Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Contemporary Christmas Story

Title: Baseball Bats for Christmas
Author: Michael Arvaanluk Kusugak
Illustrator: Vladyana Krykorka
Publisher: Annick Press, LTD
ISBN: 1-55037-145-2; 24 pages; Book Level 4.4 Interest Level K-3

Baseball Bats for Christmas is based on a childhood memory of the author. Michael Arvaanluk Kusugak draws on his own experiences as a youngster growing up in Repulse Bay, in 1955. He shares a glimpse of his Inuit culture and traditions as he tells the story of his first "standy-ups". He and his baseball loving friends are puzzled, then delighted when Rocky Parsons, bush pilot, leaves 6 spindly "standy-ups" in front of the Hudson Bay Store. Michael shows the humor that often accompanies misunderstandings when cultures interact.

The author and illustrator have worked together on other books. Their first book together was "A Promise is a Promise" that Michael co-wrote with Robert Munsch. Vladyana Kryorka, the illustrator was born in Czechoslovakia now known as the Czech Republic. She has received several awards for her illustrations.

I really enjoyed the story and would recommend it as a read aloud in the library or classroom. This story would make a great introduction to writing personal experiences and memoir writing for older students. The illustrations meld with the text and are an integral part of the book. The visual element helps the reader to intuitively understand the rugged terrain and the tenacious people that call the Northwest Territory home.

Recommended Links:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Diabetes Education in Tribal Schools Program

Joni Ackerman is the project director for the Diabetes Education In Tribal Schools. The project is offering "Health is Life in Balance" a K-12 curriculum for educators (anywhere in the US). The curriculum is inquiry based with a science and health theme; it includes a cultural, career, and physical activities component and is fully aligned with national standards. This educational resource is free.

Two of the "Health is Life in Balance" frequently asked questions are:
1. Why is a K-12 DETS curriculum needed?
Diabetes is almost three times more common in the American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) population than in the general population. Once considered an adult disease, type 2 diabetes is increasing in young people in all U.S. populations. Many people are unaware that the onset of diabetes can often be prevented or delayed. The DETS curriculum intends to change perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes about diabetes through classroom learning experiences that will empower AI/AN students to adopt healthier lifestyles.

6. What are the goals of the DETS K-12 curriculum?
the curriculum incorporates inquiry-based learning that will enhance students' science process skills. Lessons encourage students to become researchers. Investigative inquiry (observing, measuring, predicting, inferring, classifying, experimenting, communicating, etc.) allows students to emulate the work of real life researchers. The discoveries of diagnosis, treatment, control, and prevention of diabetes increase student understanding and appreciation for direct and indirect effects of scientific research within a cultural framework.

Diabetes is an epidemic in the United States. Lets become part of the solution and educate ourselves and our children to choose health.

Remember the curriculum and Eagle Books are free and so is the shipping.


The curriculum is also available from the Indian Health Service online catalog

Information on ordering the Eagle Books

NIH website about the curriculum and an overview of the units for each grade level

Viewable Downloadable K-12 Curriculum and Copy Masters

Joni Ackerman (406) 768-3024 or online

IEFA Resources & Tools - MEA Conference


For this session I would like you to look at 3 things before exploring the blog and links on your own. You will notice within the blog highlighted words like: Native Child. If you click on an anchor word (the highlighted words) the hidden link will take you to more information or a specific article.

1. Choose at least one link from the sidebar to look at. Most connect to Indian Education for All (Background information, perspectives by tribal members, authentic resources.) Others are good educational and historical resources.

2. Choose one of the following blog entries Columbus Was Lost or Thanksgiving 1621 .

3. Conversations-with-print wiki. At this site you will find lesson plans and book lists.

Another area you might want to consider are the ads. Using your knowledge how are the products marketed? Who are they marketed towards? Are any of them tribally connected? If not do any of the profits go to tribal programs? The ads change regularly and are actual ads through adsense.

I hope that you will return to this site and find information that will benefit you and your class.

Thanks for coming.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pepere Played the Fiddle

Title: Pepere Played the Fiddle
Author: Linda Ducharme
Publisher: Pemmican Publications, 2006

Pepere Played the Fiddle is an elegant book to introduce young children to the Metis culture. The fiddle music of the Metis community is an integral part of their culture. I believe that introducing students to this music helps break the "Hollywood" stereotype of what Indian music sounds like.

