HOW TO DRAW INDIAN ARTS AND CRAFTS, Meiczinger, John; Watermill Press, (1990), 32 pages oversize paperback; $1.95. ISBN 0-8167-1515-7. Grades K - 3.

How to Draw ... uses simple geometric shapes and instructs on how to modify them into simplistic renditions of stereotyped objects. There's nothing to suggest that engaging children's visual creative imagination in drawing is good; these simple stereotypes -- conical tipis (teepees), arrowheads, tomahawks, wampum, are supposed to be "Indian". Here's some simplified northwest coast masks, a simplified kachina doll -- the purpose of kachina dolls is actually to teach kids to recognize the regalia of the hundreds of kachina dancers who appear at their own pueblo communities. The results are ugly. These books were prepared by a person who is himself entirely without artistic talent, who knows nothing of any actual Native Nation's life, history, arts or crafts. The sheer ugliness of a book purportedly having something to do with some kind of art is painful.

Both books are examples of an approach to the lucrative "multicultural" market. In general this type of book is prepared with no consultation with any actual Indian people, and rather shallow research, if any. The writers are usually professional education specialists, that is: borderline illiterates.

Snippets of info mingle with misinfo, studded with bite-size bits of wide-eyed, naive racism. These are coupled with dumb activities -- inartistic art-craft, silly puzzles. The non-Indian authors try to portray some simplistic version of "life before white contact".

Far from fostering respect for the Native arts and crafts that survive and are highly valued for their beauty and the skills that go into making them, they foster the idea that real Native arts and crafts were -- are -- cheap junk, for which crude paper cutouts are adequate representations. Books of this type also foster the mistaken notion that Native people have mostly all vanished today, and that occasional "dress-up" imitations of Native lives (by putting on a headband made of paper or a travesty of a sacred mask) is learning about history and cultures.

These books, as well as others of the same type, should be avoided and the cynical industry of their production should be shut down.

--Paula Giese

File: art2024

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

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