We Are Still Here! Native American Truths Everyone Should Know
Traci Sorell writes fiction and nonfiction for children featuring contemporary characters and compelling biographies. She is an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation and lives in northeastern Oklahoma, where her tribe is located.
Frané Lessac is the illustrator of more than forty books for children. She has lived on the small Caribbean island of Montserrat, in London, and in Australia, and her work has taken her on many adventures in numerous countries.
♦ Students at the Native Nations Community School share presentations about the history, present, and future of Indigenous communities. The vivid artwork features a simple, bold style. The narrative starts with a general introduction of Native Nations in the United States. Each presentation contains illustrations with the student's name, an overview of the subject, a brief list of the impact that the concept or historical moment had on Native American people, and the refrain "We Are Still Here!" The last pages show students and their families with a variety of skin tones and physical abilities studying the presentations on topics that include sovereign rights and relocation. Additional information, a time line, a glossary, sources, and an author's note offer further context. The lyrical text and jewel-tone illustrations elegantly work together to stirringly portray the ongoing fight for Native American recognition and rights. VERDICT An essential purchase for introducing the impact laws and treaties had and continue to have on Native Nations.
-- School Library Journal, starred review
♦ In this meticulously researched nonfiction picture book, Sibert honorees Sorell and Lessac team up once again to answer this question: What has happened to Native Nations and their citizens after the treaties with the U.S. government ended in 1871?
Lessac's trademark colorful, folk-art-style illustrations show a Native American community school with a classroom of diverse students preparing for presentations at the Indigenous People's Day assembly. Spread by spread, each child speaks, featured words and terms highlighting the journey Native Nations have taken to reclaim their land and rights. They show why Indigenous people say, "We are still here!" In the "Assimilation" presentation, Native children are dressed in militarylike uniforms, showing how U.S. leaders used schooling to destroy Native traditions. Dividing plots of tribal land for "Allottment" left much treaty land open for public sale. With "Termination" and "Relocation," Native people were encouraged to leave their tribal lands and "act more like white people." But Indigenous people say, "We are still here!" and the narrative arc turns to emphasize resilience. When activists speak up and organize, it strengthens tribal sovereignty. The tribes "protect and provide for future generations" by holding on to their traditional ceremonies, opening businesses to support their tribal members, and reviving their tribal languages. The illustrations, too, change their tenor, modulating from historical wrongs to emphasize contemporary strength, community, and joy.
An emphatic, triumphant declaration: "WE ARE STILL HERE!"
-- Kirkus Reviews, starred review
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