Friday, March 13, 2009

Effects of American Indian stereotypes

In several places on American Indians in Children's Literature and in my writing, I reference resolutions of the American Sociological Association and the American Psychological Association. Both associations, in their resolutions, call for the end of use of Native imagery in sports mascots. The resolutions are based on research studies that document the harm caused by this sort of imagery.

Whether its a sports mascot or a character in a children's book, there are many similarities. Here's UIUC's now-officially-discontinued "chief illiniwek":

Shown here are some characters in children's books. See the similarities?


One of the people doing the research on effect of these images is Stephanie Fryberg at the University of Arizona. She was on our campus yesterday giving a lecture wherein she presented some of her research findings.

Its quite frightening. I'm not being alarmist or dramatic. Her research is compelling. There are consequences for all children exposed to stereotypical images of American Indians.

If you'd like a copy of her most recent publication, write to me and I'll send it to you. It appeared in BASIC AND APPLIED SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY in 2008, and is titled "Of Warrior Chiefs and Indian Princesses: The Psychological Consequences of American Indian Mascots," by Stephanie Fryberg, Hazel Rose Markus, Daphna Oyserman and Joseph M. Stone.

Here's the abstract:

Four studies examined the consequences of American Indian mascots and other prevalent representations of American Indians on aspects of the self-concept for American Indian students. When exposed to Chief Wahoo, Chief Illinwek, Pocahontas, or other common American Indian images, American Indian students generated positive associations (Study 1, high school) but reported depressed state self-esteem (Study 2, high school), and community worth (Study 3, high school), and fewer achievement-related possible selves (Study 4, college). We suggest that American Indian mascots are harmful because they remind American Indians of the limited ways others see them and, in this way, constrain how they can see themselves.

In the study, they showed high school students images of Pocahontas, Chief Wahoo, posters from the American Indian College Fund that say "have you seen a real Indian," and, statements reflecting negative stereotypes of American Indians. They tested self esteem and efficacy (community worth) of Native and non-Native students.

If you'd like me to send you the article, write to me at debreese at illinois dot edu.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Willow (from Buffy) on Columbus Day and Thanksgiving

Willow (Buffy's friend in Buffy The Vampire Slayer) and her mother do not celebrate Columbus Day or Thanksgiving. "It's a sham" she says. Awesome! This is the opening segment of episode 8, season 4...

Let's see how this episode unfolds...

Set in California, Buffy and Willow are in college now. At a groundbreaking for a new cultural center, turns out, there's a mission beneath the site. Zander fell into it and now he's sick, feverish.

Buffy wants to cook a Thanksgiving meal, saying "that's the point of Thanksgiving. Everyone has a place to go."

Hmm... there's a government project underneath campus, too, with guys who dress in fatigues and chase "hostiles" --- hostiles are vampires.

Some green smoke comes out of the mission, slithers along to the anthro office, into a glass case, and then materializes in the form of.... AN INDIAN. No feathers, just a headband and facepaint. He wears fringed buckskin, though. Trousers and a vest. He kills the anthro who is overseeing the dig of the mission.

In the anthro office, Buffy and Willow read the coroner's report. She was missing an ear! Willow and Buffy wonder why... They see the glass case, and the note card that reads "Early 1800s Chumash knife." Courese, it is missing! That's the knife the INDIAN --- who I guess is Chumash --- used to kill the anthro.

"Chumash," Giles says, "were indigenous to the whole area" (note the past tense verb).

Giles will do some research on the Chumash to see what he can learn. He muses "something was trapped there (in the mission) and wants release."

Angel tells Giles to send Buffy to talk to Father Gabriel, whose family dates back to Mission times...

She gets there, and finds the Indian, who has killed has killed Father Gabriel.

He says "You can't stop me! I am Vengeance. I am my people's cry. I am called Hus. I am seek vengeance! "You slaughtered my people. " Buffy fights him, but he turns into a bunch of crows and gets away.

Giles says "It's an Indian spirit of some kind. Common for them to turn into animal forms."

"Native American, not Indian" says Buffy. Giles says "oh right, I'm not up on all this."

Buffy can't quite fight this guy, out of guilt for the past.

Giles tells her to get over it because "he's killed innocent people."

Still, Buffy wants to find a "non-slayee way" to kill him.

Enter Willow with a pile of books about the Chumash and "atrocities." She reads about the Chumash, tells Willow and Giles that the Chumash were "fluffy indigenous kittens until we came along" and did awful things, like "imprisonment, forced labor, herded them into Missions. The few who tried to rebel were hanged. Proof of death was an ear." Ah---so that's why the anthro is missing an ear.

Willow wants to talk about giving something back to the Indians. Give them some land, says Giles, sarcastically.

Back in the anthro offices, the Indian is taking weapons from cases. Bows and the like.

Still talking about killing him... "He's a spirit, Willow says, not a demon." There's a big argument about what to do.

Meanwhile, the Indian spreads the weapons on the ground and starts chanting: "First people who dwelled.... Hear me and ascend." The Indian is, apparently, going to raise the dead.... And there they are! More Indians!

Willow refuses to look in books to find way to kill the Indian.

Buffy says "its hard, and he's been wronged, but we have to kill him."

Spike says "You came in, killed them, and took their land. You won! Stop feeling bad about it. You had better weapons and you massacred them. End of story. You exterminated his race. What can you possibly say to make him feel better?"

Buffy talks about wanting a nice quiet civilized dinner and just when she says 'civilized' an arrow flies in the window. She says "You have casino's now!"

Arrows fly in, Giles says "we're under seige." The fight begins. Buffy realizes "these guys don't die!"

An Indian turns into a bear. Spike freaks. He's tied to a chair (Buffy did that to him), shot full of arrows. He's a vampire, though so he can't die either.

Buffy realizes that their own weapons (from that case) can kill them. All gone, now. All of them.

Buffy, Willow, the gang... They all sit at the table, eating their Thanksgiving meal and talking about the fight, how they worked together to fight the Indians.

Willow mopes that she turned into Custer in two seconds, fighting the Indians.

End of episode.

