please submit it via the comments option at the bottom.

Thank you,
Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature


An Archive: 

Joseph Boyden's Claims to Indigenous Identity

Part One: A Storify by @debreese, from Dec 24, 2016 through Jan 3, 2017 (apologies for formatting errors that occurred when I pasted the storify)

Joseph Boyden: Native? Or not?

On Christmas Eve 2016, Jorge Barrera of APTN published an article on Joseph Boyden's identity. I began tweeting my thoughts, and links to threads/posts/articles on Boyden. I'll add to this Storify as additional items appear. (Last update: Jan 1, 2016, 8:25 AM)
  1. Did you read @APTN article on Joseph Boyden's identity and are you seeking more rdgs to help you understand Native views on identity?
  2. This is, in kid/YA lit, what is called #OwnVoices. It gets very complicated, quickly, for many peoples, including us (Native ppl).
  3. Here's the APTN article, for those who haven't seen it: "Joseph Boyden's Shape-Shifting Identity" 
  4. Yesterday and today, many Native ppl on Twitter are talking about Boyden and identity. Read their convos but pls refrain from jumping in.
  5. Read, listen, think, to what they're saying. See @apihtawikosisan's TL; here's two of her tweets: 
  6. See Robert Jago's video (tweeting this week from @IndigenousXca) which kicked off the APTN article: 
  7. Another person on Twitter who is tweeting about Joseph Boyden is Darryl Leroux. 
  8. My area of research/writing is kid/YA lit. As a former teacher, I know that "author studies" are a much-loved unit in schools.
  9. Teachers ask students to read other bks by a specific author, works abt that author's life, etc., to deepen what they know that author/bks.
  10. Still, after all these years, so much ignorance about Native identity, claims to it, why it matters. So many don't know that...
  11. ... Jamake Highwater, who won a Newbery Honor for ANPAO, was a fake. He wasn't Native. So many don't know Forrest Carter is a fake, too.
  12. So many libraries have Forrest Carter's EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE in autobiography section! At the very least, it should be in fiction.
  13. Adoption into a Native family is a real thing, but it doesn't mean that Paul Goble can say he's Native.
  14. There's a lot of writing abt "Forrest Carter." I write abt him/EDUC OF LITTLE TREE at my site & link to others: 
  15. I don't think Joseph Boyden has written for kids or teens. I did find an article from 2007 about a planned bk but can't find it.
  16. We need to acknowledge how problematic Boyden invoking an elder as retrospective proof of his indigeneity.
  17. The guy asserts he's 1/2 a dozen different kinds of Indian. If you've been adopted, great, but then that's your people.
  18. His invocation of an elder, who has passed, reeks of grasping at straws. Which is so despicable.
  19. The truth is that Joseph Boyden is the archetype of what white ppl want native ppl to be. He makes white ppl so comfortable. They love him.
  20. Still adding to my thread on Boyden. On Christmas Eve, he posted a response to APTN:
    Still adding to my thread on Boyden. On Christmas Eve, he posted a response to APTN:
  21. ...what's a poor bestselling author with a highly variable ancestral genealogy to do?
  22. Well one thing is clearer, even Boyden isn't claiming he's Metis anymore. There's consensus on that now.
  23. On Christmas Day (afternoon/evening) news outlets began to publish a short article, by Nicole Thompson: 
  24. As I noted on Day 1 of my thread on Boyden, Native people-on Twitter & Facebook-have been talking about Boyden's claims to Native identity.
  25. People who like Boyden think Native people are jealous, unfair, mean, etc. There's a lot of sympathy for him as an individual.
  26. Lot of ppl, in other words, rallying to his defense, embracing him/the story of how he came to identify as Native.
  27. Where, though, were those rallying cries for the Choctaw Nation when a Choctaw child was being returned to her Choctaw family?
  28. Native ppl following my thread know what I'm talking abt. If you're a Boyden fan following my thread, you may not know what I'm talking abt.
  29. Here's a news story re the Choctaw child with info you need, if you're going to be informed re identity: 
  30. Most of you likely read mainstream media that failed in its responsibility to provide you with info abt sovereignty & our status as nations.
  31. The Choctaw child has clear lineage. There is no question re her identity or her family. Yet, the public said she was not Indian enough.
  32. Native ppl are asking Boyden "who are your people" and "who is your family" but he cannot give clear answers.
  33. He has an uncle who played Indian but denied being Indian. Indeed, as the @APTN article showed, that man delighted in fooling ppl.
  34. I linked to the ATPN article way back in this thread. Here it is again, for your convenience: 
  35. As noted earlier, Native people are using social media to talk with each other abt Boyden's claims. I've linked to some, in this thread...
  36. Here's a new thread from Robert Jago, who--this week--has been tweeting from @IndigenousXca  His first thread...
  37. ...on Boyden, claims to Native identity, and who can tell our stories, was on Dec 22nd from the @IndigenousXca acct: 
  38. Jago used numbered (rather than threaded) tweets. You'll need to go to that Dec 22nd tweet and read up from there. I urge you do that!
  39. Last night, scholar and writer, @justicedanielh did an excellent thread in response to those who think that asking these questions...
  40. ... re Boyden and identity, is wrong. Here's @justicedanielh thread:  Also! Follow Daniel, and read his writings.
  41. I see, in this video from 2009, that high school students were assigned Boyden's THREE DAY ROAD: 
  42. In an article, I saw that Boyden said Trump is a trickster. That led me to this: , which is evidence that...
