nancyboflood (nancyboflood) wrote in thru_the_booth,
nancyboflood
nancyboflood
thru_the_booth

AMERICAN INDIAN AND ALASKAN NATIVE CHILDREN’S LITERATURE- Whose story?

Thank you for sharing our conversation.

May we leave you with a few stories?

Yesterday here on the Navajo Reservation not one school was open.

Everyone was preparing for Veteran’s Day. Honoring warriors is serious and sacred; it is a family and community event.

Veterans and their families had been grooming their horses, polishing saddles and bridles, washing uniforms. Soldiers -- women and men in their 20’s, old timers, even the veterans from WWII - the Code Talkers – all were getting ready. From across the high mesas, from individual ranches, homes and hogans, in the early morning they began riding in full uniform to the chapter house. What a moment it is to watch horses and riders coming from all directions to the designated meeting place. Families wait along the streets watching. In front of homes are hand-printed signs: free coffee and doughnuts for veterans.

Who can tell this story?

Who should tell the story of one grandson watching his grandfather, a Navajo Code Talker from WWII, ride at the head of the parade of horses and warriors as they approach the Chapter House?

Who should tell the story of one girl who is both angry and scared that her older sister, her only sister, has been deployed to Iraq for a second time?

We need books that celebrate the experiences, the imaginations, the history of all children. As individuals, without stereotypes, without clichés.

Sometimes a good way to answer a question is through story.

An older friend of my husband’s was listening to this discussion and emailed this story.

“I have a very good friend who I visit often in her home on the reservation. She is about my age and has a large number of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She is a poet, was well educated in a Pennsylvania college, and taught school for many years. She has a daughter who teaches in a reservation elementary school and another who is closely involved in her Tribal Head Start programs. My friend was raised by her grandparents and is very strong in her Native language and spiritual understanding. We have many conversations about our childhoods and compare notes. We both frequently are amazed at the similarity of our family and peer relationships as children, and what shaped our understanding of life and living. Even at my age (75 yrs.), this personal experience helps me to understand the common human thread that children everywhere experience. A competent, thoughtful author, regardless of ethnicity or culture can weave these common threads into story that is authentic and gives children joy and understanding.”

We share a universal journey… each of us through our unique experiences.

As Debby Dahl-Edwardson pointed out, to write a story we need to live with them… in some way, at some level.

From Susanna Reich, author of The Art and Adventures of George Catlin:

“During the process of writing my recent book, Painting the Wild Frontier: The Art and Adventures of George Catlin (Clarion, 2008), I became acutely aware of issues of cultural appropriation, stereotyping, and prejudice in regard to Native Americans. I decided to directly address this in the book, as well as in interviews on Mitali Perkin's blog and elsewhere. In the 19th century, Catlin's paintings, books, and lectures helped create some of the stereotypes that still exist today. At the same time, he left us with an invaluable visual and verbal record of traditional ways of life. He's a controversial and fascinating figure, and I was very happy that every one of the major trade reviewers zeroed in on the contradictions he embodies, which are so central to my text.

I hope that teachers and librarians will find the book useful as a springboard for discussions about these issues. And I eagerly await the publication of Louise Erdrich's forthcoming novel for adults, Shadow Tag, in which the main character is writing a dissertation on Catlin.”
Susanna Reich
www.susannareich.com

*************************

Children’s books about and by American Indians and Alaskan Natives are hard to find. This is a small body of literature.

Books are needed that go :

Beyond stereotypes, beyond bows and arrows;

Beyond retellings, made-up tellings, long-ago warriors and chiefs;

Beyond the inaccuracies in history books.

*****************

Here is a recent comment from ccbc:

"Regarding the paucity of books by Native Americans available in libraries and in bookstores"

“I also have noticed that books by/about Native Americans have disappeared from libraries and particularly from bookstores. The topic has apparently nearly disappeared from local school curriculums as well (I live in Virginia).

I had been working on a children's biography of a lesser-known Indian chief, but … feeling that I could never satisfy the kind of criticism I see here, I put the book aside and will probably never finish it.”

Suzy McIntire

Arlington VA

Yes, there is criticism. That’s part of our profession. Listen to the concerns; enter the dialogue; continue to write appropriately. Tell your stories truthfully.

Ellen Levine: “Rest on Truth for authority rather than taking authority for truth.”

My YA novel, Warriors in the Crossfire (Front Street Books, 2010), set on the island of Saipan, includes dances and chants held sacred by the Carolinian people. Before I was given this information, Filipe Ruak, an elder of the clan and the keeper of the dances, asked the other elders for permission for me to be given this knowledge and to publish it. They agreed. They asked that their dances be told in printed form for their children and for all children. These dances are the property of their clan. Only they had the authority to give, or withhold, this permission.

Ellen Levine: “Rest on Truth for authority rather than taking authority for truth.”

Write from a place that resonates truth. Seek permission from the people of whom you write. Research. Listen. Then write.

Here is an abbreviated list of internet sites we hope you find helpful:

www.oyate.org

www.oyate.org as a review source about books by and about Native Americans. Their two publications, A Broken Flute and Through Indian Eyes include reviews and relevant articles, discussions, etc.

http://AILA.library.sd.gov American Indian Library Association: American Indian Youth Book Awards, awarded biannually

http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com

www.cynthialeitichsmith.com/lit_resoources/diversity/native

www.LacapaSpiritPrize.com

www.ibby.org International Board of Books for Young People, publishes Bookbird: A Journal of Inter/l Children’s Lit.

www.usbby.org US IBBY, publishes Bridges to Understanding, Crossing Boundaries with Children’s Books

www.shakti.org Shakti for Children

www.teachingtolerance.org

www.salinabookshelf.com

www.nativeauthors.com hundreds of titles and biographical information about American Indian authors in print

www.ndcenter.org The Ndakinna Education Center, Greenfield Center, NY offers hands-on learning experiences about Native American culture, traditions and the natural world.

www.saratoganativefestival.org The Saratoga Native American Festival

www.josephbruchac.com

www.nmai.si.edu National Museum of the American Indian

and to close -

This month celebrates Native Americans and Alaskan Natives.

This week celebrates all warriors who have served this country.

John F. Kennedy, address at Amherst College October 26, 1963:

“When power leads man toward arrogance,

Poetry reminds him of his limitations.

When power narrows the areas of man’s concerns,

Poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of his existence.

When power corrupts,

Poetry cleanses,

For art establishes the basic human truths


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Which must serve as the touchstone of our judgment.”




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