Friday, February 19, 2010


Hummm? Had two ways to go on this one-
Skipped the first, more obvious definition when I went to - one- because I just had no desire to go there, but more importantly because the less used definition fits very well into my plans of showing the progression of my first picture book project that I am going to share on the blog-

 the second definition of propagate- according to old Webster- now so high tech- is as follows-"to cause to spread out and affect a greater number or greater area b: to foster growing knowledge of, familiarity with, or acceptance of (as an idea or belief) "

Sounds pretty- good? Helping a larger audience, like children, through a vehicle like....books gain knowledge and understanding to an idea or belief.............well that depends on exactly what one would be trying to "sway" the audience into believing. Something I believe we as writers and illustrators, especially, let me underline that- especially because we are trying to sway the innocent, have signed up for a special kind of judgement. Even with the best intentions, myself included, we all are trying to influence in one way or another.
"To propagate" has an "ickier" sounding Noun- "Propaganda" when heard evokes images of Stalin and the Iron Curtain, Hitler and his throngs of loyal children marching in their black shorts, white shirts and arms bands- guess what- America- "The Land of the Free" does not escape without a black mark of trying to "propagate" the masses.
Still intrigued? Or are you thinking- "Man! She's turned this light Illustration Friday into a Propaganda piece!" If the second- my apologies and have a great weekend!
For those sticking around-

Apache Children entering the Carlisle Indian School

In dealing with the "Indian Problem" words of the Nineteenth Century US Government- the last and most efficient solution when out and out warfare and the reservation system was not working so well to "tame the red man" was to eradicate the Native populations culture- the way to do that..... take their children, yes sometimes at gun point, pull little ones out of their mothers arms!

Between the mid 1800s and far into the 1900 thousands of Native American children, were taken from their mothers, some as young as three, many around the age of five, girls and boy, but more boys, to get them before they got their rebellious ways and were placed in Off Reservation Indian Schools. Where immediately on their arrival, their hair, sacred to many tribes, was cut off, they were scrubbed down with kerosene for lice, and every remnant of their culture in their dress and decorations taken from them. They were dressed in white man's clothes, set at a dining room table, slept in a bed, and beaten if they spoke a word of their language- or practiced a bit of their culture. Let me say that again- "they were beaten if they spoke their language"
Same children as above a few months later-
They were schooled half the day in reading writing and arithmetic- though the official writings of those in charge expressed very little expectation in their intelligence and so the emphasis was more to train them for skilled labor. Now for even more "Propaganda" - We did a pretty good job of making the whole thing sound like we were saving the Native from himself. We were giving these poor, subservient people a chance to exist in our greater culture- throw in that many were also doing it in the name of God, with missionary schools and well it becomes a huge convoluted shameful part of our history- which we have done little to make amends for- even suggesting there is a way to make amends sounds like I am belittling the issue. No amends can be made.
Canada and Australia are ahead of us, in at least taking responsibility for what they did and bringing some amount of redemption to their Native People- just bringing such heinous parts of our history to the light can bring some healing.
So.... lovely subject.... but one I think is as much a part of my history, as an white emigrant- my family settled all over the West- My home sits on what was once sovereign Ute land, I graduated from Fort Lewis College, started as a military base, turned into an Indian School, then a college- where today any Native person can go tuition free- one positive change- to deal with this part of Native/White history- because it really is both our histories.
Also Fort Lewis College houses the Center of Southwest Studies- a vast research library full of original documents, manuscripts, books , photographs and artifacts of the Southwest. A few days ago I had the privilege to get to know and be helped by Elyane Silversmith, Navajo and the Centers Librarian- in both doing research for my in progress YA novel on the early tourist of Mesa Verde but also on initial ideas for a picture book on Indian Schools- more interesting tidbits from the library to come.
Sorry for such a sobering post-if you want to see more photos here is a good link to the University of Washingtons Digitial Collection (unfortunately there is very little documentation on the Fort Lewis Indian school due to many factor including some rather violent- tell you later about that.


  1. The same thing happened here to the Australian indigenous peoples, except that it was still happening right on into the 50s. The idea apparently was to remove 'half-caste' children and 'educate' (or indoctrinate) them so they could become 'useful' members of society...which I think basically meant domestic service or manual labour. Our current government finally said its official sorry to the Stolen Generations when it first came to power, after years of refusal by the previous governments. So much language and culture and knowledge was lost, so many people left floating in limbo not knowing where they belonged.

  2. Just re-read the last bit!...not sure exactly how far ahead we are, yes, we had the official apology, but there was a LOT of contention of the "I shouldn't have to say sorry, I didn't do it" and even some of the "they should be grateful we civilized them" attitude. But I guess it was a start, and symbolic gestures can have a hugely cathartic effect. As long as it was a first step towards greater understanding and true reconciliation. I'm hopeful. (apologies if this posted twice, got an error message first time!)

  3. Love this post soooo much, thank you for talking in such a frank manner.