Friday, April 23, 2021

Not Recommended: Paco Le Reveur by Alex Cousseau and Olivier Latyk

Recently I have been talking (online) with people from places outside of North America. I was familiar with stereotypical images (in art and illustration) with Karl May's books, and those by Herge, some of the Babar books, and others. I asked folks to send me things they come across. 

Today, I'm sharing an interior page from Paco le Reveur by Alex Cousseau and Olivier Latyk. It was published by Belin Education in Paris in 2017. Here's the cover:

And here's the interior page:

AICL's readers will see the problems right away. The authors do not specify a tribal nation for the main character. This means the information is a mish-mash of anything those who created the words and illustrations associate with "Indian." In this case we see renderings of tipis and totem poles in a place that suggests Monument Valley. I can't read French, so don't know what any of the words mean. 

Cousseau has won awards for his work (not this one, as far as I can tell). I might make time to look, later. For sure, I would not recommend his book. If you happen to have books in French in your library and this is amongst them, I recommend replacing it with ones that don't misinform readers about Native peoples. 

Friday, April 16, 2021

A Housekeeping Note

Good morning!

This post is specifically for the people who subscribe to American Indians in Children's Literature. You receive an email when a new post goes live. In July, the service that provided the option to subscribe by email will no longer be available. 

Other than email, you can keep up with AICL using Twitter. We usually post links there. Find us at:


We will look into other email subscription options. If you know of one, let us know! 


Wednesday, April 07, 2021


When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through:
A Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry
Edited by Joy Harjo (Mvskoke), with LeAnne Howe (Choctaw), 
Jennifer Elise Forester (Mvskoke), and Contributing Editors
Cover art by Emmi Whitehorse (Navajo)
Published in 2020
Publisher: W.W. Norton and Company
Review Status: Highly Recommended
Reviewer: Debbie Reese


I watched the livestream when this Norton Anthology of Native Nations Poetry, When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through was launched on August 21 at Collected Works Bookstore in Santa Fe. I love the title, and I love seeing "Native Nations" in the subtitle! 

Luci Tapahonso (Diné) was there, with Joy. Thinking about it this morning makes me smile as I recall the warmth between these two Native women. And I recall Harjo's reading of "Rabbit Is Up To Tricks." It was weeks before the presidential election. When you read or listen to it, you will likely feel the same chill I felt. That poem was first published in Harjo's 2015 book, Conflict Resolution for Holy Beings. 

Last year when the anthology was published, I wrote about Marcie Rendon's poem, "What's an Indian Woman to Do?" Since then, I page through my copy of the book and see names of people I know and think that I've got to do a blog post about their poems, especially for teachers who are using their books. Here at American Indians in Children's Literature and elsewhere, I've written about poems and stories and books by Kimberly M. Blaser, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, Heid E. Erdrich, Louise Erdrich, Eric Gansworth, Joy Harjo, Layli Long Soldier, Deborah A. Miranda, Simon Ortiz, Marcie Rendon, Kim Shuck, Leslie Marmon Silko, Luci Tapahonso, Laura Tohe, Mark Turcotte, James Welch, Gwen Westerman, Tanaya Winder, and Ofelia Zepeda. Teachers who assign their works can add their poems to the author studies they do of these wonderful Native writers. For each writer in the book, you'll find their tribal nation listed by their name. 

The anthology has 161 poets! I recognize some names but not all of them. As we move what I hope is the end of the weight of the pandemic, I hope to read them all. I'm grateful to Harjo and the editors for the care that went into this anthology. I recommend you study her introduction to it, too. Among the passages that stand out for me is this one (page 3): 
Many who open the doors of this text arrive here with only stereotypes of indigenous peoples that keep indigenous peoples bound to a story in which none of us ever made it out alive. In that story we cannot be erudite poets, scholars, and innovative creative artists. It is the intent of the editors to challenge this: for you to open the door to each poem and hear a unique human voice speaking to you beyond, within, and alongside time. This collection represents the many voices of our peoples, voices that range through time, across many lands and waters.
One of the voices I found inside is Chief Seattle. Many people feel they know him and his writing, due to the ways a speech he gave in 1854 have been mis-used by non-Native writers. Some of you may recall the criticism I've written of Susan Jeffers's book that uses that speech. In the anthology you'll find a different excerpt. 

Over time, I'll write about poems in the book. For now, I want to draw your attention to the art on the cover. Yesterday as I gazed out the window, in the early dawn and in the late afternoon, I was thinking about the quality of the light. Beside me on the table was When the Light of the World Was Subdued. I wonder if my unconscious mind was at work, forming links from the light to the book cover. Here's the cover again, in a larger size than I used above:

This morning as I thought about the book I wanted to know more about Emmi Whitehorse. At Chiaroscuro, she wrote this about her work:
My paintings tell the story of knowing land over time - of being completely, micro-cosmically within a place. I am defining a particular space, describing a particular place. They are purposefully meditative and meant to be seen slowly. The intricate language of symbols refer to specific plants, people and experiences."
The art on the cover is titled Kin Nah Zin #223. Whitehorse created it in 1983. For me, it has depth that reflects the fact that we, Native peoples of the continent currently known as North America, have been here, always. And the qualities of the light--its very presence as rendered by Whitehorse--shine light on what was, and what will be, too. If I was a poet I might have the words needed to say what I feel as I look at that cover and think about the anthology and about Harjo, too, and the light she brings forth.

Yesterday (April 6, 2021) I watched a zoom event that featured Harjo. Like the poems she writes and the music she creates, the words she spoke yesterday are ones that I will return to. You can watch it, too, on YouTube. As noted above, I highly recommend When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through. Get a copy for yourself and ask your library to get a copy for their collections. 

And... a couple of ideas that take you from an admirer to an activist! If your institution is among those that are doing land acknowledgments, look for a poet of the people that your acknowledgment names. Use the anthology to find one, and read that poem at your gathering or meeting or conference. Go to your bookstore and library, and put in requests for other writings by the poets in your area. 

