CRC Information

We The People Book Cover

We The People: The Arapaho and Their History; The Ojibwe, and the Wampanoag
Rosinksy, Natalie M.
Jan 2005
Pages 48

Grades 5 – 8

 Rating:  Okay

 I reviewed three of the books within the Series We are the People; The Arapaho, The Wampanoag, and The Ojibwe .  A very impressive colorful layout is used through out the series.  The books start off with a seemingly shocking true tale of 1) the death of Metacom, of the Wampanoag 2) The Death March of the Ojibwe and 3) the Sand Creek Massacre of the Arapaho people.  Almost every page has colorful drawings or photographs to help illustrate the people and the culture.  One of the wonderful things the author has done is to give recognition to the tribal groups still in existence, and numbers of their current membership and their locations.  The books cover description of the name used to describe the people, for example Wampanoag  are a native people of the Northeast coast and their name “Wampanoag – refers to People of the Dawn  or people of the East.”   Chapters cover:  Food and shelter; Family life and culture; a Glossary; a Did you Know; a Time line; Important People; Want to know More section; and an Index.  The books could be a good series if teachers/readers know that they should discuss some of the bias that is embedded in the language of the book. 

In the Ojibwe book:

  • 1)      page 4 – “It was December 1850 – that bitterly cold time of year the Ojibwe people call Small Spirits Moon.”  Why do they call it the small spirits moon?  Do they actually call it “small Spirit Moon” or is that a translation?  Use the Native language if possible, otherwise you are reinforcing a stereotypes of childlike ideas, and romanticizing a mystical Indian.

  • 2)      Page 4 – “Several thousand Ojibwe were gathered in Sandy Lake, in what is now Northern Minnesota.”  What was Sandy Lake?  A US Government Military Fort? A Reservation?  Why did the entire tribe go to Sandy Lake to get the food, couldn’t just some of them go?

  • 3)      page 8 – “Chief Hole-in-the-day later described Sandy Lake as a “grave-yard” for his people.”  Is the Ojibwe leader’s name actually Hole in the day or was that the translated version?  There are many people that have Indian names and we do not tend to translate their names to English… Xthlixan may be called buck, but Tis Mil is not called eagle, or Tavoochi is not called cotton tail.  To keep the stories and books useful and real for Native and non-Native students do not translate the names from their original forms. 

  • 4)      page 12- Night flying woman?  again is this a translation or do people actually call her this?

  • 5)      page 27 – “Native people hunted and trapped so many animals, particularly beaver, that some became scarce.”  The Hudson bay company or other trapping agencies didn’t pay non-natives for these furs too?

The French had a different plan than the Europeans or the Spanish explorers.  The French actually married into the tribes, rather than raping and pillaging until they had a home to bring their wives to.

  • 6)      page 29 – “When the American Colonies fought England for their independence, the Ojibwe were again on the wrong side.” They may have chosen the loosing side, but the British crown actually took an active part in trying to protect Native land rights.  Please see American Indian Law by William Canby, jr.

  • 7)      page 33 – The Dawes act – was set for all Indians not just Ojibwe.  160 acres was given to the head of house hold, but if you were unmarried you received 80 acres that was not truly in your ownership for 25 years.  This act also enabled land speculators to buy land cheaply from niave, dispirit Native individuals. The primary effect of the Allotment Act was a precipitous decline in the total amount of Indian held land, from 138 million acres in 1887 to 48 million in 1934; in which 20 million acres were desert or semidesert areas. Please see American Indian Law by William Canby, jr.

  • 8)      page 35 – “Yet positive changes also took place. In 1934, the Indian Reorganization Act became a national law.”  The most important and effective provision of the Indian Reorganization Act was that it ended the practice of allotment and extended indefinitely the trust period for existing allotments still in trust.  It assured water and land rights, and was overwhelmingly successful in preventing further rapid erosion of the tribal land base.  In reality the Act itself had limited success because the tribal governments that were to be set up and approved by the US Secretary of the Interior, followed a non-native pattern of divided executive, legislative and judicial authority which were unsuitable for most tribal needs and conditions.  Please see American Indian Law by William Canby, jr.

  • 9)      page 36 – “The 1973 takeover ended with the surrender of the protesters, but it brought worldwide attention to the problems of native people.”  Two FBI agents were supposedly shot during this incident and one man Leonard Peltier remains in Jail for their deaths…  Wounded Knee may have brought attention to the Native communities as did the take over at Alcatraz, but the problems they were trying to expose still exist.

  • 10)  page 37 – “The Ojibwe Today”  What is the current poverty rate for the Ojibwe people? We see that they have 40,000 tribal members how many of them are homeless, job less, educated, degreed?  Since the Red Lake Reservation has been listed we know that the school and people are still in trouble by the school shooting that took place three weeks ago.

Missing from each of the books is:

  • 1)                 A bibliography section that lets the reader know the original documentation for the quotes being used in the text. 

  • 2)                 The European / Spanish Manifest destiny giving the “god given right to the land.”

  • 3)                 Any creation stories of how each people came to be.

  • 4)                 Native input on the timelines.  It would have been more important for the tribes to list droughts, floods. It seems very ego-centric to think that all of the Native Timelines would include only interactions with the US government or Europeans.

  • 5)                 Current Important people for the tribes.  Maybe they have Winona LaDuke nominated by the Green Party for Vice President of the US, or because she is an Indigenous activist, the tribe is still functioning show the reader by giving them people that are still alive.

Marlette Grant-Jackson – ITEPP-CRC

More Resources

Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe