Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Guest post by Betsy McEntarffer: "Getting Culturally Accurate and Positive Books in the Hands of Students and Teachers - One Idea that Works

Editor's note: I am pleased to share this post by Betsy McEntarffer of Lincoln Public Schools in Lincoln, Nebraska. A few weeks ago, Betsy and I were writing to each other about children's books with Native content. She mentioned one of the ways she and the Library Media Staff work with teachers. I asked her to write it up for me. The work Betsy describes is important for two reasons. First, they offer teachers works in the multicultural category that they believe accurately reflect the population the book is about. Second, when they learned that teachers needed more than the positive lists of books, they developed a "not chosen" initiative that, she writes, really helped teachers see things they weren't seeing before. Betsy writes below: 
"Many visitors told us when they studied these examples and read the rationale used for their reviews, they could clearly see how students would be adversely affected and felt these materials were excellent learning opportunities." 
Their model is important. Thanks, Betsy, for sharing it with me, and I hope others try it out!

Getting culturally accurate and positive books 
in the hands of students and teachers – one idea that works.
Betsy McEntarffer

Like other educators in Lincoln, Nebraska, I’m interested in ensuring that all of our students have books and other materials in which they can see themselves and their lives positively and accurately mirrored. As a fairly large school district of over 35,000 students and with a diverse population of students from over 40 different countries speaking 50+ different languages, communication is the key to sharing information about those books and materials with all.

Before relating all the events leading to such a diverse and caring community, let me say that neither my journey nor the school district’s began with such wide diversity. I’m a white, middle class girl from the midwest who now works as a secretary for Staff Library Media Services of Lincoln Public Schools. Of course, there have long been schools in the district with diversity, but not in the part of town where I lived nor in the schools I attended. This was not intentional (at least not on my part), it was the way the population of our Midwestern college town was divided. I didn’t have any close encounters with persons of another culture until a small group of refugee families moved into the area where I worked as a library aide in my children’s elementary school. As I became acquainted with Assad, Nasifah, Yuriy, and Tuan I discovered that our library collection couldn’t supply them with books with which they could identify.  Not only were the geographical books on their home countries old and out-dated, but we had no stories with Afghan, Russian or Vietnamese characters.  Actually, I did find one book for Yuriy by Frank Asch that was in the Russian language. It’s about a colony of mice concerned with the arrival of a cat: Here Comes the Cat! = Siuda idet kot! [Scholastic, ©1989]. In my naivety I thought he would be thrilled and while he was kind of tickled to see his own language the story didn’t excite a 10 year old.  At the same time, when Assad looked at me with very sad eyes and said “nothing in Farsi?” I knew our collection and my knowledge needed updating.  I learned that I wasn’t alone and that others were concerned about incorporating the diversity of the community, country and the world into our schools.

Twenty years ago a group of students from Norfolk, Nebraska lobbied the state legislature to infuse multicultural education into the K-12 curriculum of schools in the state. LB 922 and LB 27 eventually became law and required the Nebraska Department of Education to design a process of evaluation of the implementation and effectiveness of multicultural programs. As a result, Rule 16: Rules and Regulations for Approval of School District Multicultural Education Programs was written. In 2003 Rule 16: Multicultural Education was rolled into Rule 10 and became part of the schools’ accreditation process. The bill states: 
“this act, multicultural education shall include, but not be limited to, studies relative to the culture, history and contributions of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans and Asian Americans. Special emphasis shall be placed on human relations and sensitivity toward all races.”
As the law was being discussed in 1992, a group of media educators from Lincoln Public Schools voluntarily gathered to discuss how best to meet the evaluation guidelines of Rule 16 that impacted school libraries. These guidelines are:
  • How adequate is the library/media center’s collection of multicultural resource materials for staff?
  • How adequate is the library/media center’s collection of multicultural resource materials for students?
  • How adequate is the process for selecting appropriate multicultural education curriculum materials for the core curriculum? [which often uses library/media center materials]
  • How often does the library/media center use multicultural resource and reference materials for displays and special presentations?
  • Are there specific guidelines or procedures in place regarding the acquisition of additional multicultural materials in the library or resource room?
They decided to form the Library Media Services Multicultural Book Review Committee to provide students with quality literature that mirrors the lives of all our students, especially those of under-represented cultures. What they envisioned to communicate this work has now evolved into MOSAIC, a yearly display of some the best, most recently published culturally-related books available to children and youth.  Grade leveled portions of each year’s MOSAIC travel to schools throughout the year so students, staff and parents can see them. The committee of current and retired educator reviewers continues to read and make recommendations for books that will comprise the content of the next display. Their reviews and comments as well as those from professional sources are inserted inside each book. Titles from each yearly MOSAIC form a Multicultural Collection, housed at the district office, which provides books for all schools, students and staff, to read and use. Since school librarians use this display as a collection development tool, 35,000+ students and over 2000 staff members in all 56 schools and other special programs of our district benefit from this collection.  Lincoln Public Schools may not have been the first school district to develop plans to serve all children but we were catching up fast.  So was I as I helped coordinate the MOSAIC displays while serving as a volunteer of a Fair Trade Organization. Then I became a secretary for the district’s Library Media Services department and discovered so much more that I did not know.

Three years ago as the committee was discussing the increase in availability of better and more inclusive books for children and youth, they also noted that teachers and support staff were still confused and uncertain about how to identify accurate and positive cultural content in those resources.  As a result, a collection of ‘Not Chosen for MOSAIC’ materials was begun. Books that were poorly reviewed due to questionable or incorrect content both in text and illustration, were clearly marked and displayed in addition to the excellent examples. Again, reviews and rationale for the book’s exclusion from the display were included in each title.  

The reaction was instantaneous. Many visitors told us when they studied these examples and read the rationale used for their reviews, they could clearly see how students would be adversely affected and felt these materials were excellent learning opportunities. The ‘not chosen’ books are kept for teachers to use as a compare/contrast activity with students or for use with University classes, teacher and librarian training, and other learning opportunities. We have one community college instructor who regularly uses them with her children's literature class. To be sure there is no confusion, an additional note is inserted in each book stating “This book is used for presentations by media staff as a poor example of Multicultural Children’s Literature. Please read the rationale for this poor rating as presented inside the front cover of the book. It is recommended that students/staff compare and contrast this material with the excellent examples of Multicultural Children’s Literature from the Multicultural Collection.”  We inform the school librarians in each of our schools about the books we exclude from the display. It is their choice whether to have the materials in their school library collections.  I am proud to be a part of the Library Media Services Multicultural Review Committee and thrilled that it is ‘my job’ to help our Library Media Specialist coordinate and facilitate their work.

Of the books in this collection that include American Indian content the rationale given for the reviews is often taken from Debbie Reese’s ‘American Indians in Children’s Literature’ blog or from ‘A Broken Flute’ and the ‘Oyate’ website and used with their permission. We are indebted to these dedicated advocates of positive children’s literature for their expertise and willingness to share their knowledge.  I am indebted to them as well, for now I certainly realize how much I have to learn and I’m thankful to have the opportunity.


Link: Library Media Services, Lincoln Public Schools

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Dorothy Kunhardt's BRAVE MR. BUCKINGHAM

Dorothy Kunhardt's Pat the Bunny is a classic. Published in 1940 by Simon & Schuster, I'd be willing to bet it is one of those books that has never gone out of print. We got it for our daughter when she was a baby and read it lots of times.

In early June, I learned that Dorothy Kunhardt also did Brave Mr. Buckingham a book that Emily Temple of Flavorwire listed in "10 of the Most Terrifying Children's Books From Around The World."

Note: 5:30 PM CST, June 14---Brave Mr. Buckingham is an OLD book published in 1935. It isn't new, and it is hard to find.

