Celebration is the word that comes to mind after reading Ancestor Approved: Intertribal Stories for Kids. This is one of the first books published by Heartdrum, a Native-focused imprint of HarperCollin’s Children’s Books. Edited by Cynthia Leitich Smith, it brings together stories from many Native writers centering around a single powwow in Michigan. Each story is different, some joyful and some sad, but each ends up celebrating this beautiful shared tradition.
While all of the characters in the book end up at the Mother Earth Powwow, they don’t all know each other. They come from all over North America. Some have grown up steeped in their culture and others are just now being introduced to these traditions. Characters are plagued by embarrassing, “uncool” parents. They have stage fright before performing in dances. They worry about raising enough money to save their family homes. They also dance Jingle Dress dances, speak their native languages (a glossary is provided), and create beaded jewelry. Universally relatable emotions are brought to life in stories that carry readers all the way to Michigan to experience a powwow themselves.
I have mentioned before that I love how story collections like this one always seem to introduce me to authors I have not yet encountered. I am embarrassed to say that this collection has a huge number of authors in that category. I have a long way to go when it comes to reading books by Native authors, but I am happy to say that several of these authors have many books available for children and young adults. I would recommend purchasing this book if your school sits on what was once, or could still be considered, Native land.
Learning for Justice Social Justice Standards:
Diversity 8: I want to know more about other people’s lives and experiences, and I know how to ask questions respectfully and listen carefully and non-judgmentally.
Diversity 10: I know that the way groups of people are treated today, and the way they have been treated in the past, is a part of what makes them who they are.