NATIVE AMERICANS REPRODUCIBLE WORKBOOKS, Maher, Jan and Selwyn, Doug; Turman Publishing (1991), 38 pages paperback oversized, ISBN 0-89872-350-7, Grade 3

Here's the good news about this little mult-cult cash-in: (1) There's none of those stupid puzzles or idiotic games and no awful crafts that travesty native art. They don't make any sacred masks out of paper bags! (2) In Lesson 14, last of the book, there are miniature bios -- very, very miniature -- of 3 well-known Native writers and 2 other professionals. So at the very end, the students will learn that at least 5 Native people exist and have names.

Now for the bad news: Just about everything else. That's all short readings that nicely sandwich info and misinfo, followed by various questions the students are supposed to answer. Native Americans have been lumped together for many lessons (all Native Americans believed dah-dah dah-dah, All NA families are..., All NA's did dah-dah dah dah).

Kids will learn that "Clans are large family groups...named after animals, plants or objects." No, not always. Anishinaabeg (Odawa, Ojibwe) will be disconcerted to learn that "children are in the same clan as their mother" since this is a very large tribal group with patrilineal clans. Clans is it for "Native American families," ignoring all the tribes -- such as Dakota, Lakota, and most others of the plains -- who never had clans. Clans are rather complicated to explain, even just the clans of one tribe that still has them (most tribal clan structures are not in good shape today because of white interference with traditional life) and except for Native children who need to learn them, clans are best bypassed for non-Indian kids. Clans make little sense without the language, for proper kinship terms.

A mini-environmental section, Lesson 7, reduces the numerous and complex different Native world views to a single simplistic ecological belief, praying to spirits, and not hurting anything ("All things were part of the web of life"). The phoney version of Chief Sealth's funeral oration for his people, the one that makes him a sort of Nuage ecologist and was made up by a Baptist filmscript writer in 1970, is used as source material for this lesson, although as usual in these "Native American activities" books, no sources, references, reading lists are given for anything.

Balancing the good news against the bad news, don't buy this thing.

--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