Showing posts sorted by relevance for query thunder boy. Sort by date Show all posts
Showing posts sorted by relevance for query thunder boy. Sort by date Show all posts

Thursday, May 12, 2016

How to Read Sherman Alexie's THUNDER BOY JR.?

Editors Note on Feb 25, 2018: Please see my apology about promoting Alexie's work and the articles in the Timeline about Alexie's sexual harassment.--Debbie


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Back in February, I pre-ordered a copy of Sherman Alexie's picture book, Thunder Boy Jr. It arrived on Tuesday (May 10, 2016). The illustrations are by Yuyi Morales.

Alexie is doing a significant promotional campaign for the book. He was on The Daily Show two nights ago. Forbes had a story about the book. So did Bustle, Entertainment Weekly... you can do a search and find many others.

That's cool. I am happy that a Native writer is getting that level of exposure. In some of these stories, Alexie speaks about invisibility, representation, and similar issues of concern to Native people. Bringing these topics to a broader audience is very important. Because he is much loved by the American public, Alexie is a person who can influence how someone thinks about an issue.

In a nutshell, Thunder Boy Jr. is about a little boy whose father, Thunder Boy, named him Thunder Boy Jr. at birth.  But, Thunder Boy Jr. wants his own name and identity. This is definitely a universal theme. Lot of kids and adults wish they had a different name.

Alexie's much-loved humor is front and center of this story. Because Thunder Boy's dad is a big man, his nickname is Big Thunder. The words "Big Thunder" are extra large and bold on the page, inviting readers to boom it out as they read it. That makes it all the more inviting as a read aloud. If his dad is Big Thunder, that means Thunder Boy's nickname is Little Thunder, and that is not ok with Little Thunder:
That nickname makes me sound like a burp or a fart.
Some will love seeing the word fart; others will not. Here's that page. See Thunder Boy's little sister? I look at the illustration of the two kids and my heart goes right to my sister's grandchildren and memories of them playing and dancing together at my niece's wedding last week. I think they'll like this book very much.



Here's Jayden and Ellie on the dance floor. When her sandal slipped off, she sat down right there on the floor. He kneeled beside her and tried to get it back on, but those straps slide all over and he couldn't figure it out. It was endearing to see them together trying to puzzle through it. He'd look at her other shoe to see if he could see how to make it all right again. I stopped filming when he started looking around for help, and of course, I helped her so they could pick up where they'd left off.

Jayden and Ellie

In Thunder Boy Jr. we see a warm and loving Native family. I like that, a lot. I see that warmth in Jayden and Ellie's relationship with each other and their parents, grandparents, and great grandparents.

****

Moving back to Alexie's book: Thunder Boy Jr. tells us that his name is not a normal name. His mother, whose name is Agnes, and his sister, whose name is Lilian, have normal names. He hates his name. He wants a name that sounds like him, that celebrates something cool that he has done. He climbed a tall mountain, so maybe his name could be Touch the Clouds. He loves playing in the dirt, so maybe his name could be Mud In His Ears, and so on.

That's where the story, for me, goes into a place that makes me wonder how to read it. Let me explain.

If I read it as a Native kid whose community, friends, and family engage in banter about naming and give each other nicknames, cool. It is delightful.

And if I imagine it being read by a reader who likes and respects Native peoples, I can see why they would like it, too. For that reader, though... 

What Alexie has given us is a pan Indian story.

By not being tribally specific, his story obscures the diversity that Native writers, scholars, activists, parents, teachers, librarians, lawyers... have been bringing forth forever. We aren't monolithic. We're very different in our histories, religions, material cultures, and yes, the ways that we give names. Moving into that name play collapses significant distinctions across our nations.

I noted above that I got the book on May 10th. Do you know what was going on then?

We were in the midst of a horrible "TrumpIndianNames" hashtag. Last week, Donald Trump took a swipe at Elizabeth Warren's claims to Native identity (her claim is a problem, too, that I've written about elsewhere). The response to him was the TrumpIndianNames hashtag where Democrats, progressives, independents--a wide swath of people, in other words--had a grand time coming up with "Indian names" for Trump. All of that, however, was at our expense. People thought they were very clever. Native people, on the other hand, were quick to object to Native ways of naming being used in this way.

So, that is the context from which I read Thunder Boy Jr. If I stand within a Native community, the book is delightful. If I stand outside of it, in a well-meaning but ignorant mainstream US society, the book takes on a different cast.

Is that fair to Alexie or to his book? I'm thinking about that question and don't have an answer. I know for sure that if a white writer had done a book that played with Native names, I'd be very critical. Indeed, I was very critical when Jon Scieszka did it in Me Oh Maya and I was very critical when Russell Hoban did it in Soonchild.

Is it ok for Alexie to do it because he is Native? Does the book represent inside-humor that marks it as ok? I don't know.

In an interview with Brian Lehrer, Alexie said that Thunder Boy doesn't like the name because it was assigned to him, and wasn't a name he had given himself. He wants a name that measures something he has done. Alexie said:
This calls back to ancient tribal traditions of many peoples, Native Americans included, where the transition to adulthood involves getting a new name that measures something that you've done, or is predictive, something that your elders hope you become.
None of that information is inside the book. What he said on Lehrer's show is lacking in specificity, too. In the interview he said "many peoples, Native Americans included" but given the existing ignorance about Native peoples, I think that his interviews and the book would be much improved by an author's note that provides parents, teachers, and librarians with information about naming.

Last thing I want to note is the page where Thunder Boy says that he loves powwow dancing and that he is a grass dancer. I love the illustration, from above, of him dancing.



But the drums in the top right? From what I know about powwow drums, that's not quite accurate. Usually, there's a single drum with several drummers, and the drum is on a stand. It doesn't sit on the ground or floor.

In sum? A mixed review. That's where I am right now. I really do think that my concerns with the pan Indian character of Thunder Boy Jr. could be addressed with an author's note. Perhaps there will be one in the next printing.

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Note (May 12, 12:30 PM): Please see the comments below for further discussion of the book, naming, and audience, and the comments on the Facebook post, too.

Note (May 13, 2016): See my second post, More Questions about Sherman Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. 

Note (May 15, 2016): See my third post, Toward a Common Understanding of Native Peoples in the U.S. (or, Why Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. Needs a Note to Readers)

Friday, May 13, 2016

More questions about Sherman Alexie's THUNDER BOY JR.

Editors Note on Feb 25, 2018: Please see my apology about promoting Alexie's work. --Debbie

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As I continue thinking about Sherman Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr., I wonder about the responsibility of the editorial team. Back when A Fine Dessert was published, some people pointed out that the editorial team has responsibilities, too, for the book. Some argued that, in the end, the author and illustrator have final responsibility because their names are on the book. Others countered that they don't have as much authority as one might think. 

This post is some of my thoughts on the role of the editor.

Alexie writes primarily for adults. His name, books, and then his films (Smoke Signals and The Business of Fancydancing) were well known in Native circles. When he wrote The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian he became widely known in children's and young adult literature. In one interview, he said that Diary sold over a million copies. He heard from a lot of readers about how much that book mattered to them, and so, he wanted to do something similar for younger readers. Hence: Thunder Boy Jr.

The first print run for Thunder Boy Jr. is 100,000 copies, which is rare for a picture book. The publisher is Little, Brown Books for Young Readers (they also published Diary). Their decision to print 100,000 copies tells us they expect the book to do well. Its status this morning as "#1 Best Seller" in the Children's Native American Books category at Amazon tells us they were right. 

As I noted yesterday, Alexie is making a lot of appearances. I assume the publisher is paying for all of that. 

Alexie's editor, Alvina Ling, is fully aware of the intense discussions in children's literature regarding the topic of diversity, racism, stereotyping, bias... all of that. She's steeped in the world of children's literature. I think--and I could be wrong--but I think Alvina knows that we're pushing very hard against monolithic images of Native peoples. 

Alexie may not know. When he talks about children's books, his go-to title is The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats. That's a really old book. I've never seen Alexie speak or write about a children or young adult book about Native peoples written by a Native writer, so I wonder if he's aware of that particular body of literature? 

In The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, we know which tribal nation his characters are from. Why is that information missing from Thunder Boy Jr.

Did he think it was too much information to include Thunder Boy's tribal affiliation in the story, somehow? 

Was he unable to figure out a way to do it without yanking readers out of the story? 

If he was writing with a Native reader in mind, did he think that specificity was unimportant?

If Alexie and his editor talked through all of that, I again end up at the place I was yesterday: an author's note would have been the place to address all of this.

