Saturday, September 15, 2012

Horn Book interviews Louise Erdrich

Head over to Horn Book to read Martha Parravano's interview with Louise Erdrich!

Martha asked her about the two men who kidnap Chickadee (the protagonist in Chickadee). Though the two are kidnappers, they are also the comic relief in the story. They're goofy as can be! Erdrich talks a little about them in the interview, and she also talks about the next book in the Birchbark House series...

LE: The next book, a twin to Chickadee, is titled Makoons. That book is going to be very personal for me because for the first time I will be writing from the living memory of my relatives. I was fortunate enough as a child to remember my great-grandfather, The Kingfisher, who lived into his nineties and had been part of some of the last buffalo hunts along the Milk River in Montana. So what I will be describing has incredible resonance for me.

Makoons will be the fifth book. Chickadee just came out, and it is outstanding. Have you read it yet? And have you ordered it for your library? I hope your answer is "yes" and "I ordered several copies!"

(Photo credit:

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

New website: Chickasaw TV

One of the very best things teachers and librarians can do is to select a single tribe and learn all they can about it. Going in-depth with a single tribe provides you with a depth of knowledge that will help you recognize bias, stereotyping, and errors in materials about other tribes. This is especially important as school districts across the United States implement the Common Core and increase their use of nonfiction materials. It is vital that students get the very best out there.

Today, I highly recommend you visit Chickasaw TV. Here's a screenshot:

At Chickasaw TV you can choose from several different channels:

  • Government
  • Commerce
  • News
  • History and Culture
  • Language
  • Cultural Center
  • Arts and Creativity
  • Destinations
  • People

This is a primary source! There is no reason to rely on biased or outdated information in standard encyclopedias! Check out Chickasaw TV today. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012


This is exciting news out of Canada from CODE, a Canadian NGO that supports literacy and learning! From the CODE website:

The Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature is a unique literary award and readership initiative established by CODE with the generous support of philanthropist William Burt and the Literary Prizes Foundation that recognizes excellence in First Nations, Métis and Inuit literature for youth and provide engaging and culturally-relevant books for young people across Canada.

In partnership with the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the National Association of Friendship Centres, the Association of Canadian Publishers, and the Canada Council for the Arts, the Award will be given annually to three English-language literary works for young adults (aged 12 through 18) by First Nations, Métis or Inuit authors or translators (if applicable). The Canada Council for the Arts will be responsible for establishing the selection criteria and administering the jury process. A First Prize of $12,000, a Second Prize of $8,000 and a Third Prize of $5,000 will be awarded to the authors and translators (if applicable) of the winning titles. Winning publishers will participate in a guaranteed book purchase and distribution program in which CODE commits to purchasing a minimum of 2500 copies of each title at a bulk discount for distribution to schools, libraries, and Friendship Centres that serve First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth across Canada.

Publishers operating in Canada can submit English works of prose fiction or non-fiction written by First Nations, Métis or Inuit authors. Published books and unpublished manuscripts are eligible. In the case of published entries, they must have been published between May 1, 2010 and April 30, 2013.

The deadline for submissions for the inaugural Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature is May 1, 2013. Winning titles will be announced in September 2013.

For the full guidelines and publisher's registration form, visit the Canada Council website at:

For further Information on the Burt Award for First Nations, Métis and Inuit Literature, please contact Catherine Belshaw, Literary Awards Officer, at 613-232-3569 ext. 233 or

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

LIFE IN A SIOUX VILLAGE, by Sally Senzell Isaacs

Capstone Classoom is offering a "Common Core Grade 3 Curriculum Bundle" that includes Sally Senzell Isaacs's Life in a Sioux Village. I took a quick look at it and set it aside when I saw this page:

Look at the map. It isn't dated. Nowhere are we given information about what time period the map reflects... See the southwest part? Four states are missing: New Mexico, Arizona, Utah, and Nevada. The first two became states in 1912, while Utah gained statehood in 1896 and Nevada in 1864. Do you have this book in your library? Or, one of the other books in this "Life in a..." series? What do those maps look like?

And the caption that says "over 30" Native groups "once lived" on the Great Plains? It was--and is--a lot more than 30.

