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Honoring Alaska's Indigenous Literature

Student Book Reviews: CCS620

The following book reviews are being submitted as part of the CCS 620 Critiquing Indigenous Literature for Alaska’s Children taught in the Fall 2004 by Esther Ilutsik.

The following reviews were written by students and are a reflection of their own analysis of the books. They do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Alaska Fairbanks or the Alaska Native Knowledge Network.

Most of the books reviewed by the students were recommended with an exception of a few. Those books will be noted with an NR.

Book Reviews by Kathy Abalama:

Sap’akigka by Alice N. Fitka
Egg Hunting by Marie Wassillie, Christine Kern & Margaret Beaver
The Hungry Giant of the Tundra by Teri Sloat
Kitaq by Margaret Nicolai
Berry Magic by Teri Sloat

Book Reviews by Linda Green:

Caribou Girl by Clair Rudolf Murphy
Anna’s Athabascan Summer by Arnold Greise
Frozen Stiff by Sherry Shaka
Toughboy and Sister by Kirkpatrick Hill
Goodbye My Island by Jean Rogers

Book Reviews by Bernice B. Tetpon:

A Sled Dog for Moshi by Jeanne Bashy
Andy: An Alaska Tale by Susan Welsh-Smith
Neeluk: An Eskimo Boy in the Days of Whaling Ships by Frances Kittredge
Tupaq the Dreamer by Kerry Hannah Boom NR
Kumak’s Fish by Michael Bania NR

Book Reviews by Alexander Ketzler:

First Medicine Man by Arthur Wright
The First Christmas Tree by Chief Peter John
Making My Own Trail by Howard Luke
The Girl Who Swam With The Fish by Michelle Renny
The Legacy of the Chief by Ronald N Simpson

Books Reviews by Katy Spandler:

The Red Cedar of Afognak: A Driftwood Journey by Alisha S. Drabeck and Karen R. Adams
Initiations by Virginia Frances Schwartz NR
Lucy the Giant by Sherri L. Smith NR
The Winter Walk by Loretta Outwater Cox
Unseen Companion by Densie Gooliner Orenstein NR

Book Reviews by Cate Koskey:

Favorite Eskimo Tales Retold by Ethel Ross Oliver
Svugam Unginghaatangi II St. Lawrence Island Legends II by Grace Slwooko
Arctic Memories by Normer Ekoomiak
A Kayak Full of Ghosts retold by Lawrence Millman NR
More Tales from Igloo as told by Agnue Nanogak

 

Separation Bar

Reviews By Kathy Abalama

Sap’akigka
Written by Alice N. Fitka
Illustrated by Rosalie Lincoln, Greg Lincoln, and Agnes Kairaiuak
Published by Lower Kuskokwim School District
ISBN 1-55036-504-5

Summary: A little girl asks her uncle if he would still love her regardless of what she may do.

1. Is there ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for the Native American reader?
There is no ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for the Yup’ik Eskimo or Native American reader.

2. Are the characters depicted as horrifying or abusers of animals or humans?
No, the characters are not depicted as horrifying or abusers of any living animal or humans.

3. Are the pictures of faces, clothing and housing stereotypical of Natives in general?
No, the pictures of faces and clothing are not stereotypical of Eskimos in general. Each character’s face has its own unique feature. The qaspeqs used by the characters are simple with no designs, a style that is acceptable for the Yup’ik Eskimo.

4. If it tells a story that comes from my people, does it use language that does not change the context or the meaning? In other words, does the author know exactly that what he is saying is accurate information?
The author, a Yup’ik Eskimo from the Kuskokwim area knows exactly what she is saying is accurate information. This book is about a girl who was named after a deceased loved one, in this case, after the uncle’s mother.

5. Does it treat Native life as though it were simply a normal part of human existence? Does the writing have warmth and humor, and without any particular attempt to “sound” Native? Are there any particular values that the book brings about?
Yes, the book treats the Yup’ik Eskimo life as though it were a normal part of human existence, with the addition of the importance of naming children after a deceased one in the Yup’ik Eskimo culture. The value of naming children has always created a special bond among the Yup’ik Eskimo, and it is believed that the power of naming is very great.

6. Is the information accurate on the life and language on the people, with accurate phonetic spellings?
Yes, the information is accurate on the life and language of the Yup’ik Eskimo, with accurate phonetic spellings.

7. If it is a history book, does it tell how it really was for the People without any lies?
It is not a history book, but it tells an accurate example of how Yup’ik Eskimo, in this case, an uncle and aunt treat and love their niece named after their mother.

8. If written by a non-Native, does it mention in the preface that the author talked with any members of the People he was writing about to get the facts straight?
This book was written and illustrated by Yup’ik Eskimos who are knowledgeable about the culture.

9. Are Elders valued and respected in the book?
There are no Elders in the book, but in the back, there is an acknowledgement about how Yup’ik Elders of Alaska believe that the power of naming is very great.

10. Does the book respect the culture of the people it is written about?
Yes, the book is written in good taste and respects one of the many traditional values of the Yup’ik Eskimo. I would recommend the book to anyone that would like to read about one aspect of naming in the Yup’ik culture.

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Egg Hunting
Written by Marie Wassillie, Christina Kern, and Margaret Beaver
Illustrated by Joy Shantz
Published by Lower Kuskokwim School District
ISBN 1-55036-503-7

Summary: A girl goes egg hunting with her parents, and tells the story using numbers.

1. Is there ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for the Native American reader?
There is no ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for Yup’ik Eskimos or other Native American readers.

2. Are the characters depicted as horrifying or abusers of animals or humans?
The three characters in the book are not depicted as horrifying or abusers of animals or humans. There is one page where the father shot three times, and four birds fell, however, this type of subsistence hunting is normal for Yup’ik Eskimos.

3. Are the pictures of faces, clothing and housing stereotypical of Natives in general?
The pictures of faces are somewhat stereotypical of Yup’ik Eskimos in general, but the clothing used by the characters is the norm for this type of subsistence activity.

4. If it tells a story that comes from my people, does it use language that does not change the context or the meaning? In other words, does the author know exactly that what he is saying is accurate information?
The authors know exactly what they are saying, and do not change the meaning of the story. The illustrations, with the exception of the last page, and the text are accurate for an egg hunting trip.

5. Does it treat Native life as though it were simply a normal part of human existence? Does the writing have warmth and humor, and without any particular attempt to “sound” Native? Are there any particular values that the book brings about?
Yes, the book treats the egg hunting activity that Yup’ik Eskimos participate in as though it were a normal part of their culture. There is no particular attempt to sound Native, as the Yup’ik women write about an egg hunting story using numbers in a realistic sense. The value of traveling together as a family for subsistence is brought out indirectly as the smiling faces depict in the illustrations.

6. Is the information accurate on the life and language on the people, with accurate phonetic spellings?
The information on the text is accurate for an egg hunting trip, however, on the last page where the illustration shows ten big buckets of different eggs and their location inside the boat is totally inaccurate. There is an unwritten rule that when people go egg hunting, they take all the eggs except one, and, they never take more than two buckets, so the amount of eggs found is exaggerated. In addition, in real life the bucket (s) are placed toward the back of the boat where the waves are felt the least, not in the front where the eggs can break due to bow moving up and down.

7. If it is a history book, does it tell how it really was for the People without any lies?
This is not a history book.

8. If written by a non-Native, does it mention in the preface that the author talked with any members of the People he was writing about to get the facts straight?
This book was written by Yup’ik Eskimos who most likely have went on egg hunting trips before, and have experience of what it is like.

9. Are Elders valued and respected in the book?
There are no Elders in the book.

10. Does the book respect the culture of the people it is written about?
Yes, the book is tastefully written about an egg hunting trip, an activity that is practiced yearly and is a part of the Yup’ik Eskimo culture.

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The Hungry Giant of the Tundra
Retold by Teri Sloat; Illustrated by Robert and Teri Sloat
Published by Dutton Children’s Books: New York
ISBN 0-525-45126-9

Summary: The hungry giant is tricked out of his delightful supper.

1. Is there ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for the Native American reader?
In this retelling of a Yup’ik story, there is no ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for the Yup’ik Eskimo, or any Native American reader.

2. Are the characters depicted as horrifying or abusers of animals or humans?
No, the children in the book are not horrifying, or abusers of animals or humans. There is a crane in the book that is depicted as helpful to the children as they were running away from the hungry giant.

3. Are the pictures of faces, clothing and housing stereotypical of Natives in general?
Yes, the faces of the Yup’ik children are stereotypical of Natives in general. Each character’s emotions look identical, depending on the situation of the moment. However, the girl’s qaspeqs have different colorful designs, which is the norm. The boy’s qaspeqs are plain and have no trimming, which is also the norm for boy’s style.

4. If it tells a story that comes from my people, does it use language that does not change the context or the meaning? In other words, does the author know exactly that what he is saying is accurate information?
The author mentioned that this is a Yup’ik version of several throughout Alaska and Canada. This version was from Olinka Michael, a master storyteller in the village of Kwethluk, AK. Olinka’s daughter, Lillian Michael, wrote it down in Yup’ik, and the author retold it in English for a wider audience.

5. Does it treat Native life as though it were simply a normal part of human existence? Does the writing have warmth and humor, and without any particular attempt to “sound” Native? Are there any particular values that the book brings about?
The author, Teri Sloat, did a good job of retelling this Yup’ik folklore in English. She did not attempt to “sound” Yup’ik as the story flowed through the plot, problem, and resolution. In addition to entertainment, the consequence of breaking a code of behavior, in this case, not listening to parents, was brought out in the story in a way that is easily comprehended by young readers, and could learn a lesson from (minus the hungry giant), but in other situations that could be avoided had they listened to their parent’s warnings.

6. Is the information accurate on the life and language on the people, with accurate phonetic spellings?
There is only one Yup’ik name, A-ka-gua-gan-kak, that is phonetically misspelled. It should be spelled A-ka-gua-gaan-kaaq, as it is traditionally pronounced. The retelling of the Yup’ik version of this story is accurate.

7. If it is a history book, does it tell how it really was for the People without any lies?
It is not a history book, but a retelling of a Yup’ik folktale, and does not contain any lies of this particular version.

8. If written by a non-Native, does it mention in the preface that the author talked with any members of the People he was writing about to get the facts straight?
As mentioned earlier, the author stated that this is a Yup’ik version of several throughout Alaska and Canada. Although this version was from Olinka Michael who is now deceased, Olinka’s daughter, Lillian Michael, wrote it down in Yup’ik, and the author retold it in English. Teri Sloat did not mention in the preface that she obtained permission from Lillian Michael to write the story, although she did mention that she had worked with Lillian in Bethel, Alaska.

9. Are Elders valued and respected in the book?
There are no Elders mentioned in the book.

10. Does the book respect the culture of the people it is written about?
Yes, I believe the book respects the Yup’ik culture where the story was taken from.

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Kitaq by Margaret Nicolai; Paintings by David Rubin
Published by Alaska Northwest Books
ISBN 0-88240-504-7; Juvenile Fiction

Summary: Kitaq, a five-year-old Yup’ik boy, goes on his first ice fishing trip with his grandfather.

1. Is there ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for the Native American reader?
There is no ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for Yup’ik readers.

2. Are the characters depicted as horrifying or abusers of animals or humans?
No, the characters in the book are not depicted as horrifying or abusers of animals or humans.

3. Are the pictures of faces, clothing and housing stereotypical of Natives in general?
The detailed illustrations, done in oil on canvas, are not stereotypical of Natives in general. Each character’s face is unique, and almost lifelike. Although the parka design looks stereotypical of Eskimos in general, the type of parka used during ice fishing trips accurately represents the parkas used for being in the frigid outdoors: straightforward, not fancy, and without trimmings. The qaspeq used by the mother is also illustrated in good taste, where the simple trimmings are representative of Yup’ik women qaspaks from the Kuskokwim area.

4. If it tells a story that comes from my people, does it use language that does not change the context or the meaning? In other words, does the author know exactly that what he is saying is accurate information?
The author mentioned in the back of the book that this fictional story was written to preserve stories that her Yup’ik husband from Kwethluk, Alaska, has shared as he was growing up in the village, which is the setting for the story. The story of Kitaq going on his first ice fishing trip, and the feelings that came about as he caught his first fish as well as the grandfather’s memories of his first catch, caught when he was a boy, was brought out in a way that many Yup’ik people can relate to when they take their first catch, whatever it may be. The author, who also has Yup’ik heritage, built this story on one of the cultural traditions that still exist today.

5. Does it treat Native life as though it were simply a normal part of human existence? Does the writing have warmth and humor, and without any particular attempt to “sound” Native? Are there any particular values that the book brings about?
Yes, the book accurately treats Yup’ik life as though it were a normal part of human existence where the characters are depicted as caring and loving people. In our Yup’ik culture, family is very important, where elders are respected for their wisdom and experience, and children are treasured and indulged. In this book, the value of family and the importance of each family member, young or old, are brought out in a warm, positive manner.

6. Is the information accurate on the life and language on the people, with accurate phonetic spellings?
The information is accurate on the life and language of the Yup’ik people in the book; however, there are some terms that are inaccurately phonetically spelled. I believe the boy’s name should be Kit’aq, and not Kitaq, because it is very common for a person who has a name with a stop consonant to place a stress after the letter. Another example is “Apa”, which should be spelled “Ap’a”, because of the stop consonant. “Aliimatik” should be “aliimatek”. “Apa’urluk” should be “Apa’urluq”, as the ending of “Apa’urluk” means two, not one. “Atmuk” should be “atmak”. A nice feature of the book is the Yup’ik glossary in the back of the book where definitions are given as well as how to pronounce them.

