COMPILED & REVIEWED BY CLAUDIA A. FOX TREE, M.Ed (Arawak). Here are resources I recommend in courses I teach about Native Americans - like book lists, websites, video clips, music/songs, curriculum ideas, and other thoughts thrown in for explanation…
Mostly, this blog is a place to present truths and perspectives about the Indigenous People of the Western Hemisphere (with particular focus on the Caribbean) not easily found in other places.
This blog was added to the Top 50 Native American Literature Blogs. Scroll down to the "Rest of the Best" after the Top 5
Since 1970, Native Americans have gathered at noon on Cole's Hill in
Plymouth to commemorate a National Day of Mourning on the US
thanksgiving holiday. Many Native Americans do not celebrate the arrival
of the Pilgrims and other Europeean settlers. Thanksgiving day is a
reminder of the genocide of millions of Native people, the theft of
Native lands, and the relentless assault on Native culture. Participants
in National Day of Mourning honor Native ancestors and the struggles of
Native peoples to survive today. It is a day of remembrance and
spiritual connection as well as a protest of the racism and oppression
that Native Americans continue to experience.
Recognize we are not dead or only in history. See us as contemporary people who have evolved in modern society. If we don't understand history (and how indigenous people have been made invisible), we can never understand inequities and fights for social justice.
There is no where else in the world that should be telling our story, if not here in North and South America. We have a history intertwined with everything that is taught about this country from history to contributions. Therefore, First Nations should be present throughout curriculum across subject areas.
Language, images, books, television, movies more often than not, box us into a "single story." Educate yourself about stereotypes and cultural appropriation. We are hyper-visible in a way that supports white supremacy, while we are often not able to tell our own stories.
CLAUDIA'S RECOMMENDED BOOKS
An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (free pdf download here: http://dlx.b-ok.org/genesis/1335000/d80c34c2edef56a1ca68f01727416207/_as/[Roxanne_Dunbar-Ortiz]_An_Indigenous_Peoples'_Hist(b-ok.org).pdf)
1491 by Charles C. Mann
Indian Givers: How the Indians of the Americas Transformed the World by Jack Weatherford
All the Real Indians Died Off: And 20 Other Myths About Native Americans by Dina Gilio-Whitaker and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz
The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative by Thomas King
To claim Cherokee ancestry is not just to empathize with the Cherokee people’s history, but to literally claim a connection to it—to the ongoing struggles of the Eastern Cherokee communities and to the story of the Cherokee rose, after the Cherokee were pushed off their land. Along the Trail of Tears, Cherokee women were said to look behind them and weep. And their tears, according to legend, turned into Cherokee roses. That so few people truly connect with this perspective is one reason it’s often overlooked—a problem exacerbated by false claims that minimize this history’s importance.
As a complex, living system of citizenship, tribal enrollment is not a
hunch, a wish, or even a personal decision. The Cherokee people decide
who is Cherokee and who isn’t, and this has ensured that a unique
culture, against all odds, has remained so. A Cherokee rose, after all,
is not A rose is A rose is A rose.
Arawak Language http://akawaio.webonary.org/
From United Confederation of Taino People: What we know as the Taíno language is mainly an Arawakan language...
It is important to keep that there is no one Arawak language. In
addition, "Taíno" also has a number of
other languages that influence its composition. Among these are
meso-american languages, Tupi-guarani languages, and Cariban (Carib)
languages. Attached is a link to the Akawaio language for those
interested in reviewing the wider scope of linguistic connections and
inter-relationships. Akawaio is a Cariban language closely related to
Makushi and is still spoken in parts of Guyana, Brazil, and Venezuela.
Again, this is not an Arawakan language and this dictionary should not
be used as a "Taíno" dictionary. - Múkaro
Why the “Chief Wahoo” logo isn’t just a Native American problem (2017) http://thyblackman.com/2017/07/13/why-the-chief-wahoo-logo-isnt-just-a-native-american-problem/
"Prior and during World War II, there were plenty of racist images that Americans were exposed to that depicted the Japanese as dangerous and un-trustworthy. Those images were depicted through cartoons, posters, and comics to influence people psychologically into fearing the Japanese and to develop a negative perception of them."'
During the 19th century, fictional characters like the Buck and the Pickaninny were blackface characters that were created as racist stereotypes of African-Americans. Each character had specific set of characteristics that displayed negative stereotypes about African-Americans. Those characters were used in television, cartoons, movies, and other pop culture to show that African-Americans were inferior. Native Americans are facing similar depictions in regards to “Chief Wahoo”. More importantly, the racist image of characters like “Chief Wahoo” have been studied as has having a negative impact on the social identity development and self-esteem of American Indian young people.
"Maybe it didn't damage us — maybe we came to understand our identity as more of an adult with an adult brain. But the research is clear about how damaging these are" to young people, Fox Tree says. What's more, Fox Tree says, the images force a paradoxical invisibility on natives like her — many Americans know the cartoon mascots better than the real people they represent.
matter what "percentage" of indigenous ancestry, if you haven't grown
up with the negative repercussions for practicing your culture or
realized there are/were laws against practicing language, traditions,
celebrations, songs, and dances; or felt resistance for speaking the
truth about history, resistance, and contributions; or been harassed or
discriminated against because of appearing Native American possibly
resulting in low tracking in school, loss of work, reliance on
government housing or food; then you really don't know what's it like
for many of us who are indigenous people in this country.
I don't want to hear about how "mascots don't affect you." Claudia Fox Tree (6/3/17 Facebook Post)
To: Committee on Education (for Hearing at the MA State
House on June 6, 2017)
Re: S.291 End Race-Based Mascots in Massachusetts Schools
I am a mother of five, a public speaker and presenter, an
educator of both children and adults, on the board of Native American organizations,
and a woman of Arawak descent.
If you have never heard about the Arawak, you are not
alone. If you have heard of Christopher Columbus, but not the Arawak, my
point has already been made.
Adiche, says, “The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with
stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete.”
For far too long, the dominant culture has been telling our First Nations
stories from its own perspective in the way IT wants to view US, just like the
Columbus legend which views us as generic "Indians," and not as the
specific and varied tribes and nations we actually are. We have been
denied a voice in our own narrative. The problem with "mascots"
is that it often includes songs, gestures, costuming, and the like - an entire
culture of racism based on a single image that is supposed to represent us.
Self-creation of one's identity is commonly experienced in the United States
and other Western societies during the period of adolescence. Though the
foundation of identity is laid in the experiences of childhood, younger
children lack the physical and cognitive development needed to reflect on the
self in this abstract way and ask questions, such as: Who am I now? Who was I
before? Who will I become? One problem with stereotypes is that more people see
stereotypes instead of actual, real, authentic images. Stereotypes misrepresent
Native American history and cultures.
One single image can be assigned to all indigenous people with little regard to
individual differences. Images like these affect all children. They model what
Native Americans are supposed to look like, act like, and do based on a
European ideology. Songs, dances, art, and stories that are “taught” are not
our true songs, dances, art, and stories. Stereotypes, by their negative
nature, do not focus on contributions, role-models, or resistance.
Matika Wilbur researched the 5,868 blockbuster films between
1990 and 2000. 12 included Native Americans, all showed us as spiritual or in
tune with nature, 10 showed us as impoverished or beaten by down by society,
and 10 depicted us continually in conflict with whites.
John Sanchez from Pennsylvania State University did an extensive study between
1990 and 1999 of the “big three” television networks – ABC, CBS, and NBC.
During that time frame, the 3 networks produced 175,889 news reports. Of those,
a combined total of 98 reports were about Native Americans or Native American
issues. The majority of these stories framed by stereotypical 18th century
imagery, such as Native Americans in buckskin clothing riding horses and
wearing traditional headdresses. The least common type of story was those
representing 21st century Native Americans in a positive light. Most Americans
believe that Native Americans are either assimilated, or extinct – that we
don’t exist anymore.
