Can We Talk About the Controversy of Little House on the Prairie. - Page 5 - Mothering Forums

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Old 04-28-2007, 06:09 AM
 
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Originally Posted by magstphil View Post
this is how i feel about EVERY book. discuss discuss discuss.
OT but i hated LH. i also hated 'Where the Red fern Grows' and other fluffy old timey classics you're suppose to gush over forever. :Puke i don't know what it is but they are just so fluffy fake to me. still, if my girls want to read it i'll go as far as to buy them brand new copies.
Well, that isn't really how I feel about EVERY book but I am NA. I do remember being horrified at the comments but every child in my family read them.

I won't shield my child from racism. I can't.

Just as my family couldn't shield us...

IMO, better to learn than to find out when you least expect it.

I suppose what I am saying is, I not only would *permit* her to read them, but I would place it in her hand myself. Just as my family gave them to us. They serve a purpose...we did learn a lesson from them.

It is just different seeing how it can come casually rather than having a serious discussion. It opens your eyes more IMO.

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Old 04-28-2007, 06:21 AM
 
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[QUOTE=abimommy;7976481]Well, that isn't really how I feel about EVERY book but I am NA. I do remember being horrified at the comments but every child in my family read them.

I won't shield my child from racism. I can't.

Just as my family couldn't shield us...

I suppose what I am saying is, I not only would *permit* her to read them, but I would place it in her hand myself.

She must know.

IMO, better to learn than to find out when you least expect it.

QUOTE]

My children are Native American and the oldest one now is reading the series. He loves the show also. You really can't shelter your children from racism unless you keep them locked away in a closet. It really one of those things we have to help them understand.
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Old 04-28-2007, 06:28 AM
 
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I think that with white-identified children it is paramount to fight and try to prevent overwhelming white normativity. There's just no escaping it in the US and I will not be aparty to reinforcing it. It is already a struggle.

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Old 04-28-2007, 06:38 AM
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My children are Native American and the oldest one now is reading the series. He loves the show also. You really can't shelter your children from racism unless you keep them locked away in a closet. It really one of those things we have to help them understand.
i think most of us agree on not sheltering them. and i would hope that we agree on helping them to understand.

but for younger kids (i'm still going with under 11 or so, assuming a fairly bright, but still typical kid) i just don't think that LHOTP and things which show stereotypes (pioneer hero/savage native, in this instance) in a positive frame, or, rather, in a protagonistic frame, are good introductions to racism as a BAD thing.

i think these books can be helpful in initiating dialogue about race and history, and colonialism, and genocide, and all these things, (as well as living off the grid, and all that) but i think they are typically offered to an audience who is too young to be able to discern the bad parts. i mean, of COURSE calling someone a savage is mean. a six year old will get that. but will they get the weight, the religious intolerance, the racial superiority complex that spurns that sort of comment? prolly not. not even with discussion, and flash cards. because there's a LOT of context behind that, that you can't just explain it in five minutes while they're between chapters. but a 12 year old? i think they stand a much better chance of being able to seperate the patties from the bull, as it were.
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Old 04-28-2007, 06:43 AM
 
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i think most of us agree on not sheltering them. and i would hope that we agree on helping them to understand.

but for younger kids (i'm still going with under 11 or so, assuming a fairly bright, but still typical kid) i just don't think that LHOTP and things which show stereotypes (pioneer hero/savage native, in this instance) in a positive frame, or, rather, in a protagonistic frame, are good introductions to racism as a BAD thing.

i think these books can be helpful in initiating dialogue about race and history, and colonialism, and genocide, and all these things, (as well as living off the grid, and all that) but i think they are typically offered to an audience who is too young to be able to discern the bad parts. i mean, of COURSE calling someone a savage is mean. a six year old will get that. but will they get the weight, the religious intolerance, the racial superiority complex that spurns that sort of comment? prolly not. not even with discussion, and flash cards. because there's a LOT of context behind that, that you can't just explain it in five minutes while they're between chapters. but a 12 year old? i think they stand a much better chance of being able to seperate the patties from the bull, as it were.
I think with a typical NA child...by twelve that is all old news.

Most minority children know that insensitive commentary doesn't always come from people in bedsheets.

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Old 04-28-2007, 06:54 AM
 
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I think that with white-identified children it is paramount to fight and try to prevent overwhelming white normativity. There's just no escaping it in the US and I will not be aparty to reinforcing it. It is already a struggle.

