Sunday, December 06, 2009


Over on Heavy Medal, a blog at School Library Journal, I posted my concerns with Richard Peck's new book, A Season of Gifts. In the course of discussing/defending the book, Jonathan Hunt (one of the blog hosts) referenced another book. That book was Albert Marrin's Years of Dust: The Story of the Dust Bowl. In A Season of Gifts, a preacher is given a box that may or may not have remains of a "Kickapoo Princess" inside. The preacher agrees to rebury the box and waxes poetically in his sermon. As you might imagine, I find the discussion of bones problematic from the get-go. I am working on an essay about that aspect of the book. 

In his post, Jonathan correctly describes the preacher's speech as hokey, sentimental, and, stereotypical in the way it situates Indians in nature. Then, he says, he came across another passage that was like that in Albert Marrin's Years of Dust. Jonathan quoted the passage, which I will quote here as well (it appears on the final page of Marrin's book, p. 122):

Chief Seattle, a leader of the Suqamish tribe, understood our place in nature.  In 1855, President Franklin Pierce offered to buy Suquamish lands in what is now the state of Washington.  Before accepting the president's terms, Seattle is said to have reminded the American envoys of some basic truths.  "Will you teach your children what we have taught our children?  That the earth is our mother?" the chief asked.  Then Seattle answered his own questions.  "What befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth . . . The earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth . . . All things are connected like the blood which unites us all.  Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it.  Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

Then Jonathan tries to equate the fictional preacher in A Season of Gifts with a real person: Chief Seattle of the Suquamish Nation. He asks why it is not ok for Preacher Barnhart to use that sort of language, when, he says, it was ok for Seattle to use it. 

When I read Jonathan's words and the excerpt he quoted, I chuckled to myself, thinking that Marrin had done sloppy research, quoting---not Seattle---but Ted Perry, the person who wrote a version of Seattle's speech for use in a made-for-TV movie in the 1970s. And, I wondered how Jonathan could equate a fictional character with a leader of an American Indian Nation.

Among my comments to his post, I said "oops!" and then something snarky about white-guy-Marrin quoting white-guy-Perry. Maybe I should not do that sort of snarky writing. I know it rubs some people the wrong way. 

I could say, instead, non-Native-Marrin quoting non-Native-Perry...  Or maybe I should say sloppy-researcher-Marrin quoting fiction-as-fact...  Or maybe I shouldn't say anything like that at all. My point is, what are your sources???!!! What is the bias in those sources??? Are you using sources critically???

But setting my rant aside for now...

Jonathan said he'd check into Marrin's source for that speech and let us know. I was surprised (and not) to learn that Marrin's source was....  Al Gore's book, Earth in the Balance! Oops again!!! Now, we have this:

Non-Native-Marrin quoting Non-Native-Gore quoting Non-Native-Perry.

I decided it was time to get Marrin's book, and, Gore's too, and take a look at both books. 

The cover of Marrin's book includes, across the top, "Recipient of the 2008 National Endowment for Humanities Medal."  An impressive accomplishment for Marrin. His Sitting Bull and his World won the 2001 Carter G. Woodson Book Award and the 2000 Boston Globe Horn Book Award for Non-Fiction. I wish the selection committees had been able to read Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin's review of the book...  They probably wouldn't have chosen Sitting Bull and his World for either award! Do read the review... once you do, you'll be a bit embarrassed that you or anyone would think the book was worthy of the label "nonfiction."

Back to Years of Dust...  As I flip through it, I love the images on the pages. Photographs, posters, newspaper clippings. Good stuff! Or some of it is...  Some of it is not so good....

Looking right now at page 11 in the section titled "The Great Plains World." there's a sidebar titled "The Buffalo and the Indian." The second sentence is:
 "These hunters [Lakota and Cheyenne] ate buffalo meat at every meal, several pounds at a time." 
Several pounds of buffalo meat at every meal? Really? That'd be one big hamburger! (Want a laugh? Watch Sesame Street's Grover the Waiter in "Big Hamburger.")

The illustration at the bottom of the sidebar is a reproduction of a 1901 painting by Charles Schreyvogel titled "Doomed." It shows an Indian man on horseback, wearing a feathered warbonnet, lance held high, about to plunge it into a buffalo. 

Who was Schreyvogel? I read a little about him in an article called "Racism, Nationalism, and Nostalgia in Cowboy Art" by J. Gray Sweeney, published in Oxford Art Journal in Vol. 15, No. 1, 1992. Here's what Sweeney wrote (p. 72):

The third painter revered by the modern cowboy artists of today is Charles Schreyvogel. Schreyvogel painted about one hundred works in the years from 1900 to his death in 1912, and although he visited the West briefly, his work was executed entirely in his studio in Hoboken, New Jersey, where he frequently posed his 'manly' German-American compatriots on the tin roof of his apartment overlooking New York City. One of his sources of information about Native Americans derived from sketching actors in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows. [...] It seems perfectly comprehensible how such representations of war-like Indians would have met the cultural expectations of Schreyvogel's urban audience in New York City around 1910 whose only knowledge of Native Americans was from dime novels and wild west shows. As such the image is disturbingly indicative of the cultural mind-set of the last half of the nineteenth century that approved genocide. One critic of the day put it this way: Schreyvogel is more than a historian of the Indian. He is giving us an invaluable record of those parlous days of the Western frontier when a handful of brave men blazed the path for civilization and extended the boundaries of empire for a growing nation.

Ouch! Ouch! And OUCH again!!! Nineteenth century? Ironically, the date of the painting is almost 100 years ago....  Why did Marrin choose that art?! Probably because it reflects what he knows! Sweeney closes the article by discussing how popular this art has become for collectors, and, as subject matter for scholarly studies of its ideology. That scholarship is attacked, as Sweeney says (p. 79):

[R]ecent attacks by conservative critics make it abundantly apparent that the supporters of western art are willing to do everything in their power to protect the cherished fantasy of America's 'winning of the West' promoted in this art. 

Moving along in Years of Dust, I come across another winner in terms of source...  At the bottom of page 14, Marrin quotes from Laura Ingalls WIlder's On the Banks of Plum Creek, where she writes about grasshoppers on the Great Plains. Would you be ok with students in your classroom citing Wilder as though what she provided was a work of non-fiction?

It is interesting to me that in the text---not the illustrations or photographs or sidebars---Marrin does not mention American Indians. When he starts talking about buffalo on page 12, he says 

The lord of the Great Plains was the American bison, or buffalo. When the first Europeans reached the New World, some 40 to 60 million buffalo roamed the region in their endless search for pasture.

And on the next page, he talks about Laura Ingalls Wilder. His final paragraph in that section says (p. 16):

The Great Plains, then, was (and is) a harsh land. Despite the hardships, Americans still saw the plains as a place of opportunity. A place where, through hard work and good luck, they could buld a better future. And so, in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, settlers flocked to the rolling grasslands west of the Mississippi. Unfortunately, the arrival of settlers would change the delicate ecology of the plains.

The one mention American Indians get in this section is the sidebar. In the text itself, the indigenous people of the Great Plains don't get any attention at all. Marrin talks about Europeans, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and, Americans, but, not Indians.

Course, that changes in the next section, "Conquering the Great Plains."

Marrin starts by talking about Daniel Boone, pioneers, Jefferson and the Louisiana Purchase, Lewis and Clark, and, an army officer who was mapping the land who said that the Plains were unfit for cultivation. Then Marrin says (p. 20)

Flat, treeless, and dry, the grasslands were fit only for wild beasts and nomadic Indians. 

Marrin sounds like Laura Ingalls Wilder in Little House on the Prairie! What does that say about the Wilder apologists who say "that's what they thought back then." Marrin isn't quoting the Army officer at that point. Those are Marrin's words.

Most people were only moving through the Plains, headed for the West Coast. But then after the Civil War, some decided they wanted to become cattle ranchers. To do that, they needed to get rid of the buffalo, which the Indians depended on for food. Here's what Marrin says (p. 22),

"Progress," as white people saw it, demanded that both the buffalo and the Indians should go.

Hence, the wholesale slaughter of buffalo began, followed by moving Indians onto reservations. Marrin's next section "The Coming of the Farmers" is a good example of bias in selection of information to include. He talks about the Homestead Act, how it offered public land to any citizen or immigrant intending to become a citizen.  Public land? Wait! What? How did that happen? I guess it doesn't matter. 

In this section, Marrin includes a sidebar titled "For Want of Rain" that is about the Anasazi. In the sidebar, Marrin writes (page 32): 

The drought drove the Anasazi away, but it is unclear where they went.

Let's see... when did Marrin's book come out? 2009??? What research did he do??? From Wikipedia to the online Encyclopedia Brittanica, I see something I've known for a long time.... the Anasazi are ancestors of the Pueblo people! (That's me. Pueblo person, Debbie Reese, enrolled at Nambe, established in its present location in 1200 AD). 

What do you think so far? I'm on page 32 of a book that 128 pages long. One fourth of the book, and, I think its kind of a mess. Worthy of a medal? I don't think so, and I'm not even at the part of the book that Jonathan Hunt quoted from! I'll flip to that page...

Oh but wait!!! As I flip pages, I spy with my little eye on page 55 and 56, some more Indians. On page 55 is a sidebar "The Hopi Snake Dance." Marrin provides a photograph of "a snake priest." The caption is a quote from Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy telling us about snake dances. I wonder what my Hopi friend, Matt Sakiestewa Gilbert, would think about this: 

These dances are prayers or invocations for rain, the crowning blessing in this dry land. The rain is adored and invoked both as male and female; the gentle steady downpour is the female, the storm with the lightning the male... The snakes, the brothers of men, as are all living things in the Hopi creed, are besought to tell the beings of the underworld man's need of water.