I wonder what the other books in the bundle are like? If you've purchased this bundle, remove this book. Life in a Sioux Village -- not recommended.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Indians in Booklist's 2012 "Top 10 Westerns for Youth" - THE CASE OF THE DEADLY DESPERADOS

Earlier today, Erin wrote to me to ask if I'd seen the list of books in the "Top 10 Westerns for Youth" in the August 2012 issue of Booklist.  She had purchased one of the books on the list and is concerned with the depictions of American Indians in it.

Here's my thoughts on Caroline Lawrence's The Case of the Deadly Desperados: Western Mysteries, Book One

The cover has a blurb from the Times that says it is "rip roaring." In other words, hilariously funny. However, what is funny to one may be something else to another...

The protagonist is known as "Pinky" (short for Pinkerton, the surname of his "original pa"). At the time of the story, Pinky is living with his "Christian ma" and pa in a small town in Nevada in 1862. He is twelve years old.

When Pinky was two, his "original pa" left Pinky and his mother to be a railroad detective. Pinky never saw him again. Later, his "Indian ma" (she was "Lakota, which some people call Sioux") took up with another white guy. 

When Pinky was seven, his "Indian ma," the other guy, and Pinky headed west to find Pinky's dad. On the way, their wagon train was attacked by Indians. There was a massacre and Pinky ended up an orphan. Pinky has a medicine bag, given to him by his "Indian ma." It is:
made of buffalo hide & decorated with red & blue beads in a little arrow shape. It was as big as my right hand with the fingers spread out. My Indian ma had given it to me before we set out on the wagon train west.  

I had been wearing it around my neck during the massacre but I had not seen it since my foster parents put it in the hiding place under the floorboard.
That was in 1857. 

When the novel opens, it is 1862. Pinky comes home from school on September 26, and finds his "foster parents lying on the floor in a pool of blood." They'd been scalped and there's a tomahawk in his pa's chest. 

He runs to his mother, who is still alive. She tells him that white men dressed like Indians had attacked them, and that those men were looking for Pinky's medicine bag. Before she dies, she tells Pinky that the bag holds his destiny. He is to get it and leave before the men come back. 

Pinky gets the bag, but before he can leave, Pinky hears the killers returning and climbs into the rafters to hide. He uses a "Bush Trick" his "Indian ma" told him about. "If you hide behind a small bush and imagine that you are that bush, they say you become invisible."  

The men leave. Pinky, wearing a buckskin outfit that his Ma made for his birthday, crawls through the dirt to wait for the stage coach. As he lies in the dirt, he opens the medicine bag. Inside is his "Indian ma's" flint knife, a folded up piece of paper, and a brass button "that belonged to my original pa." That paper will turn out to be a letter from his "original pa," and its contents are the reason he is being chased.
That "original pa" was named Robert Pinkerton. When Pinky's "Christian ma" learned that Pinky's father was a Pinkerton, she wrote to Allan Pinkerton in Chicago to "ask him if his dead brother had ever fathered a child by a Lakota squaw around the year 1850."  

Shall I stop?

Or do you want to know about the part where some schoolyard bullies stop punching Pinky when they see "[t]he rest of his filthy tribe" coming to save him. Or, maybe you want to know about Pinky staring in a mirror and seeing "a grubby Blanket Indian with an expressionless face staring back at me."

This humor doesn't work for me. 

Kirkus gave it a starred review for its pacing, deadpan humor and appealing protagonist. The reviewer for The New York Times Book Review thinks that Pinky has Asperger's syndrome, or, high functioning autism and that "Any child who's felt like a 'Misfit' or 'Freak of Nature' as P.K. does will identify with his despair and cheer him" (review posted at Amazon in Editorial Reviews). Maybe so, but what will Native children make of Native identity as the vehicle that carries the humor?

Did you note the subtitle says "Book One"? With those starred reviews, there will likely be additional books about Pinky (who is, by the way, is a girl, not a boy). 

And the contents of that letter? It is a deed to land with silver mines in the mountains of Nevada. 

The idea of a half-Lakota Pinky encroaching on lands belong to other Indians doesn't work for me. The Case of the Deadly Desperados? Not recommended. 

Update: Saturday, August 25

Last night I went over to Goodreads to post my review and see what reviews there were like. I found that Erin had posted her review there. Do read what she said

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


In an effort to draw on the expertise of librarians who work at tribal libraries, I put out a call for nonfiction recommendations.