7. If it is a history book, does it tell how it really was for the People without any lies?
This is not a history book, but it gives a realistic account of Kitaq’s family living in a village before electricity, telephones and television arrived.

8. If written by a non-Native, does it mention in the preface that the author talked with any members of the People he was writing about to get the facts straight?
As mentioned earlier, the author is of Yup’ik descent, but has a full Yup’ik husband from Kwethluk. Margaret Nicolai did not mention talking with any members of Yup’ik people from Kwethluk other than hearing stories of her husband’s experiences.

9. Are Elders valued and respected in the book?
Yes, very much so.

10. Does the book respect the culture of the people it is written about?
Yes, the book is written in a way that respects our Yup’ik culture, and the roots of her husband’s culture. I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in how Kuskokwim village life was like in the 1950’s and 1960’s, and the importance placed on first catches.

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Berry Magic by Teri Sloat and Betty Huffman
Published by Alaska Northwest Books

1. Is there ridicule in the book that may cause embarrassment for the Native American reader?
There is no ridicule written in the text that may cause embarrassment for Yup’ik Eskimos. However, the book mentions of old women frowning and complaining of the dry, tasteless crowberries that grew around the village. In our Yup’ik culture, one of the values is to have a non-complaining spirit, especially about what is in our environment that we have no control human control of, such as the abundance, or lack of what grows.

It is possible that the author unintentionally illustrated the characters to appear plump, and as large people with large hands. Yup’ik people, especially the women, are small in stature, but in this book, they appear grossly large and fat. “Long ago”, people were not plump as depicted in this book.

In the book, the women’s hair is not braided, as was the usual custom “long ago”. Rather, their hair is in a ponytail, or in a bun while the main character’s hair is braided only on the front. “Long ago” as the book mentions, women kept their hair braided or in a knot and almost always used a pelatuuk for fear of losing a strand of hair that a shaman can find and place some kind of a spell using that strand of hair. According to a local elder, pelatuuks did not come into our area until the 1930’s when Ungauluk opened a store in this area.

2. Are the characters depicted as horrifying or abusers of animals or humans?
No, the characters are not depicted as abusers of animals or humans in this book. In fact, there is a picture of the girl petting a squirrel, although in real life, it is impossible as squirrels are wild in our area.

There is also a picture of two mice pushing the sewing bag as the girl took it down from a table or shelf. It is impossible for mice to be helping in this manner. Also, the mice in the book are as big as rats.

3. Are the pictures of faces, clothing and housing stereotypical of Natives in general?
Yes, the faces look identical, with slits for eyes on the characters as well as the dolls. The qaspeqs and the fur parkas look stereotypical and do not represent the uniqueness of Yup’ik designs from this area. The designs on the parkas are too large and unsymmetrical with no distinguishable design, and the alngaqs on the girl’s parka are not representative of the Yup’ik culture. There are two rows of two alngaq’s shown on the parka. In real life, there are two rows of three alngaq’s on the front and back of parkas, not counting the ones on the sleeves and elsewhere on the parka.

The mukluks shown do not have the usual trimmings. It appears that the illustrator’s sense of awareness that our Yup’ik culture has its unique style in parkas and qaspeqs was not taken into account as she illustrated the story, although she spent many years teaching in this district in rural villages starting in the BIA days.

The picture of the moon is much too large for this part of the world.

4. If it tells a story that comes from my people, does it use language that does not change the context or the meaning? In other words, does the author know exactly that what he is saying is accurate information?
In this book that is that was written with a respected Yup’ik Eskimo elder, the language used partly represents the Yup’ik Eskimos. More information is needed on what specifically the “fall feast” was. There are more reasons why women pick berries, but the way the book was written seemed to suggest that the fall feast was the main purpose for the women to be picking berries.

5. Does it treat Native life as though it were simply a normal part of human existence? Does the writing have warmth and humor, and without any particular attempt to “sound” Native? Are there any particular values that the book brings about?
While the illustrations shows the characters as valuing good relationships and working together, the way the women sounded when they spoke was not fluent in English because their speech were written in an over-simplified style. “These berries are so dry.” “These berries have no taste.” “These berries are not even worth picking!”

6. Is the information accurate on the life and language on the people, with accurate phonetic spellings?
The information on the life of the people in this quliraq, or folk tale, is written in an entertaining yet meaningful way. However, the name of the main character, Anana, is written inaccurately in modern Yup’ik phonetic spelling. The root word for feces is “ana”, and the way Anana is spelled would seem to suggest to a fluent Yup’ik reader and writer that it is a bad name. It should be spelled An’ana, which I believe the authors intended, because it is a common female name.

7. If it is a history book, does it tell how it really was for the People without any lies?
This book is not a history book, but it is a wonderful creation story of how the sweetest, juiciest berries came to grow on the tundra.

8. If written by a non-Native, does it mention in the preface that the author talked with any members of the People he was writing about to get the facts straight?
This book was co-authored by a respected Yup’ik Eskimo, and it mentions on the back of the book that this is a retelling of a very old story.

9. Are Elders valued and respected in the book?
This book mainly tells a story of a young girl who developed a plan to change the frown of the old women into smiles that involved a bit of magic. Not all old women are complainers, so this book only represents a small number of old women.

10. Does the book respect the culture of the people it is written about?
The authors of this book could have mentioned specifically what part of Alaska this story is about, so to omit information that the characters are Yup’ik Eskimos was a big mistake, rather than making it seem that the characters are of a generic Alaskan culture, if there ever is one. The illustrations are not specifically representative of the Yup’ik culture.

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Reviews by Linda Green

Caribou Girl
By Clair Rudolf Murphy

The author has written severy award-winning books, She is a teacher consultant with the Alaska State Writing Consortium, she conducts writing workshops wil students and teachers and lives in Fairbanks, with her husband and two children.

Illustrated by Linda Russell forward by Jana Harcharek
Published by Robert Rinehart Publishers, Boulder Colorado 1998

Linda Russell is an artist who lives in North Pole, Alaska. Her wildlife art has been shown in numberous exhibitions including the Anchorage Audobon Art Exhibition of Alaska Wildlife and the Wildlife and Western Exhibit in Minnesota. Her five part Native Alaskan Mythology print series was shown on the Alaska TV Artist Series on Alaska's Best online Internet magazine.

Forward comment by Jana Harcharek. Caribou Girl's story helps generate a renewed sense of trust in our traditional ways. Her journey also demonstrates my people's connection to the land, the very essence of our lives. Caribou Girl must rely on her instincts and inbred values to make decisions that will affect everyone in her world. These decisions are as difficult to make today as they must have been in earlier times. Many of my Inupiaq people believed and some still do today in Moon Man (Tatqiq) who controlled the game animals. Not as well know as the goddess Pakimna, Mistress of the Caribou. We also believed that long ago animals and humans could go back and for the between the two worlds and that shamans like Pakimna not only helped heal people, but served as contact with the animal and spirit worlds. Shamans could be male or female, though female shamans were less common that male ones. Today my people still use and study our Native language and have renewed their interest in our legends, beliefs, dancing and traditional arts. Long ago our people lived in caribou skin tents (itchalik) while following the caribou. Today most Inupiat live in permanent villages and towns. However we continue to support our subsistence culture by fishing and hunting, especially the caribou that still roam over northern Alaska

1. Does Native terms for people of certain areas fit all?
I am not sure, but the comments by Jana Harcharek, for verifiying the cultural aspects of the story, and James Nageak for reviewing the story would tell me that terms are used correctly.

2. How are the pictures illustrated?
All the pictures seemed to reach out at the reader.

3. Language Usage?
All of the language used in this book was O.K. For example the author talks about the animals, and the beliefs of the shaman. It was all positive and I feel reviewed by Inupiaq people.

4. Name Usage: Do Native names sound quite different from the normal?
Yes, but again the reviewers are Inupiaq.

5. Is all the clothing the same?
All the clothing in the pictures are made of skin, and animal furs.

6. Look for respect toward animals, land, and other people.
Respect is given to all. One of the author's on research says, "Inuit believe that the earth does not belong to them, but rather that they belong to the earth. Every object, tool, and piece of clothing was created for their survival. Traditionally the inuit honored the animal spirits that they hunted.. Hunters wore carved amulets to give them special powers. Children wer often named after deceased relatives whose qualities they shared."

7. Is the continuity of the culture represented with values, morals, and an outgrowth of the past, connected to the future?
Again because of the Inupiaq reviewers, I believe so.

8. Are ceremonies described properly?
Same answer as #7

9. Does the writer show any understanding of the relationship between material and non material aspects of life?
Comments on research done before writing the book are in Author's and Illustrator's Note . We have researched the nomadic lifestyle and myths of the northern Inuit, and the migration patterns of the caribou to create this fisctionl story of long ago. Inuit occupy a larger region of the earth than any other ethnic group. The various Inuit tribes share a common cultural and biological makeup, speak related languages and share similar stories. In traditional times they followed the caribou, which provided for many of their needs.10. Does white authority figures know better than the Native people themselves what is good for them?
No white figures are included in the story. Its told by a non native but has respect for the Native perspectives .

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Anna's Athabaskan Summer
Author - Arnold Griese
Illustrated by Charles Ragins

Arnold Griese has been involved with Athabascan people since 1951 when he began his teaching career in Tanana Alaska. He taught for five years and later joined the faculty at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, where he now lives.

Charles Ragins was born and raised in Alaska. His first experience as an art teacher in the village of Tanana. In preparation for this book , he spent time with an Athabascan family at their fish camp near Nulato. He now resides in Fairbanks.

The book was published by Caroline House Boyds Mills Press, Inc. in 1995.
It would be recommended for grades P-3.

Summary: A young Athabascan girl and her family make the annual return to their fish camp where they prepare for the long winter ahead.

11. Does Native terms for people of certain areas fit all?
No Native terms were used in this book. Except the word "athabaskan", isn't the correct spelling "athabascan". I think this book was printed before the athabascan dictionary came out.

12. How are the pictures illustrated?
On the first page of the book it says, the illustrations are done in watercolors. I thought all of the pictures of the landscape were well done. The people had slanted eyes in all of the pictures. Some of them looked more like Asians than athabascans.

13. Language Usage?
All of the language used in this book was O.K. For example the author talks about the beautiful summers, the animals, the beliefs of Grandmother, and basically living in camp. It was all positive.

14. Name Usage: Do Native names sound quite different from the normal?
None of the characters in this book had native names.

15. Is all the clothing the same?
All the clothing in the pictures are normal children and adult clothing. No native garments are included.

16. Look for respect toward animals, land, and other people.
Respect is given to all. Whenever Grandmother speaks there is a lesson in what she says. i.e. "Our people say that Raven made the world." And Anna's mother answers Anna's question about killing the fish. She says "Our people believe living things die gladly for us. But we must show respect by killing only what we need and by returning to the river fish bones and other things we cannot eat."

17. Is the continuity of the culture represented with values, morals, and an outgrowth of the past, connected to the future?
Yes the family is all inclusive of mother, father, grandmother and children. Lessons and morals are included in parents and grandparents speaking to the children.

18. Are ceremonies described properly?
There are no ceremonies described in the story.

19. Does the writer show any understanding of the relationship between material and non material aspects of life?
Yes, some people would look at camp life as not standard living, because there is no running water, or electricity. The author does not write or depict any of the camp style living in a bad way. He makes it seem happy, and hard working

20. Dose white authority figures know better than the Native people themselves what is good for them?
No white figures are included in the story. Its told by a non native but has respect for the Native perspectives .

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Frozen Stiff
By Shery Shahan

As a part of her research for this book the author spent a week camping on the shores of Russell Fjord Wilderness Area and paddled a kayak to Hubbard Glacier. Like the hero's in her story, she battled renegage icebergs and suffered snow blindness.

Jacket issustration 1998 by Wayne McLoughlin

1. Does Native terms for people of certain area fit all?
Terms such as "Tlinget Indians" and "Natives" refer to the local people.

2. Howa re the pictures illustrated?
The jacket illustration is of icebergs and two kayaker's

3. Language Usage:
Only two or three times in this book the characters refer to "Natives of the area…"

4. Name Usage: Native names sound quite different from the normal?
No native names were used.

5. Is all the clothing the same?
No illustrations except for the cover.

6. Look for respect toward animals land, other people.
The characters talk about the local animals in different areas throughout the book, and yes, whatever was said repect toward the animals and land came through very strongly. The same is for people, whether it was parents, siblings, or "local Natives", repect was used.

7. Is the continuity of the culture represented with values, morals, and an outgrowth of the past, connected to the future?
At the end of the book the characters meet a man who lives in the wilderness, with his Native wife. The ending brings a lot of events throughout the story, together. References are made about the traditional ways, subsistance living, and spiritual beliefs, and they are very well written.

8. Are ceremonies described properly?
No Native ceremonies are written about in this book.

9. Does the writer show any understanding of the relationship between material and non material aspects of life?
Yes, again at the end of the book. The two characters are young teenagers, and after meeting the man who lived in the wilderness and his Native wife, values in life are strongly written about.

10. Do white authority figures know better than the Native people themselves what is good for them/
No.

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Toughboy and Sister
By Kirkpatrick Hill
Published 1990, by Margaret K. McElderry Books in New York.
Jacket Illustration by Eileen McKeating

Kirkpatrick Hill was raised in Fairbanks, Alaska. Snow lives in Ruby, Alaska, and currently teaches in the neighboring town of Galena. She graduated from Syracuse University with majors in English and Education for the past 20 years she has been an elementary school teacher. Spending most of her time in multi-grade classrooms, or one-room schoolhouses in the Alaskan "bush".