Friday, March 26, 2021

Why did Dav Pilkey and Scholastic decide they will no longer publish THE ADVENTURES OF OOK AND GLUK, KUNG FU CAVEMEN FROM THE FUTURE?

Note: These updates are based on information I received after I wrote the blog post. They are in reverse chronological order (newest one appears first):

Update from Debbie on Sunday, March 28 at 12:50 PM: I talked with Mr. Kim. In my conversation with him, it is clear to me that his conversations with Mr. Pilkey have been positive. I'm glad to know that is the case. Mr. Kim has inserted two edits to the third paragraph of the petition. They are in bold, italicized font and read as follows:

(Edit: 3.28.21 1:10pm EST - At the time I drafted this petition, I had emailed Scholastic with my requests and interpreted their delay in responding as a refusal to acknowledge same. I now believe this is inaccurate and misleading, as Mr. Pilkey made clear to me later on that he and Scholastics were in discussions behind-the-scenes to address these issues that I was not privy to).

(Edit: 3.28.21 1:10pm EST - Per my conversations with Dav Pilkey, he and his family made donations to an AAPI-affiliated organization prior to his public apology, and there was no refusal on Mr. Pilkey's end to donate). 

Here is a screen capture of that paragraph. It is an important update to the petition:

 Update from Debbie on Sunday, March 28 at 9:45 AM: I received an email from Mr. Kim and I hope he edits the petition. As Sayuri Pilkey said, it does not accurately reflect Mr. Pilkey's response. But I am not casting aspersions on Mr. Kim, either. Parents speaking up for our children and our peoples often do so from emotional and painful spaces. 

Update from Debbie on Sunday, March 28 2021 at 5:01 AM: I've reached out to Mr. Kim but he has not yet replied. I was able to see his posts to Facebook about these events. In reading them, I believe Sayuri Pilkey is correct: Dav Pilkey did not refuse to make a public statement. The refusals were coming from Scholastic and I believe Scholastic's wishes that this all happen quietly are why Mr. Kim posted his petition at the Change site. The writing in the petition still says "Scholastic and Mr. Pilkey" and I hope that Mr. Kim edits that as soon as possible. His "Update" does not constitute an edit to the original petition. 

Update from Debbie on Saturday, March 27 2021 at 11:00 AM: There is conflicting information regarding the sequence of events, and Dav Pilkey's response to Mr. Kim. Sayuri Pilkey submitted three comments on March 27 at 12:59 AM, 1:34 AM, and 2:49 AM. Comments to AICL are moderated (due to spam). Just now (11:00 AM), I opened the submitted comments page on my site and saw Sayuri Pilkey's comments. As soon as I can, I'll place the comments within the body of the post (lot of people don't read comments). 

Update from Debbie on Saturday, March 27, 2021 at 4:55 AM: I changed the original title of this post into a question ("Why did...") because the original title was misleading. While it is important that Pilkey and Scholastic made the decision to stop publishing the Ook and Gluk book, people are praising them in ways that I don't think are merited. A Korean American parent brought the stereotyping in the book to their attention. They agreed it was a problem but refused to say anything publicly. The public statements from Pilkey and Scholastic came about after the parent posted a petition at the Change site. I believe the parent was correct in asking for public statements and donations from sales of the book. The public is best-served by open discussions of problems in books like Ook and Gluk.  

On March 25, 2021 Dav Pilkey, best selling author and illustrator of children's books, issued this apology on his YouTube page:
Hi everyone, I’m Dav Pilkey. About ten years ago I created a book about a group of friends who save the world using Kung Fu and the principles found in Chinese philosophy. The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future was intended to showcase diversity, equality, and non-violent conflict resolution. But this week it was brought to my attention that this book also contains harmful racial stereotypes and passively racist imagery. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly apologize for this. It was and is wrong and harmful to my Asian readers, friends, and family, and to all Asian people. My publisher, Scholastic, Inc., has stepped forward to share my responsibility, and together we are ceasing all further publication of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future, and are actively working to remove existing copies from retail and library shelves. I hope that you, my readers, will forgive me, and learn from my mistake that even unintentional and passive stereotypes and racism are harmful to everyone. I apologize, and I pledge to do better. Sincerely, Dav Pilkey PS. My wife and I pledge to donate all of my advance and royalties from the sale of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk: Kung-Fu Cavemen from the Future to charities that provide free books, art supplies, and theater for children in underserved communities; organizations that promote diversity in children’s books and publishing; and organizations designed to stop hatred and violence against Asian. These non-profit charities include: We Need Diverse Books, The AAPI, and TheaterWorks USA, among others.

Events that led Pilkey and Scholastic to cease publication of The Adventures of Ook and Gluk are noted below.

In a petition at Change, a Korean American father wrote that his two children are huge fans of Pilkey's books. They found Ook and Gluk at the library and brought it home. In his petition, he wrote:
Upon close inspection, I realized the book relied upon multiple instances of racist imagery and stereotypical tropes, including a "Kung Fu master" wearing what's purported to be a traditional-style Tang coat, dashes for eyes for the Asian characters, stereotypical Chinese proverbs, and a storyline that has the Kung Fu master rescued by the non-Asian protagonists using their Kung Fu skills (despite the fact that they were taught said skills from the supposed master). 
The father reached out to Scholastic and they had several conversations. Scholastic agreed to pull the book from retailers, but, Scholastic and Mr. Pilkey refused to publicly acknowledge and apologize for the book, and declined to donate proceeds from the book's run as a bestseller (it was on the NY Times bestseller lists for 33 weeks) to AAPI. 

Those refusals, I gather, are what led the Korean American father to launch a petition on the Change site. I cannot find date/time stamps on the petition at the Change site that would tell me when it was posted. In the update tab dated March 26, the Korean-American father reported that Pilkey had apologized and that Scholastic was going to do so, too.  Here, I am sharing that update in its entirety:

MAR 26, 2021 — 

UPDATE: My head is spinning. Thank you so much for sharing and spreading the word. Mr. Pilkey reached out to me via FaceTime to acknowledge that the images in “Ook and Gluk” were racist and offensive, and that it was unintentional and stemmed from his own ignorance. Mr. Pilkey was extremely apologetic and remorseful, felt terrible that he had put something into the world that could have such a negative effect on our children. He personally apologized to my son as well.