"Terrifying" is right! 

 Here's the cover:

And here's a page from inside the book:

Doesn't that illustration just creep you out?! Temple wrote:
As a child, I knew her best as the craziest mothereffer on the planet.   Mr. Buckingham is a Native American gentleman who just can’t win.  He puts his FOOT NEXT TO A BUZZSAW because it gives him “a nice tickly feeling.”  Bam!  Bye-bye, foot.  He goes to the aquarium to visit the fish, jumps in and BAM!  A fish eats the other foot.  You know.  Like they do.

The pattern continues as Mr. B’s curiosity (or general lack of awareness) gets the better of him:  he loses an arm to a gardener, gets sliced in two by a passing truck (while sunbathing, natch), and so on.  After each and every accident, he smiles and says, “That didn’t hurt!”  And in the end, when Brave Mr. Buckingham is nothing but a severed head–wearing a crudely drawn cartoon headdress because Ms. Kunhardt was not just a sadist but an enemy of cultural competence–still he is feeling just fine, thank you.
I'd love to have more info on this book! What was Kunhardt thinking? Why did she pick an Indian?! I've got lots of questions. The book is titled Brave Mr. Buckingham. Is Mr. Buckingham a British gent? A British gent playing Indian?   

Apparently, the story is one meant to prove to Billy that it won't hurt to pull on his loose front tooth. Such an odd way to persuade him, don't you think? 

The Kirkus review in 1935 was:
This doesn't measure up to her earlier books, Junket is Nice, etc. But on the sale of those, this will be in demand. A picture story book with a moral -- the story of the Indian who lost first a leg, then an arm, then another leg, and so on until nothing but his head was left, and who still said ""That didn't hurt"".
It looks like there's a copy of the book in the University of Illinois Rare Books library. I'm going to request to see it!

Update, 3:34, June 14, 2012
In Mary-Lou Weisman's Intensive Care: A Family Love Story is some of the text of Brave Mr. Buckingham (note: I don't know what Weisman's book is about):
"Once there was an Indian named brave Mr. Buckingham. He was called brave Mr. Buckingham because he was very, very, very brave, and no matter how frightfully terrible an accident was that happened to him, brave Mr. Buckingham just smiled a brave smile and he said, 'That didn't hurt!'"

"One day Mr. Buckingham was playing a blindfold game, and he held his foot up to see if he could guess what it was that made such a nice tickly feeling like air blowing... all of a sudden he felt another feeling, only not tickly, and it was his foot being cut off."

"But brave Mr. Buckingham smiled a brave smile and he said "That didn't hurt."

"One day Mr. Buckingham went to the aquarium because he wanted to find if fishes can tell time, and he jumped in with a quite large fish and he asked, "What time does my watch say?" And the fish said, "Dinner time!" and he bit Mr. Buckingham's foot right off and ate it. But brave Mr. Buckingham smiled a brave smile, and he said 'That didn't hurt!'"

Weisman goes on:

Page of page, picture by picture, limb by limb, "That didn't hurt" by "That didn't hurt," brave Mr. Buckingham loses his parts. While he is trimming the hollylocks, the pincers slip and pinch off one of of his arms. A kitchen accident burns brave Mr. Buckingham's leg off, right to the top of the thigh. A saw, carelessly thrown from an airplane, saws Mr. Buckingham's hand off. Finally, one day when a handless, footless, armless, legless Mr. Buckingham is taking a sunbath in the middle of the road, a truck comes along and slices his body off.

On the last page there's nothing left of brave Mr. Buckingham except a head. Just a head, a neatly severed head, set on a kitchen table. He is wearing a headband with eight jaunty feathers. His lips smile. His eyes twinkle merrily. A little girl stands nearby, spooking large ripe strawberries into his mouth.

"And that was the very last terrible accident that brave Mr. Buckingham ever had. After that he lived happily, happily ever after, and whenever he was hungry, his dear little granddaughter would help Mr. Buckingham to eat a big plateful of beautiful red strawberries, because strawberries were brave Mr. Buckingham's favorite thing. And brave Mr. Buckingham was so used to saying, "That didn't hurt," that as soon as he had eaten the last beautiful strawberry, he smiled a very, very brave smile, and he said, 'That didn't hurt!'"

Update, Saturday, June 16, 2012

Published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in New York in 1935, the story is about six year old Billy Buckingham. Time magazine had this to say about it (3/25/1935, Volume 25, Issue 12):

A toy Indian made of Nugg could always say, in spite of calamities, "THAT DIDN'T HURT." Nonsense with a moral for children (and adults) by the author of Junket is Nice.
The copy of Brave Mr. Buckingham that I requested was ready for me yesterday (Friday) at the University of Illinois Rare Books Library. What follows are excerpts and my thoughts so far (my thoughts are in italics).
Billy, the protagonist, has a loose tooth but won't let anybody tie a string around it to pull it out because "Billy was not a very brave boy and cried every time something hurt him." One day, it was very loose:
Billy was playing Indian that day. He had some feathers on his head and they must have been feathers from a very big kind of bird--maybe an eagle or maybe a turkey. Billy had a string of beads around his neck and he had bare feet, like Indians' bare feet. He was seeing how fast he could climb a tree and look around to find out if there was anybody coming, because Indians are very fast at climbing trees and finding out if there is anybody coming.
Debbie's thoughts:
Playing Indian has been popular in the United States for hundreds of years. In Playing Indian, Philip Deloria provides an in-depth analysis of the activity. He starts with colonists dressed in Indian disguises (no feathers or facepaint, by the way) at the Boston Tea Party and moves on through things like the Society of Red Men (founded in 1812) and current day scouting programs. 

What did Kunhardt know about American Indians? In 1930 when the book was published, she was living in New York and had gone to school at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania. In her book, she gives us a barefoot Indian who climbs trees very fast. When and where did that barefoot-Indian image start? Interestingly, the former mascot at the University of Illinois went barefoot. And Indians who can climb trees fast is a new one (to me)...

Billy is sitting on a branch in the tree. His mother pleads with him about pulling the loose tooth. This makes Billy cry, but his Uncle Alexander (who always has stories and is just at that moment returning from the store) is surprised Billy is crying and says "Why, Billy, what are you crying about. Have you had an accident? You sound as if you had had a terrible accident."

Billy's mother explains that Billy is "silly to cry" over the tooth and that it would be "very wonderful" if Billy would let her pull the tooth and have Billy smile a brave smile and say "That didn't hurt." That prompts Uncle Alexander to tell Billy that a loose tooth being pulled out isn't a bad accident, and that some people have "terrible, awful, frightful accidents." Then he says "I know a good story. It is a very funny story and it is about an Indian who had lots and lots of terrible accidents. But every time he was just as brave as brave could be."

Billy asks for the story, and Uncle Alexander tells him "...after you hear this funny story you will be brave too--you will be just like the Indian in the stor--you will be as brave as brave can be. This is a story that makes people brave."

And so, Uncle Alexander starts:

Once there was an Indian named brave Mr. Buckingham. His real name was Singing Moon Walking Fox Laughing Water Sitting Bull in the Forest, but everybody called him Mr. Buckingham because Singing Moon Walking Fox Laughing Water Sitting Bull in the Forest was such a nuisance to say. He was called brave Mr. Buckingham because he was very, very, very brave.
Debbie's thoughts
 In constructing that "real" name, Kunhardt is being pretty derisive. Obviously she thought it was funny. I trust most readers of AICL know that Sitting Bull was a leader of great significance. Adding "in the forest" to his name is not funny at all. I wondered about the other names Kunhardt strung together. "Singing Moon," might be from Ralph Hubbard's Queer Person published in 1930 by Doubleday. In Hubbard's ridiculous story (I haven't read it; I'm looking at the information in Gillespie and Naden's Newbery Companion) Singing Moon is a character.  