21. Does Native terms for people of certain area fit all?
Because I was raised in Galena Alaska I am familiar with terms used in the area. All the Native terms used were appropriate.

22. Howa re the pictures illustrated?
The only illustrations are on the front and back cover. Which also reminded me of the area around home. The river, the children's faces, the log cabin.

23. Language Usage:
Use of language was very well dong

24. Name Usage: Native names sound quite different from the normal?
There were a few terms in the book, such as "clabas", which is an Indian knife, and "kiyoga" which is half-dried fish. The words are spelled the way they sound, I don't think it’s the correct native spelling.

25. Is all the clothing the same?
The only illustration on the front cover is good. It gives you a comfortable idea about normal dress in villages (not all skins and furs)

26. Look for respect toward animals, land, other people.
The language used in the book when referring to respect of animals, land and people was well done i.e."Natasha was known to all to be a medicine woman".

27. Is the continuity of the culture represented with values, morals, and an outgrowth of the past, connected to the future?
The story is about 2 young children ages 9 and 11 who live in a camp along the Yukon river alone one summer. The courage, dignity, and survival skills the two young children learned from their parents.

28. Are ceremonies described properly?
The author writes about a "village funeral" (the books starts out with the mother dying). Even that is true. She (the mother had flown to Tanana hospital to have a baby, but mother and baby die, and the funeral proceedings start) describes very well what happens in a village during a funeral. The perspective is from the children's view, and its good.

29. Does the writer show any understanding of the relationship between material and non material aspects of life?
Yes, all references to spiritual beliefs and material, and non-material aspects of life are again well written in the book.

30. Do white authority figures know better than the Native people themselves what is good for them/
No, references were made throughout the book to Grandpa's, grandmas, auntie's and uncles, and they are all respectful.

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Goodbye, My Island
By Jean Rogers

31. Does Native terms for people of certain area fit all?
Page 7 Vicky (non-Native teenage friend) says "Its just silly, were all Eskimos and where we come from doesn't matter".
I thought King Islanders were a special group.

32. Howa re the pictures illustrated?
Pictures are not illustrated well. There are pictures of puffins or pelicans which are not from the northern area. All the people look the same, cute, round faced, but they reminded me of Hawaiians or something. Also pictures of the Native people of the area crab fishing (Are there crabs in the North?)

33. Language Usage:
Again the phrase, "all Eskimo's are the same" is not right.

34. Name Usage: Native names sound quite different from the normal?
Names of the Elders referred to are only Native names such as "Ooloranna,", and one of the students name is "Wooko"/. Ooloranna is spoken of with respect through out the book. The same goes with other elders referred to.

35. Is all the clothing the same?
Yes, all the clothing illustrated is the same.

36. Look for respect toward animals, land, other people.
The story is told by a Native teenager (maybe 13 years) and she gives much respect to her culture, and her people. Not much is talked about animals. But she makes the reader feel good about how she loves her life and that people see it differently but she loves her ways.

37. Is the continuity of the culture represented with values, morals, and an outgrowth of the past, connected to the future?
I think so, again because the story is from the perspective of a young native person from the area. She is the connection to the future, and things she learns from her parents and grandparents will always be done.

38. Are ceremonies described properly?
There are no ceremonies talked about in the book. The reference to Thanksgiving and Christmas are made, but they were fun things only.

39. Does the writer show any understanding of the relationship between material and non material aspects of life?
Because the story is from the young persons perspective it gives you a warm feeling because she feels so strongly about her people and her island.

40. Do white authority figures know better than the Native people themselves what is good for them/
No, they are mostly a "sideline", and some things they do are referred to as "funny way" by the children.

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Reviews by Bernice B. Tetpon

Name of Book: A Sled Dog for Moshi Author: Jeanne Bushey
Illustrator: Germaine Arnaktauyok Year Published: 1994
Publisher: Hyperion Books for Children ISBN #: 1-56282-631-X
Recommended Grade Level: Ages 4-8 Genre: Fiction


ILLUSTRATIONS: Children from birth to three-year-old recognize specific books by their cover; label objects in books; and comment on characters in books. Five-year-olds increasingly begin to look at pictures page-by-page as if reading silently before they begin to “read to” another aloud. Some children attend to pictures as the source of the text (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Do the illustrations show all Native people looking alike or are the illustrations of people respectful (e.g., is the artwork characterizing people as childlike, out of proportion)? The book is colorful and beautifully illustrated. The boot designs are drawn in detail in the Inuit style.

 

Are the clothing styles, homes accurate for the culture the book represents? Yes the kamiks and parkas are drawn in great detail.
Is the illustrator Native American? Yes, Inuit artist Germaine Arnaktauyok is a Native of Igloolik on Baffin Island, Canada. She has illustrated children’s books, in both the English and Inuit languages. Germaine has had exhibitions of her art in Chicago, Montreal, San Francisco and Seattle.


VOCABULARY: Well-written and engaging texts that include words that children can decipher give them the chance to apply emerging skills with ease and accuracy, thereby teaching themselves new words through their relation to known words (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Are the characters using correct English or correct cultural language or interaction? Yes, the English usage is excellent. There is also an Inuit glossary near the end of the book.

Are the words used engaging the student’s interest and attention? Yes, this is a very good story of two girls – one Inuk and one non-Native – who survive a sudden snow storm in the month of May in Iqaluit. Iqaluit, which means a place with many fish is the Capital City of Nunavut and is the place where this story takes place. The two girls are picking arctic cotton flowers when the weather changes and they take shelter. It is engaging for ages 4-8.

Are the characters name’s respectful of the culture? Yes, Moshi wants a dog like her friend Jessica has but understands that dogs are work animals and not pets in the Arctic. Moshi is not an Inuit name as far as my research into the name went. Moshi-moishi in Japanese means hello so I am not sure where this name came from.

Is the interaction in the book using vocabulary that shows respect between the characters? Yes, this book would be a good example for Native and non-Native children to read together and see the example of two cultures playing and sharing a crisis in their lives together.

 

CONTENT: During book sharing with an adult, children progress from just focusing on the names of objects in the pictures to asking questions of the content in the text. Throughout the preschool period and well into adulthood individuals learn the pragmatics of their language, that is, how to use language appropriately and effectively in a social context (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Is the author Native American? No, like many non-Native authors, Jeanne Bushey was a teacher for many years in Iqaluit, the village on Canada’s Baffin Island that is the setting for this book. She was also a devoted student of the Inuit language and culture.

What value or belief is taught in this story? Sharing.

Are Elders represented in the story? No

 

How is the book portraying the knowledge of our Elders? No.

Is this story a retelling of a traditional Native story? No.

Is the person who originally told the story identified? No.

Is the person who originally told the story given credit as a co-author? No.

Is there written permission by the original author to have the story published? No, there is no need.

Is the Native person in the story portrayed as a respectful, strong person? Yes, Moshi’s father is represented as a person who went out in the blizzard to find the two girls and in the end decided that Moshi needed a dog as a pet after all.

Did the story give you an understanding of the culture the story represents? It is not really deep knowledge but enough for a child 4-8 years of age.

Would you, being representative of the culture presented in the story, be proud to read this story to the public? I would not hesitate to read this book to my grandchildren.

How did you feel after reading this book? I thought that it is wonderful when two people who know a lot about a culture get together on a story with the writing and illustrations matching the story, it really makes a beautiful book.

Would you recommend this book to be used by your school district? Yes.

Would you recommend that if approved by the school board to have the author align the story to the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools prior to being placed in the schools? Yes, the activities in the story can be aligned to the cultural standards.



I developed this checklist based on the “Unlearning” Indian Stereotype: Council on Interracial books for Children, 1841 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 and Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. I have also included some of my own questions.

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Name of Book: Andy: An Alaskan Tale Author: Susan Welsh-Smith
Illustrator:Rie Munoz Year Published: 1988
Publisher: Press Syndicate University of Cambridge ISBN #: 0-521-35535-4
Recommended Grade Level: Ages 4-8 Genre: Fiction


ILLUSTRATIONS: Children from birth to three-year-old recognize specific books by their cover; label objects in books; and comment on characters in books. Five-year-olds increasingly begin to look at pictures page-by-page as if reading silently before they begin to “read to” another aloud. Some children attend to pictures as the source of the text (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Do the illustrations show all Native people looking alike or are the illustrations of people respectful (e.g., is the artwork characterizing people as childlike, out of proportion)? All characters have colored circles on their cheeks and dots for eyes and the bodies are out of proportion.

Are the clothing styles, homes accurate for the culture the book represents? The clothes are regular western sweaters and pants. Their boots look like rubber boots. Parkas are non-descript.

Is the illustrator Native American? No.

 

VOCABULARY: Well-written and engaging texts that include words that children can decipher give them the chance to apply emerging skills with ease and accuracy, thereby teaching themselves new words through their relation to known words (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Are the characters using correct English or correct cultural language or interaction? Yes, for English. The “Words to do with Alaska” in the front section of the book defines the term Elder as a title of respect given to very old people when in truth this is a title of respect for those who pass on the knowledge of the culture – not based upon chronological age. Inuit is also used in this section – although the story takes place in Northwest Alaska, the author uses the term Inuit for Inupiat.

Are the words used engaging the student’s interest and attention? Yes

Are the characters name’s respectful of the culture? The only character with a name in the story is the dog and his name is Andy. The children play with the dog and one day he gets lost in the mountains while cross-country skiing with his owners and he is found by a neighbor who returns him to the village on a sno-go. Not much of a story line. This is typical of some historical pictures of Alaska Natives – no names just a picture of them. The author states that “Inuit” children had never seen a sheep dog – in 1988? I don’t think we are that isolated.

Is the interaction in the book using vocabulary that shows respect between the characters?Yes, for little children the dog was fascinating and the neighbor brought the dog back to the village.


CONTENT: During book sharing with an adult, children progress from just focusing on the names of objects in the pictures to asking questions of the content in the text. Throughout the preschool period and well into adulthood individuals learn the pragmatics of their language, that is, how to use language appropriately and effectively in a social context (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Is the author Native American? No, the introduction says that the author and her husband teach in an Inuit village in Northwest Arctic. I don’t know how long they were there and why they didn’t learn that the people in Northwest Arctic are Inupiat.

What value or belief is taught in this story? No.
Are Elders represented in the story? No.
How is the book portraying the knowledge of our Elders?No.
Is this story a retelling of a traditional Native story? No.
Is the person who originally told the story identified? Yes – the dog’s owner.
Is the person who originally told the story given credit as a co-author? No.
Is there written permission by the original author to have the story published? There was no need.
Is the Native person in the story portrayed as a respectful, strong person? No connection to the people to make that determination.

Did the story give you an understanding of the culture the story represents? No.
Would you, being representative of the culture presented in the story, be proud to read this story to the public? No. The people are listed as Inuit – a misrepresentation.
How did you feel after reading this book? I didn’t learn a thing.
Would you recommend this book to be used by your school district? No.
Would you recommend that if approved by the school board to have the author align the story to the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools prior to being placed in the schools? The content isn’t something that can be aligned to the cultural standards.


I developed this checklist based on the “Unlearning” Indian Stereotype: Council on Interracial books for Children, 1841 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 and Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. I have also included some of my own questions.

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Name of Book: Neeluk: An Eskimo Boy in the Days of the Whaling Ships Author: Frances Kittredge
Illustrator: Howard “Weyahok” Rock Year Published: 2001
Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books ISBN #: 0-88240-545-4
Recommended Grade Level: Ages 9-12 Genre: Fiction


ILLUSTRATIONS: Children from birth to three-year-old recognize specific books by their cover; label objects in books; and comment on characters in books. Five-year-olds increasingly begin to look at pictures page-by-page as if reading silently before they begin to “read to” another aloud. Some children attend to pictures as the source of the text (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Do the illustrations show all Native people looking alike or are the illustrations of people respectful (e.g., is the artwork characterizing people as childlike, out of proportion)? The artwork is beautifully done in oils and sketches of hunting tools and animals.

Are the clothing styles, homes accurate for the culture the book represents? Howard Rock captured the Inupiat clothing, scenery, hunting tools beautifully. The oils show the depth of evening and morning scenes.

Is the illustrator Native American? Howard Rock, an Inupiat from Point Hope, illustrated this book while living with Tom and Ellen Lopp (former teachers in Wales for 10 years) while attending the University of Washington as an art student. Howard Rock was a well known Native activist and Editor of the Tundra Times.


VOCABULARY: Well-written and engaging texts that include words that children can decipher give them the chance to apply emerging skills with ease and accuracy, thereby teaching themselves new words through their relation to known words (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Are the characters using correct English or correct cultural language or interaction? The English language is well written. There is also a glossary of Inupiaq terms.

Are the words used engaging the student’s interest and attention? The book starts with the month of July and ends with the month of June – when the whaling ships arrive – that is where the title of the story comes from. Neeluk is about 9 years old and each month he engages in activities – July, playing and pretending to spear fish in a small river on the beach that he and his friends create. In August, Neeluk and his family travel to Kotzebue to trade and while there Neeluk trades his cap for a puppy. September is the month when hunting activities include the preparation of skins for winter clothing – in the story Neeluk hopes for new winter mukluks. In October, Neeluk’s mother and grandmother begin sewing new clothing with the needle acquired from trade with a whaling ship. November is the month in which Neeluk’s dog begins training to learn how to be a team member pulling the dog sled. In December the women continue sewing while the children play outside. January through May, the men in the community, as well as the women, fish and hunt. In June the whaling ship arrives. The story has a lot of activity and talks about what the children are doing as well as what the adults do in the everyday life of the Inupiat. It is set for the age group 9-12, but as a grandmother, I truly enjoyed the engaging way the author writes about life in a small village.

