Friday, November 25, 2022

UPDATE: Changes made to DINO-THANKSGIVING

Back in October of 2020, I wrote about Dino-Thanksgiving by Lisa Wheeler, illustrated by Barry Gott. It is about dinosaurs gathering to eat at thanksgiving. At one point they gather around the television to watch the "Redscales" game. Players wear uniforms the same colors as the NFL Team now known as the Washington Commanders. 

People at the publishing house saw my post and replied to say they would be making edits to reprints. 

A few days ago, Carol Hinz, Associate Publisher of Millbrook Press and Carolrhoda Books (imprints within Lerner Publishing) wrote about the edits on Lerner's blog. They changed the name of the team name to Rippers. The uniforms they wear are now different, too. Below on left is my screen capture of the first edition. I added the arrows to draw attention to the team name and uniform colors. On right is a sample of the edits Hinz wrote about.  



Those changes, I think, indicate progress. Lots of people at Lerner were involved in the changes. Each one of them now know something they might not have known, before. 

I'm writing this post on Friday, November 25--the day after the 2022 observance of thanksgiving. Some Native families gather on that day to visit and eat, but many do not. Many choose to mark the day as a National Day of Mourning and have been doing so, since 1970, in Plymouth Massachusetts. 

I'm glad to see that change to the mascot name in the series. 

This particular thanksgiving book doesn't repeat the the popular--and wrong--story of Pilgrims and Indians feasting together that hides the facts of imperialism and genocide. That story is one of the many U.S. myths that hurts everyone--Native and not--because it looks away from the horrific things one people can do to another. 

I think there was a time in my life when I thought that the best option was to mark the day as one of gratitude without the Pilgrim and Indian story but in a way, that's like sports teams getting rid of mascots but keeping the team name. It doesn't work. Opposing teams will use those team names to taunt the fans whose team holds that name. Without a massive educational effort to help others see why the mascot is not ok, it lives on in peoples hearts and too often--in their actions.  I've seen that firsthand at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. The mascot itself is gone but the team name is unchanged and fans of the now-absent mascot continue wearing apparel that is easy to get. Worse is that fans of mascots will go on to work in positions where their actions--like doing reenactments of "the first thanksgiving"--will misinform children. 

All of this is part of a cycle that must be interrupted! There are a few new picture books that seek to interrupt the Pilgrim and Indians thanksgiving story. I've not studied them yet. 

One is If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving by Chris Newell (citizen of the Passamaquoddy Tribe) and illustrated by Winona Nelson (Leech Lake Band of Minnesota Chippewa). Dennis Zotigh at the National Museum of the American Indian has an article about it at Smithsonian Magazine: 'If You Lived During the Plimoth Thanksgiving' by Chris Newell Exposes New Truths about the American Holiday. 

Another is Keepunumuk: Wee√Ęchumun's Thanksgiving Story written by Danielle Greendeer (Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Citizen), Alexis Bunten (Unangan/Yup'ik), Anthony Perry (Chickasaw), and illustrated by Garry Meeches, Sr. (Anishinaabe). In my quick look at this book, I see a lot I like. I groaned at the back matter for the inclusion of a map by a mapmaker whose methods received criticism from many who observed that he misrepresented their nations and people on his maps. For more information about that, I did a couple of posts here at AICL

A few years ago, We Are Grateful/Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell (Cherokee) came out. I like what she did in her book and highly recommended it. Much older is Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message by Chief Jake Swamp (Mohawk). These two don't take the pilgrims as their starting point. 

Before social media took off, people would submit comments to AICL's posts but that dropped significantly as people chose to respond to AICL's posts on Twitter. Media analysts say that Twitter is on its last legs. Your contributions to conversations are likely going to be lost. If you're leaving Twitter, we invite you to submit your comments here. I'm really interested in your observations about thanksgiving and thanksgiving books. 


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