American Indians in Children\’s Literature: What does Sitting Bull\’s great grandson think about Obama\’s OF THEE I SING?
Provocative, educational, thought provoking would about sum up this blog entry from Debbie Reese. I’ve followed her blog for a few weeks, since an assignment about multiculturalism and diversity sensitively was assigned to our class. Her pieces are fair and well thought out. This blog entry was no different.
When I first read the title my immediate assumption would be that Sitting Bull’s grandson would be thrilled to see his grandfather included in a book about great people. However, I quickly realized that that was not the case. His explanation for his displeasure was indeed justifiable and he brought up points I would not have considered before. Such as, Sitting Bull’s precise tribal heritage in the book was too broad, Sitting Bull was the only person depicted as a nonperson, Sitting bull was mentioned alongside people who were not respectful of the People, and Sitting Bull was never an American.
Ever since I was a small child I’ve had a fondness for better understanding the Native People and a special admiration for Sitting Bull. There are whispers within our family that somewhere in the line there was a union, but whispers were all we ever heard and nobody in the older generations spoke about that. Also, my parents made a special point of visiting tribal village reenactments, Indian Museums, and PowWows. This was in addition to the natural history museums and other site seeing trips we took as a family.
Growing up we didn’t have a lot of money to visit all the great amusement park attractions my classmates got to visit. Instead our budget only allowed us the pleasure of taking educational vacations to inexpensive museums and living history locations. These special vacation/extended camping trips in my Dad’s Vietnam Army issued tent from the war (um, excuse me, “Police Action”) were taken on money saved during the entire year. Actually, I think without realizing it, my parents were pretty forward thinking as now I hear parents frequently talk about plans to take the kids on Edu-vacations.
My fondness for Sitting Bull came about from a children’s book, Sitting Bull: Warrior of the Sioux by Jane Fleischer, one of the first books I ever owned outright, about the Chief. I read that book ragged. I looked, but I can’t find my childhood copy so I’m not able to personally peruse it to see if the book is historically or even culturally accurate, and it has been years since I’ve read it, but the story left my child like mind with the impression that Sitting Bull was the greatest Chief that ever lived. A fondness for the leader persists today.
So I would have to agree with Debbie Reese about questioning the accuracy of Obama’s book. I would also have to agree with her statement about the positive aspect of children, all children, being able to see themselves in the book. However, what I would like to point out is that like in any other book which discusses history or historical figures, it is important to look deeper than the pages placed in front of you. Go to the library and check out Obama’s book. Read through Debbie Reese’s blog for positive examples of culturally accurate books. Question what you read, allow children to question what they read, discover for yourself what is true and what is not. Become informed and become an informer to others.