It is possible that Alexie didn't know about author's notes in children's literature, but his author knows all about them and why they're important. Is the lack of one ultimately her error?

~~~~~

There is another framework to situate Alexie's book and choices within... There's a contentious conversation taking place amongst Native people, regarding enrollment or citizenship within a federally recognized tribe. Or--rather--the disenrollment of people who were formerly enrolled in those nations. Some weeks ago there was a hashtag campaign objecting to the disenrollments. You can read about it at Indian Country Today's article, 'Stop Disenrollment' Posts Get More than 100K Views.

Read, too, their story on Alexie's views on disenrollment: Sherman Alexie Gives Disenrollment the Bird. Is the lack of specificity his way of embracing kids whose families are being disenrolled?

No doubt, I'll be back with additional posts on Alexie's book. No book exists in a vacuum. It is in the world, being read by people who are also in the world.

~~~~~

See my first post on his book How to Read Sherman Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr.? uploaded on May 12, 2016. 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Towards a Common Understanding of Native Peoples in the U.S. (or, Why Alexie's THUNDER BOY JR. Needs a Note to Readers)

Editors Note on Feb 25, 2018: Please see my apology about promoting Alexie's work. --Debbie

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Last evening (May 14th, 2016), I did a search on Twitter to see what people were saying about Sherman Alexie's appearances at Book Expo and BookCon. He had some terrific things to say, like this (quoting a tweet from the Publishers Weekly account):
Sherman Alexie won't sell movie rights to his books b/c he doesn't want his books whitewashed and non-Native actors #thebookcon.
In scrolling through the tweets, I also saw one from a person who read Thunder Boy Jr. to kids in storytime, and then had the kids pick new names. That was--and is--a primary concern for me. Last year, a cousin's little boy brought home a worksheet where he had to pick a Native American name. Here's a photo of the worksheet:



It is hard to read. Here's what it says:
What name would you choose if you were a Native American? Although Native Americans gave their children names just as your parents did for you, they were very different. They also may have many names throughout their life. The elders named the children and adults within the tribe. Some came as dreams or visions from the elder which was a sign for naming the person. Others go along with the personality or characteristic of that person. A Native American name may tell about what the person does well or wants to do, something that may have happened on the day of that person's birth, or something else that has specific meaning relating to that person. Sometimes Native Americans didn't like their names because they may have been degrading. For example: Would you like to be called Talks Too Much, Buffalo Woman, Lonely One, Lazy Elk, or No Particular Tribe? Since animals were a large part of their religious world, they were often used when naming a person. For example: Running Deer, Brave Hawk, Thunder Bird, Quiet caterpillar, Wild Cat, Sly Fox or Swimming Dolphin. Part of the nature were common too since Native Americans worshipped their land. For example: Strong Wind, Running Thunder, Lightning Bolt, Shining Sun or Happy Weather. Once the elder named the child or adult, they have a ceremonial feast and that elder and newly named person formed a bond. Now it is your turn! A Native name can say quite a lot about you! Give it a try!
Think of an animal or part of nature
Think of a characteristic about yourself
Put them together!
Write your name and a description of why you chose your name on the template. In the box, draw a picture of yourself as a Native American. Below there is a circle. Here you will create a symbol for your name. Since they didn't have an alphabet or written language they often used symbols to write their names. Make it simple! Too much detail would take too much time to write your name over and over again!
I uttered one "oh my gosh" after another as I read that worksheet (where did the author find those names, and why is "Buffalo Woman" seen as degrading?!), but let's stick with my concern: the monolithic or pan-Indian character of that worksheet. There are over 500 federally recognized nations in the United States. Amongst them is tremendous diversity of language, ceremony, and yes, naming.

None of the major review journals noted problems with the pan-Indian character of Alexie's picture book. Did others, I wondered? I went over to Goodreads to see. On April 14th, 2016, Jillian Heise, who (at the time) was teaching Native children, wrote:
I see my students on these pages, most especially my favorite, with the male grass dancer regalia, and wish there were more chances for them to see themselves, and others to see them, in the pages of picture books.
I appreciate the book, and feel it is important, but wonder if it may somewhat confuse those who haven't been taught about cultural naming traditions. Might they read this and see it as a silly thing instead of the deeper meaning usually given to it? Because of that, I wish there had been an end note to add some more perspective within the larger conversation.
Kudos to Jillian! She's got the context to understand why the lack of specificity in the book is a concern.

In emails with Roger Sutton a couple of days ago, we briefly touched on my review of Alexie's book. He said "how we respect insiders and outsiders at the same time" is "a big question." I think we all want to get to a place in children's literature, textbooks, movies, etc. where we're all represented, accurately, and where students and consumers don't need help understanding the cultural, religious, history, etc. of the story or information being conveyed. In many places, for example, I've applauded Daniel Jose Older's video asking writers not to use italics for non-English words. He's pushing the status quo in terrific ways. Given the shifting demographics in the United States, that place (where things aren't so darn white) is going to come, eventually. We're getting there.

In the meantime, for some peoples and some topics, readers are going to need some help, within the pages of the book. Thunder Boy Jr. is a perfect example of the need for that help. I bought three copies of the 100,000 that were printed. One of them is mine, one is for Jayden (my sister's grandson), and the third copy is for his class. It is a class of Pueblo Indian children who probably have gone through their naming ceremony. We (I'm Pueblo, too) have specific ways in which we receive our names. My parents named me Debbie when I was born. A few weeks later, I received a Pueblo name. I'm not going to provide details about that because ceremonies are not something we disclose. There are reasons for that, including the fact that our religious ceremonies (naming is part of that) were outlawed by the US government. Another is that people who are searching for identity and meaning in their lives gravitate to Native peoples and "go Native" in superficial ways that are harmful to Native peoples. The children in that classroom, secure in who they are (like Jillian's students), will likely enjoy the story.

As I've noted, 100,000 copies of the book were published. I'm hoping that Little, Brown (the publisher) will include a Note in the next batch, providing a "do not use this book as an activity for which kids pick a Native American name," an explanation for why that is not a respectful activity, and a bit of information about Native naming. If you've got a copy, or if you get one of the 100,000 copies, I hope the information I share here is helpful.

I'll start with some tweets I sent out this morning:
Inevitable: Tweet from someone who read Alexie's Thunder Boy Jr. to kids and then did activity where kids picked their Indian names.
Fact: Imagine being a Native kid in that class, who already has a name, given to them in ceremony, being asked to make up a new one.
Question: Would it help adult readers NOT do that activity if there was a note inside the book about Native peoples and naming?
A truth: A white teacher asking a Native kid to choose a new name harkens back to boarding schools where teachers asked Native kids to point to a blackboard to choose a new name. 
That last tweet is a reference to Luther Standing Bear and what he wrote in his My Indian Boyhood. He was Lakota. In the foreward to the 2006 edition of My Indian Boyhood (first published in 1931), Delphine Red Shirt (she's Oglala Sioux) wrote that:
Lakota children are named at birth by their parents or by close relatives. Standing Bear's brothers' names, Sorrel Horse and Never Defeated, signified brave deeds that their father had been known for: he once had a sorrel horse shot out from under him, and he displayed heroic characteristics in battle, causing the people to remember him as never having been defeated. As Standing Bear later recalled, "In the names of his sons, the history of [my father] is kept fresh." Standing Bear's father was a leader who killed many to protect his people. Thus, like his brothers, Ota K'te (Plenty Kill) was also given a name that held significance.
Ota K'te kept his boyhood name until it changed to Mato Najin, or "Standing Bear," later in his life, according to Lakota custom. In the old tradition, he would have earned a new name through a heroic or brave deed, but by the time he reached an age when he could prove himself worthy, the Lakota people had been confined to the Pine Ridge Reservation. He took his father's name, Standing Bear, and at Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, he took the name Luther.
In his My People the Sioux (first published in 1928), Standing Bear writes that when he got to Carlisle, an interpreter came to the room where they were and said to them (p. 138):
'Do you see all these marks on the blackboard? Well, each word is a white man's name. They are going to give each of you one of these names by which you will hereafter be known.' None of the names were read or explained to us, so of course we did not know the sound or meaning of any of them.
The teacher had a long pointed stick in her hand, and the interpreter told the boy in the front seat to come up. The teacher handed the stick to him, and the interpreter then told him to pick out any name he wanted. The boy had gone up with his blanket on. When the long stick was handed to him, he turned to us as much as to say, 'Shall I--or will you help me--to take one of these names? Is it right for me to take a white man's name?' He did not know what to do for a time, not uttering a single word--but he acted a lot and was doing a lot of thinking.
Finally he pointed out one of the names written on the blackboard. Then the teacher took a piece of white tape and wrote the name on it. Then she cut off a length of the tape and sewed it on the back of the boy's shirt. Then that name was erased from the board. 
This went on for all the kids. In class when the teacher called the roll and the person whose name she called didn't stand, she'd look at the tape and make that child stand up and say 'Present.' That is how they learned what their new names sounded like, and that they should respond to the name when it was said.

