Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Elizabeth Bird's Survey of Top 100 Children's Novels, #90 thru #66

A week ago (Feb 10, 2010), I wrote about Elizabeth Bird's survey at SLJ. She asked readers to send her a list of their all time favorite novels. With that info, she's compiling a list, providing quite a lot of information about each book that is on the list of Top 100. On Feb 10, I wrote about two of the books on the list: Indian in the Cupboard, and, Caddie Woodlawn. Today, I'm taking a quick look at books between #90 and #66.

Number 94 is Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransom, published in 1930. (Note, April 17, 2010: I'm adding this book today.)
  • On page 16, Roger is "keeping a sharp lookout lest he should be shot by a savage with a poisoned arrow from behind a tree."
  • On page 137, the children come across what they call a "Red Indian wigwam" from which emerges "a very friendly savage".  Ransom's use of "Red Indian" was (is?) common in the United Kingdom.
  • On page 231, Nancy shouts "Honest Injun" .
  • On page 267, Nancy writes that John had "come at risk of his life to warn you that savage natives were planning an attack on your houseboat."
I think I'll have to find some time to study Swallows and Amazons.... 

Number 85 is On the Banks of Plum Creek, by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The word "Indian" appears 12 times in the book, most of them about their time in Indian Territory. 
  • On page 143, Mary tells Laura to keep her sunbonnet on or "You'll be as brown as an Indian, and what will the town girls think of us?"
  • On page 218, Laura says "I wish I was an Indian and never had to wear clothes!" Course, Ma chides her for saying that, especially for saying it "on Sunday!"
I've written a lot about Wilder's books (see set of links at the bottom of this page), specifically, Little House on the Prairie, which I expect will be in the top tier of Elizabeth's survey. 

Number 78 is Johnny Tremain, written by Esther Forbes, published in 1943.  I'm going to have to reread that one...  I pulled it up on Google books and it looks like Forbes may have done a reasonable job describing the way the colonists dressed for the Boston Tea Party on December 16, 1773. The popular perception in America (thanks to a lithograph titled "The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor" done in 1846, 73 years after the event took place) is that the colonists dressed in fringe, face paint and feathered headdresses, but they did not do that. Here's what Forbes wrote in Johnny Tremain about the colonists getting ready (p. 140):
...they started to assume their disguises, smootch their faces with soot, paint them with red paint, pull on nightcaps, old frocks, torn jackets, blankets with holes cut for their arms...
See? No fringed buckskin. On page 141, Forbes writes that Johnny "had a fine mop of feathers standing upright in the old knitted cap he would wear on his head..."

I have notes on this somewhere....  I don't recall red paint and feather caps, but the rest of what Forbes writes matches what I recall. I'm mostly glad to see the accuracy of her description of the disguises, but disappointed when I get to page 143:
"Quick!" he [Rab] said, and smootched his face with soot, drew a red line across his mouth running from ear to ear. Johnny saw Rab's eyes through the mask of soot. They were glowing with that dark excitement he had seen but twice before. His lips were parted. His teeth looked sharp and white as an animals.
The character, Rab, in his painted face, becomes animal like. That is a familiar frame: Indian people and animals, very much alike. And of course, it is wrong.

In her discussion of Johnny Tremain, Bird includes a clip from the 1957 Disney film of the movie. In the clip, the colonists, some in fringed clothes, some in knit caps with feathers stuck into them, some with headbands and feathers, and some with painted faces, sing "Sons of Liberty."

Number 66 is Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech. On February 5, 2007, I published Beverly Slapin's review of the book here. In a nutshell? Not recommended! [Note, April 16, 2010: Also see my review essay, "Thoughts on Sharon Creech's Walk Two Moons", published on Feb. 25, 2010.]

Number 63 is Gone Away Lake written by Elizabeth Enrich in 1957. I did a search of content (used Google Books) and found four uses of "Indian" in the book.

  • Page 141: "Now and then (unnecessarily since they never looked back), he would freeze and stand still as an Indian in the shadows."
  • Page 198: "She just sat there, Baby-Belle did, with her arms folded on her chest staring at Mrs. Brace-Gideon severely, like an Indian chief or a judge or somebody like that."
  • Page 217: "the pale little crowds of Indian pipes and the orange jack-o'-lantern mushrooms that pushed up the needles."
  • Page 756: "in the distance, by the river's edge, a tiny Indian campfire burned with the colors of an opal."

In Gone Away Lake, one of the characters is named Minnehaha, which is from Longfellow. I don't know why she's named that. It is commonly regarded as an "Indian" name, but it is not. We can thank (or blame) Longfellow for so much of the mistaken information that circulates!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Video: Do All Indians Live in Tipis?

Over on the right side of this page, I feature a link to a book called Do All Indians Live in Tipis? I wrote about the book when it came out, and just found a video of the same name at the Library of Congress webcast page.

The video is a lecture given by Edwin Schupman, one of the authors of the book. It is 48 minutes long. Schupman starts by engaging his audience in a "Name that tune" game (he doesn't call it that). The meat of his presentation starts about 20 minutes into the video. He asks pointed and provocative questions about "perpetual ignorance" of Americans when the subject is American Indians. 

Click over to Do All Indians Live in Tipis. Watch. Listen. Think. Do what you can to interrupt the cycle of perpetual ignorance.

Buy several copies of  the book, and host a showing of the video at your library.

Schupman is Muscogee and works at the National Museum of the American Indian. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Elizabeth Bird's survey of Top 100 Children's Novels

A while back, SLJ (School Library Journal) columnist Elizabeth Bird invited her readers to send her a list of their top ten children's novels. She asked them to rank the books, in terms of "biggest impact" and "second biggest" and so on.

She compiled the information she received, and on Feb 8, 2010, she started blogging her findings on her blog, "A Fuse #8 Production." On that day, she presented books #100 through 91. She's done a terrific job presenting the books. Quoting from people who submitted them, reviews of them, criticism, discussion guides, and, providing book covers (some books have had many covers over the years) and links to videos of those that were made into films. As she posts over the next couple of weeks, I'll respond as I can.

In the opening paragraphs to her Feb 8 post, she said there "are heroes and villains" in the list, and she guarantees that

"you will see one book that makes you boo, and another that makes you cheer, perhaps in the same post. There are books included here that I adore and there are definitely books here that I abhor. My job is to never show the difference. So sit back and get ready to complain or cheer in turns. It's totally within your rights."

I don't like her use of "complain." Especially as the flip side of cheer. The word "complain" (for me) has negative connotations. It suggests a whiny orientation that lacks in substance. Instead of thinking about negative criticism, people are prone to wave it off as "politically correct." 

Anyway, it is no surprise that Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks is on this list. Bird quotes Eric Carpenter, one of the readers who submitted his list of top ten books:
My third grade teacher read this one to the class. Three years later I remember scraping my birthday money together to order the 3 book set from Scholastic. I read these books until the covers came off. Rereading this brought me right back to those childhood days when I would challenge myself to read all three in a weekend (cold central NY winters made such feats a necessity.)
I like that Bird provides her readers with links to the Oyate critique of the book, and that she quotes  from the Oyate review.  Here's what Bird used:

"The object here was not to draw an authentic Native person, but to create an arresting literary device. Although the little 'Indian' is called Iroquois, no attempt has been made, either in text or illustrations, to have him look or behave appropriately. For example, he is dressed as a Plains Indian, and is given a tipi and a horse. This is how he talks: 'I help... I go... Big hole. I go through... Want fire. Want make dance. Call spirits.' Et cetera. There are characteristic speech patterns for those who are also Native speakers, but nobody in the history of the world ever spoke this way."  

I wish, however, that she had used the excerpt below instead of, or in addition to, the one she chose (by the way, Bird's post is missing a paragraph break after "spoke this way." Her "School Library Journal ascribed this in part..." are Bird's words and are not part of the Oyate review). Doris Seale wrote the Oyate review, and it it includes an except right out of the book.

He saw an Indian making straight for him. His face, in the torchlight, was twisted with fury. For a second, Omri saw, under the shaven scalplock, the mindless destructive face of a skinhead just before he lashed out... .The Algonquin licked his lips, snarling like a dog... .Their headdresses... even their movements... were alien. Their faces, too—their faces! They were wild, distorted, terrifying masks of hatred and rage.
See the difference? The part Bird used is about stereotypes. That is important information about the book. But, the one I wish she had used is about the way the Indian is characterized as animal-like. I wonder if there were any Native children in Eric Carpenter's 3rd grade New York City classroom? I wonder how they may have felt, reading that passage in the book?

The book in spot #93 is Caddie Woodlawn, by Carol Ryrie Brink. In discussing Caddie Woodlawn, Bird links to "Reflections on Caddie Woodlawn" posted on American Indians in Children's Literature in March of 2007, where I recount my daughter's experience with the book. Please click on Reflections and read Jeff Berglund's comment.  I saw Jeff just last week. We were both at the American Indian Studies conference at Arizona State University.

Bird includes links for teachers. Among those links is a bibliography of "books on American Indians to help young people develop an awareness of an alternative point of view" and to "broaden cultural understanding."  I looked at the books on there and, while I was glad to see Birchbark House at the top, the point of view it offers is overwhelmed by most of the other books on the list, including a book by Kathy Jo Wargin. If you're interested in a Native critique of Wargin's work, read Lois Beardlee on Mackinac Island Press. Beardslee writes
Lewis’s business, Sleeping Bear Press, produced several books that profoundly offended the local Native American community and received scathing reviews by Native American scholars, including me. Among the offending books are: The Legend of Sleeping Bear (1998), The Legend of Mackinac Island (1999), The Legend of the Lady’s Slipper (2001), The Legend of Leelanau (2003), and The Legend of the Petoskey Stone (2004) all written by Kathy-jo Wargin and illustrated by Gijsbert van Frankenhuysen. All of these “Indian legends” were either manufactured by the author and publisher or based upon the historically tainted writings of nineteenth century ethnologist/Indian agent/wannabe-writer Henry Rowe Schoolcraft. All are written in the style of Schoolcraft’s nineteenth century syrupy language and all promote nineteenth century stereotypes of Native Americans as simple, docile, primitive people—motifs that were used to justify the usurpation of Native lands and resources through the near extirpation of aboriginal residents.
The bibliography also includes Douglas Wood's The Windigo's Return, a book that Betsy Hearne took to task in "Swapping Tales and Stealing Stories" and one of Paul Goble's books. Goble's books have been soundly critiqued by a leader in American Indian Studies, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. For details, see "About Paul Goble and his books..."

In addition to Birchbark House, the bibliography does have some books that I, too, would recommend. Patty Loew's Native People of Wisconsin is an excellent book that I've not yet written about.

At the end of the Feb 8 post is a link to the next set of books. I wonder what I'll find there?

Monday, February 08, 2010

Editorial: "Sucking the Quileute Dry"

Yesterday's New York Times ran an Op-Ed by Angela R. Riley. She's the director of the American Indian Studies Center at UCLA. Titled "Sucking the Quileute Dry," Riley's editorial is about the sovereign nation status of Native Nations, and our intellectual and cultural property. She focuses on Twilight and how Stephenie Meyer and the industry that has sprouted around her books violates Quileute sovereignty.

Riley is a member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation of Oklahoma. She has a law degree from Harvard, and, she has served on her tribe's Supreme Court. 

Click over to Riley's editorial at the Times page.  If you're a librarian, print the editorial and post it where your patrons can read it. Librarians and teachers can also set up a time to talk with students about the issues Riley raises.

IF YOU ARE A WRITER, OR AN EDITOR, OR A BOOK REVIEWER...  Study the editorial. Apply Riley's words to your writing, or editing, or reviewing.


If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the bottom of this page. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Tony Hillerman

I had an email earlier today, asking if I recommend Tony Hillerman's books.  I've skimmed some of them and didn't like what I read. Though I've not analyzed them, I do not recommend them.

Larry Emerson, Dine (Navajo) said this about Hillerman:

"Tony Hillerman privileged & authorized himself to write about Navajos & in doing so appropriated, re-imagined, and recreated "Hillerman Navajos" at the expense of Diné realities. Hillerman created a new domain [read dominion] of knowledge while cashing in at the same time."
I met Larry a few years ago when he was a post doctoral fellow here with us (American Indian Studies, University of Illinois).  Consider his words " the expense of Dine realities."  Hillerman wrote mysteries that sold well, but what do his books do for the people he wrote about? Glancing at the titles, it is clear he liked writing about sacred aspects of the Dine people, but what are the Dine realities Emerson refers to?  You might read Navajo news media to get a sense of their realities, the things they contend with. Here's some sites to read:

Navajo Nation (tribal website)
Navajo Times.
Navajo Hopi Observer

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Second Post: The POC Challenge

Near the end of my post About the POC Challenge, I wondered if people participating in the POC Challenge are reading critics of color. I posed the question because my research on children's books about American Indians shows that most reviewers do not have the expertise necessary to recognize flaws in the way that authors and illustrators portray American Indians.

