Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Eds. note, Oct 11, 2016: See updated review: A Second Look at Aaron Carapella's Maps.

Some months ago, I began to see information about Aaron Carapella's map, "Native American Nations - Our Own Names & Locations." It is an admirable and ambitious project, and it held a great deal of promise... But.

The ways in which Carapella writes about the project is a bit off-putting. For example, he writes that "We also honor the Indigenous Nations of this land by giving them ownership of their own names for themselves." I don't know who "we" is (Carapella and his team?) but how do they have the power to give any nation ownership of its own name? Doesn't that sound a bit silly? It is not a small point. The whole point of the map, as I understand it, is to make it clear that Native Nations had concepts of nationhood prior to European contact. That included the names they used--and use--for themselves. Saying that he gives them ownership of their own names does the same thing outsiders did.

The map itself, he tells us, has the "original names" that a nation used (Numuunu instead of Comanche), but that sometimes, the name on Carapella's map is a "given name" because the original one is not known. As far as I can tell, the map itself does not tell us which ones are original and which ones are given.

Because of the massive amount of inaccurate information about American Indians that circulates in a wide range of media, it is especially important that a map such as Carapella's be accurate. I took a look at the part of the map that has Pueblo Indians on it. Carapella shows the current pueblos (some of them are not in what I deem "accurate" locations), but he's also got one on there (Piro) that he would probably put in his "numberless" category -- which I take to be no longer in existence. I think that Piro ought to be in a different font so that we know it is "numberless."

I cross checked the spellings he used for the pueblos and found several errors. That's too bad. That information is easy to get from the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. In my cross-check, it looks like it may have been Carapella's source, but I could be wrong. Still, those spelling errors make me wonder about the spelling of other Indian nations on the map. From a colleague, I learned that Carapella made similar errors with tribes in California.

If you bought a map already and want to make corrections to the errors for the Pueblo Nations, you can do this as a learning activity with students. First, get out Carapella's map. Second, look at the spreadsheet below (downloadable from Carapella's site). The right column is what Carapella calls "given" names. Third, find that given name on the website for the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and see what is listed there as the "traditional" name for that tribe. Fourth, see if it matches what Carapella has on his map. If not, make a correction.

You could also look at the tribal seal. For example, on the page for Nambe, the traditional name is listed as "Nambe" but our complete name is on the tribal seal:   "Nambé O-Ween-Gé."

As noted above, Carapella's project is ambitious and has a great deal of potential but I think it needs some visual way of conveying important information ("given" versus "original" names; existing versus "numberless" tribes) and I also think it needs to be sourced.

Update, July 28, 2014:

In addition to comments below, please see the discussion on the Native American and American Indian Issues page on Facebook. Carapella posted a link to the NPR piece on that page yesterday (July 26th). The first response to his post is from Joe Horse Capture, a curator at the National Museum of the American Indian, who said that the map is inaccurate, spreads misinformation, and that he hasn't met any curators or academics who find the map accurate. In his comment, Chad Obiwanishinaabe Uran, a visiting lecturer in American Indian Studies at the University of Washington, pointed to AICL and to a post at Tumblr that lists several concerns with the map. (Update, July 19, 2016: Carapella deleted the post at the Native American and American Indian Issues page, presumably because he did not like the questions he was receiving about the map).

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Native American Zodiac"

Twice within the last few weeks, people have written to ask me about the "Native American Zodiac" that is popping up on social media. Here's the graphic that is circulating:

Obviously, I've drawn a red X over the graphic to provide a visual comment on the "Native American Zodiac." If you're a regular reader of American Indians in Children's Literature, you know that there is no such thing as a "Native American" tribe.

"Native American" and "American Indian" are broad terms for the Indigenous peoples of the United States. Within those terms are hundreds of different Native nations. We are all over the country, from north to south and east to west. We are not monolithic in the ways we speak, dress, govern, or, in the stories we tell. Things like a "Native American Zodiac" obscure and collapse who we are, and they encourage ignorance!

As I look at the 
"Native American Zodiac" 
I wonder who made it?! 

To someone unfamiliar with Native peoples and our nations, histories, and cultures, it might seem cool, but to those who know, it is bogus.

I view it as akin to New Age appropriation and misrepresentation of Native ways of being and urge you to reject it, AND, if it pops up on your social media, let your friends, family, and colleagues who are sharing it know that it is bogus.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


One of the things I look for when reading a traditional story rooted in a Native Nation is an attribution of where the story was heard, and from whom. In Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend, Montileaux gives us that information right away in a two-page introduction.

Montileaux heard this story from Alex White Plume, a Lakota elder and storyteller. In a radio interview, Montileaux says more about the story, assuring readers that he is retelling the story as it is told. Initially, White Plume was reluctant to have a traditional story put into print. When he saw what Montileaux had done, he gave him his blessing. In the radio interview, Montileaux also says that Agnes Gay, the woman who did the Lakota translation, works as an archivist at the Oglala Lakota College. She, too, verified the integrity of Montileaux's telling of that story.

Photo credit: Joel Ebert, Capital Journal, South Dakota
The care Montileaux took with the story marks the story itself as distinctive. His art adds a beautiful dimension to the words on the page.

Montileaux's style reflects the ledger art of the 1800s, developed by Plains Indians who drew on ledger pages using pencil, ink, and watercolor. The photo shown here is of Montileaux working in his studio (link to story: A Lakota Legend, Flying Off the Pages).

A third quality of the book that marks it as distinctive is that it is a bilingual text. Above, I noted that Agnes Gay did the translation. Throughout the book, readers can see/read the story in Lakota. Here's a scan of one of my favorite pages:

At that point in the story, the young man on the horse is riding into camp after having spent many months away, looking for and training horses. The horses were new to the people and regarded as a gift from their creator. With them, the people were able to do more than they could before. But, they abused that gift, using it to dominate other peoples on the Plains. The gift was taken away from them. Hundreds of years later, horses return with the conquistadors.

Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend is a fascinating story that pays tribute to the stories Native peoples have told for hundreds of years.

I highly recommend 
Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend.

Montileaux is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota Nation. Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend was published by the South Dakota State Historical Society in 2014. Support small bookstores by getting a copy from Birchbark Books.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

NOT RECOMMENDED: Paul Goble's THE GIRL WHO LOVED WILD HORSES (updated re Goble's identity)

Is Paul Goble's The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses one of your favorite books? Published in 1978 by Bradbury Press, it won the Caldecott Medal thirty-five years ago. Let's take a look at it. 

Here's the first paragraph in the story:
The people were always moving from place to place following the herds of buffalo. They had many horses to carry the tipis and all their belongings. They trained their fastest horses to hunt the buffalo.
With the word 'tipis' in that paragraph Goble suggests that these are Plains people. The buffalo are another clue that suggests the story is one belonging to the Plains tribes.

As the story begins, we learn of "a girl" (we are never given her name) who loved horses. People in the village see that she has a way with them. One day when she is out with the herd of horses, a huge storm erupts. She leaps onto one as the herd races in fear. When the horses stop that night, the girl looks around and realizes that they are lost. The next morning she wakes to the neighing of a handsome stallion who tells her he is the leader of the wild horses that roam the hills. He welcomes her to live with them. She and her herd are happy.

Meanwhile, her people spend the next year looking for her. One day, two hunters see the stallion and the girl, too. She's on a horse, leading a colt. They call and wave at her. She waved back, but the stallion drove her and the herd away from the hunters. Other men join them in an attempt to reach the girl, but the stallion keeps them away from the girl and the colt. But, the girl's horse stumbles, and she falls. The hunters take her back to the village. She was happy to see her parents but she is sad. She misses the colt and the wild horses. At night, the stallion calls to her. The girl is lonely and gets sick. Doctors ask what would make her happy again, and she says she wants to return to the wild horses.

The stallion and wild horses come to the village. The people give the horses blankets and saddles and they give the girl a beautiful dress and the best horse in the village. The girl gives her parents a colt, and she rides away, beside the stallion, reunited with the herd. Each year, she brings her parents another colt. But one year, she doesn't return at all.

Then, the hunters see the stallion again. Beside him is "a beautiful mare with a mane and tail floating with wispy clouds about her." They believe the girl is that mare, that she has become a wild horse, too. The story ends with:
Today we are still glad to remember that we have relatives among the Horse People. And it gives us joy to see the wild horses running free. Our thoughts fly with them.
Nowhere in The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses do we have any sources for that story. As noted earlier, Goble's use of 'tipis' suggests a Plains tribe. What we know as the Great Plains is a vast area. Here's a map from the Smithsonian:

See how that area stretches from the north to south, spanning at least 1500 miles? See the 20 or so tribes listed in that area? There's a lot more than just those 20. They don't speak the same language and they don't tell the same stories.

The question is, who does this story about a girl who became a wild horse belong to? It'd be good to know. If it is a story Goble came up with, then it isn't a Native story, is it?

Though it won the Caldecott, and though a lot of people love Goble's art, I think it is (past) time to set aside The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses. What do you think?

Update, 6:00 AM, June 11, 2014

(1) Elsewhere people are noting how much like they like his art. It is a style most people would recognize as "Goble" but let's pause again. I haven't done a close study of it, but does it suffer from the same ambiguity we see in The Girl Who Loved Wild Horses?

(2) Someone noted that Goble was adopted by a tribe.  His Adopted by the Eagles (Macmillian, 1994) includes this:

Does being given a name and being called "Son" mean he was adopted? Was he adopted by Edgar Red Cloud? Or was it by a tribe, as was done with President Obama? I've ordered Goble's autobiography and will revisit this post when it arrives. It may provide details about how he met Edgar Red Cloud.

(3) The Author's Note for Adopted by the Eagles says:
"I would like to think that Edgar somehow sensed, right from the start (1959), that I would one day make books of some of the stories he told me."
Many authors say something similar to that... about how Native people they know/live amongst asked them to write a story about them. As readers of AICL now, I frown on that phrase.

(4) Goble's note ends with this curious paragraph:
Finally, it needs to be stated that the traditional kola friendship of the two Lakota men, as described in this story, was never a homosexual relationship. Kolas sought to guard each other from all errors; to share their strengths while walking life's Good Red Road together.
I wonder why Goble felt compelled to include that paragraph? Adopted by the Eagles was published in 1994. Perhaps it was prompted by a fear that people wouldn't buy a book about friendship between two men, but, do other books published then have a similar disclaimer?

(5) The last item on the page with the Author's Note is a very important note for teachers. Here it is, in its entirety:
When a book like this has been read in the classroom, students are sometimes asked to write their own "Indian" stories. It is not asked with bad intentions, but it belittles these traditional stories, suggesting that any child can invent them. When studying the Greek myths, or the legends of King Arthur, or Bible stories, students would never be asked to invent stories in the manner of... Instead, children should be encouraged to write down the stories in their own words to help remember them. Over the years they will come to think about the inner meanings which all these stories hold.
I say that, too. I'm glad to see it in Goble's book. But he's invented stories! Is it ok, since he is not a child? I don't think so!