Miriam Bobkoff, librarian at the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribal Library in Port Angeles, Washington, wrote to me to recommend a book about the tribes on the Olympic Peninsula. Here's what she said:

Luckily there is a book I can recommend which the tribes on the Olympic Peninsula worked together to produce in 2002, Native Peoples of the Olympic Peninsula: Who We Are by the Olympic Peninsula Intertribal Cultural Advisory Committee, edited by Jacilee Wray (historian for Olympic National Park). Each of 9 tribes contributed a chapter written by their culture teachers. The Elwha Klallam chapter was written by Elwha’s  Jamie Valadez. It begins with a description of the creation site taken from the work of ethnologist T. T. Waterman. The citation is to still unpublished 1920 handwritten notes of Waterman’s at the Smithsonian.

I used Google Books to get a sense of the reading level. It is definitely accessible to middle and high school students, and teachers in elementary grades will find it useful as they develop instructional materials for their students. The book has maps and photographs, a chronology, and a pronunciation guide. Here's the chapters and authors:
  • The S'Klallam: Elwha, Jamestown and Port Gamble
  • Elwha Klallam, by Jamie Valadez
  • Jamestown S'Klallam, by Trina Bridges & Kathy Duncan
  • Port Gamble S'Klallam, by Gina Beckwith, Marie Hebert, and Tallis Woodward
  • Skokomish: Twana Descendants, by the Skokomish Culture and Art Committee
  • Squaxin Island, by Theresa Henderson, Andi VanderWal, and the Squaxin Island Heritage and Culture Committee
  • Quinault, by Justine E. James, Jr., with Leilani A. Chubby
  • Hoh, by Viola Riebe and Helen Lee
  • Quileute, by Chris Morganroth III
  • Makah, by Melissa Peterson and the Makah Cultural and Research Center
I recognize Morganroth's name (he's the author of the chapter on the Quileute's); I wrote about Morganroth's Quileute storytelling in 2009.

Thanks, Miriam, for the recommendation! 

Monday, August 20, 2012


Bruce Grant's Concise Encyclopedia of the American Indian was first published in 1958 as American Indians, Yesterday and Today. 

I'm reading a 2000 edition, "published by Wing Books, an imprint of Random House Value Publishing, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, by arrangement with E. P. Dutton, an imprint of Viking Penguin USA." The copy I have is from the juvenile nonfiction section of the local public library.

If you've got Concise Encyclopedia of the American Indian in your library, it can be deselected on the basis of outdated content.

Believe it or not, the appendix "Indian Population on Reservation in the United States" includes a "Distribution of Indian Tribes by States" that is based on the census of 1950. Some of the figures are from "the World Almanac and Book of Facts for 1959" (bold mine).

In the "Books to read if you want to know more" section, there are over 30 fiction and nonfiction books, ranging in publication year from 1928 to 1957.

I'm actually shocked that it has been published so many times without an update to the appendices! 

Bias and misinformation characterize the entries. Here's some examples:

  • "BIG HEART," Grant tells us, is "Indian term for 'brave. Indians spoke of 'keeping their hearts big' and having no fear" (p. 43). 
  • The entry for "COUNTING" reads: "The system of tens generally was used by Indians in counting. The white man calls this the decimal system. The Indians called it the finger and hand count."
  • Christopher Columbus has an entry, wherein Grant tells us that Columbus discovered America.
  • There is a "DIGGERS" entry, in which Grant writes "These Indians were reported to be very dirty and ill clothed and were considered the lowest form of Indian life" (p. 110). 
  • "FIRE WATER" is the "Indian name for distilled spirits" (p. 128). 
  • "HOW" is "Word of greeting used by Indians, who had no expressions for 'good morning,' 'good day,' or 'good evening.' (p. 154)
  • Of the Pueblo Indians, Grant writes that "they have become famous because of their peculiar customs and ceremonies, for instance, such a custom of men instead of women working in the fields" (p. 257).

A far better choice is the five-volume American Indian Contributions to the World by Keoke and Porterfield. As of today (August 20, 2012), it is available from Oyate for $175. 