All of that information is specific to Luther Standing Bear and Lakotas.

I understand that Alexie, in his classroom visits, is telling kids that the boy in the story is Spokane. Speaking as a teacher, I would love to see that in the book, and information about the ways that Spokane's name their children. At some point in the future, my hope is that the diversity within Native America will be common knowledge, and such notes won't be necessary. We aren't there, yet, and while I don't want Native writers to feel a responsibility to explain things to non-Native readers, I think it is, for now, necessary that their books include helpful notes.

Providing that information in a Note to Readers respects the writer's way of telling a story as they choose to tell it, and respects the outsiders need for more information with which to understand that story. It is one answer to Roger Sutton's question about how we can respect insiders and outsiders at the same time.

Update, May 15, 3:05 PM: I'll be back to add information about naming when I come across it. See:
  • Carter Revard's Traditional Osage Naming Ceremonies in Swann and Krupat's Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature (1987, University of California Press).
  • Anton Treuer's "What are naming ceremonies?" (especially the part about Ojibwe naming) in Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask (2012, Borealis Books).


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Previous posts on Thunder Boy Jr.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Joseph Bruchac's MARCH TOWARD THE THUNDER


[Note: This review may not be published elsewhere without written permission from its author, Beverly Slapin. Copyright 2008 by Beverly Slapin. All rights reserved.]


Bruchac, Joseph (Abenaki), March Toward the Thunder. Dial (2008), grades 5-up.

Between 1861 and 1865, during what has been labeled the bloodiest conflict in U.S. history, more than one million young men, foot soldiers who had enlisted or been drafted into the infantries of the Northern and Southern armies, were maimed or killed as they marched toward the thunder of each other’s artillery.

It’s the summer of 1864, and 15-year-old Louis Nolette, an Abenaki from Canada, is living in New York with his mother. Lured by the promise of good wages and a “fine, clean uniform,” and the North’s stated commitment to end slavery, Louis signs up with the 69th New York Volunteers: the “Fighting 69th,” the “Irish Brigade”—known for its courage and ferocity—marching from New York to Virginia.

An “eager boy going into battle,” what Louis finds out during this long summer is that war is not about heroes and villains: it’s about scared kids on both sides of the trenches, killing and dying for a “cause” that becomes further and further removed from their realities. “Aye,” Sergeant Flynn tells Louis, “war’s a dirty business and never ye forget that.”

A dirty business in more ways than one. Constant attacks by lice and fleas. The unavailability of water for bathing. And the slaughters on both sides that result from incompetent officers and generals whose political careers dictate their military judgments. “God save us from all generals,” Sergeant Flynn says.

March Toward the Thunder is not a blow-by-blow description of some of the major battles of the Civil War, though they are here: Cold Harbor, the Crater, the Bloody Angle, the Wilderness, Petersburg. It is not a roster of the famous names, though some make an appearance, too: Abe Lincoln, Walt Whitman, Clara Barton, and Seneca General Ely Parker. Rather, it is about the exhausted, homesick young people who do the fighting and whom readers will get to know and like—before almost all of them are killed.

Here are “Bad Luck” Bill O’Day and Kevin “Shaky” Wilson, the first to die:

O’Day’s head had been broken open like a melon by a spinning piece of shell. Nor was it likely that Shaky Wilson was still breathing. The last [Louis had] seen Wilson, he was leaning on a fallen tree and trying to hold in a red writhing mass spilling like snakes out of his belly.

Of the others who become friends—amidst “the confusion of gunshot and smoke, shots and screams and the sounds of men calling for water or their mothers”—few are left alive. And many of those others who might survive find parts of themselves left at the hospital tent, with the doctors’ sawbones-approach to medicine:

A grisly pile of arms and legs of men [who] would never shoulder a musket or march again to battle lay stacked four feet high behind the operating area. If and when there was a lull in the action, those lost limbs would be buried in the same earth where men were digging trenches.

In some places, compassion emerges from the bloody chaos. There are informal truces between Blue and Gray young men, who share the little they have. There’s a hushed, nighttime break together, where Louis is wished luck by a young Cherokee Reb whose cousin Louis has pulled to safety (“I do hope you don’t get kilt tomorrow,” he says). There’s the deep friendship that develops between Louis and a young Mohawk named Artis, who, in another war in another time and place, might have become deadly enemies. And there’s this: As Louis’ companions settle into their trenches for the night, they hear a familiar song floating from the enemy camp, “as sweet a version of ‘Amazing Grace’ as he’d ever heard… Then, up and down the line of trenches, Union men began to join in until at least a thousand voices and hearts of men in both blue and gray were lifted above the earthly battlefield by a song.”

Louis Nolette is based on Bruchac’s great-grandfather Louis Bowman, who served in the Irish Brigade in 1864-1865. He was gravely wounded and left for dead, surviving because Thunder came and he was able to drink from the rain pools. Here, Louis, his mother, his comrades,—and his “enemies”—are real people. Through them, middle readers will find no “good guys” or “bad guys,” no simplistic declaration of “mission accomplished.” Rather, with the assistance of a skilled teacher, they will be able to relate to the historical and contemporary issues of military recruitment and war.

Bruchac, who has recently become a grandfather, dedicates this book to “our grandchildren; may they live to see a world in which there is no war.” Through the eyes of a 15-year-old Indian boy become a man, he has crafted a profound statement against warfare. March Toward the Thunder should be required reading for every fifth- and six-grader in this country, for every youngster who is addicted to violent video games, and for every 18-year-old who is contemplating serving in this country’s armed forces.

—Beverly Slapin

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Note from Debbie: March Toward the Thunder is available from Oyate, a Native non-profit organization. You can always get a book cheaper at places like Amazon, but supporting Oyate means support of the work Oyate does for children. If you have a choice, order March Toward the Thunder from Oyate.

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Update, July 13, 6:45 AM---Here's Joseph Bruchac, singing a song he wrote, "Dare to Hope."


Friday, May 25, 2007

Kenneth Thomasma's books

A casting call is making the rounds in Indian Country... Too bad it is for the lead in a feature film based on Naya Nuki, one of the books in Thomasma's "Amazing Indian Children" series, which should more aptly be called "Amazing White Man's Indians." Those familiar with books about images of Indians will know my title for the series borrows from Robert F. Berkhofer's excellent book (published in 1979), The White Man's Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to the Present.

As you will read in Dovie Thomason's review essay below, Thomasma's books for children are quite a mess. And they're old, too, which should have been a heads-up to the film company. They're not classics or best sellers, but they do get put on lists (such as the Accelerated Reader program) by people who haven't read critically on bias and stereotyping.

Too bad the film makers didn't do more research. Ah, but I err. They're not into it for educational purposes, but for money. Naya Nuki is a Lewis and Clark story. The film makers missed the boat, I think, in the timing for this film, but I suspect they know it will get used again and again in classrooms.

Hmmm.... I wonder. If enough people wrote to the casting company (which is all the info we've got in terms of contacts), might the company drop the book and select another one? I think its worth a try. Write to Rene Haynes at nayanuki@rhcasting.com. Let's see what we can do. Read the review below to prep for your letter to Rene. (Note: The review is used by permission of its author and may not be published elsewhere without written consent. You can quote from it and cite this blog as your source. Even better, though, is to buy a copy of A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children, from Oyate. The review and many others are in the book. )
--Debbie
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Dovie Thomason's review:

Thomasma, Kenneth, “Amazing Indian Children Series.” Grand Rapids: Baker Book House. b/w illustrations; grades 3-5 
  • Amee-nah: Zuni Boy Runs the Race of His Life, illustrated by Jack Brouwer, 1995
  • Doe Sia: Bannock Girl and the Handcart Pioneers, illustrated by Agnes Vincent Talbot, 1999
  • Kunu: Winnebago Boy Escapes, illustrated by Jack Brouwer, 1989
  • Moho Wat: Sheepeater Boy Attempts a Rescue, illustrated by Jack Brouwer, 1994
  • Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran, illustrated by Eunice Hundley, 1983
  • Om-kas-toe: Blackfeet Twin Captures an Elkdog, illustrated by Jack Brouwer, 1986
  • Pathki Nana: Kootenai Girl Solves a Mystery, illustrated by Jack Brouwer, 1991
  • Soun Tetoken: Nez Perce Boy Tames a Stallion, illustrated by Eunice Hundley, 1984
  • The Truth about Sacajawea. 1998 (not part of series)

White men who have tried to write stories about the Indian have either foisted on the public some bloodcurdling, impossible “thriller”; or, if they have been in sympathy with the Indian, have written from knowledge that was not accurate and reliable. No one is able to understand the Indian race like an Indian.
—Luther Standing Bear, 1928

Generations later, Kenneth Thomasma’s books embody the very problems Standing Bear wrote about. Using historical events as a background, teacher-turned-author Thomasma has produced a formulaic series called “Amazing Indian Children.” He also conducts writing workshops, storytelling assemblies and school programs, according to his press packet, “dressed in an Indian elk hide suit, complete with obsidian knife.” Choosing to represent Indian children, families, cultures and histories, he says his program “makes those Indian children proud of their heritage and restores self-respect to them that should never have been taken away.”