See my previous posts about Goble. I'll have more to say when I get Goble's biography.
July 22, 2009: About Paul Goble and his books...
April 3, 2011: Dear Mr. Goble: 

Monday, June 09, 2014

Beverly Slapin reviews Joseph Bruchac's KILLER OF ENEMIES

Editor's Note: Beverly Slapin of De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children, submitted this review essay of Joseph Bruchac's Killer of Enemies. It may not be used elsewhere without her written permission. All rights reserved.

Bruchac, Joseph, Killer of Enemies. Tu Books/ Lee & Low, 2013; grades 5-up
First, a pre-review story….

Years ago, Joe Bruchac was giving an evening reading at a local East Bay indie bookstore. Readers of his short stories and poetry, young and not so young, filled the room. For lack of available seats, a few friends and I stood in the back. Joe, holding his hand drum and one of his books, walked to the podium, looked around, and, as was his wont, greeted the audience in Abenaki. I waved to him from the back, and he acknowledged me this way:

“And kwai-kwai to my friend, Beverly Slapin, who actually likes…(two-second pause here)…some of my books.” Remember that, Joe?

Now, the review….

I just love Joe’s latest young adult thriller, Killer of Enemies!

If there’s one thing known for sure, it’s that Lozen, the famed and much-honored Chiricahua woman warrior, was no wimp. She rode in battle with Geronimo and with her brother Victorio, and their enemies—Mexican and American—knew and feared her. It’s been said that, from time to time, the spirits visited Lozen, that she could find water in the desert, and that she could locate enemies and read their thoughts. It’s been said that she led a large group of fearful women and babies, riding their panicky horses, across the surging Rio Grande—and then returned to battle the American forces.

Like her namesake, 17-year-old Lozen is a warrior and a hero. In this post-apocalyptic thriller, a mysterious force named Cloud, arrived from beyond Jupiter, has destroyed much of humanity and rendered useless all advanced technology. Lozen’s family, with many others, is held under marshal law in a walled fortress called Haven, ruled by four deranged and despotic semi-human overlords (the “Ones”) with bio-enhancements that no longer work. Holding her family hostage—and on the whims of any of them—they send her out to battle genetically modified monsters (“gemods”), such as giant birds of prey, a beyond huge anaconda, and many more. Drawing strength from her wits, her prayers, her supernatural powers inherited from her namesake, her family’s and tribe’s histories, her tracking and fighting skills, and the allies she encounters—natural and supernatural—Lozen is determined and unafraid. 

Since this is not the first apocalypse her family’s survived, Lozen has inherited, as she would say, mucho generational experience:

It was lucky for me in particular that my youthful skills included such…anachronistically useless pursuits as hand-to-hand combat, marksmanship, tracking, and wilderness survival at a time when the wilderness itself was barely surviving. Those esoteric and…outdated interests can be blamed on or credited to my family, especially my uncle and my dad—stubborn descendants of a nation that had been targeted for destruction in more than one century yet still survived.

Aside: Whenever I receive one of Joe’s young adult novels, I open to a random page to see how he’s chosen to grab video-game-obsessed pre-teens. Here’s a sample:

One nice thing from being entombed when you are not yet a corpse is that it gives you plenty of time for thinking. That is also one of the worst things about being in a situation like this. It seems as if no matter what you think about, it all comes down to: Crap, I’m trapped.

Joe embeds Lozen’s story in a cultural framework that makes sense to his readers, Native and non-Native alike. Picking up an eagle feather was and is a big deal, for instance, and Lozen does not feel the need to step out of the narrative to give the reader an ethnographic exposition. When she has time, she says a complete prayer; when she’s on the run, she simply says, “thank you.”

Unlike many young adult novels about Indian people—and in particular, Tanya Landman’s sloppily researched and abysmally written Apache Girl Warrior—the Lozen in Killer of Enemies is a confident, pragmatic, fearless young woman who understands the power of dreams—and who knows who she is, what she comes from, and what she has been given to do.

Young readers might recognize the similarities between post-apocalyptic and pre-apocalyptic life, such as the guarded compound of Haven and the 19th century prisons called reservations and Indian residential schools. They also might recognize the similarities between the deranged post-apocalyptic Ones and contemporary one-percenters, who enrich themselves at the expense of the rest of us. As well, older readers might recognize some of Lozen’s quips as taken directly from an Alfred Hitchcock thriller containing a nightmarish shower scene, a campy Broadway musical not involving birds, a TV series about a patriarch’s superior knowledge, the title of a Ray Bradbury novel (itself based on a Shakespeare play), a Kevin Costner movie, a snipe at the language-challenged Tonto, a line from a poem by Robert Frost, and many more. There’s also a host of puns and other word plays and a helpful Bigfoot with laugh-out-loud Jewish cultural markers (“So sue me”). All of this is a treasure trove for talented classroom teachers and school librarians.

For those readers who are unduly thrilled by videogame-inspired carnage, there is this from Lozen:

When Child of Water and Killer of Enemies finished destroying nearly all—but not all—of the monsters that threatened human life in that long ago time, they did not feel the thrill of victory. What they felt was sickness. Taking lives is a precarious job, one that can end up polluting your spirit and burning your heart. When you touch the enemy in battle, it unbalances you. The Hero Twins would have died if it had not been for the healing ceremonies that were used to restore their balance, to cool their interior, to soothe their spirits, to clean the dust of death from their vision.

