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The Negative Portrayal Of Native Americans In Children’s Literature

2096 words - 8 pages

The Negative Portrayal of Native Americans in Children’s Literature

The American institution has raised countless generations with misconceptions and lies regarding various foreign cultures. During the 1950’s the educational system in America was given the responsibility of teaching children the horrors and injustices they would suffer if the "evil" communist took over the world. Schools taught students that communist wanted to take away music, apple pie, baseball, and anything else that Americans cherished. Students learned that it was best to believe in the righteous of America. The preceding discussion has much in common with the treatment that Native Americans have received from picture books in America.

The American society came to the conclusion hundred of years ago that it was in the best interest of America to misrepresent Native Americans, both in the past and present. The American continents were said to be inhabited with animal-like savages that had no cultural value. Schools have taught that it was the European's duty to civilize the new lands. One of the primary tools that have been used in the education of children is the picture book. Picture books have provided the American institution with a means of teaching our children that the Native Americans were bestial and animalistic, thus enabling us to ignore or justify the atrocities that Europeans and Americans have inflicted on the native societies.

Picture books are one of the first mediums of learning that children encounter. The picture book was first created in 1657 by John Amos Comenius. Comenius’s book was entitled Orbis Pictus (The world of Pictures) and was an alphabet book (Martinez 57). Picture books are used to lay the foundations of the historical view that America wishes for students to learn. Picture books combine the use of visual cues with texts to encourage word recognition and foster the growth of reading skills. Native Americans are open to misrepresentation in several ways in picture books. First, the illustrator of the work can choose to portray all of the natives in their work as savage barbarians. The illustrator can also choose to display the native cultures of America as being the aggressors in conflicts, destroying homes or hunting white women and children. Another way that picture books can be used to reinforce the stereotypical view of Native Americans is the way in which the texts presents the actions of the indigenous people. Finally, the Native Americans in the text can be given limited or broken English as a means of conversation, thus giving the reader the impression that the Natives were all stupid and unintelligible.

The following is a summary and a critique of ten picture books that contain Native Americans in the story arc, some of the stories feature grotesque injustices to the Native American persona, while others show the humanity and value of these cultures.

1) Three Fools and a Horse:

Summary and Critique: "A long time...

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