This lack of knowledge means that some deeply flawed books get starred reviews, nominated for (and win) awards, and end up on "Best Books" lists. All of this praise means the book is purchased by more people, and the flaws are passed on to more and more readers. Hence, misconceptions and erroneous information flows into the child or young adult who reads the book, and they go on to select and read books whose images of Indians feels familiar to them.  It's a cyclical and burgeoning problem for all of us.

A handful of new and old books that have been discussed here on American Indians in Children's Literature demonstrate the depth and breadth of the problem. I note them below, but start looking around on this blog and you'll find many others.

Arrow to the Sun, by Gerald McDermott, won the Caldecott in 1978.

Bearstone, by Will Hobbs, a popular writer with many books about American Indians.  

Walk Two Moons, by Sharon Creech, won the Newbery in 1995.

Take a look at the lists of books discussed on this site (lists are by title and by label). There, you'll find Touching Spirit Bear, Sign of the Beaver, Twilight, Little House on the Prairie...

I thought, at first, that the books eligible for the Challenge were books written by people of color, but I see now that any book with a character of color is eligible, and, based on the book list being generated, the "color" is not limited to the four groups in the United States commonly labeled as "underrepresented" (American Indian, African American, Asian American, Latino/a American). To gain insight to those four populations and books about them, read Teaching Multicultural Literature in Grades K-8 and Using Multiethnic Literature in the K-8 Classroom. Both are edited by Violet J. Harris.

To focus specifically on American Indians, participants can read my site, but they can also read A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin.

In comments to my first post about the POC Challenge, Thomas Crisp referenced the GLBT challenge. He referenced the work of David Levithan's work on this body of literature, but look for articles by Crisp, too. I like a word Cynthia Leitich Smith used in her comment: Commitment.  I hope the bloggers participating in the challenge become committed to reading criticism, and applying that criticism to their reviews.


Thursday, January 28, 2010

About the "POC Challenge"

In the land of the mostly-white-world of children's lit, bloggers who review books are joining the POC Challenge.  whose motto is "Read Brown."  The goal of that challenge is to read books by authors of color. (Note, Friday, January 29th: The people who started the POC Challenge do not have a motto. As I started searching blogs to figure out what this challenge is about, one of the top bloggers said the goal is "Read brown." My apologies to the people who initiated the challenge.)

I know everyone involved means well. Good intentions and this attention WILL make a difference in what is bought, what is read, etc.  Still, it unsettles me, and I'm mulling over WHY it unsettles me.

I think it bothers me because I wish we were further than that, as a society. Obviously, even though we went through the 60s, and diversity and multiculturalism are big buzz words, we've got a long way to go. And so, it is a good thing for influential people in the field to be making it a point to read books by writers of color.

The challenge is evidence, I suppose, that all the influential people who pushed this literature in the 60s and 70s and 80s and 90s were largely unsuccessful.

So! I appreciate the effort and I understand the intent.

But! One aspect of the POC Challenge that I really don't like is that prizes are now being added. There are levels in the challenge regarding how many books any given participant will read in a specific time period. All in good fun, I know, but by adding prizes, it replicates incentive programs for kids that many of us find problematic.

And, it smacks, somehow that I can't quite put into words. You get prizes for hanging with us people of color (via our books). It turns a serious issue into a game.

Now, I know that this post will get some hackles up. You're only trying to help. I know. I get it. But I hope you'll think about what I'm saying. Mull it over.

I took a look at the list of books being generated.  I'm glad to see Louise Erdrich on the list, but where are her children's books? The books on the list are books she wrote for adult readers. Sherman Alexie isn't on the list. Neither is Joseph Bruchac. Lot of Native writers could be added to that list.

And! Some people should be taken off that list. The one I'm thinking of is Dee Brown, author of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. He is not a Native writer.

This may come off as self-serving, but I'll toss it out there anyway.

When I look at the blog rolls of major bloggers, they list blogs they read. Do their blog rolls list critics of color?  I'm uncomfortable asking the question because it can come off as defensive, but, where's my blog in those lists? On some of those blogs, things I write are taken up as conversation, and that's a good thing, but why not include a link to my blog in the blog roll?

That, I suppose, is my challenge to the people taking the POC Challenge. Read criticism by people of color.

I followed up with "Second Post: The POC Challenge"

Monday, January 25, 2010

A conversation about book covers and race

Of late in the children's lit world---especially in blogland---there's been a lot of discussion about book covers.

The discussion is centered on this question: "Do books sell better if the character on the cover is white?" Mitali Perkins is asking librarians and booksellers to vote on the question. Head over to Brown Faces Don't Sell Books? to vote if you're a librarian or bookseller.

I wonder how readers or buyers respond to one of my favorite book covers (and books)? I'm thinking of the cover for Rain is Not My Indian Name, shown here.

It is a terrific cover. In it, I see a lot that others might not see. American Indians have been photographed so much, with and WITHOUT our permission. Many of us have signs on our reservations now, telling visitors that they may not take photographs.  It is astounding that people will read the signs and STILL take the pictures.

 Mitali's question and the discussion remind me of an episode of This American Life. In that episode, a clerk at FAO Schwartz talked about working in the "adoption" area of the store, where shoppers could adopt a baby doll. That area was set up just like a nursery. (I thought it was kind of creepy.) What was very troubling about it, was that the first dolls to sell out were the white ones. And then the Latino and Asian dolls. But the African American dolls? No takers. You can listen to the episode here. If you missed that episode, listen to it.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Third American Indian Youth Literature Awards announced by American Indian Library Association

The American Indian Library Association  (AILA), an affiliate of the American Library Association, announced the recipients of its American Indian Youth Literature Awards...

Best Picture Book is Thomas King's A Coyote Solstice Tale, illustrated by Gary Clement, published by Groundwood Books, 2009. Louise Erdrich, author of Birchbark House, says that A Coyote Solstice Tale is:

"The perfect book to read in the Birchbark Loft.  This is a wonderful coyote sweet and funny book, a gentle anti-Christmas craziness story that resonated with me and will, I think, with every mother and father whose children's visions of sugar plums require them to visit a crowded mall.  It made me want to drink hot chocolate and curl up with a good book."
You can get the book from her shop, Birchbark Books.


