Sunday, November 20, 2022

Scholastic.com "Nonfiction Books to Teach About Native American Nations" - review

 Scholastic is advertising a book list for Native American Heritage Month. Posted on November 1, 2022 it states "Students will learn about the diverse history and culture of Native American tribes with these nonfiction books." It states it is for grades 1-5.

Starting with that opening sentence, there are several problems already. "History" and "culture" should both be plural. There is no one Native American history or culture. This constant monolithic language from largely non-Native companies continues to perpetuate the false idea that we are all the same. This is harmful to education. The title says "nations" but this sentence says "tribes." Nations is much more correct, politically and culturally, than tribes. Why switch back and forth? They should continue to use the word nations instead. 

Next there are a few paragraphs describing the book list and how teachers can use it. There are also multiple issues here. It again uses monolithic language like "history" and "culture" instead of correctly pluralizing those words. It uses the name "Sioux" instead of Lakota and Dakota, which is more preferred by most Lakota/Dakota people. It says the books can be used individually for lessons or "as a unit for larger discussions around the diversity of Native American culture." The monolithic use of the word "culture" here contradicts the word "diversity." This sentence makes no sense. Then it says "Topics include daily life, relationships with settlers, tribe traditions, crops and farming, how the tribes live today, and more." Why is it that everyone speaks of us as exclusively historical, but don't preface their statements that they're talking about history?? It says "daily life" and then "how the tribes live today." Are these not the same thing?? According to the way people think of us as history only, they're not. "Daily life" apparently means in the past and that's just supposed to be implied...which makes no sense. When I read something about Native "daily life" I automatically think present tense, not past. This sentence SHOULD say something like "Topics include histories, such as daily life, relationships with settlers, tribe traditions, crops and farming, and contemporary stories about how the tribes live today, and more." I would change several words in this, though, like "daily life" should be "daily lives" as to not be monolithic, "settlers" should be "colonizers," "tribe" should be "nations" and really that whole part should say "traditions in different Native nations," etc. Regardless, the words "daily life" with the intention of meaning "in the past" only is ridiculous. That should never be the immediate implication when talking about Native peoples and nations...we are still here. 

It then says "shop the best nonfiction books to teach about Native American nations below!" but as we'll see...these are VERY FAR from being the "best books." They're quite horrible. 

Okay, onto the list itself. 

It lists several of the Scholastic "true books" including "A True Book - American Indians: the Navajo," "A True Book - American Indians: the Wampanoag," "A True Book - American Indians: the Iroquois," and "A True Book - American Indians: the Inuit." The problem is...these books are absolutely not "true." They're incredibly inaccurate. They are not written by people from those nations or cultures, nor do the people that write them really know what they're talking about. Many "facts" in these books are not facts at all, but very incorrect. I suggest teachers, parents, or librarians never, ever use these "true books" from Scholastic. The descriptions with each book on the list are just as problematic. From use of the word "Indian," calling our arts "crafts," to "women" apparently being its own topic in the Wampanoag book...these descriptions are not acceptable. 

Another book listed is "I Am Sacagawea." Again, this is a terrible book. You can read a review about this book on Dr Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature page. 

The book Native American Heroes by Dawn Quigley is listed and while I haven't read this one, Dawn Quigley is a Native (Ojibwe) author and has many highly recommended books. This may be a good book...one of the few on the list. 

Geronimo by Joseph Bruchac is listed. Bruchac is Native (Abenaki) and this book is positively reviewed by Beverly Slapin on the American Indian's in Children's Literature blog. This may also be a decent book, but I have not read it. As an Apache person, though, I tend to be somewhat leery of books about Apaches written by non-Apaches. Really, the best source of information about each nation and people from those nations are from the nation itself. But there are plenty of Native authored books about nations outside of the author's own that are great books, too. So this seems to be a good choice as well. 

A book called Pocahontas by Joanne Mattern is on the list. This author is not Native and is a general children's book writer. Her books range in topic from animals to firefighters to various biographies. She doesn't seem to have any specific area of expertise. Usually, children's books about Pocahontas are terrible and inaccurate, especially when they're written by non-Native authors and general "children's lit" authors like this one. I would expect the same out of this one. Definitely avoid. 

And finally, Many Nations: An Alphabet of Native Americans by Joseph Bruchac is listed here. It's a simple picture book that goes from A to Z with a different Native topic. However, it's entirely past tense. While Bruchac is Native, some of his books are problematic. This book portrays Natives in the past only, which leads to harmful assumptions and teachings about us. Many children and adults don't know that we still exist. Books like this don't help. There's nothing inaccurate about the book and the art (not by a Native artist) is beautiful, but books like this really need to show the diversity of modern Native lives and not just our histories. 

And that's the list...only two, maybe three, out of 11 are actually decent books and by Native authors. Scholastic constantly pushes harmful, racist, inaccurate, and stereotypical portrayals of Natives with their books and lesson plans from their websites. 

The next article linked/suggested at the bottom of this page is "27 Fiction Books That Celebrate Native American Heritage." As expected, the list is full of horrible, and even racist, books. While there are several good, Native authored books listed here as well, much of the list is junk. They include awful books like The Rough Face Girl, Walk Two Moons, Navajo Long Walk (by Nancy M Armstrong), Blood on the River, and more. 

They don't listen to Native voices when we speak up and contact them. In fact, they delete and block us on their social media when we say anything negative. They've been doing this for decades and despite pushback they continue with no signs of stopping. 

Please...do not use these lists by Scholastic or the lesson plans on their website (I'll have to review a few sometime on here, they're terrible). Listen to Native voices and use lists by Native experts instead. 


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Teaching Young Children - Addressing Stereotypes and Learning About Modern Native People

Children in the US learn about us almost exclusively in the past tense – 87% of textbooks and state standards don’t mention us past 1900 and almost all pop culture depictions are past tense only. 40% of adults in the US don’t know that we still exist. If you have ever watched Molly of Denali, your child probably didn’t connect Molly with the “Indians” in Peter Pan or with Pocahontas. Molly of Denali is accurate, respectful, and modern. Those movies (and most kids books) are inaccurate, harmful/racist, and past tense only.

For younger kids, I recommend teaching only about modern Native people until they’re old enough to grasp the concept of “history” and learn more in depth about the past. Pre-K through about 1st or 2nd grade should focus on modern Natives instead of history. A good approach is to introduce the concept of what Indigenous means – the original people of a specific location. Explain that Natives are the original people of the Americas. Natives have lived here for thousands of years, long before people from the rest of the world came to live here. And we (they) live here today. Then teach about modern Native people exclusively. Then once they're older and start learning about history, they will already have people in the present to connect Native histories to. 

So, stock up on modern Native children’s books! There’s a ton! If your child asks you why a Native person is doing something – a dance, a ceremony, something traditional – you can explain that it’s a cultural tradition that goes back thousands of years. You can then connect this to other modern cultures around the world that maintain old traditions – including in Europe. I especially recommend including Europeans traditions so that Euro-American children see that it isn’t just “other” or “exotic” to maintain cultural traditions rather this spans all cultures and peoples.

Visit a powwow (yes, they're open to the public! Check out powwows.com for a national calendar and more information about powwows). Visit a Native nation's cultural center or a local Native museum (not a natural history museum or a museum that puts us in past only, but Native run museums that incorporate past and present). Meet and interact with Native people so children see us in a modern context. Ask your child's teacher/school to invite Native educators and presenters to their class/school.

I recommend getting rid of racist media – movies, books, comics, etc. – WITH your child. Explain why you are doing it. It can look something like this:

“We are going to get rid of these movies because they are harmful. They show Native American people in a mean way that isn’t accurate. I let you have these movies before because I didn’t know that it was harmful. But now I do know, and I want us to do better.”

If your child protests or says “but I love those movies” or gets upset, you can appeal to empathy.

“These movies show Native Americans in a way that hurts Native children. It can hurt how they feel about themselves or how other people treat them. Do you think Native children love watching movies like this that hurt them? How do you think it would feel to see yourself shown in such a mean and hurtful way?”

Hopefully your child will feel empathy and be more accepting of getting rid of the harmful media.

You can also explain “These movies can hurt non-Native people, too. Sometimes we don’t even know that we start thinking wrong or bad things about Natives when we watch the movies. It is important to treat others with kindness and respect, but these movies sometimes have an effect on how non-Native people treat Native people. Sometimes people are mean or rude to Natives because they learned the wrong things about them. You or I might accidentally treat someone differently because of those false ideas. We don’t want to learn the wrong things or disrespect Native people.”