Mr. Buckingham, Uncle Alexander goes on, had terrible accidents because he was foolish and didn't seem able to stop himself from doing foolish things. He did them again and again. But no matter what happened, he just smiled a brave smile and said "THAT DIDN'T HURT!"

Before launching into the story of all these accidents, Uncle Alexander explains that Mr. Buckingham is not made out of
blood and bones and things like most people. He was made out of NUGG, and NUGG is a kind of stuff that is a little bit like clay and a little bit like iron and a little bit like wood and a little bit like rubber and a little bit like blotting paper. But Mr. Buckingham didn't mind at all being made out of NUGG, he was so used to it, and even when he was a little baby Indian he had been made out of NUGG. And the fact is that being made out of blood and bones and things instead of NUGG would have made Mr. Buckingham feel very queer, but since Mr. Buckingham was lucky enough to be made out of NUGG he didn't feel queer at all, he only felt brave--he felt very, very brave.
The illustration for the page shows Mr. Buckingham as a baby in a high chair. Wearing a headdress with feathers that would be the same height as the baby if he stood upright.

Debbie's thoughts:
What do you think? Is Mr. Buckingham brave? Or just stupid?! Course, Mr. Buckingham is not a real person. He's made out of NUGG. Was that some sort of a modeling clay in the 30s?

Mr. Buckingham's first accident is when he is trying to catch bees and keep them in a bottle so they won't sting anyone. He isn't watching where he's going, and falls into a deep hole with pointy rocks at the bottom. His ear is cut off. The two pages show him falling headfirst into the hole, and the second one shows him standing there, smiling, with his ear at his feet, and saying "THAT DIDN'T HURT!" Along with the headdress, he wears what must Kunhardt's version of a loin cloth, except that it looks more like a grass skirt.

Debbie's thoughts:
And, truth be told, it doesn't cover his crotch. A mischievous kid could add some anatomy to this! (I'd show you the photos if I could, but I signed the standard rare-books-agreements in which you promise not to publish the photos.)

The second accident is when Mr. Buckingham wonders if fish can tell time. He jumps into an aquarium and shows his watch to a large fish. He asks the fish what time it is, but the fish bites off his foot and eats it. Mr. Buckinham smiles and says 'THAT DIDN'T HURT!"

In the third accident, Mr. Buckingham is going to cut off the top flowers of a hollyhock. He's shown on stilts. One foot rests on a stilt and the other just leg (which is missing from knee on down) is just hanging there. The tool (pincers) he uses is the same size as he is. He squeezes it shut using one hand and his mouth. When he opens his mouth to say "There, THAT'S DONE!" the pincers bounce down and pinch off his arm. The next page shows him standing on one foot, looking down at his right arm at his feet (and saying "THAT DIDN'T HURT!").

In the fourth accident, Mr. Buckingham is playing a blindfold game. He is shown in blindfold. He wonders what is making the nice tickly feeling on his face so, standing on the cut-off leg, he holds the other leg up to see if he can guess what kind of machine it is. "...all of a sudden he felt another feeling, only not tickly, and it was his foot being cut off." On the next page, he is shown standing on stumps, looking down at his foot and saying 'THAT DIDN'T HURT!"

Accident number five is when he's cooking. He decides it would be fun to cook in the dark and stands on the hot stove, reaching up to turn off the light. His leg goes down into one of the holes (this is a wood stove) and into the fire and is burned up. He is shown standing on one stump, with just a bit of his burned leg showing beneath his loin cloth. Or skirt.

The sixth accident is when he's out in a field and sees an airplane in the sky. A man is fixing the wing with a saw. Mr. Buckingham shouts out "boo" to tease the man. He drops the saw and it falls down, cutting off Mr. Buckingham's hand. Standing on his stump, he looks down at his hand, smiles, and says "THAT DIDN'T HURT!"

Debbie's thoughts:
Can you imagine being Kunhardt, coming up with ways to have his limbs cut off?

In accident number seven, Mr. Buckingham is riding a horse on a merry-go-round. A friend in top hat, coat and tails, comes along and says he can shoot the horses tail off, even though the horse is going up and down and up and down. He misses, and shoots off Mr. Buckingham's remaining arm. As before, the next page shows him with the dismembered body part, and he's smiling saying "THAT DIDN'T HURT!"

At this point, all he has left is a torso and one leg that ends at his knee. In accident eight, he's shown riding a sled (the hill is so long it takes him two weeks), and to avoid crashing into a flagpole at the bottom, he drags his leg in the snow. That leg is worn off, and he bumps gently into the flagpole, which breaks off his ear (Kunhardt says 'broken off'). On the next page, an armless, legless, and earless Mr. Buckingham says "THAT DIDN'T HURT!"

The ninth accident is when Mr. Buckingham decides to sunbathe in the middle of the road. A truck comes along. The driver thinks someone has put a log in the road as a joke, and runs right over it. This slices Mr. Buckingham's body off. All that's left now, is an earless head in a headdress. After that he lives "happily, happily ever after"and whenever he was hungry, his granddaughter would feed him strawberries. In the illustration, his head in headdress is on a table. His granddaughter is shown standing beside it, feeding him the strawberries. She's wearing a headdress, too, but her skin is a very light pink, not the bright red of his. And she is wearing a dress and red shoes. When he finishes eating the strawberries, he says "THAT DIDN'T HURT" because he is so used to saying it.

Debbie's thoughts:
I'm curious as to why Kunhardt made the granddaughter White. The drawing of the granddaughter (shown above) is in sharp contrast to the drawing of Mr. Buckingham. Kunhardt took more care in drawing her, Billy's mother, Uncle Alexander, and Mr. Buckingham's friend. The two characters shown consistently in crude fashion (like what you'd see in a coloring book) are Billy and Mr. Buckingham. 

That concludes Uncle Alexander's story. Billy's mother comes back with a string. Billy is ready now, to have his tooth pulled. His mother pulls it.  Billy "smiled a brave smile, and he said "That's didn't hurt!" His mother says
"Well, Alexander, this is a nice surprise for me. You said you could make Billy brave with your funny story and you really did. Oh, I am so pleased, now Billy is just as brave as a real Indian."
She gives him a gift of strawberries and the book ends with a drawing of Billy minus the loose tooth and in large letters, 'THAT DIDN'T HURT!"

By counting the stamped date-due on the due-date slip still in the book, I see it circulated 56 times.

I'm currently waiting for a copy of The Dreaming Game: A Portrait of a Passionate Life. It is a biography of Kunhardt, written by her son, Philip. In 1990, he wrote "The Original Touchy Feely: 'Pat the Bunny' Turns 50" for the New York Times Book Review. His article was published on December 23, 1990. In it, he wrote that his mother slept very little and had
many obsessions stirring her heart" including "interest in anything old, in every animal in the world, in Indians, in medicine, in photographs, in Abraham Lincoln, in slaves, in spiritualism, in subways, in freaks, in crime, in death, in love--the list went on and on.
I hope I'll learn a bit more about her that might help me understand this book. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Elizabeth Bird at SLJ: 2012 "Top 100" Picture Books & Novels

Betsy's photo at Goodreads
Elizabeth Bird, author of SLJ's A Fuse 8 Production blog has, for the past few weeks, been posting the results of the 2012 survey of the "Top 100" picture books and novels of readers who responded to her survey.

When she first did the Top 100 survey a few years ago, I did some analysis of the titles on the list. I'll do a similar analysis when she's finished sharing the Top 100.