It doesn't really matter what you try to instill in your children. They are going to believe and think the way they want to. You can only do your best in guiding them. I came from a family that had their roots very deep in the south and confederacy. My paternal grandmother's grandfather was a slave owner and lost his fortune supporting the south. Needless to say I was raised in a very racist environment. I totally bucked the system, to me it was wrong, every human is the same in my eyes. My best friend was African American and I married a Native American and have 2 NA children.
You just really cannot teach your children to be racist or non-racist. You can guild them, but it really will be what is in their own nature and heart.

I live in a town that is smack dab in the middle of a reservation and I am the minority here. I hear the racist remarks from all sides all the time. Laura Ingalls Wilder, wrote her books about her life during a time that they didn't know if they were safe from "Indian attacks" or not. Just as on the other hand the "Indians" didn't know if they were safe from attack from the "White" settlers. It is the history of our nation. Unfortunately, our forfathers felt they had a right to this land (because they found it) and the Native Americans were fighting to preserve their way of life. This is where the prejudice came about and to not teach our children about it, we are sweeping it under the rug and making it a taboo subject. They need to know and be shown it is wrong to be racist. It is the only way we have a chance of stopping the racism we have in the world. At least IMO There is good and bad in all people. We just need to take the time to find the good.
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Old 04-28-2007, 06:58 AM
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I think with a typical NA child...by twelve it is old news.
:

i was so not talking about NA kids. cuz you're right. by 12, it IS old news. when you live discrimination, you don't need fantasy books to initiate dialogue.

altho, now thinking more about this...

by 12, kids of color have experienced racism, probably to a large extent. and they may understand this metaconcept of racism--but how much of the finer points are being explained--between imperialism, colonialsim, christian superioirity, manifest destiny, and all that--i mean, these are all subtexts within the LHOTP books (well, maybe not imperialism, but) and i'm not sure those things would come up when some kids are running around you making those infernal 'war whoop' noises.

and, going further from that, those kids making the war whoop noises, how much do they know? did they read LHOTP and watch peter pan, and that's where they get the idea that 'indians' do things like that? cuz at that level, it doesn't really have to do with colonialism, not directly.

i feel like i'm not explaining this well. i think what i'm trying to say, is that while kids of color do have a leg up on personal experience with racism, without discussion of those experiences, and the cultural climate which led up to those experiences, reading LHOTP is still going to normalize the treatment they recieve, both in their eyes, and in the eyes of the kids who make fun...(in the younger crowd. still pretty sure that older kids can get it with a little help from the parent)

(i'm really tired, so forgive me if this makes you all like : also, i'm nak, and too lazy to spellcheck, so sorry for typos.)
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Old 04-28-2007, 07:13 AM
 
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:

i was so not talking about NA kids. cuz you're right. by 12, it IS old news. when you live discrimination, you don't need fantasy books to initiate dialogue.

altho, now thinking more about this...

by 12, kids of color have experienced racism, probably to a large extent. and they may understand this metaconcept of racism--but how much of the finer points are being explained--between imperialism, colonialsim, christian superioirity, manifest destiny, and all that--i mean, these are all subtexts within the LHOTP books (well, maybe not imperialism, but) and i'm not sure those things would come up when some kids are running around you making those infernal 'war whoop' noises.

and, going further from that, those kids making the war whoop noises, how much do they know? did they read LHOTP and watch peter pan, and that's where they get the idea that 'indians' do things like that? cuz at that level, it doesn't really have to do with colonialism, not directly.

i feel like i'm not explaining this well. i think what i'm trying to say, is that while kids of color do have a leg up on personal experience with racism, without discussion of those experiences, and the cultural climate which led up to those experiences, reading LHOTP is still going to normalize the treatment they recieve, both in their eyes, and in the eyes of the kids who make fun...(in the younger crowd. still pretty sure that older kids can get it with a little help from the parent)

(i'm really tired, so forgive me if this makes you all like : also, i'm nak, and too lazy to spellcheck, so sorry for typos.)
Yeah I am : and tired too but enjoying this dialogue

I see your point. I can understand how it might be more difficult with non-minority children.

NA or AA children will see the problems *immediately* but with non NA or AA children it is more insidious.

Or..like children being raised by athiests might realise, at a much younger age, the words in the Pledge are offensive to them...but to other children it is still just words.