Best Middle School Book is Meet Christopher: An Osage Indian Boy from Oklahoma. Written by Genevieve Simermeyer, with photographs by Katherine Fogden, Meet Christopher is published by the National Museum of the American Indian, in association with Council Oak Books, 2008. It is the fourth book in the "My World: Young Native Americans Today" series, in which each book is written and photographed by Native contributors.

It is available from the National Museum of the American Indian. The website includes this excerpt from the book:

One of my favorite activities outside of school is Osage language class. I go to the language class at the public library one evening a week with my mom, dad, and Geoffrey. The class is special because I’m learning a language that could disappear soon if no one works to keep it going. About 130 years ago, Osage children—like other Native kids—were sent away from their families to live at boarding schools, where they were supposed to speak only English. Over time, a lot of people forgot their language. Most boarding schools for Native children were shut down in the 1930s, but today not many people can speak Osage fluently. In my family, people stopped speaking it when Iko’s [Christopher’s grandmother] grandmother died. Her mom was still a little girl when her grandfather told all of his children that they needed to learn to speak English, since they didn’t have a mother to take care of them anymore.


AILA's choice for the Best Young Adult Book is Lurline Wailana McGregor's Between the Deep Blue Sea and Me: A Novel, published by Kamehameha Publishing, 2008.

The book is available from Kamehameha Publishing, where you can also read an extensive interview with the author.  Joy Harjo, author of The Good Luck Cat and For a Girl Becoming, worked with McGregor on development of the screenplay that evolved into this book. On her blog, Harjo said:
"Though this is a particularly Hawaiian story, the issues, characters, and sensibilities are similar to indigenous people all over the world."


Winners of the AILA Youth Literature Award receive a cash award and a beaded medallion featuring the AILA awards logo.Winners will receive their award and medallion at the ALA Annual Conference in Washington, D.C. on Monday, June 28th.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Michael Steele, "Honest Injun," and, "Injun" in children's books

When Harry Reid's remarks about Obama hit the news yesterday, Michael Steele (head of the Republican Party) said Reid ought to resign. When called out on his own language (Steele said "Honest Injun" on January 4), he said, at first, that he did not to apologize or step down from his own position. Now, he's issuing the classic "IF" I offended anyone..... (not)apology.

There's been a lot of spin about both men and what they said. With this post, I focus on the terms "Injun" and "Honest Injun."

Steel says his use of the phrase was not intended as a racial slur. I imagine a lot of people were surprised to learn that "injun" is derogatory.

Surprised, because, it is, after all, quite common. You can find "Injun" and "Honest Injun" in older books that are widely read today, like:

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer - published in 1876, where "evil is embodied in the treacherous figure of Injun Joe," (p. x of the intro to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, a Signet Classic book published in 2002) and in the oath used several times by characters.

Seems to me, in my cursory study of the phrase, that it may have been coined by Twain. In the entry on "Injun," the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) lists Twain as the first person to use "Injun." It also lists several other noted writers who used "Honest Injun." Some are George Bernard Shaw in 1896 and James Joyce (in Ulysses) in 1922.

And you can find "Injun" in new books, like The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate, by Jacqueline Kelly, published in 2009. It appears twice in Kelly's book, on page 135 and 251. In both instances, it is used as an oath. Here's the relevant excerpt on page 135?


"Double Injun."

"It doesn't count unless you say the whole thing," he said.


"Okay, okay, okay. But say it, huh?"

"Double Injun blood brothers swear to die," I said. "Now leave me alone."

Kelly used it again on page 251:

She swore the deepest double-Injun-blood-brothers oath for me.
I have not read Kelly's book, so I have no idea what the two characters in the exchange are talking about. The novel is set in 1899 and the oath was in use by then. The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate is getting a lot of buzz this year. There's a lot of people hoping it'll get one of the top prizes (the Newberry Medal).

Given that attention, I hope that teachers are taking the opportunity to talk with students about that word, "Injun." I wonder if Steele's schoolteachers used Holling C. Holling's Paddle-to-the-Sea? Published in 1941, it was awarded a Caldecott Honor Medal. In Holling's book, a toy Indian in a toy canoe is put into the water. It makes its way downriver, and ends up in Lake Superior, where a fisherman catches it (page 23):
'Best catch in weeks!" one man was saying. 'And that's not all---look! we're even netting red Injuns in canoes!

I've also come across the word "Injun" in The Little House Cookbook: Frontier Foods from Laura Ingalls Wilder's Classic Stories compiled by Barbara M. Walker, published in 1989. It includes a recipe for "Rye'N'Injun, a kind of bread. "Rye'N'Injun" appears several times in Farmer Boy, published in 1953.  Walker says that bread is known today as Boston Brown Bread. On page 86, she writes
"Its history reaches back to the first New England colonists, whose only grains were the rye they brought from Europe and the corn they got from the Indians (hence "injun" for cornmeal).
Was "Injun" a word for cornmeal? I don't know, and I'm not going to take time right now to find out...  Staying on point with "Injun"...

It's in Elizabeth George Speare's Calico Captive, and Lois Lenski's Indian Captiv, The Story of Mary Jemison.  I understand it being used in historical fiction. It was a phrase used in the past, but not today, and it'd be terrific if, when they come across it, teachers would point out that "Injun" is a derogatory word.

It's in Bobbsey Twins, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys.  You can find it in Lynne Reid Banks's The Key to the Indian. But, did Benjamin Franklin use the phrase, "Honest Injun," as suggested by Augusta Stevenson in her biography, Benjamin Franklin: Young Printer

Another children's book author uses it...  Joseph Bruchac. In his The Heart of a Chief, you'll find him pushing back on the use of it and other words. His protagonist, Chris, and his friends are at a football game. His friend is Anthony, or Tony, or Pizza. Here's the excerpt (p. 55):

People are going crazy on our side of the field. A bunch of kids are doing the tomahawk chop while others are patting their hands against their mouths to do phony war whoops.

The cheerleaders are doing cartwheels. They hold up their pom-poms and sing out together, "TONY, TONY, HE'S OUR MAN. IF HE CAN'T DO IT, NO ONE CAN!"

Just as I realize they are talking about Pizza--Anthony is his given name, which no one at Penacook ever uses--the big man in the New England Patriots jersey stands up, "Scalp 'em, Injun, scalp 'em!" he bellows. Other people take up his chant.