It has been shown that when you expose children to racist entertainment (sports with racist mascots, movies, books) that they begin to have racist thoughts, even if you tell them that racism is bad and wrong. They internalize the racist entertainment as normal and acceptable instead of your “but don’t be racist” message.  This negatively impacts how non-Natives see and treat Native people. Perfect example: I had a friend whose son was watching Peter Pan and he asked, “are those the bad guys?” He was talking about the “Indians.” She realized how awful that depiction was when he asked that question. She tried to explain that it was wrong and that he has Native American friends. She mentioned my children and explained that they’re Native. Her son said, “are they going to kill me?” The messages that he got from Peter Pan (and likely other media) was that Natives are bad and that my Native children want to harm him.

A lot of favorite, nostalgic books and movies today have horrible anti-Indigenous depictions, stereotypes, and racism throughout. They are not good to use as entertainment for young children (or for anyone for that matter). It is best to avoid them until they’re older and can look at them through the lens of critical analysis rather than entertainment.

By 1st or 2nd grade they can start learning a little about Native histories but continue keep the focus on modern Natives. When learning about US and Native histories, always tie it back to modern Native people. Always include modern Natives in their education, even if their school or curriculum does not. Like I said, most curriculum does not mention us past 1900, so it’s important to fill in those gaps between 1900 to present.

Some basic concepts to understand/teach:

  • There are over 600 Native nations in the US alone and each one is UNIQUE. There is no such thing as “the Native Americans” as a whole or “Native American culture.” Each Native nation has its own traditions, culture, language, food, values, religion, and history. Do not lump all Natives together into a monolith.
  • Teach nation (tribe) specific information. Instead of “Native Americans….” Say “Lakota…” or “Apache…” or “Seneca…” etc. Identify the nation the story, lesson, or tradition comes from by name.
  • Native people are modern. We live modern lives like other North American people. Most of us live in cities. We live in modern homes, drive cars, play video games, and eat pizza. We work in all jobs, go to schools, and interact with society like everyone else. 
  • Native people suffer from racism and discrimination at high rates. We are still fighting for equal rights.
  • Most Natives do not like to be called “Indians” by non-Natives, but we may use it as slang amongst ourselves. What terms we prefer varies from person to person. Most of us prefer to be identified by our nation specifically rather than a generic term. Acceptable generic terms in the US include: Indigenous, Native, Native American, American Indian – but what each individual or community prefers varies.
  • Don’t just learn about the terrible things in our histories or about the negative issues we face today, but also learn about our joys and triumphs. Celebrate the beauty of our cultures and that we are still here and thriving.


Some great books for younger kids include:

We Are Still Here: Native Americans Today series –
  • Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters
  • Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition
  • Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugar-making
  • Kinaaldá: A Navajo Girl Grows Up (About a Navajo girl's coming-of-age ceremony.)
  • The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering
  • Shannon: An Ojibway Dancer
  • Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave.
  • Drumbeat Heartbeat: A Celebration of Powwow
  • A Story To Tell: Traditions of a Tlingit Community
  • Strawberry Thanksgiving by Paulla Jennings
Children of Native America Today – Yvonne Wakim Dennis

Jingle Dancer – Cynthia Leitich Smith

Less Than Half, More Than Whole - Kathleen Lacapa

Where Did You Get Your Moccasins - Bernelda Wheeler

Powwow’s Coming – Linda Boyden

Father’s Boots, Azhé'é Bikénidoots'osii – Baje Whitethorne

Bowwow Powwow – Brenda J Child, Gordon Jourdain and Jonathan Thunder

Mission to Space – John Herrington  

         

When the Shadbush Blooms – Carla Messinger


Fry Bread - A Native American Family Story - Kevin Noble Maillard

For kids a little bit older, lower elementary ages:

A Kids Guide to Native American History by Yvonne Wakim Dennis

We Are Still Here: Native American Truths Everyone Should Know by Traci Sorell

The People Shall Continue by Simon Ortiz

Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Notable Native People by Adrienne Keene 

 Young Water Protectors by Aslan Tudor and Kelly Tudor 

Young Native Activist by Aslan Tudor

Some good tv shows/videos:

Molly of Denali

Spirit Rangers

The Seven Sacred Laws (animated web series)

The Wampanoag Way- YouTube

See What Canyon Life Is Likefor a Navajo Pageant Winner | Short Film Showcase - YouTube

This Chef Keeps the Flavors of Ancient Mexico Alive - YouTube

The History of Wampum - Real Story from Local Massachusetts Native American - YouTube

Nez Perce tribal member explains why we need to protect #OurWild - YouTube

How "Finding Nemo" may help keep Navajo language alive - YouTube

Oglala Lakota Nation Pow Wow | National Geographic - YouTube

Indigenous Peoples Day celebration in Seattle - YouTube

Canoe Way: The Sacred Journey - YouTube

At Kuskokwim River fish camp, smokehouses fill with fish and tradition - YouTube

A few good music videos:

N'we Jinan Artists - "WE ARE MEDICINE" // Bella Coola, British Columbia - YouTube

One World (We Are One) - Official Video - YouTube

Taboo - The Fight (Official Video) - YouTube

Studio Enjoy: Supaman - 'Prayer Loop Song' - YouTube

Lesson plans:

Resources - Illuminative – scroll down to the menu, select “lesson plans,” scroll down to Native Education For All: Activity Guides for Pre-K to 2nd Grade for younger children. (There are lesson plans for older age groups as well, but since this post is focused on younger ages, those are the ones I am suggesting.)

Essential Understandings | Native Knowledge 360° - Interactive Teaching Resources (si.edu)

Search NK360° Educational Resources | Native Knowledge 360° - Interactive Teaching Resources (si.edu) – in the search – select the grade level you’re looking for and it will pull up lessons

There are a lot more good Native made books, media, and educational materials out there, but these are a good start! All of the recommendations here are either about modern Natives or include modern Natives.


Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Curriculum Review - Khan Academy - US History "Worlds Collide (1491-1607)" - unit "Before Contact"



Khan Academy is a popular free curriculum resource online utilized by many schools, teachers, and homeschoolers. Perhaps best known for their math curriculum, they do offer a variety of social studies courses as well. This review looks at the unit "Before Contact" in the US History section titled "Worlds Collide."

The second part of the Worlds Collide section is titled "Before Contact." It starts with a video called "Native American Societies Before Contact." The video starts with a false claim that we didn’t arrive in the Americas until 15,000 years ago. It promotes the Bering Strait theory even though that theory has been disproven repeatedly. It does mention the idea that people were here before that, but it says “maybe” people were here before that. We have definitive proof that people were here long before that, including the White Sands footprints dated to 23,000 years ago, so it isn’t a “maybe.” The population estimates used are also very low. While they claim to be using a “midrange” number of various estimates, we know that the numbers were more like 75-112 million people, with some scholars saying 145 million. For North America north of Mexico, best estimates are from 8-18 million people. Khan Academy is averaging those best estimates with old, outdated, historically racist estimates as low as 8 million people total. It isn’t scholarly to average good estimates with estimates that are known to be false. 
    Then the date cited for the domestication of corn is a few thousand years off. The video states 5000 BCE, but it was actually 7000 or 8000 BCE. Once it starts talking about development in different regions, there’s all kinds of generalizations and stereotypes happening. The word choices are very Eurocentric and imply primitiveness. They call Native nations and societies “groups” which is always incorrect (this would be like calling European countries “groups.” “European groups lived in dwellings made of sticks and tough grasses.” This is what the video sounds like to me). It indicates that all plains societies were nomadic and lived in “teepees” (spelled wrong), when there were plains nations that were farmers, stayed in one place, and lived in permanent houses. It says the Ancestral Puebloans lived in “cave complexes” which is a condescending way to explain highly complex engineering and architecture. They call Cahokia a “settlement” instead of a city (another example of Eurocentrism). They claim Native cultures simply adapted to the environment, but never discuss how Native nations and civilizations were expert landscape engineers and adapted the environment to meet their needs. This is a helpful article to read about the history of landscape engineering by Indigenous peoples in the Americas: Wilderness as a Colonial Construct — Organeyez


The articles that follow the video then use monolithic language to lump together hundreds of unique cultures. Titles such as “Native American culture of the Southwest” use the word “culture” singularly which is incorrect. It should say “cultures.” Each article is titled this way. Each article is riddled with inaccuracies, monoliths, Eurocentric language, stereotypes, and gross simplifications.

