Saturday, June 24, 2017

Max of WHERE THE WILD THINGS--as a Native kid

People in children's literature are familiar with Where the Wild Things Are, by Maurice Sendak. I read it to kids many times.

I'll never read it the same way again, though, thanks to Steven Paul Judd's imagining of Max as a Native kid!



The t-shirt is available today at 11:00 Central Time (6/24/17) in limited quantities from The NTVS.

Oh! I learned about the shirt this morning, from Rebecca Roanhorse. She's got a book in the works! Its title is Trail of Lightning. It'll be out in 2018 from Simon & Schuster's Saga imprint.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Debbie--have you seen BLOWBACK '07 by Brian Meehl?

A reader writes to ask if I've seen Blowback '07 by Brian Meehl. I haven't but will look for it. Here's the description:

Clashing teenage twins Arky and Iris have one thing in common: an ancient musical instrument left to them by their mother. When Iris plays the strangely curved woodwind, the trouble begins; Arky's friend, Matt, the school's star quarterback, disappears.

Transported to 1907 and the Carlisle Indian School, Matt is forced to play football for Coach Pop Warner as the Carlisle ''Redmen'' revolutionize Ivy League football. Matt's struggle to ''play his way home'' is complicated when he falls in love with an Indian girl.

Meanwhile, Arky and Iris discover a cache of secrets that might bring Matt back, and lead to the ultimate rescue: their mother, trapped in the past.

Blowback '07 launches a century-spanning trilogy to be continued in Blowback '63 and Blowback '94. Books two and three propel Arky and Iris to the illuminating past, and transform them in ways they never imagined. After all, as their mother once cautioned, ''Every road to the future winds through the past.''

Published in 2016 by Mill City Press, I'm wary of Meehl's book--not because of the publisher, but because of the content. Any stories that delve into the boarding schools Native children were forced to go to must be done with extraordinary care and research, lest they come out like Ann Rinaldi's disastrous My Heart Is On the Ground.

Why, I wonder, did Meehl select Carlisle as the place his character would go?

When I get a copy, I'll be back with a review.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Highly Recommended: Cherie Dimaline's THE MARROW THIEVES

I first came to know Cherie Dimaline's writing last year, when I read "Legends are Made, Not Born" in Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time: An LGBT and Two-Spirit Sci Fi Anthology. The character she writes about in that story is named Auntie Dave. 

I wrote, then, that I had to "just be" with Auntie Dave and that story for awhile. There's a quality in Dimaline's writing that reached from the page, into my being. 

That's the case, too, with The Marrow Thieves. I paused again and again as I met and came to know 16 year-old French, and then the people who would become his family: Miig, Wab, Zheegwon, Tree, RiRi, Minerva, Chi-Boy, and Slopper. 

Later, French will meet and fall in love with Rose. On page 32, there's a line about her that squeezes my heart. "We had a future and a past all bundled up in her round dark cheeks and loose curls." 

French (sometimes called Frenchie; his given name is Francis) and the rest are on the run, running away from "the Recruiters." Here, I'll share the description from the back cover:
Humanity has nearly destroyed its world through global warming, but now an even greater evil lurks. The Indigenous people of North America are being hunted and harvested for their bone marrow, which carries the key to recovering something the rest of the population has lost: the ability to dream. 
In this dark world, Frenchie and his companions struggle to survive as they make their way up north to the old lands. For now, survival means staying hidden.... but what they don't know is that one of them holds the secret to defeating the marrow thieves. 
The hunters in Dimaline's story are "the Recruiters." They're the ones French and all the others are hiding from, running from. The Marrow Thieves begins when French is 11, being chased by those Recruiters who want to take Indigenous people to schools to take their marrow. That's a specific reference to the residential schools of the past, where so much was taken from Native children. It is one of many points in The Marrow Thieves where--painfully or with exquisite beauty--Dimaline's story resonates with me. It will resonate with other Native readers, too, especially those who are Anishinabe. Several tribal nations are mentioned in here, too.

One moment that made my heart swell is when the group has come to an abandoned hotel. After months of sleeping on the ground in tents, they cautiously enter the hotel, and then later, enthusiastically say good night, each in their own rooms, on beds. For the first time, French and Rose are curled up together. They're startled when they hear little Ri say "French, can I sleep with you guys?" and then a minute or two later, Slopper (he and Ri are the two children in the group) appears and says "Move over, French. I can't sleep." They drift off to sleep. That's how it is.

There's a passage in The Marrow Thieves that, for me, embodies what matters for any society. French thinks about how, when a people don't have their youngest and their oldest, they are without deep roots, and without an acute need to protect and make things better.

That's a key piece of why this story is one I'm carrying. It is about caring, about love, about how people can continue, and will continue.

There's so much more to say. About... song. About Miggs and Isaac, about Ri, about Minerva, about French.  But I'll stop and let you be with these achingly dear characters.

I highly recommend The Marrow Thieves. I ordered my copy from Canada. Published by Dancing Cat Books (an imprint of Cormorant Books), it isn't available in the US till later this year.

Monday, June 05, 2017

Doris Seale, 1936-2017

Back in the early 1990s when I started graduate school, I learned of the work of a Santee, Cree, Abenaki woman named Doris Seale. I read her writings about the ways that Native people are depicted in children's books. Those words were fierce. I learned a lot from her. She also wrote two books of poetry: Blood Salt, and Ghost Dance. 

In 2001, she won the American Library Association's Equality Award for the work she'd been doing, for over 40 years. That year, ALA's meeting was held at a Marriott Hotel in San Francisco that was in a labor dispute with its workers. Rather than cross a picket line to accept her award, Doris Seale joined that picket line.

Source: http://libr.org/juice/pics/4.23/Marriott.html 

Doris started her work as a librarian a year before I was born, in the children's department of the Brookline Public Library, in Brookline Massachusetts. She passed away this year. That marks 60 years, or so, of her words, doing work, for children.

She founded Oyate, too.

In her honor, I'm going to start compiling a bibliography of her writings. It will be on this page. At this point in time, people in the fields of education and library science point to me as an important voice in understanding the ways that Native peoples are depicted in children's books. I learned a lot of what I know from Doris Seale. I invite you to read her work. Cite it, and share it. And let me know of ones I've missed, too.