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Old 04-28-2007, 08:36 AM
 
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I loved loved loved the books when I was growing up. I was quite obsessed with LIW; dressed up as her as halloween, read about her "real" history (ie, not what she wrote in the books) and watched the TV show. (Though, the TV show is NOTHING like the books, except the characters have the same names!)

This obsession has carried on into adulthood - I grew up in the NE, so reading about "Indian Territory" and "Kansas" and "Big Woods of Wisconsin" just seemed like far off places - now that I live in the midwest, I've been to one of the Little House houses (the one in "Indian Territory" - in Kansas, just over the Oklahoma border - where Little House on the Prairie takes place) and this summer I'm going to the big museum in Mansfield MO - the one that is in the house that Laura and Almanzo built in the Ozarks (On The Way Home) and that has Pa's fiddle and Mary's organ, and the desk she had when the books were written, etc.

In anticipation of the trip (which will be a stop along our family vacation) I've considered reading some of the books to my 5 yo DS. I haven't decided one way or another at this point. (Besides, we just started Harry Potter, and I don't know if we'll finish that in time to read any Little House books!)

Yeah, there is a lot of racism and sexism and whippings and blood and gore. But when I read the books as a child, I was able to separate that stuff from "real life". I read the books on my own- no discussions with Mom, etc. I was a few years older when I read the books, so I was able to take it for what they were - stories about one family 100+ years ago, that has ideas we no longer have. My son is younger, and I'm not sure he can suspend disbelief as is required to read the books. I don't know if he has a firm concept of 100 years ago. But, he would have the advantage of reading the books with me and discussing it as we read, which is something I didn't have.

Something else to consider is that we live in "Indian Territory", aka Oklahoma. NA culture is all around us- many many museums, displays, etc. In fact, ever since Thanksgiving, and DS learned about the "Pilgrims and Indians" at school, I've had plans to take him down to the Cherokee Museum and Heritage Center this summer - they have a Cherokee village to explore, a large and poignant display about the Trail of Tears and the plight of the Cherokees, and many learning areas. So, I'd like to think he'd be receiving the opportunity to see the viewpoint of NA's that might counter anything in the LH books. Not to mention that just by living in our house, he is being brought up with a liberal and open-minded worldview. But is it enough?

I'm obviously undecided. But as I said, we're at Hogwarts now, and I don't know if we'll have time to make it all the way back to the Big Woods of Wisconsin before our trip.
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Old 04-28-2007, 09:24 AM
 
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NA or AA children will see the problems *immediately* but with non NA or AA children it is more insidious.

Or..like children being raised by athiests might realise, at a much younger age, the words in the Pledge are offensive to them...but to other children it is still just words.
Yes, I can agree with this as well. My 3yo is already like "Why is Ma scared? That's silly!" because she can't imagine someone being afraid of her family members, yk?

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Old 04-28-2007, 11:41 AM
 
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I'm familiar with that story, Beanma. It's about the Draper family. There's also an account of the mother of the two boys, Mary Ingles Draper, called 'Follow the River'.
i read about that one, http://www.wvculture.org/history/notewv/ingles1.html (long version) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Draper's_Meadow_Massacre (short version) and i don't think that's the one i was talking about. that's all about the mama who was captured and escaped and the first version i linked to mentions how Mary Ingles Draper and her husband always wondered what happened to their children and never knew.

i haven't found the exact book i read online yet. the boy in this story was older (maybe about 8 or so rather than the 4 yr old in the ingles/draper story) and it tells his life story from right before the time of the capture and goes into great detail of his life with the tribe. it's not just a capture and harrowing escape story. i think it started out near Wytheville, Va and not in West Va, too. similar stories, but this one has a much different perspective. i still haven't put my finger on it yet, but i'm looking.

the thing i found so riveting about it was he was old enough to remember his mama well (i think the dad was already gone at the time of the capture) and yet he loved his "indian" (i use that term because that's what they used in the account i read) family, too, and when given the chance to go back to his white mama he chose to stay with the "indian" family. he tells about learning to swim by being carried on the backs of older boys in the tribe. he tells about climbing a tree (to get honey maybe?) and falling out and almost dying. in the end when he's grown he marries an native american woman (who as it turns out finds him too white in his ways) and sets up housekeeping in a cabin. he makes his way back to his white mama and reestablishes that relationship, too, but still remains in close contact with his native american family and tribe, too.

it really goes into great detail about the tribe's way of life and does not paint them as savages, but it also goes into great detail about the bloodshed on both the parts of the white settlers and the native americans. it was a pretty scary time period. if i can ever find the dang story i'll linky for y'all. it might be a nice supplement to the Little House Books although it's not set on the Prairie.

back to the OP (betcha never thought i'd get there ), my dd1 loves history, but is very sensitive to suspense and scary so it may be awhile before we get to LHOTP. we've read some of the "my first little house" picture books and she really likes those so i imagine at some point we will read them, but it may be more like when she's 8 or 9 or 10. she's just not ready right now. i think at that age we could have a little more discussion about the characters' attitudes about the "Indians". we'll see. we're not ready to cross that bridge yet...