Today (June 12, 2012), Betsy wrote about book #19 in the Top 100 novels: Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House in the Big Woods. Betsy pointed her readers to my site:
Be sure to check out Debbie Reese’s reaction to this book the last time it appeared on this poll, including a problematic section regarding American Indians in the book.  There is another piece following the book’s inclusion on the Children’s Book-a-Day Almanac.  The book is also mentioned in conjunction with the Common Core Standards for English Language Arts.
This isn't the first time Betsy has pointed her readers to my site. I'm glad each time she does it, because her readers to click on her links and read what I have to say. That, in my view, is a good thing for all of us, Native and not, who value children and the books they read.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

NIGHT OF THE FULL MOON, by Gloria Whelan

Danielle wrote to ask me about Gloria Whelan's Night of the Full Moon. It is regarded as a "first chapter book" (for children who want to read chapter books on their own).

The main characters in the story are Libby (the white girl) and Fawn (the Native girl). In the author's note, Whelan tells us that although the story is fiction, it is (p. 63):
based, in part, on various accounts of the removal of the Potawatomi Indians from Indiana and southern Michigan in 1840. Throughout the summer of that year, soldiers of the U.S. Army, under Brigadier General Hugh Brady, rounded up the Potawatomi from their homes and villages. On August 17, over 500 Potawatomis embarked on a forced migration to Kansas, leaving their homelands behind forever.
I'm glad to see the note but wish Whelan had provided a list of those accounts.

Whelan's book takes the side of Native people who are losing their land. In this case, it is the Potawatomi who are losing their land. The bad guys are the soldiers who round up the Potawatomi people to forcibly move them from their homeland.

In chapter two, for example, Indian agents (white men who work for the federal government) tell Libby's family they are looking for Potawatomi's because "There's talk of sending them west across the Mississippi" (p. 15) because "Topnebi has agreed to having his people sent west. Proper treaties have been signed by him giving Potawatomi land over to the government" (p. 16). Libby's parents voice objections to the removal plan, and her father plans to warn Fawn's family.

The treaty Whelan points to was actually signed in 1821, which is almost 20 years before the year in which Whelan sets her story (1840). Removal had been going on for decades. The agent who talked with Libby's family makes it sound like it had not happened yet, and the forced removal that the agent oversees actually happened before 1840. To most people, that might be a small point. To the Potawatomi, I doubt it is a small point.

Libby and her father go to the camp of Fawn's family to warn them of the agent's plan. Fawn's father, Sanatuwa, tells Libby's father that Potawatomi's who lived south of Saginaw had been forcibly moved "some years ago." Sanatuwa says his group will probably not return from their next winter hunt. He invites Libby's family to a naming ceremony for Fawn's baby brother, which will take place on the "day of the night of the full moon" (hence the title) which sounds "Indian" but for which I couldn't find any reference to support that naming ceremony.

Before all of that happens, Whelan tells us that the Native people at the heart of her story (Potawatomi) prefer their name for themselves (Neshnabek), but Whelan doesn't use that word again. Whether it is in the narrative or in the dialog of her characters, the words used are "Indians" or "Potawatomi(s)".

Also in chapter one, we learn that Fawn's actual name is "Taw-cum-e-go-qua" but it is hard to say, so Libby calls her Fawn, which is the name Libby's father came up with because "she's like a young deer... graceful, with those long legs and big eyes" (p. 7).

I find the choice to use Fawn instead of Taw-cum-e-go-qua odd, because Whelan uses Potawatomi/Neshnabek names for all of Fawn's family members. None of them get a nickname. Fawn's father is Sanatuwa; her mother is Menisikwe, and the baby brother who died was Namah. I'm also curious as to why there aren't any hyphens in their names.

In chapter one when Whelan introduces us to Fawn, we learn that it was a good trapping season:
Each day in the forest the spirits of the animals called to my father. They told him where to put his snares and traps. He brought back many skins" (p. 7). 
While that passage sure sounds "Indian" (according to romantic notions of American Indians), I don't think Potawatomi--or any Native spirituality--works that way. Instead, there is a respect for all living things and a fundamental idea that human beings are one creature on the planet, not the creature who is superior to all others. 

As noted, Libby's family warns Fawn's family of impending trouble. That sounds nice, but I'm pretty sure a Potawatomi family during that time would be aware of that trouble and wouldn't have needed a White family to warn them.

Later in the story, Libby is at Fawn's camp when the soldiers round them up. The soldiers don't believe Libby is a White girl, and she's forced to get on a wagon and be taken away, too. We learn that, as a young child, Fawn had been sick and nursed (saved) by Libby's family, but I wonder what illness Fawn had that her own people couldn't nurse her?

Because Libby's family saved Fawn, Sanatuwa feels it is his duty to return Libby to her family. That night, Sanatuwa, Menisikwe, Fawn, the new baby, and Libby escape. Libby feels bad that Sanatuwa has put his family at risk in trying to return Libby, but he tells her not to feel bad, because his decision to return her is "the means of our freedom" (p. 54). If it wasn't for Libby, Sanatuwa and his family would be leaving their homelands.

Once Libby is reunited with her family, Sanatuwa and his family leave.

In Night of the Full Moon, Whelan tried to do some things right, but couldn't break out of stereotypical tropes that characterize far too many stories about American Indians. And because those stereotypes are so predominant and not recognized as problematic, the book was listed on a few "best books" lists when it came out.

Is it on your shelves? Maybe it is one you can weed out of your collection to make room for books that don't stereotype American Indians.

NOTE: Check out Rebecca Rabinowitz's "Source fiction is no excuse for racism." It is a review of Whelan's After the Train, and read the comments to her review, too! Rebecca's critique is excellent.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Bunky Echo-Hawk, Bunky Echo-Hawk, and, Bunky Echo-Hawk

An unusual photo. Bunky Echo-Hawk was doing his performance art at the 2012 conference of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums. In the photo, he's stage right, at work. Projected on the large screen are camera angles of him at work. One camera is behind him, and one is in front of him. Bunky does awesome work.

Here's the finished piece:

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

BATTLEFIELDS AND BURIAL GROUNDS, by Roger C. and Walter B. Echo-Hawk

Reposting an old post (from Jan 2008) because today, at the 2012 mtg of the Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries, and Museums, I'm listening to Walter B. Echo-Hawk address the rights of Indigenous Peoples. As he talks, Bunky Echo-Hawk does his art on the right of the stage (and it is featured in a large screen center of the stage itself).


Thinking, today, about three four items: Museums, American Indians, the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act, and a book called Battlefield's and Burial Grounds.

On Friday I was in Chicago giving a workshop for teachers. It took place at Chicago's Field Museum. During my presentation, I showed slides of the ways that American Indians are portrayed in children's books. Among the slides is one from Sid Hoff's Danny and the Dinosaur. Published in 1958 it is a perennial favorite and part of HarperCollins I Can Read series. In the story, Danny goes to a museum. Inside he sees "An Indian, a bear, and an Eskimo" in one of the exhibits. I showed a slide of that page in my presentation. There is much to say about why American Indians are placed alongside animals, but the point I wish to make today is about American Indian artifacts and remains that are held by museums across the country.

In 1990, Congress passed the Native American Graves and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). From the NAGPRA website:

NAGPRA provides a process for museums and Federal agencies to return certain Native American cultural items -- human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, or objects of cultural patrimony -- to lineal descendants, and culturally affiliated Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations. NAGPRA includes provisions for unclaimed and culturally unidentifiable Native American cultural items, intentional and inadvertent discovery of Native American cultural items on Federal and tribal lands, and penalties for noncompliance and illegal trafficking.