Such mixed messages, mockery mixed with sensitivity. Kind of a mess.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

YUROK, by Barbara A. Gray-Kanatiiosh

[Editor's Note: This review may not be published elsewhere without the written permission of Marlette Grant-Jackson at Humboldt University. She is the Curriculum Resource Coordinator and Student Services Advisor at Humboldt's Indian Teacher & Educational Personnel Program.]


by Barbara A. Gray-Kanatiiosh
ABDO publishing 2007
32 pages

Not worth its weight in Dentilium.

Another easy-reference children's book series on Native American Indians that gives children misguided information in regards to a people who are still here. The subject headings: Original homelands, Society, Homes, Food, Clothing, Crafts, Family, Children, Myths, War, Important Members, Contact with Europeans, and the Tribe or Nation Today, are cookie cutter patterns for at least four sets of ten books on many known tribes.

In past tense the book tells you some information about the Yurok people, but doesn't acknowledge that we are still a living breathing culture living in our traditional territory, in northwest California. Our territory spans from the mouth of the Klamath to the confluences of the Klamath and Trinity Rivers and from Crescent City to Trinidad. Yurok members live all around the world, but all members know where their ancestral home is. Or that we still fight to this day to exercise our sovereign rights, including fishing and hunting rights. It would have been nice to see a contemporary Yurok person as an example in the Important Member section, such as Sue Masten – past tribal chair, and political proponent for the Yurok tribe or Ray Mattz who has been instrumental in keeping our ancestral fishing rights.

A conversation with the Tribe's language specialists would have guided the author to understand that there is more than one word we use to refer to ourselves Puel lik-lah which means down river people, or Oohl – which refers to Indian people, the word chosen in the book is Olekwo’l which would have been used in pre-human times and not used today. As for identifying oneself as in an introduction it is based on which ancestral village or area the person's family is from and their family names. I'm sorry to say but this book is not worth the $18.85 that is being charged and I am sorry to see that the oppression has now become internalized, for the book is being written by a Native. Even the website to find out more about Yuroks is , instead of the actual tribal page

Illustrator David Kanietakeron Fadden has given this book a look of authenticity with his detailed renderings of the culture, people and life style. Mr. Fadden did take the time to make his artwork reflect our patterns, homes, and regalia, but not necessarily the diversity of color variation among our people within his drawings.

The photo’s in the book could have used some extra information.
  • On the cover a current photo of a young Yurok girl in ceremonial regalia is used without reference to who she is, just the name of the photographer and the site the photo was bought from.

  • On page 29 a cropped Associated Press photo of a 2004 ceremony for the Return of Indian Island to the Wiyot Tribe shows a close up of Ty Allen in full female regalia and the caption reads “Today, the Yurok continue to observe ceremonies. Ty Allen is a Yurok-Karok Indian. In 2004, he participated in a ceremony for the return of sacred land to the Wiyot Tribe.”

  • On page 30 there is a picture of a non-Yurok man in traditional plains regalia and the caption reads “This Yurok man rides a horse during a festival. He is dressed in traditional ceremonial clothing.” The regalia and man are NOT Yurok, this promotes the Hollywood stereotypes.

There are so many things wrong with the book that if I were to address each of them here I would re-write the book for the author. Hmmm maybe that's what we should do is write our own book for our own children??

to' kee kem ney-wu-chek.
(I will see you later)
Marlette Grant-Jackson

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Richard Scarry's Indians

A few years ago, I read about stereotypical Indians in Richard Scarry's books, specifically, the ones in Best Word Book Ever. I started looking for them in his books but couldn't find any. The books I was looking through were newer editions from the local library. The images I was looking for, I realized, were in the older versions. The newer ones, in other words, have been revised.

Stereotypical images of Indians? Gone! Hurray!

Here's what they looked like, before they were revised. I found some cowboy and Indian chicks in his Please and Thank You book:

This morning, a colleague (thanks, Rebecca!) sent me an email, pointing me to a flickr page that has side/by/side comparisons of images that changed from earlier to more recent editions. Do take a look at all of them, but study the ones of Indians, and read the comments.

Boats and Ships - Rabbit in headdress paddling canoe vs Rabbit in canoe

I is for Ice Cream - It's the page for the letter I, and it had a mouse wearing a headdress.

UPDATE, MARCH 10, 3:10 Central Time

In a comment just submitted, "French Connection" asks why I have "not recommended" in the label for this book. Thank you for pointing that out. To clarify what I mean, if you've got an older version of the book that has all those stereotypes, including the Indian ones, I encourage you to remove that book and replace it with one of the newer ones.

And, French Connection, you don't think your children developed "stilted" ideas about American Indians by reading this book...   Can you ask them to draw an Indian, see what they draw, ask them why they did so, and report back to us? If they don't draw feathers on their Indians, can you ask them why they did not? I look forward to hearing from you! Thanks!

Update, March 11, 2009

Thanks to Heidi, I've got images from Scarry's Find Your ABC's uploaded to Images of Indians:

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

This just in: LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE (in Arizona)

A colleague just sent me an article from an Arizona newspaper. (Thanks, Tricia!) The article is titled "Each day, Tempe teacher turns to 'Little House' books to calm kids."

The first paragraph reads:

"Every day after lunch for 32 years, second-grade teacher Becky Bernard has read a chapter aloud from the "Little House" series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, transporting her students to a simpler time."

The reading apparently gets them calmed down after playing outside at recess. She adopts different voices as she reads to the children, using a "snotty" voice for Nellie and a sweet one for Ma. I wonder how she reads "The only good Indian is a dead Indian" (the phrase appears in the book four times)?

I wonder how many Native kids she's read to in those 32 years? She is in Arizona...

How many kids, in these 32 years, heard her say "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

I wonder how the Native kids felt hearing that, and, I wonder what effect it had on the non-Native kids?

She is quoted as saying that there are many wonderful books available now. For the well-being of all the children in her classes, she really should set aside LITTLE HOUSE and read them something else.

"Indian Day"

I'm at the Beinecke Rare Book Library at Yale, reading the American Indian Magazine, Vol. IV, No. 2, April-June, 1916, I came across an article about Indian Day. It is on page 189. The magazine was published by the Society of American Indians, which was formed by influential Native people in 1911.

"The First Indian Day"

May 13, American Indian Day. For the first time the race which roamed the western continent before the white man set foot on its shores is being honored with a day which bears that race's name. The event gives occasion for comment as tardy national recognition of a people who have to a large extent proved their worth. But how well and how comprehensively he proved it is a matter about which a great many persons still need enlightenment.

