A lady came into the kid’s bookstore where I work a couple of days ago. She gravitated immediately towards the display showcasing Indigenous kids’ stories. Usually, it garners an occasional glance, but never the same attention as this woman paid them.
She straightaway took a heaping stack and went to the store bench to go through each one. She then told me that many, many of these authors are not Indigenous, and cautioned against the promotion of such appropriation.
— Inhabit Media (@Inhabit_Media) January 3, 2017
Many, which I will not name as I do not want to distract from the focus of this piece, also showed “Indigenous” art – not actually by any Indigenous artists. Somehow, these books got published. I felt immediately uncomfortable seeing these books and recalling the history of residential schools, where colonizers wiped out the “Indian” in the children, and imposed religion along with brutal violence – blurring the lines between the two.
Now is as good a time as ever to talk about this. After all, with Secret Path by Gordon Downie; Joseph Boyden’s Wenjack, and I am Not a Number calling attention the shameful history of residential schools, and Missing Nimama’s recent TD Children’s Literature award for telling the story of one mother of the countless missing Indigenous women; why don’t we just stop interfering from them telling their own stories?
Children’s books can be especially powerful. They combine rich illustrations with simple yet powerful words. However, little hands and burgeoning minds are not apt to read the back of the book for the author’s bio, rather they assume an authentic voice is telling the tale. The options of books by Indigenous authors are not lacking, and if they are, then no one has the right to tell it for them. We should pay special care to support those to whom support is deserved.
The Indigenous communities throughout the land have been telling their stories all along; and it’s time we listen. If you have Twitter, check out the hashtag #IndigenousReads.
Here are ten great kid’s books by Indigenous authors and illustrators:
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