Are the characters name’s respectful of the culture? Yes, Neeluk’s name is the name of a valley northeast of Wales. Other children in the Wemok, Ootenna, Konok and Weeana sound like the names from the Wales area.

Is the interaction in the book using vocabulary that shows respect between the characters?
There is great respect in the book: The author uses children at play to show how lives of children learned about Inupiat lifestyles by the boys pretending how to fish using moss as fish thrown in their own man made rivers and using their fish spears to catch the “fish.” The girls are actively sewing doll clothes out of furs that will later be useful when they are making actual clothing. Neeluk also learns how to ice fish. There are many activities of the children in the book that shows how children learn through observation and practicing the skills.


CONTENT: During book sharing with an adult, children progress from just focusing on the names of objects in the pictures to asking questions of the content in the text. Throughout the preschool period and well into adulthood individuals learn the pragmatics of their language, that is, how to use language appropriately and effectively in a social context (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Is the author Native American? The author is not Native American but she lived with her sister and brother in law (Tom and Ellen Lopp, taught in Wales approximately 1898 - 1908) as a teacher in Wales for two years. The Lopps learned the Inupiat language while there and ate and hunted the same type of food as the people of Wales. Their children also spoke Inupiat and had Inupiat names.

What value or belief is taught in this story? Neeluk and the boys he played with observed how the change in weather moved their man made river – learning how to observe weather. The boys used water proof boots in the summer and fur boots in the fall and winter – they learned the importance of hunting to gather the materials to make their clothing.

Are Elders represented in the story? Neeluk’s grandmother and grandfather live with Neeluk’s family in the story. Grandmother does sewing and cooking while Neeluk’s parents are out hunting and fishing. Neeluk’s mother also does sewing and cooking so chores are shared by the parents and the Elders.

How is the book portraying the knowledge of our Elders? The book is very respectful of the Elders. In February, Neeluk’s family had only a little walrus meat left and they were skipping the mid-day meal so that there would be food for the evening meal. A member of the village caught a polar bear that evening and grandfather told Neeluk: “Let us not forget how often the meat of a polar bear has supplied our wants during times of famine and tided us over until there was good weather for seal hunting.” When a whale was caught, the author writes: “Neeluk looked at the successful hunters, at the gigantic whale, and at the crowd of rejoicing people, he thrilled at the thought that someday he, too, would bring home a whale for his people.”

 

Is this story a retelling of a traditional Native story? The author based the stories on the lives of the Lopps and her time in Wales, Alaska. It is based upon fact but fictional characters.

Is the person who originally told the story identified? No.

Is the person who originally told the story given credit as a co-author? No.

Is there written permission by the original author to have the story published? No.

Is the Native person in the story portrayed as a respectful, strong person? Yes, throughout the story, Neeluk’s father and grandfather are strong hunters and weather observers. Neeluk’s mother is also well portrayed with her skills at ice fishing with a spear.

Did the story give you an understanding of the culture the story represents? As an Inupiat, I related to the story through the hunting, cooking and sewing activities as well as the children’s playing outside both in the summer and the winter.

Would you, being representative of the culture presented in the story, be proud to read this story to the public? This is a wonderful story for the public.

How did you feel after reading this book? I felt very positive about the author.

Would you recommend this book to be used by your school district? Yes.

Would you recommend that if approved by the school board to have the author align the story to the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools prior to being placed in the schools? Because this is a thematic book – based upon subsistence activities I think that any teacher can align the cultural standards to this story.



I developed this checklist based on the “Unlearning” Indian Stereotype: Council on Interracial books for Children, 1841 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 and Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. I have also included some of my own questions.

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Name of Book: Tupaq the Dreamer Author: Kerry Hannula Brown
Illustrator: Linda Saport Year Published: 2001
Publisher: Marshall Cavendish ISBN #: 0-7614-5076-9
Recommended Grade Level: Preschool to Grade 3 Genre: Fiction (can’t really categorize this book since it is a made up tale about Alaska Natives)


.ILLUSTRATIONS: Children from birth to three-year-old recognize specific books by their cover; label objects in books; and comment on characters in books. Five-year-olds increasingly begin to look at pictures page-by-page as if reading silently before they begin to “read to” another aloud. Some children attend to pictures as the source of the text (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Do the illustrations show all Native people looking alike or are the illustrations of people respectful (e.g., is the artwork characterizing people as childlike, out of proportion)?
Igloos are illustrated on the book cover. We do not use igloos.

Are the clothing styles, homes accurate for the culture the book represents?
The people of the Bering Sea usually made their parkas from squirrel, wolf, wolverine, and mink. Imported white Siberian reindeer fur was used for accent. Fur pants,and tasseled boots with designs made from the imported white Siberian reindeer finished the details at the top of the boots. .

The bodies of the characters are round and mummy like. Tupaq’s face is very dark. All the faces look alike.

Is the illustrator Native American? No.

 

VOCABULARY: Well-written and engaging texts that include words that children can decipher give them the chance to apply emerging skills with ease and accuracy, thereby teaching themselves new words through their relation to known words (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Are the characters using correct English or correct cultural language or interaction?

Are the words used engaging the student’s interest and attention? If its for preschool to Grade 3, the book is has many large words such as “elusive”and the story is quite lengthy.

Are the characters name’s respectful of the culture? Tupaq, the main character, is described as a ‘lazy good for nothing.’ In the Inupiat culture, where the story alludes that it comes from by the title, everyone contributes – no one is lazy.

Is the interaction in the book using vocabulary that shows respect between the characters?

I couldn’t single anything out that would characterize respect.



CONTENT: During book sharing with an adult, children progress from just focusing on the names of objects in the pictures to asking questions of the content in the text. Throughout the preschool period and well into adulthood individuals learn the pragmatics of their language, that is, how to use language appropriately and effectively in a social context (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Is the author Native American? No.

What value or belief is taught in this story? I didn’t find any value in the Inupiat culture that is represented in this story.

Are Elders represented in the story? No.

How is the book portraying the knowledge of our Elders? No.

Is this story a retelling of a traditional Native story? It is a make believe story about the darkness before Raven made the sun. It is not a traditional story.

Is the person who originally told the story identified? The author made up the story.

Is the person who originally told the story given credit as a co-author? There is no co-author.

Is there written permission by the original author to have the story published? No permission is mentioned to make up a new Inupiat story about Raven.

Is the Native person in the story portrayed as a respectful, strong person? No, Tupaq is described as lazy.

Did the story give you an understanding of the culture the story represents? No, the story is not representative of the Inupiat culture. A young boy would not be sent out to live in the cold by himself. There is no mention of a mother, father, siblings, etc., its as if Tupaq was alone in the world. If he were alone, the story would mention his adoptive parents and siblings if this story were representative of the Inupiat culture.


Would you, being representative of the culture presented in the story, be proud to read this story to the public? I wouldn’t read this story to the public. There are enough stereotypes of Alaska Natives being lazy good for nothings – the public doesn’t need to hear this story further perpetuating myths about Inupiat.

How did you feel after reading this book? I felt the author and illustrator did whatever they could to make money. I couldn’t make up a creation story and sell it to the public. As an Inupiat, this is disrespectful of the traditional creation stories.

Would you recommend this book to be used by your school district? No.

Would you recommend that if approved by the school board to have the author align the story to the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools prior to being placed in the schools? I would not recommend this story to be used in the public schools. The Inupiat or other Alaska Native children in the classroom would be stigmatized by the aggressive children and may be called ‘lazy good for nothing’ because they are Alaska Native.


I developed this checklist based on the “Unlearning” Indian Stereotype: Council on Interracial books for Children, 1841 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 and Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. I have also included some of my own questions.

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Name of Book: Kumak’s Fish Author: Michael Bania
Illustrator: Michael Bania Year Published: 2004
Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books ISBN #: 0-88240-583-7
Recommended Grade Level: Age 4 and Up Genre: Humor - written purposely to make the reader laugh! (Joke Books)



ILLUSTRATIONS: Children from birth to three-year-old recognize specific books by their cover; label objects in books; and comment on characters in books. Five-year-olds increasingly begin to look at pictures page-by-page as if reading silently before they begin to “read to” another aloud. Some children attend to pictures as the source of the text (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Do the illustrations show all Native people looking alike or are the illustrations of people respectful (e.g., is the artwork characterizing people as childlike, out of proportion)? Kumak has a large nose. His wife and children are drawn with slits for eyes. All the village people have huge noses and slits for eyes. The book was printed in Hong Kong – could this be the reason for the slits for eyes?

Are the clothing styles, homes accurate for the culture the book represents? Only one illustration shows mukluks with mukluk straps, the rest of the illustrations do not show mukluks with strings or laces. Only one pair of mukluks has the geometric calve skin design towards the end of the book. The cloth covers for the parkas are very plain. The geometric designs of rick rack are not on the parkas. Only one house is illustrated – the one that Kumak and his family are looking out of the window. It is quite modern with green paint and picture size windows.

Is the illustrator Native American? No, Michael Bania lives on the Kenai Peninsula. She lived in the Arctic for twenty years.


VOCABULARY: Well-written and engaging texts that include words that children can decipher give them the chance to apply emerging skills with ease and accuracy, thereby teaching themselves new words through their relation to known words (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Are the characters using correct English or correct cultural language or interaction? English is very well written with repetitive sentences for reading sight words.

Are the words used engaging the student’s interest and attention?
Yes.

Are the characters name’s respectful of the culture? Kumak is not a respectful name for an Inupiaq – it means lice. Aglu is the only other character named in the story – aglu means the runner shoe on a dog sled. I don’t know if this would be a respectful name or not. Kumak’s family is not named – his wife is “wife” and his children are “son” and “daughters.” It would be respectful if the family members had names also.

Is the interaction in the book using vocabulary that shows respect between the characters?
Yes, it is respectful.


CONTENT: During book sharing with an adult, children progress from just focusing on the names of objects in the pictures to asking questions of the content in the text. Throughout the preschool period and well into adulthood individuals learn the pragmatics of their language, that is, how to use language appropriately and effectively in a social context (1998, National Research Council, Preventing Reading Difficulties in Young Children).

Is the author Native American? No, the author is also the illustrator.

What value or belief is taught in this story? Cooperation.

Are Elders represented in the story? Uncle Aglu and Aana – Kumak’s mother-in-law.

How is the book portraying the knowledge of our Elders? The ability for Uncle Aglu to carve the amazing hooking stick.

Is this story a retelling of a traditional Native story? This is a tall tale – written by the author.

Is the person who originally told the story identified? No.

Is the person who originally told the story given credit as a co-author? No.

Is there written permission by the original author to have the story published? No.

Is the Native person in the story portrayed as a respectful, strong person? Yes.

Did the story give you an understanding of the culture the story represents? No.

Would you, being representative of the culture presented in the story, be proud to read this story to the public? No. All the characters do not have names. Its parallel to taking pictures of Inupiat people without putting their names in the caption.

How did you feel after reading this book? I feel that I did not learn anything about the Inupiat culture. The people are not identified as Inupiat.

Would you recommend this book to be used by your school district? No.

Would you recommend that if approved by the school board to have the author align the story to the Alaska Standards for Culturally Responsive Schools prior to being placed in the schools? It could be aligned but I would not recommend this book be placed in the library because it is not authentic.


I developed this checklist based on the “Unlearning” Indian Stereotype: Council on Interracial books for Children, 1841 Broadway, New York, NY 10023 and Through Indian Eyes: The Native Experience in Books for Children. I have also included some of my own questions.

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Reviews by Alexander Ketzler

First Medicine Man
Arthur Wright
O.W. Frost, Publisher
Anchorage, Alaska 1977
Age range of readers: From the ages of three and up, but some stories may not be suitable until and older age.

Is this story fiction or a non-fiction story?
The stories were written around 1925 to 1925 while the author was working as an Episcopal priest at Tanana Crossing (Tannacross), Alaska. The stories are based on Athabaskan legends, so this Western society and it people would probably view this as fiction. But, the Indigenous peoples of the Interior of Alaska would consider these stories to be a part of our history in the time line of our creation stories.

Is this story based upon cultural, and/or Indigenous knowledge(s)?
Yes they are, the stories are somewhat different from our stories of the Traveling Man. In his case as he came from below Tanana, Alaska they have there own twists and takes on the story that differ from ours. However, the story line and the characters that he writes about parallel our creation story of the Traveling man.

Is this story an infringement on cultural intellectual knowledge(s)?
In this case I would say that it is not, and then again it is. These stories were written over seventy-five years ago as a supplement to the Episcopal Church issues of the Churchman. They were compiled at the request of his sons that these be put into a book format and published in a book form. The person that they employed for this task was Joan E. Wies, and after the stories were compiled they were sent to a publisher in Anchorage by the of O. W. Frost. The publisher took it upon himself to secure the copyright to the book. When the first publication sold out the sons then requested a second edition only to discover that they could not because it would be a copyright infringement to the copyright holder.

Who is the author?
The author of the story comes from somewhere around Kokrines, or Louden Alaska. He was born at Tanana, Alaska at Our Lady of Our Savior Mission. He was then raised and educated by an Episcopal Priest by the name of Prevost, and got a formal education in the U.S.. Upon his return he helped write the Denatla, and the Culic for the church and began traveling the Interior. He finally settled in Tanancross and then retired in 1935 in Nenana, Alaska.

What is the author’s background, i.e.: reliability, credibility?
From what I have already mentioned I feel that he was well qualified and justified in writing The First Medicine Man as he wrote these stories well before the complicated issues of copyright and patent laws have surfaced, or come to light. I am sure this is an issue that his sons and heirs wish that they had been appraised of.