Mr. Pilkey also listened patiently while I explained to him why I thought it was so important to publicly acknowledge that these images were harmful, and that a donation should be made to an AAPI org as a form of reparation. He was hesitant about the apology and advised he’d need to discuss it with his family. He did point out that he had already donated to an organization days before.

Within an hour of ending our 40 minute conversation, Mr. Pilkey emailed to let me know he would be issuing a formal and public apology.

I can’t believe how quickly this happened and believe it speaks to the sincerity of the author and his willingness do the right thing. This is not about canceling people. It was a teachable moment and I’m grateful Mr. Pilkey listened.

Another update, also dated March 26, includes the screen capture of the apology on Pilkey's YouTube page (shared at the top of this post).

Earlier today (March 26), Scholastic issued a press release telling us they made their decision on Monday, March 22nd.  Here's the statement:


On Monday, March 22, 2021, with the full support of Dav Pilkey, Scholastic halted distribution of the 2011 book The Adventures of Ook and Gluk. Together, we recognize that this book perpetuates passive racism. We are deeply sorry for this serious mistake. Scholastic has removed the book from our websites, stopped fulfillment of any orders (domestically or abroad), contacted our retail partners to explain why this book is no longer available, and sought a return of all inventory. We will take steps to inform schools and libraries who may still have this title in circulation of our decision to withdraw it from publication.  

Throughout our 100 year history, we have learned that trust must be won every day by total vigilance. It is our duty and privilege to publish books with powerful and positive representations of our diverse society, and we will continue to strengthen our review processes as we seek to support all young readers.

We can all be glad and encouraged by Pilkey and Scholastic's decision. It is important to know, however, that Scholastic continues to publish many books with stereotypical and racist images. 

Five years ago, they withdrew A Birthday Cake for George Washington because of its smiling slaves content. If they had issued a directive, then, that every book they publish would be examined, Pilkey's book would have been pulled, but it wasn't. It was out there for another five years, shaping the way readers see Asian Americans, Asians, and specifically, Chinese people. That fact alone casts Scholastic's "total vigilance" into question. They made their decision on Monday, March 22nd, which is five days ago. Are they now reexamining all their books? I doubt it. 

I keep a log of changes to books, and books that are withdrawn. It includes links to information. 

Thursday, March 25, 2021


On March 24th, Jean posted her review of Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector. It is one of three terrific books published by the Minnesota Humanities Center. Read her review! Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on another book in that series. 

Highly Recommended!

Peggy Flanagan: Ogimaa Kwe, Lieutenant Governor
Written by Jessica Engelking
Illustrations by Tashia Hart
Published by Minnesota Humanities Center
Reviewed by Debbie Reese
Review Status: Highly Recommended


A few months ago, when I saw the cover of this book on social media, I was psyched! Well, let me say that again: 

I was psyched!!!! 

Across Native networks, we've been deeply supportive of Native people who run for state and national offices--especially Native women. I had come to know about Flanagan from friends and colleagues in Minnesota, and I was thrilled when, in 2018, she was elected as the Lieutenant Governor of Minnesota. 

That's Native context. 

Now, consider another context: biographies in children's literature. For a chapter in a book due out this year, Representations and Possibilities: Reading and Teaching with Diverse Nonfiction Children's Books edited by Thomas Crisp, Suzanne M. Knezek, and Roberta Price Gardner, Betsy McEntarffer and I did research on children's biographies of Native people. As you might guess, we found very few on women, very few by Native writers, and very few about Native people who were born after 1900. 

And now, consider state history standards. In their study of the standards, Dr. Sarah Shear and her colleagues found that eighty-seven of the state history standards to not mention Native history after 1900. 

Regular readers of AICL know that we write a lot about the need for books by Native writers that are set in the present day. They can function as a mirror for Native kids where they see a reflection of who they are, and a window for non-Native kids that can tell them that Native people are citizens or members of hundreds of distinct Native Nations and that we are here--in the present day. The state history standards are telling, aren't they? Kids are not taught that we are still here. Books like this biography of Flanagan fill a huge gap in what is available, but it ought to be inserted in those state standards documents, too!

If Betsy and I were writing that chapter on non-fiction today, we'd be including Engleking and Hart's biography of Peggy Flanagan. We might start with a close look at the cover. That, of course, is Peggy Flanagan, but study the illustration. 

On her blouse is a strawberry. Wild strawberries are a traditional Ojibwe food. Behind Flanagan are three flags. Not two, but three. One is the US flag, another is the Minnesota flag, and the third? Well--that's the White Earth Nation's flag:

Most readers may not notice the strawberry or the flag, but Ojibwe families will, for sure! Hart's illustrations and Engleking's words are mirrors of their identity. 

The subtitle for the book includes "Ogimaa Kwe." Those are Ojibwe words. Throughout the book, readers will find additional Ojibwe words--which adds another layer of the books mirror-like qualities for Ojibwe children. 

The biography starts in 1986 when Flanagan was in first grade in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. It is recess time, and Peggy is outside, playing. But she’s thinking about the lessons they were doing before recess. Her teacher had been talking about Christopher Columbus. Peggy knows her people were here before he was, and she knows the impact of Europeans on Native peoples, so, she’s not looking forward to going back into the classroom where she anticipates they’ll keep talking about him. Hart’s illustration for that page shows three kids at desks, taking notes as a teacher writes on the chalkboard. We can see Peggy’s page. She’s not taking notes. Instead, she’s sketched a sad face. Here's that page:

That, too, is a mirror of Native experiences in school. For far too long, Native children have been in classrooms where a teacher puts that myth forward, uncritically. I'm glad that's in there, and I hope it is the nudge teachers need to stop doing that! 

