When Land and Culture Are Not Enough

Ramifications of colonialism persist in the world today. Education, health, and socioeconomic status are just a few of the areas in which Indigenous communities are adversely impacted by historical and current patterns of discrimination. In The Marrow Thieves, Cherie Dimaline weaves a story of strength and family into a terrifying future.

In this dystopian North America, only the Indigenous people still have the ability to dream. Everyone else has lost this ability and with it the ability to function in their waking lives. As an Elder says in this book, “A man without dreams is just a meaty machine with a broken gauge.” The colonizers of North America were unceasing in taking what did not belong to them and the history of the Indigenous people of North America includes being evicted from their homelands and sent to residential schools where every effort was made to obliterate Indigenous culture. In The Marrow Thieves, taking the dream-storing bone marrow of Indigenous people was a further step to destroy their culture.

Frenchie, the protagonist, is on the run from Recruiters who capture Indigenous people to perform these operations which lead to loss of limbs or lives. He has already lost his biological family, but he forms a new family with the people he meets in the woods. Their commitment to each other is just as strong as that of blood relations. While this story is imagining a future that will hopefully never materialize, there are still important lessons to be gleaned from this text and this would be a powerful book for high school students to read when studying colonialism.

Somehow, in spite of the best efforts of colonizers, many Indigenous communities have maintained cultural traditions, languages, and beliefs so that these may be shared with successive generations. Frenchie’s voice in this book and the stories he tells will enrich the perspectives of all who read them and offer students inspiration to protect the people who live these stories.

Teaching Tolerance Social Justice Standards:

Diversity 8- I respectfully express curiosity about the history and lived experiences of others and exchange ideas and beliefs in an open-minded way.

Diversity 10- I understand that diversity includes the impact of unequal power relations on the development of group identities and cultures.

Justice 12- I can recognize, describe, and distinguish unfairness and injustice at different levels of society.

Common Core Standards:

RL.2- Determine two or more themes or central ideas of a text and analyze their development over the course of the text.

RL.3- Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story.

RL.5- Analyze how an author’s choices concerning how to structure specific parts of a text contribute to its overall structure and meaning as well as its aesthetic impact.

Published by socialjusticeinchildrenslit

My name is Leah Cole and I was a teacher in Iowa for nine years. My passions for education, social justice, and children's literature led me to create this blog. Students are faced with issues of justice and fairness from the time they are very young. The Social Justice Standards developed by Teaching Tolerance help teachers to support the development of students who recognize and embrace their own identities while respecting and valuing those who are different. In this blog, I will attempt to identify and review books that support the social justice standards.

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