Here First

They Were Here First

I am aware of this, about American Indian Tribal members:

American Indians aren’t “people of color.”

And also, for many American Indians, being called American Indian, or being known as Native American, isn’t a preferred moniker.

What is?

Specificity, such as the name of the Tribe and, if it’s known, the group of that Tribe (what pueblo or village or area the Tribal member hails from.)

With resources I’ve listed below, which are also found more on this site here, you may be amazed about aspects of a topic that comes ’round every November (Native American month) for school (home school too) and college educators.

And if your school is near a Tribe, or if your students or you have a special interest in our nation’s history, you likely go to this topic year-round.

print books-

DO ALL INDIANS LIVE IN TIPIS? Questions and Answers from the National Museum of the American Indian

A NATIVE AMERICAN THOUGHT OF IT: Amazing Inventions and Innovations by Rocky Landon and David MacDonald

online –



American Indians In Children’s Literature

One thing to learn is that long-beloved and well-intended children’s picture books and novels that have earned esteemed awards, aren’t always held in regard by Tribe members. Often it’s because of cultural appropriation & misunderstandings continued in the books.  It can be as brief as not including the word  “stereotype” where it should be placed. Or it can be as deep as taking a ceremony or elements of it that are spiritual and religious, and treating them as entertainment.

Some of the nay-sayers about published children’s literature on Tribe topics are also experts in all of children’s literature. And how fortunate that is for researchers & writers. Which brings me to a puzzle.

Why is it that some authors who want to write about these Tribe topics, appear uneager to absorb the details out there about stereotypes and other depictions.

I was fortunate to attend an important book event. A published picture book author, more published than me with my one picture book, after looking at my illustrated biography of an American Indian Leader, talked with a disdainful tone about an irritation.  It was that this author’s idea to write about an  “Indian legend” was finding publisher pushback because it might be “misappropriation” of someone’s heritage.   The author, who revealed no strong connection in life experience or research or work with a Tribe, was piqued at the thought of that questioning from the editor.

Good for that editor/publisher.

One thought on “Here First

  1. In order to do their jobs writers often have to cross into territory that is clearly not their own–I routinely write in the voice of a boy–and I am either convincing or not, but no one questions my right to choose that voice. Cultural boundaries are different., and they should be. “Boy” is a very broad category. The traits that make a boy are so variable that I can make a believable boy in an infinite number of ways, and half the people I know illustrate the possibilities of being male. Writing across cultures is more complex. It requires knowledge and respect. It requires the writer to listen and look, not for the easy first interpretation, but for the one that only comes with a great investment of time.

    Jan, I am so proud of your work, which includes the research, and the just plain getting-to-know that brings deep understanding. You are the perfect person to do this. You bring empathy to everything you do.


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