As we move through the book, we learn that Peggy and her mother needed food stamps. That honesty is important. We also learn that Peggy found teachers who believed in her. When we move to Peggy's college years, we learn that she went to St. Cloud State University in 1998 but transferred a year later, to the University of Minnesota. There, we read about how excited she was to walk into a classroom and see someone who looked like her. That person is Professor Brenda Child. An aside: Dr. Child has written excellent books for adults but she also wrote the children's picture book, Bowwow Powwow, which we at AICL highly recommend. The last chapter is about Flanagan being sworn in as Lt. Governor of Minnesota in 2019, and the back matter includes an Ojibwe timeline and a set of questions for discussion. Those are precisely the kinds of things that make it possible for teachers to more readily use the books in the classroom.

The illustrator, Tashia Hart, is also a writer. I’ve got her Gidjie and the Wolves in my to-be-read pile, and I follow her on social media. She’s working on a romance novel! Anybody who reads romance novels knows that genre is flooded with white women writing dreadful books that are marketed as being about Native people. 

As I sit here, re-reading what I've written about Peggy Flanagan: Ogimaa Kwe, Lieutenant Governor, I think you can tell that the book resonates with me, tremendously. It does that in another way. The book came out in 2020. In the "About the Author" note, I see this:
She currently resides in Minnetonka and is isolating in Elklader, Iowa...
Isolating. It is the first book I read that referred to the pandemic and its impact on all of us. Somehow, Engleking's reference to isolation touches on a tender place. As I write this review, we feel that we see hope at the end of a long year. Part of that light is seeing another Native woman assuming a leadership role. Of course, I'm referring to Deb Haaland of Laguna Pueblo, who was sworn in as Secretary of the Interior. She has worn traditional Pueblo clothing for many events, including at her swearing in. 

We need a biography of her, and of Sharice Davids, too. She's Ho-Chunk and was elected to Congress to represent Kansas, in 2019. Haaland was also elected that year, to represent New Mexico. 

I best hit the pause button on this post! I highly recommend Engleking and Hart's biography of Flanagan. As I noted up top, Jean reviewed another book in this three-book series, and we've got one more to do! That'll be Kade Ferris's book about Charles Albert Bender! 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Recommended: Ella Cara Deloria, Dakota Language Protector


Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector
Written by Diane Wilson (Dakota)
Illustrations by Tashia Hart (Red Lake Anishinaabe)
Published by Minnesota Humanities Center in partnership 
with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council
Reviewed by Jean Mendoza
Review Status: Highly Recommended

AICL readers, and especially middle-grade teachers! Don't miss the book launch for a new series that I wish had been available for my kids! 

You can register now to attend the online event Thursday, March 25, 2021, from 6:30 -8:00 PM (Central), to celebrate the publication of three biographies for students in 3rd-5th grade (and beyond). 

They are part of the Minnesota Humanities Center's new Minnesota Native American Lives series (created in partnership with the Minnesota Indian Affairs Council. The series will feature Ojibwe and Dakota people whose contributions deserve to be better known. Though the subjects of the bios all lived, or live, in what is currently called the state of Minnesota, they are figures whose impact extends well beyond the state borders. Represented so far are MN lieutenant governor Peggy Flanagan (Ojibwe), Ojibwe baseball star Charles Albert Bender, and Ella Cara Deloria, a Dakota anthropologist and language preservationist.

Heid E. Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Chippewa) and Gwen Nell Westerman (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate) are the series editors. Each of the books is written by a tribally-affiliated Native author, and illustrated by Red Lake Anishinaabe artist Tashia Hart. We'll be reviewing each of the books on AICL, starting now with Ella Cara Deloria: Dakota Language Protector.

Author Diane Wilson (Dakota) follows Ella Deloria from her childhood on the Standing Rock reservation to the creation of a fellowship in her name at Columbia University in 2010, nearly 4 decades after her death in 1971. Wilson emphasizes Deloria's key role in preserving traditional Dakota stories and the Dakota language, and focuses on the life experiences -- including racism and poverty -- that influenced her. 

One fundamental influence was the way Ella's grandparents and parents interpreted the situation that Native people found themselves in during the time Ella was a child. She was born in 1889, when Native peoples were often, essentially, prisoners on their own drastically reduced homelands. They were still targeted for assimilation or outright destruction by the settler-colonizer government that had long sought full control of the resources on the continent. Ella's family saw advantages to being bilingual and bicultural -- knowing both their Dakota traditional ways, and those of the English-speaking Christian settler-colonizer culture. Ella's father was ordained as an Episcopal priest. Her younger brother, Vine, also became a priest (and as Wilson points out, was paid considerably less than his white counterparts). The late Dakota writer and intellectual Vine Deloria Jr. was Ella's nephew. 

Wilson shows how, even in the context of a rather remarkable family, Ella's intelligence, talent, and energy stood out. Ultimately, she used her education to protect her home language and promote greater general understanding of Native peoples and cultures. Along the way, she worked with well-known anthropologists such as Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict, and Margaret Mead. Mead became a friend. Boas was a valued mentor, though if we read between the lines of this biography, it seems that he also may have exploited her abilities and commitment. For some of the time she worked with him, she was so poorly paid that she and her sister had to live in their car. 

I especially enjoy the way Wilson begins each chapter with a quote from Ella Deloria's writing. This is ensures that young readers get to "hear" her voice. 

Teachers are likely to appreciate the "Extend Your Learning" section in the back of this book and the others in the series. The section includes "Ideas for Writing and Discussion," "Ideas for Visual Projects," "Ideas for Further Learning," and a timeline that starts in 900 (Common Era) and ends with Peggy Flanagan's swearing-in as lieutenant governor in 2019. 

As a mother, grandmother, and auntie of Native kids, it's hard for me to put into words how moved I am by the existence of this series. Overall, in terms of which Native people are seen as biography material, it doesn't seem that much has changed since my children were actually children. At the time, it seemed that most biographies of Native people were of military leaders (Sitting Bull, Geronimo), or of Sacagawea, or Pocahontas. My firstborn (now in his late 30s) is named in part for a Mvskoke ancestor (born around 1835) who was, himself, named for the visionary Shawnee leader Tecumseh.  So naturally, when he was young, I was pleased to find a biography of Tecumseh for his reading level. I grabbed it off the shelf to read aloud to him one day when he was ill. At the end, the author lamented the death of Tecumseh and the end of his dream of Native unity. We lamented it, too. But then the writer closed with the words, "... And the Indian way of life was gone forever." 


