Today I partook in a literature reading for Native American Heritage Month. Since Native American literature is not a genre I am familiar with, I had to do some research and browsing through my local library for something to read.
I was thinking of reading an excerpt from The Falcon by John Tanner, an autobiographical book I had read for class years ago, written by a man who was kidnapped at the age of nine by the Shawnee tribe in 1789. The Falcon is a thrilling and historically relevant tale of survival and a fascinating account of Native American culture through the eyes of an enculturated white man.
I also considered reading something by Louise Erdrich, the widely acclaimed author who has often given readings at my university. Though I haven’t read many works by her, I know she’s considered one of the most significant authors of the Native American Renaissance, an era during the late 60s and early 70s when Native writers emerged in mainstream literature.
Instead I ended up rediscovering a book I had loved back in 4th grade; a children’s book entitled The Legend of the Bluebonnet, written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola.
This is the Native legend of the origin of the state flower of Texas, the bluebonnet, and what it represents for the Comanche people. In a time of drought and famine, the tribal elder declares that a sacrifice to the Great Spirits will bring rain and revitalize their crops. Within the tribe is an orphaned girl named She-Who-is-Alone, who takes it upon herself to make a sacrifice that will save her people and sow the seeds of the bluebonnet.
Far more than a Native legend made accessible for children, The Legend of the Bluebonnet is an inspirational fable of community, the importance of humility, and making sacrifices for the greater good. I highly recommend it to readers of all ages, as I was moved by this story both as a child and an adult.
I advise my fellow book-lovers to partake in Native American Heritage Month. Seize the chance to become accustomed to a genre you are perhaps not familiar with. Tomie DePaola has also written The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush, which I have not read, but plan to in the future. Besides Louise Erdrich, notable authors of the Native American Renaissance include N. Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo and Nila NorthSun.