***

Doris Seale's Writings about Native Peoples in Children's Literature

Seale, D. (1981). Bibliographies about Native Americans—A mixed blessing. Interracial Books for Children Bulletin12, 11-15.

Seale, D. (1984). Indians without Hope, Indians without Options--The Problematic Theme of Hatter FoxInterracial Books for Children Bulletin15(3), 7.

Slapin, B., & Seale, D. (1988). Books without bias: Through Indian eyes. Oyate.

Seale, D. (1991) 1492-1992 from an American Indian Perspective. In Lindgren, M. V. The Multicolored Mirror: Cultural Substance in Literature for Children and Young Adults. Highsmith Press, W5527 Highway 106, PO Box 800, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538-0800..

Seale, D. (1992). Let us put our minds together and see what life we will make for our children. Slapin and Seale, Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children, 7-12.

Slapin, B., & Seale, D. (1992). Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. New Society Publishers, 4527 Springfield Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19143.

Slapin, B., Seale, D., & Gonzales, R. (1996). How to tell the difference: A guide to evaluating children's books for anti-Indian bias. Berkeley, Calif.: Oyate.

Seale, D. (2001). Parting Words: The Works of Paul Goble. Multicultural Review10(1), 120-120.

Slapin, B., & Seale, D. (2001). Presenting the Wounded Knee Massacre in Books for Children: A Review Essay on Neil Waldman's Wounded KneeMultiCultural Review10(4), 54-56.

Seale, D., & Slapin, B. (2006). A broken flute: The Native experience in books for children. Rowman Altamira.

Seale, D. (2007). Navajo: Visions and Voices Across the Mesa. Review at American Indians in Children's Literature

Dow, J., & Seale, D. (2009). Tomie de Paola's The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush. Review at American Indians in Children's Literature _________

See: 
Doris Seale: In Memorium at Dawnland Voices
Doris Marion Seale (obituary at The Boston Globe)



Sunday, June 04, 2017

About DANNY AND THE DINOSAUR

Last month, Harper Collins celebrated the 60th anniversary of its I Can Read books. I wondered if they would remove this page from the new edition of Danny and the Dinosaur, by Syd Hoff. The book was first published in 1958.




I went to the Harper Collins website and saw that they've got worksheets up for some of the I Can Read books. They had some for Danny and the Dinosaur, including this one, which told me that they clearly had not revisited that page. I did a screen capture of it, added the red arrow, and tweeted to Harper Collins, asking them about that page.



They wrote back to me that same day (May 9, 2017), saying:

"We appreciate your valuable feedback and sincerely apologize that this activity was offensive. It has been removed from the site."

It is, indeed, gone, and when I pressed them about the page in the actual book, I got a DM (direct message) that said "We are reviewing the book and will be in touch in the future." I thanked them. When they get in touch, I'll be back with an update. Let's hope they're getting rid of that page.

Some thoughts on Chelsea Clinton's SHE PERSISTED

Chelsea Clinton's picture book, She Persisted, was released on May 30, 2017. Parents and teachers will buy it. So will activists. Published by Philomel Books (an imprint of Penguin), it is already marked as a best seller at Amazon.

The title, as many AICL readers will likely know, is based on Mitch McConnell's remark about Elizabeth Warren, who persisted in trying to read Coretta Scott King's words on the Senate floor in February of 2017. Some of you may recall that I've written about Warren before, when she persisted in making a claim to Cherokee identity. That persistence showed a lot of willful ignorance. I don't want to get sidetracked, though, in this post that focuses on one page in Clinton's She Persisted. 

I like the concept: a picture book about women who push back on those who want them to be quiet, to sit down, to go away... that's a great idea. But the execution--with respect to the page about Maria Tallchief--fails to push back on the ways that most people think about Native peoples.

Here's a screen capture of the text about Maria Tallchief. It says:

"After MARIA TALLCHIEF's family moved to California, partly to support Maria's dreams of becoming a dancer, she was teased by students in school for her Native American heritage and later was encouraged to change her last name to something that sounded Russian (since many professional dancers at the time were from Russia). She persisted, ignoring all the taunting and poor advice, to become to first great American prima ballerina."



At first glance, that info about her sounds great, doesn't it? It is based in fact. An Entertainment Weekly interview points to the autobiography Clinton read (Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina). Here's that part from Tallchief's book. This took place in 1933:
Some of the students made fun of my last name, pretending they didn’t understand if it was Tall or Chief. A few made war whoops whenever they saw me, and asked why I didn’t wear feathers or if my father took scalps.
When you hear "Native American" or "American Indian," what image comes to mind? For a lot of people, it will be a large feathered headdress, some war whoops, a tomahawk, a tipi, and maybe a herd of buffalo. In other words, the same things that Tallchief had to deal with in 1933.

It is way cool that Clinton is showing us a Native person as a ballerina. That image counters the other imagery that comes to mind, but calling her a Native American leaves the generic or monolithic "Native American" term itself, intact.

In other words--I wish Clinton had written in there, somewhere in those 60 words, that Maria Tallchief was Osage. It is a missed opportunity for Osage kids to see the name of their nation, in print, in a picture book that millions of children are going to read.

That bit about her name is interesting, all on its own.

Clinton tells us the ballet company wanted Tallchief to change her last name to something so that it sounded Russian. In her autobiography, Tallchief wrote that they wanted her to add an 'a' to Tallchief and swap that 'f' for a 'v' so it would be "Tallchieva." Sheesh! She didn't want to do that, but did agree to use "Maria" rather than her given name, Betty Marie. 

If I was teaching She Persisted, I'd substitute "Osage" for "Native American." And of course, I'd talk about the Osage Nation. I've not studied how Clinton writes about the other women in the book. If you have, let me know in the comments.

Book cited:
Tallchief, Maria. Maria Tallchief: America's Prima Ballerina. Henry Holt and Co.







Friday, May 26, 2017

Not Recommended: THE HEART OF EVERYTHING THAT IS: THE UNTOLD STORY OF RED CLOUD, AN AMERICAN LEGEND by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin (adapted by Kate Waters)

In 2013, Simon and Schuster published The Heart of Everything That Is: The Untold Story of Red Cloud, An American Legend. White people loved it. They bought it. They praised it. It became a New York Times Bestseller. White people love The White Man's Indian. 