"Native American culture of the Southwest" - This article uses the term “Native American groups,” which is incorrect. It says people started living there in 7,000 BCE when in reality people have lived in the area for over 23,000 years (see footprints in White Sands New Mexico). It lists the Mogollon and Hohokam as Ancestral Puebloans when they are not at all. The Mogollon, Hohokam, and Ancenstural Puebloans are three separate cultures and peoples. It uses an outdated and offensive term (“Anasazi”) for the actual Ancestral Puebloans. It later again says that the Hohokam and Mogollon are a “group” of Puebloans, which is false. It includes the Navajo and Apache with this discussion (societies in BCE times) when the southern Athabaskans (which became the Diné and Ndé (Navajo and Apache)) didn’t arrive in the area until the 1100-1200s CE. It says the Diné (Navajo) were hunter/gatherers when they were/are not. They were traditionally hunter-farmers. It also claims the Diné and Ndé (Navajo and Apache) migrated to the southwest from the pacific northwest. We did not, we are descended from the Na-dene (Athabaskans) which are a subarctic people in Alaska and inland Canada. It keeps claiming the Diné (Navajo) were nomadic. It makes a bunch of false claims about Puebloan religions and is written in a very condescending way. It describes Ancestral Puebloan societies with European style division of labor (men did this, women did that) when in reality their societies historically (and today) did not have gender based division of labor. The questions at the end are absurd and make ridiculous assumptions and implications. They’re also monolithic. The entire article is basically wrong.

"Native American culture of the West" - This article also uses the term "Native American groups," which is always incorrect. It uses past tense language as if we no longer live in these areas. Using the "West" as a regional division/cultural region is rather absurd. No one does this because there's the Southwest (already covered, so why now lump the entre west together?), the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, California, Great Basin, Plateau, and the Plains...all of which are very unique cultural regions with very different histories and resources. This is way too broad and leads to false generalizations and monoliths. It states that "hunting, gathering, and fishing" were the main methods of getting food, however there were and are plenty of farming cultures in these regions. "Sedentary villages" is a minimizing term used instead of terms like "towns" and "cities" used when describing civilizations in Eurasia. The article also promotes Eurocentric/non-Indigenous perspectives of the Earth including terms like "natural resources." It states "It's hard to generalize about the cultural practices of indigenous people in the West..." So then why do it? This is a harmful practice that is hard because it makes no sense to do so. Also "Indigenous" should be capitalized when referring to people. 
    It continues with past tense language like "lived" instead of "live" and "was home to" instead of "is home to." The article then goes on to grossly generalize hundreds of nations within multiple unique regions that should not be lumped together. It also uses monolithic language like "Native Americans..." instead of identifying nations or cultural groupings. It uses Eurocentric language to make Native nations look primitive and simplistic. Of the ridiculous claims in this article, one is that Natives in the Great Basin were "the first to create canoes." Different types of boats, including the typical "canoe" style one thinks of when hearing that word and large seaworthy boats, were invented and used all throughout the Americas. This is not something that can be attributed to one region being the origin or even the first. They were developed independently as well as with influence from other nations around the continent. There is no way to make the claim which were "first." Another ridiculous claim is that the Acjachemen people of California traditionally lived in wikiups and it shows a picture of a traditional Ndé (Apache) home (which are commonly called wikiups although that isn’t our name for them). Acjachemen traditional homes were conical, sub-terranean buildings covered in thatch, which is not at all like our traditional “wikiup” homes. These are completely different cultures with completely different traditional homes. This would be hilarious if it wasn't so problematic. 
    It goes on to generalize Native cultures in "the West," which shouldn't be lumped together that way at all, as being "rigidly stratified class structures." While this certainly did exist in the Pacific Northwest in some cultures, it was not a widespread social structure at all. To make this generalization about nations in "the West" is yet another absurd claim. To add insult to injury, it then claims that the Chinook had to process "large animals like bison." Bison were not in the Pacific Northwest! It finishes with an incredibly condescending description of spiritual beliefs and practices. In the article they also show a picture of a Diné (Navajo) woman when talking about the Chinook in the Pacific NW. These are not the same nations. This perpetuates the idea that we are a monolith - that we are all the same.

"Native American culture of the Northeast" - This continues the issue of the word "groups," ridiculous claims, broad generalizations, and Eurocentric language. The overview starts with a false statement that Natives in the northeast didn't rely on agriculture until about 200 BCE. The reality is that the Eastern Agricultural Complex is one of the 10 ancient independent centers of plant domestication which began between 7000 BCE and 5000 BCE. Corn was brought to the northeast by around 200 BCE, but that's not when agriculture in the region started or began to be relied upon. It also states that permanent and larger "villages" (should be towns) were built around Three Sisters farming, but again - agriculture started there thousands of years earlier and the people were already living in more permanent towns by the time Three Sisters farming started. Semipermanent towns in the northeast have been dated to 6400 BCE and more permanent towns to about 4000 BCE. 
    Further down in the article it states "Native Americans settled extensively in this area, especially during the Hopewellian period." So the whole Early Woodland Period, where population and urbanization increased greatly, just never happened then? The Hopewellian Period is part of the Middle Woodland Period, so that's not when people started "settling extensively." It then goes back on its earlier claims and says that people were farming thousands of years before 200 BCE (as previously claimed). Why the contradictions? Why not just get it right from the beginning? The dates here are still wrong. It also claims that a shift from hunting and gathering to agricultural systems didn't start until the Hopewellian Period, but again this is false. The people were already hunter-farmers by that time. It makes false gender role claims. The way the whole thing is written, with its heavy focus on material culture and the word choices, it is extremely Eurocentric. In the section on Societal Structure it immediately claims that the Three Sisters were "cash crops." Cash crops are a European concept. No such thing existed here. Cash crops are sold profit. Trade economies are not the same thing. It goes on to describe trade economies. These are two very different systems, but the article mixes them together as if they're the same. It continues and claims that the Hopewell people BEGAN the tradition of mound building. SO again, the whole Archaic Period and Early Woodland Period just never happened? The Hopewell are part of the Middle Woodland Period, which started in 200 BCE. Mound building started in the Middle Archaic Period around 3500 BCE. Khan Academy literally can't get dates right to save their lives. This then falsely shapes the rest of what they write. It also states that mounds "may have served burial and ceremonial purposes." May have? And only burial and ceremonial? So no political? This is just all wrong. The picture included shows tiny mounds instead of something like Cahokia? This makes mounds look small and simple and implies that this wasn't a big deal. 
    The article keeps calling the Iroquois a "group." Aside from the word "group" being incorrect, the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) were not one "group" or nation. They were a confederacy of nations. Again, while this section claims to be about "social and religious norms," it focuses on material culture and uses Eurocentric wording. It goes on to mix up "Iroquois" and "Iroquoian" as if they mean the same thing. They don't. The whole description about the Haudenosaunee Confederacy is weird, simplistic, and doesn't include vital details.


"Native American culture of the Southeast" - All the same problems here with the word "groups," broad generalizations, and Eurocentric language. Starting with the overview, it uses the term "Five Civilized Tribes" in reference to PRE-INVASION politics. This is ridiculous. That term is racist, false, and invented by Europeans. Also those nations didn't even exist before Europeans, they formed as a result of invasion. "The prominent Native American groups in this area were known as the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Seminoles." Wow, no. First of all - "groups"...I am always annoyed by this. But the Cherokee, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Creek (why pluralize those names all the time?) are DESCENEDED from the Mississippians and formed after dispersal which was largely a result of invasion. This dispersal and coalescence happened between 1550 and 1700. The Cherokee were not originally in the southeast. Instead, they migrated earlier (pre-invasion) to the region from the Great Lakes region and are one of the only Iroquoian speaking nations in the southeast. They are still said to be descended from the Mississippians, just from the ones in the north originally. The Seminole didn't form until later during the 1700s. They were formed from largely Creek and some Choctaw people who fled south into Florida to escape colonial violence. They took in people running away from slavery, including Indigenous and Black people. Their culture is largely from the Creek who helped form the nation. So while they are mostly descendants of the Mississippians, they formed in a different way and later. None of these were called "Five Civilized Tribes" until Europeans called them that for adopting some European customs. Using this term for pre-invasion and early colonization time periods is absurd. 
    "The Mississippian peoples were excellent farmers. Notably, Cherokee..." Okay, while they are descended from the Mississippians, they had not split and formed these other nations in the time this statement is referencing. Either talk about the Mississippians (up to 1550) or talk about the coalescence, but don't mix it all together like that. "Cahokia, near modern-day St. Louis, was home to an estimated 40,000 Cahokian people, after whom the city was named." Good heavens, no. Did Khan Academy even research anything?? The name "Cahokia" is a misnomer, and the Cahokians (a sub-tribe of the Illini) did not come to live in the ara until the 1600s. No, the Cahokians did not build or live in that city, despite its name. The article also states it "remained the largest city ever recorded in North America until..." Eye roll. Mexico, Central America, Mesoamerica...that's all part of North America. Cahokia was the largest city north of Mexico, but not the largest in North America. It cites false reasons as to why the city of Cahokia dispersed. "Historians know little about the religious practices of the American Indians in the Southeast" - well then why don't you ask them? They still exist and those religious practices are still intact. Historians do, in fact, know about those religious practices because of that.