There is yet a widespread tendency to think of the American Indian as he used to be, rather than as he now is. Where is the small boy who does not picture the Indian as a savage in war paint and feathers, ready to sally forth with tomahawk and spear to avenge himself upon his foes? Where is the small girl who does not avoid reading the Indian stories which so delight her brother, and does not feel sorry for other little girls who live on prairies where they are liable to an unexpected visit from the Indians almost any hour of the day or night? Where is the father who does not enjoy getting an Indian costume for his little boy and even take pleasure in helping him put up a wigwam in the back yard? And where is the mother who does not clap her hands over her ears when that same small son and his pals chase one another round the house, "yelling like Indians"?

In the evening perhaps the family go to the nearest motion picture house. The most exciting film is a story of hairbreadth escapes from the Indians. There is usually nothing to indicate when the events are supposed to have taken place, but the impression gained is that they are comparatively recent. The children go home and dream the story over again that night to repeat its details next day at school or elsewhere.

Next week the circus comes to town. Flaring posters show in advance the "Wild West" show which is to be such a prominent part of the program, and describe in graphic terms the side show in which several Indian families are to be on exhibition. Emphasis is laid on the war dance with which those who pay ten cents admission will be regaled.

In the summer there come those happy days when the family go on a picnic to some near-by resort. Among the attractions along the main boulevard there is probably an Indian shop. Here may be purchased little birchbark canoes, moccasins, bows and arrows, and beads of many colors. If the shop is somewhat pretentious is may even offer for sale Navajo blankets and specimens of basketry and pottery. Perhaps these were made by American Indians, but more likely they were not.

Written almost 100 years ago, it could have been written yesterday...

The day to honor Native peoples? That'd be "American Indian Day" celebrated the day after Thanksgiving.

The small boy of today, if asked to draw an Indian, would certainly draw one in paint and feathers.

The small girl takes great delight in reading Little House on the Prairie.

The father getting an Indian costume and wigwam for his son? Hmm... Boy Scouts, maybe? Order of the Arrow?

And the mother who asks her small son and his pals to stop "yelling like Indians"? If you search Google blogs with "wild Indians" you'll find Todd, writing on March 1st, 2009 "...I would not tolerate them acting like a couple of wild Indians..." and Heather, on March 2nd, "I told the boys to settle down and quit acting like wild Indians..." and Raj, on March 3rd, "...Newton and Pye, running around the house like a pair of wild Indians."

The movies? How about Mel Gibson's Apocalypto...

Wild West shows? Not on tour or on stage that I know of in the U.S., but visit Disney Village in Paris and you can see that show this evening, at 6:30 or 9:30! If you want a preview, there's one on Youtube.

As for birchbark canoes, moccasins, bows and arrows, and beads and the like, your local toy store will have what you need...

Clearly, we haven't made much progress in the last 100 years. What are you doing to change that?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

"Rubbed the wrong way"

In an interview she gave to Vermont Public Radio, Beth Kanell was asked about criticism of her book, Darkness Under the Water. She characterized the people who are critical of her inaccurate, melodramatic, sensationalized presentation of the Vermont Eugenics Project and its effects on the Abenaki people of Vermont as being "rubbed the wrong way" by what she did.

We are, in fact, talking about a genocidal program that she used as a backdrop for a murder mystery. We object to what she did because her melodrama has the effect of negating the truth of what actually happened.

Characterizing us as being "rubbed the wrong way" is another indicator that she lacks the depth and insight to understand that history, Native peoples, and our voices and work. She says she's bringing attention to this history, but she's only hurting the people she apparently wants to help.

We don't need her kind of help.

With this book she adds to the body of misinformation about who American Indians are---the sort of misinformation my students have to unlearn. With this book, she miseducates, and so do teachers who use the book in their classrooms.

Taxpayers reading this post.... some of your tax dollars are going towards undoing the sorts of things students "learn" in school.

Teachers reading this post... when your students take college classes in American Indian Studies, they feel betrayed by what you gave them, and they put what they learned from you in that "lies my teacher told me" framework laid out by James Loewen.

Those who listen to Vermont Public Radio... Ask the station to invite Doris Seale, or Judy Dow, or the author of the book Kanell cites as her primary source of information, Nancy Gallagher, to be interviewed on the station.

NOT bringing their perspective to the program is a lot like repeating what was done with the Eugenics Project itself. Ignoring and silencing the voices of Native people.

[Note: This book has been discussed here several times. Scroll down to the very bottom of this page and see the set of links there.]

Friday, February 27, 2009

Not Recommended: "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry

Note from Debbie on Dec 17, 2020: A reader wrote to let us know that "The Ransom of Red Chief" also includes the N word and that I did not note it in my review back in 2007. I am grateful to AICL readers who write to tell me when I miss something. Thank you for taking time to let me know. 


One of the questions I've received a few times is about O. Henry's short story, The Ransom of Red Chief. (Update on July 17, 2019: The story was first published in 1907 in The Saturday Evening Post. The illustration below is from that issue.)

Illustration from The Saturday Evening Post, July 6, 1907

In the story a ten year old boy named Johnny is kidnapped. His kidnappers think his father will pay $2000 to get him back. Turns out, though, that the boy is a handful. Of course, his dad knows this, and everyone else in town does, too. He's such a troublemaker that the neighbors are glad he's gone. His dad, knowing the kidnappers are discovering they've got more than they bargained for, says he'll take the boy back if the kidnappers will pay him to do so. The kidnappers, instead of gaining $2000, lose $250.

The story has "Red Chief" in the title because that's what Johnny calls himself once settled in the cave where the kidnappers hole up. He's put feathers in his hair, holds a stick and calls out to one of the kidnappers:
"'Ha! cursed paleface, do you dare to enter the camp of Red Chief, the terror of the plains?'"
Johnny is playing Indian. He utters war whoops, and tries to scalp one of his captors. He's having a great time and doesn't want to go home.

I've been looking around the internet this morning to see how the story is used. I've found it used to discuss acquisitions strategies in business journals. I've also found it being used in a study of anxiety in youths. In that study, the participants are asked to read it aloud. No further details are included as to why the researchers chose that book over something else.

Mostly, though, it is used in high schools to teach about irony, and that crime doesn't pay. Looking over the lesson plans, I find things like "Red Chief is a holy terror at the beginning of the story, and he is still a terror at the end."