Update: Aug 20, 2012, 3:15 PM Central Time

Several librarians wrote to ask me for citations to deselection criteria. Here is some:

Evans and Saponaro (2005) write that the top five reasons for weeding are: 1) accuracy and currency of the information, 2) physical condition of the book, 3) space needs, 4) usage history, and 5) duplicate copy. Disher (2007) lists the following criteria: condition, use, misleading or inaccurate, superceded, duplication, trivial and irrelevant, space, and, balance. The CREW manual advises that “for all items” (p. 16) problem categories are poor content, poor appearance, and unused materials. Similar guidelines are contained in the MUSTIE mnemonic, wherein the M stands for “Misleading information,” and the S stands for “Superceded by better works” (Dickinson, 2005).  

Criteria that applies to the encyclopedia are:
  • Evans & Saponaro's #1 (accuracy and currency of the information)
  • Disher's "misleading or inaccurate,"
  • CREW's "poor content"
  • MUSTIE's "misleading information." 
Disher and MUSTIE also note "superceded." The encyclopedia is easily superceded by the Keoke and Porterfield set.

Dickinson, G. (2005). Crying over spilled milk. Library Media Connection 23(7), 24-26.

Disher, W. (2007). Crash Course in Collection Development. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Evans, G. E. & Saponaro, M. Z. (2005). Developing Library and Information Center Collections. Westport, CT: Libraries Unlimited.

Larson, J. (2008). Crew: A Weeding Manual for Modern Libraries. Austin, TX: Texas State Library and Archives Commission.

PBS documentary on "Forrest Carter" and THE EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE

On August 26th, a handful of PBS stations will air The Reconstruction of Asa Carter.  He wrote The Education of Little Tree, passing it off as an autobiography by a Cherokee man named "Forrest Carter." It was accepted as an autobiography upon publication, as evidenced by the abstract in WorldCat: "The autobiographical remembrances of the author's Indian boyhood with his eastern Cherokee hill country grandparents during the Great Depression." Some library systems still have old information in them:
Forrest Carter is best known for his autobiographical work, The Education of Little Tree (1976). Carter was orphaned at the age of ten and raised by his grandfather. In the Education of Little Tree, he wrote of his happy childhood in the isolated woods of the Tennesee Hill Country and lovingly recalls his grandfather who gave him a unique education based heavily on his Cherokee heritage. Carter once estimated that he never spent more than six months in a formal educational setting.

The Education of Little Tree is not the autobiography of a Cherokee man.

In fact, Asa Carter was in the KKK and a speechwriter for George Wallace, and the book itself is a hoax.

A couple of years ago, I asked librarians "Where is your copy of The Education of Little Tree? Though Carter's book was exposed as a fake in the New York Times in the 1990s, there are still a lot of people who don't know it is a fake. About one-third of the libraries in the Illinois Heartland Library System, for example, still have it cataloged as biography or autobiography, and I imagine that is the case across the country. Perhaps the PBS film will get a conversation started again and it will get reshelved or deselected completely.

Here's the trailer:

Friday, August 17, 2012

Debby Dahl Edwardson's WHALE SNOW

We (Indigenous peoples) are diverse in a great many ways based on things like our location and history, but there are some commonalities amongst us. These commonalities shine in books like Debby Dahl Edwardson's Whale Snow. Like the Inupiaq, we (Pueblo Indians) hunt. Our coexistence with the animals we hunt and our dependence on them is part of our spirituality.

As Whale Snow opens, Amiqqaq, a young Inupiat boy, is with his grandma. She's making donuts. I love that donuts is part of this story! It is like us having jello and chocolate cake on our tables at traditional feasts. Some of our non-Pueblo guests are surprised to see them amidst all our traditional stews. Because they didn't originate with us, some people think our use of things like that means we're "less authentic." Are Americans less-American because they don't eat the exact foods (and nothing else) that the Founding Fathers ate?! Of course not! Back to Whale Snow...    

Amiqqaq looks out the window at the "fat snow" that falls, wishing he was out on the ocean ice with his dad and the other whalers. His grandma tells him it is "whale snow" that "comes when a whale has given itself to the People" (no page numbers). By the end of the story, we know why Amiqqaq is named Amiqqaq, we know a little about how his family prepares whale meat, and Amiqqaq's mom has taught him about the "spirit of the whale." That page (shown below) is one of my favorites:

The page shows Amiqqaq and his mom. The text in the page I loaded is from the Inupiaq version of the book (download it from Edwardson's website). Amiqqaq tells his mom he's happy inside. He says "Inside is like a giant smile. Bigger than a house. Wider than a whole village." I remember that feeling! I experienced it, too, when my dad or uncle or cousins went hunting and came home with a deer (that was in the 60s). We'd all gather at my grandmother's house. As someone arrived, they'd bless the deer in the way that we do, and then we'd revel in just being together in her kitchen, some of us warming our backsides on the wood stove that heated her house.