"Native American culture of the Plains" - all the same problems here. "The Plains were very sparsely populated until about 1100 CE." No. The Plains may not have developed massive cities, but a lot of people were attracted to the Plains due to abundant food resources. Also the environment was greatly engineered by people for thousands of years before Europeans came. Instead of attempting to domesticate bison, Native people managed the wild herds and eliminated the need to domesticate them. They managed the bison’s habitat, with controlled burns for example, which was a superior approach. This was also useful for a variety of plants and animals, making it an even more productive habitat and better for the bison and people as a whole. (Similar methods of wild animal management existed throughout North America, as well as methods of managing plants.) The Great Plains as Europeans saw them in the 1700s and 1800s were not natural, but man made. The map chosen is ridiculous. It shows some MODERN DAY reservations created by the United States as prison camps, and then highlights a small area with the labels "Ponca, Omaha, Pawnee, Oto, Kansa" and that's it. It only shows South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas in their entity. And then it is labeled "Map of territories inhabited by Native Americans on the Plains before European contact." I am aghast. What absolute junk. There are many maps to choose from that ACTUALLY show pre-European territories and homelands and they chose this?? 
    The next section implies farming in the area didn't start until 900 CE. While corn wasn't brought to the region until around then, agriculture certainly existed long before that in this region. The Eurocentric language here dismisses traditional plant medicine knowledge. Again, it claims false gender roles. The information about horses is outdated. While a debate exists about whether or not horses event went extinct here in the first place (to be reintroduced by the Spanish later) or not, we do know that horses didn't go extinct here (if they did) until about 6000 years ago (according to the newest evidence). That means for thousands of years the people of the Plains had horses and were established horse cultures before their extinction and eventual reintroduction by the Spanish in the 1500s. As new evidence is found that date might be pushed closer as it has been several times. The people in the Plains may not have had horses for a few thousand years, but their reintroduction wasn't a new concept to them. The next part implies that ALL Plains cultures shifted from agriculture to nomadic buffalo hunters. This is false. Many nations remained sedentary farmers and did not transition to the stereotypical Plains Indian lifeways. Also why do people keep spelling tipi as "teepee?" It's annoying. This is one of the problems with broad generalizations that are used throughout these articles. "Villages usually had fluid populations and little to no political structure." False. Fluid populations maybe, but there were established politics. 
    "It is nearly impossible to generalize the religious traditions of the Plains region since every group had its own practices." Then don't? Simple as that. Don't generalize them. The paragraph goes on to...generalize them. Which is a major problem. It claims at the end that intertribal conflict was a result of "heightened competition" over horses. While that existed to an extent, the intertribal conflict was largely due European/Euro-American encroachment on our lands and being shoved around into each other's territories by them. Not horse competition. The images in this are poorly chosen.

I am not going to get into the rest of the "World Collide" section of this course in this review. I will get to the other units within it at a later date. I really wanted to cover the horrible "Before Contact" unit because it is so so bad. I absolutely do not recommend Khan Academy history. Find something with actual facts, as Khan does not have them.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Thoughts on Educational Standards and Textbooks - the word "groups"

I just returned from several days of working with my state's educational agency on state standard updates. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings, but I want to start with the word "groups" and the heavy focus on physical culture. 

Imagine if your textbooks and learning standards in school said things like:

"European groups"
"The southern European groups ate fish and lived in dwellings made of rocks."
"The France Europeans grew grains and ate cheese"
"The Atlantic island European groups lived in dwellings made of sticks and tough grasses"
"A central European group known as Jermens made sausage and lived in farming communities."

This is what it sounds like when people write about Native nations and civilizations.
 
Native nations are nations, not "groups." The word "groups" makes no more sense than calling England and France and Germany "groups" instead of countries. Or even calling the United States a "group."

Lumping all Native nations in a region into a monolith and describing a basic aspect of physical culture for all of them is just as ridiculous as saying what I said above.
 
Not learning about social, religious, and political life of specific Native nations and only learning simplistic physical culture (houses, food, clothing) is just as ridiculous.
 
Misspelling or misnaming Native nations is as absurd as me spelling German as "Jermen." I didn't even get anywhere close to some of the ridiculous names and spellings I see people write of Native nations.
 
Not having actual subject matter experts write your standards and textbooks is an educational failure. And no, social studies teachers and non-Native historians are not subject matter experts on Natives. Natives are.

When state standards are written by non-Natives and say things like "Plains Indians..." and "Native American groups," only look at physical cultures, and lump everyone into a monolith....the above is what it sounds like to a Native person.

This blog is along the same line of thought:
What if people told European history like they told Native American history? | An Indigenous History of North America (wordpress.com)

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Resource Reviews: Honest History Magazine - A Journy Through the Jungle (issue #11)

 Honest History – Journey Through the Jungle

The first time I saw advertisements for this issue, I saw major problems. I was barely able to get a preview of the magazine and already noticed it was not good. I got a copy of the full issue and did a complete review.

Each issue starts with “A Letter for Young Historians.” I noticed several problems in this letter. First of all, they should capitalize “Native” and “Indigenous” when speaking of people. They did this through the entire issue #15 called A Native Story, but not this one. Not capitalized = plants, animals, etc. Capitalized = people and cultures.  It says that they “wanted to explore this topic from a native perspective.” I was skeptical and this was proven to be false throughout the entire issue. It then uses past tense language like “lived there” instead of present tense. These people still live there and the cultures still exist. I was, however, surprised and impressed that they explained how to use “Maya” vs “Mayan.” Maya is used when speaking of people, places, and culture. Mayan is only used for language. This is a common error, so I am glad they explained it and used the words correctly throughout.

Page 7 has a brief explanation of Mayan languages, and it’s fine, but the image of Indigenous people on the page is stereotypical.

Next we come to “You Probably Didn’t Know…” on pages 8 and 9. It starts with “Like the ancient Greeks or Romans, the Maya had a plethora of deities – over 250 gods.” A few issues here: this should not be past tense. Maya religions still exist in some form. And why compare it to Europeans? There is no reason to do this. Unless you’d do this when talking about the Greeks and Romans – “Like the ancient Maya, Greeks and Romans had…” – there is no need to do it here. Let Indigenous cultures exist outside of European contexts. On page 9 it says “Maya structures are still being discovered to this day.” Sure, by Europeans/Euro-Americans. But the Maya people there have always known those structures are there.  They’re not being “discovered,” they’re being identified for the first time by outsiders. Those outsiders that refused to listen to Maya people that told them the structures were there. It also says that “only three of the Maya books (or codices) survive today” with no context as to why only 3 still exist today. It says nothing about the Spanish destroying their extensive written records. This is important context. It’s passive and makes it sound like these written records just disappeared.

The article on pages 10-11 is about “People We Should Know.” You would think that if their goal was to highlight Native perspectives that they’d, you know…highlight Native people perhaps? But no. They highlight two non-Mesoamerican archeologists. One is Cuban and European, but not culturally Indigenous or Indigenous to Mesoamerica. The other is Euro-American. No Native perspectives here. It’s all about outsiders “discovering” things in the jungle. Things the Indigenous peoples of the area already knew about.

