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Walking on Earth and Touching the Sky: Poetry and Prose by Lakota Youth at Red Cloud Indian School Hardcover – April 1, 2012
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Walking on Earth & Touching the Sky
Abrams Books for Young Readers, New York, 2012
The poetry and prose of today's Lakota Indian youth is a revelation. Written by youth from 5th to 8th grade attending the Red Cloud Indian School, and edited by Timothy P. McLaughlin, you get a feeling of life on the reservation. Children in this age group are at the edge of becoming adults. They still parrot many of the teachings of their parents and elders, but they are also beginning to think for their selves and challenge the things they are taught.
The conflict of Indian and outside teachings is alive and well in these children. They revel in their Native Pride or "NP" as Ashley Jones writes (36). They also struggle with the state of the reservation. They want a better life, but they live in conflict because they often associate the pursuit of a better life with giving up their NP.
Many of the children simply write the ideas that have been implanted in their minds by their parents, grandparents, and elders. In reading you will see clearly the bitterness of generations passed on again. Occasionally a child will write with such emotion, that you know for sure they are speaking from their own conclusions.
These youth speak with more experience than many of their non-Indian, and non-reservation peers. They see alcohol, drugs, poverty, and death at a much higher rate earlier in life. They are forced to grow up faster than they should. One student, Rayleen Bickerstaff wrote,
Still I'm Loved
When I do something bad, still I'm loved.
When I'm crabby and I'm mad, still I'm loved.
When I stomp around, still I'm loved.Read more ›
The Lakota children writing this book come from an environment that appears barren, to say the least. If you've seen photographs of their reservation, it's easy to see why drug and alcohol addictions are so prevalent. What's so interesting here ,however, is that the lack of stimulation, so widely available in highly populated areas, is not available to these kids, and they tend to be far less precocious as kids in the city, and are very honest about their feelings and how they see their world.
Haiku poetry is a wonderful way to say a great deal in a very few words. The Lakota kids have taken full advantage of the form to create a very apt description of what their inner world is living where they do. I would love to see where the kids are in 10-15 years. People surprise you lots of times. The clear, vivid portrayals of village life presented in this volume, may hint as to the futures of the kids lives down the road.
A well-written picture of modern Native American life on the "rez". Well worth the purchase.