And so--unsurprisingly--Simon and Schuster decided they ought to make it available to young people, too. The "young readers edition" came out in February of 2017 from Margaret K. McElderry Books. It was adapted for young readers by Kate Waters. 

(An aside: as I write this post, I throw down snark--and then delete it--again and again.)

Shall we take a quick look? First is the subtitle "The Untold Story of Red Cloud, an American Legend." 

Untold? What does that mean?! To me, it means that Drury and Clavin see themselves as saviors. Gonna tell the world, they are, the "untold" story of Red Cloud. Untold... to what person, in particular? 

Oh, I get it... What they mean is a different kind of story about Red Cloud! Their book, we are expected to believe, will be different than the 2,272 books that came up when I searched WorldCat using "Red Cloud" in the search box. 

Is it, though?

I have doubts, because being Good White People means... lot of blind spots! 

Like how Drury and Clavin think of him, right there, on the cover. To them, he is "an American legend." Would Red Cloud call himself an American? 

The dedication page tells us that the book is dedicated to "the children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation." Oh. Ok. Sounds a lot like all those ways that White people think they honor Native people. Dedicating books to us, donating a percentage of their sales to us, creating stories about us... how nice! (Yeah, that "how nice" is me being snarky). 

So, let's think about a Native kid, maybe even one of "the children of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation" who picks up this book. One thing that kid is going to come across is the word "brave" to refer to Native boys, men, and elders... Here's an example from page 14: 
Veteran braves grunted and yipped in approval.
See that? They grunt. And yip. 

Frankly, I don't want to finish this book. I looked at the professional reviews at Barnes and Noble's website. The unsigned Kirkus review says (all their reviews are unsigned):
This adaptation will diminish Red Cloud's legacy, perpetuate negative stereotypes, and provide incorrect information to young readers: skip." 
I concur with Kirkus. Kudos to their reviewer! The review by Laura Simeon at School Library Journal says: 
"Not recommended for purchase. Consider Joseph Marshall III's In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse instead for a fictional look at a Lakota leader."
Laura is right! Get Marshall's book instead! 

I hope you didn't order this young readers edition because the adult version did so well. You should take a look at this essay in Indian Country Today: The Heart of Everything That Isn't: The Untold Story of Anti-Indianism in Drury and Clavin's Book on Red Cloud.  

In short, I do not recommend the 2013 or the 2017 editions of The Heart of Everything That Isn't by Drury and Clavin. 

_________________
Update: I'm glad people read my blog. Within a half hour of loading this review, I got a comment from Jamalia Higgins that I'll paste here so I can respond to it:

Excuse me? "White people loved it. They bought it. They praised it." Do you have any statistics to back up these claims? Were white people the only buyers of this title? The only ones who loved it? 
I do not disagree with your review of either version of this title, but this language is extremely concerning to me and other POC who are readers, book buyers, library users, and book review readers and writers.

The call for statistics to "back up" a claim is familiar. She does ask a question that I can toss back out as this: does anyone think that it is Native and People of Color who made this 2013 edition a best seller? I could just say "People loved it." Shall I go back and say that? She's right, though. I'm sure some people of color loved it. In children's lit and elsewhere, people disagree about things. Institutionalized racism is everywhere.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Debbie--have you seen SISTERS IN BLUE/HERMANAS DE AZUL by Anna M. Nogar and Enrique R. Lamadrid?

A reader wrote to ask if I've seen Sisters In Blue/Hermanas de Azul by Anna M. Nogar and Enrique R. Lamadrid. Illustrations are by Amy Cordova; publisher is UNM Press, and the publication year is 2017.

Here's the description:
Sisters in Blue tells the story of two young women—one Spanish, one Puebloan—meeting across space and time. Sor María de Jesús de Ágreda, New Mexico’s famous Lady in Blue, is said to have traveled to New Mexico in the seventeenth century. Here Anna M. Nogar and Enrique R. Lamadrid bring her to life, imagining an encounter between a Pueblo woman and Sor María during the nun’s mystical spiritual journeys. Tales of Sor María, who described traveling across the earth and the heavens, have traditionally presented her as an evangelist who helped bring Catholicism to the Pueblos. Instead this book, which includes an essay providing historical context, shows a connection between Sor María and her friend Paf Sheuri. The two women find more similarities than differences in their shared experiences, and what they learn from each other has an impact for centuries to come.
Frankly, I'm usually suspicious of books that emphasize similarities amongst people when the history of interactions between these particular peoples is so fraught with horrific and oppressive actions. If I get a copy, I'll be back with a review.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Debbie--have you seen PURITAN GIRL, MOHAWK GIRL by John Demos?

A reader wrote to ask if I've seen Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl by John Demos. It is due out on October 31, 2017 from Amulet Books (which is part of Abrams) Books. Here's the summary:
National Book Award finalist John Demos brings to life the compelling story of Eunice Williams, a Puritan girl who was captured and adopted by Native Americans
In this riveting historical fiction narrative, National Book Award Finalist John Demos shares the story of a young Puritan girl and her life-changing experience with the Mohawk people.
Inspired by Demos’s award-winning novel The Unredeemed CaptivePuritan Girl, Mohawk Girl will captivate a young audience, providing a Native American perspective rather than the Western one typically taught in the classroom.
As the armed conflicts between the English colonies in North America and the French settlements raged in the 1700s, a young Puritan girl, Eunice Williams, is kidnapped by Mohawk people and taken to Canada. She is adopted into a new family, a new culture, and a new set of traditions that will define her life. As Eunice spends her days learning the Mohawk language and the roles of women and girls in the community, she gains a deeper understanding of her Mohawk family. Although her father and brother try to persuade Eunice to return to Massachusetts, she ultimately chooses to remain with her Mohawk family and settlement.
Puritan Girl, Mohawk Girl offers a compelling and rich lesson that is sure to enchant young readers and those who want to deepen their understanding of Native American history.
If I get a copy, I'll be back with a link to my review. 

Monday, May 08, 2017

Not recommended: JUNIE B. JONES, TURKEYS WE HAVE LOVED AND EATEN by Barbara Park and Denise Brunkus

Series books are popular. Kids come to know and love the characters. They eagerly read one book after another and wait for new books to appear. Publishers happily comply. Often, though, you'll come across one that has stereotypical or factually inaccurate content about Native peoples.