The article about “The Maya Today” is very needed, because so many resources including textbooks say that they “mysteriously disappeared” which is hogwash. It’s mostly a decent article. But it does say the Spanish “forced many to work on plantations.” So why not say the Spanish enslaved them? Why skirt around the issue of slavery? Whenever it comes to the enslavement of Indigenous peoples in the Americas, almost no one writes “enslaved.” They usually dance around it with phrases like “forced them to work” or “made them build…” or whatever. Stop doing this, folks. It was slavery.

Page 14 starts an article that I find atrocious. It is called “Diego de Landa: Hero or Villian?” Woah. This question should never be posed, especially to children, about violent colonizers that caused irreparable damage. This shouldn’t even be a question at all. He was an Spanish colonizer who forced people into Catholicism and burned most of the Maya written records. It doesn’t matter if he ultimately ended up recording some of their language in his awful book. He should never be credited with anything heroic. The article also says “De Landa was particularly angry because he thought the Maya were practicing human sacrifice. One summer, he even hosted an auto de fe (meaning “act of faith”). Auto de fes happened in Spain during the Inquisition (where Catholics hunted people with other beliefs), and while these were going on, Catholics would condemn people for not converting to Catholicism; the accused were often burned.” So, we’ll say “human sacrifice” when referring to Mesoamerican cultures, but not Europeans? Burning people at the stake for different religious beliefs is *drum roll* HUMAN SACRIFICE. Call it what it is.

There’s some cool stuff about Maya math, which is fun. 

Then we have the feature article called “Tracing the Ruins” starting on page 18. Yet again, they are highlighting non-Indigenous Europeans/Euro-Americans. There are no Native perspectives present. The article calls them “explorers.” If you’ve read any of my reviews, you know how I feel about that word. These men, while not violent invader colonizers, were not “explorers” either. They were exploiters. The article also refers to past violent colonizers “explorers.” Euro-Americans love that word. The article is clearly about these people traveling to Central America/Mesoamerica. Yet it flips back and forth between saying that and “South America.” They did not go to South America! But the article states things like “Stephens knew that an adventure in South Ameirca…” and then returns to saying Central America. These are not the same thing, Honest History. (Never mind the fact that they call this “adventures.”) On page 22 they quote one of these guys who used a racial slur (s*v*g*s). They do not censor it nor do they explain anywhere that this is a harmful slur. They just use the quote as if there is nothing wrong with it. Page 25 says “Suddenly, the ancient Maya were brought back into the public eye as skillful engineers, extraordinary craftsmen, and intelligent thinkers.” Just because they were brought “back” into the Western eye, doesn’t mean this wsa revealed to the entire public. “Public” should not default to Europeans and Euro-Americans, like this does. The Maya always knew these things about their own people, and still do. The article is full of Eurocentric language like “forgotten time,” “discovers about the ancient Maya world,” “great adventures,” and “first to show the world the beauty and wonder of ancient Mesoamerica.” None of these are “discoveries.” It’s all information that a) was recorded by earlier Spanish invaders, and b) the Maya already knew about.

The next spread made me laugh. This is what I saw in the previews before getting the whole magazine. For being supposedly “honest history,” this is hilariously wrong. It’s so simple that I can’t believe no one in the writing and editing process noticed how wrong it is.  

“How to Tell the Four Mesoamerican Civilizations Apart”

It includes: the Maya, Aztecs, Olmecs, and Incas. Do we see the problem here?

The Inca are NOT a Mesoamerican civilization! South America is not included in the term Mesoamerica. The Inca Civilization was in South America. I absolutely cannot understand why Honest History would be so dishonest about something so simple.

Beyond that, there were many more than four civilizations in Mesoamerica. Why does it say “the four” with the word “the” there?? So do the Zapotec, Mixtec, Toltec, Totonac, and others just not exist? I also do not see the need to pluralize Aztec, Olmec, and Inca like they do.

For the Aztec, it says they are “also called the Mexica.” No, the Mexica are “also called” the Aztec. And the Aztec triple alliance was more than just the Mexica. It also included the Tepaneca and Acolhua, among others. It says they used the Nahuatl language to “name the Olmecs, Maya, and Incas.” The word Olmec does come from Nahuatl, but Inca does not. At the end it says they were “such terrific farmers that they grew avocados and invented guacamole!” That’s like saying “The Europeans were such terrific farmers that they grew wheat and invented bread!” It’s an odd thing to highlight when you could highlight their chinampas (man made islands for farming), or aqueduct system, or many other things about farming.

“Olmecs.” It says that the “Olmecs probably invented a way to make rubber into a ball and used it to develop early ball games.” They didn’t “probably” invent it, they did invent rubber. And they didn’t just “invent a way to make rubber into a ball” – they actually invented rubber with tree saps. This makes it sound like rubber itself is a naturally occurring substance. They used rubber for more than sports balls, too.

“Incas.” This just does not belong here. It doesn’t belong in this issue or this article. The whole issue is about Mesoamerica. The Inca were not Mesoamerican. It says they had no written language, but doesn’t explain that they did have a detailed method of recording information. They invented quipu. It isn’t written on paper, but it’s a “written” language in a sense.

On page 28 we have yet another article highlighting a non-Native researcher. This one is about a Siberian/Russian woman who noticed patterns in written Mayan language. It’s another article highlighting white people and crediting them with “discoveries.” It says “glyphs remained a mystery.” Did they really, though? At the time of de Landa’s destruction of Mayan language resources, there were still Maya people who could read Mayan writing. While that was several hundred years before this woman came around, the Maya people were still able to read their writing into modern times – at least until the end of the 1600s. Hundreds of years of forced assimilation, persecution, and forced Spanish caused the Maya to not be able to read their writing anymore.  It wasn’t a “mystery,” it was forced to near extinction. The article says that through modern scholarship, Europeans “revealed that the Maya were a technologically advanced civilization that existed for over 3000 years!” They did not, this non-Maya woman did not. She helped expose the Western world to this fact that the Maya people already knew about themselves and their ancestors.

An article on page 32 is titled “Tools of the Trade: Tools Used in Archaeology.” This article is also not focused on Native perspectives and yet again, we focus on archaeology instead of Indigenous voices. The images are mostly white people doing archaeology as if this is the only way to learn about Indigenous cultures of the past.

Immediately following that, we have an article called “Interview with an Archaeologist.” Again, a white archaeologist is being highlighted. No Native perspectives or voices. In the article she answers the question “What do you hope to discover about the history of the Maya through your work?” Never mind the Eurocentric use of the word “discover,” her answer is ridiculous. She says she wants to find out “whether the people living at Gallon Jug were in contact with other Maya people living in nearby cities.” Of course they were!! Not only were there extensive trade routes connecting people throughout North and South America, the Maya were extremely skilled tradespeople and seafarers. They built roads, had interconnected cities and towns, traveled the oceans extensively, had trade with cultures throughout the Caribbean and coasts, etc. This is all well known, especially by researchers and archaeologists. This can also be learned by talking to actual Maya people. In another question she says that the things they find “become the property of the Belizean state.” This is a colonial perspective. In reality, everything found by outsiders belongs to the Maya. They’re just looted and then claimed by colonial governments.

Pages 40 and 41, are about ancient Maya beauty practices. It is very othering and written as if their standards were weird. It also assumes that the readers are all Western/Euro. It says “Like any culture throughout time, the Maya had a standard of beauty that was quite different from what is considered beautiful today.” Considered beautiful today, by whom? There are different cultures around the world today that have different standards of beauty. This is written only for white/Euro-American children, clearly.

There’s a few short spreads about corn and sculpture, and then we end with the “Timeline Through Mesoamerica.” It starts with “1800 BC: Early Villages appear in Mexico and Guatemala.” Aside from the fact that they’re still using BC and AD, this date is absurdly wrong. There is evidence of people in Guatemala going back at least 18000 years and in Mexico almost 30,000 years. Why start with only 4000 years ago?? Both issues about Indigenous peoples of the Americas from Honest History have timelines with ridiculously recent dates. This perpetuates myths that we’ve only been here a short time, that our cultures and civilizations are “young” and not like the rest of the world, etc. It is harmful. The timeline includes the Inca, which were not in Mesoamerica. Half the timeline focuses on Europeans and European interactions, as well as “discoveries” by non-Indigenous people. It says that Cortes was an explorer, which he was not. He was a violent colonizer.