This reminds me of that phrase "stop running around like a bunch of wild Indians" that some parents say when their kids are, from the parents viewpoint, out of control.

If you recall reading The Ransom of Red Chief in school, please share with us the way it was used in your school. If you're a teacher using it, or if you know of it being used somewhere, I'd like to hear about that, too.

Has anyone seen it used to teach about stereotypes?

What the story does is affirm stereotypes of American Indians as feathered creatures, wild, out of control, and terrorizing whites ("paleface", to use the word Johnny used). That he plays Indian adds another dimension to the problems with the depictions of Indians. Feathers give him further license to act out.

That, of course, isn't who we are as Native people. Not now, and not in the past either. Conflicts of the past that portray Native people as savage fail to place that past in context. Native people who fought white soldiers and settlers did so to protect their families, homes, and homelands.

If you're a teacher who uses this story, consider the lessons you teach if you do not address the stereotyping in the story. Consider its effects on all the children in your classroom. Are any of them Native? Do they become the butt of jokes in the classroom? Are they teased? Does anyone call them "Red Chief"?

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Books by Walter D. Edmonds

Two nights ago I gave a lecture at Westfield State College. Among the books I discussed is The Matchlock Gun, by Walter D. Edmonds. Doris Seale's review of the book is at the Oyate site. I urge you to click on over there to read it. She describes the book, and notes, too, that it gained new life when it was chosen for the "We the People" bookshelf project sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities/American Library Association.

I'm thinking about the book today because last night I watched a film with my daughter (a sophomore in college). She's taking a film class. Screenings for this week include Drums Along the Mohawk. (I'm in New Haven, doing research in the Bienecke, and spending time with Liz, too.) As we drove to my hotel last night, she asked if I wanted to watch a film with her. She told me the title and started reading the accompanying info on the movie box. It reads "Based on the best-selling novel by Walter D. Edmonds..."

So I did spend the late evening last night watching Drums Along the Mohawk. It's came out in 1939. Very early in the film, Peter Fonda takes his bride, Lana, to his homestead. It's a stormy night, there's a lot of flies, and she's pretty unhappy. They go inside his cabin, he lights a fire, and then leaves to tend to the horse and wagon outside. While he's gone, an Indian comes into the cabin.

Lana turns away from the fireplace, sees, him, and starts screaming and races to the farthest corner. The Indian has been walking toward her, holding his gun, a blank expression on his face. Hubby comes in and tries to shake some sense into her, eventually slapping her, which stops her hysterics. He tells her that the Indian, "Blue Back" is helpful, friendly, a Christian. Blue Back calls out "Hallelujah" more than once during the film. Helpful and friendly, he warns the colonists when Indians are "on the warpath."

Doing some research on the book, I see it on a lot of book lists, especially for accelerated readers. I wonder how the book is used? With older children, books with biased presentations of Native people can be used to teach about perspective, but I wonder if its being used that way...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

My visit to Westfield State College, MA

I spent yesterday at Westfield State College in Westfield, Massachusetts. I gave a lecture, followed by an hour or so of questions. I didn't get to answer all the questions (sorry!), and, there may be others that weren't asked, or, that came to mind later, or this morning.

If you have a comment or question, please send me an email to debreese at illinois dot edu. (I trust you know how to turn that spelled-out email address into an actual one.) Or, use the comment option below... Click on comment, a dialog box will open, type your comment/question, then the wavy letters that prove you're a person not a computer that's sending spam, and, hit submit.

I do appreciate feedback. If you disagree or object to any part of my presentation, please do share, that, too. Your feedback helps me revisit my thinking on the subject of American Indians and children's literature.


Monday, February 23, 2009

"American Indians" in Google, some data

Passing along some data for your perusal...

I entered American Indians into Google's search window. Google automatically displays a list of popular searches that begin that way. A different set of terms appears if you stop at American Indian (singular), and you can do this with any phrase of your choice. The phrase is followed by the number of searches. Here's what came up. I'm reordering the info by number of hits:

American Indians food = 43,900,000
American Indians history = 30,900,000
American Indians names = 15,700,000
American Indians for kids = 6,570,000
American Indians today = 4,680,000
American Indians pictures = 3,960,000
American Indians culture = 3,880,000
American Indians tribes = 2,860,000
American Indians and alcohol = 2,430,000

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Cynthia Leitich Smith presentation on Second Life

For those of you who know how to navigate Second Life, Cynthia Leitich Smith will be there on Tuesday, Feb 24th, at 3:00 CST. She'll talk about Tantalize and Eternal. The graphic sneak-peek's Cynthia has on her site are so cool!! (I copied one here.) I created a Second Life profile last year, but couldn't grasp the skills necessary to figure out how to move around. Click on over to her site for more details.

For those of you in the area of Westfield College in Massachusetts, I'll be giving a public lecture there on Tuesday evening in Scanlon Banquet Hall. There's no charge, so please do come if you can! I'll be there at the invitation of Vanessa Diana, Associate Professor of English at Westfield State.

And a heart congratulations to Cynthia... Eternal is in its 3rd printing.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A big thank you

I'm in Sarasota, Florida for a one-day conference at USF, Sarasota-Manatee. The theme of the conference was "Representations of Diversity." I gave a lecture about American Indians in children's literature at the invitation of Professor Thomas Crisp. I met him last summer at a children's lit conference in Normal, Illinois. He's at USF, Sarasota-Manatee, on the faculty. In his opening remarks, Tom spoke about the false perception that the election of Barack Obama means we've left racism behind. He's an eloquent speaker, and USF and its students are fortunate to have him on the faculty.

As part of the conference, books were sold---books recommended by myself and David Rice, the other keynote speaker. When I went by the book desk, I was pleased as could be to learn that all the copies of Richard Van Camp's What's the Most Beautiful Thing You Know about Horses sold out right away.

Tom introduced me to two women who he went to grad school with: Suzanne Knezek who is at the University of Michigan-Flint, and Jaqueline LaRose, Eastern Michigan University. I spent a lot of time with all three of them. Invigorating conversation, many laughs, thoughtful reflections on children and books. It's been a terrific two days, and this is a public thank you to Tom, Suzy, and Jackie.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Edgar Heap of Birds' Exhibit: BEYOND THE CHIEF

Earlier this week I watched as Edgar Heap of Birds, "Beyond the Chief" was being set up on our campus. All along Nevada Street are signs like the one shown here.