What are the character(s), theme(s), and plot(s) of the story?
The characters themes and plots of the story presented in this book reach to the farthest reaches of time and history that relates in detail the origins of our historical presence on this planet. The themes and plots with their characters that includes of course men and women, and also the vast diverse array of animals that are components of our human psyche.

What is the purpose of the story?
This answer can be found in the preface of the book, to cite it verbatim would be the right thing to do, but for the wrong purpose. I do not want to empower or enrich the copyright holder. The forward in the book states: “This is the tale of Yobaghu-Talyonunh as it is told during the long winter nights when the old men of the village feel disposed to entertain. The tale is hardly known nowadays by the youth of the tribes, who do not have much interest in it. But it is a story that has been handed down by word of mouth from generation to generation, told by the elders with the object of passing on to their successors the customs of the tribes and to explain many things-the natures of the different animals, how the canoe is made, the snowshoe fashioned; why silver-tip is dreaded, the wolverine outlawed. While the tale is not the same among all the tribes, it is told of the same hero among all the Indians of Alaska.
Yobaghu-Talyonunh was the first medicine man, and a good one. All that he did was in the welfare of man. With a few exceptions, he subdued all creatures to his will and those exceptions would have been overcome but for some trickery or conspiracy of the elements. Much of what follows is strange and cannot be explained, but what has been possible to piece together is given here. Arthur R. Wright”

Are the characters in the story real people?
Yes, I personally believe that they are.

Are the illustrations/photographs accurate and/or appropriate?
Yeas they are! They are illustrated by a well know Alaskan artist by the name of Bill Engles who had married a local Minto woman by the name of Betty Titus. Bill is a very well respected artist with many paintings in museums and local banks, and in local millionaire’s homes.

Are there stereotypical and demeaning portrayals in the story?
No!

What was the overall feeling of this book? Did you like/dislike this story?
I feel that this book was well written, and the story line of The First Medicine Man is somewhat like the classics of Greek mythology. There are parables and life observations of both animals and humans that make up the components of their psyche.

How did this story make you feel?
I was somewhat surprised that some one from so long ago would take the time to sit down and write about Athabaskan legends. I was impressed at the quality of the work as he encompassed all of the major figures in the creation story that basically fits the story of our story The Traveling Man.

Was the story respectful of its subjects?
Yes the stories are very respectful.

Was the language, vocabulary, used correctly?
Yes, and one can tell that there is a hint of a village vernacular in his writings.

What was the message to the readers?
To tell the younger generations the creation stories at that time were beginning to disappear by the cessation of storytellers to the younger generations, and to perpetuate and encourage people to carry on the tradition of oral story telling.

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The First Christmas Tree
Ts’eba Tthadala
The young Spruce Tree
An aboriginal Athabaskan Christmas story
By Chief Peter John of Minto
Told in the Lower Tanana Athabaskan
Alaska Native Language Center
1991

Is this a fiction or a non-fiction story?
As Peter John states in the preface of the book, he said, “People should know that the Natives had Christmas three or four thousand years ago.” As I have stated in previous reviews this story is considered to be true by the Athabaskan’s of the Lower Tanana River. However, people outside of our culture may not consider this non-fiction story.

Is the story based upon cultural, and/or Indigenous knowledge(s)?
Yes the story is based on cultural and Indigenous knowledge’s. The story I have been told ranged from Chena, Alaska, downriver to the old village of Cos’chaget above Tanana. It is important to note that the story has subtle changes in each community that this story has been related.

Is this story an infringement on cultural intellectual knowledge(s)?
In this case I would say that it is not. First, Peter John has secured copyright on this story. Second, the story that came from Minto is different from the version that is told in Nenana. Thirdly, the people of Minto, Alaska have not voiced disapproval against Peter John telling the story to the Alaska Native Language Center, and the Cultural Heritage and Education Institute.

Who is the author?
The author is Peter John of Minto, Alaska; he had settled in Minto in the 1920’s after marring a woman from Cos’chaget, before that he was raised in Saint Marks Mission.

What is the author’s background, i.e.: reliability, credibility?
It is said that his family originally came from somewhere around Circle, Alaska. After living in Minto for a considerable length of time he began speaking for the Minto people and they liked the way he talked for them, so they made him their chief.

What are the character(s), theme(s), and plot(s) of the story?
The main character is of the Stickman, how the stickman came to a couples place because it was starving and took Caribou meat from their cache. Then the man caught the Stickman taking food and stopped the Stickman by grabbing it around the waist. Although they could not understand each other the man promised not to harm the Stickman, and gave him Caribou meat because he could tell it was starving. They befriended each other and the Stickman stayed with the couple and helped pack Caribou meat when it regained his strength. When it came time for the Stickman to leave he took the man that had helped him and showed him a young spruce tree. The Stickman instructed the man to return to it in the fall time, and he said, “When I have died, then this spruce will wither up and die.” The stickman then left the couple; in the next winter the man returned to the spruce tree to find it all decorated with beads, and dentalium shells. This went on for a couple of winters until the man came to the tree and found that it had died, and so he knew that the Stickman had also died. Because of the Stickman’s gifts of beads and shells, the man became a very wealthy chief.

What is the purpose of the story?
The story has a parable to treat spruce trees with respect because they will be good to you. When one is out hunting or camping in the woods and they gather spruce boughs to sleep on, if one picks the best and softest boughs it will bring you luck.

Are the characters in the story real people?
To us they are historical figures, and to this very recent day they are some in the area who have even claimed to see a Stickman. But, this story would probably be alluded to fiction or lore by those of this dominant society.

Are the illustrations/photographs accurate and/or appropriate?
Yes, there is only one illustration on the front of the cover of the book. It is as drawing of a young spruce tree all decorated with beads and shells.

Are there stereotypical and demeaning portrayals in the story?
I am happy to say no, there is not!

What was your overall feeling of this book? Did you like/dislike the book?
My overall feeling is that I liked the book. It was interesting to me of the differences in the rendition of their (Minto) version of the story.

How did the story make you feel?
I liked the fact that a person from a village can write about stories and publish them, and retain the copyrights to the story without it creating friction within the community.

Was the story respectful of its subjects?
Yes, the story is very respectful of its subjects.

Was the language, vocabulary, used correctly?
For the most part yes, however there is in this book a translation into the Lower Tanana dialect that is written in linguistic script that was confusing to me when I tried to read it. The linguistic script at the bottom of each sentence did not match the sentence structure in the English language. They did not match it verbatim as we speak in what is called post-operative speech, much like the Russian language.

What was the message to the readers?
Be good to others, man, Stickmen, animals, and the spruce trees and in the future you will be rewarded
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My Own Trail
Howard Luke
Alaska Native Knowledge Network
Edited by Jan Steinbright Jackson
1998

Is this a fiction or non-fiction story?
This is a non-fiction story of the recounting of the life and times of the author Howard Luke.

Is this story based upon cultural, and/or Indigenous knowledge(s)?
Yes, it is a story that is based on cultural and Indigenous knowledge’s, and in my opinion there could have been no better author to write about this story as this is basically an autobiography of Howard’s life in his own words.

Is the story an infringement on cultural intellectual knowledge(s)?
I personally feel that the story does not. Howard Luke is telling the story of his life and life’s events and I believe that he is entitled to do so.

What is the author’s background, i.e.: reliability, credibility?
Howard Luke was born at Linder Lakes, in the early years of his life he lost his father; it was soon after the death of his father his family moved to his mother’s home village of Chena, Alaska. Howard then learned about the area of Chena and the inhabitants both Indigenous and immigrants. He has lived there at the old village site for the remainder of his life. Unfortunately, he is the last sole remaining Indigenous inhabitant. He has in the mean time created a culture camp at his home site that is used by the University of Alaska, and various education departments throughout the United States.

What are the character(s), theme(s), and plot(s) of the story?
The book is dedicated to his mother Susie Silas, and stepfather John Silas. He talks of his early years when they hunted and trapped in the outlying Chena area, and the hardships that they all endured. He talks of the early years spent at Fairbanks, Alaska and learning how to work for wages at various places around the town.

What is the purpose of the story?
I personally believe that this book is Howard Luke’s attempt to document the knowledge that he holds, and also is trying to pass on his information on his family’s genealogy as he has a big extended family. He is generously giving them his story and information. As a strange coincidence as I was writing this paper, Anthony Brown who is the great-great-grandson of Howard’s grandmother who for the first time saw pictures of his family, and I have given him my copy of Howard’s book.

Are the characters in the story real people?
I have not come across a fictional character while I was reading the book. In another coincidence this summer while I was cutting fish at camp a woman got out of a car and said “does anyone here know me?” I said “well, who are you?” She said, “I am Mabel Andrews!” I told her that I have heard of her and her family and that I knew her family was from Chena, and related to me by my step-great-grandfather. She went on to say that she read Howard’s book and was suppressed that he had written about her. She had a small criticism about the book and I said to her, “Now, now, Mabel he can say and write about whatever he wants, and when we sit down to write ours, we will do the same thing.”

Are the illustrations/photographs accurate and/or appropriate?
Yes, they were! And I might add that the photographs and illustrations gave a lot of merit to the book as he has photographs that span over a hundred year span.

Are there any stereotypical and demeaning portrayals in the story?
There is only one instance where that is the case, and he carefully alludes to it to himself, when he was talking of his drinking days.

What was your overall feeling of the book? Did you like/dislike the book?
I very much enjoyed the book and my only regret is that I felt it was too short. Howard has a wealth of information and stories, and perhaps in the future he will write more.

How did the story make you feel?
The story has given me a sense of history and a feeling of belonging. There were a lot of areas that he could expound on and elaborate more. However, I do see him every once in a while, and I always try and talk to him and ask him questions.

Was the story respectful of its subjects?
Yes, for the most part he was very respectful of his subjects in the book, save for himself in certain places, pages 83-87.

Was the language, vocabulary, used correctly?
Yes, they were all used correctly and there was also a hint of village vernacular throughout the book that really encapsulated Howard’s style.

What was the message to the readers?
The message that I got out of the book was that everyone is able to make their own trail. He gives encouragement to do so. The saying that “One had better make something out of life, or life will make something out of you,” rings true to this book.

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The Girl Who Swam With the Fish
Alaska Northwest Books, 1999
Retold by Michelle Renner
Illustrated by Christine Cox
Ages 7 and up

Is this a fiction or non-fiction story?
This story is based on a Kuskokwim Athabaskan legend, that is retold by the author who got the story from a published collection of stories told by an elder of the area Miska Deaphon of Nikolai, Alaska entitled Nikolai Hwch’ihwzoya’, 1980. The story would be considered fiction by westerner’s standards, but most likely a real life event by the reporter of the story.

Is the story based upon cultural, and/or Indigenous knowledge(s)?
Yes it is, because the material was first collected and produced by the National Bilingual Materials Development center. The stories were then translated by Betty Petruska and edited and proofread by Ray Collins an anthropologists that resides in the area.

Is the story an infringement on cultural intellectual knowledge(s)?
Yes, I believe that this is the case because when I read the introduction to the book Nikolai Hwch’ihwzoya’, there was a concern that oral story telling was disappearing in their village and they wanted to preserve them by documenting them in a printed form both in the Kuskokwim dialect and in English. There is also a mission statement in the introduction that reads, “Now-a-days story telling is rarely done in the village of Nikolai. There are still a few people that remember the stories, such as those recorded in this book, but they do not tell them. It is, therefore, the hope of all the people who assisted in the preparation of this book that the people of Nikolai will once again find a renewed interest in the telling of their stories.” The introduction further states: “The old need for entertainment and remembrance. The young need them for education and the improvement of their understanding of their cultural heritage. To allow these stories, and others which are yet to be collected and preserve, to disappear, would be to facilitate the great cultural erosion that is currently plaguing all the Native villages of the state. We must not allow this to happen, for the saddest story any one could ever tell any group of people who lived on this, or any other planet, would be that there are no more stories to tell. Hopefully, this collection and its study guide will help to preserve the stories of the Nikolai people.”

Who is the author?
According to the short bio at the back of the book it states, “Writer Michelle Renner has taught elementary school in Alaska in a small village, Kongiganak, as well as in Kenai and Anchorage. The Girl Who Swam With The Fish is her first children’s book. She lives with her husband and two sons in Eagle River, Alaska.”

What is the author’s background, i.e.: reliability, credibility?
Other than her introduction in the back of the book, the only credibility is that she has taught in a remote village. To answer this question to the best of my ability I searched the web and found reviews of the book. One such site claimed this story was “based upon a Yupik story.” For another point of view there is a review that reads in amazon.com:

“Grade 2-4?In this retelling of an Athabascan legend, a girl waiting for the salmon to return slips by accident into the river, and, changing into a salmon herself, is swept to sea. Living with the ocean kings for years, she learns about their preferences: the salmon will return only to families with clean racks, sharp cutting knives, and proper drying methods. When she has matured enough to journey up the river, she rejoins her family and tells them what she has learned, and they always have fish. The cultural importance of this story does not, alas, guarantee an exciting plot. The moment of the girl's return to human form is passed over in an anticlimax, and the narrative ends weakly. It is hard for non-Athabascans to see the point. The illustrations, competent and sometimes clever (e.g. the girl's salmon-shaped shadow in the last picture), also lack excitement. The artist's palette is limited to the palest hints of ochre, blue, and green. The quasi-woodcut style provides strong linear interest, but also accentuates faults of draftsmanship. This well-meaning but dull effort demonstrates that not every native legend offers transcultural wisdom? Patricia (Dooley) Lothrop Green, St. George's School, Newport, RI
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.”