  43. ... ppl have had questions abt Boyden's claims for awhile. In some interviews, Boyden said that it is only white ppl that question...
  44. ... and that Native people don't question his identity. That is not accurate. In Native circles, ppl have had this q for a long time.
  45. As I read articles/tweets abt Boyden's claims, I understand that feeling of being betrayed by someone who said they're Native. We know...
  46. ... that Native doesn't mean dark hair/skin/high cheekbones. We know it is about citizenship or membership, abt being claimed by a nation.
  47. I have given people the benefit of the doubt, and then felt horribly betrayed when truths about their claims were brought out.
  48. When I was on faculty at U Illinois, we got burned, twice, by ppl who we hired because we trusted their claim to Native identity.
  49. The first was Andrea Smith, who claimed to be Cherokee. She had claimed that identity for years and had cred with key scholars.
  50. The second was David Anthony Clark, who said he was Meskwaki (Sac and Fox.) Those two cases led us to write this: 
  51. Woah. Robert Jago pointed to a 2011 article where Boyden is talking about how he is two spirit....
    Woah. Robert Jago pointed to a 2011 article where Boyden is talking about how he is two spirit....
  52. I have compassion for Native people who were taken from their families and communities and are holding on to that identity, looking for...
  53. ... their family, their community, their nation. As adults, Smith, Clark, and Boyden read/studied writings on these takings, these policies.
  54. They "know the score" so to speak, on identity and claims to Native identity. They know what it means to make those claims.
  55. Boyden said ppl mis-heard him when he said he is Nipmuc. Did he not ask those who misrepresented his identity to correct their error?
  56. Here's an example that @jeffdberglund shared earlier today. It is interview from 2005 where reporter said Mi'kmaq. 
  57. This is the most painful thread on Boyden and his claims to Native identity, the ways he's been navigating... 
  58. If you're reading tweets abt Boyden, you're probably seeing some from ppl who think he can take a DNA test and "settle" this. But, ...
  59. ... that suggestion shows ignorance on part of person making it. DNA testing will not help. Earlier today, @KimTallBear did a long...
  60. ... thread on her experiences w ppl's expectations re Native identity. She also said that a DNA test...
  61. ... wouldn't help re Elizabeth Warren. Same holds true for Boyden: 
  62. Boyden's THREE DAY ROAD is a WWI story. If you want an alternative, from ppl who are Native, w/o question, get...
  63. Good morning (12/27/16)! Ppl in my networks continue to talk abt Joseph Boyden, his claims to Native identity, & why it matters. I am...
  64. ...reading/thinking abt what I read as people weigh in or add to what they've previously said. Here's @innes_rob 
  65. Earlier in this long thread on Boyden, I pointed to @adamgaudry. Yesterday he took a look at Boyden's uncle, who Boyden references...
  66. ... a lot, as a means to prove his identity. @adamgaudry's TL on that uncle is excellent: 
  67. Way back in this thread, I asked ppl to read, think, and NOT to jump in to defend Boyden. Course, his fans have been jumping in everywhere!
  68. In response to Boyden's fans, @justicedanielh did a thread last night that I rec you read: 
  69. I'll add some thoughts to what Daniel said. If you're not Native or don't read Native news or lit crit of bks abt Native ppl, you're...
  70. ... entering these conversations from a place of ignorance of why identity matters to us. We enter the convo with context that...
  71. ... goes back hundreds of years. For me, it is the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Catholics/Spanish tried to wipe us/our ways out. We resisted.
  72. You've been educated/socialized to think we were primitive, savage, violent, etc., but we weren't. Some yrs back I started rdg Boyden's...
  73. ... THREE DAY ROAD. It was compelling, but I set it aside. That was when ORENDA came out. I read Native criticism of ORENDA.
  74. Recently, I read an interview w Boyden. He was asked abt the criticism. I think he misrepresented the criticism, and thereby, dismissed it.
  75. Concerns, as I understood them, were that he affirmed the stereotypical idea of Native ppls as savages. Boyden said that the violence...
  76. ... in his bk was just a few pages. In essence, he denied the fact that those few pages dovetail with the massive, existing imagery of...
  77. ... Native ppl as violent and barbaric. He fed the white expectation. Native ppl said WTF, Boyden, but he waved them away.
  78. Earlier in this thread, I've pointed you to Chelsea Vowel's TL. I've learned a lot from. Get her book.
    Earlier in this thread, I've pointed you to Chelsea Vowel's TL. I've learned a lot from. Get her book.
  79. 12/28/16, morning: More to add to thread I started 5 days ago on Joseph Boyden. Here's Audra Simpson's comments: 
  80. Last night, ppl were sharing a Litopedia interview. Titled "Joseph Boyden: Who Are You, Really?", it was taped 3 yrs ago, and because...
  81. ... of the APTN article on Boyden, the Litopedia team decided to share it. Here's the link: 
  82. Boyden walked out of that interview, about halfway thru the 30 minute segment. It is all on the tape... I don't know the show or the...
  83. ... hosts, but Boyden clearly was not enjoying that interview. If the hosts are always provocative, Boyden shouldn't have agreed to be on!
  84. When @Litopia shared the segment yesterday, they included some context:
    When @Litopia shared the segment yesterday, they included some context:
  85. Here's a short thread @Litopia did when Boyden walked out of the interview: 
  86. Reporters are tweeting to Boyden, asking him to call them so they can do interviews w him abt this. He's in a hotseat of his own making.
  87. I've also seen a lot of tweets from Ernie Cray. Last night, he was interviewed abt Boyden:  He's defending Boyden.