Click on the photo so you can read the words. The first line is "FIGHTING ILLINI" --- but it's printed backwards. The second and third lines say "TODAY YOUR HOST IS" and the bottom line has the name of a tribe.

I stood outside and watched students for awhile. Some pass right past the signs, absorbed in their thoughts or conversations, but once someone notices one, the entire group slows down, trying to make sense of the sign. One student said to her companion "Are they back?"

Another student stopped, stepped back, and lifted his sunglasses, peering at the sign. He altered his route, walking down Nevada to read some of the other signs, then resumed his route.

Here's the press release of the exhibit.

URBANA, IL -- February 10, 2009

The influential work of HOCK E AYE VI Edgar Heap of Birds, a Cheyenne-Arapaho artist, challenges viewers to re-imagine public spaces as American Indian.

In his exhibit "Beyond the Chief" on the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, signs and language remind the campus community whose land they occupy: this includes the Peoria-Piankesaw-Kaskaskia-Wea Homelands. The signs are now installed along West Nevada Street.

By using media that resembles official city and state signage, Heap of Birds creates a conceptual space in a given environment that reinforces the historic and political presence of American Indian communities that live within these lands.

In this exhibit, the words "Fighting Illini" are printed backwards on each sign to provoke the viewer to reflect upon the past and to recognize a more complex history to this land. Read more about the "Beyond the Chief" exhibit, including the Artist’s Statement, on the "Features" page.

Heap of Birds’ other public interventions have included "Building Minnesota," "Day and Night" in Seattle, "Reclaim" in New York, and "Wheel" in Denver, Colorado. More of his work is available online.

Heap of Birds’ art includes multi-disciplinary forms of public art messages, large scale drawings, acrylic paintings, prints and monumental porcelain enamel on steel outdoor sculpture. He currently lives in Oklahoma City and is Professor of painting and Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma in Norman.

An artist’s talk and opening reception is planned for Wednesday, February 18, 2009 at the Asian American Cultural Center, 1210 West Nevada Street, Urbana, at 5:30pm; a campus lecture is scheduled on Thursday, February 19 at School of Art and Design, Room 229 408 E. Peabody Drive, Champaign, at 12 noon. These events are free and open to the public. We especially encourage media to attend the opening reception Wednesday where the artist will be made available to speak about the exhibit.

The exhibit is Paid for by the Student Cultural Programming Fee and sponsored by the Native American House, American Indian Studies, African American Studies, La Casa Cultural Latina, Asian American Studies, and Asian American Cultural Center.

The exhibit will run to December 2009.

And here's our statement about the exhibit, followed by the Artist Statement and Biography.


"Beyond the Chief" provides an opportunity for those of us at the University of Illinois to consider the indigenous history of our campus and the state in which we live. The signs in this public art exhibit include the names of a dozen Indigenous peoples whose homelands are within the boundaries of the state of Illinois. Many of these peoples continue today with viable governments, cultures, and languages. All of them remain, even if some are only remnants of what they once were. Members of these groups live, learn, and work on campus. We at Native American House and American Indian Studies hope "Beyond the Chief" helps all of us who share our campus learn more about those whose homelands we occupy.

Artist's Statement

Of course these words ["Beyond the Chief"] speak to extending discussion beyond the campus "chief" and its insensitive history (while still hinting at the problem); yet, the title also is derived from my own Cheyenne tribe where there is a council of 44 chiefs - and from which came four principal chiefs. The first man named Heap of Birds was one of these principal chiefs.

Most non-native people think about the chief position as if he were president or executive. In fact, chiefs often sat as a council representing bands and many families; they also differed from war chiefs or headsmen of warrior societies (one of which I belong to).

In Cheyenne tradition a chief had no personal property. All that he and his family owned was offered to tribal members on request (this is sometimes a demand even today) once the chief took the position. Chiefs were selected because of their generosity. Many men did not wish to become chief because of this point. Chiefs were chosen by chiefs, but could decline.

A chief is far beyond one person and should reflect an honor and allegiance -- as well as truth, tradition, listening, openness, and good way -- to a whole people.

As we install these 12 sign panels, we walk forward on the University of Illinois campus to honor these ideals and intertribal brothers and sisters from a circular position of respect.


The art of Hock E Aye VI Edgar Heap of Birds includes public art messages, drawings, paintings, prints, works in glass, and sculpture. His work was deployed as a collateral public art project by the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian for the 2007 Venice Biennale. He received his M.F.A. from Tyler School of Art, his B.F.A. from the University of Kansas, and has undertaken graduate studies at the Royal College of Art in London and awarded an Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Heap of Birds teaches Native American Studies at the University of Oklahoma and has received grants and awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Lila Wallace Foundation, the Pew Charitable Trust, and the Andy Warhol Foundation.

Last, here's a link to the Facebook group, Friends of "Beyond the Chief."

As media coverage occurs or other developments unfold, I'll provide updates here.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Cynthia Leitich Smith's ETERNAL

Cynthia Leitich Smith's new book, Eternal, was launched yesterday. I read a copy a few weeks ago. It is a page-turner about vampires and angels and... It's quite a ride, from Austin to Chicago. I'll leave it there for you to read. If you're a fan of gothic fiction, take a look at Eternal.

As you may know, my blog is about children's books about American Indians. That's what most of the content is about.

However! I think it important that children and teens know that Native people write stories, and that not all of their stories are about Native people. Cynthia's range of books is a good case in point. If you read her YA novel, Rain Is Not My Indian Name, read her vampire novels, too. Her first one is Tantalize, Eternal is the second, and a third one is in the works.

In Tribal Secrets, Robert Warrior writes about American Indian literature and criticism. He says "producers of American Indian literature continue to push the boundaries of creativity by bringing European vampires to Navajo country..." Warrior notes that such a book "does not fit into standard definitions of Indian writing..." but he goes on to say that the increase in such books "seems more than enough justification for some fundamental reworking of scholarly understandings of American Indian literature, culture, and experience."

In essence, it is important that we be open to what is being written by Native writers. Don't pigeon hole them or their writing. Expand your expectations of what Native writers write about.

Read Native writers, whether their stories are about Native life, or vampires.