What are the character(s) theme(s) and plot(s) of the story?
The story by Michelle Renner is about a girl who got to close to the river bank, fell in, and turned into a fish that went to the ocean for four years and then returned. In doing so she reported to her people that the fish would only return to rivers where the people kept their camps clean and knifes sharp. But when comparing this story to the original text it looses subtle nuances of the original story.

What was the purpose of the story?
In the original story as compared with the children’s book, the purpose of the story is to be respectful of the salmon keeping fish camps clean and knifes sharp. Also, there is a certain way to preserve the cut salmon by placing them on the drying racks skin side out so that they dry correctly.

Are the characters in the story real people?
As I have mentioned before they probably are as to the perspective of the original story teller, but not to the people of this dominant western society.

Are the illustrations/photographs accurate and/or appropriate?
For the most part yes, the clothing was pretty much appropriate to the times as far as the moose skin clothing. But there was beadwork on them that seems out of place for the story timeline. As for the illustrations of the King Salmon and the salmon that she turned into, they did not look like any salmon I have ever seen before. They looked more like trout or Dolly Varden to me.

Are there stereotypical and demeaning portrayals in the story?
For the most part no, other than the stereotypical ‘Athabaskan beadwork’ was on clothing where at that time it would have been more appropriate to have quill work on the clothing. Also I would mention that the dentalium shells on her person were basically indistinguishable

What was your overall feeling of this book? Did you like/dislike the book?
I really enjoyed the original story by Miska Deaphon; the story by Renner was not all that bad. I could tell she took great pains not to copy, or infringe on the original story.

How did this story make you feel?
Mad, to coin a phrase by Annie Pavilla, “It’s just another cultural rip off!” When comparing the original to the published story it leaves a lot of information and story lines out of the published works. It seems that writers like this were not the intentions of the originators of the collected materials from the elder’s interviews and publications.

Was the story respectful of its subjects?
Yes.

Was the language, vocabulary, used correctly?
To fit the story line, yes.

What was the message to the readers?
The life cycles of the salmon, and to keep your fish camp clean, and always keep sharp fish knives.

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Legacy of the Chief
Author, Ronald N. Simpson
2001, Publication Consultants
Estimated range: seventh through twelfth grades, adult

Is this a fiction or a non-fiction story?
The author dedicates the book to his great-grandfather Chief Nicolai of Taral who witnessed the coming of the exploitation of the Kennicot copper lode, and the coming of the railroad. There is no evidence that this book is factual in the light that there is no bibliography, works cited, or references. He also dedicates the book to his grandfather, “whose Native ancestry tied me directly to the world of the Athabaskan people who are the children of the earth.”

Is the story based upon cultural, and/or cultural intellectual knowledge(s)?
In light of the fact that Chief Nicolai was a well know historical figure in the past, well respected and his story is passed down from generation to generation. This is because he had ten children, one daughter and nine sons that ranged from Chena, Alaska to Kenai. The story that he purports to tell is the story of my great-great-grandfather. Unfortunately he talks very little about him in the entire book other than to directly quote Chief Nicolai in 1910, I don’t know how he accomplished this. He then creates a fictional character by the name of Johnny Gakona Nicolai Gadanski that becomes the main focus of the book.

Is this story an infringement on cultural intellectual knowledge(s)?
This would depend on the direct relatives that you would ask, in reading the book I was hoping that he would fill in some gaps that I have concerning our family until it became apparent to me that he did not know of his family tree very well.

What is the author’s background, i.e.: reliability, credibility?
The author claims to be Athabaskan, but after reading the book it was obvious to me that he was not very connected to his history, language, or his family history. For reliability he claims to be writing the history of his people but when he writes about them is in a maligning way. As for credibility he claims to be an authority on the history and construction, preservation of the Kennicot Mine.

What are the character(s), theme(s) and plot(s) of the story?
This is confusing because he claimed to be writing about the history of his people, but all he talks about are non-Native peoples and their conversations until the fictional hero of his story actually gets a job at the Kennicot Mine in spite of the fact that he is Native. He then champions the fact that he was able to get two other Natives jobs at the mine in the face of overt hostility and racism.

What is the purpose of the story?
The real purpose of this book when I read it was to explain the history of the CRNW Railway. The author also claims that this book is the history of his people, but judging from the contents he writes ninety five percent about the railroad and ten percent of his people. When he does mention his people it is so shocking on how he portrays them.

Are the characters in the story real people?
Yes they are factual historical figures such as Chief Nicoli and his family. But, they are totally fictionalized in the story by their made up dialog. I mean how can you write an in depth conversation that took place for example in 1910?

Are the illustrations/photographs accurate and/or appropriate?
No, first of all, the photo of Chief Nicoli on the cover page is not Chief Nicoli. Most all of the other photographs of the Native subjects are not identified save for a few. But the other entire historical photo’s of the mine and railroad are described in great detail.

Are there stereotypical and demeaning portrayals in the story?
I found too many. About thirty -two to be exact, for example, pg.204, 213, 220, 231, 237, 253, 260, 279, 281, 283, 321, 322, 327, 331, 353, 375, 442, 472, 485, 621, 703, 715, 729, 731. In the story the main characters that are Native only have sexual relations with prostitutes.

What was your overall feeling of this book? Did you like/dislike the book?
This book made me sick to my stomach, it also came to me that not only does the Indigenous community have to be wary of how the greater society portrays us. We have to now be vigilant to the fact that there are people within Indigenous communities that do the same thing. I was shocked and disappointed in this book, and I did not like it at all.

How did this story make you feel?
I felt dirty and ashamed that a distant relative would write such racist and stereotypical portrayals of his own family and history and heritage.

Was the story respectful of its subjects?
To the white American subjects he was, but not to his own people.

Was the language, vocabulary, used properly?
For the white American subjects he did, but for his own people he did not. I stand by my statement that the syntax and structure of the language is one that we do not use.

What was the message to the readers?
This is a million dollar question, and I was confused. What is the message to the readers? He advertised this book as the history of his people and barely mentions them in the 779 pages that he wrote. When he did mention his people and family he wrote such derogatory and defaming statements about them, many overtly racist, stereotypical and maligning, that I feel that he defeated the purpose in writing this book. Historically, genealogical, and family history written in his words are not a peoples pride and honest portrayal of a people but, simply a betrayal.

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Book Reviews by Katy Spangler

The Red Cedar of Afognak: a Driftwood Journey
by Alisha S. Drabek and Karen R. Adams. Illustrated by Gloria N. Selby. Native Village of Afognak, 2004.
28 pp. Ages 8-14

The Red Cedar of Afognak is an informational picture book. A short story ties together a wealth of information about Afognak Village, its people and natural history. The story centers on a huge log that two little boys found in the forest near their village. Their apaa tells the story of the log, weaving in knowledge about the tides, the natural vegetation, and the history of Afognak’s people. A full color watercolor painting fills each right hand page, while the text and other “information bites” cover the left hand pages. Schematic drawings, maps, a tide table and Alutiq words are found on each two page spread. The log is red cedar, a tree that doesn’t grow on Afognak or Kodiak Island. It is as big across as a boy is tall, and must have arrived inland on Afognak on a tidal wave many years ago. As Apaa recounts what happened to he and his family in 1964 when a huge tidal wave swept over Afognak Village, he reminds his grandchildren that the Alutiq people have survived many disasters and yet remain strong people.

Is the story free of negative stereotypes, false language, comic or crass illustrations and other demeaning stereotypes?
Yes. The people in the story, apaa and two boys, speak natural English sprinkled liberally with Alutiq words, which are defined nearby. The illustrations are somewhat primitive. A beautiful full-page portrait of apaa, who is a recently deceased Afognak elder, is the best illustration.

Does the story help the reader develop understanding about the human condition? Is it good literature?
While the book was modeled after a classic children’s picture book Paddle to the Sea, this book is not really good literature. It is somewhat forced in its effort to cover a vast amount of cultural and natural history, so it comes off as didactic. It does tell an inspiring story about the strength of the Alutiq people, however the book tells the reader this rather than allowing the reader to infer it.

Does the story show history, culture and spirituality accurately?
Since an elder told the story, I have to infer that his information is accurate.

Is the language beautiful?
What is interesting about the language in this book is that much of the information passed on takes the form of a dialogue between the grandfather and the two little boys. Apaa asks them a question. In many cases they answer with “school” types of answers. Then apaa adds his own cultural interpretation of the information. The language includes about 30 Alutiq words right in the text. This makes the text very rich in language teaching, but difficult for a non-speaker to read aloud without preparation. Pronunciation guides and definitions of the words are provided.

Does the story develop a range of characters?
This story does not develop individual characters, and it’s really not supposed to. It is not fiction.

Will children want to read or listen to this story?
I doubt if many children would pick this up on their own. I think it would work best as a read aloud by a well-informed teacher. The Village of Afognak published the book, obviously as a teaching tool. It is printed with a soft cover and thick matte pages. It has the look of a self-published book.

Are the author and/or illustrator qualified to make this book?
Alisha Drabek is Alutiq and lives in Kodiak. Her co-writer, Karen Adams is an archaeologist. The illustrator, Gloria Selby is Alutiq and was raised in Afognak until the tsunami destroyed the village.

Does the story give children something to think and talk about?

The story is very interesting in that the red cedar provides a mystery from which to approach the history of the village. The solution to the mystery is approached both via storytelling and Western science. A skilled teacher could ask the children what their hypotheses about the log are prior to reading the book.

Does the local Native community approve of the telling of this story?
Yes. The names of 12 village elders and the 12 members of the Village of Afognak Tribal Council are listed at the back of the book. Additionally, other experts such as linguists, teachers and scientists are listed. Obviously, committee wrote this book.

The book is available from The Next Page Bookstore, 3833 East Rezanof Drive, Suite B, Kodiak, AK 99615. The owner, Melony Lechner can be reached at nextpagekodiak@gci.net. When I called her to order the book, she was just planning a book signing, and was able to send me an autographed copy.

Last summer, I was able to listen to a presentation by Alisha Drabek and Gloria Selby. At that time, they just had the page proofs, but they read it aloud and discussed the years of time it took to put the book together.

I personally applaud the efforts of the writers, illustrator and the village in preparing this book. It is a rich addition to the cultural material available in the schools in Afognak and Kodiak. This book will be a source of pride for the village, and a resource for the children of the area. I hope every teacher in Kodiak buys the book and shares its information with her students.

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Initiation by Virginia Frances Schwartz

Schwartz, Virginia Frances. Initiation. Markham, Ontario: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 2003. 268 pages ISBN: 1-55005-053-2 available in hardback and paperback

Initiation is a young adult novel set in fifteenth century coastal British Columbia among a tribe of Kwakiutl people. The protagonists are young teenagers Nana and Nanolatch, twin children of the group’s chief, and a shaman’s daughter, Noh, a slave captured during a raid on a Salish village. The central conflict of the story is Nana’s coming of age during a time of famine for her tribe. While Nanolatch undergoes initiation rites to become a man and succeed his father, Nana is conflicted about who is she, and why she should be made to marry a man chosen for her by her father. Compounding the issues of famine and coming of age is Noh, the slave girl of uncommon wisdom and sensitivity who senses Nana’s conflict and simultaneously falls in love with Nanolatch.

The complex story is told in the voices of the three teenagers. The author used archaic and dreamlike language in an attempt to represent the spirituality of the teenagers, however, the effect created is confusing and unrealistic. She also borrows the traditional indigenous story of transformation to resolve the story. The theme of growing up and realizing who you are is compounded with issues of following family protocol, disobedience and the promise of romantic love.

This young adult novel raises many issues of concern about its appropriateness for readers ages 12 to 16, especially for indigenous children in Alaska and Canada.

1. Is the story free of negative stereotypes; false language, comic or crass illustrations and other demeaning stereotypes that would make an indigenous child feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or ashamed?
Initiation contains many stereotypes and other literary devices that are problematic. Here are a few examples that illustrate story elements that might make an indigenous child feel uncomfortable:

-Nana and Nanolatch’s tribe carries out a raid on an innocent Salish village, killing the men, dispersing the women and children, and taking a slave. The raid is violent and bloody. The treatment of Noh, the slave, is at times cruel and harsh. While it is true that Pacific Northwest Coast Indians did have slaves and did have capacity for warring, these actions are central to this story.
-People are compared to salmon: a grandmother is “wide and full, like a salmon feeding long years at sea” (page 29.) Noh is “narrow and lean like a fish skeleton, her skin bark browned” (page 58.)
-The language is often convoluted and oddly constructed. I believe that this was a mode the author was trying to use to convey a past, more “spiritual” time, such as this “sentence” found on page 62: “Nowhere to breathe in the smoggy place, except as high up as I can climb, where the air is clear, looking down over the water.” In many instances, the author reverses the normal order of English words in sentences like this from page 226 “Out I push my arms from their bindings.” The effect of this language is that it’s false and pretentious.
-The term “fishwife” is used to describe the women who cut fish. This word is pejorative in English.

2. Does the story help the reader develop understanding about the human condition? Is it good literature?
The story does illustrate the pains of coming of age; however, the terms are those of modern westerners. Issues are developed about feelings of romantic love, separation from family, rebelliousness, gender expectations and distancing from parents. No one can judge if these issues existed in pre-contact Pacific Northwest adolescence, however, they seem false to me. It’s as if the author dropped today’s teenager into these characters that were supposed to have lived 560 years ago.
The author obviously has attempted to write a literary young adult novel, however, the problems with language, plot complexity and point of view make the book seem pretentious rather than literary.

3. Does the story show history, culture and spirituality accurately?
The history presented in this book is based on what archaeologists have found, and what nineteenth century anthropologist Franz Boa and photographer Edward Curtis documented. The rest is pure speculation.

