We are makers of change.
When we write, when we teach, or when we put books in the hands of kids, we are activists. Every day, we do what we do because we want to affect the kids who read the books we produce. Whether it’s STEM or historical or science fiction or fantasy or slapstick comedy or heart-breaking contemporary, we are agents of change. We are activists from the moment we put words onto paper. Words change lives.
Earlier this month, Kansas State University’s Indigenous Alliance hosted their 2nd annual Indigenous People’s Day. The theme revolved around restorying indigenous narratives through activism. One of the keynote speakers, Dr. Hollie Mackey (Northern Cheyenne) from the University of Oklahoma, talked about activism in education. One of the most striking points Dr. Mackey made was when she talked about her family’s historical connection to the Standing Rock Nation and how, as they were organizing their protests, she felt “a moral obligation to be a part of that.”
On these moral obligations and activism:
“Which all of you understand if you’re Indian educators because it’s the same moral obligation that you feel every time you stand in front of a child. The same moral obligation you feel every time you think about what your purpose is. Because we don’t take it lightly; it is a matter of life and death every time we think about teaching (our kids).”
As a writer, illustrator, teacher, librarian, or a reader of children’s literature, can you relate?
My guess is you can. We do what we do because of that very fundamental message about moral obligations. And we don’t take our purposes lightly. The future stands on our kids’ shoulders. Our purpose as makers of change is to produce content to educate, entertain, inform, and affect kids to make thinkers.
November is National Native American Heritage Month. Join me in being an activist for change by reading and recommending the work by Native authors—work that provides historical and contemporary perspectives on the Native experience.
My challenge to you is to try at least one book by a Native creator. Celebrate this great body of work produced by Native authors and illustrators. Not only do they provide content that allows young Native populations to see themselves portrayed accurately, but they give non-Natives a glimpse to help better understand authentic Native lives beyond the monomythic version portrayed in mainstream U.S books, media, and culture.
Read. Learn. Share. Familiarize yourself with sovereignty, representation, colonialism, identity, and reconciliation in order to better understand the political and social issues affecting modern indigenous peoples.
Me? I’m going to expand my reading list by exploring Native comics and graphic novels. SUPER INDIAN by Arigon Starr (Kickapoo), CAPTAIN PAIUTE by Theo Tso (Las Vegas Paiute), HERO TWINS by Dale Deforest (Navajo), THREE FEATHERS by Richard Van Camp (Tlicho Dogrib), and the groundbreaking 1996 comic, TRIBAL FORCE, by John Proudstar (Yaqui/Mayan) and Ryan Huna Smith (Chemehuevi/Navajo) are my jumping in points.
Need help finding Native creators and their work? I highly recommend the American Indians In Children’s Literature (AICL) site. Dr. Debbie Reese (Nambe Pueblo) not only provides critical analysis of indigenous representation in children’s literature but gives a who’s who and what’s what of Native creators. From picture books and comics to middle grade and young adult novels, AICL has you covered.
For comics and graphic novels, I highly suggest checking out Native Realities Press, a relatively new publishing company run by Lee Francis IV (Laguna Pueblo) that is making a creative splash with its exceptional content. Lee has also expanded the Indiginerd experience into a bookstore, Red Planet Books & Comics in downtown Albuquerque, and on November 10-12 will host the second annual Indigenous Comic Con, also in Albuquerque.
Have a productive November! Be a maker of change in everything you do as a reader, creator, teacher, or librarian. Let your own work speak loud and true. Celebrate National Native American Heritage Month and spread the word about Native kidlit.
Kids need these books.
We need these books.