Lessons learned or reinforced: 1) Mom, ALWAYS read a book through before you share it. 2) Fortunately, if you say, "Well, that's messed up and we know better", your children will probably be open to critiquing anti-Native assumptions and historical inaccuracy with you. And critique it we did.

But we shouldn't have had to. Parents and teachers of Native kids should be able to spontaneously share a book about Native people with kids, without having That Conversation. If the Minnesota Native American Lives series stays true to its mission (and it seems sure to), it will allow us to have that confidence and comfort, with well-researched true life stories, written from Indigenous perspectives. 

So, check out the book launch if you are able. And ask your library to purchase the Minnesota Native American Lives series, and read it yourself! Children, Native and non-Native, need those books.

Saturday, March 20, 2021


On this early morning, I'm reading a post on social media that Kate DiCamillo replaced references to Gone with the Wind in Because of Winn-Dixie. 

Looking around a bit, I found an Opinion by Celia Storey on November 30, 2020 in the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette newspaper. Titled Read to Me: Scarlett O'Hara evicted for the 20th anniversary edition of 'Winn-Dixie' It quotes DiCamillo's afterword, where she says "I found it painful to see Opal and Gloria Dump sitting together, side by side, reading from a book that I cannot in good conscience recommend to my readers." 

The book came out in 2000, was named as a Newberry Honor Book, and was made into a movie in 2005. Cicely Tyson played the part of Gloria. I don't know if the movie includes Gone with the Wind, and while I'm glad DiCamillo asked for these changes I am pretty sure that Black families were horrified when their children brought that book home. 

On June 17, 2016, I created a list of Books that Reference Racist Classics. There is a section on Gone with the Wind. It has DiCamillo's book on it. I'll add a note about the change, and add her book to another list I maintain, of book that have been revised

Opal is white. Gloria Dump is Black. Earlier in the book she is described as having "dark brown" skin. Kids call her a witch but Opal comes to know and care for her. Gloria's eyes are bad. The two spend a lot of time together. In the back yard, Gloria has a tree from which she's hung empty whiskey and beer bottles. She calls them ghosts of things she's done in the past. She used to drink. In chapter 15, Opal is at the library. She wonders if the wind makes the bottles knock against each other, and she wonders if they remind Gloria of things she's done wrong. She thinks she wants to comfort her, by reading a book to her. She asks Franny, the librarian to recommend one:
"Miss Franny, I've got a grown-up friend whose eyes are going on her, and I would like to read her a book out loud. Do you have any suggestions?" 
"Suggestions? Miss Franny said. "Yes ma'am, I have suggestions. Of course, I have suggestions. How about Gone with the Wind
"What's that about?" I asked her. 
"Why," said Miss Franny, "it's a wonderful story about the Civil War." 
"The Civil War?" I said. 
"Do not tell me you have never heard of the Civil War?" Miss Fanny Block looked like she was going to faint. She waved her hands in front of her face. 
"I know about the Civil War," I told her. "That was the war between the South and the North over slavery." 
"Slavery, yes," said Miss Franny. "It was also about states' rights and money. It was a terrible war. My great-grandfather fought in that war. He was just a boy." 
"Your great-grandfather?" 
"Yes ma'am, Littmus W. Block. Now there's a story."
Chapter 16 and 17 are about Littmus going to, being in, and returning from the war. The social media post about the new edition includes a photograph of the page where Miss Franny is recommending David Copperfield instead of Gone with the Wind:
"Who's he?" I asked her. 
"David Copperfield is the title of of the book, Opal." 
"Oh, well. what's it about?" 
"It's about a boy growing up. It's been a tradition in my family to read the book aloud. My great-grandfather, Littmus, read the book aloud to my grandfather every year. And when my father was an old man, I read it aloud to him." 
"It sure must be a good book," I said. 
"Why, that book mattered so much to Littmus that he even took a copy of it with him when he went off to fight in the Civil War. He was just a boy, you know. 
"Littmus was your great grand-father?" 
"Yes ma'am, Littmus W. Block. Now there's a story."
In chapter 18, Opal visits Gloria and starts reading aloud from Gone with the Wind. She read it "loud enough to keep her ghosts away." In chapter 20, Opal visits again and asks Gloria if she wants to hear some more Gone with the Wind. Gloria replies "Yes indeed" and that she has "been looking forward to it all day. Let's see what Miss Scarlett is up to now." 

So, Opal starts reading but her mind is elsewhere. She's thinking about Otis (another character), who told her that he had been put in jail when police had asked him to stop playing his guitar on the street (some people gave him money for doing it). When he wouldn't stop, the police tried to handcuff him, and he hit one of them. Now, he never plays his music on the street again. Opal stops reading and tells Gloria that they should have a party, like the big barbecue in Gone with the Wind, for Otis. The two plan the party. It will be at Gloria's and everyone is invited. Opal asks Otis to bring his guitar, to play at the party. 

In the anniversary edition, DiCamillo has a note that says a bit more than the Arkansas paper (above) included:
When I wrote this story more than twenty years ago, I gave Opal and Gloria Dump a classic novel of the South to share: Gone with the Wind. But when I reread Because of Winn-Dixie in preparation for this anniversary edition, I found it painful to see Opal and Gloria Dump sitting together, side by side, reading from a book that I cannot in good conscience recommend to my readers. I am grateful for this chance to give Opal and Gloria Dump a different book to share--a book that, while it is not perfect, does not diminish either one's humanity."
Ann Patchett wrote the introduction for the anniversary edition. She said:
This is a book about taking a chance on something that winds up saving your life, and it's also a book about growth and change. That's one of the things that makes this anniversary edition so special. The story you are now holding has changed since its original publication. When the book was first written twenty years ago, Opal went to the library looking for something to read aloud to her friend Gloria Dump, and Miss Franny Block gave her a copy of Gone with the Wind. Years later, Kate DiCamillo started to think more critically about Gone with the Wind  -- about its biases and prejudice -- and she regretted that she had not given Opal and Gloria Dump a different book to share. She thought, "It's time for things to change."
Towards the end, Patchett writes
"Because of Winn-Dixie has been read by millions and millions of people. They've cried and laughed and felt understood because of it. Some of them have felt rescued, while others have been reminded to reach out a hand to someone who could use it."