4. How does the language help tell the story?
As mentioned above, the language is strange and seems to be too strangely constructed, flowery and literary to convey this story. The language is full of simile, description and impression. The result is more like poetic language from a nineteenth century romantic poet than that of teenagers. Since these people had a strongly developed oral tradition, perhaps it is acceptable to surmise that their language was ornate, however it simply doesn’t read well, and annoys the reader rather than captivates her.

5. Does the story develop a range of characters?
The three teenagers are fully developed characters. The twins’ parents, uncles and grandmother are flat characters with stereotypical traits: the father, a “chief,” is strong, narrow-minded and rigid, the mother is passive, the uncle is warlike, and the grandmother is wise and caring.

6. Will children want to read or listen to this story?
This book has not been successful, and is out of print as a hardback in one year. It is still in print in paperback. I was able to find one review, from School Library Journal, which called it “inaccessible.” I agree. I can’t imagine a teenager reading it. As it was, I struggled with boredom and annoyance as I read it.

7. Is the author and/or illustrator qualified to make this book?
I met the author, Virginia Schwartz, last year at the IRA convention. She is a white woman, of Canadian birth, now living in New York City. She has won awards for her previous novels for young people. She is certainly qualified to write young adult novels, however, her authorship of this novel is informed only by speculation.

8. Does the story give young people something to think and talk about?
Most teenagers are concerned with issues of separation, finding one’s own path in life, questioning authority, leaving childish ways and with finding love. There is no question that Initiation deals in great detail with these issues.

What concerns me most about this novel, however, is how Nana resolves her issues. After all of her angst and soul searching, her resolution to her problem is to dive into the river where the salmon run and transform into a salmon, thus sacrificing herself to save the lives of her village. A story that is presented as fiction suddenly becomes the traditional indigenous story of “The Girl Who Swam with the Fish,” which apparently is part of Pacific Northwest Coast tradition.

If we accept the entire story as a legend or myth, this is a satisfactory conclusion. However, since the story has adopted the attributes of fiction, with characters showing modern concerns and issues, the resolution to Nana’s angst is suicide. This is an unacceptable resolution for any teenager, and in light of the high rate of adolescent suicide in Alaska and the North, this is simply a bad model, and the book is entirely inappropriate.

9. Does the local Native community approve of the telling of this story?
The author cites Judge Scow, a Kwakwaka’wakw elder, as an “insightful reviewer,” as well as the U’mista Cultural Society and several other First Nations people who assisted her on the book.

10. Is this a good book for Alaska’s indigenous children?
No, I would never recommend this book.

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Lucy the Giant by Sherri L. Smith.

Smith, Sherri L. Lucy the Giant. Random House, 2002. 217 pages. ISBN: 0-440-22927-8. Available in hardback and paperback

Lucy the Giant is a young adult novel about a 15-year old Sitka girl who runs away from home and ends up commercial crabbing out of Kodiak. Lucy’s home life is awful: her mother is absent and her father is a mean drunk. Lucy craves her father’s love and rarely gets it, so when she finds a stray dog, she pours all her love into the dog. The dog dies shortly thereafter, and Lucy is distraught. Mistaken for an adult because she is so tall, she ends up on a plane to Kodiak where she wins a drinking contest that lands her a job as crew on a crab boat. Lucy proves herself to be strong and brave, and makes good friends on the boat, but in the end, she is found out. Lucy returns to Kodiak with more self-confidence and a desire to finish high school and get out of Sitka and on to college.

1. Is the story free of negative stereotypes, false language, comic or crass illustrations and other demeaning stereotypes that would make an indigenous child feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or ashamed?
Unfortunately, the story contains a terrible stereotype. Lucy’s absent mother is a Haida Indian who has returned to her village in Kake, leaving Lucy with the drunken dad. Lucy misses her mother terribly, and feels abandoned by her. Logic would tell you that her unnamed mother would have taken her away from the abusive father, but she has not, and there is no explanation why.
Since Lucy’s dad is short, we have to infer that her mother has given Lucy her dark hair and her large size, at which Lucy despairs. As she matures in the story, however, we see her large body as strong and capable. Lucy is also very smart, easily getting good grades in school, and knowing how to handle herself in adult situations. Unfortunately, none of her good attributes are ever related in the story to her Native heritage. Near the end of the story, Lucy falls out of the crab boat in a storm and is drowning when an orca pushes her to the surface. This could possibly symbolize Lucy’s closeness to nature, or as one reviewer speculated, that she really is related to a whale (hence her size.)

2. Does the story help the reader develop understanding about the human condition? Is it good literature?
Lucy the Giant is definitely a coming of age story. Her journey is more harrowing than that of most teenagers and makes for a compelling read. In fact, the American Library Association chose it as one of its best reads for young adults for 2003. We learn about self-knowledge, determination and courage from Lucy’s adventure. I believe that many teenagers would relate to Lucy’s attitude that she is “a giant” and a loner and that her life is terrible. Lucy sees the world in Sitka in black and white, and most of it is black. When she returns home, she has a more realistic view of her home and of herself.

3. Does the story show geography, history, culture and spirituality accurately?
Some geographic inaccuracies mar the story for Alaskan readers. On page 44, Lucy explains that her mother returns to her village near Kake.

My mother came from a little village near Kake, which is already a little town. A pissy little place, she told me. Lots of drunks. Lots of mean drunkds. I looked it up once at school. A.most every mohth somebody dies in my mom’s hometown in a barroom brawl. More bars than jobs, I guess. (page 44.)

Not only is this stereotypical, it’s also inaccurate, since Kake is a Tlingit village.

Later in the story, Lucy sets out from Kodiak on the crab boat and shortly arrive in the Bering Sea. The Bering Sea is located north of the Aleutian Peninsula, and could never be reached in a few days from Kodiak.

Unfortunately, the book does not show anything about Haida history, culture or spirituality. As a reader, I couldn’t help but wish that Lucy had her Haida culture to draw upon in addressing her troubles.

4. Is the language beautiful?
Everyone in the story speaks standard English. The descriptions of Lucy’s life in Sitka are incredibly depressing and grim. When I started reading the book, I put it down because it just made me feel bad. Months later when I picked it up again, I found it took over half the book before things began to look up and for me to be hooked on the story.

5. Does the story develop a range of characters?
A full cast of characters demonstrates a range of goodness and badness found in any group of people. It’s sad though that there simply are no Haida characters in the story. Even though Lucy is half Haida, she seems to be culturally “American.” Lucy’s dad is really a disgusting man, and seems totally unable to pull himself out of his drunken dissipated lifestyle. Luckily, Lucy meets some older men, including the captain of the crab boat, who provide good models of maleness and serve as father figures for her. She also meets a wonderful woman friend provides friendship and nurturing. I felt sad for Lucy because of her lack of being mothered.

6. Will children want to read or listen to this story?
Apparently, this book is very popular with young adult (middle school) audiences. I read several reviews of it, and found teachers reading it to elementary students, which I would not do. The book is so depressing at the beginning that I know my middle school daughter would never read it.

7. Are the author and/or illustrator qualified to make this book?
The author, Sherri Smith, is a young African American woman. According to her biography, she has led a full life that does NOT include crabbing in Alaska. I have emailed her asking how she got her information about the crab boat, but she did not respond. She is definitely not qualified to write about an Alaska Native perspective. She’s not even tall, so I’m not sure how she can understand being a “giant” either. She obviously has a rich imagination and a gift for storytelling. It’s so sad to me that a woman of minority culture herself would write so derogatively about a Haida woman.

8. Does the story give children something to think and talk about?.
Absolutely yes. In spite of its faults, the book would make a great book for a literature circle as long as no Native young people were in the group. I believe the story would make a Native child from Southeast Alaska feel terrible.

9. Does the local Native community approve of the telling of this story?
No, of course not.

10. Would this book be a good addition to a library or school in Alaska?
I would not put this book in a library in Southeast Alaska. In addition to the book’s negative stereotypes, Lucy participates in dangerous behavior: she runs away, she impersonates an adult and goes out to sea with no experience. Worst of all, she engages in a drinking contest in which she drinks an older man under the table.
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The Winter Walk by Loretta Outwater Cox

Cox, Loretta Outwater The Winter Walk. Alaska Northwest, 2003. 224 pages, ages 15+. ISBN: 0-88240-574-8. Available in hardback and paperback.

The Winter Walk is a survival story set in 1892 near the Norton Sound. Qutuuq, an Inupiaq mother, guides her two children to safety after her husband dies at winter camp. The author’s mother Keenaq (Ruth Savok Outwater) told Loretta the story, in spite its darkness, and urged her to write about it. The book is published as an adult memoir; however, it would be appropriate for high school students because of its wealth of information about Inupiaq ways.

1. Is the story free of negative stereotypes, false language, comic or crass illustrations and other demeaning stereotypes?
The story is totally free of stereotypes that would demean anyone.

2. Does the story help the reader develop understanding about the human condition? Is it good literature?
The story is about survival and sacrifice. Qutuuq, is inspired by her young son’s desire to live after his father dies and in spite of isolation and lack of provisions. Reminiscent of Sophie’s Choice, the mother has to sacrifice one of her children, a newborn baby, so that her other two children might live. What harder choice could a mother make? The story is beautifully told, and the reader clearly understands Qutuuq’s reasoning for her decision.

3. Does the story show geography, history, culture and spirituality accurately?
I personally am unable to identify accuracy in this story, however, the book has received many awards, including the Alaska Indigenous Literature Award from the Rural Systemic Initiative.

4. How does the language enhance the story?
The story is simply told, with straightforward narrative and rich details. The language has a rhythm and lilt to it that makes me imagine I hear the author’s mother’s voice.

5. Does the story develop a range of characters?
There are no bad characters in this story, only good people doing their best. Qutuuq shows a range of emotions that I identify with as a mother. Even though she is tired, hungry and alone, she shows bravery in front of her children.

6. Will children want to read or listen to this story?
I would not read this story to children, as it is too terrifying when Qutuuq has to smother her baby. However, older teenagers would be fascinated by the Inupiaq skills and wisdom detailed in the book.

7. Are the author and/or illustrator qualified to make this book?
Loretta Outwater Cox is the great granddaughter of Qutuuq. Her grandfather was Savokgenaq, Qutuuq’s son.

8. Does the story give young people something to think and talk about?
The moral issue almost becomes secondary to the intimate look into a family of over 100 years ago. The details of trapping, tanning, sewing, cooking and journeying are very rich and instructive. While Qutuuq’s motivation for her actions was clear, young people might enjoy comparing the situation with Sophie’s Choice and discussing when morals must override laws.

9. Does the local Native community approve of the telling of this story?
This book has met with great favor from the Alaska Native community. It is doing well as a publication, so many people must be buying it.

10. Would you recommend this book for children or young adults? What place would it have in the home, classroom or library?
The book is really aimed at adults, and I heartily recommend it. Any Alaskan high school or public library should have this. It would be a great book for high school English or for a bookclub discussion. The only other book that is similar is Two Old Women.

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Unseen Companion by Denise Gosliner Orenstein

Orenstein, Denise Gosliner, Unseen Companion, Harpercollins, 2003. 349 pages. Ages 14-18. ISBN: 0-06-052056-6

Unseen Companion is a complex young adult novel that takes place in 1968-69 Bethel, Alaska. Dove Alexie, a teenage boy of mixed Native blood turns up bloody and beaten in jail in Bethel. When he mysteriously disappears, he affects the lives of four teenagers: Lorraine is a Southern transplant who is obsessed with clothes and beauty magazines. Annette is the minister’s daughter, hiding her “sins” from a controlling father, and working with a leering sheriff at the jail. Thelma Cooke and Edgar Kwagley are orphans, first going to school at Mount Edgecumbe, and later moved to the children’s receiving home in Bethel. Each of the teenagers has a troubled life, and each, in his or her own voice, explains the relationship with the mysterious Dove Alexie. The book jacket’s illustrations imply that the four teenagers gravitate around Dove with the metaphor of planets around the sun. The book is pervaded by an on-going undertone of sexuality and suspense, and attempts to develop the theme of finding oneself in a harsh world.

1. Is the story free of negative stereotypes, false language, comic or crass illustrations and other demeaning stereotypes that would embarrass or shame an Alaskan indigenous child?
All of the teenagers in the story have painful lives. If a Native teenager were reading this, she would probably see the Native characters as desperate as the others, but would feel uncomfortable with such demeaning terms “half-breed.” Stereotypes of poverty and cultural dissolution such as swearing, underage drinking, smoking and doing drugs abound. Two Native teenagers are abused by white adults, one sexually and one physically. Unfortunately, the teenagers speak of themselves and each other in such negative, demeaning and stereotypical terms that the book is painful to read from cover to cover. The story made me uncomfortable even though I am not similar to any of its characters. Plus, the story makes Alaska sound like an awful place to live.

2. Does the story help the reader develop understanding about the human condition? Is it good literature?
The story is supposed to help a teenage reader confront teenage problems: sexuality, racism, hopelessness, loneliness and helplessness. I personally did not find solace in the story or its resolution; however, outside reviewers proclaim it a masterpiece. John Haines, Alaskan poet, calls the book “a deeply satisfying tale, one to think about and treasure.” The story is complex and begs for discussion with other readers.

3. Does the story show geography, history, culture and spirituality accurately?
Geography is accurate, as are historical details such as life at Mount Edgecumbe and Bethel. The culture that is depicted is the underside of both Native and white communities. Unfortunately for the many teenagers in the story, their spirituality is not called upon, nor are their elders present to give them guidance.

