June 14, 2009

Indians shot arrows, died

Educator Debbie Reese brings an instructive instructional guide to our attention:

"Would you want to be an Indian?"Doing some research on use of Gerald McDermott's not-to-be-used-book-about-Pueblo-Indians, Arrow to the Sun, I found a page about global diversity, wherein a kindergarten teacher uses the book....

A culminating activity asks students to draw a picture, and, the teacher poses some questions. She posted two drawings and the Q&A. Here's one set of Q&A (red font is hers):

1. Can you tell me something about Indians? They shoot arrows

2. Would you want to be an Indian? Why or why not? No, because I would be dead
Comment:  In case you don't remember, Arrow to the Sun is about a legendary boy in the past who shot an arrow. This student seems to have gotten the message: Indians shoot arrows and Indians are dead.

The book has flaws, but the flaws didn't necessarily misguide the student. He might've gotten the same impression from a perfectly authentic book about a pre-Columbian Indian.

The point is that our society bombards kids--everyone, really--with the same Native stereotypes. I.e., Indians are primitive savages of the past. From Westerns to sports logos, almost every image in the media reinforces this message.

Therefore, students don't need more books like Arrow to the Sun. They need movies, TV shows, books, comic books, and video games with modern-day Indians. They need to see and meet real Indians who are doctors, lawyers, teachers, actors, astronauts--everything the rest of us are.

For more on the subject, see the Stereotype of the Month contest.

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