So I know quite a few people who teach young kids, who want to design curricula and provide resources for their students that are respectful of Native communities and teach non-Native kids some cultural sensitivity & histories…but most of them, being non-Native, don’t know where to start with that. My three biggest tips for that have always been to (a) privilege Native voices (b) tie the past with the present (c) don’t fossilize Natives in their own unit—weave these resources and histories together into the broader curriculum, rather than imply to students that Natives are an ethnic oddity or compulsory PC-lesson.
In that vein, I’ve been trying to help a friend who teaches young kids to find some books for the classrooms at her school, so that these things are available to students on the regular and are readily accessible to non-Native teachers looking for resources for their curricula; I have been shocked to see how many disgusting books are out there, written by non-Natives, with no care for cultural sensitivities of any kind! So: here’s some of the books on the list I’m suggesting to my friend—I’m hoping there’s some parents & educators on here that could benefit from the time I’ve spent sorting thru all the gross stuff! Here’s the list, with a brief description (these are mostly targeting the lower end of the K-4 range, but if you’re working with kids on a pre-K level you might also be interested in the selection of books by NW Coast artists at Native Northwest; I’m also compiling a list of books for intermediary/secondary grades and will post that when it’s finished):
- The Star People (SD Nelson, Standing Rock): A young Lakota girl narrates the story of how she and her little brother, Young Wolf, survive a prairie fire. They had wandered away from their village, entranced by the changing cloud shapes created by the Cloud People. They fall into a river and are guided home by their deceased grandmother, one of the Star People, who are the spirits of the Old Ones. The acrylic illustrations are inspired by the Native American ledger-book art of the late 1800s.
- Tallchief (Maria Tallchief, Osage): A picture-book autobiography of the early years of America’s first internationally significant ballerina. The story opens with Tallchief’s birth on an Osage Indian reservation. Her Scots-Irish mother made sure that Maria and her sister received dance and music lessons, and eventually her father persuaded her to choose between piano and dance. The story ends when, at age 17, Maria left home to seek her fame and fortune as a ballerina in New York.
- Eagle Song (Joseph Bruchac, Abenaki): It’s a shock for fourth-grader Danny Bigtree to move to Brooklyn from his Mohawk Nation reservation: suddenly he has no friends, and his classmates taunt him, asking him where his war pony is and telling him to go home to his teepee. Bruchac weaves into the story the legend of the great peacemaker Aionwahta, who united five warring Indian nations into the Iroquois Confederacy and turned an enemy into an ally. Can Danny be, like Aionwahta, an agent of peace, and find a way to transform the school bully into a friend? This appealing portrayal of a strong family offers an unromanticized view of Native American culture, and a history lesson about the Iroquois Confederacy; it also gives a subtle lesson in the meaning of daily courage.
- Giving Thanks (Chief Jake Swamp, Mohawk; Erwin Printup, Cayuga & Tuscarora) : A special children’s version of the Thanksgiving Address, a message of gratitude that originated with the Native people of upstate New York and Canada and that is still spoken at ceremonial gatherings held by the Iroquois, or Six Nations.
- When Beaver Was Very Great (Anne Dunn, Anishinaabe): The short pieces range from folk tales of Native American origin myths (the antics of Beaver, Rabbit, Otter, Bear, and others) to nature writing and contemporary stories of peace, justice, and environmental concern. Brimming with insight, vibrant with strength and beauty, these indeed are stories to live by, for all ages. Divided into the four seasons of the year, many of the stories are perfect to be read aloud to children.
- When the Rain Sings (various; Ojibwe, Lakota, Omaha, Navajo, Cochiti, Kiowa, Tohono O’odham, Hopi, Ute): A collection of poems by Native Americans in grades 2-12. Most of these selections were written in response to images of Native artifacts or historical photographs. The young writers’ personal reactions and associations to these images leave readers with a strong sense of each one’s experience as a modern Indian, and of the values that each holds dear. The book is a work of art in itself, with dozens of full-color and black-and-white photos from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. The pages are also decorated with detailed border designs. Eight nations are represented.
- Berry Magic (Betty Huffmon, Yup’ik): Long ago, the only berries on the tundra were hard, tasteless, little crowberries. As Anana watches the ladies complain bitterly while picking berries for the Fall Festival, she decides to use her magic to help. “Atsa-ii-yaa (Berry), Atsa-ii-yaa (Berry), Atsaukina!” (Be a berry!), Anana sings under the full moon turning four dolls into little girls that run and tumble over the tundra creating patches of fat, juicy berries: blueberries, cranberries, salmonberries, and raspberries. The next morning Anana and the ladies fill basket after basket with berries for the Fall Festival. Thanks to Anana, there are plenty of tasty berries for the agutak (Eskimo tee cream) at the festival and forevermore.
- Sunpainters (Baje Whitethorne, Navajo): Grandfather Pipa calls Kii Leonard into the hogan to tell him that the sun “has died”; a solar eclipse has washed the surrounding mountains in and deep purples and reds. He explains to the boy that he must wait respectfully for the Na’ach’aahii, who come from the Four Directions carrying a paint brush and a can of paint, each responsible for replacing a different color of the rainbow. Repainting the world after the eclipse, the Na’ach’aahii restore life and allow the rebirth of the sun-processes pleasingly depicted in the Southwest-style art.
Today in manufacturing, there is an untenable lack of skilled workers throughout manufacturing and, unlike the end of WWII, manufacturers are keenly seeking women to fill the gap.
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Jaime Moore from Austin, Texas, wrote on her website JaimeMoorePhotography.com that instead of dressing Emma up as a Disney princess - which is ‘an unrealistic fantasy for most girls’ - she decided to take photos of her emulating real women worth admiring.
We love this inspirational feel good story. Bravo to Jaime and her daughter Emma, definitely a star on the rise!
There are no excuses. It’s not enough just to say ‘this is not something we’ll stand for, we’ll hold these people accountable’ unless you’re providing a system and process to actually do that.
We have to make sure it’s a victim-centered response, from the moment the victim makes that report all the way through to the point where the perpetrator is prosecuted, charged, and punished.
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Looking for non-traditional, creative, inspiring and simply amazing Mother’s Day cards? Check out Mama’s Day Our Way. Choose an image, customize the message, and send a Mother’s Day card through email, Facebook, Twitter, and more.
We LOVE this idea and salute the thoughtful, caring advocacy of these artists to pay attention to all kinds of mamas all around the world!