As a teacher, Thomasma could easily have accessed books by Luther Standing Bear/Ota K’te, Charles Eastman/Ohiyesa, Gertrude Bonnin/Zitkala Sa and others who wrote of their own lives as Indian children in the Nineteenth Century. Instead, he visited historical sites, read accounts by non-Native scholars, spoke with Native elders “to get the details right,” and added his own “speculations and educated guesses.” Does all of this qualify Thomasma to produce a series of children’s books about Indian children? Does it qualify him to interpret another people’s stories? Does it make his books a way of teaching “all kids what it was like to be an Indian child” or make “Indian children proud of their heritage” and restore “self-respect to them”? Can an outsider enter a community, speak with a few people and then understand enough to be the legitimate voice of its children? 

Thomasma may believe so, but it is not the voices of Indian children we hear in these books. Thomasma’s “amazing Indian children” are disadvantaged and struggling and heroic, and generally engage the sympathies of young readers. In Naya Nuki, one of the most popular books in the series, the main character is taken outside of her culture, away from her family, and put in a solitary cross-country trek with the odds of surviving stacked against her. She and her friend Sacajawea are “Shoshoni Indians,” and their lives, even before their capture, are described as hungry and desperate and ever wary of the “fierce…warlike tribes from the prairie.” But would she have thought of herself and her people as “Shoshoni Indians” or “Indians” at all? Wouldn’t she have thought of her people as Aqui Dika, their self-name, usually translated as Salmon Eaters (not Snakes)? Or, simply, wouldn’t she have used the terms “we” or “our people” or “our family”? From the first chapter, she even calls her friend “Sacajawea,” even though this did not become her name until years after their capture, when she was traded to the Arikara! Our young protagonist wanders through the entire story in a disembodied, out-of-culture state, seeing “Indians,” measuring the snowfall in inches and feet, counting the days and knowing “November” was near. She doesn’t think of her family often or comfort herself with a child’s memories that would make the family she longed to return to real to the young, empathetic reader. 

When not fearful of the pursuit by inexplicably “warlike” tribes, she is wary of “wild animals”—wolves, grizzly bears, coyotes and buffalo—and “fierce” weather. While much narrative is spent laboriously explaining (sometimes strangely, as when she makes “beautiful new moccasins” from untanned rawhide) various survival skills and close familiarity with nature, there is a fear of the “wilderness” that is not characteristic of the experience of an Indian child at that time. Her ability to survive, identify food and medicine, and recognize weather changes is described, not as the result of learning from relatives in an unbroken tradition of living with the land, but as instinctive. She “senses” and knows with no logical reasoning or teaching, seeming more like a part of the fauna of the “wilderness” than a child of people who knew the land intimately for millennia. She remains one-dimensional—an “amazing Indian child”—without ever being fully realized as a person and a member of a culture. 

The author’s voice becomes particularly alienating and offensive in his descriptions of ceremonial practices, which he turns into “pleasing the spirits of the hunt” or “angering the evil spirits of the dead.” And, of course, “chanting” for the “Great Spirit.” The rumbling of thunder, for instance, is explained as: “The Great Spirit surely must be angry. The heavens seemed to roar.” Surely these are not the thoughts of an Indian child in 1800. There is no sense of the worldview of her people. Why doesn’t Naya Nuki remember the traditional stories she’d heard that taught her relatedness to the land and all of the creatures of the land? The only stories mentioned are stories of war parties and battles, of heroic “braves” who are never just men or fathers or uncles. 

These problems may seem trivial compared to the hateful images of “sneaky, lurking, blood-thirsty, war-whooping savages” of the sort of literature Standing Bear observed as early as 1928 and which remains a concern today. But they still deny Indian characters in children’s books the full humanity necessary for non-Indian children reading them to view our complex cultures and for our own children to recognize themselves and their communities in what they read. 

Some may still ask, “But are these good books for my child or my classroom?” As literature, they are inconsistent and defy logic. The “heroic” deeds of the young protagonist are “thrilling,” but unbelievable. My daughter—who is both the same age as “Naya Nuki”—and I read some of Thomasma’s books together. Unlike most of her classmates, she has parents with a buffalo robe on their bed, so she was incredulous when she read of a young girl running for five hours with a buffalo robe bundled on her back and then floating across a river with it! An undernourished child running a 10K race with a robe so heavy it’s a struggle for an adult to move it from shelf to bed! Amazing, indeed! 

My daughter found the books “easy” to read, “never once having to look up a word in the dictionary.” Despite being described as “intermediate reading, ages 9-13,” they are written at a third-grade level and the writing is simple and choppy. This from Naya Nuki:
She could travel swiftly alone. She could run fast if she had to. She could hide in time of danger. She could climb trees to escape wild animals. She could find her own food. She could do it alone. She would do it alone.
As is probably true of most young readers, my daughter admired the children in these stories for their bravery and felt concern for their disadvantages, particularly the young Zuni boy born with a clubfoot, who is the main character in Amee-nah: Zuni Boy Runs the Race of His Life. Again, this is a “fictional story based on the life of a boy who actually lived,” although the boy who came to be known as “Nathan” is never fully identified. Permission to tell this story did not come from the person or family whose life Thomasma depicts; rather, it came from the son of missionaries who had told Thomasma the story when he was a young camp counselor in Michigan

Amee-nah, which means “lazy,” is the cruel “nickname” given to him because “he never went to sheep camp. He never ran in the stick races. He never played any games with the other boys.” This is the name that taunting bullies, his mother and only friend—and the narrator—use. It makes no sense except to dramatize their change to calling him Nathan (which, we’re told, means “gift from God”) after his foot is “miraculously” healed thanks to the intervention of the mission school’s coach and his philanthropic doctor friend. Throughout the story, the only ones who pray for the boy are the people of the mission school—Thomasma doesn’t mention the spiritual beliefs and practices of the Zuni people that often co-exist with Christianity. Thomasma’s telling of the traditional story of Dowa Yalanne uses the spelling common in the Catholic schools, rather than the traditional spelling. Despite the often laborious demonstrations of “research” that slow all of Thomasma’s books, he mentions only briefly the need to fast before the traditional stick races and eating only “paper bread,” which he never calls piki. Instead, the young runner
“wondered if paper bread really did any good. It was just a paper-thin bread made from cornmeal. It surely couldn’t satisfy a hungry appetite.”
There is no mention of the significance to Zuni people of corn or this special bread or the stick race. The lightning strike and rain during the stick race are not put in the context of Zuni belief, but serve only as dramatic background for one boy’s “amazing” victory. Here, the rain is just an element that makes the race treacherous, with no link to growth or nourishment or a good life. Amee-nah seems as much a stranger to his own culture as the young non-Indian readers of these books. Nothing of this book gives those readers any understanding of the people Thomasma presumes to represent. 

My daughter said the only thing she learned about the Zuni from this book was that they are good runners, and that she learned “nothing new” about history. She guessed that the children who went to mission schools must have really liked it because the “white teachers were so nice to the Indian kids.” To leave this impression, without ever mentioning the devastating effect on cultures and individuals of the mission or boarding schools, is worse than mere omission. To choose as his hero a boy who is unable to be worthwhile or whole until saved by white agencies is an unacceptable image for the experiences of Indian children. 

With no mention of the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, Thomasma cites World War II as the singular event that taught a Zuni boy “the high cost of freedom,” and mentions in another book that the Nez Percé “have gone on to defend the United States against enemies of our freedom. They have earned our respect and admiration” (italics mine). 