In some ways, this review says more about me than it does about Whale Snow. But that is precisely why it is an important book. I connect with it! It reflects my experience as a Pueblo Indian girl who grew up in a village where we hunted and co-existed with the animals in the mountains around us, and in fact, it reflects the experience of my great niece, Hayle, who is having a childhood much like mine was, over 40 years ago.

Whale Snow is an outstanding book. If you can't tell, I highly recommend it.


Thursday, August 16, 2012

Louise Erdrich's CHICKADEE

With immense satisfaction and a deep sigh, I read the last words in Louise Erdrich's Chickadee and then gazed at the cover. Chickadee is the fourth book in her Birchbark House series, launched in 1999.

My copy arrived yesterday afternoon and I immediately began reading--but not racing--through Chickadee, because it is written with such beauty, power, and elegance that I knew I'd reach the end and wish I could go on, reading about Omakayas and her eight-year-old twin boys, Chickadee and Makoons.

There was delight as Erdrich reintroduced Omakayas and Old Tallow, and when she introduced a man in a black robe, I felt a knot in my belly as I wondered how Erdrich would tell her young readers about missionaries.

The sadness I felt reading about smallpox in Birchbark House gripped me, too, as did the anger at those who called us savage and pagan.

Resilience, though, and the strength of family and community is woven throughout Chickadee.  I'll provide a more in-depth analysis later. For now, I want to bask in the words and stories that Louise Erdrich gives to us Chickadee and throughout the Birchbark House series.

You can order a signed copy of Chickadee from Birchbark Books. And if you don't have the first three books in the series, order them, too.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


If you've got Peter Lourie's The Lost World of the Anasazi: Exploring the Mysteries of Chaco Canyon on your shelf, you can deselect it based on outdated information in a work of nonfiction.

The prologue says:
Around A.D. 1300, the semiarid Four Corners region of the American Southwest, where Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico join, the ancient culture of the Anasazi simply vanished. The Anasazi people, who had flourished in the region for hundreds of years, abandoned their communities and centers of commerce and ceremony.

Why did they leave? Where did they go? [...] The mysteries remain, and sciences are unsure what happened.
That idea that the people who lived there 'vanished' permeates the book. We did not, however, 'vanish.'

We (remember--I'm Pueblo) have always known that our history extends to Bandelier, Chaco Canyon, and similar sites, and today, the National Park Service uses Ancestral Pueblos rather than "Anasazi."

One thing that puzzles me...

In the Author's Note, Lourie writes "The term Anasazi refers to the ancient Puebloan people" and that archaeologists now use the phrase "Ancient Puebloan People, which more accurately describes the vanished culture and connects these ancients to their living descendants" (p. 4).

So--he knew about the connection! Why did he stick with the vanishing theme?


If Alex Bealer's Only the Names Remain: The Cherokees and the Trail of Tears is still in your library, it ought to be deselected post-haste. Published in 1972, its title tell readers that there are no Cherokees anymore! Its closing paragraph and text elsewhere in the book specify that there are no Cherokees anymore in Georgia, and that only their names remain (p. 84):
Now, in all of Georgia and Alabama, there is nothing left of the nation that had lived there for a thousand years before the white man came. The Cherokees are gone, pulled up by the roots and cast to the westward wind.

They are gone like the buffalo and the elk which once roamed the mountain valleys. They have disappeared like the passenger pigeons which once darkened the sky as great flocks flew over the river routes from north to south and back again. Live wayah, the wolf, and like the chestnut trees, the Cherokees are no longer found in the mountains of Georgia.

Now only the names remain: Dahlonega, Chattahoochee,Oostenaula, Etowah, Nantahala, Tennessee, Ellijay, Tallulah, Chatooga, Nacoochee, Hiawassee, Chickamauga, Tugaloo, Chattanooga...

Crocodile tears, anyone? While there are no federally recognized Cherokee Nations in Alabama or Georgia, there are a lot of Cherokees around, including Jace Weaver, director of the Institute of Native American Studies at (wait for it...) the University of Georgia, but that is beside the point. The book is old and misleading. "Misleading" is among the criteria for deselecting (weeding) books.

