Middle School (9 - 14) Books

THE PEOPLE SHALL CONTINUE, Simon Ortiz. San Francisco :Children's Book Press, 1977, paperback 1988, Available from The Mail Order Catalog, 800-695-2241. 24 pages hardcover, $13.95, paperback $6.95 (Grades 3-6)

Ortiz, a Pueblo poet, has written the best treatment available for young children in this succinct recounting of the interactions between the Native and non-native peoples of North America from Columbus to the present day. Illustrations are vibrant and bold, and the text is honest and clear. An important acquisition for the upcoming Columbus Quincentennary! Reviewed by: Lisa Mitten and Naomi Caldwell-Wood

A second Look:This book is the single best overview of Native history for younger children that I've ever seen. Ortiz is Acoma, and a poet, and it shows. In the words of Harriet Rohmer, the series editor, this is:

"an epic story of Native Americna people....from the creation to the present day....It speaks in rhythms of traditional oral narrative. Essentially this is a teaching story, as are most Native American stories. Its purpose is to instill a sense of responsibility for life....The words of the story transmit the spirit of the People."

Just so. With simplicity, without polemic, Ortiz gives the true story of how it was, how it is, and -- with hope and a little luck -- maybe how it will come to be for all of us. Ortiz tells the names of heroes -- Pope, Tecumseh, Black Hawk, Crazy Horse, Osceola, Joseph, Sitting Bull, Captain Jack. He speaks of the constant betrayal, brokewn treaties, broken promises, the children taken away.

"They took the children to boarding schools far from their homes and families. The children from the West were taken to the East. The children from the East were taken to the West. the People's children were scattered like leaves from a tree."

Even so

"All this time, the People remembered. Parents told their children 'You are Shawnee. You are Lakota. You are Pima., You are Acoma. you are Tlingit. You are Mohawk. You are all these Nations of People.'"

Native life before the conquest is not romanticized:

"Nevertheless, life was always hard. At times, corn did not grow, and there was famine. At times, winters were very cold and there was hardship. At times, the winds blew hot and rivers dried."

Nor does Ortiz say that Indians are the only true Americans:

"The People looked around them, and they say Black People, Chicano People, Asian People, many white people and others who were kept poor....The People saw that these People shared a common life with them. The People realized they must share their history with them. They said 'We must make sure that life continues. We must be responsible to that life. With that humanity and the strength that comes from our shared responsibility for this life, the People shall continue.'"

The illustrations by Sharol Graves who is Shawnee, Chippewa and Sisseton (Dakota), are vivid and stately, and perfect. If you give only one book about Native Americans to your young children, let this be the one. Reviewed by Doris Seale (Santee Dakota-Cree) in Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children

File: mi216

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

Last Updated: Monday, March 11, 1996 - 11:37:17 AM