Despite the good counsel of people from the Shoshone, Zuni, Blackfeet, Nez Percé, Salish-Kootenai, and Winnebago nations, and despite the fact that the heroic children and happy endings carry the young reader along, Thomasma’s books are filled with errors of fact and perspective. His condescension is obvious in his prefaces and epilogues where he depicts Native nations as “a proud tribe” (Zuni), “a very proud people” (Kootenai), “proud of their past” (Nez Percé), and “a very special group” (Shoshoni). It would seem that we hold a monopoly on pride and specialness. 

All of Thomasma’s books are problematic and cannot be recommended on any level. As an Indian, a parent and a teacher, I want better for my daughter and all children.
—Dovie Thomason

Monday, December 08, 2014

Rebecca Heller's FALLING ROCK

Sometime in November I received an email from Rebecca Heller asking if I'd review her book, Falling Rock. What little I saw of it suggested it was stereotypical. Because it was a self-published book, I chose not to review it. But I'm hearing from others who have been asked to review it, so decided to take a look.

The main character is a boy named Falling Rock. Because there are tipis in the illustrations, I think the author and illustrator (Joyce Robertson, the author's mother) would like us to think the story is about Plains Indians. The boy loves his horse, Runs Like Thunder. But one day, the horse is stolen by men from another tribe. The boy, distraught, is told by his grandmother that his ancestors will give him a sign when it is time for him to go find his horse.

He has a dream about a coyote and takes that as the sign to go off in search of his horse. His grandma gives him a feather before he goes, that will "help guide you." So off he goes in search of his horse. As Heller's story continues, there's an eagle, and a canoe and a turtle--all of which come to mind when a lot of people think about Native people.

As he travels, more and more people hear about his search and want to help him. Here's what they do:
They wanted to help Falling Rock know where he had already looked, so they placed large yellow signs with his name in big black letters at the bends in the roads, high in the mountains, and down in the valleys--anywhere that the boy searched for his horse.
The art for that page is this (it is also the cover of the book):


Yes--that's a road sign. You've seen it before. I've seen it before. This story was in trouble before I got to that page.

As the boy continues his search he comes across a group of people (unstated, but they are Native people) traveling. Falling Rock asks them why they're sad. One of the men says:
"We are being taken to a reservation."
Suffice it to say that I'd been growing more and more frustrated with this story, and on reading "being taken to a reservation" -- well, I was appalled.

In the end, the boy finds his horse. Here's what the author says at the very end of her story:
There are many written and oral versions of the story of Falling Rock, which are often told when a sign is passed on a long and windy mountain road. This tale is told with respect and honor to all of them. 
In interviews, Heller says that she heard this story as a child, at camp, and that it stayed with her:
The concept of the story of Falling Rock is not a new one, it has been told around the campfire hundreds of times in many different forms. It was first told to me as a camper by my camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place. I don't remember if he told me any other details, but that idea always stayed with me. I love the magic of something so ordinary meaning something extraordinary. I think even at eight years old, I knew it wasn't true, but I loved the idea just the same. Even as an adult when I pass one of the signs, I still think, "Falling Rock was here." - See more at: http://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/falling-rock.html#sthash.aojlceNf.dpuf
The concept of the story of Falling Rock is not a new one, it has been told around the campfire hundreds of times in many different forms. It was first told to me as a camper by my camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place. I don't remember if he told me any other details, but that idea always stayed with me. I love the magic of something so ordinary meaning something extraordinary. I think even at eight years old, I knew it wasn't true, but I loved the idea just the same. Even as an adult when I pass one of the signs, I still think, "Falling Rock was here." - See more at: http://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/falling-rock.html#sthash.aojlceNf.dpuf
The concept of the story of Falling Rock is not a new one, it has been told around the campfire hundreds of times in many different forms. It was first told to me as a camper by my camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place. I don't remember if he told me any other details, but that idea always stayed with me. I love the magic of something so ordinary meaning something extraordinary. I think even at eight years old, I knew it wasn't true, but I loved the idea just the same. Even as an adult when I pass one of the signs, I still think, "Falling Rock was here." - See more at: http://www.wanderingeducators.com/best/stories/falling-rock.html#sthash.aojlceNf.dpuf
It was first told to me as a camper by a camp counselor. I was probably around eight years old, and can vividly remember hiking through the woods in Northern California while my counselor unfolded the tale. He told me that whenever you see a road sign that reads "Falling Rock" it is because a Native American named Falling Rock was spotted in that place.
I want to be kind to Ms. Heller, but again, I'm appalled. That she turned a camp story into this story, and that she's contacting Native people, asking us to read her story leaves me staring at my screen, fingers hovering over my keyboard, wondering what to say!

For now I'll say this: camp stories are often campy. And they're often stereotypical with regards to Native peoples. This one about "Falling Rock" is not campy. It is a mockery of names, and with the "taken to a reservation" page, Heller weaves horrific history into this mockery. (I found one similar to it here at a scout page, with a character named Falling Rock in a story called "The Story of Running Deer.")

How did she not know this would be problematic?

My thought? Her story, well-meaning and well-intentioned, shows just how ignorant the American public can be about Native peoples. The one good thing? She couldn't get it published. I'd like to say that editors were turning it down because they saw its many flaws, but similarly bad things have been published--and have done very well, too.

Need I say: Rebecca Heller's Falling Rock is not recommended.

  

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Index of Books Reviewed (or otherwise referenced) in A BROKEN FLUTE: THE NATIVE EXPERIENCE IN BOOKS FOR CHILDREN

In 2005, one of the very best resources for critical reviews of book with American Indian content was published. The book is called A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children. Reviews in the book are by 58 different people, many of whom are American Indian.

Reviews in A Broken Flute look critically at the way that American Indians are presented. A good many children’s books with Native content receive rave reviews from mainstream journals whose primary concern is with the literary aspects of a story. Too often, little attention is paid to the accuracy of the story, or the underlying bias and ideology that casts American Indians in ways that suggest we are super- or sub-human creatures whose existence is confined to the remote past, or a mythological space and time. 