So! Eternal. Click on over to Cynsations where you'll learn a lot about the book. There's more at Smith's website including a very cool book trailer that perfectly captures the mood of the book.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

"What Students Need to Know about America's Wars"

I'm on a listserv for the National Council of Teachers of Social Studies. Yesterday a subscriber posted information about an upcoming "History Institute for Teachers" called "What Students Need to Know about America's Wars." Curious, I checked out the webpages, looking specifically at the video of a session that was on war with Native peoples.

It was an unpleasant experience. Perhaps I should not have taken the time...

The material is developed by the Foreign Policy Research Institute. The lecturer, a man named Skarstedt, notes that there are ideological disagreements over the ways that history of American Indian/United States conflict is presented, but it is clear in his remarks where he stands in the debate.

He begins by saying students wonder why they need to study the frontier wars. He tells the teachers gathered in the session why it is important, using Apaches as an example.

He shows a photograph of four Apache men. He carefully describes the weapons they hold and talks at length about how skilled they were. How they were able to blend into their surroundings, very resourceful, could survive for days with little food or water. They knew the terrain and were "tough as nails."

Then Skarstedt asks "What did the US do to get them?"

He shows the next photograph: men on horses. It is the cavalry! On horseback, he tells us, the US was able to wear down, defeat, and capture the Apaches. And here is why studying the Frontier Wars matters:  He says the US learned valuable lessons by fighting the Apaches, lessons that it uses today, in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because of wars with Indians, he says, the US developed its "special ops" teams.

Next slide?

It is a photograph of two men, with weapons, wearing masks. They're in Afghanistan or Iraq (Skarstedt doesn't specify). They, he says, are like those Indians. Tough, well-armed, fast moving, blend into the environment, lots of firepower, willing to endure great sacrifice.

His next photograph is one of soldiers, again, on horseback. They are, he tells us, the special ops unit that is pursuing fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Seeing those images used that way was deeply troubling to me. Apaches and Iraq/Afghan's. Obviously he feels they were/are enemies of the US who must be taken down. Who do you think they are? What do you think they were/are doing?

He argued at the opening of his lecture, for people to recognize the complexity of conflict and how it is presented, and then he goes on to do otherwise. In making his points about war tactics, he introduces and affirms simplistic notions.

Later in the lecture he speaks about the people of Cahokia and Taos Pueblo. Both, he says, are gone. They were very advanced and peaceful, he tells us, but they are no longer around. Probably, he says, due to the warring tribes, of which he names the Apache, Comanche, and Sioux. Of course, the people of Taos are not gone. They're a thriving Native Nation!

I wonder if he's ever tried to give this lecture to an audience that includes American Indians?

Update, May 3rd, 2011: You can view the entire lecture, or see Skarstedt's slides by going here. Scroll down to the section called "The Frontier Years."

Monday, February 09, 2009

Indigenizing Children's Literature

In 2008, the Journal of Language and Literacy (JoLLE) published an article I wrote. Titled "Indigenizing Children's Literature," it is a critical look at Little House on the Prairie and Thanksgiving Day. The article is one of several published in Volume 4(2), 2008, a special issue devoted to children's literature and literacy. JoLLE is a peer-reviewed online journal. I submitted this paper there, specifically because it is an online journal, thereby making it like my blog (accessible to anyone who has an internet connection).

In the conclusion, I make some connections between images and ideology in those two books and America's wartime activity. I welcome your thoughts and comments on the article.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Nora Naranjo-Morse

Last weekend I watched Nora Naranjo-Morse's lecture, given at the National Museum of the American Indian, in 2007. She was there that summer working on the pieces for the "Always Becoming" installation.

Her lecture was part of the Vine Deloria, Jr. Native Writers Series. It is archived on the NMAI website and is about an hour long. She read several poems, including one that especially struck me--for its imagery, for its emotion, for its power. It is called "A Telegram." Prior to reading it, she talked about writing that poem when she was a teenager, and finishing it last year.

"A Telegram" is about learning that her brother had been wounded in Vietnam. The poem she read at NMAI has not yet been published, but an earlier version of it is in Hirschfelder and Singer's Rising Voices: Writing of Young Native Americans, published in 1992.

Nora is working on a documentary about Always Becoming. She is blogging about it, too. You can follow the project at her blog, also called Always Becoming. She's a poet, a sculptor, a filmmaker. Studying her work, in an art, lit, or film class, would be an incredibly rich experience.

Her book, Mud Woman, is available from Oyate.

Thursday, February 05, 2009


Over at School Library Journal's website, there's a column about self-censorship that is worth a look. It's provocative title is "A Dirty Little Secret."

The bulk of the column is about what does not get bought by librarians. The columnist, Whelen (a senior editor at SLJ), writes about their fears and anxieties. Fear of parents, school boards, community members, and students who will object to books with sexual content and gay themes. To avoid confrontation, they do not buy the books.

Rather than provide students with books that reflect reality, then, librarians play it safe. In effect, the librarians are choosing to let the gay students suffer. Is it really that simple? Preserve ones self and well-being, one's job? It's easy to rationalize the decision... "If I avoid that book, I avoid trouble and keep my job, and I can work subtly on this topic in other ways..."

The article also includes a brief mention of a writer who wrote a book about the Trail of Tears. Her publisher asked her to "...tone down her criticism of Andrew Jackson and his treatment of Native Americans..." I don't know the book at all, so can't comment on it one way or another. It is called The Trail of Tears: An American Tragedy, by Tracy Barrett. Rather than change what she wrote, Barrett went with another publisher.

Tone it down? Right! Let's not tell anyone, especially children, that our presidents did terrible things!

The SLJ column calls this decision not to buy a book "self-censorship." In education circles, this is akin to "the selective tradition" or "the hidden curriculum."

Whatever label we use, it is more than just fear and anxiety at work, it is the affirmation of the status quo, an unspoken, and generally unaware desire to perpetuate and preserve a certain image of America. A certain false image that hurts us all as individuals, as members of our communities, and as citizens of the United States.

How long will we deceive ourselves?