Montana Office of Public Instruction has a publication "American Indian Music: More Than Just Flutes and Drums". They also distributed CD's that connect to the publication. Please contact them to see if the following CD and DVD is still available."American Indian Music- More than Just Flutes and Drums"-CD. A DVD that you might want to ask them about is "The Power of the Drum" (OPI: Indian Ed for All DVD).

I saw a friend at WalMart the other night. Angela shared with me that Labor Day weekend she attended the Montana Metis Festival. She said the music was fabulous. I didn't even know about it until then. I came home and told my husband that I wanted to go to it next year.

Butte's National Folk Festival also featured Metis music.


Metis Radio
Metis History and Culture
Metis Fiddler Quartet
Virtual Museum of Metis Culture
Sierra's Song
Fox Fiddle-Metis Tunes from Montana
Montana Metis Project

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Thanksgiving 1621

If you asked most Americans to tell you when the first Thanksgiving was, who was there, and what they ate? You would get approximately the same mythological story.- In 1621 the Pilgrims were so thankful for surviving the winter, that they invited their Indian neighbors for a feast. Dinner is usually a more creative description but usually includes cranberries, turkey, popcorn etc.

I can see many people shaking their heads in agreement. That's pretty much how most of us learned it in school, on tv, and the movies. Would it surprise you to learn that the Harvest Feast of 1621 is more fiction then fact?

Lets look at different perspectives and develop an inquiry model for further exploration.

Resources for Further Exploration: Thanksgiving From Many Perspectives

Native American Perspective Interview with Liz Lodge (Director Plimoth Plantation)

Euro-American Perspective

Primary Resources

Native Resources (General)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Columbus Was Lost

If you ask the average American about Christopher Columbus, they will usually tell you he "discovered" America in 1492. They look at me me with a dazed look when I say America wasn't lost.

Then I say; "If I left Billings, MT and ended up in Denver, CO; would I have discovered Denver?"

The answer is usually; "You can't discover it, there are people living there."

"Well, there were people living here when Columbus came. And to top it off he never set foot on North American soil."

Dr Oz said that men and women are hard wired differently. (Dah) He said men believe they know where they are, hence they don't need to ask for directions. Christopher Columbus truly believed that he had found India and a shorter route to the spice trade. What he really needed was a GPS unit.

One of the books I shared with my older students is the "Coyote Columbus Story" by Thomas King and illustrated by William Kent Monkman. The illustrations are almost cartoonish. I would read the story and ask the students to comment on what they noticed in the pictures. Visual Thinking Strategies work smoothly with this story.

From School Library Journal

"Grade 2-5-Coyote is in her female guise, and King reminds readers immediately that she is responsible for everything in the world-rainbows, rivers, toenail polish, and TV commercials. Her favorite thing of all is playing ball-all positions at once. But she finds it rather boring without a companion. However, the beavers have dams to build, and moose and turtles are also otherwise occupied. The humans will play, but they get rather hostile when Coyote wins every game. (After all she makes up the rules, and changes them as she pleases.) Then, three ships, Christopher Columbus, and a crew of clowns arrive. Will they play ball? No, they say, they've got to find things they can sell. No gold? No computer games? Convinced they're in India, they decide to grab some of the Native people and take them back to sell in Spain. Columbus sails away with his captives, the remaining humans catch the bus to Penticton, and when Coyote tries to fix things, what does she get? Another bunch of funny-looking clowns, led by Jacques Cartier. Monkman's illustrations are perfect. Brilliant colors are daubed onto screwball figures, and anachronisms abound. What seems a funny romp turns out to have a very sharp edge. This irreverent treatment of Columbus and his fellows may be disquieting to some, but it is long overdue."
Ruth Semrau, Upshur County Public Library, Gilmer, TX
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Seriously though, an excellent book to explore is "Rethinking Columbus: the Next 500 Years" 2nd ed, edited by Bill Bigelow and Bob Peterson. This book is available from Rethinking Schools online. This book provides other voices that tell about the encounter of the Europeans and Native Americans.