On page 56 is an 1899 photograph of a Hopi "snake priest with a snake in his mouth in the Hopi snake dance." Hmmmm...  Does Marrin know that those photographs are off limits? That the Hopi people disallowed photographs of their dances because those photographers did not understand what they were photographing and/or describing???

On page 102 is something rather intriguing about this famous photograph.

Taken by Dorothea Lange, it is known as "Migrant Mother." Lange was working for the Farm Security Administration, documenting the lives of Dust Bowl refugees. Lange described the woman as a hungry, desperate mother who told Lange that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the fields, and, birds her children killed. She has just sold the tires from their car to buy food. The photo was taken at a pea picker's labor camp in California.

But!!! Marrin tells us...

Forty years later, the two older children in Lange's photo remembered the incident differently. Their mother was FLorence Owens Means, a full-blooded Native American who had left Oklahoma ten years earlier, and so was no Dust Bowl refugee, as the photo suggests. The family had not been living on frozen peas and dead birds. Nor had Mrs. Thompson sold her tires. Her husband had taken the car for repairs, and she had moved to the pea camp from another camp. Before leaving, she had left word for her husband to come to the new location. She looked worried in the picture because she was not sure he got the message.

Lange, the children recalled, had promised not to publish the photo, but had done exactly that. It appeared on March 10, 1936, in the San Francisco News, agove First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt's weekly "My Day" column. Thompson saw the picture and felt betrayed. For the rest of her life, she resented Lange's use of her image for publicity. Thompson was an active woman, who had helped organize farmworkers' unions. "She was a very strong woman," said daughter Katherine, seen in the photo of her mother's right shoulder. "She was a leader. I think that's one of the reasons she resented the photo--because it didn't show her in that light. (5) "What upsets us is that people are making money out of our mother's pain," (6) said daughter Katherine. 

I did not know anything about that woman being Native... I'm going to have to look into that! I'll see what I find and follow up when I have more information.

Again, back to the reason I started this particular study...  The speech attributed to Seattle. Hunt quoted Marrin who cited Gore who doesn't cite anybody. 

Here's what Gore wrote on page 259:

Native American religions, for instance, offer a rich tapestry of ideas about our relationship to the earth. One of the most moving and frequently quoted explanations was attributed to Chief Seattle in 1855, when President Franklin Pierce stated that he would buy the land of Chief Seattle's tribe. The power of his response has survived numerous translations and retellings:

How can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people...

If we sell you our land, remember that the air is precious to us, that the air shares its spirit with all the life it supports. The wind that gave our grandfather his firt breath also received his last sigh. The wind also gives our children the spirit of life. So if we sell you our land, you must keep it apart and sacred, a place where man can go to taste the wind that is sweetened by the meadow flowers.
Will you teach your children what we have taught our children? That the earth is our mother? What befalls the earth befalls all the sons of the earth. 

This we know: the earth does not belong to man, man belongs to the earth. All things are connected like the blood that unites us all. Man did not weave the web of life, he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself. 

One thing we know: Our God is also your God. The earth is precious to him and to harm the earth is to heap contempt on its Creator.

A few years ago, Jean Mendoza and I did some work on Brother Eagle Sister Sky, illustrated by Susan Jeffers. My copy of that book is at the office, so I can't do a line by line comparison of Gore's excerpt to the text in Brother Eagle...  

I will, however, point you to our analysis. It is in our article, Examining Multicultural Picture Books for the Early Childhood Classroom: Possibilities and Pitfalls, published in Early Childhood Research & Practice, Volume 3, #2, Fall, 2001.  In it, we talk about several children's picture books. Here's what we said about Brother Eagle, Sister Sky:

The text of Brother Eagle, Sister Sky has an interesting history. According to a 1993 memorandum from the Washington/Northwest Collections office of the Washington State Library (see Appendix I), at least four versions of the speech attributed to Seattle have appeared through history. In January of 1854, he spoke at length during negotiations involving the Suquamish, the Duwamish, and the U.S. government. Historians agree that the speech was translated into Chinook jargon "on the spot" since Seattle did not speak English. The first print version of what he said was not published until October 29, 1887, in a Seattle Sunday Star column by Dr. Henry A. Smith, a witness to the 1854 speech who had reconstructed and translated the speech from his notes. In the late 1960s, poet William Arrowsmith rewrote the speech in a somewhat more contemporary style, though it is still similar to Smith's version (Ellen Levesque, personal communication, September 29, 1993).
Later, Ted Perry created another version for "Home," a historical program about the northwest rain forest televised in 1971 (Jones & Sawhill, 1992). This version was constructed as if it were a letter to President Franklin Pierce, though "no such letter was ever written by or for Chief Seattle" (Ellen Levesque, personal communication, September 29, 1993). A shortened edition of the "letter" was exhibited at Expo '74 in Spokane, Washington.

At the end of Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, Susan Jeffers writes, "The origins of Chief Seattle's words are partly obscured by the mists of time." She mentions Smith's version and states that, like Joseph Campbell and unnamed others, she has adapted the message. Readers and listeners are left with the impression that the book offers perhaps an abridged version of the actual speech. The Suquamish tribe's Web site reproduces the 1854 1887 version, which addresses with great depth of feeling the state of Native-White relations in that place and time. In it, Seattle reluctantly, and perhaps with some anger, agrees that he and his people will move to a reservation, on the condition that they be able to visit their ancestors' graves without interference. Environmental responsibility does not appear to be the topic.

Take a look, too, at what Paul Chaat Smith wrote about the book. At the top of his page is a quote from Brother Eagle, Sister Sky that is a lot like what Gore quoted. Sigh. Big, big sigh. 

Sloppy research by Gore. Sloppy research by Marrin. Should Marrin's book be considered for any award, from anyone? I don't think so. If you have read Marrin's book, and want to weigh in on the discussion, head over to Team Nonfiction: The Second Wave.

I'll post there, letting readers there know that I've done this post.

Update, 12:27 PM CST, December 7, 2009
Julia Good Fox directed me to a NY Review of Books essay about Dorothea Lange and the Migrant Mother photograph. Here's some of it, but do read the entire essay. Interesting!

In 1958 the hitherto nameless woman surfaced as Florence Thompson, author of an angry letter, written in amateur legalese, to the magazine U.S. Camera, which had recently republished Migrant Mother:
...It was called to My attention...request you Recall all the un-Sold Magazines...should the picture appear in Any magazine again I and my Three Daughters shall be Forced to Protect our rights...Remove the magazine from Circulation Without Due Permission...
Years later, Thompson's grandson, Roger Sprague, who maintains a Web site called, described what he believed to be her version of the encounter with Lange:
Then a shiny new car (it was only two years old) pulled into the entrance, stopped some twenty yards in front of Florence and a well-dressed woman got out with a large camera. She started taking Florence's picture. With each picture the woman would step closer. Florence thought to herself, "Pay no mind. The woman thinks I'm quaint, and wants to take my picture." The woman took the last picture not four feet away then spoke to Florence: "Hello, I'm Dorothea Lange, I work for the Farm Security Administration documenting the plight of the migrant worker. The photos will never be published, I promise."
Some of these details ring false, and Sprague has his own interest in promoting a counternarrative, but the essence of the passage, with its insistence on the gulf of class and wealth between photographer and subject, sounds broadly right. "The woman thinks I'm quaint" might be the resentful observation of every goatherd, shepherd, and leech-gatherer faced with a well-heeled poet or documentarian on his or her turf.
It also emerged that Florence Thompson was not just a representative "Okie," as Lange had thought, but a Cherokee Indian, born on an Oklahoma reservation. So, in retrospect, Migrant Mother can be read as intertwining two "mythical cult-figures": that of the refugee sharecropper from the Dust Bowl (though Thompson had originally come to California with her first husband, a millworker, in 1924) and that of the Noble Red Man. There is a strikingly visible connection, however unnoticed by Lange, between her picture of Florence Thompson and Edward S. Curtis's elaborately staged sepia portraits of dignified Native American women in tribal regalia in his extensive collection The North American Indian (1900–1930), perhaps the single most ambitious—and contentious—work of American pastoral ever created by a visual artist.

Jean Mendoza's visit to La Push and Forks

My friend, Jean Mendoza, was up in La Push and Forks recently. She sent me some notes and photographs of her visit. I am featuring them today...

The Cullen kids would have had to call in sick to school on both days we spent in and around Forks, Washington. Beautiful bright sunshine…. First Beach, Ruby Beach, and Kalaloch (say “clay-lock”) sparkled, and Edward’s shimmeriness would be as nothing compared to that of the waves crashing on the beach at midmorning.Jacob’s wolfen crew would have had to contend with a salmon derby in LaPush: fisherman from all over crowding the tiny reservation town that sits at the mouth of the Quillayute River.

Vampire and werewolf alike would seek in vain for forested shelter along the road between Forks and LaPush. The forest has been clearcut and mile after mile is nothing but graying, decaying stumps and snags of cedar and pine sticking up among ragged-looking green scrub that grows about 3 feet high. Hills in the distance do have some tree cover, some of it 2nd or 3rd growth forest. Once in awhile, passing a clearcut one can spot a bit of Dadaist endeavor: a boulder that must weigh 300 pounds, balanced atop a 4-foot-high flat cedar stump. Sometimes there’s a smaller rock (150-200 pounds, maybe) perched on the larger boulder. This is clearly the work of humans, but why?