If you arrived at this webpage due to an Internet search on a specific title, I encourage you to locate a copy of A Broken Flute and read the review therein. If you already own the book, use the review to help children learn how to look critically at the ways that American Indians are presented in the book. A Broken Flute is available from Oyate.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving
Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet
Acorn Soup
Across the Wide River
Adaline Falling Star
Adopted by the Eagles
Adventure on Thunder Island
After and Before the Lightning
An Algonquian Year: The Year According to the Full Moon
"Amazing Indian Children" Series:
  • Amee-nah: Zuni Boy Runs the Race of His Life
  • Doe Sia: Bannock Girl and the Handcart Pioneers
  • Kunu: Winnebago Boy Escapes
  • Moho Wat: Sheepeater Boy Attempts a Rescue
  • Naya Nuki: Shoshoni Girl Who Ran
  • Om-kas-toe: Blackfeet Twin Captures an Elkdog
  • Pathki Nana: Kootenai Girl Solves a Mystery
  • Soun Tetoken: Nez Perce Boy Tames a Stallion
American Indian Myths and Legends
American Indian Mythology, Kiowa Voices, Vol. II: Myths, Legends and Folktales
American Indian Stories
American Indian Trickster Tales
America's Fascinating Indian Heritage
Amikoonse (Little Beaver)
And Still the Turtle Watched
Angela Weaves a Dream: The Story of a Young Maya Artist
Anna's Athabaskan Summer
Antelope Woman
Apache Children and Elders Talk Together
Apache Rodeo
April Raintree
Ararapikva: Creation Stories other People
Arctic Hunter
Arrow Over the Door
Arrow to the Sun: A Pueblo Indian Tale
Ashkii and His Grandfather
As Long as the Rivers Flow
Atlas of the North American Indian
Away from Home: American Indian Boarding School Experiences
Back in the Beforetime: Tales of the California Indians
Bead on an Anthill: A Lakota Childhood
Bears Make Rock Soup and other stories
Behind Closed Doors: Stories from the Kamloops Indian Residential School
Beneath the Stone: A Mexican Zapotec Tale
Best Thanksgiving Book: ABC Adventures
Bighorse the Warrior
The Big Tree and the Little Tree
Bineshinnh Dibaajmowin/Bird Talk
The Birchbark House
The Bird who Cleans the World and the Mayan Fables
The Birth of Nanbosho
The Birthday Bear
Bison for Kids
Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux
Blackfoot Children and Elders Talk Together
Black Mountain Boy: A Story of the Boyoood of John Honie
The Blizzard’s Robe
The Blue Roses
Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940
Boat Ride with Lilian Two Blossom
Bone Dance
The Book of Medicines
Boozhoo, Come Play with us
The Boxcar Children: The Mytstery of the Lost Village
A Boy Becomes a Man at Wounded Knee
The Boy Who Loved Mourning
The Boy Who Made Dragonfly
A Braid of Lives: Native American Childhood
Brave Bear and the Ghosts: A Sioux Legend
Brave Eagle’s Account of the Fetterman Fight
The Bravest Flute: A Story of Courage in the Mayan Tradition
Bring Back the Deer
Brothers in Arms
Brother Eagle, Sister Sky
Buffalo: with Selections from Native American Song-Poems illustrated with original paintings
Buffalo Before Breakfast
Buffalo Bird Woman’s Garden: Agriculture of the Hidatsa Indians
Buffalo Days
Buffalo Dreams
Buffalo Hunt
The Buffalo Jump
Building an Igloo
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
Caddie Woodlawn
California Missions to Cut out: Book 1
California Missions: Projects and Layouts
Caribou Song/atihko nikamon
Cherokee Sister
Cheryl Bibalhats/Cheryl’s Potlach
Chester Bear, Where Are You?
Cheyenne Again
The Chichi Hoohoo Bogeyman
Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters
Children of the First People
Children of the Great Muskeg
Children of Guatemala
Children of the Indian Boarding Schools
Children of the Midnight Sun: Young Native Voices of Alaska
Children of the Maya: A Guatemalan Odyssey
Children of Native American Today
Children of the Sierra Madre
Children of the Tlingit
Children of the Longhouse
Children of Yucatan
The Choctaw Code
Chronicles of American Indian Protest
Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition
Clamshell Boy: A Makah Legend
Cloud Eyes
Continuum
"Council for Indian Education" Series:
  • Charlie Young Bear
  • The Day of the Ogre Kachinas
  • Fire Mate
  • From the Ashes
  • Heart of Naosaqua
  • Navajo Long Walk (Armstrong)
  • Nesuya's Basket
  • Quest for Courage
The Courage of Sarah Noble
A Coyote Columbus Story
Coyote Fights the Sun: A Shasta Indian Tale
Coyote and the Fire Stick: A Pacific Northwest Indian Tale
Coyote and the Grasshoppers: A Pomo Legend
Coyote and the Laughing Butterflies
Coyote and Little Turtle
Coyote in Love
Coyote in Love with a Star
Coyote and the Magic Words
Coyote Makes Man
Coyote Places the Stars
The Coyote Rings the Wrong Bell
Coyote Sings to the Moon
Coyote Steals the Blanket: A Ute Tale
Coyote Stories
Coyote Stories for Children
Coyote Stories of the Montana Salish Indians
Coyote Stories of the Navajo People
Coyote: A Trickster Tale from the American Southwest
Coyote the Trickster
Coyote and the Winnowing Birds
Crafts for Thanksgiving
Crazy Horse: The Strange Man of the Oglalas
Crazy Horse’s Vision
Crow Children and Elders Talk Together
The Crying Christmas Tree
Dakota Dreams
Dancing Drum: A Cherokee Legend
Dancing Rainbows
Dancing with the Indians
Dancing with the Wind: The ArtsReach Literary Magazine
Daniel Boone and the Wilderness Road
Daughter of Suqua
Day of the Dead: A Mexican- American Celebration
The Days of Augusta
The Day Sun Was Stolen
Death of the Iron Horse
Dezbah and the Dancing Tumbleweeds
The Diary of Anne Frank
Did You Hear Wind Sing Your Name? An Oneida Song of Spring
The Dirt is Red Here
Dirt Road Home
Discovering the Inca Ice Maiden
Doe Sia: Bannock Girl and the Handcart Pioneers
Doesn’t Fall Off His Horse
Don’t Know Much About Sitting Bull
Dragonfly Kites/pijihakanisa
Dragonfly’s Tale
Dreamcatcher (Maynard)
Dreamcatcher (Osofsky)
The Dreamcatcher: Keep your happy dreams-forever!
Drumbeat, Heartbeat: A Celebration of the PowWow
Durable Breathe
Eagle Feather
Eagle Feather—An Honor
Eagle Song
Earth Daughter: Alicia of Acoma Pueblo
Earth Maker’s Lodge: Native American Folklore, Activities, and Foods
Earthmaker’s Tales: North American Indian Stories About Earth Happenings
Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding School Experience, 1875-1928
Elderberry Flute Song: Contemporary Coyote Tales
Emma and the Trees/Emma minwaah mtigooh
Enduring Wisdon: Sayings from Native Americans
Eskimo Boy: Life in an Inupiaq Eskimo Village
The Eye of the Needle
Eyes of Darkness
False Face
Feather in the Wind
A Few More Stories: Contemporary Seneca Indian Tales of the Supernatural
Firefly Night
Fire Race: A Karuk Coyote Tale
The First American Thanksgiving
First Came the Indians
First Nations Families
First Nations Technology
The First Thanksgiving (George)
The First Thanksgiving (Hayward)
The First Thanksgiving (Jackson)
The First Thanksgiving (Rogers)
First Woman and the Strawberry: A Cherokee Legend
Five Little Katchinas
The Flute Player
Follow the Stars: A Native American Woodlands Tale
Food and Recipes of the Native Americans
Forbidden Talent
Fort Chipewyan Homecoming: A Journey to Native Canada
Fox on the Ice/mahkesis miskwamihk e-cipatapit
Fox Song
Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition
From Abenaki to Zuni: A Dictionary of Native American Tribes
From the Belly of the Beast
From the Deep Woods to Civilization
From the Land of the White Birch
Frozen Land: Vanishing Cultures
The Gathering: Stories for the Medicine Wheel
The Gift of the Sacred Pipe
Ghost Dance (Seale)
The Ghost Dance (McLerran)
The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890
A Gift for Ampato
Gift Horse
The Girl Who Chased Away Sorrow: The Diary of Sarah Nita, a Navajo Girl, New Mexico, 1864
Giving Birth to Thunder, Sleeping with His Daughter: Coyote Builds North America
Giving Thanks: A Native American Good Morning Message
Gold Fever
Goodbird the Indian: His Story
The Good Luck Cat
Good News from New England: A True Relation of Things Very Remarkable at the Plantation of Plimoth in New England
The Grandchildren of the Incas
Grandchildren of the Lakota
Grandfather Drum
Grandfather Four Winds and Rising Moon
Grandmother’s Pigeon
Grandma’s Special Feeling
Grandmother Five Baskets
Grandmother’s Dreamcatcher
Grandmother’s Gift: Stories from the Anishinaabeg
The Great Buffalo Race
The Great Canoes: Revising a Northwest Coast Tradition
Green Grass, Running Water
Growing up Native American
Growing Up: Where the Partridge Drums Its Wings
Halfbreed
The Handbook of North American Indians, California
Headliner’s Island