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Old 04-28-2007, 11:43 AM
 
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This deserves repeating:

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...and while a starting point is essential, i'm not sure white folks manifesting destiny in the face of savage adversity is really going to work as an illustration of how damaging colonialism can be.
Thank you, boodafli.
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:04 PM
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for me, it's not a matter of censorship. if my kid wants to read LHOTP at 12, that's fine. any earlier than that, and i'm not comfortable with the way the racsim is shown as normal, and i don't think young kids, (even with mindful discussion) are really capable of understanding that fearing a person because of their lineage is just as bad as calling someone an epithet.


But multiple posters have indicated that that simply isn't true? I just don't get this attitude
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:06 PM
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I remember that part, but I also remember that I never recognized that that show was a minstrel show. I didn't know what a minstrel show was. I thought the paint they wore on their faces was just, I don't know, like clown makeup or mime makeup or something. It never occurred to me that it was supposed to be some kind of imitation or mockery of black people. And really, how would a kid know that, unless he/she was already familiar with the concept of minstrel shows?
Same here. It wasn't til I was older that I realized they were mocking black people and it wasn't just silly face paint to disguise their features
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:08 PM
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And I would like to take this opportunity to remark that as LHOTP fan, I believe the tv-series, what I have seen of it, was absolutely dreadful and an insult to brilliant literature
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:08 PM
 
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The Little House books are so awesome that if you don't allow your children to read them then they will be missing out on a lot. I want my kids to understand history with the attitudes and realities as they were. Mildred Taylor is one of my favorite authors to do this. I believe we can read any book and the discussions that follow are where we do the real learning!
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:18 PM
 
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Same here. It wasn't til I was older that I realized they were mocking black people and it wasn't just silly face paint to disguise their features
Okay... but the point is that a racist behavior was introduced to you as harmless, fun and approved of by people you liked and admired. When you later learned the framework you already had a subtext of approval of that behavior built in. So is it not likely, that in some manner, even when you learned that the behavior was offensive and why, there wasn't some quiet voice in the back of your mind saying "It's really not that bad..." because of how it was slid into your mind before you had any useful filters.

I think it is dangerous to introduce children to things that are offensive without being very clear what it is they are seeing.
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:21 PM
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Okay... but the point is that a racist behavior was introduced to you as harmless, fun and approved of by people you liked and admired. When you later learned the framework you already had a subtext of approval of that behavior built in. So is it not likely, that in some manner, even when you learned that the behavior was offensive and why, there wasn't some quiet voice in the back of your mind saying "It's really not that bad..." because of how it was slid into your mind before you had any useful filters.

I think it is dangerous to introduce children to things that are offensive without being very clear what it is they are seeing.
To be fair, if I saw a white person dressed up as a 'black person' I would have known it was wrong and been disgusted by it.

I think the subtle racism against black people in that particular scene was much more insidious than the NA racism. In fact, I think Laura made it pretty clear that Ma was unreasonably racist agains the NA.

I could see this being a great opening point for a discussion about racism against the black people and the historical context (slavery recently ended, Uncle Tom's Cabin, etc)
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:25 PM
 
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In fact, I think Laura made it pretty clear that Ma was unreasonably racist agains the NA.
Are you implying racism can be reasonable?
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:27 PM
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Are you implying racism can be reasonable?
I'm not even going to dignify that with an explanation. :
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:32 PM
 
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Okay... but the point is that a racist behavior was introduced to you as harmless, fun and approved of by people you liked and admired. When you later learned the framework you already had a subtext of approval of that behavior built in. So is it not likely, that in some manner, even when you learned that the behavior was offensive and why, there wasn't some quiet voice in the back of your mind saying "It's really not that bad..." because of how it was slid into your mind before you had any useful filters.

