Through Indian Eyes is a book which attempts to stem the tide of racism against North American aboriginal peoples. It contains books, poetry and book reviews on children’s literature. As I read it, I am caught between my wish to build a collection which is supportive and positive about North American aboriginal peoples and my wish to maintain a varied wide-ranging collection. These need not be mutually exclusive goals but they do run into each other. I thought about this some yesterday. I can’t seem to pull from the shelves the Little House books or Outsiders for that matter. I wouldn’t recommend them as read alouds for any classroom – at least not as a whole. I find the threshing pieces useful when studying settler life but I would not read the sections about Indian savages. But should I read those parts and then talk about them. How do I talk about them in a way which invites discussion and openness rather than fear, silliness, anger? If I can’t think about ways to trouble the images, should I keep the book? I’m not sure. I find it easier to make the case with non-fiction. If the material is wrong, racist, misleading, hateful, then it is removed in favour of material that is correct, accepting, accurate, peace-building.
Part of me wants to say but that’s the way it was, no one talks like that now, no ones believes that now. But I know it’s not true. Racism against aboriginal peoples in North America is alive and well. I am thankful for the opportunity to read books which counter the stereotype. I am happy to remove books like “White Feather” or “Danny and the Dinosaur” from the collection.
I wonder about removing books by Byrd Baylor despite the inaccuracies, I think the images and ideas are positive about the Hopi people. Respectful even if they aren’t perfect. Yes I want more books by aboriginal authors, respectfully drawn and accurate depictions of aboriginal peoples. Yes I will look for them deliberately and share them with both white and aboriginal students. But I don’t want to be building a bland collection or eliminating books which will make for thoughtful discussion.