Read Little Navajo Bluebird by Ann Nolan Clark Free Online
Book Title: Little Navajo Bluebird|
The author of the book: Ann Nolan Clark
Edition: The Viking Press
Date of issue: 1943
ISBN: No data
ISBN 13: No data
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 3.54 MB
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Reader ratings: 7.9
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The famous children's anthology Favorite Stories Old and New included the first chapter of this book. It gave the appearance of being yet another idealized story of Indian people keeping idyllic old ways separate from but always cognizant and wary of the Anglo world, much like Margaret Phelps' Chia and the Lambs. That book manages to tell an intriguing and often realistically detailed story of a girl's coming of age, daily tasks and responsibilities in the Dine world while its "him say" style, and especially the portrayal of Navajo religion in the form of superstitious old Uncle Medicine Man, is racist gunk.
Little Navajo Bluebird tells the same story in a somewhat better fashion. The narrative style seems based on actual Dine speech and song. Unlike the primitivism of Chia and the Lambs, the narrative mostly portrays the people as human beings and their spirituality in a respectfully realistic fashion. Difficult and painful aspects of Dine life are not glossed over or ignored. Traditional paths, Anglo ways and natural events all have their advantages and all take their toll.
Young Doli observes her parents at the trading post, the self-possessed serenity of older sister Hobah, and her young uncle who visits with his new bride. An older brother has returned from boarding school angry and damaged, finally all but abandoning the family to live as an Anglo and sending Doli a blonde blue-eyed doll; yet Hobah insists that school has its advantages, promising to return with new ideas while keeping the traditions. Uncle's Anglo-educated wife sets an example; she uses mathematics in dyeing wool but openly prefers plant dyes, and she uses a sewing machine to make traditional outfits.
Over the course of a year, Doli is given daily tasks proper to her age and maturity, but also with the idea that Hobah is leaving and Doli must take her place. The family handles many frustrations and hardships. Doli doesn't know whether she can really trust Uncle's wife. Father and Uncle like to gamble, sometimes neglecting responsibilities, and their wives get mad. Bad weather leaves tragedy and death in its wake. Margaret Phelps could barely tell you about a pet prairie dog's broken leg; Clark goes into graphic, heartwrenching detail. Father even suggests hiding Hobah away, as many children really were (and are still) hidden. Instead, he brings in a holy man to hold an all-night Sing -- described in detail -- so she can go to school and return with her soul intact.
This is pretty strong stuff for Anglo children to be reading in 1943. And that must be some school, that not only permits home visits but leaves its students still able to speak their language and understand how to live in the sacred ways. That's the way it is today, when Indian schools are run by the Indians, but this didn't really happen until the 1990s, although reforms were proposed in the 1930s under FDR. Most schools at the time this was written were still run on the Carlisle model; haircuts, militarized, English-only, punitive discipline and manual labor, physical, spiritual and sexual abuse, sickness and death. If you want to know what Dine children at this time really went through, read this: For More Than 100 Years, the U.S. Forced Navajo Students Into Western Schools. The Damage Is Still Felt Today. The only school that even partly fits the description in the book was the Evangelical Missionary School at Rock Point, Arizona (today's Lutheran Mission School).
Government help is of course portrayed as useful and at one point life-saving. Doli undergoes Kinaaldá during a Night Chant, being considered old enough to see the Gods for the first time. (This is usually done at a girl's passage, but could also be whenever the child is considered to be at the age of reason.) She enters into the full life of her society, and begins to make her own plans and decisions.
Born in 1896, Ann Nolan Clark taught at an Indian school in New Mexico, worked for the BIA and later taught at reservation schools and boarding schools. She is said to be one of the first Anglo authors to write about Indian people with authenticity and respect. The BIA asked her to write more stories and poems that could be translated into Native languages. She lived with several different nations and continued to write about indigenous Americans all her life, also about immigrant children and others who had been made to be outsiders. Her last book, To Stand Against the Wind, is about Vietnamese refugees.
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