I think it is dangerous to introduce children to things that are offensive without being very clear what it is they are seeing.
ITA. Very young children identifying with white-washed history at a young age can (but obviously not always) lead to very lasting romanticized perspectives well on into adulthood.
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:35 PM
 
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When someone tells you that you have said something badly, said something that is hurtful... even if your intention was not hurtful... is it productive to respond with anger? Or is it more useful to open your heart and hear what is being said?
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:44 PM
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If this thread is going to turn from an interesting and productive exchange of ideas about literature, child development and historical perspective to an ugly excercise in accusing members of racism due to an unfortunate pairing of descriptive words, in order to achieve MAD PROPZ from other members, I shall bow out. NMS.
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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If this thread is going to turn from an interesting and productive exchange of ideas about literature, child development and historical perspective to an ugly excercise in accusing members of racism due to an unfortunate pairing of descriptive words, in order to achieve MAD PROPZ from other members, I shall bow out. NMS.
Agreed. (And as the OP I had no idea it was *that* much of a hot topic!)
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Old 04-28-2007, 12:55 PM
 
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I understand that race and racism is an extremely sensitive and important subject, but when it digresses into snarkiness, the discussion tends to get clouded and the subject gets lost.

This is a great discussion related to how we address racism in literature in relationship to our children. The differing view points are great. Let's keep the thread on topic and keep it civil and respectful.

 
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Old 04-28-2007, 01:19 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ohmtaretu View Post
ITA. Very young children identifying with white-washed history at a young age can (but obviously not always) lead to very lasting romanticized perspectives well on into adulthood.

Yup. True confession: As a kid.. probably far too young, I always read way above my age range... I loved, loved, loved Gone With the Wind. Loved the epic sweep of the story, loved the strange, complicated personalities loved the weird relationships... the love/ hate, the go away/ come back... My mother was aware enough to counter the romanticization to some degree... knocked the "cheerful slave" nonsense out with a few well chosen words... but I am 100% certain that to this day I am still colored by that story, by the level of acceptance and not just acceptance but glorification of the whole system of oppression, slavery, exploitation. Because I identified with the oppressors. Because I loved them I had to forgive them their participation in slavery... and in doing so I gave slavery my blessing. It's the only way you can enjoy a story like that.

I know very well that it is impossible for me to raise my daughter free of that kind of brainworm... but I'm going to do my best to limit tham as much as I can. It's all I can do.
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Old 04-28-2007, 01:45 PM
 
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brainworm -- i like that...

just popping in to correct myself -- it wasn't the story of john ewing i read before. finally found that one and it's not the one either.

thanks for the link to the birchbark house. i wishlisted that on amazon...

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Old 04-28-2007, 02:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by lovingmommyhood View Post
I read all of them as a child and I knew even at that age that the feelings she had towards Native Americans was not a good way to feel but she was a child living in a time period where fear of Native Americans was normal.

It never made me think anything negative about Native Americans, if anything it gave me some history on what they went through.
Yes, this was my experience as well.

Heather, Mama to DS(10) DD(7.5),DD(6)
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Old 04-28-2007, 03:05 PM
 
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Originally Posted by ohmtaretu View Post
ITA. Very young children identifying with white-washed history at a young age can (but obviously not always) lead to very lasting romanticized perspectives well on into adulthood.
I can only speak to how these books are received by my DD in our home. DD is white, but with Aboriginal ancestry from her father. DH does not identify strongly with that Aboriginal ancestry and we do not live as identified Aboriginals in our community. DD is fascinated by the many places her ancestors come from and seeks out heritage-based experiences and knowledge.

Meantime, there is a strong push for Aboriginal self-government locally and increasingly services are available exclusively for Aboriginal peoples. I'm peripherally involved with this professionally and the issues surround us in everyday life. I've explained to DD about our country's history of residential schools and the long-lasting, retchid effects on whole communities of people; settlers taking Aboriginal wives; small pox in blankets; lost languages; land claims etc etc. She has struggled, at 6 and 7, with her association with the oppressor (her outward life and some of her heritage) and the oppressed (some of her heritage). For her, LH gives her some of the context about "how could they do that!?!?" DD has read other stories from an Aboriginal perspective, but Boodafli reminded me to be more conscientious. I've put The Birchbark House on hold at the library as a starting point.

Mom to a teenager and a middle schooler.

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Old 04-28-2007, 03:56 PM
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But multiple posters have indicated that that simply isn't true? I just don't get this attitude
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Same here. It wasn't til I was older that I realized they were mocking black people and it wasn't just silly face paint to disguise their features
and yet, you clarify my point with personal example.
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