Guest Blogger

We Are Water Protectors (and what librarians can do) at #ALSC20

“I knew I wanted to have young people feel empowered,” said Michaela Goade, illustrator of the picture book, We Are Water Protectors, during the ALSC Institute session about the book.

Writing the book is “my way of being a water protector,” said author Carole Lindstrom, describing the traditional beliefs of her tribe and the process by which she wrote the book, about the peaceful stand against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

One great question that came up in the session was: in addition to getting We Are Water Protectors into the hands of readers, what can librarians do to support Indigenous peoples and causes? By extension, how can we help support young Indigenous people? A lot of fantastic suggestions were shared:

  • Evaluate the older books in your collection about Indigenous peoples. Many of them were written by people who weren’t Indigenous, or didn’t even have a connection to Indigenous peoples. Look for stereotypes and poor depictions, and replace those books (and more!) with contemporary Indigenous literature.
  • Remember that Columbus Day and Thanksgiving are built upon harmful depictions of Indigenous people.
  • Remember too that even if, instead of making a Columbus Day display, you make an Indigenous Peoples Day display, you ought to have Indigenous books on display all year – not just in the months of October and November.
  • Decolonize Dewey! Illustrator Michaela Goede shared how disappointing it was to find Indigenous books still shelved in the mythology and folklore section. This relegates Indigenous people to the past, when they are very much an important part of today!
  • Know whose land you’re on, and acknowledge that. (The ALSC Institute includes a land acknowledgement in the “About” tab of their page). Check out to learn more.
  • We Are Water Protectors comes with an Earth Steward and Water Protector pledge, that we can use with children when reading the book in a program. An activity kit can also be found on the MacMillan website.

Towards the end of the session, Goade stated how she hoped the book made Native children “feel empowered, and seen.” Lindstrom chimed in that non-Native children too, could see from the book that Indigenous people are still here; they are contemporary. The book is delightful, and their passion even more so.

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