Children of the Dragonfly: Native American Voices on Child Custody and Education

Nov 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 14-2: American Indian Higher Education Consortium 30th Anniversary, Media Reviews

DRAGONFLY COVERedited by Robert Benson
University of Arizona Press, 2001
280 pages

Review by Maria Escalante 

Children of the Dragonfly is a phenomenal collection of Native American childhood experiences. Robert Benson uses the Zuni legend of the dragonfly spirit, who helps children restore a way of life that has been taken from them, as the pattern for the life stories, fiction, poetry, and other works recounted in the collection. Benson is a poet, professor, and director of writing at Hartwick College, Oneonta, NY, where he teaches American Indian law and literature. The book touches on a number of important issues related to children. One section exposes flaws in the child welfare system such as abuses of parental rights and the adopted child’s search for identity. While each section needs to be exposed as an outcome of childhood, they are too brief. The stories only scratch the surface of problems encountered by Native American children. Benson acknowledges that the work is not extensive enough. He feels that the anthology is a call to writers and researchers to continue his work. This first step in documentation is crucial because children and childhood remain an important component for Native people. Hopefully this anthology will spark an interest and lead to continued research into the issues revolving around Native American childhood experiences. I would highly recommend this book for tribal colleges. They are the logical places to continue the research started by Benson. The book should be required reading for students going into social work. 

Maria Escalante is librarian for the College of Menominee Nation in Keshena,WI. 

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