I recently learned that I would be teaching Native American literature at UNL in the fall of 2012 and I am simultaneously excited and terrified.  Over the last few weeks I’ve been working out my lesson plans and I’ve been reminded over and over again of the 2011 summer literature institute. It was rough ride. We had teachers from every grade and all over Nebraska. I was the only person of color and even though I am Mexican American (although I may or may not have a Paiute great grandfather, the history is unclear) I often found myself asked to speak to, explain, or illuminate through my own narrative or lived experience moments of great frustration and occasionally contention about issues of race. This was true of the summer institute because teaching Native American literature can be very intense and scary. To do it well, to do it justly, fairly and accurately is hard. Teachers have to juggle curriculum, parental concerns, they have to navigate and manage all the personalities in a class room, they have to deal with issues of time and resources.  One of the best things about the Native American literature institute was that it gave us a place to think about and talk about all of those issues outside of the classroom. And it did get messy.   As a class we worked through issues of guilt, anger, frustration — we took a hard look at our own privileges, biases, and our deep-seated learned behaviors that reflected the racism inherent in our nation – particularly in context to Native American identity. It was a rough ride but we got through it and we all seemed to be better teachers and people for it. Now as I prepare to step into my own classroom I wonder if I have the strength and wisdom to gently lead a class of young (probably mostly white) students to some kind of reconciliation with a body of literature that documents, illuminates, and lays bear the worst truths of our nation’s past and some of the greatest injustices, indifference and cruelties of our present. I’m pretty certain I will fail over and over again which is something I can live with if I succeed occasionally. I hope to blog over the course of the semester and document this experience and I encourage other teachers who are working with Native American Literature to do the same [drop me an email and we’ll find a place on the blog for your narratives]. I’ll post my syllabus and handouts as I finish them. Until them I’ll list my book choices and a few resources that a reader can access from this site, which have helped me as I plan this class. I hope this blog proves helpful to other teachers.

Reading list 2012:

The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp

Native American Literature: An Anthology. Ed. by Trout, Lawana

Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko

Useful resources (these can be found in our resource list):

Dr. Fran Kaye’s study guide for “Lesser Blessed”

Dr. Tom Gannon, UNL:  Native  American Authors list: http://incolor.inebraska.com/tgannon/NAlitL.html

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