Impressions of Forks:
  • Ubiquitous movie posters in windows of businesses including a Chinese restaurant. Bella! Edward! Jacob, not so much.
  • Life-size cutouts of the actors who play Bella and Edward, positioned in the 2nd-floor windows of a popular off-the-main-drag Twilight-themed shop
  • At least five different businesses with “Twilight” in the name, including a karaoke bar
  • Various forms of “Welcome Twilight fans” on signs and in windows of businesses that don’t actually sell Twilight stuff
  • Motels that mention Twilight on their signs
  • Twilight paper napkins, shot glasses, coffee mugs sold in virtually every shop
  • Advertisements for a Forks-based tour business which for a price will take you to places in town that might have been (but were not actually) the bases for various sites in the books
  • A Timber Museum featuring some artifacts of the timber industry, lifeblood of Forks for more than a century. The museum seems neglected, especially the monument to those who lost their lives in work-related accidents, with its faded decade-by-decade roster of the dead inside an outdoor plexiglass case. I would have thought that the monument at least would be cared for still.
  • The bearded, early-forties middle school librarian, owner of a 1916 Craftsman style home in Forks that is now known as “Bella’s house” (because an entrepreneur decided that it outshone all others in looking like the home described in the books), who tells me that
    • Twilight has been a real boost for the town’s motels and restaurants – usually they experience up-down cycles based on lumber, hunting, fishing, and general OP tourism but Twilight tourism is steady year-round
    • When he read the first book, he was not overly impressed but thought, “Well, it’s okay, but I’ll have to buy it for the school because it’s set in Forks”
    • The books seem to be just as popular locally as nationally
    • The Twilight tourist explosion started even before the movie was made and has increased with perhaps a different flavor after the movie.

Impressions of LaPush (from 2008 and 2009)
  • A small reservation town (population in the low-to-mid hundreds) right on the water, with a lot of blue buildings and a few small houses
  • Very small harbor
  • Resort (multiple oceanfront cabins, a motel, a restaurant) providing the tribe with some income
  • Resort employee who assures me monosyllabically that I will not see whales in late September if we stay there in late September
  • Bald eagle soaring over water between LaPush and James Island; gulls and a few Canada geese
  • Quileute waitress, a very nice and earnest young woman, in the restaurant who tells us that LaPush is a corruption of the French “la bouche” which refers to “the mouth” of the Quillayate River; invites us to come to the tribe’s annual celebration
  • Pretty good salmon dinner in the tribally-owned restaurant
  • Site of an annual salmon derby which has apparently filled the motel for the 2009 weekend we hoped to stay there
  • A LaPush based tour business that will take you on a boat ride to see “Bella’s cliff” and other sites for a mere $250
  • “Jacob’s Java” coffee stand run by two tribal members – new for 2009
  • A newspaper “The Talking Raven” being revived after a hiatus by a young journalist
  • Not nearly as interesting to Twilight fans as Forks is
  • Straightforward tribal Web site includes downloadable tsunami evacuation instructions

Jean passed along a few photographs, too. The motels advertise "Twilight Rooms" and signs say "Home of Twilight" and the like...  Check out the one below from the pharmacy...  First aid for Bella? She needs more than first aid, in my opinion....

I like this one:

This one is interesting....  8.5 vampires---is the .5 the baby Bella carries?!

I can imagine fans loving this one... see Bella in the window?

Thanks, Jean, for all of those photographs of what one of the signs called "The Twilight Zone." I'm ending this particular post with one of Jean's photographs...  One that I like. I'd love to visit La Push someday.

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Quileute elder on Quileute stories

Thanks to Miriam B. for letting me know about two newspaper articles in the Peninsula Daily News, published in Port Angeles, Washington. (For the not-Twilight fans, Port Angeles is one of the settings Meyer used in her Twilight saga.) I think both of these articles were published on November 29th.

First is "Twilight fiction doesn't always jibe with Quileute legend." In this article, Paige Dickerson (the reporter) talked with Chris Morganroth III (shown above) about Quileute stories. Here's some excerpts from the article:

The Quileute people are ready to embrace the fans and teach them the real legends -- which do not include the werewolves Meyer's books describe.

Though the legends about the origins of the Quileute people in the best-selling vampire books set in Forks and LaPush have some resemblance to the real stories -- they both involve wolves -- the tribe wants to make sure fans are aware of the rich reality of their true culture.
Dickerson talks a little about Twilight, but devotes most of her article to what Morganroth said about the origin of the Quileutes. Here's that excerpt:

Quileute beginnings

If you begin to look into the stories and how we got to be here, they go back to the beginnings of time.

Before that, Spirit beings could transform themselves into animals or people at will. There were even living beings in outer space, such as the sun. They called those people the fire sky people.

After some time, the Spirit beings had to choose what they would be and were no longer able to transform.

After this, K'wati came into the area of LaPush and found that there were no humans. He went to the mouth of the river and there were wolves, timber wolves.

Now these wolves always travel in pairs and they mate for life.

K'wati saw that there were no people in this area near LaPush. So he transformed that pair of wolves into the Quileute people.

K'wati is a supernatural figure in Quileute stories who transforms people or objects.

K'wati wasn't a "sorcerer" or "witch king," as Meyer's has it.

"He wasn't really a god, but a transformer -- he was put on Earth to make things better," Morganroth said.

Although Meyer's teen werewolves are not part of Quileute legends, she draws from the tribal connection to wolves.

Even in present times, the wolf is often referred to as a brother of the tribe, as is the orca -- which also is said to have descended from the wolf, Morganroth said.

The New Moon werewolves aren't your average, hairy-faced cross between a man and a wolf. The boys "phase" into bear-sized wolves with enough superpowers to kill vampires.

And they developed out of a need to protect the people of Forks and LaPush from vampires.

The Quileute have no such legend.

The second article, What did Jacob say to Bella?, begins by describing the Quileute response to that question. If you've seen New Moon, you know that Jacob says something to Bella in the Quileute language. Fans are determined to figure out what he said. The Quileute's won't say. The bulk of the article is about the premiere of the film, specifically, about the Quileute's who attended the premier in Los Angeles.  According to the newspaper article, they had a great time. What stands out to me is what Page Foster (a thirteen-year-old Quileute member who went to the premiere) experienced:

Foster said that her father, Tony Foster, who is on the tribal council, showed several his business card from the council.

"They were so shocked that he was the real deal," Foster said.

The fans were shocked. A telling statement! A telling statement that should motivate you to do all you can to teach children and teens in your schools and libraries that the Indigenous Peoples of the United States are very much "the real deal." Instead of myths and legends (many of which are deeply flawed), purchase books written by Native writers. See my list of recommended books, and another list I put together for School Library Journal last year.

My most recent post about Twilight  (We saw New Moon on Friday) includes several links, including one to the Quileute Nation's facebook page, essays on the Native content in the books, and links to my previous posts about the book.

I should note, too, that I do not recommend Meyer's books or the films. The Quileute's are doing what they can to make the best of the situation. So is the town of Forks. My friend, Jean Mendoza,visited Forks recently. She wasn't making a pilgrimage as a fan of Twilight. She was in the area to visit family. Jean sent me some notes and photos of her visit. They're going to be featured in my next post about Twilight.

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Chamoru Childhood

On Tuesday of this week (December 1st), I was given an astounding gift. My colleague and friend, Keith L. Camacho, came into my office and handed me, John McKinn and Matt Sakiestewa Gilbert copies of Chamoru Childhood, edited by Michael Lujan Bevacqua, Victoria-Lola Leon Guerrero,  and Craig Santos Perez. John flipped through it right away and noticed that Keith has a poem in the book. We asked him to read it aloud to us.

The book and his reading were (and are) terrific gifts that will warm my heart whenever I think of that day. Keith has a deep, warm voice and a terrific sense of pace.

I met Keith in August when he joined us in American Indian Studies as a post doctoral fellow. He is a Chamorro scholar from the Mariana Islands and is an Assistant Professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. His area of expertise concerns the study of colonization, decolonization and militarization in the Pacific Islands, with an emphasis on indigenous narratives of survival and sovereignty.

And as I learned that day, he is also a poet. His "my friend, jose"  is a thoughtful piece about how money and some experiences can corrupt us, turn us into something else.

Published by Achiote Press, Chamoru Childhood includes poems and stories by three generations of Chamorus. The last piece in the book is by Samantha Marley Barnett, who was eleven years old when the book went to press. Samantha's "The Stick" is a letter that starts "Dear Everyone," and recounts a game that sent her (inadvertently) to the hospital with a gash on her head. I leave you to imagine the details! Playing with sticks is something we did a lot at Nambe Pueblo, so, reading "The Stick" I found myself laughing out loud.

I laughed a lot, too, reading "The Back of the Pick-up" by Evelyn Sam Miguel Flores. Other than the beach, that particular story could have been me, my cousins, and one of my uncles---again---at Nambe!

Some of the stories are sad or painful to read. Coming from three generations of Chamorus, they provide a broad and deep story of the Chamorus experiences. Meeting Keith and talking with him, I'm learning a lot about the Chamoru people, Guam, and some more ugly truths about the United States and its treatment of Indigenous peoples in the Mariana Islands. 

A chapbook, Chamoru Childhood is ten dollars. In November, it was in the spotlight on Critical Mass: The blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors. See "In the Spotlight: I HEART Poetry Chapbooks, by Rigoberto Gonzales.

