Through Indian Eyes

Nov 15th, 1997 | By | Category: 9-3: Responsible Welfare Reform, Media Reviews

Look for stereotypes. Illustration from "How to Tell the Difference"

Distributed by Oyate, Berkeley, Calif.

Review by Julie Cajune

As a classroom teacher and curriculum coordinator, I have been on a quest to locate multi-cultural materials to provide students with a larger picture and perspective of the world. In this process I discovered an enormous amount of literature and curriculum identified as “multi-cultural” that lacked content and substance.

While searching for resources, I came across Oyate, which has several publications that I have utilized since. Two of them address literature about Native Americans. Through Indian Eyes: the Native Experience in Books for Children includes many reviews of contemporary Native American books for children. Teachers frequently inquire about the integrity, authenticity, or accuracy of a book they are considering for classroom use. The book reviews in this book have been extremely helpful in responding to these questions. Reviews are concise and clear and include text excerpts. This book is on my list of recommended resources that I provide to local schools. It will soon be republished by the University of California-Los Angeles American Indian Studies Center.

How to Tell the Difference: a Guide for Evaluating Children’s Books for Anti-Indian Bias is a guide to assist teachers or parents. This guide has been a useful tool for me in teaching what stereotype and bias look like in children’s literature. Often I have talked with educators who have not understood why it is objectionable to use books that have animals dressed as Native Americans or books that portray the language of Indian people as pidgin English. This 30-page book clearly explains why such materials are objectionable.

“Ten Little Whitepeople” and the “Basic Skills Caucasian Americans Workbook” are examples of exaggerated stereotype and bias. These books are a wake-up call to people who fail to understand the impact of inaccurate, stereotypical, and degrading media. Displaying these publications along with the plentiful books of “savage” Native American genre or even the voluminous ethnographic works done about Native Americans would be a poignant silent statement. These books would be useful for college courses.

The people who want to incorporate quality multi-cultural materials in their teaching need support in gathering the materials. Other people are unaware of the necessity to provide perspectives that maintain the integrity and authenticity of many cultures. They need to be educated. The work of Oyate has been much needed for a long time. For a single, free copy of the Oyate catalog, write to 2702 Mathews St., Berkeley CA 94702 or call (510) 848-6700, or e-mail For multiple copies, the catalogs cost $3.

Julie Cajune is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and presently the tribal curriculum coordinator.

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