Some overall thoughts:

  •         This entire magazine issue is focused on non-Indigenous peoples and perspectives. The opening letter claims they wanted to use Native perspectives, but not once did they do that is this issue. No Indigenous people from the area are featured or mentioned by name. No Native perspectives are used.
  •         The magazine focuses on archaeology almost exclusively as well, instead of living knowledge among Indigenous peoples today. This is a harmful, but common, focus when learning about our pasts. There are no stories from Indigenous people or scholars and no Indigenous histories told.
  •         Are there any Indigenous writers for this issue at all? I don’t know. In issue #15 they used some Indigenous writers, but it doesn’t seem like they used any here.
  •        It is incredibly Eurocentric.

This issue will do more harm than good and perpetuates a lot of harmful and false ideas about how we should learn about the past. I do not recommend it. 

Resource Review: Honest History Magazine - A Native Story (issue #15)

 Honest History – A Native Story

Honest History bills itself as being simple, researched based history magazines for kids. It claims to be “honest” in how it tells history. They’re really more dishonest than anything. Most of what I’ve seen has been quite Eurocentric and people have reported inaccuracies and problems in some issues like the one about India. The most recent issue is called “A Native Story.” The previews for it made me cringe. I finally got ahold of a copy, so here is my full review.

A major issue throughout is that it uses monolithic language repeatedly. Phrases like “Native American culture,” “Indigenous culture,” “Native American way of life,” and the like, are used throughout. None of these things exist. There are Native American cultures, Native American ways of life, but none of those words should be singular like they are used in the magazine. By doing this the magazine repeatedly contradicts itself. It explains in a few places that there are hundreds of Native nations with their own cultures, but continuously uses monolithic language. So many people do not know that we are not all the same. I have students, children and adults alike, tell me all the time that they did not know there are different Native American cultures. It’s a common stereotype that we are all the same. Children reading this magazine won’t remember the random few sentences that indicate we are different nations and cultures. Instead they’ll remember the dominant, false narrative of a generic “Native American culture.” This magazine perpetuates harmful false ideas by using monolithic language through the whole issue.

Another constant problem is the use of past tense language when it should be present tense. Around 40% of adults in the US don’t know that we still exist. Past tense language about us where present tense should be used is everywhere – in textbooks, literature, movies, tv shows, pop culture….everywhere. The magazine perpetuates yet another harmful myth by using past tense language where present tense should be used. Children reading this will internalize the past tense language because it is used more than present tense and continue to think of us in the past only. I encounter this every time I teach k-12 students and even sometimes with adults.

Starting with the Letter for Young Historians at the beginning it immediately uses monolithic language here. It states that “Native American history” is in high demand. Two issues with this – 1. There is no such thing as Native American history. There are many Native American histories. And 2. We are not just people of history. It then switches to correct plural language saying “cultures” and “ways of life,” but then immediately jumps back to the monolithic language of “Native American culture.” It also says the illustrators depicted Native American “culture” from our own “histories.” Again, we aren't only history. This should be in the present tense. This letter also states that “…many of our ancestors treated the Native people with such disrespect.” First of all, who is “our”? The writers are immediately assuming the readers are all white “Americans.” Secondly, this issue is an ongoing issue. People still treat us with “disrespect” (read – racism, oppression, discrimination, misinformation) today. It is not just someone’s “ancestors” who did this, but modern day people. Lastly, it says “…we hope you enjoy the process of learning about a group that has earned our respect, appreciation, and gratitude.” The word “group” is never correct when talking about Native nations. We are sovereign nations, not “groups.” The word “tribe” is acceptable, but many Natives are moving away from that terminology. Regardless, “group” is never correct.

And now we can leave the first page of the magazine. This isn’t going well already.

Pages 6-7 are things “You Probably Didn’t Know…” The statistics here are inaccurate according to the 2020 census, which was available when this issue was written. There are about 6 million Natives in the US today, not 4.5 million. It states that the “Iroquois designed these types of beds” (referring to bunk beds), but it should say that they invented this. It would be better if they used the term Haudenosaunee instead of Iroquois, too. This page also claims we’ve only been here for 14,000 years (it states “12,000 BC” They’re still using BC and AD for dates instead of BCE and CE). Humans have been in the Americas for way longer. Current evidence indicates more than double that number, to around 30,000 years. Linguistic evidence indicates even longer. There is no reason to continue perpetuating that nonsense when science is finally catching up to what we’ve been saying about how long we’ve been here.

Page 9 is about a Yankton Dakota woman named Zitkala-Sa. It talks about her being brought to boarding schools but then claims she had “opportunities” that she was “given” at a boarding school. This is a horrible distortion of history. Boarding schools were extremely abusive and harmful institutions. Native children were not “given opportunities” at them. Even if they played sports or learned a trade or something, these institutions were nothing but harmful. Again we see monolithic language (“Native American culture”) on this page.

The word “culture” at the bottom of page 12 should be plural. This article, entitled “When Worlds Collide” is pretty decent until page 15. It starts to read very white savior-ish at this point with statements like “realizing they are important members of our communities” and “help them take back their culture and heritage.” (monoliths again!) This is not written from a Native perspective.

Pages 16 and 17 are about “Welcome to My House,” but is only about Native homes of the past. It says nothing about the fact that we live in modern homes today. This is another false idea I encounter every time I teach people about us….that we don’t live modern lives. The top of page 17 says “Do you live in a house? An apartment? A townhome? A condominium? Like you and me, Indigenous Americans lived in all sorts of dwellings that they called home.” (emphasis mine.) Why would this ask modern kids about their modern homes, and then change exclusively to past tense language for us? This should say “Like you and me, Indigenous people live in all sorts of homes.” Then it could say something about homes in the past and show these images. The word “dwellings” is awkward here. How would kids in the US feel if someone wrote about them like this: “Like you and me, white American kids lived in all sorts of dwellings that they called home.” The descriptions of the types of homes are essentially correct, but still all past tense language. For Adobe homes, for example, it says “these houses were made of adobe and straw.” Well, these houses are still made and maintained that way today, so the past tense words are incorrect.

The ”Interview with a Chief Judge, Brooktynn Blood” from pages 18-22 is fine.

Page 24 is an activity page where kids can answer questions to figure out what Native nations are from their area, but it is worded in a ridiculous way. First of all, it says “group” again instead of the correct word “nation.” We.are.not.groups. Then it’s all past tense language – “At one time, it belonged to a specific group of Native American people.” This erases us from the present tense. Then it says you can use “clues” in your area to “help you guess which nation once called your property their home.” This is not okay. No one should be “guessing” this based on environmental “clues” as this suggests. The information is readily available from the nations that are still here whose land it is. Guessing could lead to misinformation and stereotyping. The question prompts then focus on plants and animals in the area, which also perpetuates stereotypes. Why not ask questions about how we have shaped the land around us, like mounds? Why not ask kids if there are any mounds or something nearby? We are not just part of the natural habitat. The last question “Are there Native people still living on the land? Why or why not?” Considering that 70-80% of us do not live on reservations, but all over the US today, the answer to that is “yes.” We still live all over the US. I get that this is leading toward issues of removal and relocation, but it makes it sound like we’re not still everywhere.

Page 27 starts a story called “The Legend of Geronimo.” I do not like this title. He was real, not a legend. I understand how they’re using the word “legend” here, but it still seems to mythologize us. The image on page 27 is a tipi. Some eastern Apache, like my nation, traditionally used tipis and wikiups, but most Apache did not use tipis. In some of Geronimo’s writing, he says “tepee,” but he also says “wigwam” at times, too. I do not know if the lived in tipis and wikiups, or just one or the other, but I feel like a wikiup should be pictured here instead just for broader representation beyond tipis. There are tipis and war bonnets on almost every page of this magazine, perpetuating generic ideas about us. Anyway, it says that Geronimo’s surrender in 1886 was the “final act in a 400 year war between Native Americans and foreign settlers.” It certainly was not. Did the massacre at Wounded Knee just not happen then? That was 1890. Beyond that, the Apache wars lasted until 1924 in the US and 1933 in Mexico. Geronimo’s surrender was no where near the “final act” of these wars. Into present times, we are still fighting for our lands, waters, and rights as Indigenous peoples. Sometimes this is in courts, other times it is still physical like at Standing Rock in 2016. It’s not even over now. There has never been a “final act” in this war.