In 1994, Lerner published a terrific book for children about the work of American Indians whose work led to NAGPRA. The book is called Battlefields and Burial Grounds: The Indian Struggle to Protect Ancestral Graves in the United States, by Roger C. Echo-Hawk and Walter R. Echo-Hawk. Unfortunately, it is out of print. Both men are Pawnee. This is an important book. Each year, hundreds of teachers take their students on field trips to museums. As you plan this year's trip, will you visit a museum that has American Indian exhibits? If so, spend time with Battlefields and Burial Grounds before you go. It will be time well spent.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Not Recommended: Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose by Tina Nichols Coury

A reader wrote to ask me about Tina Nichols Coury's Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up On Mount Rushmore, a new picture book about the father and son who carved Mount Rushmore.

Gutzon Borglum started carving faces into what most people know today as Mount Rushmore. When he died, Lincoln (his son) finished the project.

I gather the book is an interesting story of the work involved, but that it is also a 'hurray' for America that doesn't provide a thoughtful look at the complete story of the place or people.

Gutzon Borglum was a member of the Ku Klux Klan and worked on the "Confederate Memorial Carving" -- a monument to the Confederacy. (Update, 10:20 AM, June 12, 2012: Elizabeth Burns at School Library Journal asked for a link about Borglum and the Klan. It is mentioned in several books, and at the PBS American Experience webpage about him.)

Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose is a picture book by Tina Nichols Coury. Here's an excerpt from her website:
In character as “The Rushmore Kid” she [Coury] visits schools across the United States to present her popular "Why I Love America” program, which promotes an understanding and appreciation of the essential qualities that make America great.
I understand and appreciate love of ones nation, but we ought to be critical of the things about America that are not great. Mistakes made by America's leaders, for example, must be something that children are taught, and there are plenty of mistakes made with regard to the ownership of the Black Hills and Mount Rushmore.

That land was taken without the consent of the Lakota people. The U.S. government has tried to settle with them by offering them money, but, that land is sacred to the Lakota people. They were not, and are not interested in the money. They want the land.

Lakota people do appear in Coury's book, but not in the way I just described. Here's the page they're on:

I'll start by noting problems with Sally Wern Comport's illustrations. She shows several men dancing around a fire in a stereotypical way. The man in the foreground on the left is playing a drum with his open palm. That is an error. Native peoples across the United States use a drumstick to play the drum.

I'd like to know about Comport's sources. Old black/white silent-film footage of the time shows some Native dancers at an event at Mount Rushmore. It was during the day, not at night, and the dancers weren't dancing around a fire.

The text on that page offers a clue about that event:
Winters were harsh in the Black Hills. For the Lakota Indians who lived there, food was scarce. The Borglum family helped out often and went so far as to arrange for a buffalo herd to be donated to the tribe. At the powwow to celebrate, the grateful Indians made Lincoln and his dad blood brothers of the Oglala Lakota Tribe at the Pine Ridge Reservation. Lincoln was happy to lend a hand but dog-tired after dancing all night.
They had a powwow to celebrate? Again, I'd like to know the source of that information.

In The Great White Fathers: The Obsessive Quest to Create Mount Rushmore, John Taliaferro writes that the Borglum's provided a herd of cattle (not buffalo) and blankets and that the Oglala's were grateful to him and held a ceremony at Pine Ridge during which they made him an honorary member. Taliaferro also writes that Borglum wanted buffalo meat served at the dinner, but his efforts to hunt and kill one didn't work out. Was the ceremony a powwow, as Coury describes? Did they dance all night? Was there a fire that they danced around?

The text prompts other questions... Why was food scarce? Was it scarce for everyone, or, did this scarcity have something to do with policies of the federal government? Without sufficient context, the Oglala's are portrayed as pitiful and in need of rescue by kind hearted whites.

I'll keep looking for other accounts. Presumably, Coury has one that says it was a powwow and that they Oglala's made the Borglum's "blood brothers". Is it a Native source, I wonder?

About "blood brothers"...

"Blood brothers" is one of those cliche's associated with American Indians. It is supposed to mean a deep friendship between a white guy and an Indian guy. It figures in a lot of old westerns and, interestingly, it is also in Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks, on page 167, where Omri tells Little Bear that he'll make Boone his blood brother. Little Bear doesn't know what Omri is talking about:
"When Boone is better, do you know what you're going to do? You're going to make him your blood brother!"

Little Bear shot him a quick, startled look. "Blood brother?"

"You both make cuts on your wrists and tie them together so the blood mingles, and after that you can't be enemies ever again. It's an old Indian custom."

Little Bear looked baffled. "Not Indian custom."

"I'm sure it is! It was in a film I saw."

"White man idea. Not Indian."

"Well, couldn't you do it, just this once?"
Banks apparently knew it was not legit. Too bad she didn't get the larger problems in making a Native man under complete control of a white boy.

Anyway! I recommend libraries not order Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose. Some people argue that you can't reject a book for what it leaves out (in this case, the context by which the Black Hills were taken from the Lakota people), but you can reject it for stereotyping.

Friday, June 01, 2012

"E99.P85, Or: The Case of Pocahontas in the Library"

Thaddeus Andracki is one of the most outstanding people I came to know at the University of Illinois when I taught there. As an undergrad, he took my Politics of Children's Literature course and is now in Library School there.

Thaddeus publishes a blog called I'll get there. It'll be worth the trip. I like looking at the bookshelf that is the background for his blog. I especially like seeing Joseph Bruchac's Hidden Roots there. I think it is one of the most important books around.

Yesterday, Thaddeus posted "E99.P85, Or: The Case of Pocahontas in the Library." Read this excerpt, and then go read his entire post. And, then, bookmark or follow his blog. He is a librarian-in-training, but he's already someone we can all learn from.
Disney’s Pocahontas was assigned a main entry of E99.P85. For those who don’t have LoC call numbers memorized (which I’m assuming is most people), E is the broad heading for American History. Numbers in the range around E90 are specifically American Indian History, and E99 is for Biography of American Indians. The P85 specifies further the person the biography is about.

Pocahontas was being classified as a historically accurate documentary.

I’d like to think this was some sort of mistake. But according to OCLC Classify, there are 1242 holdings of this film classified under this call number in libraries that submit data to OCLC. Pocahontas was deliberately assigned a call number such that it could pose as Native history.

I doubt I need to convince you that this film does not accurately represent the history of the woman who was Matoaka, but just in case, here’s a statement from the Powhatan Renape Nation, as well as information from multiple other sources. What I’m concerned about is the carelessness that librarians have taken in curating information about people.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

About Elizabeth Warren's Family Story about being Cherokee

Several weeks ago, the news media began to cover a story about Elizabeth Warren's claim of being Cherokee. I've followed developments in that story, and wish that Warren had chosen a different strategy in response to challenges to her claim.

I'm writing about this because Warren is not alone in that claim.

I think it is accurate to say that thousands of U.S. citizens believe they are part Native American. According to the polls of voters, the majority of voters in Massachusetts say that the controversy over her claim is a non-issue for them. I have some thoughts on that, but lets start with the beginning.


For those who don't follow national politics, Elizabeth Warren is running against Scott Brown for a seat in the United States Senate. Brown found out she claimed to be Cherokee and didn't believe her. He challenged her claim and since then, there have been lots of media stories on her claim.

Last night (May 30, 2011), she issued this statement:
Growing up, my mother and my grandparents and my aunts and uncles often talked about our family’s Native American heritage. As a kid, I never thought to ask them for documentation - what kid would? - but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a part of who I am and part of my family heritage.

The people involved in recruiting and hiring me for my teaching jobs, including Charles Fried - solicitor-general under Ronald Reagan who has publicly said he voted for Scott Brown in 2010 - have said unequivocally they were not aware of my heritage and that it played no role in my hiring. Public documents that reporters have examined also show I did not benefit from my heritage when applying to college or law school. As I have confirmed before, I let people know about my Native American heritage in a national directory of law school personnel. At some point after I was hired by them, I also provided that information to the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard. My Native American heritage is part of who I am, I’m proud of it and I have been open about it.

