Thinkstock
Our students have to learn that education does not come in schools. All schools do is teach you some tools. Then you have to use these tools to learn yourself. You learn by reading.

Custer Died So That You Can Read! My 10 Favorite Books

Dr. Dean Chavers
5/28/14

As an inveterate reader I tell people I do not read books—I devour them. For the book I am currently writing, about the Indian occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, I am devouring about two books a week. In addition, I read about two a week for fun. I have written a total of 27 books, and will soon finish the 28th, The American Indian Dropout.

I just read three essays for students. All three scored below a 20 on the ACT, or below the 50th percentile. They had good GPAs of 3.5 to 3.8. So they should have scored at the 75th percentile or higher.

Why did they score so low? None of them are readers. Our students have to learn that education does not come in schools. All schools do is teach you some tools. Then you have to use these tools to learn yourself. You learn by reading. The schools do not teach Indian kids to read. To most Indian kids, having to read a book is like having to take castor oil. It should be like eating ice cream.

But the Indian reservation schools they are attending are cheating them out of a fulfilling life. These schools do not encourage or require students to read.

I feel so strongly about the importance of reading that I wrote a book about it called Reading for College. It is an annotated bibliography of books on literature, biology, biography, aviation, crime—41 chapters in all. We wanted that book in all the Indian high schools and colleges. But it is a slow seller. We have not yet sold 100 of them—to order, visit CatchingtheDream.org. The people who have used it have really improved their reading and ACT scores. One of our students, Amber Baca, is carrying a 4.0 GPA at the University of New Mexico.

Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is the story of conquering Indians in the Dakota Territory in the last half of the 19th century. Brown, who also wrote the best-seller about the railroads, is a wonderful writer. He told the story of the massacres, lies, and destruction of the Plains Indians from their point of view, which few books have ever done.

Pages

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page

POST A COMMENT

Comments

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
I love to read but is this list edited by whites for Natives? Why would you read a book that a celebrity is interested in directing a movie about? Celebrities aren't smart. Money doesn't equate to intelligence. (Although most people have been brainwashed to think that it does.) Second, "finally made the U.S. Air Force the fourth arm of the military?? I don't go along with people that murder others to look like a hero and further agendas of the real enemy (our government) brainwashed or no there aren't many real heroes that do it for the right reasons. Most of the people in the military that are decorated with salad dressing medals and sit behind desks don't do anything.Third who cares about the English language when whites are trying to get rid of tribal languages as part of the genocide of Natives? We need to be reading books on our own languages instead. If you want to learn about more than your own language then that's fine and great but this book looks like propaganda aimed at saying "English is better because x many people read it and know it and you should too!" The Custer book looks interesting to me.

choctawgirl's picture
choctawgirl
Submitted by choctawgirl on
Their scores were low because the government doesn't want kids to know how to read and so the government school teachers are trained not to teach them on purpose and many of them don't know anything or have real life experience themselves so they can't see what is going on or care.. Also, a large majority of public school teachers are on average only making $30,000 a year and are small town people that get off on power trips over children because they can't control their own lives. They work for the system so they aren't exactly motivated to be great and teach children anything worth while. They get summers off and it sounds like a great deal to these people. I totally agree that children have to pick up a book themselves but many public school teachers aren't interested in helping kids. They are there to get a paycheck and don't know or understand what their home life is like in comparison to white kids. The most that has happened to them is they stubbed their toe or got a paper cut grading papers. They aren't the epitome of wisdom because they are in a teaching job. People have been conditioned to respect authority and listen to everything they say and not question them if they are wrong on something. Kids are being thrown books to them and are being told what to think instead of HOW to think. They can read what's on a page but they don't understand what they are reading so they believe all of the propaganda in government school books and mainly white kids because they WANT to believe they are on the winning team and are right. They have to be talked at and told what to believe and can't think for themselves. So most of the people you see working for the system and people going along with it are a result of what you see today. If you are a student and you see through their lies and question them they will threaten you and punish you because you are a threat to them and they are children in their minds because nothing has ever happened to them so they cannot relate and they've been brainwashed themselves. It's a vicious cycle. The government wants to churn out people working for THEM. They don't want kids learning how to read contracts, how to take care of themselves, understanding their rights, etc. They want robots that they can control. So Home school instead.