It is interesting to read and think about DiCamillo and Patchett's words about Gone with the Wind. Neither one says it is racist. That last paragraph from Patchett about millions who have read Because of Winn-Dixie exudes warmth but it also excludes children who were yanked right out of the story when they got to chapter 9 and learn about Gloria. That is where we learn about her, that her last name is Dump, and that the neighborhood kids call her a witch. People will argue that by the end of the book, readers love Gloria. They probably do, but the weight of coming to that point is on the shoulders of Black children. 

And what to do with Gone with the Wind? That (or the line about states rights) never got any pushback in the story. We simply have a white child reading it to an elderly Black woman who doesn't push back on it, either. 

Neither Patchett or DiCamillo refer to any of the pushback to Gone with the Wind. On June 14, 2020 The New York Times ran a story about Gone with the Wind being removed from HBO Max. It includes this photograph from 1940:

CrediAfro American Newspapers/Gado, via Getty 

I include the photo and the article in the New York Times because it demonstrates the fact that--for decades, African Americans have been saying no to the book. Surely DiCamillo's changes are due, in part, to learning about their objections. 

Over on that social media post that I read early this morning, some teachers are glad of the change. But, some are objecting to the change. Taking it out, they said, is DiCamillo "caving" to cancel culture. Some object in ways that suggest it is their only chance to teach about the Civil War. Surely they're speaking out of anger rather than as educators. I spent some time looking for lesson plans where teachers raise concerns about Gone with the Wind in the book, but I'm not finding any. If you find some, do let me know! 

Whether or not David Copperfield is a good replacement is for a different time. I welcome your thoughts on the change itself! 

Saturday, March 06, 2021

"Eskimo" in Seuss Books that Will No Longer Be Published

On March 2, 2021, Dr. Seuss Enterprises released a statement that they would no longer publish several of the Dr. Seuss books. Here's the statement:

Statement from Dr. Seuss Enterprises

Today, on Dr. Seuss’s Birthday, Dr. Seuss Enterprises celebrates reading and also our mission of supporting all children and families with messages of hope, inspiration, inclusion, and friendship.

We are committed to action.  To that end, Dr. Seuss Enterprises, working with a panel of experts, including educators, reviewed our catalog of titles and made the decision last year to cease publication and licensing of the following titles:  And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry StreetIf I Ran the Zoo, McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super!, and The Cat’s Quizzer.  These books portray people in ways that are hurtful and wrong.

Ceasing sales of these books is only part of our commitment and our broader plan to ensure Dr. Seuss Enterprises’s catalog represents and supports all communities and families.

As you see, their statement says things like "supporting all children and families" and "inclusion" and "represents and supports all communities and families." It lists the six books they will no longer publish but they don't give us any details on what--in those books--motivated their decision. 

The statement does not tell us who the experts on the panel were, or what they used to do their review. I strongly suspect they drew heavily from The Cat is Out of the Bag: Orientalism, Anti-Blackness, and White Supremacy in Dr. Seuss's Children's Books by Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens. Published in Feb of 2019 in Research on Diversity in Youth Literature, as of this writing it has been downloaded 274,425 times. Their study is excellent. 

I followed the news stories as people reacted to the statement. Many focused on the racist depictions in the well-known And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street. It was first published in 1937. The National Post cites the "Chinaman who eats with sticks" and the "Rajah, with rubies" and notes "two fur-clad figures being pulled by a reindeer." The storyteller in the book is a boy named Marco who is imagining what he'll see as he goes to school. 

Here is the page with the two figures in fur:

The words on that page do not tell us anything about the two on the sled, but it is clear they are meant to be what Seuss probably thought of as "Eskimo." Marco is back in McElligot's Pool published in 1947 by Random House. It won a Caldecott Honor Award. In it, Marco is fishing in a pool that, he's told, is too small. It has nothing but junk that people throw in it (a boot, a can, a bottle, etc.) 

Marco, however, imagines that the pool is connected to an underground river that may even go beyond Hudson Bay. Here's that page:

The words on that page are:

Some Eskimo Fish
From beyond Hudson Bay
Might decide to swim down;
Might be headed this way!

In the top left you can see Seuss's depiction of an igloo, and a person holding a spear and clad in fur, much like the two men on the sled in And to Think I Saw It on Mulberry Street. The fish are shown wearing the same fur hood as the person is. Here's a close up of all three:

The third book that has the fur-clad figures is Scrambled Eggs Super! It came out in 1953. In it, a kid named Peter T. Hooper brags about the kinds of eggs he uses to make scrambled eggs and where they are. Here's the page to note:

The text there is:

Eggs! I'd collected three hundred and two!
But I needed still more! And I suddenly knew
That the job was too big for one fellow to do.
So I telegraphed north to some friends near Fa-Zoal
Which is ten miles or so just beyond the North Pole.
And they all of them jumped in their Katta-ma-Side,
Which is sort of a boat made of sea-leopard's hide,
Which they sailed out to sea to go looking for Grice,
Which is sort of a bird which lays eggs on the ice,
Which they grabbed with a tool which is known as a Squitsch,
'Cause those eggs are too cold to be touched without which.

The friends are shown in that same fur attire that we saw in the other two books. Their location is the North Pole, which is another clue for us that they, too, are meant to be "Eskimo." 

The North Pole, the igloo, and the fur are all part of the reductive and stereotypical imagery associated with the Inuit or Yupik people. 

Objections to that stereotyping are not new, but they are gaining visibility in recent years. In 2016, Alaska Native people objected when Alaska Airlines shared their new airplane and website designs that included "Meet our Eskimo.":

Blossom Twitchell said "I would rather be called 'Inupiaq' because that's what I am and my children are Yup'ik." She also said that she wants her children "to be able to connect to their culture" and doesn't want people to think of them as "little people that live in igloo's." The airline apologized and removed "Eskimo" from their website.