Order a copy from Achiote Press. I'm pretty sure most libraries have nothing at all like it... That is, I'm sure most libraries have nothing at all written by Chamoru writers. You should. We should all know more about Guam and the Mariana Islands.

[Update, December 6, 8:47 AM----A reader wrote to ask who (age group) the book's audience is....  Chamoru Childhood is not a picture book, but I would definitely read-aloud "The Stick" to a group of children in elementary school. As for who-would-I-hand-the-book-to, I'd say middle and high school students and of course, adults.]

Friday, December 04, 2009

American Indians in Children's Literature in TRIBAL COLLEGE JOURNAL

The Winter 2009 online issue of Tribal College Journal includes a link to American Indians in Children's Literature. The link is in an article by Michael W. Simpson, J.D., M. Ed. Titled "Evaluating Classroom Materials for Bias Against American Indians," it is a resource guide.

Read the history of Tribal College Journal on its Our History page.   It is published by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), which is comprised of 35 Indian-controlled colleges in the United States and Canada. Spend time on the site! There's a lot to learn about tribal colleges... 

Sunday, November 29, 2009

We saw NEW MOON on Friday...

Friday afternoon, daughter Liz and I went to see New Moon. Sitting next to each other in the dark, we heckled, rolled our eyes, and laughed in the wrong parts. Not wanting to draw the ire of others in the theater, we weren't obnoxious. We kept our critiques relatively quiet.

Once settled in our seats, Liz said she wished we could live-blog our viewing. She's right! That would have been cool. I don't know how theater managers feel about such things, but maybe its worth finding out.

Perhaps the best line in the film is the one delivered by Graham Greene. When he learns that the Cullens have left, he says "Good riddance." Later in the movie, while on the hunt for the bear the townspeople think is killing people, he is attacked by Victoria, one of the vampires that kills humans. She's not a Cullen. (Remember, the Cullens are good vampires. They don't attack humans. They drink animal blood.) Greene plays the part of Harry Clearwater.

When Jacob whispers to Bella in another language, Liz and I wondered "was that supposed to be Quileute?!" Looking at the Quileute Nation's facebook page, the status is:
"Dear Fans: Thank you for all the calls and emails regarding the scene in the movie where Jacob whispers to Bella in Quileute. Please know, we would love to translate the phrase for you, but out of respect for Jacob's feelings for Bella we are unable to at this time."

There are several Native men in New Moon. I hope the massive exposure creates opportunities for them to do other films. (The woman in the film who is saying she is Native... well, it looks like that may not be the case.)  

I don't recommend the books or the film for many reasons. Of course I make that statement based on the Native content of them, but there are other reasons as well. This is a good analysis:  Running With the Wolves - A Racialicious Reading of the Twilight Saga.

And last year, I blogged about a couple of sites about the Native content. One of those essays is also excerpted in Running With the Wolves (linked above).
Terrific essays about Meyer's character, Jacob.

The Quileute Nation has been inundated with fans of the film. A few weeks ago, I pointed readers of American Indians in Children's Literature to a statement on the Quileute's website: "Has Stephanie Meyer Seen this?" More recently, it looks like the Quileute's are doing what they can to address the flood of visitors to their reservation. I've been following the Quileute Nation facebook page for awhile now, and traffic is definitely up. Its amusing, reading what people write on the wall...

If you want to read more on the ways that the Quileute's are portrayed in the series, look over to the right side of this page. Scroll up or down till you see the section labeled TWILIGHT SAGA. There you'll see several links to posts about the series.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Who is Grandma Dowdel?

As I work on a critical essay about Richard Peck's A Season of Gifts, I will share interesting bits...

Like the one I came across just now. When Peck gave his acceptance speech for the Newberry Medal (available in Horn Book July/August 2001), he said:

And who is Grandma Dowdel? Since nobody but a reader ever became a writer, Grandma Dowdel marches in a long tradition. She is the American tall tale in a Lane Bryant dress. There's more than a bit of Paul Bunyan about her, and a touch of the Native American trickster tradition: she may just be Kokopelli without the flute. (p. 399-400)

Interesting, eh? Kokopelli without the flute...  Back then (2000), Peck had Native American imagery in his mind. I wonder what he knows about Kokopelli?And, I wonder if his other novels or writings reference American Indians in some way?

Previously, on American Indians in Children's Literature, I wrote about A Season of Gifts...
Tuesday, September 29, 2009: Richard Peck's A SEASON OF GIFTS

Friday, November 27, 2009

Beyond the Mesas

On this day, November 27, 2009, most people are out shopping. It is the day after Thanksgiving, known as "Black Friday."

But did you know that today is also Native American Day? Yep, someone decided that the day after Thanksgiving would be designated as Native American Day. Along with that designation, there's words to the effect that teachers provide children with information about American Indians.

But oops! Wait! No school on Native American Day! I know some teachers and librarians provide students with instruction and books about American Indians during the month of November because the entire month is "Native American Month." I'd rather all the info about us not be delivered or confined to this month... And I'd certainly prefer that Native American Day be on some other day, when school is in session.

It does strike me as pretty ironic that Black Friday and Native American Day are on the same day. Rant over....

My real reason for writing today is to send you over to Beyond the Mesas. It is a new blog, hosted by my colleague in American Indian Studies, Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert. Many times on American Indians in Children's Literature, I've written about boarding schools, children's books about boarding schools, and films about boarding schools. Today, I'm talking with you about Matt and his work. 

Matt has a DVD called Beyond the Mesas. His blog is about about boarding schools. If you have not ordered his DVD yet, there's a link to get it on his blog. So on this day, Native American Day 2009, I'm not out at a shopping mall or store spending money. I'm reading Matt's blog.

Monday, November 23, 2009

‘Myth, Colonialism, and the Next Generation’ by Shelley A. Welch

Today's post is submitted to American Indians in Children's Literature by Shelley A. Welch, MA, LMHC, of The Capturing Spirit Project.  


Myth, Colonialism, and the Next Generation
by Shelley A. Welch

I write this from the perspective of a mother, a school counselor, and elementary educator of 15 years.  My father’s Eastern Cherokee family relocated to the Northeast where I grew up and later met my husband, an enrolled member of a Massachusetts tribe.  My sons were born here in this ‘New England’ where the term ‘colonialism’ prevails.  This year, my oldest son began 1st grade.  Thanksgiving approached the public school calendar and with it came the perpetuation of historical myths that some educators just don’t want to let go of.  I am assuming, if you are reading this, you know the accurate chronological order of how Thanksgiving came to be.  If not, please refer to the following stated resources.

I knew the Massachusetts frameworks for elementary education and that it included Columbus and Colonial life, therefore I laid down the resources with the school before my son ever stepped foot in the building:  Plimoth Planatation, Oyate, Cradleboard Teaching Project, the National Museum of the American Indian, and American Indians in Children's Literature.  School staff ensured their understanding and sensitivity.

I allowed myself to believe that the sources would be utilized.  In retrospect, I should have requested to see all the material before they were presented yet I let my little one enter that building day after day and he and his classmates were exposed to the same old mis-teachings of my youth.  As parents, our feelings were  intense and included anger, frustration, guilt that we put him in this vulnerable position, fear, and the whole thing had fine strands that connected to historical traumas.

My 7 year old son expressed feeling pressured to try and ‘correct’ what he knew was wrong in school, but he also felt that he might ‘get in trouble’ for speaking his mind.  It certainly was not his responsibility to monitor curriculum.  I can’t tell you how complicated it was to un-teach what was taught to him in those brief weeks.  He would actually hang his head and exclaim, “I am confused.”  In those moments, with burning eyes, I felt like home schooling.   My son’s sense of self that was so confident in September was now shaky.  The more my husband and I scrutinized the upcoming material, the more the system back-pedaled and tripped up.  The educator in me knew this was a systematic issue that required a long- term commitment to examining personal bias and creating a bias-free learning environment, but the mother in me wanted to pack up and get the heck out of here.

Some teachers will say that historical realities are too heavy for young children.  Actually, it seems to be the adults that shy away from those topics because they are personally conflicted in what they know about Indigenous existence, European influence, and the development of America.  It is the adults who don’t seem to want to let go of American myths of ‘friendship and good will’ between the first settlers and the Indigenous people, a People who were once the majority and are now the smallest minority.  As a mental health professional specializing in child development, I can say that when children are told that one group bullied another, they are quite amazing peacemakers, acknowledging the breach of civil rights and offering cooperative resolutions.  It is true, elementary-aged students aren’t developmentally ready for the specifics of genocide, but they can understand the inhumanity of racism. 

And it isn’t just about the misrepresentation (or lack of representation) of Native presence that arises.  It also makes me question all of the curriculum material our children are exposed to and the complacency of parents and educators who don’t question the curriculum materials nor who demand a bias free education for all children.  

Shelley A. Welch, MA, LMHC

Friday, November 20, 2009

Dene writer blogs about HOUSE OF NIGHT

Sending you to "displaced Dene," a blog run by Tenille Campbell. She's got some things to say about the House of Night series... New link to Tenille Campbell's post about the House of Night series. (And thanks to Jennie for pointing me to the new link. Note: Link changed on April 26, 2011.)

Tenille Campbell is Dene (First Nations) from Northern Saskatchewan. From reading her site, I gather Campbell is studying writing at the University of British Columbia with the AWESOME Richard Van Camp. Regular readers know I think Richard's work is terrific. If I'm not mistaken, Nicola I. Campbell also studied writing with Richard. As noted earlier today, Nicola's book, Shin-chi's Canoe just won a major literature prize. So! We should keep an eye out for Tenille Campbell. She says that Richard has a new comic book out...  I should follow up on that!