Hands-on Latin American: Art Activities for All Ages
Hau Kola-Hello Friend
A Heart Full of Turquoise
Here Comes Tricky Rabbit!
Hiroshima No Pika
History of the Ojibway Nation
Home Country
Home to Medicine Mountain
Honour the sun
Horse Raid: An Arapaho Camp in the 1800s
House Made of Dawn
How the Birch Tree Got Its Stripes
How Chipmunk Got his Stripes
How to Draw Indian Arts and Crafts
How Eagle Got His Good Eyes
How the Indians Bought the Farm
How the Loon Lost Her Voice
How Magpie Got His Yellow Bill
How the Mouse Got Brown Teeth
How Raven Freed the Moon
How the Robin Got Its Red Breast: A Legend of the Sechelt People
How the Seasons Came: A North American Indian Folktale
How the Stars Fell Into the Sky
The Hunter and the Woodpecker
I Can’t Have Bannock but the Beaver Has a Dam
If You Were At…The First Thanksgiving
I Knew Two Metis Women
Iktomi and the Buzzard
Iktomi and the Coyote
Iktomi and the Ducks
Iktomi Loses His Eyes
I Heard the Owl Call My Name
I’ll sing ‘til the day I die: Conversations with Tyendinaga Elders
The Illustrated History of the Chippewas of Nawah
in a vast dreaming
Indian Boyhood
Indian Cartography
Indian Crafts and Activity Book
Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains
The Indian Industrial School, Carlisle, Pennsylvania
The Indians’ Book
The Indian in His Wigwam
The Indian School
Indian School Days
Indian School: Teaching the White Man’s Way
Indian Shoes
In the Fifth World: Portrait of the Navajo Nation
Ininatig’s Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugarmaking
Initiation
Into the Moon: Heart, Mind, Body, Soul
In Two Words: A Yup’ik Eskimo Family
Iron Horses
Isaac’s Dreamcatcher
Ishi: America’s Last Stone Age Indian
Ishi Rediscovered
Ishi’s Journey, from the Center to the Edge of the World: A Historical Novel about the Last Wild Indian in North America
Ishi: The Last of His People
Ishi’s Tale of Lizard
Ishi in Two Worlds: A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America
Island of Los Luggage
Is My Friend at Home? Pueblo Fireside Tales
Itch Like Crazy
It Could Always Be Worse
It’s a Family Thanksgiving
Jack Pine Fish Camp
James Bay Memories
Jason and the Sea Otter
Jason’s New Dugout Canoe
Jingle Dancer
The Journal of Julia Singing Bear
Jumping Mouse and the Great Mountain: A Native American Tale
“Just Talking About Ourselves”: Voices of Our Youth
Ka-ha-si and the Loon: An Eskimo Legend
Karok Myths
"Kaya" Series:
  • Changes for Kaya: A Story of Courage
  • Kaya's Escape! A Survival Story
  • Kaya's Hero: A Story of Giving
  • Kaya and Lone Dog: A Friendship Story
  • Kaya and the River Girl
  • Kaya Shows the Way: A Sister Story
  • Meet Kaya: An American Girl
Keepers of the Animals: Native American Stories and Wildlife Activities for Children
Keepers of the Earth: Native American Stories and Environmental Activities for Children
Keepers of Life: Discovering Plants through Native American Stories and Earth Activities for Children
The Killing of Chief Crazy Horse: Three Eyewitness Views by the Indian, Chief He Dog, the Indian-White, William Garnett, and the White Doctor, Valentine McGillycuddy
Kinaalda: A Navajo Girl Grows Up
Kokopelli and the Butterfly
Kokopelli’s Gift
Kokopelli, Drum in Belly
Kumak’s House: A Tale of the Far North
Ktunaxa Legends
Kwulasulwut: Stories from the Coast Salish
Kwulasulwut II: More Stories from the Coast Salish
Kyle’s Bath
Lakota and Dakota Animal Wisdom Stories
Lacrosse: The National Game of the Iroquois
Ladder to the Sky: How the Gift of Healing Came to the Ojibway Nation
Lakota Sioux Children and Elders Talk Together
Land of the Spotted Eagle
The Landing of the Pilgrims
Last Leaf First Snowflake to Fall
The Last Warrior
The Last Yahi: A Novel About Ishi
The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle
The Legend of Jimmy Spoon
The Legend of Mexicatl
The Legend of the Lady Slipper
The Legend of Lady’s Slipper
The Legend of Leelanau
The Legend of the Loon
The Legend of Mackinac Island
The Legend of Sleeping Bear
The Legend of Spinoza, the Bear Who Speaks from the Heart
Legend of the White Buffalo Woman
Legends of the Iroquois
Lessons from Mother Earth
Lessons from Turtle Island: Native Curriculum in Early Childhood Classrooms
Less than Half, More than Whole
Let’s Be Indians!
Let’s Celebrate Thanksgiving
Lies to Live By
The Life and Death of Crazy Horse
The Light on the Tent Wall
Listen to the Night: Poems for the Animal Spirits of Mother Earth
Little Bear’s Vision Quest
Little Coyote Runs Away
The Little Duck/Sikhpsis
Little Eagle Lots of Owls
Little Firefly: An Algonquian Legend
A Little History of My Forest Life: An Indian-White Autobiography by Eliza Morrison
Little House on the Prairie
Little Voice
Little White Cabin
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven
The Long March
Longwalker’s Journey: A Novel of the Choctaw Trail of Tears
Lord of the Animals: A Miwok Indian Creation Myth
Lost Bird of Wounded Knee: Spirit of the Lakota
The Lost Boy and the Monster
Luminaries of the Humble
Maata’s Journal
Maybe I Will Do Something: Seven Coyote Tales
Maii and Cousin Horned Toad
Mali Npnaqs: The Story of a Mean Little Old Lady
Mama, Do You Love Me?
Mama’s Little One
Manabozho’s Gifts: Three Chippewa Tales
The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway
The Matchlock Gun
Mayers: A Yucatec Maya Family
Mayuk the Grizzly Bear
Meet Mindy: A Native Girl from the Southwest
Meet Naiche: A Native Boy from the Chesapeake bay Area
Meet Tricky Coyote!
Memory Songs
The Middle Five: Indian Schoolboys of the Omaha Tribe
Millie Cooper’s Ride: A True Story from History
Minik’s Story
Mink and Cloud
Mink and Grey Bird
Mink and Granny
Mink and Whale
Minuk: Ashes in the Pathway
The Mishomis Book: The Voice of the Ojibway
Missions of the Central Coast
Missions of the Inland Valleys
Missions of the Los Angeles Area
Missions of the Monterey Bay Area
Missions of the San Francisco Bay Area
Missions of the Southern Coast
Mohawk Trail
Montezuma and the Aztecs
Moon Mother: A Native American Creation Tale
Moonstick: The Seasons of the Sioux
The Moon, the Sun, and the Coyote
More Earthmaker’s Tales: North American Indian Stories About Earth Happenings
More Star Tales: North American Indian Stories about the Stars
Morning on the Lake
Morning Sun, Black Star: The Northern Cheyenne Indians and America’s Energy Crisis
The Morning the Sun Went Down
Mourt’s Relation: A Journal of the Pilgrims at Plymouth
Murdo’s Story: A Legend from Northern Manitoba
“Mush-hole”: Memories of a Residential School
Muskrat Will Be Swimming
My Arctic 1, 2, 3
My Grandmother’s Cookie Jar
My Heart Is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1880
My Indian Boyhood
My Name is Seepeetza
My Navajo Sister
My People, the Sioux
Mystery of Coyote Canyon
Mystery of the Navajo Moon
Myths of the Cherokee
Myths and Legends of the Sioux
Nanabosho Dances
Nanabosho: How the Turtle Got Its Shell
Nanabosho, Soaring Eagle, and the Great Sturgeon
Nanobosho Steals Fire
Nanabosho and the Woodpecker
Native America: Portrait of the Peoples
Native American Culture Series: Arts and Crafts
Native American Culture Series: Child Reading
Native American Culture Series: Daily Life
Native American Culture Series: The European Invasion
Native American Culture Series: Spiritual Life
Native American Culture Series: Tribal Law
A Native American Feast
Native American Gardening: Stories, Projects, and Recipes for Families
Native American Picture Books of Change: The Art of Historic Children’s Editions
Native American Testimony
Native Americans
Native Americans in Children’s Literature
Native Americans: Projects, Games and Activities for Grades K-3
Native Americans: Projects, Games and Activities for Grades 4-6
Native North American Literature
The Naughty Little Rabbit and Old Man Coyote
Navajo ABC: A Dine Alphabet Book
Navajo Coyote Tales
Navajo Creation Myth: The Story of the Emergence
Navajo Long Walk (Armstrong)
Navajo Long Walk (Bruchac)
Navajo Stories of the Long Walk Period
Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa
Night Is Gone, Day Is Still Coming: Stories and Poems by American Indian Teens and Young Adults
The Night the White Deer Died
Nishnawbe: A Story of Indians in Michigan
No Borders
No Parole Today
Northern Lights: The Soccer Trails
Northwest Coast Indians
Northwoods Cradle Song: From a Menominee Lullaby
No Time to Say Goodbye: Children’s Stories of Kuper Island Residential School
Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert
Of Mother Earth and Father Sky: A Photographic Study of Navajo Cultures
Of Plymouth Plantation
Ojibwa Texts
The Ojibway Dream
Ojibway Family Life in Minnesota
Old Bag of Bones: A Coyote Tale
