Monday, July 02, 2007

Blog of the Day: American Indians in Children's Literature

Blog of the Day: American Indians in Children's Literature

About the Blogger: From the blog: "Debbie Reese, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, Illinois, US. I am tribally enrolled at Nambe Pueblo, in northern New Mexico. A former school teacher, I'm currently teaching in American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign."

About the Blog: Again, from the blog: "Critical discussion of American Indians in children's books, the school curriculum, popular culture, and society-at-large."

Whether you're a reader, a teacher, a parent, a librarian, this is a must read blog. Debbie Reese discusses everything from Native poets to the American Girl Doll industry. She also reviews books (or, with permission, includes reviews by others.) Don't forget to click over and look at her other blog, Images of Indians in Children's Books.


Miriam said...

I know this comment will be met with disapproval by many who read it, but I will make it anyway. I know from private conversations that I am not alone in feeling this way.

This blog could be an enormously valuable resource. Unfortunately, I find that it has a very rigid criteria for what is acceptable in literature and in classroom/library practice, and very little that is not written by someone from the Native culture is found to be acceptable. In addition, although schools attempt to introduce their students to various cultures through various means (ranging from costume to foods to stories to direct factual instruction about geography, products, and government), most attempts to do this with Native cultures is met with disapproval and condemnation on this blog. For instance, attempts to introduce children to Native American stories has been deemed objectionable, with the comment something along the lines of "you wouldn't use stories from the Bible in a similar situation", when the truth is that Judeo-Christian stories are indeed referenced in classrooms around the country. This is often as a result of a reference in a piece of literature being studied by the class, but it is certainly not limited to that instance. It is very helpful indeed to have egregious examples of erroneous information pointed out, and Debbie's blog is valuable from that standpoint. It helps bring issues to light that might not otherwise be thought of at all, or which might not otherwise be thought of as significant. It encourages us all to be more sensitive and thoughtful about Native cultures. But it would be more helpful if there was a little more sensitivity and understanding on the other end, too.

Saints and Spinners said...

Reading Fool: I love Debbie Reese's blog, but I do get where you're coming from. As a storyteller, I am frustrated because there are certain stories that I want to tell, think are universal in the telling, but wonder if I have any right to tell them because I didn't get specific permission from that particular Native group. I think Reese has pointed out that it's good to share stories from different Native groups, but that there are certain sacred stories that shouldn't be shared without permission, especially if there are certain parts omitted.

Liz B said...

Reading Fool, I don't think any blog or reviwer should be viewed as an absolute source. One of the valuable things about blogs is the transparency; by reading the blog, I can find out more about the reviewer and realize how that influences their reviews. I think the most valuable thing about Debbie Reese's blog is it starts the conversation; and some people may not even know that such a conversation existed. It's up to individuals what conclusions they come to. To use the bit about the Bible (post at:, some schools may teach these stories differently; or not teach at all; or teach them in the same manner. For some, this may be a "lightbulb" moment in how the cultural stories of different groups are used (or not used) in a classroom setting.

And, as Alkelda points out, the conversation started thanks to Debbie Reese's blog may then result in delving a bit deeper on how, when and if certain stories are used.

Thank you both for your comments!