  88. Typo in that last tweet! The man's name is Ernie Crey. His defense of Boyden strikes me as naive. Crey is chief of a FN. I wonder...
  89. ... would Crey feel that way if Boyden was claiming to be Cheam?
  90. There's another dimension to the Boyden mess that I haven't included in this thread: Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls.
  91. Boyden, as some know, has a high profile and is often asked to deliver lectures on issues specific to Native people.
  92. He wrote an open letter re investigation/firing of writer, Steven Galloway. @ZoeSTodd was interviewed abt it here: 
  93. That article in The Walrus is by its editor in chief, who I think is pretty ignorant.
  94. So... major media in Canada is paying attn. I haven't seen anything in US papers. Boyden is on faculty in New Orleans.
  95. The editor at The Walrus really needs to do some reading. He could start with Kim @KimTallBear's thread: 
  96. In November, Boyden compared Trump to a trickster. He says some pretty messed up/ignorant things.
    In November, Boyden compared Trump to a trickster. He says some pretty messed up/ignorant things.
  97. Earlier today I pointed to an interview Ernie Crey did re Boyden. Here's a response to his points, from @ZoeSTodd 
  98. And, looks like there will be a radio segment (or is it TV?) on Boyden tonight: 
  99. Is any native man actually employed as a writer at the Globe, Star, Sun, or Post? 
  100. Article in Bustle points to controversies in young adult lit. Boyden's THREE DAY ROAD wasn't marketed as being for young adults, but...
  101. ... given that it is assigned in high schools, I think news stories re Boyden's claims to Native identity is #7 in Bustle article...
  102. Here's the Bustle article on controversies in young adult lit.  Three of the 6 are abt Native content.
  103. Long thread by @debreese on Native identity.  Upshot: relevant Q not "what's your DNA?" but "what nation claims you?"
  104. The more I items I read abt Boyden, the more I cringe. See @duane_linklater's account here: This is 1st paragraph:
    The more I items I read abt Boyden, the more I cringe. See @duane_linklater's account here:  This is 1st paragraph:
  105. Joseph Boyden is his uncle Erl: a white person who dresses up like he's a Native person, and performs for White people.
  106. Erl put on a headdress and stood by a tipi. Joseph Boyden puts on words. Performing Indians. Basking in adulation. And yes, doing harm.
  107. Who is asked to write abt Boyden, and why, is an imp aspect of this mess. @justicedanielh lays it out here: 
  108. ... its headline. In original, they used "lynching" but have since taken it out. It still shows, tho, in the URL.
    ... its headline. In original, they used "lynching" but have since taken it out. It still shows, tho, in the URL.
  109. Early today @tuckeve wrote to Globe and Mail about their use of "lynching" -- here's her tweet abt it: 
  110. Info I'm tweeting in this thread on Boyden comes from what I see in a twitter search using his name. But also from ppl I follow, such as...
  111. Boyden is far from the first--or last--person to go into a Native community, do research, and walk away and publish things w/o permission.
  112. There's several examples, here in the US, of white writers teaching or hanging out in Native communities, and then writing stories abt...
  113. ... that community, and in an Author's Note, talking abt how they were asked to do that, or, abt how they're donating % of profit to...
  114. ... a Native org. They--and their pals--think that makes them look good, like they're generous. Reality: that's grotesque exploitation.
  115. When I point that out, friends of those white people flock to my blog and defend those writers. Those writers get spun as the victim.
  116. And, those writers and their editors whisper "Debbie Reese hates white people." It'd be amusing if there weren't so many of them out...
  117. ... there, consoling each other and doing the same old thing year after year.
  118. Do make sure you read Lenny Carpenter's post on Boyden.  Boyden saying he discovered a gold mine... WTF.
  119. Ah! Check out this article abt f'ed up headline in Globe and Mail abt Boyden being "lynched."  h/t @KimTallBear
  120. Boyden, his claims, and ppl who feel compassion for him getting challenged are causing harm they either don't understand or care about...
  121. See this thread, from @FancyBebamikawe. Read with care, and think, about what she's saying:  and then revisit...
  122. ... that love-of-Boyden. That love is in the way, causing hurt and pain, perpetuating ignorance, exploitation.
  123. 5 AM, Dec 30, 2016: Convo's re Joseph Boyden's claim to Native identity continue. First item I read today is by Jordan Wheeler...
  124. I've seen tweets that q's re Boyden's claims may hurt those who were taken from family. This thread addresses that: 
  125. "What Colour is Your Beadwork, Joseph Boyden" asks @RMComedy: Ryan McMahon's piece is one of the must-reads.
    "What Colour is Your Beadwork, Joseph Boyden" asks @RMComedy  Ryan McMahon's piece is one of the must-reads.
  126. Adding another thread by Dr. Chris Anderson (@BigMMusings) that breaks down the q's re blood/blood quantum & Boyden 
  127. PODCAST—Why 2016 a breakout year for empowering Indigenous media arts + activism; #JosephBoyden's identity questions 
  128. In addition to @CBCIndigenous articles on Boyden, take time to listen to radio interview with Rebeka Tabobondung: 
  129. Tabobondung: Those who speak abt Native issues must be people who are grounded in that area/community.
  130. Without that grounding, she says, interpretations of that ppl's history can have negative consequences that perpetuate negative stereotypes.
  131. Tabobondung talked abt problems in interpretation of a community not ones own. Terri Monture's rev of Boyden's ORENDA...@RedIndianGirl
  132. 4:07, Jan 2, 2017: RT'ing items from Jan 1 and Jan 2, on Joseph Boyden, to add to the Storify I started on Dec 24th. Here's @RachelAnnSnow 

