November 02, 2006

Why the raven is black, etc.

American Indian "Pourquoi" tales"Engage your students in an exploration of Native American heritage through a study of Native American pourquoi tales. Pourquoi tales explain why something or someone, usually in nature, is the way it is. Have your students read a variety of Native American pourquoi tales and then write original texts."

The activity is very popular, most adults did this activity when they were kids. It seems harmless and fun, but is it?

Is it harmless to take a peoples way of thinking about the world and use it as a playful model for a writing activity?

Would you do this with Genesis?
(Excerpted from Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature, 11/02/06.)


writerfella said...

Writerfella here --
And why not? Modes of thinking, while not totally within reach of an outsider's mind, still are a way of least trying to 'think like the people you are studying'. It is not as extreme as a teacher writerfella had at Univ/Okla. That man spent most nights in his basement at home doing his own versions of classic paintings of the Masters, saying he was trying to understand the creators' minds and artistic thinking. He used the same technique to try to understand Hemingway.
In a way, the posted technique is a bit like trying to walk a mile in someone's moccasins and then attempting to understand why they expressed their cultures in such stories and tales. Harmless, and certainly no identity theft involved. And if the children learn anything, it is about themselves...
All Best
Russ Bates

Rob said...

I wouldn't have a problem if some English teacher said, "The Bible tells us that God (almost) exterminated the human race with a great flood. Your writing assignment is to think of another way God could've committed genocide on a global scale. Be creative." But I suspect some parents would protest this innocent intellectual exercise.

Not a Sioux said...

"Is it harmless to take a peoples way of thinking about the world and use it as a playful model for a writing activity?"

If this is true, can this perhaps be said of anyone who "uses Indians" in creative writing?

Rob said...

It may be harmful if someone uses Indians in creative writing without doing it authentically--with the utmost respect and care. It may be harmful even if someone does it authentically.