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The People Shall Continue by Simon J. Ortiz

The People Shall Continue

by Simon J. Ortiz

Other authors: Sharol Graves (Illustrator)

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This book should be read in every American History class. It is so well written and gives a personal understanding of The People and their rich history.
Curricular Connections:
*5th grade American History/ Read along with Encounter by Jane Yolan
*Perspective study
  JulieBFEL | Feb 26, 2016 |
An indigenous view of the story of North America, with text by Acoma Pueblo scholar and poet Simon J. Ortiz, and illustrations by Shawnee, Ojibwe and Dakota artist Sharol Graves, The People Shall Continue begins with Creation, as understood by a variety of Native American peoples, introduces the diversity of cultures to be found on the continent, and then chronicles the coming of European conquerors and settlers, and the long and (mostly) unsuccessful struggle of the indigenous peoples to maintain their lands and independence. The book concludes with an examination of (then) contemporary native peoples, spread between reservations and cities, and the continuing importance of their diverse heritages, going forward.

Originally a poem, The People Shall Continue was first published in picture-book form in 1977, and has both strengths and weaknesses. Or, put another way, it is well suited to certain purposes, and not to others. As an encapsulation of Native views of the last five hundred years - the process of encroachment upon and theft of native lands, the brutality of the conquerors and settlers, the importance of tradition, as the People(s) go forward - it is top-notch, and communicates its message clearly and eloquently. If you're an American, or interested in American history, and want the children in your life to have a good understanding of the topic, this book is an important addition to your library. It has a leftward bent, and touches on issues of environmental stewardship and economic oppression, so some readers might find certain passages problematic, even if they don't contest the history. For my part, I appreciated the message, and the fact that Ortiz incorporated other groups (Latinos, African-Americans, poor whites) into his definition of "The People."

All that said, despite its virtues, I'm troubled by those who have billed this as a "history" of North America for children, as I don't think it's anything of the sort. It's one strand of that history, of course - well, really, one poet's view of that one strand - and a significant one at that, but although I think it works as an expression of feeling - perfectly legitimate feeling, in light of the events in question - it isn't what I would consider a work of history itself. Although I can understand why the pre-Columbian world would be seen in such a rosy light - the Peoples in Ortiz's vision all meet in peace, each bringing their own goods and stories, and when misunderstandings arise amongst them, wise leaders shepherd them away from war - and while there's no question in my mind that "discovery" by Europeans was a catastrophe for the native peoples of North America, I'm not comfortable with the implication that everything was a paradise before 1492, with little or no conflict between the peoples already here, since... well, I don't think that is actually true.

Ortiz described The People Shall Continue as a "teaching story," and I'm comfortable with that. Sometimes, in such stories - folktales spring to mind, in this respect - complicated realities are "simplified" to make a point. That's perfectly legitimate, as long as one doesn't confuse the simplified tale with an historical account, as some reviewers (quoted on the back of my copy of the book) seem to have done. For the study of history, even for an "overview" (a description also applied to this book), one would need considerably more information. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Apr 16, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Simon J. Ortizprimary authorall editionscalculated
Graves, SharolIllustratorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Traces the progress of the Indians of North America from the time of the Creation to the present.

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