More recently, Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream, the maker of "Eskimo Pie" ice cream, announced a change in their use of the word. This image will no longer be used:

Seuss Enterprises, Alaska Airlines, and Dreyer's Grand Ice Cream are making business decisions that are good for their profit margin--and for the rest of us, too. 

If your work in any way includes reading, creating, acquiring, or reviewing children's books, you need to be aware of these developments. Far too many children's books have stereotypical content in them that looks a lot like what we see in the Seuss books. His books are old--but you'll find this sort of imagery in newer books, too. When you have a moment, take a look at the side-by-side analysis I did of Igloo Farm (which became Snowy Farm). 

If you want to help make change happen, follow and share the work of people in children's and young adult literature who are pointing to that imagery. You can start by following @ConsciousKid (Katie Ishizuka and Ramón Stephens) and @CrazyQuilts (Edith Campbell) on Twitter. Stereotypical and racist imagery can end, if you speak up. When you see stereotypes, say something! 

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Native? Or, not? -- A Resource List

Dear AICL Reader,

Some of you are aware of the ongoing conversations about claims to being Native. A high profile case right now is Michelle Latimer, who said she was Native. People believed her. But then it turned out the people she claimed did not and do not, know her. 

Starting with this post on Feb 24, 2021, I am building a resource list of articles, books, and podcasts that I think others should be aware of--especially if you are editing, reviewing, or teaching material that is presented as being created by someone who says they are Native. The items are presented chronologically because some refer to previous ones. For many of you, this conversation is new. To Native people, it is not. You'll see several phrases used--like "playing Indian" and "pretendian" and you'll see that I include items about DNA testing.  

If you know of a resource I could add, please let me know by email or by using the comment form, below. And please share this page with your family, friends, and colleagues. 




Playing Indian by Philip J. Deloria, published in 1999 by Yale University Press. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

The Boston Tea Party, the Order of Red Men, Camp Fire Girls, Boy Scouts, Grateful Dead concerts are just a few examples of the American tendency to appropriate Indian dress and act out Indian roles. This provocative book explores how white Americans have used their ideas about Indians to shape national identity in different eras—and how Indian people have reacted to these imitations of their native dress, language, and ritual.

At the Boston Tea Party, colonial rebels played Indian in order to claim an aboriginal American identity. In the nineteenth century, Indian fraternal orders allowed men to rethink the idea of revolution, consolidate national power, and write nationalist literary epics. By the twentieth century, playing Indian helped nervous city dwellers deal with modernist concerns about nature, authenticity, Cold War anxiety, and various forms of relativism. Deloria points out, however, that throughout American history the creative uses of Indianness have been interwoven with conquest and dispossession of the Indians. Indian play has thus been fraught with ambivalence—for white Americans who idealized and villainized the Indian, and for Indians who were both humiliated and empowered by these cultural exercises.

Deloria suggests that imagining Indians has helped generations of white Americans define, mask, and evade paradoxes stemming from simultaneous construction and destruction of these native peoples. In the process, Americans have created powerful identities that have never been fully secure.

Becoming Indian: The Struggle over Cherokee Identity in the Twenty-first Century by Circe Sturm, published in 2011 by the School for Advanced Research Press. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

In Becoming Indian, author Circe Sturm examines Cherokee identity politics and the phenomenon of racial shifting. Racial shifters, as described by Sturm, are people who have changed their racial self-identification from non-Indian to Indian on the US Census. Many racial shifters are people who, while looking for their roots, have recently discovered their Native American ancestry. Others have family stories of an Indian great-great-grandmother or -grandfather they have not been able to document. Still others have long known they were of Native American descent, including their tribal affiliation, but only recently have become interested in reclaiming this aspect of their family history. Despite their differences, racial shifters share a conviction that they have Indian blood when asserting claims of indigeneity. Becoming Indian explores the social and cultural values that lie behind this phenomenon and delves into the motivations of these Americans—from so many different walks of life—to reinscribe their autobiographies and find deep personal and collective meaning in reclaiming their Indianness. Sturm points out that “becoming Indian” was not something people were quite as willing to do forty years ago—the willingness to do so now reveals much about the shifting politics of race and indigeneity in the United States.

Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science by Kim TallBear, published in 2013 by University of Minnesota Press. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

Because today’s DNA testing seems so compelling and powerful, increasing numbers of Native Americans have begun to believe their own metaphors: “in our blood” is giving way to “in our DNA.” In Native American DNA, Kim TallBear shows how Native American claims to land, resources, and sovereignty that have taken generations to ratify may be seriously—and permanently—undermined.


'There is no DNA test to prove you're Native American' by Linda Geddes, is an interview with Kim TallBear in New Scientist on Feb 4, 2014. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

Joseph Boyden exploits mythical Native identity by Doug George-Kanentiio at Indianz is an Opinion piece subtitled "Joseph Boyden: An Imposter Under Native Law" on Jan 6, 2017. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

Exposing false Native heritage at Native America Calling on Feb 10, 2021. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

After a CBC investigation called her claimed Indigenous heritage into question, Canadian filmmaker Michelle Latimer resigned as director of the CBC-TV series “Trickster,” a show she co-created. The National Film Board also dropped its intention to distribute her film “Inconvenient Indian” and pulled it from a Sundance Film Festival screening. It’s the latest in a continuing series of prominent people who initially benefitted from their Indigenous identity but were forced to backtrack when those claims couldn’t be documented. We’ll hear about the latest incident and an effort to expose those who improperly cash in on Native heritage. 


Distorted Descent: White Claims to Indigenous Identity by Darryl Leroux, published in 2019 by University of Manitoba Press. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

Distorted Descent examines a social phenomenon that has taken off in the twenty-first century: otherwise white, French descendant settlers in Canada shifting into a self-defined “Indigenous” identity. This study is not about individuals who have been dispossessed by colonial policies, or the multi-generational efforts to reconnect that occur in response. Rather, it is about white, French-descendant people discovering an Indigenous ancestor born 300 to 375 years ago through genealogy and using that ancestor as the sole basis for an eventual shift into an “Indigenous” identity today.