The people of Massachusetts are concerned about their jobs, the future for their kids, and the security of retirement. It’s past time we moved on to the important issues facing middle class families in Massachusetts.
Obviously, she is not backing away from her claim to Native identity, but she is changing it a bit... She is not saying Cherokee anymore. That may be because Twila Barnes, a Cherokee genealogist, has been doing an extensive study and finding nothing that could support Warren's claim to Cherokee status. And, the group "Cherokees Demand Truth from Elizabeth Warren" was launched yesterday.

Why this matters to me

I am not one of the people of Massachusetts, but I am a citizen of the United States, and, I'm enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, a federally recognized sovereign nation. If elected, Warren will vote on legislation that will have bearing on me and Nambe Pueblo. To do that and do it well (from an informed position), she's got to let go of this story!

Instead of asking voters to move on, she could say that:
  1. She was raised to believe that that she is part Native American, and based on that belief, she claimed Cherokee identity at various times in order to meet people like her. She knows, now, that...
  2. There is a Cherokee Nation that has policies in place that determine who its citizens are, and, she is not a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.
  3. There are a lot of people like her who believe they have Cherokee ancestors and they, like her, proudly assert that ancestry. 
  4. The hard reality is that she doesn't know what it means to be a Cherokee, and that her heartfelt pride is based on romantic ideas and stereotypes. That she embraced that identity uncritically because schools in the U.S. don't teach children that, in addition to the federal and state government, there are tribal governments with inherent powers to determine who its citizens are. She could point out that, instead of an education about tribal governments, students learn about Indians at the First Thanksgiving, and how they did cool things like using every part of the buffalo, and that it is sad that Indians are all gone, now.
  5. In other words, she'd be saying she is ignorant, and that America's collective ignorance can't go on unchecked because it gets in the way of being able to see American Indians in today's society for who we are. Instead of knowing American Indians as we should, Americans choose to know and love them in an abstract stereotypical way that does more harm than good.

Why this should matter to you

I think Warren ought to use her status as a candidate for a national office to educate the public. Her claim is especially problematic because of her prior work on protecting the consumer. Does she know, for example, that there is a federal law that was written to protect the consumer interested in buying American Indian art? Here's some info about that law:
The Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990 (P.L. 101-644) is a truth-in-advertising law that prohibits misrepresentation in marketing of Indian arts and crafts products within the United States. It is illegal to offer or display for sale, or sell any art or craft product in a manner that falsely suggests it is Indian produced, an Indian product, or the product of a particular Indian or Indian Tribe or Indian arts and crafts organization, resident within the United States. For a first time violation of the Act, an individual can face civil or criminal penalties up to a $250,000 fine or a 5-year prison term, or both. If a business violates the Act, it can face civil penalties or can be prosecuted and fined up to $1,000,000.

Under the Act, an Indian is defined as a member of any federally or State recognized Indian Tribe, or an individual certified as an Indian artisan by an Indian Tribe.

The law covers all Indian and Indian-style traditional and contemporary arts and crafts produced after 1935. The Act broadly applies to the marketing of arts and crafts by any person in the United States. Some traditional items frequently copied by non-Indians include Indian-style jewelry, pottery, baskets, carved stone fetishes, woven rugs, kachina dolls, and clothing.

All products must be marketed truthfully regarding the Indian heritage and tribal affiliation of the producers, so as not to mislead the consumer. It is illegal to market an art or craft item using the name of a tribe if a member, or certified Indian artisan, of that tribe did not actually create the art or craft item.
Of course, she is not a product, but I hope you see why this claim by her is especially egregious. I hasten to add that the law excludes Native artists who cannot be enrolled with a tribe because they don't meet the tribe's criteria for enrollment. For example, someone could have four full blood grandparents from four different tribes, making them 1/4 of each one, but if each one requires more than 1/4 blood quantum to be enrolled, that person could not be enrolled in any of them. There's a lot more to say about enrollment and blood quantum, but lets stick with the current discussion of Elizabeth Warren.

A more informed public

America could emerge from this moment as more-educated about American Indians. And, maybe we'd even have the courage to reject all those disgusting headlines wherein people skewer Warren by playing with racist language and ideas like the Fox News personality who said the first thing she'd say to Warren (if she agreed to an interview) would be "How!"

Warren could do a lot of educating if she had the courage to do so. It would help us (teachers and librarians) do a better job of selecting literature, and it would give us the information we need when a person or group is being brought in to our schools to do Native American workshops or performances.

But, I doubt Warren will ever step away from her family story, because she's running for a political office. In campaigns, people don't generally say "I was wrong" because those admissions will be called "flip flops" and work against the candidate. She won't do it, and, in the end, we all lose an opportunity. That's too bad.


See also Dear Elizabeth Warren: I know kids who would ask their parents for proof of identity

Finding, Assessing, and Celebrating Authentic Indigenous Literature

Are you going to the 2012 conference of the Pacific Northwest Library Association? If so, head over a day early for a free workshop (costs will be covered by the Alaska State Library)!

Debby Dahl Edwardson, author of the outstanding My Name Is Not Easy, and I will do a four hour pre-conference session on "Finding, Assessing, and Celebrating Authentic Indigenous Literature."

See the sticker on the cover of Debby's book? "National Book Award Finalist." Saying it again, Debby's book is outstanding.

Each time I look at that cover, I think of all my uncles. When I look through the yearbooks from Santa Fe Indian School (the ones my parents saved), I see my uncles with that haircut... I suppose it was "the thing" back then (the 1950s), but nonetheless, that cover gives me pause every time I look at it. I'm excited to work with Debby on this session.

Date: Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Place: Sheraton Anchorage Hotel and Spa

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Peter D. Sieruta

On March 25, 2011 on his "Collecting Children's Books" blog, Peter D. Sieruta wrote about Laura Adams Armer's Waterless Mountain, a story about a Navajo boy. He shared his thoughts about the book (it won the Newbery Medal in 1932) and then said:
I'd be curious to know what Dr. Debbie Reese, who writes the American Indians in Children's Literature blog thinks of the book.
I submitted a comment to Peter (you can see it and our conversation below), and we began talking on our blogs, on Facebook, and most recently, by email. We never met in person, but the few exchanges we had meant a lot to me. On Facebook, we went beyond the professional and scholarly conversations about books.

I felt bad when I read his Facebook post on May 21 (a Monday). He fell down the stairs on the 18th and broke his ankle. I posted on his wall about some research I've done on Scott O'Dell, hoping it might distract him from the dismal recovery he was having. In the weeks prior to that, Peter sent me a few articles about O'Dell. I was looking forward to conversations with him.

But on Saturday morning (May 26th) when I opened Facebook, I read that Peter had died.

I was stunned, and my thoughts have turned to him a lot since then. I've read several tributes to him and his work and I visit his Facebook page, where his brother is sharing memories of Peter. My tribute is this post, wherein I've gathered the exchanges I had with Peter. They are arranged chronologically.

March 25, 2011: Sunday Brunch with Fire and Water

Here's screenshots of our comments to each other (sorry they don't align properly):

April 1, 2012: Facebook
I loaded a photo of my husband's freshly-baked bread onto Facebook:

May 8th, 2012: Facebook
I couldn't access an article about Scott O'Dell and posted a 'help' to child_lit. A few minutes later, I was on Facebook and saw Peter's post to my wall:


May 13th, 2011: Sunday Brunch for Mothers and Maurice
In his last blog post on May 13th, Peter pointed his readers to my site, saying:
Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature is an important blog that "provides critical perspectives and analysis of indigenous peoples in children's and young adult books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society." Do I always agree with Debbie? No, but I definitely respect her thought-provoking opinions. I've learned a lot from her blog and am pleased we are friends on Facebook. (And if anyone reading this wants to keep in touch with me on Facebook, feel free to "friend" me.)

