Oyate

Oyate

My name is Raven. When I was in the third grade, our class read The Courage of Sarah Noble. In this book they said Indian people were savages and murderers, they chop your head off and eat you alive and that we were not really people. When the class put on the play for the whole school, the kids started taunting me, calling me “stinky” and asking me how many people I’ve eaten. Nobody would play with me or even sit next to me in class…I felt so ashamed. Finally, I told my mother I didn’t want to go back to school.

—Raven Hoaglen (Maidu/Konkow/Wailaki/Mono)

From the website: “Oyate is a Native organization working to see that our lives and histories are portrayed honestly, and so that all people will know our stories belong to us. For Native children, it is as important as it has ever been for them to know who they are and what they come from. It is a matter of survival. For all children, it is time to learn the truth of history. Only in this way will they come to have the understanding and respect for each other that now, more than ever, will be necessary for life to continue.

“Our work includes evaluation of texts, resource materials and fiction by and about Native peoples; conducting of workshops, in which participants learn to evaluate children’s material for anti-Indian biases; administration of a small resource center and library; and distribution of children’s, young adult, and teacher books and materials, with an emphasis on writing and illustration by Native people.

“We hope by making many good books available to encourage many more, especially from Native writers and illustrators. Oyate, our organization’s name, is the Dakota word for people. It was given to us by a Dakota friend.”

Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children, by Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale (Santee/Cree), eds., is, as an American Indian Library Association review described it, “a superb collection of articles that together function as a guide through the murky world of ‘children’s books about Indians.’ Poetry, personal recollection, bibliographies and reviews of books from a Native perspective lead the librarian, teacher and parent to an understanding of the often subtle stereotypes and mythology that abound about Native Americans in children’s literature.”

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