I realize for the first time what it is like to be excited and depressed all at once. I look at my friends and see the same look on their faces that must be on mine. Should we laugh or cry?

In his book, Bruchac calls attention to a lot of words and to the mascot issue. For that reason alone, I encourage teachers and librarians to get and use his book, especially right now, in the wake of William Michael Steele's remarks. You might also want to talk with students about Native response to Steele. See "GOP leader uses racist term" by Rob Capriccioso in Indian Country Today on January 12, 2010 and  "Michael Steele's 'honest injun' comment sparks backlash", in the Chicago Tribune on January 7, 2010.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

American Indians/American Presidents

Last semester, Matt Gilbert gave me a book called American Indians/American Presidents: A History. Published by the Smithsonian, it looks to be quite promising, and something libraries ought to get. I say "looks to be" because I've not had time to read or study it. I'm drawn to the photographs.... 

The book is full of photographs. Richard Nixon in a headdress? Wondering why he's in a headdress?!

The book includes an introduction by Clifford E. Trafzer, followed by:

  1. "Native Nations and the New Nation, 1776-1820," by Robert W. Venables
  2. "Native Nations in an Age of Western Expansion, 1820-80," by Donna Akers
  3. "Dark Days, American Presidents and Native Sovereignty, 1880-1930," by Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
  4. "From Full Citizenship to Self-Determination, 1930-75," by Duane Champagne
  5. "The Era of Self-Determination: 1975-Today," by Troy Johnson

As I look at the photographs, I like that they're straight-up black and white. They have not been reproduced in that sepia tone that we've come to associate with the past in a romantic way (or at least that's what it seems to me.) Some are in sepia, but I'm guessing they were originally preserved that way. A lot of photo software programs allow users to turn photos into sepia, and it seems to me people do that a LOT with Native photos. Its an aesthetic choice, but I don't like it. I think its one of the ways that representations of American Indians are done to frame us in the past, or, in a timeless way.

Check out Matt's blog, Beyond the Mesas. Reading what he writes provides you with the opportunity to become deeply knowledgeable about the Hopi Nation, thereby becoming a more-informed librarian or teacher. Being more-informed will help you better-select children's and young adult literature.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Judy Dow and Robette Dias Comment on SIGN OF THE BEAVER

Elizabeth George Speare's Sign of the Beaver has been discussed here several times...

On March 20th, 2007, I posted "Eighth Graders Analyze SIGN OF THE BEAVER." It is an essay submitted by Karen, a classroom teacher.  

On Wednesday, April 11, 2007, I posted a report on the book, put together by Students and Teachers Against Racism, located in Fairfield, Connecticut.

And then on Monday, October 22, 2007, I discussed the use of the word squaw in the book, in the context of the use of that word in larger societal contexts.

What I'm sharing today was submitted by Judy Dow and Robette Dias as a response to the Oct 2007 discussion of the word squaw. Rather than add it to that discussion, I'm featuring it as a stand-alone piece. I'm grateful to Judy and Robette for this contribution. Judy is Abenaki, and Robette is Karuk. They are on the board of Oyate.


After reading the concern and comments about the use of the word “Squaw” in The Sign of the Beaver we are concerned. It is our hopes that people don’t see this as the only thing wrong with this book because there are far too many other things wrong to just stop there. Judy's two children were forced to read this book in their fourth grade classes. She still has her son’s copy of the book filled with hand-drawn doodles and arrows. Some twenty years later we can visually see the disgust he must have felt as he read through this book.
Why is it books like this are used in a classroom to teach what the “period” was like as if it is an historical book? There is nothing historical about this book except that twenty-seven years later it is still being read in many classrooms and is on some mandatory reading lists.  Why is it some parents and some teachers protect their children and students from the truth? Is it because truths can be painful? So is this book to some. Why is it people feel they must hide the facts about genocide, acculturation, assimilation, and ethnocide? Is it because they are difficult topics for young people to understand? The proper words exist to teach these topics to young people. As educators of the generations that will be caring for us when we get older we believe it is important that we start using the proper words to teach these difficult topics. It can be done. We cannot continue to hide or protect our children from the truth. Let’s teach them instead to be seekers of the truths.

Here is one truth that wasn't discussed on Debbie’s blog posts, and, that is never even mentioned in The Sign of the Beaver.
In the year of 1755, a mere thirteen years before The Sign of the Beaver story takes place, the Indians of Norridgewock, Arresaguntacook, Weweenock, the St. Johns Tribes and other tribes inhabiting the Eastern and Northern Parts of New England had seen a bounty placed on their heads by His Majesty.
Details of the bounty proclamation are in a volume titled Documentary History of the State of Maine, published in 1908 by the Maine Historical Society.

The proclamation stated what colonists would be paid:

For every Male Indian Prisoner above the Age of Twelve Years, that shall be taken and brought to Boston, fifty pounds. 

For every Male Indian Scalp, brought in as Evidence of their being killed, forty Pounds.

For every Female Indian Prisoner, taken and brought in as aforesaid, and for every Male Indian Prisoner under the Age of Twelve Years, taken and brought in as aforesaid, Twenty-five Pounds.

For every Scalp of such Female Indian or Male Indian under twelve Years of Age, brought as Evidence of their being killed, as aforesaid, Twenty Pounds.

Signed on the twelfth day of June 1755 by His Excellency William Shirley, Esq.

Knowing this, how can someone possibly believe that Sign of the Beaver can be used to teach this “period” of history? This proclamation was never talked about or even alluded to in the book. Sign of the Beaver certainly never mentioned that the good people from Massachusetts Bay Colony were scalping Indian people for a bounty. This was the reality of the "period". The relationship as it is written in Sign of the Beaver between Matt and Attean would never have existed in a place such as Maine so soon after the above proclamation was written. Let us teach our children to seek the truth. 
Judy Dow (Abenaki)
Robette Dias (Karuk)

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Those romance-novel-authors and their indian-love

I've written about Cassie Edwards and her "Savage Indian" series, and today, am directing you to the blog maintained by the Santa Ysabel Tribal Library.  These books are not meant for young adults. I discuss them as an example of the sort of imagery that permeates society.

So---click on over to "Book using Kumeyaay Words and the Lucas Name." I gather that the novel is supposed to be about the Kumeyaay, but, the author offers up the usual stereotypes...

Sunday, January 03, 2010

We saw AVATAR...