I was reading the blog from National History Education Clearinghouse, "Teaching About Columbus Day: Mythbusters". The article is well written and has some wonderful links to other voices and perspectives. If you are curious go to Fact Monster and look at the timeline of Columbus Day.

Education World featured a lesson plan titled "Should we Celebrate Columbus Day?". The students are told they have been hired by a fictitious community to determine if the community should continue recognizing Columbus Day. The students use an inquiry model and primary sources to explore this question. This lesson plan is also available on the National Education Association Website (NEA).

Documents of Taino History and Culture has some great background information about the people who greeted Columbus.

Examining the Reputation of Christopher Columbus by Jack Weatherford is a very thought provoking article. He makes some very powerful observations.

"Because Columbus captured more Indian slaves than he could transport to Spain in his small ships, he put them to work in mines and plantations which he, his family and followers created throughout the Caribbean. His marauding band hunted Indians for sport and profit - beating, raping, torturing, killing, and then using the Indian bodies as food for their hunting dogs. Within four years of Columbus' arrival on Hispaniola, his men had killed or exported one-third of the original Indian population of 300,000. Within another 50 years, the Taino people had been made extinct [editor's note: the old assumption that the Taino became extinct is now open to serious question] - the first casualties of the holocaust of American Indians. The plantation owners then turned to the American mainland and to Africa for new slaves to follow the tragic path of the Taino.

This was the great cultural encounter initiated by Christopher Columbus. This is the event we celebrate each year on Columbus Day. The United States honors only two men with federal holidays bearing their names. In January we commemorate the birth of Martin Luther King, Jr., who struggled to lift the blinders of racial prejudice and to cut the remaining bonds of slavery in America. In October, we honor Christopher Columbus, who opened the Atlantic slave trade and launched one of the greatest waves of genocide known in history." (Jack Weatherford)

Monday, October 5, 2009

Montana Humanities - One Book Montana

The Surrounded by D'Arcy McNickle is the book that was selected for "One Book Montana". Dottie Susag is the discussion moderator. The story is about "Archilde, a young man of dual cultural identity - Salish/Spanish - returns to the Flathead Reservation to say his last good bye after attending an Indian boarding school and working in Portland".

McNickle's book was written before all of the following author's books: James Welch, Scott Momaday, Leslie Silko, and Louise Erdrich books. Unfortunately the issues that are center in most of these books are still issues today.

Everyone is invited to participate in this discussion.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Evaluate from an Informed Perspective

Many books written for children about Native Americans perpetuate stereotypes and disrespect. Debbie Reese reviewed Richard Peck's, "A Season of Gifts" in her blog American Indians In Children's Literature. In her post she quotes some passages from Peck's book and explains why it is disrespectful to Native Americans. An example is the disrespect shown to the dead in this story.

One of the headings in Ms Reese's blog is "Evaluate from an Informed Perspective". I love that title because it says so much. One site that she refers people to is Elaine Cubbins website and her recommendations for evaluating a Native website.

Another great source for evaluation advice is Oyate. They sell the booklet, How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children's Books for Anti-Indian Bias by Beverly Slapin and Doris Seale (Santee/Cree), and Rosemary Gonzales (Ojibwe). A great resource for evaluating print material.

On the Montana Office of Public Instruction is "A Guide for Evaluating Indian Education Services, Products, and Materials" It gives a checklist of items to consider as you evaluate the material. Becoming "informed" takes time. I believe we owe our students literature that breaks stereotypes and shows respect to other cultures.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Love Medicine Big Read Book Selection

The YMCA Writer's Voice and The Parmly Library are two of the sponsors for this year's Big Read. The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts designed to restore reading to the center of the American culture.

I learned yesterday that the Big Read has materials available for classrooms that want to participate. I also learned that the Big Read will be part of the High Plains BookFest in Billings, MT on Friday October 2, 2009 at the Western Heritage Museum.

"The Native American theme of this year's High Plains BookFest is derived from Love Medicine. Concurrent with the Parmly Billings Library Book Awards is the 7th Annual BookFest sponsored by the YMCA Writer's Voice. For information on the BookFest contact Corby Skinner The Bookfest and the Big Read are designed to engage new audiences, and foster conversations about how literature addresses the challenges, rewards and many unique aspects of Native American life."

