This is in response to the article by Metzger and Kelleher. I absolutely agree that there is a powerful impact on Native American youth when they have no culturally relevant literature. I believe it can harm everyone, giving and supporting stereotypes and false information. Representation matters, it matters to every marginalized group, to every minority, to every youth. I worked with kids of every age and every race, I have seen the affects of representation on children and adults. When Moana came out, there were so many little girls talking about it. Many brown girls, African American, Pacific Islander, Indian, all of them loved her! They saw themselves in her, they saw that they too could be a princess. I would see how happy the moms would get when we said Tiana was one of the princesses we offered. I specifically remember one mom so thrilled that we had princess of color that she requested all of them so her daughter could be surrounded by strong princesses who looked just like her. The most powerful moment I witnessed was at an event in the shopping center our store was located in. A mom was encouraging her daughter in Spanish to go ask Elena (from Elena of Avalor) for a photo, but the daughter was too shy. My coworker who played Elena whipped around and spoke to the daughter and mother in Spanish that she heard they wanted a photo and she would be delighted to take one with them. I have seen a lot of little girls smile with happiness, but none as big as that girl. Her mom thanked her, and the daughter excitedly waved as Elena joined the rest of our group. Even though I no longer work there, I still see the amazing impacts that positive representation has on children and adolescents. While I have thoughts about The Princess and The Frog, as the main characters were frogs for the majority of the movie, that is a discussion for another time. Even so, it does not change the fact that Tiana is a princess of color, the first black princess as well, and has a large impact on young girls. Spiderman: Into The Spiderverse has shown young black boys that they too can be Spiderman, and or any superhero like Black Panther from his movie. Positive representations can change a child’s entire view point.
Speaking of movies, I believe the only movies that were popular that had Native American main characters were Brother Bear (but again, main character was a bear for the whole movie), Pocahontas, and side characters in Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron. These were not good representations of Native American culture.
When the reading explained how publishers often do not want to publish Native American voices, my thoughts shifted to many different routes. First, I think its so silly to deny authentic voices. Most reviewers praise authentic voices in media and stories, its good publicity. Especially now in this political and social climate when there is a demand for diverse, authentic voices and representation, you would think more publishers would jump at the chance to publish a well written story. I then thought about Rick Riordan. He uses his well known name and publicity to help bring up other authors through “Rick Riordan Presents”. Through this he is able to publish and create a collection of diverse authors telling the stories of their cultures ancient gods and goddesses, folklore, or other similar adventures. Sal And Gabi Break The Universe, a Cuban influenced story, The Dragon Pearl, a Korean folklore meets Sci-fi, The Storm Runner, a novel of Maya Gods, and Aru Shah And The End Of Time, centered around Indian and Hindu culture, are the first four books in this collection. Four books will be added each year. It would be amazing if other authors did what Rick Riordan does, advocating and supporting authors, publishing their works so they are available to children and young adults.