Sarah Shear (and others) at Pennsylvania State University in Altoona analyzed
the U.S. and state history standards from all 50 states and the District of
Columbia. Based on results, Shear says, students are graduating from high
school without even basic knowledge of contemporary Native American challenges
or culture. Across all the states, 87% of references to Natives portray
them prior to 1900, with no clear vision of what happened after that. In half
of the states, no individual Native Americans or specific nations are named.
The most commonly named people are Sacagawea, Squanto, Sequoyah, and Sitting
Bull. Only 62 Nations are named in standards (there are 562). One nation,
the Iroquois, is mentioned in six states and only 4 states (AZ, WA, OK, and KS)
include boarding schools. Washington is the only state to use the word
“genocide” in relation to Native People (in the standards for 5th grade U.S.
history). Nebraska textbooks portray Natives as lazy, drunk or criminal. 90% of
all manuscripts written about Native people are authored by non-Native writers.
There is nothing about treaties, land rights, or water rights, nor the fact
that tribes are still fighting to be recognized and determine
sovereignty. All 50 states lack any content about current Native events
If we were represented in all subjects at all grade levels K-12, had a mega
movie industry portraying our various histories and cultures, and had
best-selling books, then MAYBE a stereotype wouldn't be a "big deal,"
next to a continuum of accurate, self-representation. But we do not have
those things in our own country, or anywhere else in the world, so a stereotype
carries much, much more weight for us, our developing indigenous children, and
all children who are subjected to the misinformation created by stereotypes.
I need to take a moment to discuss the Native American boarding schools that were
established in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries
to educate Native American children and youths according to European-American
standards. Children were immersed in Euro-American culture through appearance
changes with haircuts, were forbidden to speak their native languages, and
traditional names were replaced by new Euro-American names to both
"civilize" and "Christianize." The experience of the
schools was often harsh, especially for the younger children who were separated
from their families. In numerous ways, indigenous people were encouraged or
forced to abandon their identities and cultures. Investigations of the later 20th
century have revealed many documented cases of sexual, physical, and mental
abuse occurring at such schools.
Why do I point out boarding schools? Because the, "Kill the Indian and
save the man" mentality is the historical treatment we have
received. Boarding schools illustrate the problem with mascots and other
forms of cultural appropriation. Why has it been okay to mock, mimic, and
pretend to be "Indian," but it is not okay to actually BE “Indian”?
This is a Civil
Rights issue, not an individual school system or town issue. This models
what we want ALL children to know and be aware of, not just indigenous
children. When you keep seeing “Native Americans” behaving a certain way,
even when it is inaccurate, you begin to BELIEVE that is the way ALL Native
Americans behave. Mascots, and associated antics, are not who we are, not
part of our story, and not the way we want to be seen, treated, or represented.
It's a form of harassment, bullying, and all the worst things schools have to
offer and are "supposedly" fighting against.Schools did not want to “integrate”
either.Legislation and the National
Guard had to be used to help schools do the right thing. I hope the Massachusetts legislation is able
to see the future more clearly than Central High School in Little Rock,
Arkansas and the William Frantz Elementary School in Tylertown, Mississippi
you for inviting me. I know… I don’t think you’ve probably ever had an
Arawak speaker here and probably haven’t ever heard of Arawak speaker.
We, the indigenous people of the Americas, are refugees. We exist
despite an unacknowledged, attempted genocide. Most people associate
refugees with being forced to leave one’s country, but a refugee, by
definition, has lost their land and way of life, often through war or
genocide. There is a long history of genocidal programs initiated by the
early colonial settlers and, later, by the United States government.