4. How does the language enhance the story?
The writing is good. The voices are distinct. The voice of Lorraine is funny: she is southern, and obsessed with beauty, charm and other aspects of 1960’s “femininity.” She constantly quotes women’s magazines. The other teenagers swear, talk pejoratively about each other, and show their angst through their narratives.

5. Does the story develop a range of characters?
The four teen characters are well developed, and a phantom version of Dove Alexie is developed through their narratives. Each character has good and bad qualities. The adults in the story are similarly well developed. Two adult males prey on teenage girls in the story.

6. Will young people want to read or listen to this story?
The story is very complex, even for me. A teenager would need to be persistent and very well read to make it through the 350 pages without becoming depressed by the situations, or turned off by the complexity and length of the story. I highly doubt that many teenagers would make it through the book.

7. Are the author and/or illustrator qualified to make this book? Are appropriate attributions made to the source of the story?
Denise Gosliner Orenstein lived in Alaska and claims to have taught in 14 Alaskan villages. She currently lives and teaches literature in Washington D.C. Her previous novel, Where the Wind Blows Hard, is about a Southeast Alaska village. Years ago when I read it, I had a similar response as I did to this book: I felt uncomfortable with the portrait it painted of people living in Alaska.

8. Does the story give children or young people something important to think and talk about?
If a group of teenagers could manage to read this book, it would provide hours of discussion. I would hope that any discussion would involve a helping adult who could guide the discussion in a nurturing way. The book could open up many of the most critical issues young people face.

9. Does the local Native community approve of the telling of this story?
No mention is made of approval by any community. This is not a Native story; it’s a story about a group of young people who all find themselves in Bethel. If I lived in Bethel, I would be sickened by the story.

10. Would you recommend this book for children or young adults? What place would it have in the home, classroom or library?
I would not choose this one for my home, classroom or library. I would not recommend this book except to adults who wish to explore it. If purchased for a public library, I would place it in the adult section due to its difficulty.

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Book Reviews by Cate Koskey

Review of Favorite Eskimo Tales Retold
By Ethel Ross Oliver
Illustrated by Joe Senungetuk
Published 1992 by Alaska Pacific University Press
Approximate Reading Level: Upper Elementary
ISBN: 0-935094-17-2

The author of this book is a non-native lady named Ethel Ross Oliver, who has spent much of her life (since 1921) in Alaska as a school teacher, a nurse, a census worker, and a wife of a native Alaskan. The illustrator is an Inupiaq man who makes his living as an artist and lives in Anchorage.

This book is a collection of stories. Oliver writes in her preface how she came to know these stories. She recounts how, during her and her husband’s many travels and interactions with native Alaskans, they took every opportunity to listen to the stories that people would tell them and gather them into their personal collection. From her descriptions of where she traveled, it seems that she would have encountered other native peoples of Alaska rather than exclusively Inupiaq, but she groups all her stories as “Eskimo” stories. She acknowledges that she heard these stories through interpreters, and that since that is the case, she takes liberty to fill out the “bare bones” English version that she has heard so that it can “meet the listening and understanding needs of stateside school children” by stating that “it was necessary to revise the stories.” This is the reason she gives for labeling the stories as “retold.” This also helps us to realize her intended audience for the book: elementary students outside of Alaska.

The book is comprised of 24 stories, each mostly 2-3 pages in length, and most of them about people encountering an animal or phenomenon in the natural world that they did not expect. Some of the stories seem to have a lesson at the end, and some do not. I am familiar with some of the stories, as they remind me of stories I have heard in other places, but they are more simplified than the stories I know, and they all have a kind of white-grandmother tone to them when read, rather than feeling like a native voice narrating the stories.

The characters seem overly simplified, and they speak in regular American English, though the thoughts they express are very simple and not forward-thinking in the slightest. While stories are not known for their character development in general, these characters seem especially simple and bewildered about the events that go on around them, and in this way they can be seen as fairly stereotypical, stock characters. I believe that the translation process, from indigenous language to English, and then from original version to Oliver’s version, is the reason for this sense of oversimplified characters, as the vocabulary Oliver chooses to use makes the reality in the stories very black and white, right and wrong. While Oliver has asked the illustrator, Senungetuk, to include a glossary of some Inupiaq vocabulary in the back of the book so that she can use some appropriate words in her stories, she consistently uses inappropriate words such as “igloo.”

I feel uncomfortable about this book. The illustrator, Senungetuk, writes in his foreword that he endorses Oliver’s project as a native Alaskan because he sees her as someone who “belongs to a generation of white Alaskans who from the very start of their Alaskan journeys sided with Natives in their fight against misrepresentation and mismanagement” (7-8). He writes that he believes this book lies in the category of books that expand the reader’s mind so that the native community “can be recognized as a multifaceted, multicultural work and play environment” (8). I really cannot disagree with Senungetuk more, and I wonder why he feels he can give this book so strong an endorsement. Oliver has taken stories out of context, out of their language, revised them to her liking, and done all of this without ever stating that she asked permission to use them in any way. She has tried to credit some of her sources somewhat, as she includes a map of Alaska and denotes the regions that various tales came from. Then she writes names of the storyteller or interpreters in that region that she heard the stories from as far as she can tell or remember. I do not believe that this is giving enough credit to the people from whom she “gathered” her stories.

I feel that the only use for this book in the classroom would be as a practice in critiquing inappropriate literature for use with students.

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Review of Sivuqam Ungipaghaatangi II St. Lawrence Island Legends II
Developed by the Staff of the National Bilingual Materials Development Center
From stories written by Grace Slwooko
Illustrated by J. Leslie Boffa
Published 1979
Approximate Reading Level: High School

The introduction in this book states that it was written by Grace Slwooko, a St. Lawrence Island Yup’ik woman from Gambell, Alaska for use in the high school Native literature class in Gambell. It states that the stories are all traditional Siberian stories that have been passed through oral tradition. Slwooko has written them both in English and St. Lawrence Island Yup’ik, and besides some proofreading, “her stories are presented here very much as she has given them to us.” The stories are not direct translations of each other, but they are equivalent. For each story, first the Yup’ik version is written, and then the English version.

The stories in the book are almost all about people dealing with supernatural forces, whether those forces be in animal, human, or other form. Some of the stories seem very dark and mysterious, and some of the stories are a little odd and seem a bit funny. Most of the stories are written without morals being given at the end, but sometimes Slwooko writes explainatory notes that seem like moralizing.

Some of these stories remind me of other Yup’ik stories that I have heard, but mostly they are new to me. The illustrations are very unique and interesting. The characters speak simply, but their dialogue does not seem simple or thoughtless – they seem to speak with wisdom and knowing. For short tales, the characters are developed fairly well, and the motivations for characters to take the actions they take are revealed to us through their emotions and words. The characters, even if at times mysterious, appear to be people who could be real.

Overall, I really like this book. I wonder whether Slwooko received permission to write these stories, as it does not say anywhere what her writing process was like. I feel that the motivations behind writing and publishing this book are respectable, as it is for students to learn more about their traditional tales and practice their native language skills at the same time, all within a western school setting. I used some of these stories when I was teaching in Pilot Station and Hooper Bay, and I gave the students copies of both the native language versions and the English versions, and even though none of them could read the St. Lawrence Island Yup’ik, it still felt like the students were very intrigued by the stories and the plotlines, and it seemed that the students felt a sort of ownership over the stories. I would recommend this book for use in classrooms, with the caution that it should be a part of using them to discuss with the students the issues surrounding collecting and writing down stories, such as gaining permission from people you have heard stories from.

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Review of Arctic Memories
Written and Illustrated by Normee Ekoomiak
Published 1988 by Henry Holt and Company
ISBN Number: 0-8050-1254-0
Approximate Reading Level: Upper Elementary

Normee Ekoomiak is an Inuit man who grew up in Fort George, Quebec, Canada, which is along the shores of Hudson Bay. From what he writes about himself, he grew up traditionally, living a subsistence lifestyle with his family. He is an artist, and it seems that he has written this book by describing his drawings, paintings, and wool embroidery. He writes that all of these pieces of art and his descriptions are from his memories of childhood and from the stories that he was told about times long ago. Each page is a new piece of art and a short story or description of the art. The book is written in both English and Inuktitut, and on each page, the Inuktitut passage is printed first.

The way the book is written means that there are no real characters or a storyline, as each page is just one snippet of memory or a story that Ekoomiak tells. Each description gives just enough information to make it interesting, but not enough to give the reader a full picture of what life is or was like for his people.

The best thing about this book is the illustrations. Ekoomiak’s art is simple yet beautiful. All of the pieces are very interesting, but my favorites are the wool embroidery pieces; they are very unique. In the description of Ekoomiak, the book notes that he learned his embroidery techniques from his grandfather, and he also went to school at the New Art School of Toronto, so he probably has integrated his traditional skills with western ones that he learned in college.

At times this book appears to be playing on some stereotypes, such as the “iglu,” but on closer inspection it seems more likely that Ekoomiak is just recounting his very specific experience, which included living in an iglu for part of the year. I feel good about this book, and I would recommend it for use in a classroom. I think it would be a good idea to talk about the book, to discuss that this is Ekoomiak’s very specific group of memories and stories, and that its worth is in learning about his experience, not in generalizing the stories written here to anyone else’s experience or reality. I think it would be a great example to use to show students how to write their own memories and stories and illustrate them.

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Review of A Kayak Full of Ghosts
Retold by Lawrence Millman
Illustrated by Timothy White
Published 2004 by Interlink Books
ISBN Number: 1-56656-525-1
Approximate Reading Level: Not Reccommended for Students

Lawrence Millman is a non-native writer who happened to hear these stories while traveling in Greenland over several trips. He does not say much about his background, but it seems from his introduction that he has only spent a few months out of his life in the Arctic. He writes that he heard these stories from old Inuit men that he spent time with on hunting trips, when he was snowed in various places, and when he was in the hospital alongside a few other men. He also writes that he has “strived for readability rather than word-for-word accuracy,…spliced together two or more versions of the same story,….cut, polished, even recast.” He writes that he wants the reader to feel the “same immediacy that they might have if [he/she] were listening to the storyteller himself on a cold Arctic night” (15). Millman lists most of the sources of the tales in the back of the book, though for a few of the tales he only has listed places where he “collected” them and not actual people’s names. Nowhere does he write of asking permission from the storytellers to publish the stories.

These stories are all very unusual – I have never heard stories like them before. Most of them have to do with people experiencing supernatural forces in their environment, and many times those experiences are violent, odd, and borderline pornographic. Many of the stories seem like dirty, inside jokes that are told only in private company. The characters seem mysteriously motivated, but they do appear to feel emotions deeply and wildly, even though rarely rationally. The characters in the story seem to be acting on primal forces beyond our understanding, and they seem unwise and unlikable. Their speech and dialouge is not overly simple, but it is not filled out. While to an adult audience, the stories could possibly be entertaining, without the context, background, or explaination of why the stories exist or why/when they should be told, they do tend to capitalize on stereotypes and ugly generalizations that the western world holds about Arctic peoples.

Overall, I feel uncomfortable about this book. Not only do the stories seem very inappropriate for students due to the content, but they seem inappropriate for a western audience in general, as they do not do a good job of representing the Inuit people. I am aware that this book is in at least one school library in a rural Alaskan school, and so I wonder how prevalent it is in schools. I feel that students would feel embarassed or confused by this book. I do not recommend its use in school.

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Review of More Tales from the Igloo
As told by Agnes Nanogak
Illustrated by Agnes Nanogak
Published 1986 by Hurtig Publishers
ISBN Number: 0-88830-301-7
Approximate Reading Level: Upper Elementary/Middle School

The credited author of this book is Agnes Nanogak, a woman who, according to the foreword, was born in 1911 along the Mackenzie Delta in Canada, the daughter of a Canadian Inuit man and an Alaskan Inupiaq woman who came to live in Canada. The author of the foreword, Robin G McGrath, writes that Nanogak learned her stories from her grandmother-in-law when she was first married, and became involved in publication when she was asked to illustrate the book of Inuit stories, Tales of the Igloo, published in 1972. McGrath writes that then in 1976, the film The Owl who Married a Goose was made from a story Nanogak told. Finally, both Nanogak’s stories and illustrations are presented in this book.

While McGrath gives us a good background and history of Nanogak, where is Nanogak’s voice in this introduction? How did she decide to write down and publish these tales? Did she obtain permission from her community? Are the tales just as she heard them, or have they been “polished” by an editor? Additionally, McGrath attempts to categorize and rationalize the stories that follow, during which she ends up giving us a condescending and ethnocentric characterization of the stories, rather than the dignity the stories deserve.

The stories are divided into three sections: Tales of Birds and Beasts, Tales of Adventure, and Tales of Sorrow and Revenge. Most of the stories are very short, and some of them do remind me of other stories I have read before, in books like Sivuqam Ungipaghaatangi, a collection of stories from St. Lawrence Island. I really enjoy the illustrations in this book; Nanogak has a unique artistic style and uses interesting shades of colors. The scenes she chooses to illustrate are attention-getting.

The characters seem to be portrayed as complex and interesting, using full sentences and complete thoughts to express themselves. When they are presented with a situation that is confusing or bewildering, they are portrayed as doing the best they can and their motivations are often explained. Some of the tales describe people doing violence to others without such explanations, though, and I wonder how much we can gain from those types of stories without the context that a true storyteller would give for such a tale.

I feel fairly good about this book, as the stories appear to be authentic and indeed very interesting, though I recommend it with reservations. Without understanding its origins more completely, and without the proper context, it could be misconstrued and become ultimately a non-helpful addition to the cannon of indigenous tales.

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Last modified August 21, 2006