Turkey We Have Loved and Eaten in the Junie B. Jones series is one. Written by Barbara Park, illustrated by Denise Brunkus, and published in 2012 by Random House, it is a good example of a book with problematic content.

As such, the red x overlaid on the title is meant to signal that I do not recommend it.

Here's the description:
Meet the World’s Funniest First Grader—Junie B. Jones! Room One is getting ready for their very own Thanksgiving feast! There’s even a contest to see which room can write the best thankful list. The winners will get a pumpkin pie! Only it turns out being thankful is harder than it looks. Because Junie B. is not actually thankful for Tattletale May. Or scratchy pilgrim costumes. And pumpkin pie makes her vomit, anyway. Will Room One win the disgusting pie? Can May and Junie B. find common ground? Or will this Thanksgiving feast turn into a Turkey Day disaster?

No mention, there, of Native people. But once you start reading...

The books open with an image of a "Dear first grade journal" letter written by Junie B. Jones. Writing errors are crossed out. That's a clever device and I'm sure teachers especially enjoy those letters. With spelling and grammar errors corrected, here's what the letter says:
Dear first-grade journal,
Today is the month of Thanksgiving.
At Thanksgiving we draw a lot of turkeys.
Also we draw Pilgrims and Native Americans.
They are eating at a table usually.
If Barbara Park or her editor had been thinking critically, "Native American" would be crossed out, too, and Wampanoag would be written, instead. That's the first error in Turkeys We Have Eaten. 

There's more to the letter. Junie says she doesn't understand the Pilgrims. Their "costumes" (her word) look to Junie like they would make the Pilgrims hot and sweaty. There's the second error. Those weren't costumes. The clothing they wore was... clothing. Junie goes on to write that they're going to have a Thanksgiving feast. Their families will join them at school for this feast.

Junie and another girl in the class, May, don't quite get along. This may be a thread in all the books. In this book, they both brought the same item for show and tell. They start to argue about it. Somehow, the Pilgrim costume is brought up, and then, Junie tells May that if she was an Indian.... and that right there (her use of Indian) is the third error. How does that line up with the letter that used "Native American"?

When chapter 9 opens, Junie wrotes about how all the kids have to dress up like Pilgrims or Native Americans. She writes that she told her mother that she didn't want to be a Pilgrim but that her mom had asked her grandmother to make the costume and... it is a Pilgrim dress. She has to wear it to school anyway.

At school, May comes into the classroom, and she's "dressed like a Native American Indian girl" (Kindle Location 705-706). Remember what I said earlier about being specific? Just what does it look like when someone dresses like a Native American Indian girl? If you're a regular reader of AICL, you know that I've written a lot about how many tribal nations there are, how diverse we are in terms of material culture, social organization, and on and on and on. Obviously, what Park and Brunkus are delivering to readers is stereotypical information. We could call this their fourth error.

May taunts Junie, saying (Kindle Location 709-711):
“Look how great this costume is! Look at the fringe on the bottom of my dress! Look at the beads around the collar! Look at my cute moccasins! Look at the long braid in my hair!”
Junie turns away from her, but May continues (Kindle Locations 712-714):
“Guess what my name is, Junie Jones? My name is Chief May—Chief of Everybody. And I will be bossing around the Native Americans at the feast today. Plus I will be bossing around the Pilgrims, too." 
And then... (Kindle Locations 717-720):
“What is your name, little Pilgrim girl?” she asked. “Do you have a name?” I made squinty eyes at her. “My name is Get Out of My Face, Chief Nutball,” I said back.
Those early errors are bad, but this whole scene, with the stereotypical clothing and the mockery of Native names takes this book to a whole different level.

Now, Turkeys We Have Loved isn't just miseducating kids, it is also mocking Native kids. This is the sort of thing that makes me furious. I think of Native kids in my family, being asked to read things like this. Becoming, via things like this, the target of jokes like this from their peers... Do you see why this is not acceptable?

Clearly, Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten, published in 2012 by Random House, is not recommended. For anyone.

Wednesday, May 03, 2017

Debbie--have you seen RUN FOR YOUR LIFE by Trevor Kew?

This morning (May 3, 2017) I learned about Run for your Life by Trevor Kew, due out from Lorimer on August 1 of this year. I did a series of tweets about it. I'm pasting them here (I don't know how to remove the gray background from 2-15).

1) Due out sometime this year is a book that's making me go oh-oh. Set in Canada, the story is abt a kid whose dad was a refugee from Iran.

2) The kid is a runner. Rather than help with a fundraiser for First Nations displaced by a fire, he'd rather train for a big race.

3) When he's wiped out, he gains what he needs to keep going by imagining he is being chased by bloodthirsty savage Indians w tomahawks.

4) Training session over, he's catching his breath at a park. Someone asks him if he's ok. That someone is... a First Nations teen.

5) The First Nations teen is named Jason. He asks Chris (the runner) if someone was chasing him.

6) Chris knew it was not ok to imagine being chased by blood thirsty savage Indians. Jason's question, then, is awkward.

7) Chris realizes Jason is one of the FN people who is displaced by a fire. Turns out, Jason is also a runner.

8) The two boys will race against each other, later. And guess what: Chris still imagines himself being chased by savage Indians.

9) I get where the author (Trevor Kew) is going with this story (RUN FOR YOUR LIFE), but did he imagine Native teens as readers of this bk?

10) There were huge fires in Canada recently. So many Native ppl in my networks were fearful for family in danger of the fires.

11) With that in mind, this story might seem relevant and timely to some but I have doubts. And questions.

12) What I shared here is from the "look inside" feature at Amazon. It is due out on August 1, 2017, from Lorimer.

13) When Chris introduces Jason to his friends, there is awkward silence as they look at him. Then, the Korean kid says "You're a real ---"

14) Chris steps in before Yongwon (the Korean kid) says "Indian", saying "hockey player" instead. That's when Jason tells them his nation.