1755, the lieutenant governor of the Province of Massachusetts Bay,
issued a proclamation that called for British subjects “to embrace all
opportunities of pursuing, [capturing], killing, and destroying all and
every Indian.” A bounty was paid by the colonial government for every
Penobscot captured and brought to Boston.
- For every Male above the age of 12 years, 50 pounds. For their Scalp, 40 pounds
- For every Female under the age of 12 years, 25 pounds. For every Scalp, 20 pounds.
Within a year of the proclamation,
the Massachusetts assembly voted to raise the ceiling on the bounty to an
unprecedented 300 pounds. This Bounty
Proclamation was signed by Lt. Gov. Spencer Phips just a short walk from
here in the Old State House on State Street.
At the Sand Creek Massacre in
1864, John Chivington said, “Damn any man who sympathizes with Indians... Kill
and scalp all, big and little; nits make lice.”
We were marched, relocated, and
put in reserves like animals, ending up no longer being on the land which provided
all our needs… where our stories and songs came from… where our ancestors’
bones lay in the ground.
In the 19th and 20th
centuries, boarding schools were established. Our children were immersed in
European-American culture. They were given haircuts, forbidden to speak their indigenous
languages, and their traditional names were replaced by European-American names
to both “civilize” and “Christianize.” 20th century investigations have
revealed many documented cases of sexual, physical, and mental abuse in these
In 1892, the U.S. Army officer
Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School, said, “…all the
Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him and save the
man.” On reservations, children were taken from our homes and forcibly sent to
boarding schools until 1978, systematically destroying Native American cultural
Today in 2017,
we are still fighting for sovereignty and treaty rights; hunting and fishing access;
clean water and healthcare; and political and legal justice. On some
reservations, Native women are murdered at more than 10 times the national
average. Hollywood films, sports mascots, and many other racist images continue
to dehumanize us.
reservations, families live on roughly seven gallons of water per day per
person, since uranium mining has poisoned the wells and radioactive waste
leaves no clean water. 40% of the 173,000 Diné living on the reservation do not
have running water.Today, in the United
As First Nations People, we have
been made invisible, starting with the first maps that were created showing
empty land where none of our languages or nations were identified. Towns were
incorporated without any thought to the indigenous inhabits. Each “first”
became a colonizer’s first – the first house, the first successful harvest, the
first thanksgiving, the first marriage, the first baby – while our “firsts” were
ignored and erased.
cultural genocide translate into today’s experience? I did not grow up speaking
my indigenous language or hearing Native Nations’ music on the radio. I did not
see people like me reflected in the literature I read, the television I watched
and movies I saw, or even on the walls of my classroom. I did not learn the
contributions of Indigenous People to this country, and certainly not the
actual history of the United States. I did not have First Nations role-models
who resisted and stood up for our culture, only those who helped the white
Europeans, like Squanto, Sacagawea, and Pocahontas. There’s nowhere in the
world where out story, my story, should even be required to be told, except
I’ve raised my children in a
world that has not recognized our holidays and observances… In a world with stereotypes
that have become the only way we are known and recognized… With peers who have
harassed them about their long hair… When my son was in high school, a few boys
danced around him singing, “woo woo woo.” They weren’t mimicking something they
had seen at a pow wow, they were acting out all they knew from when they were much
younger and saw movies, like Peter Pan.
The racist images of Hollywood and athletic teams have been their loudest
Other people tell our story or
stereotypes about it. We have no control over our own narrative in our own
country. I am not currently fighting for food, or water, or heat, or housing, or
healthcare, so I must use the privilege and platforms, the ones that I do have,
to temporarily, even if temporary, to stand beside my indigenous sisters and
brothers and be an ally to support their access, and all people’s, to these
fundamental rights in a country as wealthy as ours.
We are refugees from our
original lands. We cannot stay silent about genocide here or anywhere, anymore.
Please consider joining an indigenous organization, like the Massachusetts
Center for Native American Awareness, to learn more about us. We’re still alive
- traditional people in a contemporary society.