Sunday, August 08, 2010

A "Search Story" for American Indians in Children's Literature

NOTE, September 3, 2010: I reposted the video and added rationale for why I chose the books featured in the video. Please read the rationale, here.
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Some say Google's "Search Story" program is little more than a video ad for Google itself, but, I made a "search story" about American Indians in Children's Literature. It was fun and easy to make.


Friday, August 06, 2010

TEN LITTLE INDIANS dolls/counting toy

Gabrielle, a colleague, messaged me this morning to say she'd seen a Ten Little Indians counting toy set at a shop in Cambodia. She'll see if someone can take photo of it for me. In the meantime, I searched Google images and found several. I don't advocate buying any of these sets, and I think the song or poem should not be taught to young children because it dehumanizes and stereotypes American Indians. That is a bad thing for Native children, but for non-Native children, too.

It is far better to count or sing objects that aren't human beings. You could count toys that are occupations (police, fire fighters, etc.) or animals, or, familiar objects. Below is some of what I found in the image search I did.

The "Indians" on one website are white. Completely white. As white as the Pillsbury Dough Boy. They're about 6 inches tall and their teepee is 20 or so inches high. They have a canoe and a fire. On another site, they're bright orange. On some they are brown. Precious Moments offers ten little "Indians" and a teepee, and, an entire family. Stereotypes abound, from names to clothing the dolls wear. Sadly, there's a lot of teacher resource sites that include worksheets using the poem.

The history of the rhyme/poem/song is important. See "Commentary: Ten Little N***** Girls" at the Essence website. Do read the commentary.

Also see:
A Teacher Reconsiders Ten Little Indians
INDIAN BUNNY. No! Now it is BRAVE BUNNY --- And TEN LITTLE RABBITS
Instead of Virginia Grossman's TEN LITTLE RABBITS, read Michael Kusugak's MY ARCTIC 1, 2, 3






Thursday, August 05, 2010

Beka books?

I'm on vacation. Yesterday, riding a train in Pennsylvania, a woman struck up a conversation with me. I was wearing a t-shirt my daughter designed for a conference for Native students at Ivy League schools. Once I told her what I teach, she wanted a couple of book recommendations. I told her about Jingle Dancer right off, because she had two early-elementary-aged children with her.  I gave her a quick overview of what to choose and why. I really enjoyed telling her about Jingle Dancer!

She homeschooled her own children (the two with her are grandchildren) and asked if I'd ever seen the Beka books. She said they portray Indians as heathens, and that the one she'd read one so awful, she didn't use it.

I don't know the Beka books, but my experience is that the materials provided for homeschool education are deeply patriotic. Or maybe I should say blindly patriotic. I will see if I can find a Beka book and if I do, I'll write about it.


Friday, July 30, 2010

Interview: Cynthia Leitich Smith

Do you read Writer's Against Racism, Amy Bowllan's Blog at School Library Journal? She interviews a range of people, from critics (like me) to writers, like Cynthia Leitich Smith. Click on over to read her interview with Cynthia, author of one of my favorite picture books of all time, Jingle Dancer.



Wednesday, July 28, 2010

2010: Best Books Recommended for Elementary School

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Editor's Note: January 18, 2014 - The title of this post has been edited to reflect its year of publication. See also 2013: Top Ten Books Recommended for Elementary School

If I was starting a library in an elementary school, these are the first ten books I'd buy. In reading these books, students would be reading stories Native writers create about Native people and places. The books I list here include fiction, historical fiction, traditional story, and poetry.
  • Campbell, Nicola. Shi-shi-etko
  • Campbell, Nicola. Shin-chi's Canoe
  • Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Beaver Steals Fire: A Salish Coyote Story
  • Harjo, Joy. The Good Luck Cat
  • Messinger, Carla. When the Shadbush Blooms
  • Ortiz, Simon J. The Good Rainbow Road/Rawa 'kashtyaa'tsi hiyaani: A Native American Tale
  • Sockabasin, Allen J. Thanks to the Animals
  • Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Jingle Dancer
  • Tingle, Tim. Crossing Bok Chitto (If you can, also get When Turtle Grew Feathers and Saltypie)
  • Waboose, Jan Bourdeau. SkySisters
For annotations, see my article Native Voices in School Library Journal.

See also:
Top Ten Books Recommended for Middle School
Top Ten Books Recommended for High School


Download a pdf titled "Selecting Children's and Young Adult Literature about American Indians that includes an introduction and all three "Top Ten" lists.



2010: Best Books Recommended for Middle School


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If I was starting a library in a middle school, these are the first ten books I'd buy.  In reading these books, students would be reading stories Native writers create about Native people and places.  The books I list here include fiction, historical fiction, and poetry. 

  • Bruchac, Joseph. Hidden Roots
  • Carvell, Marlene. Who Will Tell My Brother?
  • Dorris, Michael. Sees Behind Trees.
  • Erdrich, Louise. The Birchbark House
  • Loyie, Larry. As Long as the Rivers Flow: A Last Summer before Residential School
  • Ortiz, Simon. The People Shall Continue
  • Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Indian Shoes
  • Smith, Cynthia Leitich. Rain Is Not My Indian Name
  • Sneve, Virginia Driving Hawk. High Elk's Treasure
  • Sterling, Shirley. My Name is Seepeetza
For annotations, see my Native Voices article in School Library Journal.

Update: Jan 7, 2012
Though she is not Native, Debby Dahl Edwardson has lived her adult life with her husband in his Inupiaq village in Alaska. Her commitment to Native lives and story is not abstract or romantic. Add her book, My Name is Not Easy to this list of must-have books for middle grade students.

See also:
Top Ten Books Recommended for High School
Top Ten Books Recommended for Elementary School

Download a pdf with all three lists:
Selecting Children's and Young Adult Literature about American Indians




2010: Best Books Recommended for High School

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If I was starting a library in a high school, these are the first ten books I'd buy.  In reading these books, students would be reading stories Native writers create about Native people and places.  The books I list here include fiction, historical fiction, poetry, short stories, and, prose.

Update on Feb 24, 2018: I am doing a strike-thru on Alexie's book. Given the news reports about harassment, I no longer recommend his book. When news stories break, I will be back to post the links here.

  • Alexie, Sherman. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  • Broker, Ignatia. Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative
  • Carlson, Lori Marie (ed.). Moccasin Thunder: American Indian Stories for Today
  • Deloria, Ella C. Waterlily
  • Kenny, Maurice (ed.). Stories for a Winter's Night: Fiction by Native American Writers
  • King, Thomas. One Good Story, That One
  • Ortiz, Simon J. Men on the Moon: Collected Short Stories
  • Tapahonso, Luci. Blue Horses Rush In: Poems and Stories
  • Taylor, Drew Hayden. The Night Wanderer
  • Van Camp, Richard. The Lesser Blessed

For annotations, see my Native Voices article in School Library Journal.

See also:
Top Ten Books for Middle School
Top Ten Books for Elementary School

Download a pdf with all three lists:
Selecting Children's and Young Adult Literature about American Indians






Monday, July 26, 2010

Friday, July 23, 2010

Michigan Teachers of English - Autumn Assembly 2010

On Friday, October 29th, 2010 I will be in Lansing, Michigan for Michigan NCTE's Autumn Assembly 2010.  Details here: Focusing the Kaleidoscope: Re-imagining English Language Arts in Michigan. If you're attending, please stop by and introduce yourself!