Brief Guide on How to Assess American Indian Material

by Mishuana Goeman (Tonawanda Band of Seneca), Associate Professor, UCLA, Gender Studies and American Indian Studies, Updated July 1, 2018

  • Does the material use the word squaw? Savage? Does the construct of “Good Indians” vs. “Bad Indians” structure the main narrative of the text?
  • Does the material speak solely in the past tense? If so, assess ways to speak to how American Indians are alive, present, and all around us.
  • Are Indians equated with the flora and fauna? Does it represent them as simple-minded without political, economical and scientific prowess?
  • Does the material center European superiority and uncenter Indigenous science, technology and gifts given in the world? Do Native peoples exist in only delineation forms?
  • Does the material claim Mexico as original inhabitants? Does it ignore Spanish and then Mexican colonization before US arrival?
  • Does the material refer to the Americas as empty land, thus revolving around concepts of terra nuillus and erasing the political, cultural, and economic systems that existed and continue to exist today?
  • Does the material speak about genocide, but not survival of local communities?
  • Does the material homogenize all Indians? Or does it speak to specific colonial histories and cultural attributes?
  • Does the material present current American Indians?
  • Does the material refer only to “mission Indians” and not give specific tribal name(s)? Or does it misname Los Angeles  tribal people’s territory when it is Gabrieleño/Tongva?

Other Guides to Assess Material and Find Lesson Plans:

  1. How to Tell the Difference: A Guide for Evaluating Children’s Books for Anti-Indian Bias by Doris Seale, Beverly Slapin and Rosemary Gonzales: http://www.oyate.org/index.php/resources/41-resources/how-to-tell-the-difference
  2. Techniques for Evaluating American Indian Web Sites: http://www.u.arizona.edu/~ecubbins/webcrit.html
  3. Links to Tribal Nation maintained websites: http://www.nativeculturelinks.com/nations.html
  4. Living Stories, perspetives from Native students in the classroom: http://www.oyate.org/index.php/resources/45-resources/living-stories#robette
  5. Reading Without Walls Challenge: http://geneyang.com/the-reading-without-walls-challenge     
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