Louise Erdrich book Love medicine is about two Chippewa families living in North Dakota struggling to balance Native American tradition with the modern world. This book is considered a modern classic. The National Endowment for the Arts developed the teacher's guide as part of the classroom materials.

"Love Medicine" is written for "YA (high school)/Adult audience. The Big Read is working to have community discussion about the book. The Big Read has teaching materials as well as copies of the book available for classrooms that want to participate. As an adult if you want to sign up for the book discussion call 657-8258.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Loss In the Lives of Children

Jennifer Greene tells the story of the Bitterroot Salish's forced removal from their homes in 1891. Her story is in the Fall edition of Teaching Tolerance; it is titled Connected to Everything. She tells the story of one family who lost their home.

Many of our students today are also dealing with loss: foreclosures, death, divorce, moving. In the Extension Activities she shows ways to constructively cope with loss. She gives some concrete examples of connecting what happened to her ancestor's in the Bitterroot Valley and our students today.

The quarterly magazine Teaching Tolerance is a project from the Southern Poverty Law Center; I have found it to be timely and very thought provoking. The article and lesson ideas by Jennifer Greene I believe will provide classes with the opportunity to discuss what happened in the past as well as what is happening to our students in contemporary America.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Corps of Discovery and Blackfeet Encounter

This summer I had the good fortune to be a part of the Laurel Montana Writing Project, one of the other members, Kari Leibel, did a great lesson on point of view. She used the Lewis and Clark Journals "July 3 - August 12, 1806" and the DVD "Two Worlds at Two Medicine" by Curly Bear Wagner and Dennis Neary (Available from Going-to-the-Sun).

We examined what the journals said and watched clips from the video narrated by tribal elders discussing the tribal experience with Lewis and Clark. This allowed the students to grapple with interpretive problems helping the class develop the process of noticing and acknowledging difficulties in understanding text. (The Literature Workshop by Sheridan Blau)

Another book that describes Native Americans meeting the Corps of Discovery is the "Bad River Boys" by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve; describing the meeting between the Lakota Sioux and Lewis and Clark. This event is written in the Lewis and Clark journals dated 23 - 25 September 1804. Sneve writes about the experience from the Lakota Sioux point of view.

When students examine historic events from different points of view it helps them develop critical thinking and higher level thinking skills.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I Can't Have Bannock But the Beaver Has a Dam

Author: Wheeler, Bernelda (Cree/Ojibwe/Metis)
Illustrator: Herman Bekkering
Publisher: Peguis Publishers, Limited (1984)
ISBN: 13: 978-1895411485, pbk, black & white, 32 pages
Source: Oyate
Price: $11.00

A young boy is told that he can't have bannock because there is no electricity for the oven. This is a great book to use predicting strategies with for K-2 students. The pictures give great clues about what is happening. In my school, my students did not know what bannock was. Using predicting strategies and listening to the classroom responses; the lesson took about 20 minutes. If you just read the story it takes just a few minutes.

At the end of the story the author includes a recipe for traditional bannock.

My students loved the story and eagerly tried to predict what bannock was and what the beaver had to do with the story. In later library story times I read about beavers. The original story acted as an anchor story for our discussions.

Bernelda Wheeler was the first female aboriginal journalist in Canada. She was known for her work with CBC radio, interviewing First Nations people, issues and events. Sadly she died from cancer Sept 10, 2005.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Contemporary Native American News Part 2

Another website you might want to explore is The Circle Native News and Arts. You will find current news, blogs, education, the arts. Currently in the education link they have included essays from high school students studying the Indian Boarding School period. Very interesting reading.

Native Web has Resources for Indigenous Cultures around the world, they also have a wiki set up.

Index of Native American Resources on the web is a virtual library. Use common sense when viewing individual links for accuracy and authenticness. The website does a great job of including such a diverse collection of links. It is a great starting place.

Bureau of Indian Affairs website. This site has some good information that you might want to compare and contrast to as you and your students explore current news found in other locations.

The Native American Radio service is a resource worth exploring.

The Native American Voices Radio Program great resource for audio learning.

The Native Voice is a newspaper out of Colorado. You can currently register free to read the newspaper.

Contemporary Native American News is a website with links to tribal news and entertainment that is affecting Indian Country.Many of the articles may not be picked up by other new service.