It mentions his Apache name, but it spells it weirdly. It’s just an English way of spelling it, but I feel like it should be written the Apache way. Goyaałe was his name, but it spells it Goyahkla. Then it says the name means “one who yawns.” This is the most commonly said meaning of his name, but said with a slight change in tone (Apache is tonal) it means “intelligent” and “clever.” I have seen several sources from Apache people that indicate this is the correct meaning of his name, and it would make much more sense. The article says “Like other boys of his tribe, Goyahkla trained from a young age to run fast for long distances…carrying a stone in his mouth to prove to his elders that he breathed only through his nose.” I’ve seen a few sources that say stone, but our Apache teachings today say water. This was not just boys either, but girls as well. Apache boys and girls still train and run this way, with water in the mouth. As a Lipan Apache person, I’ve only been taught water. That’s not to say small stones were never used, but other sources about Geronimo say water as well. Did they even talk to any Apache people for this story? It continues and says that “raiding was a way of life.” This is only true after colonization. It was something our ancestors were pushed into due to circumstances. Pre-contact warfare did happen, but not in the same way. The story doesn’t explain the reason for the raiding.

Moving on from Goyaałe, there is a page of definitions next. The wording for some of them is odd. For “Turtle Island” it says “what some Indigenous cultures refer to as North America.” This wording implies we call the land “North America,” not “Turtle Island.” Another one I don’t like is the one for Reservation. It says it is “land that is reserved for a Tribe under agreement with the government.” Okay, what government? We have our own governments, so they should specify they mean the US government. And beyond that, it should include the fact that these were forced, not just “agreements.” They were established as prison camps under the department of war. The definition for Apache says “a collection of Native Americans in the southwestern United States.” No, we are not a “collection” of random Natives. We are multiple nations of related Athabaskan people. There are many Apache nations down here, not collections of people.

The next article starting on page 36 is about powwows. The origin story of powwows written here is strange. There are several origin stories of powwows, but this tells only one and it isn’t a common one. It should include the most common stories about the origin of powwows. I would say this isn’t really the origin of them. If at all, it may be a small part of it, but certainly not entirely where they come from. Then it says “Long before Europeans arrived, powwows were exclusive.” Well, powwows didn’t happen back then. They’re modern. They have older traditions built into them, but they are not ancient traditions. We have always had ceremonies and other events, social and religious, but they were not “powwows.” The image on this page, page 37, has absolutely nothing to do with powwows. It is a strange choice of image for this topic really. It serves no purpose on this page. It think it’s sort of crass to include with a positive topic like powwows. The image is a painting of a famous photograph that was taken outside of a boarding school. Families had set up tipis outside of a boarding school to try to be near their children, but were barred from being able to actually see them. I see no reason for this image to be associated with this article.

The article also uses monolithic language throughout, like “American Indian lifestyle.” It calls our regalia a “dancer’s outfit.” It is not an “outfit,” it is regalia. At the very least, it could be called “traditional dance clothing” or something, but not “outfit.” The article reads like it was not written by a Native person. It does not use first person language and is inaccurate in terminology and history.

On page 40 we come to an article about Indian Boarding Schools. I will preface this with the fact that I know it was written by Indigenous people who are descended from survivors. I still feel like this article does a disservice to the topic, and maybe even harm. I don’t know if that is a result of non-Indigenous editors, or if the writers were told to tone it down, or what, but it is unfortunately not a good article.

On the first page it talks about why the government did this, but it says absolutely nothing about forced assimilation, racism, white supremacy, or any of the other issues that can absolutely be explained to children. It simply frames it as “Native American families and communities were not teaching their children the same way that others were.” Hold up. Who is “others?” This frames it as if white/US-ian is “normal” and the default. This also frames it as if it is Native people who are at fault for the situation. It says that the government “began noticing” this in the 1800s. I’m pretty sure the US government and people have always noticed this…it was sort of a big appeal to settlers who defected from their own communities to live with Natives. Then it says that the government simply thought that Native kids should “learn English, read classic novels, and train how to be farmers.” This is extreme minimization and erasure. These schools were created because US-ians literally thought Natives were evil and Native children should have the Native beaten out of them. They believed that our cultures themselves would send us to hell and we must be forced to live in a “civilized” way. It was based on racism and white supremacy…not a desire for us to read classic books. Beyond that, many Native nations were already farmers and were the ones that taught Europeans how to farm (and in non-harmful ways). It goes on to say that “the government thought they were not doing a good job at taking care of their children.” Okay yes, but again…because of racism. Racism needs to be explained to young children. Full stop. It should not be danced around like this. And the reasoning went way beyond this as well. It was about trying to make Native kids not native anymore. The slogan was literally “Kill the Indian in him, save the man.” Let’s look at Richard Pratt’s full quote that became this slogan: A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.” It was a tactic of genocide through forced assimilation (look up the definition of genocide if you don’t understand this). This magazine is framing it as simply “different education.” It even calls the boarding schools “special schools.” This makes it sound positive. It’s gross.

Next it says students went home each summer. This was most often not true. The forced assimilation would be undone if they went home each summer. Most kids were kept away for years on end and were not allowed to return home. Many did not return home until they were adults. Beyond that…many simply never returned home. They were killed. Most children would be forced into labor over the summer either at the “schools” or through a “rent-an-Indian” program where white families could “borrow” a child for the summer and were treated as slave labor. So no…most of the children could not “come home for the summer when school was not in session” as the magazine claims. It says that “children would have to travel many days on a train to get there” as if it was voluntary. Again, this is framing it as the fault of Natives. This was kidnapping. Children were forcibly removed from their homes, sometimes at gunpoint, sometimes put in tiny handcuffs, and carted away while everyone screamed and cried. It was trauma, not just travel.

When describing the conditions at the boarding schools, the article is incredibly mild to the point of being dishonest. It says the kids were “punished” for speaking their languages. Children reading this who don’t know of the horrors in these institutions might assume that means they were spanked or given a time out or something. They were beaten, starved, tortured, isolated for days, washed in kerosine. They were not “punished,” they were abused. Children can be told this. I teach this to upper elementary kids regularly. I teach it in a way that is honest, but digestible for them. I get complimented by parents for handling it with sensitivity and care while not sacrificing the truth. There are books and other resources out there that do this for children as well. There is no reason to water it down so much that the truth of it is almost eliminated.

At the very end it says “some students died while away at boarding school” with absolutely no context anywhere in the article as to why this would happen. The article makes it sound like they were at actual schools where they were taught nice things and sometimes punished for speaking their language. Why would kids die if that were the case? Children were murdered in these places. They didn’t just “die.” Framing it in the passive voice takes the responsibility for their deaths off of the responsible parties.

The U.S. history of Native American Boarding Schools — The Indigenous Foundation

Knowing who the authors are, I don’t understand why the article in the magazine is so whitewashed. Did Honest History make them write it this way? Was it edited beyond recognition? Do they really think this was the way it was? I don’t know, but I can’t reconcile how bad this article is with who it was written by.

The next page is a “thinking” activity with questions about the boarding schools. The first one says “What do you think it would be like to live at an Indian boarding school?” How can kids imagine or contextualize this if they were not told how horrific these “schools” really were? This is completely inappropriate to ask, especially considering the article doesn’t actually tell what they were like. The rest of the questions can’t really be answered based on the article either. Without being told the actual truth about Indian boarding schools, kids cannot possibly answer questions like “How do you think boarding schools affected Native American culture?” (More monoliths!) This was grossly mishandled.

Page 48 starts an article entitled “Horse Nation: The Horse in Indigenous Culture.” Can we spot the problem here? That’s right! More monolithic language! The entire article is written in past tense language when it should be almost entirely written in the present tense. Aside from things that are direct statements about a point in history only, the rest of the information is still current and relevant. Some examples: 

“For many Native peoples, horses were not seen as animals, but as relatives.” This should say “For many Native peoples, horses are not seen as animals, but as relatives.”

“…their owners honored them in return. Many horses wore beautiful masks and blankets….”

 This should say “…their owners honor them in return. Many horses wear beautiful masks and blankets…” because these practices are still done today.

This issue is present throughout the entire article. It ends with a brief paragraph about how horses are “still” revered. Then it says “their costumes are as elaborate as the ones their riders were.” Well, Native people do not wear “costumes” and neither do the horses. We wear regalia and so do the horses.

 This is also obviously not written in the first person voice from a Native perspective.

The next article about Code Talkers is actually good. It even points out that Native children were forced not to speak their languages, but the military wanted them to. This was clearly written in first person voice from a Native perspective.