15) If I get RUN FOR YOUR LIFE, I'll be back.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

New edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's A CHILD'S GARDEN OF VERSES

Back in 1951 (and again in 1961) a new edition of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses, was released, with illustrations by Alice and Martin Provensen. That book is back out this year, from Golden Press. Here's a photo (a heartfelt thanks to Allie Jane Bruce for sending me these images!) of the old and new.



The 1963 edition has a poem in it called The Land of Storybooks. Just before it is one called The Flowers:



Here's the next page from the 1963 edition...



Here's a closer look at the Provensen's illustrations of the little boy playing at being an "Indian scout" and his imaginings of Indian scouts (who are hunting lions and tigers).



The Land of Storybooks is not in the 2017 edition. See? It goes from The Flowers to The Cow. That's a step in the right direction!



Stevenson's collections--by the way--have more than one poem that is racist in word and/or how an illustrator depicted the "Indian" in it. Over in AICL's "Foul Among the Good" gallery is an entry about Foreign Children, illustrated by Charles Robinson, in 1897.




I assume Foreign Children isn't in the new Provensen edition. I wonder, though, how the Provensen's illustrated that poem, back in 1951?

Some day, I might spend time looking up images of Foreign Children and The Land of Storybooks. I wonder, for example, how Brian Wildsmith did those two, when he illustrated the book in 1966? What do you have on your shelves? If you've got editions with illustrations of Foreign Children or The Land of Storybooks, please take a photo of those pages and send them to me. I'll add them here.

_____

Tibby Wroten (a reader of AICL) sent me these photos from a copy of the book, with illustrations by Gyo Fujikawa (thanks, Tibby!). The pages are from a 1985 printing, with a copyright of 1957. Here's the cover:



And here's the interior pages:






Update: Sunday, April 30, 2017

Another reader sent a batch of photos. These are from a 1985 edition published by Crown Publishers. Illustrations are by Jessie Smith Willcox. Here's the cover:



Here's Foreign Children. "Turned the turtles off their legs" -- what do you think? Is that meant to be the Indian, Sioux, or Crow? It is an interesting poem. I wonder if there's any analysis of it, anywhere? Given that Stevenson was specific with Sioux and Crow, I wonder if "Indian" is meant to be someone from India?



Here's the illustration and poem, The Sun Travels. It, too, has "Indian" in it, but this time, Willcox definitely has a Native person in mind.



The reader also sent me the page for Land of Storybooks. Here's the illustration on top. No feathers. I think this is the child imagining himself as a hunter. Not an Indian one, just a hunter.


I'll keep adding to this gallery of art for Steven's A Child's Garden of Verses as I receive more photos, or as I find them.

A public thank you to Weezie, and to Rick Riordan regarding "spirit animal" in THE SWORD OF SUMMER

Yesterday (April 25), Weezie, the Mvskoke person who tweets from @WeeziesBooks, tagged me on a tweet about a page from Rick Riordan's The Sword of Summer*. Here's a screen cap of the tweet. Below the screen cap, I've typed up the content of the screen cap.



Early in The Sword of Summer, Riordan's character is talking about his mother. Weezie said this to Riordan:
Hi, Rick! Can you explain this passage? Native readers know spirit animals are sacred... why include this?
The passage Weezie asked about is this:
It's hard to describe her. To really understand Natalie Chase, you had to meet her. She used to joke that her spirit animal was Tinker Bell from Peter Pan.
Predictably, Weezie got piled on for asking the question. This morning on Twitter, I asked Riordan if he could delete that line from future printings (as before, here's a screen cap followed by the content of the screen cap):



Riordan replied:
Just spoke to my editor and we will delete that in all future printings. Thank you for pointing this out. Apologies for my insensitivity. 
In response, some people thanked him. Others said his decision was unnecessary. I'm amongst those thanking him--and Weezie, too--for bringing attention to it. He joins Julie Murphy and others who take decisive and public steps about using that phrase.

I think Riordan's public decision tells us that he is aware that Native children read his books and that he wants to do right by them. In doing right by them, he's also doing right for all children who read his books.

As the title of this post indicates, this is a thank you. To those who speak up, and those who listen and respond, as Riordan did. This post will be added to AICL's growing list of links to books that writers change when they revisit content like "spirit animal."

If you're on Twitter, follow Weezie. And check out Weezie's Whimsical Writing.

Update, April 27, 2017:

People continue to pile on Weezie. Someone tweeted to Riordan about it, and he replied that:
All choices about and responsibility for my text are mine. If people want to be mad at someone, they should get mad at me and me only.
Here's a screen cap of that:


______________________
*My apologies to Mr. Riordan. In the initial post, I incorrectly identified his book as "The Summer of the Sword." My error has been corrected, thanks to a reader at ALSC. I deeply value email from those who point out my errors. Please don't hesitate to send them!

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Beverly Slapin's review of UNDEFEATED: JIM THORPE AND THE CARLISLE INDIAN SCHOOL FOOTBALL TEAM by Steve Sheinkin

Editor's Note: Beverly Slapin submitted this review of Steve Sheinkin's Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. It may not be used elsewhere without her written permission. All rights reserved. Copyright 2017. Slapin is currently the publisher/editor of De Colores: The Raza Experience in Books for Children. I (Debbie Reese) hope to read and review this book, too. See also the review at Reading While White

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Sheinkin, Steve, Undefeated: Jim Thorpe and the Carlisle Indian School Football Team. Roaring Brook Press, 2017; grades 6-9 (Potawatomi, Sac and Fox)


PREFACE

In “The School Days of an Indian Girl,” a chapter in American Indian Stories, [1], Zitkala-Sa (Dakota) writes of her experiences at White’s Manual Labor Institute in Wabash, Indiana:

The melancholy of those black days has left so long a shadow that it darkens the path of years that have since gone by. Perhaps my Indian nature is the moaning wind which stirs them now [2] for their present record. But, however tempestuous this is within me, it comes out as the low voice of a curiously colored seashell [3], which is only for those ears that are bent with compassion to hear it.

Zitkala-Sa devoted her life to seeking justice for her people and was one of the few early Native writers who wrote without the “aid” of a white editor, interpreter or ethnographer. While her stories describe the everyday humiliations, turmoil and pain that encompassed the Indian residential school experience, she also wrote of resistance and rebellion.

