Monday, November 6, 2017

The People Shall Continue, by Simon J. Ortiz -- powerful poetic celebration of the struggles of Native Americans (ages 9-12)

In honor of Native American Heritage Month, I am especially looking forward to sharing The People Shall Continue with our students. This powerful poetic tribute celebrates the struggles of Indigenous peoples in America. Simon J. Ortiz is a writer of the Acoma Pueblo tribe and originally published this picture book in 1977; Lee & Low has recently republished it in both English and Spanish.
The People Shall Continue / El Pueblo seguirá
by Simon J. Ortiz
illustrated by Sharol Graves
Children's Book Press / Lee & Low, reprint 2017
Amazon / Local libraryTeachers guide
ages 9-12
Ortiz uses the rhythms of traditional oral storytelling to share the history of Indigenous peoples of North America. He begins with Creation: "Many, many years ago, all things came to be." As the People were born, they came to live across the land. The leaders, healers and hunters all had special roles serving and caring for the People.
"The teachers and the elders of the People
all taught this important knowledge:
'The Earth is the source of all life.'"
Throughout, Ortiz recognizes that life has always been hard. This struggle is part of life, essential and yet not romanticized. Elders told the People: "We should not ever take anything for granted. / In order for our life to continue, / we must struggle very hard for it."

But soon, their lands were invaded by strange men seeking treasures, slaves and domination. In the South, the Spanish "caused destruction among the People." In the East, the English, French, and Dutch arrived, teaching about “a God whom all should obey” and taking over fertile land for their own crops. Ortiz powerfully recounts resistance from many tribes, from the Pueblo to the Shawnee. "Warriors who resisted and fought / to keep the American colonial power from taking their lands."

Ortiz shows how the People persisted and continue to keep their culture alive. They told their children, “You are Shawnee. You are Lakota. You are Pima. You Acoma. . . . You are all these Nations of the People.” Beliefs and customs formed the bedrock of the People's culture, as they reached out and found solidarity with other oppressed people.

In a new author's note, Ortiz reflects how this story is still relevant today, specifically connecting it to the Standing Rock tribal community of Sioux peoples in North Dakota and the struggle to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.

This remarkable picture book balances hard truths with hopeful celebration. With his poetic voice, Ortiz recognizes the struggle and oppression, yet assures readers that by standing together and sharing our humanity, we can ensure that the People will continue.
“A healing introduction, respectful reflection, profound and poetic celebration of the drumbeat, the heartbeat of Native Nations–past, present and future.” — Cynthia Leitich Smith (Muscogee), New York Times bestselling author
The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Lee & Low. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2017 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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