This week Debbie posted the following paper doll figures on Facebook, with the message: "These two paper dolls are excellent! Please SHARE with students in Education or Library School."

I love them too and want to share them here:

These are the paper dolls he posted:

In his post, he quoted Steven Paul Judd, the Native artist who made the paper dolls. From there, he went on to talk about paper dolls based on characters in children's literature.

May 16th, 2012: Facebook

I posted a link to a Prezi I did about Scott O'Dell's Island of the Blue Dolphins. Peter viewed the Prezi and asked me a question:

Two days later, Peter fell. As many others have written, his death is a tragic loss to children's literature. Though we never met in person, I feel that I've lost a friend with whom I would have had lots of interesting conversations with about books like Island of the Blue Dolphins. 

I'm glad to have known Peter and like Elizabeth Bird so many others, I will miss him.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Children's Book Council's "CBC Diversity" hosting "It's Complicated"

The roots of Children's Book Week and the Children's Book Council goes back to 1919, when Children's Book Week "was introduced to focus attention on the need for quality children's books and the importance of childhood literacy."

The Council is a national nonprofit trade association for children's trade book publishers. In my quick count of its members, there's over fifty different book publishers in the Council.

This week, CBC Diversity will take up a discussion about diversity. They've titled it "It's Complicated" and invited me to submit a post for it. I did, and I look forward to reading the discussion it generates.

There will also be a post by Cynthia Leitich Smith, author of several terrific books, including one of my all-time favorites, Jingle Dancer.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


As regular readers of AICL know, I'm working on a Master's in Library Science at San Jose State University. This semester, I learned how to use Prezi. It is all-the-rage in presentation-land, but my final assessment is that I doubt that I'll use it for presentations. While it may be more engaging, it also fails to meet accessibility standards for special needs populations. In order to make mine as accessible as possible, I didn't use all the toys in Prezi. My presentation is as straightforward as I could make it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012


At his blog, Matt Sakiestewa Gilbert offered a sneak peak at the cover of his new book The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue, due out in the fall of 2012.

The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue is not a children's book, but books like it are a must-read for people who work in children's literature. Given the growing body of children's and young adult books about boarding schools for American Indian children, critics of children's literature must know what the schools were like in order to accurately review books set in boarding schools.

In those schools, the goal was to "Christianize and civilize" American Indians, or, to use another phrase used to describe the schools, "to kill the Indian and save the man." The cover of The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue brilliantly demonstrates the import of the curriculum:

The children in the photo are shown reading Peter's Family, a basal reader published by Scott, Foresman in the 1930s. Here's some inside pages from a teachers guide (source for the pages is Etsy bookseller PalabrasdeMaria). I wonder if Scott, Foresman thought Native children would be amongst the audience for their books?

On this page, the text on the right has the word "Help." We can interpret this page in at least two ways. Combined with the illustrations on the left, it suggests that this page is about how children ought to help out at home. That would mean it is didactic or instructional, a "how to be a good kid" sort of thing. Or, we could use today's metaphor of literature as a mirror and could read the page as a reflection of (White) children and what they do. (These early readers did not include children who weren't White.) Although the children shown in the book don't look like the child on the cover of The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue, I bet that child knew all about helping out at home.

Part of the goal to "civilize" American Indians meant that they ought to move to cities where they could be Americanized and ride trains and buses or drive their own cars to their places of work. That idea became a federal policy in the 1950s with the Relocation programs by which Native families were moved to urban areas. This page of Peter's Family shows that work meant being a dentist, working at a gas station, as a lumberjack, or as a pilot. 

The public perception might have been that American Indians didn't do anything at all, or, that they were hunters with nothing left to hunt. The fact is, Native men were statesmen and diplomats who signed treaties with their European and U.S. counterparts. They were doctors, too. A good case in point is Carlos Montezuma, a Yavapai man who became a doctor and invented the mentholatum we know today as "Vicks". And, American Indians were pilots in WWII.

I look forward to Matt's book. Maybe the cover is a clue that one chapter will be about basal readers or the curriculum. The full title is The Indian School on Magnolia Avenue: Voices and Images from Sherman Institute. Sherman is in California and the school itself is still in operation. One of Matt's coauthors is Lorene Sisquoc. She's the curator of the school's museum. You might want to spend some time at the museum' website: Sherman Indian Museum.

Monday, May 07, 2012

Jim Blasingame: "Ethnic Studies Ban Hits Tucson Hard: YA and Canon Alike Take a Hit"

[Editor's Note: A chronological list of AICL's coverage of the shut-down of the Mexican American Studies classes at Tucson Unified School District is here.]

With permission of Jim Blasingame, I'm republishing his article from the Assembly on Literature for Adolescent's April 2012 online newsletter.  Jim and Simon Ortiz have done some excellent work together with high school students in Arizona. 
I wrote about their work two years ago in "I come to school for this class. I deal with the other ones." Here's Jim's article from the ALAN newsletter:
Things in Tucson continue to go south (pun intended). Just when it seems nothing worse could happen, someone gets fired or the truth is once again held hostage, or some representative of the Arizona Department of Education or the Tucson Unified School Board makes an even more outrageous and racist claim. The recent announcement that the contract of Sean Arce, Director of the now defunct Mexican American Studies program for the Tucson Unified School District, was not renewed comes on the heels of another announcement: Arce was named winner of the 2012 Myles Horton Education Award for Teaching People's History.

The Horton award is given by the Zinn Education Project, an organization that believes "through taking a more engaging and more honest look at the past, we can help equip students with the analytical tools to make sense of - and improve - the world today" (Zinn). The award is named for Myles Horton, who founded the Highlander Folk School in 1932. According to the Civil Rights Digital Library: Between 1932 and 1962, the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee, provided a valuable training ground for two generations of southern labor organizers and Civil Rights activists. During the 1930s and 1940s, the school was instrumental in unionizing textile, timber, and mine workers throughout the region, often working in concert with national organizations such as the Congress of Industrial Organizations. In the 1950s, Highlander became a seedbed of Civil Rights activism, holding regular educational workshops to promote nonviolent protest and encourage black voter registration.

Myles Horton's students at Highlander included Martin Luther King, Ralph Abernathy, and Rosa Parks, all of whom would become emblematic of the Civil Rights Movement. "We Shall Overcome," often recognized as the anthem of the Movement, was adapted from a gospel song by Horton's wife, Zilphia.

After southern newspaper ran frequent attacks on the school for allegedly generating racial unrest and promoting communism, the state of Tennessee revoked the Highlander Folk School's charter in 1961. Which are almost exactly the charges against the Mexican American Studies Program filed by the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) against the Tucson Unified School District (TUSD).

For those who have not been following this series of events, a quick recap in chronological order may be helpful.

1998: TUSD initiated the La Raza Studies Department in an effort to improve the retention and graduation rates among Latino students. The program yielded some pretty impressive results. More than 97% of students in the program graduated from high school, compared to 44% nationally, and 70% entered college compared to 24% nationally. Students scored higher on the AIMS test compared to other Hispanic students who did not take the classes.