Bealer's book might have been redeemed if he'd included information about the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma, but I doubt it. There's too much wrong with it.


1984: Alwyn Morris holds eagle feather
Librarians looking to add books about the Olympics and athleticism in general will want to order Native Athletes in Action by Vincent Schilling.

One chapter in the book is about kayaker, Alwyn Morris (shown in the photo to the right). Morris is Mohawk. He and his teammate, Hugh Fisher, won a gold medal for Canada in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Standing on the platform to receive his gold medal, Morris honored his ancestors and those who helped him get to the Olympics by holding an eagle feather in his left hand.

Each chapter in Schilling's Native Athletes in Action is rich with detail about each athletes life. You learn, for example, that when Morris's grandfather was sick, he moved in with his grandparents to help his grandmother take care of him. That is a familiar story to me. I've seen it a lot. Last summer, my daughter moved in with my parents to take care of my mom.

Schilling's book has thirteen chapters. In addition to details about each athletes life, he takes care to provide a sidebar with information about each athlete's sport, and, a box about his or her tribe. As you can see by scanning the names of athletes featured in each chapter, the athletes are from tribal nations in the United States or Canada, and their sport of choice is wide-ranging.

  • Richard Dionne (Sioux), Canadian Basketball Association, Basketball Champion
  • Cheri Becerra-Madsen (Omaha), Wheelchair Racing Olympian, World Record Holder
  • Cory Witherill (Navajo), Indy Race Car Driver
  • Alwyn Morris (Mohawk), Olympic Gold Medalist in Kayaking
  • Naomi Lang (Karuk), Ice Dancer, Olympian, Figure Skater
  • Beau Kemp (Choctaw and Chickasaw), Baseball Player
  • Shelly Hruska (Metis), Ringette Team, Canada
  • Jordin Tootoo (Inuit), National Hockey League
  • Mike Edwards (Cherokee), Bowler, Professional Bowler's Association Champion
  • Ross Anderson (Cheyenne/Arapaho, Mescalero Apache), Downhill Speed Skier
  • Stephanie Murata (Osage), National Wrestling Champion
  • Delby Powless (Mohawk), Lacrosse Champion

With the Common Core's emphasis on nonfiction, librarians will do well by adding copies of Native Athletes in Action to their collection of materials for children in third grade and up. Native Athletes in Action is part of the Native Trailblazers series published by 7th Generation.

Monday, August 13, 2012

"In any war between the civilized man and the savage..."

Have you seen this ad? It is, or has been, on buses in New York City and San Francisco. (See an ABC San Francisco news story on the ad: "Pro-Israel ads on Muni buses spark criticism.")

The ad uses "civilized man" and "savage." It doesn't say "savage man"--it simply says "savage."

I'm wondering if the roots of the "savage" idea used by the American Freedom Defense Initiative go back to children's books? One children's book after another uses "savage" or "savages" to describe Indigenous peoples.

Want some examples?

In Carol Ryrie Brink's Caddie Woodlawn, published in 1935, Mrs. Woodlawn says "those frightful savages will eat us out of house and home" (p. 7). 

In Lois Lenski's Indian Captive, published in 1941, Captain Morgan says "An untamed savage, growing up like a wild beast in the forest" (p. 264).

In Elizabeth George Speare's Calico Captive, published in 1957, the narrative reads "Two of the savages came from the bedroom, dragging a shrinking and almost naked Susana between them" (p. 16). 

In Speare's The Witch of Blackbird Pond, published in 1958, John says to Kit "How did you learn to read when you say you just ran wild like a savage and never did any work? (p. 27).

In her Sign of the Beaver, published in 1983, Matt thinks "How could he possibly teach a savage to read?" (p. 32).
These books are miseducating the young people who read them.

Words are powerful weapons that are used to socialize---to teach---that certain peoples are "other" to be feared, defeated, killed, colonized. Not using nouns that make it clear that Indigenous peoples are human beings, or men, women, children, and babies, helped, and helps, to justify wars and aggression by the "civilized man" on American Indians and anyone else deemed as "enemy." With 'savage' ideology firmly embedded in that "civilized man," all manner of aggression and war are possible. 

I think children's books are part of the socialization that creates an attitude like the one on display in the ad, and I will continue to use American Indians in Children's Literature to point out destructive biases that hurt all of us. I hope you will, too. 


