INDIAN CRAFTS AND ACTIVITY BOOK, Meiczinger, John; Watermill Press, (1989), 32 pages oversize paperback; $1.25, ISBN 0-8167-1508-4.

You get a scatter of bits of tribal misinformation here and there. Make a phoney feather headdress (cutting feathers out of paper) and "pretend you are a brave Indian war- rior." Make tipis ("teepees") by rolling a paper cone. Did you know that "the Indians of the Great Plains built teepees to live in while they hunted buffalo"? Other times they must of lived in condos or igloos, huh?

Worst is the "Iroquois mask" made from a sheet of red construction paper. ("A mask colored red was thought to be very powerful.") The Grand Council of the Haudenosee Confederation (Iroquois traditional government) issued a formal declaration several years ago about the misuse of sacred masks:

"All wooden and corn husk masks of the Haudenosaunee are sacred, regardless of size or age. By their very nature, masks are empowered the moment they are made. The image of the mask is sacred and is only to be used for its intended purpose. Masks do not have to he put through any ceremony or have tobacco attached to them in order to become useful or powerful. Masks should not be made unless they are to he used by members of the medicine society, according to established tradition."

The Council doesn't want them made, except by the appropriate societies, exhibited, sold,

"Information regarding medicine societies is not meant for general distribution. The non-Indian public does not have the right to examine, interpret, or present the beliefs, functions, and duties of the secret medicine societies of the Haudenosaunee. The sovereign responsibility of the Haudenosaunee over their spiritual duties must be respected by the removal of all medicine masks from exhibition and from access by non-Indians."

How much the worse to induce non-Indian children to make trivialized distortions.

Activities are of surpassing dumbness: making "pottery" out of a flour and salt dough, a "Chippewa serpentine dance" with a "toe-heel step" and somebody beating "a 1-2 beat on the tom-tom". There's a few picture stories, including one about the first Thanksgiving (I'll let you imagine that one), totem poles made by sticking cutout eyes on champagne corks (champagne corks? from the school cafeteria? lots of high class drunks for parents?). There are a number of those dumb puzzles like words-not-very-scrambled and stupidly easy mazes that have some sort of Indian gimmick.

The book is completely worthless for learning anything real about the variety and beauty of Native peoples' cultures, the ingenious ways in which the everyday business of food and shelter was conducted, or any suggestion that Native people no longer live in those ways any more than white people, descendants of the invaders, live in log cabins or underground sod huts.

--Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Tuesday, October 29, 1996 - 12:53:47 AM