Sunday, February 01, 2009

3rd post: Capaldi bio on Montezuma

From the archives, I found a copy of the letter from Holmes to Montezuma. Dated August 31, 1905, it reads:

My Dear Sir:
I am very desirous of procuring a brief biographical sketch of yourself for incorporation in the “Handbook of the Indians” to be published by this Bureau, and shall be greatly obliged if you will furnish the necessary data for this purpose. As the first part of the work is now being put in type, I shall appreciate any effort you may make to furnish the sketch at your earliest opportunity.
Very truly yours,
H. W. Holmes

When Montezuma wrote back to Holmes on October 7th, 1905, this is how he started:

My dear Friend:-
I am sorry that I delayed your request of August 31st.

In her presentation of Montezuma's letter, dated October 7, 1905, Capaldi starts with this:

My dear friend,
I know that you are gathering information on me and what befell my people. I am, therefore, delighted to answer your questions. I hope that what I write will add knowledge, acceptance and understanding for all.

In comparing her presentation of the letter to the letters exchanged between Holmes and Montezuma, I don't like what she did. I wish Capaldi had not used this technique, pulling Montezuma's words from several documents that span many years, weaving them (she says "I interwove") into the original letter to, she says "more fully present" his life. She says "I have made every effort to be true to the original sources and have only added brief phrases to make the text flow smoothly."

I'm really uncomfortable with Capaldi putting words in Montezuma's mouth. She tells us in her notes that she has done this, but that doesn't work for me.

I wish Capaldi had written this book more like the books in the Diaries, Letters, and Memoirs series published by Capstone Press, where the primary material is clearly set apart from additional information that does what Capaldi wanted (more fully present the person's life).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2nd post: Capaldi's biography of Carlos Montezuma

A few days ago I wrote my initial thoughts about Gina Capaldi's picture book biography, A Boy Named Beckoning: The True Story of Dr. Carlos Montezuma, Native American Hero. The phrase "true story" leaped out at me, as did Capaldi's note, in which she said she drew from various documents written by Montezuma.

Today, I'll lay out comparisons between Montezuma's letter (I found a copy yesterday) and Capaldi's presentation of that letter.

The opening paragraphs...

The first paragraphs of Montezuma's letter:

My dear Friend: -

I am sorry that I delayed your request of August 31st.

I am a full-blooded Apache Indian, born about the year 1866 or '67 some where [sic] near the Four Peaks, Arizona Territory.

The Apache tribe roamed at will the country covering Ft. McDowell, Camp Date Creek, Prescott, Canon of Colorado, Ft. Defiance, Ft. Apache, San Carlos andSuperstition [sic] Mountains, for the Indians whom I have found at these places over thirty four years ago on my way east spoke the same dialect as I did. Since then the Apaches have been divided into various tribes.

My distant relatives are known as the Mohave Apaches;but [sic] the real Mohave Indians have a didtinct [sic] language of their own and were enemies to the Apaches.

For five years I lived in a most primitive state with my people-a band of about one hundred and fifty souls. Fortunately I was captured by the Pima Indians in the month of October, 1871 from the plateau known as Iron Peak, 10 or 12 miles north-west of the great Silver King mine;about [sic] 60 or 70 miles north-east of Florence and about 40 or 50 miles west of Globe in the Superstition range of mountains.

Page 4 of Capaldi's book includes an illustration of the letter she created as the framework to write the biography. Her presentation of this letter reads:

My dear friend,

I know that you are gathering information on me and what befell my people. I am, therefore, delighted to answer your questions. I hope that what I write will add knowledge, acceptance and understanding for all.

I am a full-blooded American* Indian, born in 1866 near Fish Canyon Creek in the Arizona Territory. Until the time I was five years old I was called Wassaja which means "beckoning." My people, a band of about one hundred and fifty souls, roamed the red earth plateaus. We searched for food and lived in small grass huts called oo-wahs.

Life was safe and simple in my grandfather's day. It was deadly and dangerous in mine, for we had many enemies...

Debbie's thoughts/observations:

  1. In Montezuma's letter, he does not use the word "oo-wahs" anywhere.
  2. On page three of his letter, he says that his Indian name is "Was-sa-jah" and that it means "Beckoning."
  3. Capaldi substituted "Apache" for "American Indian." The information the asterisk references is on the same page of her book. It says "When Dr. Montezuma wrote this letter to Professor Holmes, he stated that he was an Apache. Years later, he came to learn that he was not Apache but Yavapai." First, I don't think she should have made that substitution. Putting words in someone's mouth, especially about how they self-identify, is pretty egregious and presumptive. Second, why choose "American Indian" instead of "Yavapai"? Did she reason that her readers would know what "American Indian" means but be confused by "Yavapai"? Countless times, Native people have stated that they prefer the name of their tribal nation over the generic "American Indian" or "Native American." Using one of the latter obscures the diversity within those terms.
As Capaldi said in her author's note, she pulled from various documents Montezuma wrote. What she presents in the book as a letter is actually drawn from several places and times. Below are some specific comparisons. Somewhere, I may find that Montezuma actually wrote the words Capaldi brings into her presentation of the 1905 letter. Finding out where those words actually are, in document and in chronological time, requires more research. I'll do more of that research later today. For now, I'll look at the information in the opening pages:

Date of his capture:
  • Montezuma's letter says "...I was captured by the Pima Indians in the month of October, 1871..."
  • Capaldi's presentation of this point of his life is on page 6. The first line is "The Awful Night at Iron Peak Plateau; the second line is "October 1871" and the text reads: "In the month when the shadows run long..."
My thoughts? Did he say, somewhere, "when the shadows run long..." or is this Capaldi's creative hand at work?

Details of his capture:
  • Montezuma's letter says "...our camp was raided at midnight. Thirty or more were killed and about 16 or 18 children taken captive. I was one of that number and with the others was taken down into the valley and carried off.
  • Capaldi's presentation says "When it turned midnight, we were awakened by the sound of gunshots. There were screams everywhere. My mother and sisters ran for their lives. I scrambled under a clump of bushes and waited for the terror to end. But the full moon rose over the peaks, and its bright light revealed my hiding place. A strange man spotted me. He snatched me up by the arm and bound me with rope. I stood terrified and watched my village burn. Before that horrible night, I had never seen a horse. Nor had I ever seen a dead person. That night I saw both. that night I cried."

There's a lot of detail in Capaldi's presentation. I hope to find those details as I continue my research of his writing.

Where was his father during this capture?
  • Montezuma says "During the raid all the braves of the village were at San Pedro on a mission for a Peace treaty, and as my father was on his way back he received, from an Indian runner, the sad news of the massacre of his little band by the Pimas. "
  • Capaldi tells us " father and the other men rode away toward the rising sun to make peace with the U. S. Army." She places these words right before her description of the chapter, right after the words "when the shadows run long,".

A "Peace treaty," he says. Capaldi tells us "make peace with the U. S. Army." That phrase "make peace" is pretty common, or at least quite familiar to me. Sort of, that is, because I think I remember it a little different... It is "make peace with the Indians" --- not the U.S. Army. I'll check into Native use of the phrase in historical writings.

Immediately after his capture
  • Montezuma's letter says: "Two days travel over the hot desert brought me to what is known as Black Water Camp, twenty-five miiles above the present site of Sacston [sic].
  • On page 8, Capaldi presents "The Trek over the Hot Desert" again dated "October 1871." She says:
A Pima warrior lifted me upon a horse, and we rode for two days over the hot Arizona desert. When we reached their village, I was given pumpkin, corn, and horsemeat to eat, but I could not stomach these. Perhaps it was because I had never tasted these foods before. Perhaps it was because I was too scared.

There were close to four hundred men, women, and children in the village. I was afraid they might kill me and therefore resolved to do whatever I could to please them. During this time, the Pima were very kind to me.

On the third day of my captivity, I saw several Pima pointing at me. Some laughed. Others looked sad when my eyes met theirs. My captors painted their faces and began their war dance. The whole village danced around me. The men threatened me with spears and war clubs. The women threw dirty rags, and the children spat. An enemy captive was quite a prize--even if it was a mere sobbing child.

Everyone I knew and loved was gone. The Pima gave me a new name, Hejelweiikan, which means, "left alone."

Debbie's comments: Nowhere in his letter is there anything like what she describes. No face painting or war dance, and no spitting. It is possible he wrote something like this, perhaps, in Red Man. Capaldi cites Red Man in her bibliography. It was published at Carlisle Indian Industrial School. Though many read and use them as-is, scholars have shown that the Indian Helper, in particular, was heavily dictated and edited by teachers to portray the school as a happy place with happy students.


That's all for now..... Back to the archives.


Note, 3:35 PM, Jan 28, 2009:

I've spent the day in the archives. On the Bibliography page of her book, Capaldi says "I reconstructed the accounts of Montezuma's early life mainly from an interview he gave in 1921 to writer, N. M. Clark." I found that interview. It is called "Dr. Montezuma, Apache: Warrior in Two Worlds" and appeared in Montana: The Magazine of Western History, in volume 23, no. 2 (April, 1973). The interviewer, Neil M. Clark, prefaced the actual interview with this (excerpt from p. 57):

Late in the year 1921, I sat down with Dr. Montezuma in the front room of his home on the south side of Chicago. He was a man of medium height, solidly built, with eyes that were black and sometimes mystical. His hair was black and straight, his features unmistakably those of a pureblood Indian. There was nothing unusual about the room where we first sat down. But we had not been there long when Dr. Montezuma rose.

"Come with me, he said, "it is too civilized here." He led the way to his study. Here we might have been in a miniature museum. The walls were covered with pictures of the people and scenes of his race and his friends. On strings across the ceiling hung moccasins, skins, ears of corn, and a host of trinkets.

"This," Montezuma smiled, "is the medicine man's workroom!"

The interview corresponds pretty close to the episodes Capaldi relates. As she said in her note, she drew from this interview to present Montezuma's early life. Clark says that Montezuma stood and closed his eyes to tell this part of his story (excerpt from p. 58-59):

I, little WASSAJA, was asleep in our grass hut. I woke to the sound of war cries, the echoes of guns, and the crackle of fires. I ran for my life, and soon overtook my two sisters, the older one carrying the younger on her back. I passed them, but presently stumbled and fell. Too frightened to go on, I crawled under a bush, small than myself, and curled up, hardly daring to breath. I might have been safe there, but at that moment the moon rose above the rim of Iron Peak and revealed my hiding-place as if it had been mid-day. I caught sight of someone stealing toward me -- a stranger, I knew, for he had a queer high hat on his head, and a cape around his shoulders. I had never seen anybody clothed, and I could think of nothing but this was some god coming after me. The figure came close, put out a swift hand and seized my arm."

Here's another excerpt (p. 59):

Alone, friendless, frightened, I sat there and cried with all my might. Occasionally a warrior would make a motion at me with a tomahawk or a spear, and I would scream. The women kicked sand in my face and threw their dirty rags at me. The children spat on me. Their dance around the captive of the feared and hated Apaches, though the captive was only a small boy, lasted for an hour.

As I continue reading the Clark interview alongside the Capaldi book, in the context of what I know about Native voice, Native history, appropriation and interpretation of voice, I can't help wondering about this interview. The prefatory material about Montezuma characterizing his front room as "too civilized" and taking Clark to a room filled with "moccasins, skins" and other things does not match what I know about Montezuma and his thinking about American Indians and what he thinks progress would look like. Clark seems to portray a tragic Indian who cherishes an Indian existence. That does not sound like Montezuma, but I'm still reading, still studying.

Still working, still thinking....

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Univ of North Carolina students share their thoughts...

Susan Gardner teaches "American Indians in Children's Literature" at the University of North Carolina. Over the course of the semester (Spring 2009), her students will use this space to post comments about what they're reading, learning and doing. Some of their comments may be in reference to things they've read on this blog. I've not hosted another professor's course before. I'm not sure how it will work, but we're going to give it a try and see what we learn. By "we" I mean me, Susan, her students, and readers of this blog.

Monday, January 26, 2009




I'm halfway through, laughing out loud in some parts. Is this a comedy?! A bad one, if that!!! It is stunning in its ludicrous dialogue and gratuitously bloody scenes.

I'm making notes on the parts about the Quileute's and the "treaty" between the vampires and the Quileute's --- there's interesting things to note about that, but my gosh!!! It is so..... STUPID.

Stop reading this if you're worried about spoilers.

During the birth, Bella vomits a fountain of blood. Jacob's nickname for the "little monster" is Nessie. Bella is furious that he nicknamed her after the Loch Ness Monster.

I am so glad I did not pay full price for this book. It's a joke! I know her readers were disappointed. I'll have to see why once I finish the book.