It’s my firm belief that no one could or should attempt to represent what the children experienced in the Indian residential schools without listening to the stories of their descendants, and with “ears bent with compassion to hear it.” And even Zitkala-Sa is not saying that those people are entitled to voice, much less to interpret, what they have heard.

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The 1951 movie, entitled “Jim Thorpe, All American” (starring Burt Lancaster as Jim Thorpe), begins with this hyperbole-laden voiceover:

“Jim Thorpe, All-American, the man of bronze who became the greatest athlete of all time, an Oklahoma Indian lad whose untamed spirit gave wings to his feet and carried him to immortality. Here in a mighty cavalcade of sport are all the giants who faced this champion among champions, each test adding new honors to his ever-growing fame. Here is the thrilling panorama of the Olympic Games, the nation’s praise for its returning hero, and behind the glory and glamour, colorful days at Carlisle University [sic]…” 

Stories of heroism and singlehandedly overcoming adversity are well received in European and European American children’s literature as well, and Jim Thorpe fits into this mold. He’s larger than life, a legend, almost mythic, so many stories about him—both true and false—lend themselves to the persona we know as “Jim Thorpe.”

That’s why, especially in a biography for children, it’s important to get things right. Unfortunately, Sheinkin writes through a cultural filter that objectifies Native lives, histories, and experiences, and in doing so, misleads young readers about Jim Thorpe, the real person.

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“CARLISLE INDIAN SCHOOL,” COVER AND BACK MATTER

Although Sheinkin refers to the “Carlisle Indian Industrial School” by its full name a few times, he then shortens the name to “Carlisle Indian School,” the name that’s reflected on the cover and front matter as well. Omitting the word “industrial” from Carlisle’s name—which Sheinkin does often in this book—belies the school’s purpose: to train its Indian students to be servants and other low-wage workers, rather than to educate them. (Referring to the school as the shortened version, “Carlisle,” after using its correct name is acceptable. Not acceptable is referring to “Carlisle Indian School” as its correct name.)

On the front cover flap—the first text the reader sees—there is this, in large print:


JIM THORPE:
SUPER ATHLETE, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST,
NATIVE AMERICAN

POP WARNER:
INDOMITABLE COACH, FOOTBALL MASTERMIND,
IVY LEAGUE GRAD


Here, Jim Thorpe is identified by his ethnicity, while Pop Warner is not. This introduction objectifies Jim Thorpe and sets the stage for much of what is to come.

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JIM THORPE AND BLACK HAWK

A caption on page 12 reads:

Young Jim’s first hero, Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak, Black Sparrow Hawk, or Black Hawk. Black Hawk was a member of the Thunder Clan of the Sac and Fox, the same clan as Jim Thorpe.

This 31-word caption goes off in several confusing directions, echoed in the text that follows it. 

(1) Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak was a Sauk war leader whose name, as interpreted into English, was “Black Sparrow Hawk.”

(2) Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak was born into the Thunder Clan of the Sauk Nation. He was not a “member of the Thunder Clan of the Sac and Fox.” The Sauk and Meskwaki Nations formed a political alliance after 1732, and, although the US government referred to them as a single entity, the “Sac and Fox Confederacy,” each treaty had a separate place for Sauk and Meskwaki chiefs to sign, and the Sauk and Meskwaki remain two separate nations. As Johnathan Buffalo, Preservation Director of the Meskwaki Nation, explained to me, “We are Meskwaki. When we deal in government-to-government relations with the US, they refer to us as Sac and Fox. We’re stuck for legal reasons but not for cultural reasons.” He added, “They can terminate the Sac and Fox, but they can never terminate the Meskwaki because only our God can do that.”

A lot of people, including Jim Thorpe’s family, refer to themselves by the government name, “Sac and Fox,” or even use “Sac Fox,” and historians and biographers should note the distinction. Sheinkin did not.

(3) Since Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak was born around 1767 and Jim Thorpe was born in 1887, Thorpe’s clan citizenship was the same as that of his Sauk ancestor, not the other way around.

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THE DAWES ACT

On pages 9-10, Sheinkin briefly describes the land rush that occurred after the General Allotment Act of 1887 (Dawes Severalty Act):

Three years later, twenty thousand settlers lined the edge of what had been Sac and Fox land. A government agent fired a gun, the signal for the land rush to begin, and everyone raced on horseback or in wagons, claiming open sections of land by driving stakes into the soil…. By nightfall, the plains around the Thorpes’ farm were dotted with settlers’ tents and campfires. In just a few hours, the Sac and Fox had lost nearly 80 percent of their land. [italics mine]

In the General Allotment Act of 1887, also known as the Dawes Severalty Act, the US government seized and split up Indian reservation lands held in common and “allocated” non-adjacent tracts of 160 acres each to individual Native families, forcing them into subsistence farming. The government then sold the “excess” 86 million acres of formerly communal lands to white settlers.

The government’s intent was to break up tribal communities, which is what they did. By seizing and “redistributing” the land, the government also destroyed the ceremony, social structure, kinship, respect for elders, and community child rearing—in short, the spiritual and material foundation of traditional Native beliefs and lives. Three years later, the government-sanctioned land grab stole almost all of the rest of the land. (Both the terms “allotment” and “severalty” euphemize what was actually theft of land and culture.)

After the US government forcibly relocated people from traditional lands to reservations, and, within a generation or two, from those communal lands to individual “allotments,” the Dawes Act became the metaphorical nail in the coffin.

When your family is abruptly cut off from land, community, and culture and surrounded by a hostile foreign environment, your life changes drastically. It’s not surprising that in this cultural vacuum—exacerbated by the easy availability of the cheap alcohol that can be likened to chemical warfare—Hiram Thorpe became a mean, abusive alcoholic, regularly threatening, beating and abandoning his several wives and many children.

Jim Francis Thorpe was one of six children (later 11) born to Hiram Thorpe and Charlotte Vieux Thorpe in 1887, the same year as the Dawes Act, and just before the massive white land grab. This was the difficult life—no, turmoil—that shaped Jim’s childhood. Land theft. Culture theft. Theft of Indian children into the government schools. A violent father. A strong, protective mother. He was not left unscarred. This is a crucial part of Thorpe’s life that Sheinkin leaves out.

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WHAT’S IN A NAME?