Congratulations to Nicola I. Campbell... Shin-chi's Canoe wins major award

Sending my congratulations to Nicola I. Campbell, author of Shin-chi's Canoe. In the news today...  "Residential school story wins $25,000 kids' book award."

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving, 2009

In this morning's "Google Alert" email (the one I set up using "Debbie Reese" +blog), I learned that Carol Rasco, the CEO of Reading is Fundamental, had blogged about Thanksgiving on her RIF blog. There, she wrote about American Indians in Children's Literature, and how it has impacted her thinking about Thanksgiving. (I must say, though, that as I read the excerpts she used from my site, I saw how unpolished my writing can be.)

Some time ago, I was invited to be on the Reading is Fundamental Literature Advisory Committee. Prior to that, I had come across the RIF's page for November and was, frankly, pretty upset. As I recall that day (this is a two-year-old memory), I was multi-tasking on my computer. I had several websites open in my browser, moving from one to the other. (As I compose this particular post, I've got seven pages open. This morning I watched the Cherokee Nation's video "What is a real Indian Nation? What is a fake tribe?" and I read an article on Slate about book trailers.) That morning, I went to the RIF page for November. It was garrish in appearance, with cartoon Indians and a mish-mash of elements of different tribes.

While I was studying that page, a song started playing. It was a Pueblo song that I know and listen to often because of its meaning for me. I quickly started looking around my computer, wondering how I had managed to turn it on with realizing it. (Think absent-minded professor.) None of the ways that I listen to the song were activated. I realized it was coming from the RIF page. Something there, with good intentions, had created that November page using stereotypical images and a Pueblo song. It was a grab-bag. Anything Indian, slammed together. Good to go. Of course, it was not good to go.  Through my work with RIF, they took that page down.

And so this morning, one week before Thanksgiving Day, reading Carol's blog, I am heartened to learn that my interaction with RIF is making a difference in Carol's views. Among other things, she wrote:

"I hear you, Debbie, and have several copies of The Good Luck Cat and Jingle Dancer among other titles in the “to be wrapped pile” for the coming holidays for presentation to special young friends."  

Saying "awesome!" to those words doesn't begin to capture how I feel.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Debby Edwardson said...

I've spent the last week engaging in an online conversation on a site called Through the Tollbooth. There, like on American Indians in Children's Literature, I push writers to think about appropriation. Some people understand what I mean, others do not. It may be a failing in the way I say things. Debby Edwardson, one of the hosts of that week-long conversation, has some closing thoughts that I am sending you to read. She understands issues of appropriation, stereotyping, power, retellings of stories...  And, she did a terrific job of laying them out for her fellow writers on the Tollbooth site.

Here's an excerpt:

Debbie Reese said, “There are some things that I think non-Native writers ought to stay away from: religion, spirituality, worship.”

She also said something very provocative: “Most Native writers don't even put that in their books. Why do non-Native writers feel the need to do it?”

The question you, as a non-Native writer, should ask yourself is this: why don’t Native writers put overt references to Native religion, spirituality and worship in their books? Take a minute to think about it. This is important.

Okay. Time's up. Let’s be totally honest here. We all know that if we as writers are, say, Christian, it is not okay to preach in our books, not even obliquely. It’s not even okay to mention religion except in passing, very casually, in a nondenominational sort of way. Unless of course it’s a problem novel in which religion is the problem. These are the rules and we all know that if we don’t follow the rules we will not sell our books, except maybe to Christian niche publishers.

In fact, what Debbie said about Native writers not writing about their religious beliefs is also true for most Christian writers—writers like Katherine Patterson, for example, or Madeline L’Engle. They do not take us into their inner sanctuary of their own spiritual world. CS Lewis has been soundly criticized for sliding his Christianity in sideways.

See what I mean? Go over and read the rest of what she said. And, if you're inclined, read over posts going back to November 9th.

Friday, November 13, 2009


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?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Erdrich does THRILLER

On Louise Erdrich's blog is a video of Erdrich, staff of her store, and people in the neighborhood, doing Jackson's zombie dance. Fun! At her site, it says she's in the back...  I can't spot her. Can you?

Click on over to her store, Birchbark Books, and buy a copy of Birchbark House! And, get a copy of The Game of Silence and Porcupine Year, too.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Indians in Daugherty's DANIEL BOONE

Peter D. Sieruta's blog is called Collecting Children's Books. I read it from time to time. Today, I read "The Mural in the Gym" (posted on November 3, 2009), wherein he writes about the works of James Daugherty.  I recommend you click over to his blog and read about Daugherty's Daniel Boone. It won the Newbery Medal in 1940. Sieruta posted pages from inside the book, including this one:

The Newbery Project has a particularly troubling excerpt from the book, but reading customer reviews at Amazon, it is pretty clear to me that the racist depictions in text and illustration are not seen as problematic (racist) by at least some readers. I gather it is out or print (rare for a Newbery winner), but, it looks like a lot of libraries own it. I wonder if it circulates? I wonder how it is used in classrooms?

Friday, November 06, 2009

Back from Madison, and, Sewell Illustrations in LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE

Yesterday afternoon I was at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with Janice Rice. We were there at the invitation of Ryan Comfort of the American Indian Curriculum Services office in the School of Education.

Working with the theme "Expanding the Narrative," I talked about problems with "the Narrative" as exemplified by Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie, and, uncritical observance and activities about Thanksgiving. Janice highlighted books that have been selected for the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Award. We also talked about Best Practice, Censorship and Selection. 

Time sped by! The turnout was terrific, and it was wonderful to spend time with people in the Native community there---Janice, Ryan, JP, Adrienne, Crystal (I hope I've spelled your name right!)---and, friends at CCBC---KT, Janice, Megan, and Amanda.

In the CCBC, I had a few minutes to myself and realized they probably had a copy of the 1935 edition of Little House on the Prairie---the version I wrote about last week. I asked Amanda, and she got it out for me. Hurray! I started paging through it, and realized (in hindsight, I'm doing a "doh!") that Helen Sewell and Garth Williams illustrated different stories in the book. Page through your copy of the Williams-illustrated-edition and note how many times his illustrations are of Indians. Sewell, on the other hand, has a single illustration of Indians. Hers is in the chapter, "Indians Ride Away." She shows a naked Indian riding a horse. The caption reads "The little Indians did not have to wear clothes."

When I got home from Madison late this afternoon, my mail included that 1935 copy I ordered last week. Again, hurray!  I can now do a close comparison of the 1935/Sewell with the 1953/Williams editions of Little House on the Prairie, looking at text and illustration. Questions! Williams did a lot of Indian illustrations. Was this his choice? Was he cued by Nordstrom? Wilder? What prompted Williams to do so many Indians?

Thanks, Ryan, for inviting me, and thanks, Janice! I think we did a good job with our presentation. Thanks, too, to all of you who came to hear what we shared.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


After spending the last 24 hours re-reading and making notes on Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet, I feel a bit like the character, Mr. John.  The book opens with him saying "I'm not going to bed." (p. 2) He doesn't want to go to bed, because he'll have another dream. These dreams are unsettling to him. The worst night are when John dreams of Captain Hook.

Riffing off Mr. John's feelings...

As I read Peter Pan in Scarlet, I'd take time out for meals, teaching, talking with students, and the like. It was a relief to set the book aside to do those things! Tasks finished, then, I was a lot like Mr. John (avoiding something unpleasant). I didn't say "I'm not going to bed." I was thinking "I'm not going to pick that book up again." (But I did.)  Mr. John's worst nights are when he dreams of Captain Hook. The worst parts for me, as I read this book, are McCaughrean's references to Indians:

  • Head-dress
  • Warpaint
  • Redskins
  • Tepee
  • Warpath
  • Totem Poles
  • Hidden warpaths
  • Cannibals
  • Chief
  • Signal fires
  • Tribes

And then.... the Indians themselves.

  • Waist high
  • Wearing full warpaint
  • Armed with hatchets, bows and arrows, bowie knives
  • Child warriors
  • Long silken hair
  • Buckskin tunics
  • Scalping
  • Papooses
  • Squaws
  • Braves
  • Throat slitters
  • Warpainted pirates
  • Warriors
  • (Puppy eaters)
  • Throat-slitters ready to shoot arrows

In all of what I've listed above, McCaughrean, (apparently in the same style as Barrie), provides readers with a specific viewpoint or portrayal of Indians.  Like countless writers, she provides her readers with a stereotypical Indian... a mish-mash of tribes...

Tipis (she spells it tepees) and totem poles do not originate with the same tribe!

Her Indians are warriors and squaws in warpaint, carrying bows and arrows and knives. They know about scalping. And her Indians are also throat slitters. Throat slitters??? That's a new one for me. I've never seen it before (that I can remember) in any children's or young adult book. Just now, I've done a search on "throat slitters" and the hits are all related to terrorists.  Do any of you know of a book that says Indians were throat slitters? If you do, please comment below or write to me (dreese dot nambe at gmail dot com).

Not only does McCaughrean use just about every stereotypical image of Indians and just about every word to describe them, she adds a new one... One that is brutal, violent, and graphic. Where did McCaughrean get throat slitters? And why did she add it? I don't think it was in Peter Pan.

Moving forward in the book now, to chapter 24, "Back Together." There, we learn of the "Tribes of the Eight Nations." What is that? I can't pin it down to anything I know of, but, McCaughrean tells us what it is made up of:

War Bonnets
Peace Pipes
Coup Sticks
Bows and Arrows

Some list, eh?! This "Tribes of the Eight Nations" came in response to the "smoke signals" (p. 280) that Peter sent from the top of Neverpeak.  These tribes are from the north, south, east, west, and "the other place" (p. 280). What is that other place?!