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Documentary: Moccasins and Microphones

If you're in Santa Fe on Saturday, August 25th, head over to the New Mexico History Museum at 6:00 PM for the premiere showing of Moccasins and Microphones: Modern Native Storytelling through Performance Poetry. Here's a clip:

Moccasins & Microphones: Modern Native Storytelling Through Performance Poetry Trailer from Cordillera Productions on Vimeo

If you want the CD of the students performing their poetry, see YA Poetry CD: Moccasins and Microphones

The premise for Scholastic's INFINITY RING

Thanks, Ami, for pointing me to something Elizabeth Bird at SLJ said:
I’m sure you’ve all heard of the upcoming Scholastic series The Infinity Ring.  It looks like it’s getting a big push in the same vein as The 39 Clues and all that.  I hadn’t paid it much mind, until I realized the plot.  So in Book #1 it is imperative to rescue Christopher Columbus so that he can discover America (the reasoning being that if he doesn’t then even worse guys will . . . to which I say, just how much worse?).  That’s Book #1.  Book #2 requires that the bad guys, who want to prevent The French Revolution, be thwarted.  So to recap, the heroes must save Columbus in Book #1 and ensure that Marie Antoinette gets her head separated from her neck in Book #2.  If this is incorrect please tell me now.  Otherwise, I’m utterly baffled.  I demand clarification!!!
I went over to the Scholastic page, where I learned that The Infinity Ring is a series for children ages 8 and up, in which three kids will time travel to save the world. The first book in the series is A Mutiny in Time, by James Dashner. At the Scholastic page, I read:
History is broken, and three kids must travel back in time to set it right!
History, the kids learn, "has gone disastrously off course" because Christopher Columbus was thrown overboard in a mutiny.

Wait, wait, wait... Off course for who?!

I guess, in this story, the entire world is a wreck because Columbus did NOT "discover" America. I wonder what this "undiscovered-by-Columbus" America looks like?! Who is making a wreck of what? Who are the "bad guys" Elizabeth refers to?!


Scholastic sent out some advanced reader copies (arcs) and by reading reviews at Goodreads, I gleaned a bit more info.

Because Columbus didn't "discover America" all sorts of natural disasters are occurring because someone else--"the Amancio brothers"--have done the discovering. I guess they are to blame for the natural disasters. I wonder what the disasters are?

Climate change, anyone? The real one, I mean?

I wonder if the author takes up anything to do with Indigenous peoples?!

Guadalupe Garcia McCall's UNDER THE MESQUITE

I grew up at Nambe Pueblo in what is now called the state of New Mexico. Nambe is one of the over 500 federally recognized sovereign nations within the United States. Nambe is older than the United States (going by the US Declaration of Independence) by over 400 years, and older than New Mexico (statehood granted in 1912) by over 600 years.

The lines that were drawn, delineating what was U.S. and what was Mexico, are lines that nationally and politically divided Indigenous communities and peoples on the southwest, in some cases, quite literally. The Tohono O'Odham Nation is one example, as stated on their website:
Then, in 1853, through the Gadsden Purchase or Treaty of La Mesilla, O'odham land was divided almost in half, between the United States of America and Mexico.

As such, there are a lot of things that the Indigenous peoples of Mexico and the Indigenous Nations of New Mexico and Arizona have in common. That commonality is what endears me to Guadalupe Garcia McCall's Under the Mesquite. The glossary at the back? I didn't need it. All those words are familiar to me, and the ways she writes about family, extended family, and community... It all rang true.

Though Under the Mesquite is generally seen as Latino literature---it won, for example, the 2012 Pure Belpre Award---it is also correct to see it as an Indigenous text.

In this beautiful story, told in free verse, Lupita tells us about her Aztec ancestors. As I read Under the Mesquite I paused again and again to be--just be--with McCall's gorgeous phrases. Sitting on my couch, her words summoned from my memory so much... the way the southwest sun feels on your skin, the images of women caring for their gardens or preparing food for their families.

Her description of children looking for chicharras (cicadas) was priceless. She didn't tell us why anyone would look for them. I suspect too many American readers would freak out to learn that a lot of us Indigenous peoples gather and roast those chicarras!

I was captivated by Under the Mesquite. Published by Lee and Low, I highly recommend it.

