I love this quote. When you think about it, writing one page a day is an easy goal to achieve, and by the end of a year- you’ll have an entire book! I’ve heard writing friend and author Linda Sue Park talk about writing daily. She raises the bar a bit, writing two pages a day. She spoke about how she learned this early on in her career in SCBWI’s podcast – Episode 1: A Conversation with Linda Sue Park, She is an award-winning author of 20+ books. Her latest middle-grade novel is titled PRAIRIE LOTUS which has received six starred reviews so far! At the time of this post, her book is Top 10 in three categories: children’s Asian/Asian American books, 1800s American Historical Fiction, and children’s Native American books. Writing two pages a day has been a great strategy for her on her writing journey.
Behind the Scenes
I was so excited when Linda Sue asked me to write a teacher’s guide to go along with her book. I couldn’t put PRAIRIE LOTUS down when I read it! (It’s one of my new favorite books for kids, along with INDIAN NO MORE by Charlene Willing Mcmanis and Traci Sorell.) Linda Sue had a vision in mind and wanted a teaching guide with an Indigenous viewpoint. (I’m sure you’ve seen the use of different terminology; Indigenous, Native American, and American Indian. For more information, read a document from the National Museum of the American Indian’s Native Knowledge 360 website- NMAI NK360 – CLICK HERE). We identified specific terms to include in the project and talked about what the ending product would best serve teachers. Considering how the current situation with coronavirus has pushed schools into an online learning environment, we decided on a powerpoint with access on Linda Sue’s website. To view the Prairie Lotus Teaching Guide CLICK HERE and scroll down to the powerpoint in the purple box.
I searched for a template that had a similar color scheme as well as circles on the slides. The circle shape is an important feature in Native culture. Then, I began my research (which I love) and found a bunch of Native American books, etc. on history of the 1800s. I tried to focus on those authored by Native Americans. I knew much of the information I was looking for, but like I used to tell my students, “You’re not the expert in a research project. You have to find the evidence.” And that’s what I set out to do. I’m humbled and honored to play a role in promoting Linda Sue’s award-winning novel. I hope teachers and school districts select this novel as part of the classroom libraries this year!
Additional Resources FOUND
During the course of creating this visual project, I stumbled upon additional research sites that you might find helpful if you’re an author, teacher, or librarian. Since the setting in PRAIRIE LOTUS is located near the Yankton Reservation, I started with Yankton Sioux Tribe’s website and followed a series of links to their community college library and found several research tools.
1- HathiTrust Digital Library – do a search in the “read books online” to read/see primary source historical documents. If you’re looking for a Native perspective, be aware of the authors of the documents.
2- Federal Digital System produced by Government Publishing Office (FDSYS) -was replaced by Gov Info- Do a search on a topic and the government documents will pop up, from Congressional Record testimonies, to legislation, to remarks and speeches made by our leaders. I did a quick search of “7th Cavarly” and “Wounded Knee” and found a document published from a May, 1999 dinner with then President Clinton. A summary of all the details are included and then you can click on the actual documents. In one section during his speech on that evening he described a meeting with 19 Chiefs all from different Tribes, including this brief story (excerpt- read full document here):
“And so these very dignified…men and women, came in; we sat in a circle, according to their request, in the Roosevelt Room in the White House; and they spoke in their turn about the needs of their people. And then after they had done that, the person whom they had designated to be their spokesperson stood up in a very dignified way and said, “Mr. President, we have something to say about our involvement in Kosovo. We know something about ethnic cleansing. We were removed from our lands…we have seen America come a very long way. And we have signed this proclamation to tell you that we, the leaders of the first Americans, support America’s policy to stand up against ethnic cleansing and the murder of people because of their religious and ethnic background.
And then another man said, “I would like to be heard.” And this young man stood up with great dignity, and he had a beautiful silver Indian necklace on. And he said this–he said, “Mr. President, I had two uncles. One landed on the beaches at Normandy on D Day; the other was the very first Native American fighter pilot in the history of the American military. My great-great-grandfather was slaughtered by the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee.” He said, “I now have only one son. America has come a very long way from Wounded Knee, to the beaches at Normandy, to the opportunity I have to be in the White House today. And I love my son more than anything, but if he needed to go and fight…I would be proud for him to stand for the United States and for the humanity of man.
No one in the room could breathe, we were so moved by this man in his simple dignity, representing Americans who still don’t have a total, fair shot at educational and economic opportunities, who live in places that still don’t have adequate health care. But he told a story that needs to be told.”
3- Digital Public Library of America – do a search and find photos and other documents. I searched for “women digging” and found a picture of three women digging for roots. Not the same tribe as in PRAIRIE LOTUS, but interesting to view nonetheless.
4- After the project was completed, NMAI offered a series of free webinars about the Foundations for Teaching and Learning about Native Americans- Essential Understandings. Even though I am retired, I believe in lifelong learning so I signed up and was pleasantly surprised. There were more than 1000 in attendance (I got bumped at first) and the presenters did a wonderful job of walking us through different resources and explained the importance of the land to Native Peoples, among other topics. Their education department is working hard to provide resources for teachers at their website NK360. Check it out!
Many thanks to Linda Sue Park for crafting engaging stories for children and seeking my help with the teacher’s guide. Like I mentioned before, I’m touched that she trusted me with this project and I truly hope it helps teachers in the classroom.
author of SIOUX CODE TALKERS OF WORLD WAR II
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Author / Educator Linda Sue Park’s website
National Museum of the American Indian NMAI website
Andrea’s Blog Post How to Choose to Improve Writing Voice