We saw Avatar a few days before Christmas. Using my cell phone, I thought I'd take a few notes as I watched the film, sending the notes as brief text messages to my email account. There was so much wrong that I quit after a few minutes. My txts are in bold. In parenthesis are my off-the-cuff response.

arrows in tires
(Modern day covered wagons!!)

sig weaver (anthro) wears bead necklace.
(She's the Indian lover. I guess Cameron never read Deloria or listened to Westerman's "Here Come the Anthros")

indigenous school provided by humans
(Hearing that part made me think that Cameron HAS read some history and DOES know a little... )

na'vi are called savages
(no surprise)

their homeland most hostile environment known to man.
(the wild west)

braids and tail. 
(Drawing from lots of "other" there, collapsing them all into na'vi... )

flute and drum music
(Of course!)

they're (na'vi)  watching us
(Just like the Indians in Little House on the Prairie!!!)

riders on horses
(Plains Indians!!)

the riders whoop 
(Classic Western)

A lot of people say that the special effects make the movie enjoyable. A lot of people wave away problems with the story because of the special effects. Those defenses are given again and again in response to critiques of children's books. A lot---a WHOLE LOT---of people defend Brother Eagle Sister Sky because taking care of the environment is more important than Indian stereotypes. Same thing with Touching Spirit Bear. The "good" it does for students who are bullies is more important than its misrepresentations of American Indians.

Support of books like Brother Eagle, Sister Sky and Touching Spirit Bear plays a role in the embrace of films like Avatar.  In my view, we're all kidding ourselves. None of it is worth defending.

UPDATE. Monday, January 4, 2010

This post has generated a lot of email to me, mostly from people who share my view of the film. In some, people are surprised that this sort of thing is still happening. I think some of those individuals are not close readers of film or children's and young adult literature. AVATAR is only one film of the last two months that has given viewers Indian stereotypes. Here's others:

BLIND SIDE---I did not see the film. I saw the trailer, though, and in it, Sandra Bullock and her husband (that's a guess) and her little boy are in their car. The child is in the backseat, wearing a headdress. I can only imagine why. If anyone has seen it, let me know!

THE PROMISE---Betty White's character is out in the woods "dancing" and chanting. This movie mostly takes place in Alaska.

INGLORIOUS BASTARDS---Lots of references to "Indian" methods of killing. And of course, scalping was a big piece of the story.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Native blog: "Last Woman: Political & Cultural Snaps"

Julia Good Fox (Pawnee) publishes Last Woman, a blog that I read. Julia is on the faculty at Haskell Indian Nations University, in its Indigenous Nations and American Indian Studies department.

I was especially thrilled to learn that she reads my site. In fact, I'm one of her "Seven Must-Read Blogs." Also on her list are a couple of blogs I read (in addition to hers): Turtle Talk, a blog on Indigenous Law and Policy, and, Brenda Norell's CENSORED NEWS.

Thanks, Julia, for including my site.

I encourage people who read my site to read Last Woman, Turtle Talk, and, Censored News. By reading these sites, you'll gain a lot of insight into how to think critically about the ways that American Indian peoples are portrayed in children's and young adult literature.  To do a good job of selecting books about us, you must know what we care about. What world and legal matters affect us? How? Why?

As you start this new decade, I want you to help me to help us all. I don't mean to spout self-righteous pap. I'm serious. I'm one person out of literally hundreds of thousands involved with children's and young adult literature. Some of you are already doing what you can, but we must do a lot more.

Friday, January 01, 2010

California Indians Critique Lesson Plans on California Missions

A colleague, Deborah Miranda, publishes a blog called When Turtles Fly. A few days ago, she wrote about the California Missions and how they're taught. I'm copying her first four paragraphs below as a sample of what you'll find if you click on over to "4th Grade California Mission Projects: A Thought Experiment for Parents, Educators, and Students."

Deborah's site has links to books you should read if you're interested in developing a critical understanding of American Indians in California. One example is Rupert Costo and Jeannette Henry Costo's 1984 The Missions of California, A Legacy of Genocide. The information accompanying the book reads:
For two hundred years the native people of California have borne the stigma of "Mission Indians." The names of their nations and tribes are Hupa, Kumeyaay, Chuilla, Pauma, Malki, Cupa and Pamo to name a few.
Do you refer to the indigenous peoples of California as "Mission Indians" or do you use specific names? Deborah's site has much to offer. Do add When Turtles Fly to your reading this year.  


In California schools, students come up against the "Mission Unit" in fourth grade, although the same children have been breathing in the lies most of their lives. Part of California’s history curriculum, the unit is entrenched in the system, and impossible to avoid.

Because this assignment is typically started over Winter Vacation, I’m posting this note for parents and children who are starting their research now. Please be aware that I have other blog posts about the missions as well; please take a look at them too.

The Mission Unit is a powerfully authoritative indoctrination in Mission Mythology against which fourth graders have little if any resistance, and intense pressure is put upon students (and their parents) to create a "Mission Project" that glorifies the era and glosses over both Spanish and Mexican exploitation of Indians, as well as American enslavement of those same Indians during American rule.

In other words, the Mission Unit is all too often a lesson in imperialism, racism, and Manifest Destiny than actually educational or a jumping off point for critical thinking or accurate history.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

News from Oyate

Earlier this week I received an email from Oyate. I'm sharing that news today.

Dear Friends and Supporters,

Oyate co-founder Doris Seale and the Board of Directors are pleased to share with you the beginning of a new season for Oyate. After a long and distinguished career with Oyate, Beverly Slapin has resigned as executive director.  We thank Beverly for her twenty years of service and wish her the best moving forward. Board members and current staff are excited about maintaining day-to-day operations while we enter into our new phase.  Oyate continues to be up and running.  We appreciate your patience during this growth period as we smooth out the usual transitional wrinkles.  The Board is in the process of developing a new leadership structure and is currently communicating with several well-qualified and talented Native American candidates to fill open staff positions. 

Thank you for your support as Oyate continues to grow.

Doris Seale, CoFounder (Dakota, Cree, Abenaki)

Robette Dias, President (Karuk)

Janet King, Vice President (Lumbee)

Judy Dow, Secretary-Treasurer (Abenaki)

Nellie Adkins (Chickahominy)

Danielle DiBona (Wampanoag)


Judy Dow (Abenaki) and Doris Seale (Dakota, Cree, Abenaki) sent me this review in response to the query from Patricia O. a few weeks ago about Tomie DePaola's books.  Judy and Doris are board members of Oyate, and Doris is one of its co-founders. 

The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush by Tomie dePaola

As usually Tomie dePaola has done an exquisite job with the paintings in this book. The colors are bright; the pictures are simplistic and can easily be understood by a reader of the book’s intended age group.  A spiritual leader does explain to Little Gopher that he has a “special gift” and “that he should not struggle” because “his path would not be the same as others”. Most Native people believe everyone has a special gift; life itself is a special gift and that nobody will follow the same path. However, it seems to be very unrealistic that a young boy would go out alone for a Dream-Vision without guidance of some kind from an elder or spiritual leader. Furthermore when this “spiritual event” is completed Little Gopher then interprets what his vision meant. Again this would be highly unusual.

Little Gopher eventually begins to paint pictures “of great hunts, of great deeds, of great Dream-Visions” so that “the people would always remember” says dePaola. This seems odd to us. How did Little Gopher learn of these great deeds, great hunts and great visions after all "his path was different then the others". Little Gopher was not a warrior or a hunter and had only one vision and no elders were present in the story to teach him of these great things? Curious isn't it.

One more thought crosses our mind. Indian paintbrushes (Castilleja Coccinea) are indigenous to Latin American not the plains of the west as the story implies.

However beautiful the paintings in this book are we would not recommend it or the companion video because of the complex issues that the intended audience would not understand.

Judy Dow (Abenaki)
Doris Seale (Dakota, Cree, Abenaki)

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Did P.C. and Kristin Cast plagiarize?

Yesterday, I posted a rather jumbled piece about Marked, by P.C. and Kristin Cast. I titled that piece "P.C. and Kristin Cast Plagiarize" but, the plagiarism discussion is lost in the other thoughts I had as I read the book. Here's just the portions of their book that I think are plagiarism-at-worst or sloppy-writing-at-best.

Example 1
Page 240: Zoey is smudging Damien. She tells him:
"Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place, or an object of negative energies, spirits, or influences. The smudging ceremony involves the burning of special, sacred plants and herbal resins, then, either passing an object through the smoke, or fanning the smoke around a person or place. The spirit of the plant purifies whatever is being smudged."
I found that identical passage on over 100 different websites. The excerpts below are from here (scroll down and click on "Smudge Ceremony"):
The Smudging Ceremony

Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person , place or an object of negative energies, spirits or influences. The smudging ceremony involves the burning of special, sacred plants and herbal resins, then, either passing an object through the resulting smoke, or fanning the smoke around a person or place. 

There are a couple of other passages I looked at. Neither one is word-for-word, but pretty close

Example 2
On page (241), Zoey tells Damien:
"It's really important to remember that we're asking the spirits of the sacred plants we're using to help us, and we should show them proper respect by acknowledging their powers."
The website says:
Remember that when you smudge, you are asking the spirit of sacred plants for assistance and you must pay proper respect to their healing power.

Example 3
Later on page 241, Zoey tells Damien she prefers white sage to desert sage:
"White sage is used a lot in traditional ceremonies. It drives out negative energies, spirits, and influences. Actually desert sage does the same thing, but I like white sage better because it smells sweeter."
The website says:
Desert Sage (Artemesia tridentata). This plant will drive out negative energies, spirits and influences. Use this as a smudge to purify people and places before any sacred ceremony.
White Sage (Salvia apiana) This sage is used just like desert sage, but many people prefer White Sage because of the sweeter aroma it gives off.

Those passages may be helpful to teachers and librarians who want to discuss writing and the ins and outs of copying/pasting.

Monday, December 21, 2009

P.C. and Kristin Cast Plagiarize in MARKED

To see only the plagiarism section of what I wrote below, click here

Back on November 13, 2009, I posted my first response to the House of Night vampire series by P. C. Cast and her daughter, Kristin. I'd found the first chapter online on the House of Night website. I'm copying here what I posted then, and I've put that entire post in italics to distinguish it from what I'm adding to that response today.

In studying Marked, specifically page 240 when Zoey smudes Damien, it looks to me like the Casts borrowed word-for-word from "The Smudging Ceremony" online at a New Age site!

[Formatting note: I apologize for the too-many line spaces in this post. Not sure how to fix that problem.]


For some time now, I've been aware of the HOUSE OF NIGHT series of vampire stories. I picked one up in a bookstore and skimmed it, but put it back down. I did not want to spend time on it. I am still not sure how much time I will give to it...

Here's the final words from the first chapter of the first book. Reading this online from the House of Night website:

I stared at the exotic looking tattoo. Mixed with my strong Cherokee features it seemed to brand me with a mark of wildness... as if I belonged to ancient times when the world was bigger... more barbaric.

From this day on my life would never be the same. And for a moment--just an instant--I forgot about the horror of not belonging and felt a shocking burst of pleasure, while deep inside of me the blood of my grandmother's people rejoiced.

Exotic. Cherokee. Wildness. Ancient. Barbaric. This "Cherokee" girl is now a Vampire, too!!! And her Cherokee grandmother's people rejoice. Why? Because this girl is now going to feel like she belongs? Is that why P.C. Cast says her character's ancestor's rejoice? Or is it something else?

I continue that initial response today (December 21, 2009):

A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Urbana Free Library to pick up Marrin's Years of Dust. While there, I saw that the library had a copy of Marked on the shelf, so checked it out, too. (I subsequently wrote about Years of Dust here, which sparked a lively dialogue at School Library Journal.)

Once she's marked, Zoey must go to the House of Night. In the world the Casts imagine, vampires are a fact-of-life. Zoey doesn't get along with her mother and her mother's husband, and hopes that being marked will elicit a caring response from her mother. When it doesn't, Zoey heads for her grandmother.  Her grandmother, as we learned in chapter one, is Cherokee. In chapter five, we learn that Zoey calls her grandmother "Grandma Redbird" or "Grandma."  Having been marked, Zoey is experiencing physical changes. She's full of questions. As she climbs a bluff to find her grandmother, the text reads (p. 33-34):

I needed to find Grandma Redbird. If Grandma didn't have the answers, she'd figure them out. Grandma Redbird understood people. She said it was because she hadn't lost touch with her Cherokee heritage and the tribal knowledge of the ancestral Wise Women she carried in her blood. Even now it made me smile to think about the frown that came over Grandma's face whenever the subject of the step-loser came up (she's the only adult who knows I call him that). Grandma Redbird said that it was obvious that the Redbird Wise Woman blood had skipped over her daughter, but that was only because it had been saving up to give an extra dose of ancient Cherokee magic to me. [...]  In the meadow of tall grasses and wildflowers we'd lay out a brightly colored blanket and eat a picnic lunch while Grandma told me stories of the Cherokee people and taught me the mysterious-sounding words of their language.
"Mysterious-sounding words" is another signal, to me, that the Casts are running with romantic, stereotypical ideas of who American Indians--in this case Cherokees--are. Course, their point may be that their protagonist is romanticizing her Cherokee identity, but I don't think so. 