When these tribes see Peter and the Explorers, they "bang on their shields and drums and papooses..." (p. 280). Their papooses?! Doesn't McCaughrean know what papooses are?! My question shouldn't be read to mean that I think that's an ok word.... I've written elsewhere that it IS a word for baby, but it is not EVERY tribal nations word for baby. Unfortunately, it has come to be seen as the universal Indian word for baby. It isn't.

They have a potlatch, during which a Princess smears their faces with warpaint and tells them they are now honorary members of the Eight Nations. Oh dear. I don't know what to say to that... 

And just as suddenly as they appeared, the Indians go away, moving off in eight different directions, to:

Kivas or Longhouses
Under the stars

Why does McCaughrean say kivas or longhouses? Does she think they're the same thing? (They aren't.) Bivouc and stockade?! I associate those with the army. And, under the stars? Did she add that to reach her tidy number of eight? Eight tribes, eight directions, eight kinds of houses...  And what is it with eight??? Is that from Barrie? Or is that all McCaughrean?!

Peter Pan in Scarlet got great reviews. Only one reviewer (to my knowledge) mentioned the stereotypical Indian content. Over on  Amazon, there are 45 customer reviews (I'm looking at the page on November 3, 2009). 30 readers give it four or five stars.  None of the reviews, good or bad, mention the Indian content.

Of course, I object to all of it. It's all stereotypical, and the addition of throat slitters really bothers me. All of that aside, the story is dark. Bleak. Scary. A lot of the imagery is nightmarish. Let's hope it doesn't trouble my sleep tonight. I have more questions than answers or analysis... 

To see my extensive notes, read Notes and Summary:  Peter Pan in Scarlet.

Notes and Summary: PETER PAN IN SCARLET

Back when Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet (nearly everytime I type the words "Peter Pan" I have to fix a typo.... instead of Pan it comes out as Pain) was published, I posted some initial notes. I finished the book, but, events at that time were such that a follow-up post was lost. A colleague wrote to me asking if I'd done anymore work on the book. His query prompted me to dig out the book and my notes (thanks, PN!).

I begin, anew. Below are notes and pretty thin chapter by chapter summaries.

Chapter 1 -  The Old Boys

Atop John's wardrobe are things from Neverland. Among the things is "an Indian head-dress" (p. 3). At night, John has bad dreams about Neverland. In the mornings, things from Neverland are in the bed. Mrs. John puts them on the wardrobe.

The Old Boys (Mr. John, Judge Tootles, Dr. Curly, Honourable Slightly, Mr. Nibs, and, the Twins) meet to talk about their dreams. The Twins say they tried to avoid the dreams by staying awake all night for a week. They finally fell asleep on the London omnibus and when they woke up, they were "both wearing warpaint" (p. 5). 

At the end of chapter one, Wendy says something is wrong in Neverland, and that they must go back.

Chapter 2 - First Find Your Baby

In response to Wendy's suggestion, the Old Boys reply (on page 10):

"Go back!? Go back to Neverland? Go back to the mysterious island, with its mermaids, pirates, and redskins?"
They are incredulous at the idea of going back. Wendy ignores their protests, and by the end of the chapter, they have found a baby, made it laugh its first laugh (which hatches a fairy), and collected fairy dust from that fairy.The fairy's name is Fireflyer.

Chapter 3 - A Change of Clothes

Fireflyer is living in "a kind of tepee" (p. 22) that Wendy made out of a lampshade. He has red hair, tells "extraordinarily big lies" (p. 23) and is always hungry.

Each of the Old Boys must have clothes of a child in order to go back to Neverland. Most have children of their own, and take clothes from them. But Honourable Slightly does not have children, and the other Old Boys have apparently forgotten that he has no child from whom to take clothes. Throughout all the planning, he remains quiet. McCaughrean says that he had no children, "no one whose clothes he could borrow, no one to make him young again." (p. 26)

She goes on to say,

"Because, of course, that's how it is done. Everyone knows that when you put on dressing-up clothes, you become someone else."(p. 26)

The Old Boys put on their children's clothing, which magically fits them, and off they go, to Neverland. As they fly there, they remember their days there and call out to each other. One of them says

"If the redskins are on the warpath, I'm going too!" (p. 30)

They arrive over the island, look down, and see that it is completely changed.

Chapter 4 - The One and Only Child

As they fly over the island, they see that all is not well.

"The redskin totem poles leaned at crazy angles, felled by wind or war, and roped in creepers and ivy." (p. 36)

Clearings where they'd had fires and meetings are gone. It is autumn (hence "Scarlet" in the title).

"If there were redskins on the warpath, their warpaths were hidden from sight." (p. 36)

They eventually find Peter Pan. When Wendy asks if he's in trouble, he replies, baffled:
"How 'in trouble'? In a cooking pot with cannibals waiting to eat me, you mean?" (p. 39)

He describes a few other trouble-scenarios, none of which he's experienced. Tootles asks
"Are you quite well, Chief?" (p. 41)
and takes Peter's pulse and temperature. Peter says he is dying, of boredom, and now that they are back in Neverland, they can have adventures.

Chapter 5 - Tootles's Quest

The chapter is about fighting dragons. The Twins find a Forest Dragon and kill it with fire. Wendy finds a circus and meets Ravello, the ring master. At the end of the chapter, the adventures over, Peter wants to play War, but the Old Boys don't want to. They're remembering "the Big War" during which Michael Darling was "Lost" (p. 63). Peter doesn't understand what "lost" means, and, the text reads,
"No one tried to explain. They knew that Peter Pan (and foolish young fairies like Fireflyer) were much better off not knowing about the War. (p. 63)
Chapter 6 - A Ravelling Man

After rejecting Ravello's offer of a place to sleep, Wendy asks Peter if he smells smoke. He replies
"Signal fires," he said. "Or bonfires...Maybe the Tribes are feasting." (p. 71)
They hear a great crackling sound and the cries of frightened and agitated animals. Peter remembers the Twins saying they had killed a Forest Dragon. He asks them how, they say "with fire" and they realize they've set the forest on fire. They're trapped on the beach, face the lagoon, and see a boat.

Chapter 7 - A Certain Coat

The boat is the Jolly Roger. Somewhat fearful, they go on board. Finding Captain Hook's chest, Peter pulls out a red coat. In a pocket he finds a treasure map. They head off to find the treasure.

Chapter 8 - All At Sea

Out at sea, they come upon another boat, a steel steam-cutter called the SS Shark. On board are pirates (p. 88):
They made an unnerving sight, because these pirates, though no more than waist high, were wearing full warpaint and were armed with hatchets, bows and arrows, and bowie knives.

"Starkey's redskins!" said Peter under his breath.

The Shark rams the Jolly Peter (he changed its name from Roger to Peter), pushing the Jolly Peter ahead of it. The Jolly Peter is helpless.

The captain of the steam-cutter was carried for'ard from the bridge, borne aloft on a swiveling leather captain's chair carried by four child warriors. (p. 89)
Of Starkey's crew, McCaughrean writes:
Half were girls, with long silken hair and cleaner buckskin tunics. But they were all armed. Drawing back their bowstrings to full stretch, they bowed (or curtsied), blinked their large dark eyes at the crew of the Jolly Peter, and shouted, "Hello. Thank you very much. How do you do. Delighted I'm sure. Kindly shed your loot in our direction, then lie face down on the deck or, sadly, we will have to slit your gizzards and feed you to the fishes. Deep regrets. Please do not ask for mercy, as refusal can give offense. Thank you very much. Nice weather we are having."  (p. 89)

Captain Starkey approves of what they said, and then says
"Very good, buckos, but you forgot about the scalping. You must always mention the scalping." (p. 89)

At this point, Starkey recognizes the coat Peter is wearing. Peter, humiliated to have the Jolly Peter being pushed about by the SS Starkey (they realize it was not called Shark) yells out to Starkey, trying to humiliate him. Peter says:
"I heard you were captured by the redskins, Starkey! After we routed you in the Great Battle? I heard you were put to looking after their papooses! Terrible fate for a man who calls himself a pirate!" Peter loaded the words with contempt, as he would have loaded a musket. (p. 90)
Starkey agrees that it was beneath him, calling it a fate worse than death, but, Starkey says, he made the best of it:
See what a job I done on 'em, my little squaws an' braves? You won't find better manners in the King of England's parlous. An' I trained them up in a trade, too, which is more'n you can say for most schoolmasters. Learned 'em everything I knowed. Turned 'em into pirates, every Jack-and-Jill of 'em. Got some real talent in there, I can tell you! Pride of me heart, these little throat slitters are! Pride of me heart." (p. 91)

He orders "his little throat-slitters" (p. 91)  to board the Jolly Peter and look for loot. The "warpainted pirates" (p. 91) jump onto the Jolly Peter. Finding nothing, they put the Darlings into their pirate bags. Starkey says he "I can get me a good price for slaves!" (p. 91). His "warriors" (p. 91) were very polite and their hands were "soft and well washed." They talk to each other, discussing "whether Puppy was best cooked with giner, squid, or piri-piri sauce." (p. 92) [Note: Puppy is a real puppy brought to Neverland with the Old Boys.]

Starkey orders Peter to empty his pockets.  Peter replies "Never!" (p. 92), and Starkey says
Turn out your pockets, cock-a-doodle, or I'll have my throat-slitters shoot you full of arrows, and take a look myself, after." (p. 92)

Wendy sees that Peter plans to jump ship instead and calls out to him.

