Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Leaders of Abenaki Nations request Educators stop making space for specific individuals in Vermont's "Abenaki" tribes

Update from Debbie on Feb 21: I edited the title of this blog and the second paragraph to more accurately reflect the request in the Odanak leader's letter. My initial emphasis was on books but the concern is much broader than that. It includes the performances the named individuals do. To me that includes storytelling, flute playing, drumming, and craft activities. If your school or library has made space (on-site or via a field trip) for the named individuals, please reconsider doing that in the future. As educators, our responsibility is to accuracy--especially in things we provide to children in our schools and classrooms. 

February 20, 2024

Dear Colleagues,

Last year, I wrote "Is Joseph Bruchac truly Abenaki?" explaining why I can no longer recommend books by Joseph Bruchac, Marge Bruchac, and James Bruchac. I included links to items that were important as I made that decision.

Below I am sharing a letter that is being shared in Native networks today (Feb 20, 2024). It asks educators in Vermont to stop making space for the performance of appropriated and invented Abenaki rituals, music, dance, and art from these individuals:
Fred Wiseman, Vera Sheehan, Joseph and Jesse Bruchac, Rich Hulschuh, Lisa Brooks, Melody Mackin, Don Stevens, Brenda Gagne, Paul Pouliot, and Judy Dow.
I think it is important that educators (from early childhood to university classrooms) outside of Vermont who use their books, articles, or educational materials read the letter. It includes links to several online items.

I am pasting the contents of the letter below; beneath it you will find screen captures of the letter that show the letter is signed by Chief Rick O'Bomsawin, Abenakis of Odanak and Chief Michel R. Bernard, Abenakis of W8linak. If you need a pdf, let me know. 

As this 2023 video shows, Chief O'Bomsawin invited the Vermont groups to meet with them to discuss concerns. The Feb 8 letter suggests to me that the Vermont groups chose to reject the invitation. 



February 8, 2024

Subject: Request for a meeting to discuss issues related to Vermont's self-proclaimed "abenaki" tribes


We write to you as representatives of the Abenaki People of the Odanak First Nation and Wolinak First Nation. We are the First People of these lands.

We are writing to you, Vermont’s educators and keepers of knowledge, to raise our concerns about the teaching of false histories of our people, as well as the platforming of those who preach and profit by appropriating our heritage and history.

We have come through centuries of war, dispossession and removal from the lands that became the United States and Vermont. The Canadian-American border cut our traditional territory into two. We continued to travel, live and trade in our ancestral lands. Over the last twenty years, we have raised concerns about the proliferation of self-proclaimed ‘Abenaki’ groups in Vermont and New Hampshire. In 2011 we tried to voice our concern about Vermont's state recognition process which gave state authority to these groups, but we were excluded from that process.

We do not recognize any of those groups as Abenaki as they have never demonstrated that they have any Abenaki ancestry or heritage. In April of 2022 for the first time we were given the opportunity to share our history at the University of Vermont. At that event we also denounced these groups and explained the harm their appropriation of our heritage has caused us. As Odanak Councillor Jacques Watso put it, “they are erasing us by replacing us.”

We are not the only ones to call their claims into question. Vermont’s own Attorney General’s report thoroughly investigated these claims twenty years ago, as did the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2007. Both found a lack of Abenaki ancestry or historic link to any North American Indian tribe. Recent peer-reviewed scholarship as well as investigations by Vermont Public, vtdigger, and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, all confirm that they are not Indigenous or Abenaki. 

These self-proclaimed ‘tribes’ are instead part of a growing movement that anthropologist Circe Sturm calls ‘race-shifting’: non-Natives claiming indigenous ancestry with little or no basis for doing so. As Professor Kim TallBear made clear in a recent presentation at the University of Vermont, race-shifters carry out a final act of colonization by replacing actual Native People with the voices and the bodies of the invader. “Self indigenization,” said TallBear, “is an act of genocidal elimination.”

If it is your intention to work with those who have preserved the culture and language of the Abenaki across 400 years of colonization, we are those people. 

We were never in hiding, or the targets of Vermont's eugenics programs. As Vermont Public and vtdigger reported, this is mythology, not history. UVM historian David Massell makes this plain. “No reputable scholar has seen or shared any credible historical evidence to support the theory (now a widely-embraced myth) that Vermont's eugenics campaign had any interest in, or in any way sought to target, the Abenaki,” Massell told vtdigger. “None.” 

We ask that you teach actual, evidence-based history and consider the sources in your curriculum. We ask that you no longer make space for the performance of appropriated and invented Abenaki rituals, music, dance and art. We ask that you stop platforming and elevating those who claim to represent us. This includes Fred Wiseman, Vera Sheehan, Joseph and Jesse Bruchac, Rich Holschuh, Lisa Brooks, Melody Mackin, Don Stevens, Brenda Gagne, Paul Pouliot and Judy Dow. None of these people have Abenaki ancestors. None speak from an indigenous perspective. None are our kin.

We do not seek land or resources in Vermont, only recognition of who we are. We request that Vermont’s educators learn and honor the true history of the Abenaki people.