Since I live in Billings, MT I was very surprised that Great Falls Tribune had carried a story about 15 cases of Swine Flu hitting the Fort Belknap Reservation here in Montana,and I didn't know about it until I read about it at It makes me thankful for other ways to keep connected and informed.

Indian Country Today is also a Native owned newspaper. It is a great source for current contemporary news that affects tribes. It is another great resource.

The Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) blog talks about the museum and its collections. It is a great tool for looking at how issues affect Indigenous People as well as informing non-native visitors about the history and culture of American Tribes.

Another source for contemporary native news is Native American Times. A recent article is about "Company Develops Native Language APS for IPOD
BANNING, Calif. - Cherokee-owned Thornton Media has created software, free to tribal clients, that allows them for the first time to program their indigenous language onto Nintendo DSi handheld consoles. The software, called "Language Pal" can program audio recordings in multiple dialects from multiple speakers. It allows the ability to program electronic flashcards, archived recordings, multiple-choice games, and tens of thousands of audio files with search able database for use on the Nintendo DSi. Thornton Media's Language Pal software is not an official Nintendo title, but 'homebrew' software created by an Authorized Nintendo Developer. Thornton Media has begun the process of becoming a licensed Nintendo developer. Read rest of article.

This is just a small collection of sites that deal with contemporary issues.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Indian Shoes a Contemporary Story

Smith, Cynthia Leitich.
New York: HarperCollins, 2002.
Interest Level: 4-8, Reading Level 5.2

Genre: Fiction
ISBN 006029532517

The opening paragraphs give a taste of the imagery spiced with humor that flavors Indian Shoes:

“Ray and Grampa Halfmoon traipsed down the cracked sidewalks of a steel and stone city. Ray tracked Grampa’s steps, danced to the rat-a-tat-a-clang of a trash-can band, and skipped beneath the ruffling branches.

“Let’s duck in here,” Grampa Halfmoon began, “and say ‘Morning.’”

When the wind whistled into Murphy Family Antiques, Ray and Grampa whistled in with it. At the welcome mat, Grampa said “Morning” to Junior Murphy.. Ray retied his neon orange shoelaces and took a look around the store.”

In the book, Indian Shoes, Smith gives a glimpse of contemporary life through the eyes of a young Seminole-Cherokee boy living in Chicago. Ray lives with Grampa Halfmoon. She weaves the love of a grandparent and grandchild throughout the six short stories in her book. Smith brings the characters to life with a light touch and a good dose of humor.

I believe this would make an excellent read aloud to share with 4-6th graders. I like the idea of using contemporary literature to set the stage for class discussions concerning the stereotype that Native American Tribes are gone and only existed in the past. This is a great piece to talk about diversity of Native American Tribes and that they have a living and evolving culture.

Teachers might want to pair this book with the short story “Medicine Bag” by Virginia Drive Hawk Sneve from her book Grandpa was a Cowboy & an Indian and other stories.

In the book, Indian Shoes, Ray Halfmoon lives with Grampa Halfmoon.Smith connects 6 short stories weaving the love of a grandparent and grandchild throughout the stories. She gives a glimpse of contemporary life through the eyes of a young Seminole-Cherokee boy living in Chicago. Smith brings the characters to life with a light touch and a good dose of humor.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

How to Find Accurate & Authentic Stories

Integrating authentic materials is a critical piece to integrating Indian Education For All into the classroom. There are thousands of books and websites claiming to be Native American stories. A question that most educators ask is "Which ones can I rely on?" Here is an introductory list to help you decide on your selections.

The first site I would like to share with you is Oyate. Their books and resources are authentic and most are written by tribal members. I would like to highlight one of their books in particular: "A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children, edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin, AltaMira Press and Oyate, 2005. This book deals with the issue of cultural accuracy in books for children and evaluates hundreds of books for children and teenagers published from the early 1900s through 2004." - from Montana Office of Public Instruction, materials sent to school libraries.

This is a great resource for reviewing books that you currently use. They often recommend other books that might meet your curriculum goals.

Strengths of the website - Authentic, stories specific to individual tribes, resources to evaluate materials.
Weakness of the website - This site is a little cumbersome. There is no"shopping cart" to easily keep track of purchases. Note-they are hoping to upgrade their current site.