I have a hard time with one month of the year being designated to one particular minority group (or, in this case, two: American Indians and Alaska Natives). It has potential benefits, but generally, I think these one-month celebrations just further marginalize people whose history, culture, and literature ought to be celebrated all year round. For instance, today on PBS I watched a fascinating documentary on the struggle of the Aleut people to win reparations from the US government for their horrific internment during WWII. Removed from the Pribilof and Aleutian Islands long after white citizens were relocated, Aleuts were crammed onto ships filled with disease, denied medical care, and then dumped at locations in southeast Alaska that hadn’t even been prepared for the arrival of hundreds of people. Forced to live in ramshackle housing (or to build their own), these sea-oriented people were thrilled to see their first trees, but suffered for years with malnutrition, lack of opportunity, and diseases like TB that decimated the elders who would have helped to sustain cultural traditions. Not far from where the Aleuts were interned, German POWs were living in comfort, with three meals a day and access to medical care as per the Geneva Convention…it’s heartbreaking, but in the end the Aleuts organized and sued the government and forty years later won reparations for survivors of internment and their heirs. Once they returned to their island homes in 1945, they found US soldiers had been billeted in their homes, which were left ransacked, even their churches were desecrated. Now, this isn’t the cheeriest start to National American Indian Heritage Month, but I would urge you to swing by Reading in Color because Ari has put together a fantastic post that includes links and a list of books, reposted below. At the very least, I’m grateful for lists like these because I can plan to read at least one new American Indian author each month for the rest of the year…
flavor of the month?
November 2, 2009 by elliottzetta
1. Rain is Not My Indian Name by Cynthia Leitich Smith
2. Code Talker: A novel about the Navajo Marines of World War II by Joseph Bruchac
3. Bone Dance by Martha Brooks
4. I Am Apache by Tanya Landman (although it sounds like Native Americans want this book to be avoided so she’s going to review it and explain why it should be avoided).
5. The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp
6. Sweetgrass Basket by Marlene Carvell
7. Who Will Tell My Brother? by Marlene Carvell
8. Sorceress by Celia Rees
9. Spirit Line by David & Aimee Thurlo
10. Walker of Time by Helen Hughes Vick