Starkey laid a fatherly hand on the shoulder of one young squaw, whose bowstring was pulled taut. "On my word, bucko... shoot him in the thigh," he said, and the squaw took careful aim. "Let's see what an arrow can do to puncture his pride!" (p. 93)

Out in the sea, five small islands are approaching the two ships. On the islands were inhabitants:

Grappling irons came over the ship's rail like gigantic claws. After that came... well, gigantic claws. The redskins saw the tigers first. (p. 94)

In addition to the tigers, there were panthers, bears, baboons, and palmerions. [Note: What IS a palmerion?!]

No doubt Starkey's sprogs were, in the normal course of things, wonderful at archery and throat slitting. (p. 94)

But, they were afraid and went down a hatch, below decks. From one of the islands came Ravello.

Chapter 9 - Fair Shares

The animals are all under the command of Ravello. All except the bears go back to their islands. The bears dip their paws into the hatch.

The little redskins inside could be heard screaming and whimpering and calling for their mothers. (p. 98)

Ravello wants to work for Peter Pan. They learn that Starkey's cargo is "Silverskins." Nobody but Ravello knows what that actually is. Ravello asserts that Peter should keep half and divide the rest among his crew. That starts the "Silverskin War" (p. 101) as they argue about who should get what. Amidst all the arguing, Starkey tries to get away. Peter grabs him and shouts at him (to turn over the booty):

After years spent teaching manners to redskin sprogs [babies], Starkey said it without thinking: "Now now, son. What's the little word that gets things done?" (p. 104)

The cargo is opened, and out pops Fireflyer who had eaten all the booty. Silverskins are onions.

Chapter 10 - Lodestone Rock

On board the ship, Ravello is very helpful. Among the many things he does is to make "the redskins sew their blankets ito warm coats for the League" (p. 108)

As they sail, they tow Starkey and his crew. They are guarded by bears from one of the floating islands. Wendy asks Peter what he plans to do with them:

"We'll sell them for slaves or spit-roast them for supper!" (p. 109)

The text says he doesn't mean it, but that in saying those words, he sounds decisive. They're looking for the treasure, studying the map. On that map is a "vast blank" labeled "Unknown Territory" (p. 110). Here's what they say:

"We shall map it as we go!" said Peter.

"And find the source of the Nevva River!"

"Discover new animals!"

"Take rock samples!"

"You might also care to name mountains and lakes, sir," suggested Ravello, setting down the afternoon tea.

Then Ravello says, that since Captain Hook had put the treasure there, the territory should be named Hook's Territory. Peter cries out that the territory is his, not Hooks, and that the treasure is also his. Wendy says that she thinks Peter meant 'ours.'  Peter is flushed and says:

"Pour me a tot of Indian courage," he commanded. "The smoke from Starkey's filthy pirate barge has turned my stomach." (p. 111)

Suddenly the Starkey began dragging the Jolly Roger. Nobody can see smoke coming from the Starkey's smokestacks. They fear what may be causing it to move through the water with such force. Ravello looks at the maps and sees Lodestone Rock, which is magnetic. It is drawing the Starkey to it [the Starkey is made of steel]. The bears abandon the Starkey, and:

"the redskins swarmed on deck, weeping and shrieking and struggling into cork life-jackets." (p. 112)

The Starkey hits Lodestone Rock, and the chain between the Starkey and the Jolly Roger breaks. Peter thinks they're safe, since their ship is made of wood, but all the nails are pulled out of the Jolly Roger and it falls apart. The Old Boys use fairy dust,and  muster enough good thoughts (when Peter reminds them of the treasure) to fly up. Wendy sobs, remembering that Fireflyer was locked up in the ship that just went down. Ravello is in the water, holding on to Hook's chest.

Chapter 11 - Grief Reef and the Maze of Witches

Fireflyer is ok and joins the "Company of Explorers" as they fly, looking for land. They sight land and head for it. There, they find Ravello, and, the five islands, too. On the shore are hundreds of prams and baby carriages. Ravello explains these are prams of babies left unattended. Babies who became Lost Boys. The prams got to this shore, called Grief Reef, by the nursemaids who, fired by angry parents, set out to search for the lost babies, not to find them, but to seek revenge. The thought frightens the Lost Boys. Peter reminds everyone that grown-ups can't get into Neverland, and

"everybody felt so much better that they decided to overlook all the grown-up pirates, redskins, and circus masters known to inhabit Neverland." (p. 121)

The Company of Explorer's head inland and come upon a Maze. In it are the nursemaids. This place, Ravello tells them, is the Maze of Witches. Their failure and temper turned them into witches. As witches, then, they could enter Neverland. Eventually, the Company makes its way out of the Maze.

Chapter 12 - Fare Shares

Slightly plays his clarinet. Fireflyer likes the music. The higher the note Slightly plays, the higher Fireflyer goes. Slightly asks what he sees as he flies higher. Then Slightly puts the clarinet aside and whistles, which sends Fireflyer even higher. Slightly asks what he can see:

"Oooo. Right into the past! I see the Aztecs and the Vikings!" (p. 136)

Peter doesn't like the whistling and tells Slightly to stop. Gradually throughout the latter few chapters, Peter's appearance and behavior are changing. Peter shoves Slightly. This scares the others. Wendy says she hardly recognizes him. He is also no longer able to imagine food for them to eat. They remember biscuits in Hook's chest, but find out Fireflyer has eaten them. Peter banishes Fireflyer. They're all increasingly hungry and go to bed. To their surprise, they wake and find Peter has berries for them. They eat and head off into a forest where Peter says he got the berries. All except Slightly are too short to reach any. Thinking he can get back into Peter's good graces by picking some, he pulls down three bunches. Peter is outraged, calling him a traitor. Turns out, Slightly is growing up, which makes him a traitor. Peter imprisons him, and they leave him behind.

Chapter 13 - Taking Sides

Though they've left him behind, they still hear Slightly playing his clarinet. Ravello says that the Roarers may get him. They, Ravello explains, are boys who've grown up. Banished by Peter, they roam around, living as bandits. The Company enters and leaves a desert, finds a waterfall, and are suddenly in a blizzard that turns out to be fairies, thousands of them, that bury them. These fairies are having a war: the Reds fight the Blues. The fairies ask the Company to take sides. Peter goes into the waterfall and holds up a rainbow. This confuses the fairies. They leave, and the Company presses on to Neverpeak Mountain to find the treasure.

Chapter 14 - No Fun Anymore

They can't find food, so eat the last of the berries Peter had given them earlier. They finally get to Neverpeak, which is shaped like a cupcake with steep granite walls. The Company asks Peter to go up there alone. He chides them and sets out alone. Ravello tells them Roarers are all around, which prompts them all to start climbing trees to scale Neverpeak. They struggle through mosquitos and hail as they go. Ravello cuts away the shadows of all but Peter and puts them into the chest.

Chapter 15 - Nowhereland

The story shifts in this chapter, from Peter to Nowhereland, where Slightly and Fireflyer are now. Fireflyer wants a story, so Slightly tells him about their first visit to Neverland. He describes Hook, and realizes that Peter has become just like Hook. Slightly and Fireflyer turn in for the night but are surrounded by Roarers. They tell Slightly that they think Peter used poison to turn them into grownups. He also put poison in the Lagoon, which caused many changes in Neverland, including the fairies war. Slightly asks who told them all that, and figures out it is Ravello, and that Ravello is a danger.

Chapter 16 - Shadow Boxing

Back to Peter and the quest for the treasure. The Boys, without their shadows, climb easily. Peter struggles, and so, Ravello cuts it off, too, and begins to croon and then roar about how awful mothers are. Ravello sees all the Explorers staring at him:

"What language is he talking?" asked John. "Is it Esquimeau?" (p. 187)

Wendy asks Ravello if he's a Lost Boy, which he vehemently denies.  Puppy is missing. Next morning, they set off again, calling out for Puppy as they go. Its very cold and icy. Crossing an ice bridge, Peter looks down, sees something, slips, and falls. He clings to an icicle. He tells them he saw his reflection in the ice and that it was Hook. Hook. Ravello tells him it is only a bad memory and reaches to help Peter. Peter realizes he should be able to fly, and asks Ravello why he can't fly. Ravello ignores the question, and helps everyone across the bridge. Ravello and the sea chest nearly fall into the ravine. Ravello chuckles in an ominous way.

Chapter 17 - Not Himself

They get to the top of Neverpeak and look across the territory, noting places they had been. Snow is very deep. Peter starts to dig, cued by Ravello. He finds the chest. They open the lid and find things in there that they'd wished for. Twigs to make a fire, fairy dust to fly home with, food, and, Tinker Bell. There is also a trophy. Peter, gazing at it, sees his reflection again. He tells Wendy he is not himself. Ravello appears and tells Peter that he has become Captain Hook. And, he tells Peter, that he has groomed him well, that it all started when he convinced Peter to put on his second-best jacket.

Chapter 18 - Taking Deadness

Ravello says that, putting on clothes makes the wearer into that person. Peter has become Hook. Ravello once was Hook, but now, Peter is Hook. Peter takes off the coat, but Ravello tells him that shedding the coat does not change who he has become. The Boys are afraid and want to go home. Wendy gives them dust, readying them to leave, but Ravello reminds them that he has their shadows and can no longer fly. He tells them his life story, including what Peter did to him and how it came to pass that Peter became Hook. Ravello asks Peter what he wants to be now, and then, Slightly appears and tells Peter not to answer the question. Slightly tells everyone how he was tricked by Ravello, and thereby started to turn into a grownup. He tells them that he's figured out Ravello.