Old Enough
Old Father Storyteller
The Old Hogan
One Little, Two Little, Three Little Pilgrims
One More Story: Contemporary Seneca Indian Tales of the Supernatural
On Mother’s Lap
On the Trail of Elder Brother: Gous’gap Stories of the Micmac Nation
On the Trail Made of Dawn: Native American Creation Stories
Orca’s Song
The Other Side of Nowhere
Our Journey
Outfoxing Coyote
Outlaws, Renegades and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed
Pablo Remembers: The Fiesta of the Day of the Dead
Pah
Partial Recall: Photographs of Native North Americans
Pasquala: The Story of a California Indian Girl
The Path of the Quiet Elk
People of the Breaking Day
People of Salmon and Cedar
The People with Five Fingers
Photographs and Poems by Sioux Children
Pia Toya: A Goshute Indian Legend
The Pilgrims and Me
The Pilgrim’s First Thanksgiving
Pipaluk and the Whales
The Place at the Edge of the Earth
Plains Indians Diorama to Cut and Assemble
Pomo Basketmaking: A supreme art for the weaver
Popul Vuh
A Portrait of Spotted Deer’s Grandfather
Potlach: A Tsimshian Celebration
Power
Powwow
Powwow Summer: A Family Celebrates the Circle of Life
The Prince and the Salmon People
Protectors of the Land: An Environmental Journey to Understanding the Conservation Ethic
Pte Oyate: Buffalo Nations, Buffalo People
Pueblo Boy: Growing Up in Two Worlds
Pueblo Girls: Growing Up in Two Worlds
Pueblo Storyteller
Quest for the Eagle Feather
Questions and Swords: Folktales of the Zapatista Revolution
A Quick Brush of Wings
Quillworker: A Cheyenne Legend
Rachel’s Children
The Rainbow Bridge
The Rainbow Bridge: A Chumash Legend
Rainbow Crow
A Rainbow at Night: The World in Words and Pictures by Navajo Children
Rain Is Not My Indian Name
Rainy’s Powwow
The Range Eternal
Raven and the Moon and The Oystercatcher: Two Haida Legends
Raven Goes Berrypicking
Raven Returns the Water
Raven and Snipe
Raven’s Gift
Raven’s Light: A Myth from the People of the Northwest Coast
The Raven Steals the Light
Raven: A Trickster Tale from the Pacific Northwest
A Really Good Brown Girl
Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature
Red Hawk’s Account of Custer’s Last Battle
Red Hawk and the Sky Sisters: A Shawnee Legend
Red Flower Goes West
Red Indian Fair Book
Red Parka Mary
red woman with backward dyes
The Return of crazy horse
Rising Voices: Writings of Young Native Americans
A River Lost
Rolly’s Bear
The Rough-Face Girl
Runs With Horses
The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering
Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes
Saanii Dahataal: The Women Are Singing
Salmon Boy
A Salmon for Simon
Salmon Summer
Sculpted Stones/Piedras Labradas
Seaman’s Journal: On the Trail with Lewis and Clark
The Sea Monster’s Secret
Searching for Chipeta: The Story of a Ute and Her People
The Second Bend in the River
The Secrets and Mysteries of the Cherokee Little People, Yunwi Tsunsdi
The Secret of the White Buffalo
Seeds of Struggle, Songs of Hope: Poetry of Emerging Youth y Sus Maestros del Movimeniento
Selu: Seeking the Corn Mother’s Wisdom
Seminole Children and Elders Talk Together
The Seven Fires: An Ojibway Prophecy
The Seven Visions of Bull Lodge as Told by His Daughter Garter Snake
Seya’s Song
Shannon: An Ojibway Dancer
Shingebiss: An Ojibwa Legend
Shooting Back from the Reservation: A Photographic View of Life by Native American Youth
The Sign of the Beaver
Sika and the Raven
Sing Down the Moon
Sing Down the Rain
The Sioux: Facts, Stories, Activities
Sitting Bull, Champion of the Sioux
Sitting Bull and His World
Skeleton Man
The Sketchbook of Thomas Blue Eagle
Skunny Wundy and other Indian Tales
SkySisters
The Snake that Lived in the Santa Cruz Mountains and Other Ohlone Stories
Soaring Spirits: Conversations with Native American Teens
Solar Storms
Soloman’s Tree
Son of Raven, Son of Deer: Fables of the Tse-Shaht People
Song of the Hermit Thrust: An Iroquois Legend
Song of Sedna
Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave
Songs of Shiprock Fair
The Song Within My Heart
The Sound of Flutes
Speak to Me Words: Essays on Contemporary American Indian Poetry
Spider Spins a Story: Fourteen Legends from Native America
Spider Woman
The Spirit Line
Spirit of the Maya: A Boy Explores His People’s Mysterious Past
Spirit of the White Bison
Spirit Transformed: A Journey from Tree to Totem
Spirit Voices of Bones
Spotted Eagle and Black Crow: A Lakota Legend
Spotted Tail’s Folk: A History of the Brule Sioux
The Spring Celebration
Squanto and the First Thanksgiving
The Star Maiden
Star Tales: North American Indian Stories about the Stars
Stories of the Road Allowance People
The Story of Blue Elk
The Story of Colors/La Historia de los Colores
A Story of the Dreamcatcher
The Story of the First Thanksgiving
The Story of Jumping Mouse: A Native American Legend
The Story of the Pilgrims
A Story to Tell: Traditions of a Tlingit Community
The Storyteller’s Sourcebook
The Story of Thanksgiving (Bartlett)
The Story of Thanksgiving (Skarmeas)
Strong Hearts: Native American Visions and Voices
The Sugar Bush
Sunflower’s Promise: A Zuni Legend
Sunpainters: Eclipse of the Navajo Sun
Supper for Crow: A Northwest Coast Indian Tale
A Symphony of Whales
T’aal: The One who Takes Bad Children
The Tale of Rabbit and Coyote
Ten Little Rabbits
Testimony: Death of a Guatemalan Village
The Thanksgiving Beast Feast
Thanksgiving Fun Activity Book
Thanksgiving Day (Gibbons)
Thanksgiving Day (Rockwell)
Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective
The Thanksgiving Story
That Tricky Coyote!
Thunderwoman: A Mythic Novel of the Pueblos
The Truth about Sacajawea
There Still are Buffalo
They Dance in the Sky: Native American Star Myths
They Were Strong and Good
This Land is My Land
Those Tiny Bits of Beans
Thunder Bear and Ko: The Buffalo Nation and Nambe Pueblo
Time Among the Navajos: Traditional Lifeways on the Reservation
Tjatjakiymatchan (Coyote): A Legend from Carmel Valley
To Kill an Indian: Indian Views on the Last Days of Crazy Horse
To Live in Two Worlds: American Indian Youth Today
Tonweya and the Eagles and Other Lakota Tales
Totem Pole
Totem Pole Carving: Bringing a Log to Life
Truth and Bright Water
The Turkey Girl: A Zuni Cinderella Story
Turkey’s, Pilgrims, and Indian Corn
Turquoise Boy: A Navajo Legend
Turtle Island: Tales of the Algonquian Nation
Turtle Lung Woman’s Granddaughter
Turtle Meat and other Stories
Turtle’s Race with Beaver
Two Bad Boys: A Very Old Cherokee Tale
Two Bear Cubs: A Miwok Legend from California’s Yosemite Valley
Two Old Women: An Alaska Legend of Betrayal, Courage and Survival
Two Pairs of Shoes
Urban Voices: The Bay Area Indian Community
The Upstairs room
The Vanishing Race and Other Illusions: Photographs of Indians by Edward S. Curtis
Vatos
The Very First Americans
The Very First Thanksgiving Day
Voice of the Turtle: American Indian Literature 1900-1970
Waboseg (An Ojibwe story about Rabbits’ ears)
Waheenee: An Indian Girl’s Story
Wait for Me!
Walking the Choctaw Road
Walks in Beauty
Walk Two Moons
Waleye Warriors: An Effective Alliance Against Racism and for the Earth
War of the Eagles
Waterlily
Watership Down
We Are All Related: A Celebration of Our Cultural Heritage
We Are the Many: A Picture Book of American Indians
Weaving a California Tradition: A Native American Basketweaver
Weave Little Stars Into My Sleep: Native American Lullabies
Whale Brother
Whale Girl
When Beaver Was Very Great
When the Chenoo Howls: Native American Tales of Terror
When the Moon is Full: A Lunar Year
When the Rain Sings: Poems by Young Native Americans
When the World Ended, How Hummingbird Got Fire, How People Were Made
Where Courage Is Like a Wild Horse
Where Did You Get Your Moccasins
Where Only the Elders Go—Moon Lake Loon Lake
Where There Is No Name for Art: The Art of Tewa Pueblo Children
Where the Rivers Meet
Whispers Among the Mission Trail
Whispers from the First Californians: A Story of California’s First People
White Buffalo Woman: A Storybook Based on Indian Legend
White Wolf
who will tell my brother?
Why Buffalo Roam
Wild Rice and the Ojibway People
The Winter People
Winter Thunder: Retold Tales
Wisahkecahk Flies to the Moon
The Wish Wind
WolfStar
Women of the Struggle: Portraits and Testimony of Native American Women
Word Up! Hope for Youth Poetry
The World of Manabozho: Tales of the Chippewa Indians
The Worry Stone
Wounded Knee
Writing as Witness
The Year of Miss Agnes
Yonder Mountains: A Cherokee Legend
Yudonsi: A Tale from the Canyons
A Zuni Artist Looks at Frank Hamilton Cushing
Zuni Breadstuff
Zuni Children and Elders Talk Together
The Zunis: Self-Portrayals