April 09, 2011

Wild "Indians" in Trucksgiving

Educator Debbie Reese discusses Trucksgiving, a children's book about Thanksgiving. Here's a description of it:

Trucksgiving (Trucktown Ready-to-Roll)This simple early reader mixes trucks and Thanksgiving. "Many years ago," starts the story, "the first trucks came to Trucktown." They worked hard, founded Trucktown, and then had the most difficult task of all: figuring out the best way to celebrate their achievements.Reese notes Big Rig and Monster Truck Max, the two trucks portraying Indians:

A reader writes to me about Jon Scieszka's TRUCKSGIVINGBig Rig is a bully. He's a tailgating, horn blasting, black exhaust spewing, license expired, outlaw. And those might be the nicest things you could say about him. The best thing to do with this guy is steer clear.

Max is everything you would expect a monster truck to be. Especially ACTIVE! He is oversized, jacked up, and nitro-boosted to the MAX! He's always getting his wild self into trouble and it's a good thing he's got friends like Jack and Dan to help him along the way.
Reese wonders what the book's message is:Scieszka's language play is troubling, and the story itself doesn't quite make sense to me. The trucks want to do something to say thanks to all the trucks who helped build Trucktown. The two Indian characters object to ideas put forth. Why? I'm stretching to say that maybe these two "Indian" characters are making a statement about the entire idea of Thanksgiving and how it is observed in the United States.(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 4/4/11.)

Comment:  Reese seems to think the "Indian" trucks are some sort of proto-AIM activists. They're taking a principled stand against the first Thanksgiving. Disrupting it because they know it's a harbinger of the European invasions to come.

Maybe, but why would Trucksgiving portray the "Indians" as wild men and outlaws? You don't have to be nasty or "nitro-boosted" to protest injustice. Look at Jesus, Gandhi, King, or Mandela. They acted as thoughtful men of peace, not as angry hooligans.

Trucksgiving promotes American myth

Without having read Trucksgiving, I'd suggest a different interpretation. The book seems to recapitulate the standard US mythology. The Pilgrims came to America to "do good." The first Thanksgiving was their way of thanking God for giving them a new home. With all the land and resources and potential slaves they needed.

The Indians didn't organize the feast as one of their traditional harvest celebrations. Rather, they were a minor factor at the white Christian event. They disrupted it because they were primitive, savage, wild--not capable of acting civilized. Like undisciplined brats, they threw a tantrum.

This is the traditional version of US history in miniature. Good Europeans brought civilization to the untamed wilderness. Bad Indians opposed them. Eventually the forces of God and light defeated those of superstition and darkness.

In other words, the Euro-Christian adults punished the unruly savage "children" for being uncooperative. The Indians got what they deserved for not doing as they were told. Instead of giving away sharing their land, they selfishly tried to keep it.

For more on the subject, see Teabaggers Lie About Thanksgiving and How Thanksgiving Went National.

No comments: