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Indigenous Family Stories

By Angeline Hoffman, White Mountain Apache Tribe

A family in a white car drive down a road, away from mountains.This month I celebrate global children’s books focused on Indigenous families. Today in the U.S. there are 574 different federally recognized Indigenous tribes. While many teachers see the usefulness of celebrating American Indians during October and November holidays (October 14, Indigenous Peoples’ Day and November – Indigenous Heritage Month), we need to move beyond single days and months to explore Indigenous cultures. Much like the hazards of limiting the study of African American life to Black History Month in February, I hope teachers will ponder how we can explore Indigenous families and life as a part of any literature, history, art or science exploration throughout the school year.

Strong Nations is a useful publisher as I continually search for Indigenous children’s books. My goal in working with fifth and sixth grade Apache and Navajo students is to share books that value their culture, thereby empowering them. This month I focus on five children’s books that center on Indigenous families. Continue reading

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My Journey Through Culturally Authentic Indigenous American Children’s Literature

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

Leather bound book with gold leave title and art showing a storyteller stage with audienceCulturally authentic Indigenous American children’s literature is composed of traditional stories that consist of myths, legends and folktales in the oral storytelling traditions of a given people. This literature also includes contemporary stories and poetry. An affirmation of Indigenous children’s literature is noted by Dr. Debbie Reese (2007, p. 245):

Through stories, people pass their religious beliefs, customs, history, lifestyle, language, values, and the places they hold sacred from one generation to the next. As such, stories and their telling are more than simple entertainment. They matter in significant ways – to the well-being of the communities from which they originate.

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North American Indigenous Children’s Literature

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

In North American Indigenous children’s literature, storytelling is characterized by focusing on origin, cultural identity and traditional knowledge systems. Origin is often explained with the aide of animal characters, but these are not the only types of stories to use animals. Animals are also used to explain dilemmas when it comes to ethical and moral decisions. As originally told by the elders, these stories are embraced by members of the community as our way of knowing and being. Narratives are transmitted orally and by physical expression (body language, facial expressions, gestures, ect.) through songs, chants, ceremony, dance and ritualized storytelling.

North American Indigenous Children's Literature Continue reading

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Using Indigenous Literature to Heal from Historical Trauma

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

Dr. Gregory Cajete, the editor of A People’s Ecology: Explorations in Sustainable Living, puts together many voices to focus on health and healing in Indigenous cultures. This book provides a substantial contribution to our knowledge of many subjects, including foods, food traditions and farming among Indigenous peoples; health problems resulting from the adoption of a “modern” diet by Native communities; efforts to restore the self-reproducing food plants that are the foundation of sustainable agriculture; permaculture and environmental restoration; the folk healing system known as curanderismo; the renaissance of ancient building practices; and organic foods retailers as activists.

Using Indigenous Literature to Heal from Historical Trauma Continue reading

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Code Talker Stories

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

Code Talker stories are important because of the significant impact Code Talkers had on World War II. Additionally, the portrayals of the Code Talkers in story empower the reality of our Navajo Heroes. This section, I would like to honor them. During the course of World War II, Diné (Navajo) code talkers were a crucial part of the U.S. strength in the South Pacific, sending and receiving messages in an unbreakable code based on the Diné language. As Marines, they took part in every assault, from Guadalcanal in 1942 to Okinawa in 1945, experiencing some of the bloodiest fighting in the war. For the Diné code talkers, the military experience of serving in World War II–mythologized as “the good fight”–was a chance for the young men to demonstrate their courage in the most exciting adventure of their lives. Descriptions of the following books are copied from the publishers’ websites unless otherwise noted.

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Stories of the American Indian Experience

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

The stories of Indigenous people reflect both the material and deeper aspects of our culture. These deeper aspects include traditions such as oral storytelling, considered a spiritual practice. Oral tradition is used to tell certain stories the way they should be told, with an impassioned audience and storyteller. These stories are defined as a body of literary works with standard procedures that have been preserved for many generations through performance. This structure helps listeners create awareness of their own cultural perspective. It’s important to understand the place of oral literature in Indigenous culture and to translate those stories into print so they can be shared. The weaving together of oral literacy with writing reveals unique features and values within many different cultures. This significance of the vocal and textual language is shown in several of this week’s suggested books that have been adapted from oral to print. Other books selected demonstrate culture, tradition, genocide, abuse and heroism, and help to honor the American Indian Experience.

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Native American Veterans in Children’s Literature

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache Tribe

Worlds of Words’s current exhibit, “Code Making and Perspective Taking,” features stories of Native American code talkers, with art reflections from Tucson High Magnet School art students and fifth graders at Van Buskirk Elementary School. This week, with Veteran’s Day on Friday, November 11, I present a list of children’s and Native American literature that focuses on Native American veterans and their contribution to war efforts.

Native American veterans Continue reading

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Native American Children’s Books Featuring Elders

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache Tribe

The cultural roles of an elder for American Indians include passing down knowledge through intergenerational teaching and learning. Elders, through their empowered words of wisdom and existence, transfer their insight from one generation to the next. In the Apache culture, “elder” endures as a highly-regarded status. Native American elders possess experiential understanding and knowledge, the stories of the world, and especially compassion for their grandchildren. Elders, also known to others as oral historians, teach respect and demonstrate how to respect one another. Joseph Bruchac says that elders and children are meant to be close. By no accident, in every part of the world children and grandparents often share a special understanding and bond. Native American elders connect with their traditional heritage and culture, more so than many other cultures.

Native American elders, children's book Continue reading

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Native American Children’s Books Featuring Coyote

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

Designed for Indigenous people, Coyote represents many different characters or things; not one of them is cute. Coyote is a trickster and all trickster figures are more or less human in Native American literature. Besides being such a fool, Coyote is a supernatural being. While the supernatural powers do not necessarily appear in every story, that background knowledge affirms the Coyote stories. We tend to laugh at many of the messes he gets himself into but we also know what he is capable of. In different ways, his characteristics frequently portray some of our worst human aspects. For him “good” and “evil” are not opposites, but represent a continuum.

Coyote stories, Coyote Stories, Mourning Dove, Humishuma Continue reading

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Native American Children’s Books Featuring Animals

By Angeline P. Hoffman, White Mountain Apache

One of the themes from my studies, animals, derives from Native American children’s books featuring animals and the encountered stories about ethical or moral behaviors contained within them. Many Indigenous American cultures honor and revere animals. The people know that animals came into existence before man and animals have long been prevalent on Mother Earth. When men came, Animals communicated with humans and they still do. Therefore, they are respected; animals are considered Spirit helpers. Each animal has qualities that are special and powerful and shared with human beings if the animal is respected.

Antelope Woman cover, Native American children's books featuring animals
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