As I struggled up the winding path those ancient stories seemed to swirl around and around inside my head, like smoke from a ceremonial fire...
Smoke from a ceremonial fire! Just like we saw in Disney's Pocahontas! Another signal of romantic imagery.

...including the sad story of how the stars were formed when a dog was discovered stealing cornmeal and the tribe whipped him. As the dog ran howling to his home in the north, the meal scattered across the sky and the magic in it made the Milky Way. Or how the Great Buzzard made the mountains and valleys with his wings. And my favorite, the story about young woman sun who lived in the east, and her brother, the moon, who lived in the west, and the Redbird who was the daughter of the sun.
Through her veil of turning-into-a-vampire, Zoey starts thinking about drums and powwows her grandma took her to when she was a little girl. She starts to hear drumming, and then voices, and then wind...
Wind? No, wait! There hadn't been any wind just a second ago, but now I had to hold my hat down with one hand and brush away the hair that was whipping wildly across my face with the other. Then in the wind I heard them--the sounds of many Cherokee voices chanting in time with the beating of the ceremonial drums. Through a veil of hair and tears I saw smoke. The nutty sweet scent of pinon wood filled my open mouth and I tasted the campfires of my ancestors. I gasped, fighting to catch my breath.

That's when I felt them. They were all around me, almost visible shapes shimmering like heat waves lifting from a blacktop road in summer. I could feel them press against me as they twirled and moved with graceful, intricate steps around and around the shadowy image of a Cherokee campfire.

Join us, u-we-tsi a-ge-hu-tsa... Join us, daughter...

Zoey runs, and then falls and is in some sort of dreamlike state where the High Priestess speaks her her (p. 39):
Your grandmother has taught you well, u-s-ti Do-tsu-wa...little Redbird. You are a unique mixture of the Old Ways and the New World--of ancient tribal blood and the heartbeat of outsiders. [...] I am known by many names... Changing Woman, Gaea, A'akuluujjusi, Kuan Yin, Grandmother Spider, and even Dawn..."
A unique mix! Ancient tribal blood. Heartbeat of outsiders. Sounds a bit like..... Jake Sully in Avatar!

Looks like the Casts are grabbing at all manner of spiritualities...  Navajo, Cherokee, Buddhism...  But where is Mary in this lineup? Why did they avoid drawing on Christianity?!

When Zoey comes to, she's in the House of Night, her grandma is with her, and Zoey tells her that she can't believe that she got Marked. Her grandmother replies (p. 45)
"I'm not surprised you were Tracked and Marked. The Redbird blood has always held strong magic; it was only a matter of time before one of us was Chosen. What I mean is that it makes no sense that you were just Marked. The crescent isn't an outline. It's completely filled in."
Of course! Indians are special! The ones the Casts dreamed up are, apparently, extra special. They've got strong magic, but what else???  The High Priestess is with Zoey, too, and that High Priestess tells Zoey that she can start over, choose her true name. Zoey discards "Montgomery" and chooses Redbird.

And then, the Casts plagiarize!

Much later in the book (page 240), the Casts have Zoey doing ceremony:

"Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person, place, or an object of negative energies, spirits, or influences. The smudging ceremony involves the burning of special, sacred plants and herbal resins, then, either passing an object through the smoke, or fanning the smoke around a person or place. The spirit of the plant purifies whatever is being smudged."

That sounds like something you'd find in a New Age store! Or on the internet! And that is exactly what I found. That passage above, comes word-for-word from "The Smudging Ceremony" at a New Age store that sells "smudge bundles."


[Update, Dec 22, 6:38 AM.  In the comment below submitted by Lou Gagliardi, Lou says that my examples are not word-for-word. The ones below this update are not quite word-for-word, but the passage above is exactly word-for-word. I did not include the passage from the website because it seemed redundant. I'm adding it now:

The Smudging Ceremony

Smudging is a ritual way to cleanse a person , place or an object of negative energies, spirits or influences. The smudging ceremony involves the burning of special, sacred plants and herbal resins, then, either passing an object through the resulting smoke, or fanning the smoke around a person or place. 

And Kat W., a librarian in Benton Harbor wrote to say "if you can find at least 5 sources that do not reference a specific piece of information then it is considered general knowledge and does not need to be sited in your work."  Of course, novels don't cite materials in the same way that nonfiction does, but Kat raises an interesting point. She suggests it is ok for the Casts to copy and paste from the internet. I did note, below, that the passage in question appears on over a hundred websites. Does that make it ok? Perhaps, but what does that say about the author(s) and their writing?

But there's more of that sort of borrowing...

Zoey says (p. 241):

"It's really important to remember that we're asking the spirits of the sacred plants we're using to help us, and we should show them proper respect by acknowledging their powers."

At the New Age store/website, you'll find this:

"Remember that when you smudge, you are asking the spirit of sacred plants for assistance and you must pay proper respect to their healing power."

And here's some more... 

Zoey prefers white sage to desert sage. She tells Damien (p. 241) that

"White sage is used a lot in traditional ceremonies. It drives out negative energies, spirits, and influences. Actually desert sage does the same thing, but I like white sage better because it smells sweeter."

On the New Age store/website:

Desert Sage (Artemesia tridentata). This plant will drive out negative energies, spirits and influences. Use this as a smudge to purify people and places before any sacred ceremony.

White Sage (Salvia apiana) This sage is used just like desert sage, but many people prefer White Sage because of the sweeter aroma it gives off.

Maybe the Casts didn't take it from that site. Doing that internet search using "Smuding is a ritual way to cleanse a person" I got 273 hits (date of search, December 21).

Cassie Edwards plagiarized several people in her Savage Indian series, including N. Scott Momaday's book The Way to Rainy Mountain.

Edwards seemed to think it was ok to do that. Do you? Do you think its ok for the Casts to do it? In my view, they've not only erred in their presentation of the Native content but they're also plagiarizing. Neither one is ok.