Friday, August 10, 2012


Earlier this week, NPR released the results of its survey of its listeners favorite young adult novels. Like Shaker Laurie (teacher in Minneapolis), I was struck by how White the list is... As she pointed out, there are only two books by authors who are not White. Those two are House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros, and, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie.

Do the responses to the survey and the list NPR created based on the responses and their judgements on what qualified for the list reflect the Whiteness of the listeners and of the NPR staff, too?

I think so.

NPR has a lot of work to do with regard to diversity. Given that NPR recently received a 1.5 million dollar grant to work on diversity, let's hope that we'd see a difference list from a more informed NPR.

If their coverage becomes more inclusive, maybe more people of color will tune in. And when NPR administers another survey, the results would be different.

And if they hire a more diverse staff, maybe that staff would notice how White the list is, and develop a story ABOUT that whiteness. Such a story would inform listeners of the outstanding literature being written by writers of color.

That "P" in NPR has got to stop standing in for "White" because the public in the US isn't predominantly White.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

New cover for TINTIN IN AMERICA?

This morning at the Kirkus page, I noticed a contest in which people can win complete sets of Herge's Tintin series. Here's the image that accompanies the story:

See the cover for Tintin in America? It is not the cover I'm most familiar with, shown here:

I wonder what prompted the new cover? Instead of Tintin tied to a stake (which, by the way, is an inaccurate or misleading bit of info about Indians that was popularized by Westerns), we see Tintin riding a horse. Here's another version of the on-a-horse cover. It is the one offered at Amazon:

In doing an Internet search of covers for Tintin in America, I came across a couple of others. This one has a "II" after it, so maybe there's a Part 2 for this particular book in the series.

And this one, according to a fan, is the original cover.  The original artwork for this cover was recently sold for $1.6 million dollars.

The Tintinologist site has a great deal of information about Tintin in America, including the changes publishers wanted made: 

Finding a publisher for this book in the USA was impossible. Even in the mid-1940s, American publishers insisted that Hergé replaced the 'coloured' people featured in the comic with 'whites'. Then again, the USA was not the only country that gave Hergé a hard time publishing this comic. Most foreign publishers (i.e. non-Belgian or French) seemed to have problems with the almost apocalyptical scene in which the soldiers move out the Indians of the reserve, and the speed in which the new town is created. 

I've got to do some research on Tintin in America...  

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

American Indians in Children's Literature receives Wordcraft Circle Award

I am pleased to announce that American Indians in Children's Literature was named as a recipient of one of its 2012 Wordcraft Circle Honors and Awards.

I'm especially pleased that Wordcraft has selected Tim Tingle's Saltypie for its children's book award.

As I understand it, writers especially like being selected for the National Book Award, because selections for it are made by fellow writers who understand the art of writing.

Wordcraft Circle is composed of people who understand the work of Native people who seek to create greater understandings of who we are as Indigenous peoples. Being recognized by them is a special honor.

Here is info from the WordCraft page:

Our Vision: To ensure the voices of Native American and Indigenous writers and storytellers - past, present, and future - are heard throughout the world!

Our Mission: To support the work and words of Native and Indigenous people in order to strengthen the impact of their voices in asserting community sovereignty, individual self-determination, traditional and cultural values, and creative expression.

Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers was founded in 1992 by Lee Francis III after attending the first Returning the Gift gathering of Native writers and storytellers in Norman, Oklahoma. Dr. Francis wanted to honor the memory of a former student who had passed away during the gathering by creating an organization that would continue to promote the work of Native American writers and storytellers. Throughout the 1990's, Dr. Francis helped promote the work of numerous Native American and Indigenous writers, both emerging and professional, throughout North and South America. Writers such as Joseph Bruchac, Dianne Glancy, MariJo Moore, Chris Eyre, and E.K. Caldwell were all a part of the organization during it's first decade. For over ten years, Wordcraft connected hundreds of Native writers in gatherings throughout the U.S. In 2003, Dr. Francis passed away after a short struggle with cancer and the organization was inherited by Dr. Kimberly Roppolo and Lee Francis IV.

Update, May 2, 2016:
In addition to AICL and Saltypie, I want to note awards given to:

  • Arigon Starr, Lee Frances III Memorial Award for Wordcrafter of the Year
  • Sara Hoklotubbe, Mystery, for The American Cafe