And finally, I thank Joe for incorporating a Muslim love interest for Lozen—Hussein, the gentle gardener and musician, who survives torture by the Ones—and who joins Lozen’s family on the run. Just as Indians in general and Apaches in particular are all-too-often treated as savages in children’s and young adult books, Islamophobia is rampant as well.

Brisk pace and nonstop action—an adrenaline rush with large helpings of gore, drama and hilarious wordplay—move Lozen’s narrative in a page-turner that left me hungering for a sequel that I’m pretty sure is on the horizon. Killer of Enemies is highly recommended.

—Beverly Slapin

Sunday, June 08, 2014


Comic book fans! Keep your eyes peeled for INC Comics. INC is Indigenous Narratives Collective. First up from INC is Arigon Starr's Annumpa Luma--Code Talker, published in 2014

If you follow national news about American Indians, you're probably familiar with the Code Talkers. Yesterday's New York Times ran a story about Chester Nez, a Navajo code talker who served in WWII. Mr. Nez passed away on June 4, 2014. Because of the sensitivity of the work they did, code talkers could not tell their families what they did. In recent years, those restrictions have been lifted.

Starr's comic reaches back to World War I. In Annumpa Luma, she deftly provides readers with a solid chunk of history. The comic opens with Choctaw soldiers in the trenches. They're talking Choctaw to each other... and the idea of their language as a code begins to take shape. They wonder if anyone will be open to their idea, because in government boarding schools, they were punished for speaking their language. Meetings take place, a test is devised, and the code is implemented. This is all conveyed through the perspective of Corporal Solomon Louis. His reunion with his wife, when he returns home, is heartwarming.

On the final pages of her comic, Starr lists the names of the Choctaw soldiers, and says that in 2013, the Choctaw Code Talkers received the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor. Below is a screen capture of part of the congressional record from 2004 (and the full text specific to the Choctaw Code Talkers), when legislation regarding the code talkers was first introduced.

Using a popular format--comics--Starr and INC Comics shine a bright light on a little known piece of history. I look forward to seeing what else they give us. Order your copy of Annumpa Luma for $5.00 from INC.


Here is part of the U.S. Senate's Congressional Record for June 7, 2004. CHOCTAW CODE TALKERS is highlighted in the image to the right because it is what I was searching for in the record. Sioux, Comanche, and Sax and Fox code talkers in the Act were recognized for service in WWII. If you click on the link above for the congressional record, you can read the entire act. Because I'm writing about Starr's comic, I'm providing the entirety of what TITLE III says.

Congress finds that--

(1) on April 6, 1917, the United States, after extraordinary provocations, declared war on Germany and entered World War I, the War to End All Wars;

(2) at the time of that declaration of war, Indian people in the United States, including members of the Choctaw Nation, were not accorded the status of citizens of the United States;

(3) without regard to this lack of citizenship, many members of the Choctaw Nation joined many members of other Indian tribes and nations in enlisting in the Armed Forces to fight on behalf of the United States;

(4) members of the Choctaw Nation were--
(A) enlisted in the force known as the American Expeditionary Force, which began hostile actions in France in the fall of 1917; and
(B) incorporated in a company of Indian enlistees serving in the 142d Infantry Company of the 36th Division;

(5) a major impediment to Allied operations in general, and operations of the United States in particular, was that the fact that the German forces had deciphered all codes used for transmitting information between Allied commands, leading to substantial loss of men and material during the first years in which the military of the United States engaged in combat in World War I;

(6) because of the proximity and static nature of the battle lines, a method to communicate without the knowledge of the enemy was needed;

(7) a commander of the United States realized the fact that he had under his command a number of men who spoke a native language;

(8) while the use of such native languages was discouraged by the Federal Government, the commander sought out and recruited 18 Choctaw Indians to assist in transmitting field telephone communications during an upcoming campaign;

(9) because the language used by the Choctaw soldiers in the transmission of information was not a European language or on a mathematical progressions, the Germans were unable to understand any of the transmissions;

(10) the Choctaw soldiers were placed in different command positions to achieve the widest practicable area for communications;

(11) the use of the Choctaw Code Talkers was particularly important in--
(A) the movement of American soldiers in October of 1918 (including securing forward and exposed positions;
(B) the protection of supplies during American action (including protecting gun emplacements from enemy shelling); and
(C) in the preparation for the assault on German positions in the final stages of combat operation sin the fall of 1918;
(12) in the opinion of the officers involved, the use of Choctaw Indians to transmit information in their native language saved men and munitions, and was highly successful;

(13) based on that successful experience, Choctaw Indians were withdrawn from front line units for training in transmission of codes so as to be more widely used when the war came to an end;

(14) the Germans never succeeded in breaking the Choctaw code;

(15) that was the first time in modern warfare that the transmission of messages in a Native American language was used for the purpose of confusing the enemy;

(16) this action by members of the Choctaw Nation--
(A) is another example of the commitment of Native Americans to the defense of the United States; and
(B) adds to the proud legacy of such service; and
(17) the Choctaw Nation has honored the actions of those 18 Choctaw Code Talkers through a memorial bearing their names located at the entrance of the tribal complex in Durant, Oklahoma.


The Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate shall make appropriate arrangements for the presentation, on behalf of Congress of a gold medal of appropriate design honoring the Choctaw Code Talkers.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Martha Stackhouse's review of Barbara Joosse's MAMA DO YOU LOVE ME

In the spring of 2004, students in Education 493: Examining Alaska Children's Literature. The course was taught by Esther A. Ilutsik for the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Reviews are on the website of the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

Among the reviews is Martha Stackhouse's review of Barbara Joosse's Mama Do You Love Me. She points out errors in the book and recommends it, as long as the errors are pointed out.

Here's an excerpt:
The story has to have been after contact because the pictures are very colorful and the atikjuks, the outer part of the parka, are made from cloth. In looking at the pictures, the maklaks appear to be soft sole, where we mostly use hard crimped soles. The strings on the maklaks are tied forward, when we tie them towards the back. The mother also is wearing feathers in her braids. I have never seen an Inupiaq woman wear feathers before. This may be a cultural blend with the Interior Indians. The animals are cute, drawn mostly for kids. However on the page where the daughter asks "how long?" (No page numbers through out the book) there is a Yupik looking mask up in the sky. The inner part of the mask would be a better representative of the Inupiaq mask but the appendages to it makes it more like a Yupik style mask. On that same page, there is a puffin howling at the moon. There are no puffins in the northern regions of Alaska. 
In her conclusion, Stackhouse says the book can be used as long as the teacher points out the errors. There's so many errors! So many that if I was teaching elementary school, I'd use the book as an example of how writers make mistakes. Do head over to the site and read the entire review.

Published in 1991 by Chronicle Books.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Rubbing noses in Katherine Kirkpatrick's BETWEEN TWO WORLDS

Katherine Kirkpatrick's Between Two Worlds is another fail from Random House, a major publisher. Published in 2014, it is getting good reviews, which represents another fail in the reviewing world.

The protagonist in Kirkpatrick's story is supposed to be an Inuit teen, Billy Bah, who was the seamstress for Robert E. Peary, one of the white men who claimed to reach the North Pole (I used 'white' deliberately because all the fuss over "first" white men to reach this or that place always make me pause).

As I read Between Two Worlds I thought 
"this does not strike me as an insider's voice." 

There are certain things about Inuit people that most people take to be fact. Here's two: They rub noses. The men get trade goods by offering sex with their wives as their unit of trade. Generally, there's a kernel of truth in such things, but when they seep into an outsider's conscience as THE thing(s) they know about a people, that outsider "knowledge" is vividly on display as ignorance and stereotype.

The degree to which that "knowledge" has come to pass as legitimate information explains 1) why Kirkpatrick could write such a book, 2) why her editor at Random House would not spot the outsider perspective, 3) and why reviewers give the book a thumbs up.

So. Rubbing noses. Everyone knows that is the way Eskimos kiss, right?

Wrong! It is actually a gesture of affection called a kunik by those who do it. In this article, David Joanasi, of the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, says "When you're an infant and a little kid, your parents and older siblings sniff you and rub your face with their nose", and Erin Eckman, who is Inupiaq and works for the Alaska Native Heritage Center said "Growing up in Alaska, I only really saw women do it to babies."

Kirkpatrick uses "rubbed noses" 17 times. I noted who is rubbing noses in parentheses.

p. 28: "We rubbed noses..."(sisters, parting)
p. 49: "We rubbed noses." (husband/wife, greeting)
p. 52: "We rubbed noses, ..." (little girl/woman, greeting)
p. 68: "I rubbed noses..." (husband/wife, greeting)
p. 74: "Sammy, rubbed noses..." (woman/little boy, greeting)
p. 77: "...rubbing noses..." (girl/girl, greeting)
p. 85: "We rubbed noses." (husband/wife, working together)
p. 132: "one last time, rubbed noses..."(woman/little girl, parting)
p. 133: "We rubbed noses." (father/daughter, greeting)
p. 137: "We rubbed noses." (husband/wife, greeting)
p. 142: "...we rubbed noses." (husband/wife, greeting and prelude to sex)
p. 145: "...rub noses..." (husband/wife, greeting)
p. 147: "But we rubbed noses." (husband/wife, in bed)
p. 149: "We rubbed noses." (woman/little girl)
p. 200: "...rubbed noses..." (husband/wife, during argument)
p. 230: "...we rubbed noses..." (husband/wife, greeting)
p. 232: "We rubbed noses." (woman/boy)

For the most part, Kirkpatrick uses rubbed noses to convey affection. Though I think she over-uses the phrase, we might think she's using it correctly. But, that is not the case...

That wife-trading I pointed to above? It happens in this book, too. A lot. Early on, Billy Bah's husband, Angulluk (that is his name but mostly she thinks of him as "Fat One") tells her that he's had three offers for her from men on the ship that has arrived at their village. Angulluk has chosen red-headed Duncan to trade with. Later that night when Billy Bah is with Duncan in the sailors quarters, she's thinking that he might "pounce on me like a bear as other sailors had." Note what she says. Other sailors. Plural. As it turns out, Duncan isn't like those pouncing sailors. He sits back and they talk for awhile. Billy Bah asks Duncan why he wanted her rather than Ally, who Billy Bah thinks is prettier. Duncan tells Billy Bah that he wanted her because she can speak better English than Ally, is smart, and he likes her long hair. Billy Bah moves closer to Duncan, who says he would never hurt her (p. 42):
Then he pressed his lips against mine. I drew back.
"No! Kiss me on the nose, never on the lips."
"Our people don't do that," I said. "We don't like it." 
See? That passage tells me Kirkpatrick does not know as much about rubbing noses as we might think! I've read some of her interviews. In one, she says that the inspiration for her book is Boreal Ties, which is a book of photographs of the Peary relief expedition. I read that and wondered what else she used as resources. I flipped to the back of her book and read the Historical Notes. She relies heavily on the work of Josephine Peary (Robert E. Perry's wife). Reading the excerpts there felt just like reading the story itself. Outsider perspective.