Native babies and children are traditionally named in different ways and through different practices. Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down (“Sitting Bull”) was named “Slow.” His Horse Is Crazy (“Crazy Horse”) was named “Curly.” Some children are traditionally given names that encourage them to “throw away” their baby names. (I’m reminded here of Joe Bruchac’s excellent historical novel, Brothers of the Buffalo, in which identical Cheyenne twins are named “Too Tall” and “Too Short.”) And the baby name of a good friend of mine translates from the Ojibwe, “Maniigimoogibineyans,” as “little bird making mess by making poo.” (She remembers, she told me, that she tried her best to learn how to use the potty so that everyone would stop calling her “little poo butt.”) Sometimes babies are named by their parents, sometimes by a grandparent or by a spiritual leader enlisted for that purpose. Sometimes babies are given a clan name.

Jim Thorpe was born into the Sauk Thunder Clan, which assigned him his traditional name, Wa-tha-sko-huk, meaning “The Light After the Lightning,” a Thunder Clan name. Unfortunately, Thorpe’s birth name is often cited as “Wa-tho-huck,” and erroneously translated as “Bright Path” by his biographers. Just about all of the references to “Bright Path,” which lead back to Jim Thorpe himself, have a romantic overtone, signifying that he was destined for greatness. Here, on page 9, Sheinkin writes:

Jim would later explain that his mother, following Potawatomi custom, also gave her sons names inspired by something experienced right after childbirth. Through the window near her bed, Charlotte watched the early morning sun light the path to their cabin. She named Jim Wathohuck, translated as “Bright Path.”

In any event, both of Thorpe’s parents would have followed traditional protocol and traveled to spiritual leaders in the community who were responsible for providing names. (Potawatomi and Sauk aren’t that far apart—they’re both dialects of Anishnaabemowin.) Or they would have followed the father’s traditional protocol. Although it’s possible that some individuals might name their children in this way (and “Bright Path” could have been an endearing nickname) this “first-thing-they-saw-after-childbirth” thing is a well-worn trope. It reminds me of the movie, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, in which the great Will Sampson’s tongue-in-cheek story ends with, “But why do you ask, Two Dogs Copulating?" [4]   

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THE “OUTING” PROGRAM

One of the more infamous programs of the Carlisle experience was the summer “outing” program, in which the young students were sent to live with white farm families, who, more often than not, mentally and physically abused them. The reasons that Pratt gave for this program was for the students to experience living in the white world while being trained for regular work. The actual purposes of the outing program were to keep the students from going home for the summer and to continue to train them as domestic servants and farm laborers while they provided an equivalent of slave labor. Sheinkin does not acknowledge any of this. Rather, on pp. 100-101, he writes:

The Outing Program was a major part of life at Carlisle. The idea was for students to live with a “civilized” family, practice English, and learn how to run a farm. “When you boys and girls go out on jobs,” Pratt told students, “you don’t go as employees. You go and become part of the family.” [italics mine]

  Sheinkin continues:

That was not Jim’s experience. Assigned to a farm near Carlisle, he was put to work mopping floors and doing laundry. He was made to eat alone in the kitchen, and paid half of what a white laborer would typically earn.

While Pratt and the school administrators had full knowledge of the rampant cruelty from the white “patrons” to their young charges, Sheinkin describes the outing program as generally beneficent.

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ROW, ROW, ROW YOUR BOAT

On page 141, Sheinkin describes Gus Welch’s life with his grandmother and younger brother in the woods of northern Wisconsin:

Gus spent as much time as possible outside, hoping the cold air would keep his lungs clear. His grandmother taught the boys to paddle a birch bark canoe, to trap animals for their fur, to collect maple syrup and wild rice. Gus earned money for the family by taking furs into Duluth to sell—which is what had brought him to town the day he saw the Carlisle football poster. [italics mine]

Here, Sheinkin, in one sentence—a wildly inaccurate one at that—purports to describe everything two Indian children learned from their one grandparent. The way it’s worded, as well as what it leaves out, implies that Ojibwe (“Chippewa”) people were and are simple, primitive, nature loving, and technologically impaired. All of it absents the reasoning, the science, the skill sets, and the methods of traditional Indian education. And it absents the fact that these traditional skills—valuable pieces of Indigenous knowledge and technologies—have been handed down for thousands of years.

In terms of canoe building, maintenance and management, many stories were traditionally used as instructive mnemonic devices. My friend and colleague, Lois Beardslee, told me that children were taught everything about the physics of that canoe and all mathematical things to know about a vessel: construction, ratios of length to width, use and repair, how and where loads should be balanced. They were taught hydrodynamics (the equivalent of aerodynamics), how each of the materials the vessel is made of reacts with its environment. For instance, they were taught how and why to weigh down a canoe and store it in the water. They were taught that bark and wood fibers need humidity to swell so that they hold together; that opposing tensions hold these materials together and the caulking is spruce or pine-pitch with fat, using ash as filler. They were taught that a canoe needs the coolness of the water.

Lessons about how to trap animals for their fur were traditionally accompanied by stories about how trapping assists in keeping animal communities healthy through population control, how animals give themselves to humans and how they are to be respected, how they are thanked and quickly killed, and how the pelts are cleaned and dried and prepared. If there were any meat, it would certainly not have been wasted. (My friend, Barbara Wall, commented: “Yum—muskrat and beaver…beaver feast in midwinter!”)

Maple syrup is not collected. People obtain maple sap from the sugarbush and again, there are stories and mnemonic devices for children to understand how things are done in a certain way. Children were and are taught that, as Lois told me, “When we make the syrup, the sap is transformed. It’s all about chemistry; it happens very fast. When the first crystals are formed at a certain temperature, they are the catalyst for a massive rapid series of crystal formation. Our language describes this chemistry accurately. Outsiders could not, because they didn’t have the scientific language to describe it.”

“It takes ten gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and six gallons of syrup to make one gallon of sugar,” Lois continued. “Earlier, we made maple sap into sugar cakes; it wasn’t until the 1950s that glass jars were affordable in the Indian community and we started making syrup instead of sugar. We’re always a generation behind, financially.”

Manoomin (“wild rice”) is not “collected,” nor is it “wild.” Anishnaabe families have harvested and processed the rice, and seeded, cared for, and protected the rice beds for thousands of years.