After setting out the most common genealogical practices that facilitate race shifting, Leroux examines two of the most prominent self-identified “Indigenous” organizations currently operating in Quebec. Both organizations have their origins in committed opposition to Indigenous land and territorial negotiations, and both encourage the use of suspect genealogical practices. Distorted Descent brings to light to how these claims to an “Indigenous” identity are then used politically to oppose actual, living Indigenous peoples, exposing along the way the shifting politics of whiteness, white settler colonialism, and white supremacy.  

For more information on the rise of the so-called ‘Eastern Metis’ in the eastern provinces and in New England, including a storymap, court documents, and research materials, visit the Raceshifting website, created by Unwritten Histories Digital Consulting.

How 'pretendians' undermine the rights of Indigenous people by Rebecca Nagle, published on April 2, 2019 at High Country News. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

Fraud in Native American Communities, a Special Issue of American Indian Culture and Research Journal, in honor of Suzan Shown Harjo. Edited by Nancy Marie Mithlo, Volume 43, Issue 4, 2019. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

  • Fauxskins, by Heid E. Erdrich
  • At the Center of the Controversy: Confronting Ethnic Fraud in the Arts, by Ashley Holland
  • Decentering Durham, by Nancy Marie Mithlo
  • Not Jimmie Durham's Cherokee, by Roy Boney, Jr.
  • Walk-Through at the Hammer, by James Lunda
  • A Chapter Closed? by America Meredith
  • What Shall We Do with the Bodies? Reconsidering the Archive in the Aftermath of Fraud, by Mario A. Caro.
  • Living in a (Shrodinger's) Box: Jimmie Durham's Strategic Use of Ambiguity, by Suzanne Newman Fricke
  • The Artist Knows Best: The De-Professionalism of a Profession, by Nancy Marie Mithlo
  • Hustling and Hoaxing: Institutions, Modern Styles, and Yeffe Kimball's "Native" Art, by Sarah Anne Stolte
  • Aspirational Descent and the Creation of Family Lore: Race Shifting in the Northeast, by Darryl Leroux
  • Closing the Gap: Ethics and the Law in the Exhibition of Contemporary Native Art, by Tahnee M. Ahtoneharjo-Growingthunder
  • Claims to Native Identity in Children's Literature, by Debbie Reese
  • Playing Indian, between Idealization and Vilification: Seems You have to Play Indian to be Indian, by Rosy Simas and Sam Aros Mitchell

On colonization, racial supremacy and playing Indian: A response to 'Statement of Global Indigenous Identity and Solidarity' by Rhiana Yazzie at Indianz on Oct 14, 2021.

The Pretendian Problem at Indian Country Today's newscast on Jan 28, 2021. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

First Nation filmmakers are now pushing for new legislation in Canada to penalize people who pretend to be Indigenous in order to access grants, awards and jobs intended for Indigenous people. There’s a long history of non-Natives assuming a tribal identity...everything from using red face in a Hollywood film, to the antics of the Boston Tea Party. Jeff Bear is a seasoned journalist who makes documentary films. He’s Maliseet and one of his most recent films is, “Samaqan: Water Stories.” It’s about the power of rivers. He also has produced a new series "Petroglyphs to Pixels." Jeff Bear joins us today to discuss Indian Country's pretend Indian problem.


A growing number of "Pretendian" artists and the potential repercussions at APTN's "InFocus" on Jan 28, 2021. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

It's a bizarre phenomenon - people pretending to be Indigenous to get jobs or grants or even just attention, because it's cool to be us.

What's not funny is they are taking highly lucrative work from Indigenous people. They're teaching our histories. They're telling our stories.

On this episode, we are putting Indigenous identity fraud InFocus.

The Convenient "Pretendian" at Canadaland on Feb 14, 2021. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

Latimer’s documentary Inconvenient Indian premiered at TIFF and reaped plaudits and awards. It’s now been pulled from distribution. Her series Trickster, based on a novel by Eden Robinson, debuted on the CBC and was slated for a second season. It’s been cancelled. Why does the Canadian cultural establishment make darlings of figures like Latimer? Ryan McMahon joins Jesse to discuss. Then documentary filmmaker Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, who is featured in Inconvenient Indian, considers the ethics and responsibility of storytelling, and why this controversy has been hurtful to so many Indigenous people. And Steven Lonsdale, whose seal hunt Latimer filmed for Inconvenient Indian, explains what he’d like to see done with that footage.

Contemplating the Consequences of Colonial Cosplay at Media Indigena on Feb 24, 2021. [Added on Feb 24 2021]

With issues of identity reaching a fever pitch of late, we thought we’d take its temperature. From Michelle Latimer’s contested claims to Indigeneity, to an ever-growing, quasi-underground list of Alleged Pretendians, not to mention a Twitter tempest over light-skin privilege, we’ll break down what’s at play, what’s at stake and—in part two—what might be ways out of this messy business.

Joining host/producer Rick Harp at the roundtable are Kim TallBear, associate professor in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta and Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience & Environment, as well as Candis Callison, Associate Professor in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies and the Graduate School of Journalism at UBC.

Creating Culpability for Colonial Cosplay: Punishment for Pretendians at Media Indigena on Feb 27, 2021. [Added on Mar 1 2021]

Punishment for Pretendians: the back half of our extended look at colonial cosplay. And if part one was all about the problem, this part’s all about solutions. Just what is to be done about all these faux First Nations actors, authors and academics? What mechanisms might we use, and by whose authority? Does it make sense to target all the players, or would it be better to re-write the rules of the game?

Back with host/producer Rick Harp to assess what's been put forth as ways to sift through the grift are Candis Callison, Associate Professor in the Institute for Critical Indigenous Studies and the Graduate School of Journalism at UBC, and Kim TallBear, associate professor in the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta as well as Canada Research Chair in Indigenous Peoples, Technoscience & Environment.