2006: Dolores Huerta, cofounder of the United Farm Workers, speaks to students at Tucson Magnet High School that "Republicans hate Latinos" (Sagara), after which ADE Superintendent of Schools Tom Horne sends Assistant Superintendent and fellow Republican Margaret Garcia Dugan to Tucson to give a speech on recognizing stereotyping of the nature allegedly committed by Huerta. Dugan's own ethnic loyalty was challenged by students attending her presentation. (Page) Horne attacks the Mexican American Studies program in the media, asking for TUSD to examine and eliminate it. A new school board votes 4-1 to retain the program despite Horne's diatribes.

2008, 2009: Superintendent Horne enlists AZ Representative Steve Montenegro to draft legislation to ban "Ethnic Studies," which Montenegro introduces in the House Education committee, failing to cite any statistics on the educational impact of the bill but, rather, descrying it as "anti-American, racist . . . [and] otherwise unfit for teaching in public schools" (Lundholm, 1047). AS Senator Russell Pearce, author of Arizona's SB 1070 sponsors a bill to ban any sort of campus activities or classes that promote ethnic solidarity in Arizona's public schools. This legislation fails to get traction two years in a row in the Arizona Legislature.

2010 (May ): Three weeks after the enactment of Arizona's SB 1070, legislation requiring people stopped by police on suspicion of having committed a crime to present documents proving their citizenship, the bill banning Ethnic Studies HB 2281 also passes. As reported in the Los Angeles Times on May 12, 2010: A bill that aims to ban ethnic studies in Arizona schools was signed into law Tuesday by Gov. Jan Brewer, cheering critics who called such classes divisive and alarming others who said it's yet another law targeting Latinos in the state. (Santa Cruz)

According to the bill: Section 15-112. "Prohibited courses and classes; enforcement" states

A. A school district or charter school in this state shall not include in
its program of instruction any courses or classes that include any of the following:
1) Promote the overthrow of the United States government.
2) Promote resentment toward a race or class of people.
3) Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group.
4) Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as
(HB 2281)

2010 (October 18): Anticipating the law's passage, [Curtis Acosta] and 10 other Tucson high school teachers filed a lawsuit Oct. 18, 2010, against the superintendent of public instruction (Horne has since moved up to attorney general of Arizona) and the Board of Education, maintaining House Bill 2281 violates the First and 14th Amendments (Fleming).

2010 (December 30): The Tucson Unified School District Governing Board, in agreement with TUSD Superintendent of Schools, John Pedicone, unanimously passes the "Resolution to Implement Ethnic Studies in Tucson Unified School District in Accordance with All Applicable Laws."

2010 (December 30): Just days before leaving office, Tom Horne declares the TUSD Mexican Studies program to be in violation of the law. He does not observe any of the classes but, rather, bases his judgment on his own perusal of the textbooks and his conversation with five former teachers of the class (Lundholm, 1043). Horne says the only way TUSD can be in compliance with state statute is to completely discontinue the program (1043).

2011: Newly elected ADE Superintendent, John Hupenthal, hires an educational consulting firm to complete a study of the program at the cost of $110,000. Consultants evaluate the textbooks, observe classes, conduct interviews and focus groups with people connected with the program and conclude that it in no way violates the state law. Hupenthal vacates the firm's findings and issues his own findings in June that conclude the program violates three of the four tests in 15-112 based on his "independent research" (1044). It is interesting to note that Hupenthal was a member of the Arizona Senate who had added amendments to the bill while in office.

2011 (December 27): Administrative Law Judge Lewis Kowal rules that Mexican American Studies as taught in TUSD violates H.B. 2281 (now A.R.S. 15-111 and 112), as written, validating ADE's power to withhold 10 percent of Tucson Unified School District's funding.

2012 (January 10): The TUSD votes 4-1 to discontinue the Mexican American Studies program.

2012 (January 17): The following books are boxed and relocated to the TUSD storage facility: Critical Race Theory, by Richard Delgado; 500 Years of Chicano History in Pictures, edited by Elizabeth Martinez; Message to AZTLAN, by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales; Chicano! The History of the Mexican Civil Rights Movement, by Arturo Rosales; Occupied America: A History of Chicanos, by Rodolfo Acuña; Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire; and Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, by Bill Bigelow. District spokesperson Cara Rene says the books are not banned from school libraries but will not be used in classes (Gersema). For a complete list of additional books from courses in the now defunct Mexican American Studies Program, see Debbie Reese's excellent blog, American Indians in Children's Literature. According to Tucson officials, these books remain available in school libraries.

2012 (April): School Board member Michael Hicks and TUSD teacher Curtis Acosta are interviewed on The Daily Show.

2012 (April): Constitutionality of the law, as challenged by 10 TUSD teachers will be examined at the federal level by Judge Wallace Tashima of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.

The elimination of the courses which used these books amounts to 10 giant steps backwards to all the teachers, librarians, parents, authors, and scholars who have tried to provide quality, engaging literature that represents as many ways to be a human being as we know of after so many years of the elitist (and boring) DOWM curriculum, as Ted Hipple referred to it (dead, old, white men).

Among these books are many we have been promoting heavily for their power to help young people make sense of the world and understand the valuable part they have to play in it. The loss of these classes means the quieting of the voices of Sherman Alexie, James Baldwin, Jane Yolen, Jimmy Santiago Baca, Sandra Cisneros, Isabella Allende, Matt de la Peña, bell hooks, Malcom X, Francisco Jimenez, Luis Rodriguez, Rudolfo Anaya, Martin Luther King, and even our own local treasures, Ofelia Zepeda and Stella Pope Duarte. Lori Carlson's collections of Latino/a and Native American pieces are boxed and stored, too. The voice of Cesar Chavez, for whom the center square in
downtown Phoenix is named, has been removed, as well as the voice of our own United
States President, Barack Obama.

Which brings us to now, April 16, 2012, a few days after the TUSD school board voted 3-2 not to renew the contract of Mexican American Studies Director Sean Arce in a heavily protested school board meeting. This is also a few days after Arce won the Horton Award for his efforts to teach the truth about history and politics in the Southwest. Perhaps no one said it better than Myle's Horton himself when the state of Tennessee attempted to bring an end to the efforts of the Highlander Folk School: "A school is an idea, and you can't padlock an idea" (Zinn).

And you can't keep books in boxes forever.

James Blasingame
Past president of the Assembly on Literature for Adolescents of
Past co-editor of The ALAN Review.
Resident of Chandler, Arizona

Works Cited

Fleming, Susan Domagalski. "A Teacher Put to the Test." Willamette University The Scene. Winter 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.
Gersema, Emily. "Tucson District Denies Ban of Mexican-American Books." Arizona Republic. 17 1 2012. Web. 16 4 2012. district-denies-ban-mexican-american-books.html

"Highlander Folk School 25th Anniversary." Civil Rights Digital Library. 11 7 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.

Huicochea, Alexis. "TUSD Board Shuts Down Mexican American Studies." Arizona Daily Star. 11 1 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.

Lundholm, Nicholas B. "Cutting Class: Why Arizona's Ethnic Studies Ban Won't Ban Ethnic Studies." Arizona Law Review 53.1041: 1041-1088.

Menkart, Deborah. April 2, 2012. "Zinn Education Project Honors Sean Arce." Teaching a People's History: Zinn Education Project. 2 4 2012. Retrieved 16 4 2012 from

Page, Clarence. "Ethnic Studies Can Unite Us." Chicago Tribune. 16 5 2010. Web. 16 4 2012. column,0,6783724.column

Reese, Debbie. "Mexican American Studies Reading List." American Indians in Children's Literature. 15 1 2012. Web. 16 4 2012.

Sagara, Eric. "'Hate-Speak' at School Draws Scrutiny." Tucson Citizen. 13 4 2006. Web. 16 4 2012.

Santa Cruz, Nicole. "Arizona Bill Targeting Ethnic Studies Signed into Law." Los Angeles Times. 12 5 2010. Web. 16 4 2012.