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CONCLUSION

On page 154, Sheinkin writes:

The Carlisle School was supposed to sever these young men from their heritage, to “Kill the Indian in them,” as Pratt had so famously said. But fans and sportswriters never let the players forget they were Indians—and there’s no evidence they wanted to forget. They did not call themselves the Carlisle Cardinals or the Carlisle Wildcats. They were the Carlisle Indians.

It was Pratt who named the team, “Carlisle Indians,” and the place they practiced, “Indian Field.” These names were certainly not the choice of the Carlisle students. The racist scorecards and the heavily altered “before-and-after” portraits that depict the students’ so-called journey from “savagery to civilization” were made into postcards and sold as souvenirs.[5]  And the stereotypic headlines (“Indians Scalp Army”) and articles (“With racial savagery and ferocity the Carlisle Indian eleven grabbed Penn’s football scalp and dragged their victim up and down Franklin field”) were written by Carlisle publicists to rake in money for the school, from which the Carlisle students did not benefit. Rather, there was an athletic slush fund diverting money from the Indian students. Although Sheinkin quotes from this material, he neither analyzes nor even questions it.

Sheinkin also fails to follow the money trail regarding letters from the Carlisle students. “Dear old Carlisle” is a phrase that shows up in virtually every student’s letters—because these were also used as fundraisers. There were many letters addressed to parents that were never sent, and there is clear evidence that students were required to turn letters over to the “outing” parents rather than sending them home. These letters were heavily censored; especially heartbreaking are the letters to “Dear old Carlisle” from students who had left, requesting the return of their belongings and the balances in their bank accounts.

In terms of what Jim Thorpe actually wrote, fact-checking material whose research is entirely based on hype is impossible; what’s available is inherently problematic and fundamentally wrong. Nothing is real or true. Jim Thorpe was encouraged to market his life, so everything he publicly said and wrote has to be viewed in this way. In searching out the truths of the Indian residential school era, it would have been necessary—and it would have been Sheinkin’s responsibility—to dig deeper. Rather, he chooses to represent “stereotypes as stereotypes” without question.

And that is the main problem with this book. Among the questions neither asked nor answered: Why is there a children’s cemetery on the school grounds with 192 headstones? Why were children sent home to die so as not to taint Carlisle’s statistics? Why was there a children’s jail on the school grounds? Why did twice as many children run away as were graduated?

Why did Sheinkin not interview descendants of the Carlisle students and especially, Jim Thorpe’s descendants? And why—when the sheer brutality that Pratt and his surrogates inflicted on his young Indian students, mentally and physically, has left generations of Indian people scarred and traumatized—does Sheinkin insist on finding “balance” in Pratt’s intentionality?

What does this say about Richard Henry Pratt and his life’s work? Was he a man who cared about the future of Native Americans at a time few other white leaders did? Was he a man who put down his rifle only to use his school as a weapon against the very people he was claiming to save? Can there be truth in both of the above? (p. 227)

The children who were in the clutches of the Carlisle teachers and administrators were parroting what they were expected to say. This is all clear from the school records—none of them document what the children actually experienced at the school. However, many first-person and descendants’ stories that relate the truths about Pratt’s “noble experiment” at the Carlisle Indian Industrial School have been passed down for future generations to know. But despite the copious research that Sheinkin conducted for this book (including 25 pages of source notes and six pages of works cited), his cultural filter as an outsider impedes his ability to tell the real story.

The purpose of this review is not to compare Undefeated with the countless other books and materials about Jim Thorpe, but it invites the questions: What if anything does Sheinkin offer here that is authentic, fresh or innovative? Is this an exceptional work?

“Nothing” and “no.” Just like the others, Sheinkin’s story only adds to the vast collection of what a friend calls “manifest mythology.” It’s no lie that Jim Thorpe was a remarkable human being. But praising only the achievements of one or two or a few Native individuals while all but ignoring the hundreds of Indian children whose lives and spirits were stolen from them in that same place is an injustice to the Carlisle students and their descendants and to both Indian and non-Indian readers as well. The forced removals and brainwashing of children, after forced relocation, after forced land theft—those are the stories whose importance is buried in the children’s cemetery, and in Sheinkin’s book. The greater win is empathy and compassion, and accomplishments and rebellions collectively shared. Whispering encouragement in Lakota to frightened younger children. Protecting little ones from being beaten for not knowing what is expected of them. Sneaking out in the middle of the night to give food to runaways. Secretly turning the children’s jail into a bonfire. Burying medicine bundles to save them from being destroyed. Pouring salt into a pot of mush or mashing the turnips with such fury that it breaks the jar. Many such stories have been told and many more are waiting to be told.

Sheinkin’s Undefeated is yet another addition to the cult of individual exception. It’s one person’s “bright path” superimposed over everyone else’s dirt road. Our Indian children deserve better.

—Beverly Slapin
3/28/17

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‘Chi miigwech to my dear friend, Barbara Wall (Citizen Potawatomi), whose grandfather was a student at Carlisle, and whose great-great grandmother on her father’s side was Jim Thorpe’s mother’s sister. You have strong shoulders and a good heart. And to my friend and colleague, Barb Landis, whose life’s work has been devoted to documenting the Indian students’ lives at “Dear Old Carlisle.” And to my friend and colleague, educator and poet Lois Beardslee (Anishnaabe), who ceaselessly speaks truth about power. And to my dear friend, Dovie Thomason (Lakota, Kiowa-Apache), for her brilliant and compassionate stream-of-consciousness telephone conversations and unwavering support. 



[1] Hayworth Publishing House, 1921

[2] Here, Zitkala-Sa is referring to her teachers at White’s Manual Labor Institute.

[3] Here, Zitkala-Sa, who was born of mixed parentage, describes herself as “a curiously colored seashell.”

[4] I substituted “copulating” for the actual word.

[5] These “before-and-after” portraits were made for two purposes: (1) as fundraisers for the school, and (2) as propaganda. The children’s complexions were often darkened in the “before” photos and lightened in the “after” photos. As well, children in the “before” photos were often “costumed” with props that were not theirs. For instance, on page 33, Wounded Yellow Robe and Chauncy Yellow Robe are wearing eagle feathers in their hair, standing straight up. These feathers were props.