I have to stop for now, but maybe I'll be back with more to say about Katherine Kirkpatrick's Between Two Worlds. But like I said up top, it is a fail from Random House. I do not recommend it. 

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

About the much celebrated Oregon Trail...

A couple of weeks ago, Oregon's ban on same sex marriage was struck down. I was happy about that. In my timeline on Twitter, I saw this image:

I replied to the person who sent it out, noting that the Oregon Trail signaled loss for Native people. She thanked me. She 'got it' immediately.

Today I got a tweet from T. J. Tallie, a queer black scholar at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA. The tweet is to an essay titled Failing to Ford the River: "Oregon Trail", Same-Sex Marriage Rhetoric, and the Intersections of Anti-Blackness and Settler Colonialism. Here's an excerpt:

The game offers challenges to American children, presenting them with the potential of a variety of means of death (dysentery, exhaustion, drowning, or others), while erasing the Indigenous peoples who were starved, removed, or otherwise subject to settler violence in the very same project. Indeed, the game offers a collective investment for American students into histories of colonialism and domination, notably through the participation in a game that structures simultaneous removal and forgetting of the very presence of Indigenous peoples, while celebrating the survival and endurance of white pioneers.

There's more. Lots more. I want you (readers of AICL) to read it and think about Tallie's words the next time you read or review (or write) a book about the Oregon Trail. Just now, I searched children's books at Amazon using "Oregon Trail" and got a list of 334 books.

This excerpt from Tallie's essay is about African Americans:

The history of the Oregon Trail is not simply a story of anti-Indigenous settlement, however. The history of the Oregon Territory, and subsequent state of Oregon, is one of profound white settler investment in anti-blackness as well. Beginning in 1844, Oregon Territory passed its first exclusion law, banning African-American immigration into the region, and in 1857, had the dubious distinction of becoming the only free state in the United States to have officially codified anti-black immigration into its constitution (decided by popular vote, no less), which was ratified the following year... 
What is on your shelf? What does it say about Native people? African Americans?

Take some time to read Tallie's essay. Share it with others. And let's all think about what we saw, write, share, and endorse about the Oregon Trail.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

"War whoop" in Gayle Forman's IF I STAY

One of the big names right now is Gayle Forman. Her book, If I Stay, is big and gonna be a movie, too. So--I figured I ought to take a look at the book. I opened the preview at Amazon and read the first page. I stopped reading...

The book opens on the morning of a snowfall. Not a lot of snow, but enough that school is cancelled (p. 3):
"My little brother, Teddy, lets out a war whoop when Mom's AM radio announces the closures."
Really? Did Teddy run around the house going woo-woo-woo by patting his hand over his mouth as he said "woooo"?!

"War whoop" is one of those phrases that yank me out of the story an author is telling.

If you look up "war whoop" you'll see that it is defined as being specific to Native people, but you probably already knew that, right? That is, if you even noticed that phrase as you read it (assuming you read Forman's book).

It isn't an innocuous expression. Subtly it affirms stereotypes people carry around. You know what I'm talking about.. The idea that Native people were warlike, barbaric, and savage. Another phrase like that? "On the warpath."

The truth? Native people were fighting to defend our homelands and to protect our women and children. You know damn well that you'd fight, too, and you'd definitely be yelling.

Gayle Forman did not have to use "war whoop" to describe the exuberance her character felt. Nothing is lost if she'd just said "My little brother, Teddy, shouts with glee when Mom's AM radio announces the closures."

Given that her book is going to be on the big screen---what will we see when that scene is turned into a script? Goodness! I hope Teddy doesn't emerge from his bedroom in a headdress. If you're reading this, Gayle, maybe you can make sure THAT doesn't happen.

For now, I'm not getting her book, and this post will be added to AICL's "All you do is complain" page on common phrases.

Monday, June 02, 2014

AICL Stands With We Need Diverse Books and Small Publishers

Saturday morning (May 31, 2014) I woke early with a feeling of joy and excitement. Several hundred miles away from me, a group of eight men and women were in New York City, getting ready for their session at Book Con 2014 (BookCon is part of Book Expo America, BEA for short). The weeks, days, and hours prior to their session were--for me--a roller coaster of highs and lows. I cannot imagine what it was like for them. What follows is the story of We Need Diverse Books as I experienced it. It is my thank you and shout out to a group that sparked a moment and movement that may mark the turning point in the all white world of children's books...

In April, two things happened. BEA announced a panel of blockbuster kidlit writers. That panel was composed of four men and a cat. And, BookCon announced its line-up of authors. This "blindingly white" situation prompted indignation amongst a lot of people. A group was formed. That group is We Need Diverse Books. Their goal was/is to promote books that showcase and promote diversity of content, and diversity of authors that create that content. On May 28th, Aisha Saeed wrote about the upcoming trip to NYC.

I followed the campaign when it was launched in late April, offering help as I could behind-the-scenes, but mostly I used social media to promote the We Need Diverse Books campaign. This is the first graphic the WNDB team released:

Gorgeous, isn't it? The energy radiating from the team was inspiring. With twitter driving it, the campaign took off around the world. Media covered it. The result? BookCon invited the team to do a session in NYC on Saturday morning.