bullbear's picture
bullbear
Submitted by bullbear on
I am not a voracious reader of books, but give me a newspaper and I will devour all sections. One of my favorite books I savored from chapter-to- chapter was left at my aunt's humble home which was walking distance to a lake. That lake was like a personal piece of heaven for nine boys, who were four sets of cousins. We swam by moonlight and fished and often wished the day would never end. For two days, I described to them each chapter of "When The Legends Die" by Hal Borland. I saw the movie and it was a far cry from the book, except the 'beneath-me attitude' towards Native Americans by the anglo society as was exhibited by an alcoholic rodeo trainer who Richard Widmark played exceptionally well. As we all know, any number of books and movies have a less than fluffy ending, but they are fixed to our memory by someone else's creative mind. I started my second annual book drive specifically for Native American children and have accumulated 350 good, clean used books for grades K-8 in three months. I have turned them over to a teacher on the rez who will categorize by reading levels. The October distribution will dovetail with a winter clothing drive which is now in its fourth year. It amazes me how generous people can be when they learn of the effort. Back to books, I love to see the faces of youth light up when they look through the books searching for mysteries, animal stories, princess tales and yes, science and math books. As adults we can set examples by reading and sharing stories of books that we, too, enjoyed. It is never too late to start a book drive of your own. After all, the tales, myths, and true stories of books are timeless. Now back to that newspaper story I didn't quite finish reading.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
As a high-school librarian, I read nearly everything I can get my hands on - that goes doubly for anything about Natives or written by Natives. I've recommended Bury My Heart to several students who have asked questions about Native history and they're amazed that they're NOT taught these things in history class. I also recommend "Lies My Teacher Told Me" by James Lowen for the same reason. _______________ As sad as it makes me to say this, the prime reason so many students (Natives included) do so poorly in school is that their parents don't value education and don't participate in their child's education. While I'll NEVER say the best education comes from books, they ARE the best way to learn about the past, or about places you can't (for any number of reasons) visit. My wife and son recently returned from a trip to San Francisco and brought me several photos of Alcatraz and the NDN graffitti that was left behind from the 1969 occupation.

bullbear's picture
bullbear
Submitted by bullbear on
There are two stark contrasts with regard to books written in English language. Some tribes are making great strides in writing books in their native language and recently incorporated in the movie Star Wars. For these achievements, we can extend praise as they are monumental steps in the retention, encouragement and active teaching of their native tongue. From another perspective, all tribes must master the use of the english language to not just survive in today's society, but for their communities to thrive wholly. Case in point (no pun intended), when a tribe is party to a legal suit before the U.S. Supreme Court, we rely totally upon legal representation that must present its best thinking in english words that dispels myths and lay out what existing laws interpret as a fair and legal. Books written in english are foundations to the educational system in the U.S. However, that leaves doors wide open to all tribes to have their members capture their history, beliefs, and values in their native language for everyone to read so we are better understood. Author of many books, Simon Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo) writes in english, but often his Keres language is interwoven. Some may even recall the Coca-Cola ad during SuperBowl last year that included a young Keres woman speaking in her own language as well as many other nations. (Sorry for the reminder, Denver Bronco fans) We have a long row to hoe for American and foreign countries to realize that we, as tribal nations, have survived all that has been thrown at us and our resiliency is due in part to the staunch wisdom of elders that told their people, education is the key.

Bill Brown
Bill Brown
Submitted by Bill Brown on
I agree, Dr Chavers. My Ma had me 'listening', and then reading right after 'the crib', so it's always been intuitive. Yup-started at home. B. PS. 'did an intensive research project on 'American Indian and Education', for a grad' course, and was prompted by the book - 'Custer Died For Your Sins'.

Brent Nichol
Brent Nichol
Submitted by Brent Nichol on
I've got a Cheshire cat grin right now, that was great article and a very smart Tittle it shocked me enough to go "WTF ok I've got to read this" and sure enough I agree with every word our children...the human races children in general DO NOT READ ENOUGH. I myself was 16 before I started reading without it being a school assignment but I really kicked into gear at 23 shortly after Iraq. Television just does not spark the Imagination or make a person really think like Books do.

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
TO BULLBEAR: Ha! I was happy to see you mention "When Legends Die" by Hal Borland - I'm reading that book right now! I'm at the part where Bear Brother is going to be forced into school and away from his lodge. I'm sure I'll be pissed at whatever happens to his bear. I'm also reading "The Sun Dance People" by Richard Erdoes. It's an old book, but the information I'm gleaning from it is priceless.
8