Part Two: (in process) 

January 2, 2017

January 3, 2017

January 4, 2017

January 5, 2017

January 6, 2017

January 8, 2017

January 9, 2016

January 10, 2017

January 11, 2017
.... pausing the bulleted list to note that Boyden finally responded to the many questions...
... back to the bulleted list, which--from here--is primarily responses to Boyden's remarks. When this started back in December, the headline on the APTN article had "shape shifting identity" in it. As some of these responses indicate, he's shifting his stories now. Previously, he said his family never talked about their Native ancestry, now--he says--they talked about it all his life, from his birth, even, telling stories. 

January 12, 2017
...pausing the list again, to note that:

1) Boyden's publisher (Penguin Random House in Canada), and his editor (Nicole Winstanley) voiced support for Boyden. Major publishers like Penguin are huge corporations. Integrity of writing or author does not matter. If it did, Simon and Schuster would not be publishing the White supremacist, Milo Yiannopoulos. It will make a lot of money for its publisher. Boyden's books make a lot of money for Penguin.  

2) The Tozer's, who Boyden referenced in his 1/12/17 interview with Candy Palmater, also issued a statement of support. William and Pamela Tozer are Moose Cree, and run Camp Onakawana, near Moosonee, Ontario. In 2014 (article linked below), Boyden wrote about the camp and said that William Tozer is the inspiration for Uncle Will Bird, a character in Boyden's Through Blue Spruce.
... resuming the list:

January 13, 2017
January 14, 2017

... Daniel Heath Justice shared an article from 2013 in which Boyden makes a claim to being Wendat. So far as I recall, that claim had not been written about. Here's a photo from the article, with the final paragraph pasted beneath the photo:

... Daniel Heath Justice's thread on Twitter, regarding that Wendat claim

January 15 2017

January 16, 2017

January 18, 2017

Reviews by People of the 

Native Communities Boyden's Books Depict

Three Day Road, published in 2005 by Viking Penguin

Through Blue Spruce, published in 2009 by Viking Penguin

The Orenda, published in 2013 by Penguin Random House