Toward the end we find “A Timeline of Native History” on pages 60 and 61. It’s horrible. It doesn’t even start until 4500 “BC.” It says “4500 BC: The earlies evidence of homes in North America date from this period.” WHAT?! Even though the magazine initially states that we’ve supposedly been here 14,000 years (hint – we’ve been here for way longer), they now say there is no evidence of homes before 6500 years ago??? That makes absolutely no sense and does not line up with the myriad of archeological sites that date back even beyond 14,000 years ago. Whole towns/villages have been excavated that date back 10,000 years before that 4500 “BC” mark. This is absolutely absurd.

The next date says “2600 BC: People being living in permanent villages in Florida.” WHAT?!? AGAIN?!? These dates are ridiculous. So the sites in Florida that are 8000+ years old just don’t exist? And stated that way it makes it sound like this is the first permanent settlement in the Americas. It makes no sense to point something out in Florida from 2600 BCE and not places that are way older throughout North America.

It then immediately jumps to European contact. First the “Vikings” and then Columbus. The rest of the dates involve Europeans. I get that they’re trying to fit a lot of history into a 2 page timeline, but the whole thing is focused on European interactions and things Euro-Americans did to us. It includes dying of European diseases, the US creating reservations, Native nations fighting Euro-Americans repeatedly, US citizenship, up to Deb Haaland becoming the first Native to serve as a cabinet secretary. One date says “1978: Native Americans are allowed to freely practice their religion.” First, let’s deal with the monolith. That should say “religions” plural. Beyond that, we were allowed to freely practice our spiritual traditions well before that, before Euro-Americans killed us for it. And in 1978 the US did not allow us anything, they stopped preventing us from doing so. It should say “1978: Native Americans finally forced the US to stop preventing them from freely practicing their religions.” The wording of everything on this timeline is Eurocentric. 

And that’s it. There are random puzzles, coloring pages, and whatnot throughout the magazine, so I skipped all of those.

Some overall takeaways:

  •       This mentions reservations several times, but never actually explains them. It never uses words that indicate forced confinement.
  •        Even though the list of authors includes several Native people, including professors and people with PhDs, most of the magazine reads from Euro-American perspectives. It is mostly not written from Native perspectives.
  •        There are pictures of tipis and warbonnets on almost every other page. This perpetuates monolithic singular culture and other stereotypes.
  •         The front picture depicts us in the past only and uses plains imagery, which is what everyone pictures when they think of Natives. They could have highlighted something or someone contemporary or something from a different cultural region. Instead they continued the Plains Indians of the past imagery and mythology. The painting is nice and not inaccurate, but it was a poor choice.

I tried to give Honest History the benefit of the doubt even thought I know some of their past issues have been problematic, but they continued to be problematic with this one. Overall, I would say this issue does more harm than good and I do not recommend it.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Addressing the Myth of "Thanksgiving"

 

Thanksgiving is a myth. It's as simple as that. The whole “friendly pilgrim and Indian feast” never really happened. This American origin mythology is harmful – not just to Native peoples, but all people who learn false narratives. The true history is not a happy one. It is one of violent colonization and celebrations of massacres.

Many Native peoples look at the history of the so called “ first Thanksgiving” holiday as the beginning of the end. The beginning of a wave of violent colonization from the east coast, land theft, genocide, plagues, death, destruction, etc. It is not a happy time or a reason to celebrate for many of us. Native perspectives on the holiday are often negative.

Instead of trying to maintain a positive only approach to “Thanksgiving,” consider a shift in your focus and how you approach this topic.

Consider taking the focus completely off of “Thanksgiving” all together:

Learn about the harvest traditions of different Native nations.

Harvest festivals, feasts, and ceremonies have been celebrated around the world for thousands of years. It wasn’t a new idea in 1621 and it wasn’t invented by the colonizers. Many Native nations celebrate harvest festivals and ceremonies still today. The best way to learn about these is from the specific Native nations themselves. Some examples of these festivals and ceremonies include: the Green Corn Ceremony/Green Corn Dance (southeastern nations), Cranberry Day (Wampanoag), Acorn Festival (Miwok/Pomo), Go-jii-ya (eastern Apache), and the Hopi Festival. The Pueblo nations have feast days for different purposes, many of the fall ones are harvest celebrations.

There is a series of children's books called We Are Still Here: Native Americans Today. Some of them are about harvesting, traditional foods, and why they're important to their cultures (marked with an asterisk*) –

Children of Clay: A Family of Pueblo Potters

Clambake: A Wampanoag Tradition*

Ininatig's Gift of Sugar: Traditional Native Sugar-making*

Kinaaldá: A Navajo Girl Grows Up (About a Navajo girl's coming- of-age ceremony.)

The Sacred Harvest: Ojibway Wild Rice Gathering*

Shannon: An Ojibway Dancer

Songs from the Loom: A Navajo Girl Learns to Weave.

Drumbeat Heartbeat: A Celebration of Powwow

A Story To Tell: Traditions of a Tlingit Community

Four Seasons of Corn: A Winnebago Tradition*

Learning about traditional foodways is another great topic to explore.

For more information about movements to restore traditional food ways and crops:

http://www.indigenousfoodsystems.org/

https://nativefoodalliance.org/

https://fronterasdesk.org/content/1410851/apache-chef-nephi-craig-uses-food-medicine-his-people

The Sioux Chef – Revitalizing Native American Cuisine / Re-Identifying North American Cuisine (sioux-chef.com)

and check out the documentary Gather: https://gather.film/

Lesson plans: 

Another helpful article:

Discuss cultural ideas of giving thanks daily and all year long:

Giving thanks daily is a cultural concepts in many Native cultures throughout the Americas. It is not reserved for a particular holiday or time of year.

Books: 

Giving Thanks – a Native American Good Morning Message Teacher's Guide - Giving Thanks | Lee & Low Books (leeandlow.com)

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorell

In this video, youth from the Mohawk nation in New York say their thanks in the Mohawk language.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y36Nt3i3z0E
(additional information: http://www.project562.com/blog/a-real-thanksgiving-address-the-words-that-come-before-all-else/

Lesson plan: Activity-1-3-5_-NIEA-Illuminative.3-5.Giving-Thanks-Haudenosaunee-Message.Final_.pdf (illuminatives.org)

When you do want to learn about the holiday itself be sure to tell the truth about the harmful history of colonization and that the “first Thanksgiving” story is a myth:

http://www.oyate.org/index.php/resources/43-resources/thanksgiving

Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective  - this is a teacher resource book Thanksgiving: A Native Perspective by Doris Seale, Beverly Slapin, and Carolyn Silverman / Birchbark Books & Native Arts

Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years – this is a teacher resource book that includes a section on Thanksgiving (as well as treaties, Columbus, and other important topics.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K7jLeBWMA0U

The Myth of Thanksgiving: Native American Perspectives on The Pilgrims | Past Forward - YouTube

Books: 

History Smashers: The Mayflower – this one is not Native authored, but it does a good job at breaking down the myths and correcting false narratives. The images do have some stereotypes regarding Native peoples, so be aware of that and be sure to examine it and discuss it with children reading this book.

1621: A New Look at Thanksgiving 

Lesson plans:

https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/resources/American-Indian-Perspectives-on-Thanksgiving

https://americanindian.si.edu/nk360/resources/Rethinking-Thanksgiving-Celebrations-Native-Perpsectives

It is also important to learn about the National Day of Mourning that takes place on “thanksgiving” every year as well as other Native perspectives on the holiday:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OW0s8ToCyU8

This is the website for the organizers of the National Day of Mourning:

United American Indians of New England - UAINE

There’s nothing wrong with having a big meal together with your family to celebrate being together and being thankful. People do this at harvest celebrations. Many Native families do this with or without cultural harvest festivals/ceremonies.

If you want to move away from the “thanksgiving” myth, but still love to have a big meal with extended family consider doing it on a different day. There’s no reason you can’t make a turkey and all the typical sides literally any other day of the year. There are other times of year where kids are out of school and adults have time off work. Find something that works for your family and create new traditions.

Personally, I feel like Thanksgiving as a holiday, even when separated from the myth, is still celebrating colonization. It is still a painful reminder to me of what happened, and still is happening, as a result of invasion, land theft, and genocide. My family does not celebrate "thanksgiving." But I understand that the day off work and school makes it an easy time to have a family meal like this for many people. It is important to be mindful and to separate your family meal from a harmful myth.

Scholastic.com "Nonfiction Books to Teach About Native American Nations" - review

 Scholastic is advertising a book list for Native American Heritage Month. Posted on November 1, 2022 it states "Students will learn ab...