Chapter 19 - Burned

The boys start a fire to keep warm. They cook the food that was in the chest and

"sent smoke signals summoning help (though the blizzard did its best to smudge them out)." (p. 229)

Chapter 20 - Ill Luck

The Company decides to leave the mountain. They're exhausted. Peter starts coughing and then suddenly disappears over a ledge. He lands on Hook (Ravello is now Hook again). The boys tumble down, too. Peter lies there, still, and they think he has died.

Chapter 21 - Coming of Age

Peter needs a doctor. Curly had grown up to be a doctor. To save Peter, he asks Hook to ask him the question (what do you want to be when you grow up) which will trigger his growing up and ability to help Peter. Slightly reminds him that he'll grow up and be a Roarer, never able to go home. Curly goes ahead, and then saves Peter, removing a strand of London fog from Peter. Peter is restored to health and vigor. The renew their descent from Neverpeak, and find themselves surrounded by Roarers.

Chapter 22 - Consequences

The Roarers bind their prisoners to trees and discuss what to do with Peter. Ravello is in the trees overhead, watching Peter as he starts to sink in quicksand. The Roarer's blame Peter for their growing up and subsequent banishment by him, but Wendy tells them Ravello is the one who poisoned them. They recognize and remember him, and move towards him. He summons his circus animals. The Roarer's scatter, and John and the Twins rescue Peter. The Company lay on the ground, together, recovering, when they realize that Ravello's beasts are closing in on them.

Chapter 23 - The Red Coat

First Twin has the red coat tied around his waist. He throws it up into the air. The animals paw at it, and Peter cries out "Red! Do you See? Red!" (p. 267) which summons the blue fairies. This distracts the animals and the Company sneaks away. Ravello pleads for the animals lives, Wendy remembers the rainbow, and the fairies let up. The animals recover. Peter and Hook prepare to fight each other. Just before Hook kills Peter, Puppy returns, but is now fullgrown. Puppy attacks Hook, saving Peter. Wendy kisses Hook on the cheek and leaves him there to sleep, drifting to death. Peter is furious with her and tries, unsuccessfully, to banish her.

Chapter 24 - Back Together

The Company sets out again, walking across the island, to get to Neverwood. The going is tough. As they go (extended excerpt, spanning p. 280 to 282),

...the sky ahead turned ochre yellow with flying dust. Sandstorm, they thought. Then they topped the rise, and a sight met their eyes that none would ever forget. There, streaming towards them across the flat skilet of the sear desert sands, came all the bison and appaloosas and travois and squaws and dogs and braves and thunderbirds and drums and papooses and war bonnets and peace-pipes and braids and coup sticks and moccasins and bows and arrows that went to make up the Tribes of the Eight Nations.

The smoke signals Peter had sent from the top of Neverpeak had never been smudged out completely. Now Tribes from north, south, east, west, and the ohter place came thundering over the Thirsty Desert as fast as their appaloosas and bisons would carry them. At the sight of Peter and his fellow Explorers, the Tribes began to bang on their shields and drums and papooses and so forth in a triumphant chorus of greeting.

The Tribes threw a potlatch for the League: A party that consisted of eating and drinking and giving away most of their belongings. They gave a lot of these to Peter and Wendy and Tootles and the Twins and John (who was thrilled to the core). Bud sadly, because they had nothing of their own to give, the children had to give away the gifts they had just been given.

At the feast that followed, a lovely Princess came and smeared their faces with warpaint and told them that now they were honorary members of the Eight Nations.

"Hello, Tiger Lilly," said Peter. But the Princess looked at him strangely and said she was Princess Agapanthus, actually. "Ah. I could never remember names," Peter said. "Or faces."

"Twins? Whatever is the matter?" asked Tootles. "Just because you had to give away those bowie knives..."

But the Twins were not crying because of the bowie knives. They had just remembered riding on an omnibus to Putney and falling asleep and waking to find themselves wearing warpaint. "Will we ever see Putney again, Wendy?" they asked.

Wendy put on her most businessslike face. "We shall just have to wait for the fairies to stop quarrelling and for our shadows to grow back. Look: yours are starting to come already." The Twins brightened--then, of course, their shadows stopped growing again, which rather defeated Wendy's efforts.

They travelled on in a cloud of dust, with an escort of Eight Nations (not to mention the bison)--through the Elephant's Graveyard, over Parcel Pass and the primaeval ruins of Never City and the Groves of Academe. If there were Roarers or lions lying in ambush, the bison and travoises flattened them, because suddenly the horizon was plush with the trees of Neverwood, and the Tribes were saying good-bye and moving off in eight different directions--to tepees, hogans, kivas or longhouses, roundhouses, bivouacs or stockades; some to sleep under the stars. (p. 282)
The Company of Explorers curl up to sleep, too. Puppy is with them, but, suddenly he runs off, starts to dig, and next thing he's dug a hole into the den where Peter and the Lost Boys lived. What follows are reunions and lots of storytelling.

Chapter 25 - The Heartbroken

In this chapter, Lost Boys find their parents, the Darlings get back home, Peter heads back to Neverwood. Ravello wakes up, no longer Ravello but Hook, once again, waiting to tangle with Peter Pan.


That's it. Now to think about it...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Edit(s) to 1935 edition of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE?

While doing research on Syd Hoff's Danny and the Dinosaur, I came across information about a revision to Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie. When it was first published in 1935 by Harper, the illustrations were done by Helen Sewell. I knew the publisher asked Garth Williams to redo illustrations for the book in the 1950s, but I did not know text had also been changed.

In Dear Genius: The Letters of Ursula Nordstrom, is the following letter. Nordstrom was the editorial director at Harper from 1940 to 1973, and she was Wilder's editor. The letter writer's name is not provided in Dear Genius. Here is Nordstrom's response (page 53 and 54)

October 14, 1952
Dear _____
Your letter to Mrs. [Laura Ingalls] Wilder, the author of Little House on the Prairie, came several weeks ago. We took the liberty of opening it as we do many of the letters that are addressed to Mrs. Wilder. Often we can send the writers the photographs and biographical material they want. Mrs. Wilder is now in her eighties and we try to handle much of the correspondence here.

We are indeed disturbed by your letter. We knew that Mrs. Wilder had not meant to imply that Indians were not people and we did not want to distress her if we could possibly avoid it. I must admit to you that no one here realized that those words read as they did. Reading them now it seems unbelievable to me that you are the only person who has picked them up and written to us about them in the twenty years since the book was published. We were particularly disturbed because all of us here feel just as strongly as you apparently feel about such subjects, and we are proud that many of the books on the Harper list prove that. Perhaps it is a hopeful sign that though such a statement could have passed unquestioned twenty years ago it would never have appeared in anything published in recent years.

Instead of forwarding your letter to Mrs. Wilder I wrote her about the passage and said that in reprinting we hoped that she would allow us to change it. I have just received her answer. She says: "You are perfectly right about the fault in Little House on the Prairie and have my permission to make the correction you suggest. It was a stupid blunder of mine. Of course Indians are people and I did not intend to imply they were not." We are changing the next printing to read "There were no settlers."*

We appreciate your letter, but we are terribly sorry that ___ could not have the book for her eighth birthday. The new printing will be available for her ninth one though, and we are making a note now to be sure that you receive a complimentary copy. As a children's book editor, I was touched by your not wanting ___ to know only the Saggy, Baggy Elephant and I was therefore all the more upset by your very reasonable complaint against Mrs. Wilder's book.

I am sorry this is not a better letter and I am particularly sorry that I have not written you long before this. I wanted to wait, though, until I had written Mrs. Wilder and received her answer.

The asterisk above is actually a numeral one in Dear Genius but I can't do footnote numbering in Blogger so used an asterisk instead. That asterisk corresponds to a note at the bottom of the page that says

The passage in question appears in the opening chapter. As revised it reads as follows: "There the wild animals wandered and fed as though they were in a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no settlers. Only Indians lived there."
Hmmm...  And, WOW!!! Reading all of that, I wondered what the original text said. I posted a query to LM_NET (over ten thousand librarians subscribe to LM_NET) hoping someone had a copy of the 1935 edition.

A few hours later, I had a reply (thanks, Sonja!). The 1935 edition read "a pasture that stretched much farther than a man could see, and there were no people." Wilder and Nordstrom changed people to settlers.

Interesting, eh?

I ordered a copy of the 1935 edition and when it arrives, I'll study it closely. I wonder if additional changes were made?

I'd like to see the letter Nordstrom responded to. I wonder if the person who wrote the letter to Wilder objected to more than just that one passage? That passage appears very early in the book. In the copy I'm looking at right now, it is the fifth paragraph of the book. Perhaps the letter writer read that far and quit reading to compose her letter. I'll write to Leonard Marcus to see if he has more info. He is the editor of Dear Genius.

For now, let's go back to Nordstrom's letter.

Nordstrom says "we" (her staff, I assume) feel as strongly as the person who wrote the letter. Suggesting that Indians are not people is not ok with Nordstrom. But! There are many passages in it that equate Indians with animals. Wilder's Indians yip and yap and howl at each other. What about all those passages?

My question is, why not discontinue the entire book? If I had met with Nordstrom, would she have made more changes to the book? Or pulled it?

[Note: I've written about Little House several times. If you're interested in my (Native) perspective, scroll waaaay down to the bottom of this page and see the set of links at the bottom.)