The People Shall Continue – Perfect Picture Book Friday

Title: The People Shall Continue

Author: Simon J. Ortiz

Illustrator: Sharol Graves

 Publisher: Lee & Low Books, 2017 40th Anniversary Addition

Ages: 6-10

Genre: Narrative nonfiction

Themes: Native American History, Native American month, oppression, civil rights, conservation, respect

Opening:

Many, many years ago, all things came to be.

The stars, rocks, plants, trees, animals. Mountains, sun, moon, birds, all things. And the People were born. Some say, “From the ocean.” Some say, “From a hollow log.” Some say, “From an opening in the ground.” Some say, “From the mountains.” And the People came to live in the Northwest Mountains and on the Plains, in the Western Hills, and on the Seacoasts, in the southern Deserts and in the Canyons, in the Eastern Woodlands and on the Piedmonts.

Synopsis:

Told in the rhythms of traditional oral narrative, this powerful telling of the history of the Native/Indigenous peoples of North America recounts their story from Creation to the invasion and usurpation of Native lands. As more and more people arrived, The People saw that the new men did not respect the land. The People witnessed the destruction of their Nations and the enslavement of their people. The People fought hard, but eventually agreed to stop fighting and signed treaties.

Many things changed and became more difficult, but The People continued to farm and create crafts. They remembered and told their children, “You are Shawnee. You are Lakota. You are Pima. You Acoma. . . . You are all these Nations of the People.” The People held onto their beliefs and customs and found solidarity with other oppressed people. And despite struggles against greed, destruction of their lands, and oppression, The People persisted.

Why I like this book:

Ortiz uses the rhythms and melodies of traditional oral storytelling to share the history of Indigenous peoples of North America. He begins with Creation and takes us through to the present day. Before the Europeans came, each tribe had its own creation story, each tribe had its own set of skills, and each tribe acknowledged the earth as the source of life. The leaders, healers and hunters all had special roles serving and caring for the People. The text is a long narrative typical of a book published in the 7o’s but well worth a read-aloud to an older class. Although the book was originally published 40 years ago, the events described here and the urgent need to care for the earth and its natural resources is undeniable. “We are all the People of this land. We were created out of the forces of earth and sky, the stars and water. We must make sure that the balance of the Earth be kept. There is no other way. We must struggle for our lives. We must take great care with each other. We must share our concern with each other. Nothing is separate from us.”

One unexpected strength for me in this text is that Ortiz ties the People’s story to the story of all the American poor; Black, Latino, Asian or White. Many are being kept poor by American wealth and power. I think this would make a good classroom read to debunk the false traditional Thanksgiving story where the white settlers and Indians are portrayed as friends. It would open up a great dialogue about both groups of people and allow the students to form their own opinions on the history. This 40th Anniversary edition includes an added note from the author, he gives us a summary of the history of the People (Native Americans). This book is the picture book to introduce young students to the struggles of the People faced with colonists, settlers, pioneers who did not keep their promises or treaties.

Activities/resources:

For “Thanksgiving” combine reading this book with reading Squanto’s Journey, which I will review next week.

Each week a group of bloggers reviews picture books we feel would make great educational reads. To help teachers, caregivers and parents, we have included resources and/or activities with each of our reviews. A complete list of the thousands of books we have reviewed can be found sorted alphabetically and by topics, here on Susanna Leonard Hill’s website.

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8 Responses to The People Shall Continue – Perfect Picture Book Friday

  1. Wow! This sounds like a powerful book! I like how it uses the past to inform the present. Very interesting. Thanks for featuring, Joanna. I’ll put in a request for it.

  2. Joanna says:

    Thanks. I enjoyed not juts the content but the beautiful almost seasonal rhythm.

  3. Patricia Nozell says:

    So happy to see you finding, and reviewing, this book. I’m hoping my library system has a copy.

  4. Andrea Mack says:

    Thanks for sharing this! Looking for more resources on this topic.

    • Joanna says:

      Wish there were more. For teens the new, An indigenous peoples’ history of the United States / Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, is awesome.

  5. Wow, what a treasure! I am partial to Native American stories. And this one really sounds appealing. I also like the fact that the author includes the PEOPLE with other poor American cultures. Will check this book out.

  6. Joanna says:

    They should have the original if not the 40th anniversary edition.

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