On the 29th (Thursday), I made a graphic with the WNDB logo and location info for their session. I started to tweet it:

On Friday morning (May 30), excitement was building. Ilene Wong of the WNDB team sent this tweet:

My excitement grew when I saw tweets of photos of large displays announcing the location of the WNDB session:

That excitement was tamped down a bit as I read tweets from Cheryl Willis Hudson of Just Us Books. She was walking through the exhibit halls at BEA, looking for books within the diverse framework.  She didn't see much, but did take photos and sent them out. Aren't they terrific? Here's her photo of Because They Marched at the Holiday House booth:

And here's a photo she snapped of Jacqueline Woodson signing books. See what Cheryl said? "Long line" --- cool!

 Here's more photos Cheryl sent out:

As I read tweets from Cheryl and those in the We Need Diverse Books hashtag on twitter, I saw that Cinco Punto Press had tweeted a photo of Tim Tingle's House of Purple Cedar. It was there, on their table, at BEA. I retweeted their photo:

There were to be two other sessions at BEA that focused on diversity. I tweeted info on them, too. One was "Multicultural Publishers in Conversation." Here's that flyer. As you can see, Just Us Books and Cinco Punto Press were scheduled for that conversation on Saturday at 12:45.

Here's the flyer for the third session, "Where Are the People of Color in Children's Books?":

But look! See the time slot in the red bar at top of the graphic? Saturday, 10:00 AM... The same time as the We Need Diverse Books session! I was stomping mad about that, with various obscenities whirling in my head. Then I saw this set of tweets by Ellen Oh (retweeted by Ilene Wong):

What obstacles, I wondered? I figured one was the overlap of the WNDB session and the conversation with publishers session, but Ellen said "obstacles" (plural), so what else went wrong?! Lights out for me... I went to bed. 

Early Saturday morning I was up and catching up on tweets from the night. I learned that the hard copy of the conference program did not have the WNDB session in it. 

People at the Javits were sending out tweets and photos:

And Jacqueline Woodson snapped a way-cool photo of Matt de la Pena arriving at her house. They were going to head over to the Javits center together.

As 10:00 AM drew near, the #WeNeedDiverseBooks tweets from the conference were growing in number.

I saw that the WNDB team had created swag!

And panelist Grace Lin had a "cheat sheet" handout with ways that booksellers can hand-sell books to consumers who shy away from books by or about people of color (get the pdf from her blog):

I wondered how big the room was but when the first photos of the room (as it filled up) started to come across twitter, I estimated 200 chairs. This photo was taken by Ilene Wong, as she notes, 35 minutes before the panel started.


And of course, people in the audience were taking/tweeting LOTS of photos of the panelists:

The room itself filled up and people were turned away (media reports later said there were 300 people in the room, with people in the aisles and three-deep along the back wall). Meanwhile, in the room, the panelists received a terrific reception from the audience:

Panelists delivered powerful remarks that were tweeted and retweeted. Again and again I wished I was in that room rather than hundreds of miles away. I was glad to see tweets indicating that Matt de la Pena had a few things to say about the shut down of the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson Unified School district. Over and over, I was glad for twitter. The emotion captured in photos was astounding.

An unedited audio of the session is now available at the We Need Diverse Books tumblr. No doubt the panelists and WNDB team was bursting with joy once the session ended. Marieke Nijkamp's tweet captures some of their emotion:

I was especially moved by Mike Jung's tweets as he left the conference:

It was VERY poor planning on the part of BEA to offer WNDB and the "Where are the People of Color" session at the same time. I assume it and the "Multicultural Publishers in Conversation" session were both in the program. 

A curious thing, though, was the floor announcement, as captured in this photo tweeted by Daniel Jose Older (photo taken by Tiffany D. Jackson). See the title for the session? How small it is in comparison to the titles of other sessions? And doesn't it look like it was pasted on there? Why?!

Of course, Daniel's jab ("Diversity is so awesome!!!!) is directed at conference planners, and not diversity itself. I don't know if he made it to the 12:45 session. Cheryl Willis Hudson was there and tweeted some photos. Here's one:

Today (June 2, 2014), several recaps of BEA were loaded online. I especially liked what Lyn Miller Lachmann said in her piece, and what Allie Bruce said in hers. Both are committed to diversity, and their commitment shows in their writing. I loved hearing the voices of Ellen Oh, Lamar Giles, and Jacqueline Woodson in their interview with NPR. Claire Kirch's recap for Publishers Weekly is here. Among the things you'll read is that WNDB is working with the National Education Association, and that Lee and Low is launching a "New Visions Award." The big news? That a book festival is being planned...

A good many people have been pushing for diversity for a very long time. With respect to Native people objecting, I think back to William Apes, a Pequot man who was raised by a white family for a portion of his childhood. He read the books they gave him, and because of what he read, was afraid of Indians! He wrote about that fear as an adult, in his Son of the Forest, published in 1831.

In June of 2014, it feels like some substantial change will take hold because the demographics in the country are shifting dramatically. I am optimistic. And--I look forward to meeting members of the WNDB team in Washington DC in 2016 at a festival of diversity in children's books! The plans are in the works. Till then, AICL stands with We Need Diverse Books. This is a cheesy closure but I'll use it anyway... STAY TUNED.