We request a timely opportunity to discuss these concerns with you and in the coming weeks we will send an invitation to a meeting between Vermont education leaders, representatives of the Abenaki People, and allies from the Wabanaki Confederacy for further learning.

To participate in that meeting, please contact Daniel G. Nolett, Executive director at the Abenaki Council of Odanak at 450-568-2810 or dgnolett@caodanak.com.

We request that you share this letter widely with your colleagues, faculty, staff, board members, etc., depending on your organizational context.

In Peace and Friendship,

Rick O’Bomsawin, Chief, Abenaki of Odanak

Michel R. Bernard, Chief, Abenaki of W8linak

Thursday, February 08, 2024


A Girl Called Echo Omnibus
Written by Katherena Vermette (Red River Metis)
Illustrated by Scott B. Henderson (not Native); Colors by Donovan Yaciuk (not Native)
Published in 2023
Publisher: Highwater Press
Reviewer: Jean Mendoza

Review Status: Highly Recommended

You might have seen AICL's positive comments about katherena vermette's graphic novel series A Girl Called Echo. I guess I should clarify that this "Echo" has nothing to do with the mini-series currently getting a lot of attention! I haven't seen it yet.

Vermette's protagonist Echo is a socially isolated Metis teen in what is currently called Winnipeg, Manitoba. She finds herself abruptly pulled against her will into key events in the history of the Metis -- events which involved some of her direct ancestors. She meets them, witnesses their individual struggles, and is just as abruptly transported back to her present. Her time travels carry her through generations of traumas and (often short-lived) victories. The past echoes in her. 

Gradually, in her present time, she makes friends at school. She connects with her seemingly tireless and caring foster mother, and prepares for her mom to come home from what appears to be an inpatient facility of some kind.

If you've appreciated A Girl Called Echo as much as I have, you'll be pleased to know that in 2023, Highwater Press published A Girl Called Echo OMNIBUS -- a collection of all four books, with some new informational material, evocative end papers, a foreword by Dr. Chantal Fiola, and a critical essay by Brenda Mcdougall. The timelines, maps, and other information from the individual volumes are also part of the Omnibus, providing important context for Echo's experiences. It's available in paperback and as an e-book. 

The Omnibus is a visually pleasing, "one-stop" resource for fans of Echo, for educators, and for anyone who wants to better understand the history of the Metis in what is currently called Canada -- and how that history can play out in the hearts and minds of contemporary Metis, like Echo and her family. 

Portage and Main has also published a teacher guide for A Girl Called Echo, created by Anishinaabe educator Reuben Boulette. It's available as an e-book or in coil-bound soft-cover. 

You can view excerpts of it on the publisher's Web site -- highly recommended!

With the success of A Girl Called Echo, it's my fervent hope that we'll begin to see more graphic-novel explorations of Indigenous people's history of what's currently called the United States. -- grounded in the present as well as in accurate representations of the past.

Wednesday, January 24, 2024

News! Louise Erdrich's THE BIRCHBARK HOUSE will be available as an audiobook

As far as I know, there are no 'anniversary editions' of Louise Erdrich's The Birchbark House. Today, a teacher wrote to me about the book. She's using it with her students. So--it is on my mind. I realized it came out 25 years ago. I went over to Birchbark Books and saw that come May 7th of this year, you can listen to Erdrich reading the book! Yes--it is going to be made available as an audiobook. Birchbark Books works with Libro to make audio books available. When I clicked through, I saw this:

I ordered it, of course! I've listened to Erdrich read her work before and am really looking forward to this! Back in 1999, I was in graduate school. I had completed my coursework and was working on my dissertation, which was a study of children's books that were recommended or written about in Young Children. That is a practitioner's journal published by the National Association for the Education of Young Children. As you might guess, I was looking specifically at images of Native peoples in those books. For the most part I found book by non-Native writers, stereotypes and bias. I ought to look at the journal now. I hope they feature books by Native writers.

In the midst of that study, a wonderful book came out: The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich. It was first published in 1999 by HyperionBooks for Children and according to WorldCat, there are now 37 editions. This year -- 2024 -- marks the 25th year since its initial publication. Here's the original cover:

Erdrich did the illustration on the cover--and inside, too. Over the next years, the cover changed. It was a finalist for the National Book Award, and so that seal appeared on subsequent printings. And, Erdrich wrote more books about the character, Omakayas, and so the words "Book One of the Birchbark House Series" were also added to the cover:

The teacher who wrote to me about the book wanted help specifically with the pronunciation of the Ojibwe words in the book. Come May, we'll hear Erdrich speaking them aloud. Tiffany--your email inspired this post today. Thank you. 

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

News: American Indian Library Association announced its 2024 Youth Literature Awards

Good morning, AICL readers! Yesterday (Jan 22, 2024) the American Library Association announced its annual book awards. Below a list of the winners of the American Indian Library Association's Youth Literature Awards, given every two years (even-numbered years). Soon, all these books listed below will have the AIYLA seal on them! The photo below is from the AILA website and shows a selection of the books with their seals. 

You can order seals for your copies, directly from the American Indian Library Association. 

Here is a photo of the AILA Youth Literature Award committee members who were there for the announcements and Cindy Hohl (far right) who is the 2024-2025 president of the American Library Association (thank you to Hannah Buckland for permission to use the photo). Cindy Hohl is a member of the Santee Sioux Nation. Members of the committee this year were Naomi Bishop, Akimel O'odham; Mandi Harris, Cherokee Nation; Tara Kenjockety, Ho-Chunk & Seneca Nations; Kelley Kor, Cherokee Nation; Debbie Reese, Nambe Owingeh; Ophelia Spencer, Dine; Duane Yazzie, Hopi and Navajo; and Allison Waukau, Menominee and Navajo.  The committee was co-chaired by Joy Bridwell, Chippewa Cree Tribe; and Danielle Burbank, Dine.  


Forever Cousins written by Laurel Goodluck (Mandan & Hidatsa and Tsimshian), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Navajo/Diné) and published by Charlesbridge

A Letter for Bob written by Kim Rogers (Wichita & Affiliated Tribes), illustrated by Jonathan Nelson (Navajo/Diné) and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


Berry Song written and illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit Nation) and published by Little, Brown and Co., a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

Rock Your Mocs by Laurel Goodluck (Mandan & Hidatsa and Tsimshian), illustrated by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw Nation) and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Remember by Joy Harjo (Mvskoke Nation), illustrated by Michaela Goade (Tlingit Nation) and published by Random House Studio, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Penguin Random House

Celebration by Lily Hope (Tlingit), illustrated by Kelsey Mata Foote (Tlingit) and published by Sealaska Heritage Institute (SHI)

Contenders by Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation), illustrated by Arigon Starr (Kickapoo Tribe) and published by Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House


We Still Belong written by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), cover art by Madelyn Goodnight (Chickasaw Nation) and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers


She Persisted: Maria Tallchief by Christine Day (Upper Skagit), illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint and published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House

She Persisted: Deb Haaland by Laurel Goodluck (Mandan & Hidatsa and Tsimshian), illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint and published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Eagle Drums written and illustrated by Nasuġraq Rainey Hopson (Iñupiaq) and published by Roaring Brook Press

Jo Jo Makoons: Fancy Pants by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey) and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Jo Jo Makoons: Snow Day by Dawn Quigley (Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe), illustrated by Tara Audibert (Wolastoqey) and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers

Mascot by Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation) and Charles Waters, jacket illustration by Nicole Neidhardt (Navajo) and published by Charlesbridge

She Persisted: Wilma Mankiller by Traci Sorell (Cherokee Nation), illustrated by Alexandra Boiger and Gillian Flint and published by Philomel Books, an imprint of Penguin Random House


Rez Ball by written by Byron Graves (Ojibwe), jacket art by Natasha Donovan (Métis) and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.


Warrior Girl Unearthed by Angeline Boulley (Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians), jacket illustrations by Michaela Goade (Tlingit Nation) and published by Henry Holt and Company, a trademark of Macmillan Publishing Group

Funeral Songs for Dying Girls by Cherie Dimaline (Métis) and published Tundra Books, an imprint of Tundra Book Group, a division of Penguin Random House of Canada Limited

Running with Changing Woman by Lorinda Martinez (Diné), cover design by Brittany Gene (Navajo) and published by Salina Bookshelf

Man Made Monsters by Andrea L. Rogers (Cherokee Nation), illustrated by Jeff Edwards (Cherokee Nation) and published by Levine Querido

Heroes of the Water Monster by Brian Young (Navajo Nation), jacket art by Shonto Begay (Diné) and published by Heartdrum, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers.

Saturday, January 20, 2024

News! JUST LIKE GRANDMA written by Kim Rogers ...

Wonderful news! Yesterday on social media, Kim Rogers (enrolled member of the Wichita and Affiliated Tribes) told us that Just Like Grandma won the 2024 Charlotte Zolotow Award! Here's her screencap:

And I'm seeing this graphic being shared, too. I think Cynthia Leitich Smith created it:

It is on AICL's list of Best Books of 2023. Do you have a copy yet? 

Tuesday, January 02, 2024

New in 2024: Books by Native writers and illustrators

Last year (on Twitter) I did a thread of books by Native writers and illustrators slated for release in 2023. I'm going to do that list here. IMPORTANT: I have not read these books yet! If I do you'll find a review post later in 2024, and/or they may show up on our end-of-year list. 

They're not in any particular order. I could arrange the list by release date or alphabetically but the point is just to show you what's coming in 2024. I'll add to the post when I see covers. At this moment I see some titles but no covers yet, and I want you to see covers! 

One more note of importance: I wish publishers would include names of Native illustrators on fiction book covers! That's not the standard (typically, only the author's name is shown on the cover) but I think it should be there! And if there's a Native language in the book, the translator's name should be on the cover, too. 

If you know of a book to add here, let me know! 
Last update: Jan 29, 2024.