A special note of thanks to Cheryl Willis Hudson of Just Us Books for all that she shared from BEA. I know from 20 years of reviewing children's books that small independent publishers are more likely than the big publishing houses to give us wonderful books that accurately reflect the lives of people of color. For that reason, I've been standing with small publishers for a long time. They embody a commitment to truth over profit.  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

WHERE'S WALDO being added to The Foul Among the Good

Last week, Sharon H. Chang tweeted a couple of images from a 1987 copy of Where's Waldo (by Martin Handford, published by Little, Brown) that I am adding to AICL's page, The Foul Among the Good. Here they are:

My response?

May 29, 2014

Dear Waldo,

Yes, in fact, I've seen that a lot in children's picture books and in dog photos created by people who apparently don't know much about Native peoples. For us, feathers are not playthings. They are sacred. I am guessing you know that eagles are protected in the United States. I'm guessing that you do not know that there are also laws that recognize that eagle feathers have religious significance to Native people. If you want to know a bit more about it, the New York Times ran a story about this in 2011

I'd also like to note, Waldo, that your depiction of "Indian" people is stereotypical. You drew a tipi, the fringed clothing, and what I think you meant to be a "peace pipe." There are over 500 federally recognized Native Nations in the U.S. Rather than anything meaningful, you're giving your readers monolithic imagery that doesn't do anyone any good. 

I'm hoping that line in your post card, the dog, and the tipi are gone from later editions of your book. 

Debbie Reese
American Indians in Children's Literature

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

COPPER MAGIC by Julia Mary Gibson, or, an emphatic "Cut it out!" from AICL

In Copper Magic, twelve-year-old Violet Blake is digging by a stream near her house in Michigan and finds a "talisman" -- a copper hand that she comes to call "the Hand." Violet feels that this hand has some kind of power. She thinks she can use it to make wishes come true. Course, her first wish (for a new dress) does come true (actually she gets TWO new dresses), so she's thinking about how she'll use it to get her mom and little brother back home. Her mother is half Odawa.

Well, it turns out there was more than just that copper hand in the spot where Violet was digging. There's also a skeleton there that is dug up (another kid finds it), reassembled, and displayed as a curiosity in a local hotel.

Cue some fake Hollywood Indian music...

Can't be messing around in them Indian burial grounds, right?! We've seen THAT enough times in movies and TV shows to know that messing with bones and artifacts means bad things are gonna happen. And of course, bad things happen to the people in Copper Magic. Lots of bad things. A wicked storm. Lake water behaving in odd ways. Death. Before all that happens, Mercy (Violet's new friend) talks about how there might be a curse on the grave... Violet and her mother (remember--her mom is half Odawa) have special powers, too. They can see things other people can't.


Cut that fake Hollywood Indian music, that is, and an emphatic "Cut it out!" as my parents would say when I was doing something wrong.

Cut it out, Julia Mary Gibson! 
Cut it out, Susan Cooper! 
Cut it out, Rosanne Parry!

"Cut what?" you may wonder... Quit writing about Native spirituality! You mean well, but you don't know what you're doing. From a place of ignorance, you're adding to an already-too-tall pile of garbage that gets circulated as information about Native people.

A good many writers have a moment in their life that touched them in such a way that they feel they must write about Native people. Gibson's moment is described in her Afterword. When she was eleven years old, she and her family found some bones near their summer cottage in Michigan. "[A]n expert" said they were "most likely American Indian but not old enough to be archeologically significant" (p. 329), so her grandfather "pieced together a skeleton and mounted it on plywood." Her "superstitious" grandma didn't like it and insisted the bones be reburied. This took place in the late 1960s or early 1970s (my guess, based on Gibson's bio at Macmillan that says she was born "in the time of Freedom Rides and the Vietnam War").

Gibson goes on to say that her grandfather didn't know better.

In Copper Magic, Violet is Gibson. The person who puts the skeleton on display is Mr. Dell, a hotel owner intent on increasing his business. The superstitious person who wants the bones reburied? Well, that is Mrs. Agosa, an Odawa woman who tells Violet to "Watch out for ghosts out by you" because "mad ghosts can throw out curses" (p. 134).

Gibson, Cooper, Parry and many other writers poke around a bit and pack their stories with bits of info that make it sound like they know a lot about American Indians. Gibson does that in Copper Magic when she has some of her characters talk about grave robbing and why it is wrong. She also does that when she has Mrs. Agosa talk about the hotel owner burning her people's village and orchards because he wanted their land. In the Afterword, Gibson tells us that part of the story is true (p. 330):
"The real people of the Chaboiganing Band were yanked from their houses by a crooked land grabber and the local sheriff, who flung kerosene over homes and orchards and burned down the whole village, just as Mrs. Agosa tells it."
The burning of that village is important information. It is what major publishers like Macmillan (publisher of Copper Magic) ought to make known. I wish Gibson had made it the heart of her story. Instead, she chose to tell a story about grave robbing, curses, and mystical Indians. There's more to the "mystical Indians" theme... Interspersed throughout Copper Magic are pages about two ancient women: Crooked Woman and Greenstone. Those parts of Gibson's novel are presented in italics. They feed the mainstream monster of stereotypical expectations--where people love to read about "mystical Indians" and our tragic history.

In Copper Magic, Violet's dad is a steady voice saying that Indian graves deserve respect and ought to be left alone. Violet parrots some of what he says but doesn't really understand. Ironically, Gibson is more like Violet than she realizes. Her understanding is superficial. Violet wants to use the hand to get what she wants. Gibson uses the childhood story to do what she wants.

As you may have guessed by now, I don't like what Gibson has done in Copper Magic. And of course, I do not recommend it. Copper Magic is another FAIL from a major publisher (published in 2014 by Starscape, which is in Macmillan's Tor/Forge line.)