Forest County Potawatomi Community donates Indigenous authored books to local districts so students ‘can see themselves’ in stories
A bin full of books are spread across a table at the Elementary school library at the School District of Crandon.
They range from picture books for kindergarteners to non-fiction chapter books for high schoolers.
While their topics, genres, and age range vary greatly, they all have one thing in common. They are written by indigenous authors.
It’s something Lois Frank didn’t have growing up in Forest County.
“Not that I can remember, no,” said Frank when ask if her school libraries had books like this.
Now as the Tribal Librarian for the Forest County Potawatomi Community Museum and Cultural Center, Frank is working to change that for students in the area.
“It's important for young readers and students to kind of see themselves in books in a way that's respectful and accurate as to our culture,” said Frank.
The work started a while ago when the School District of Crandon reached out to the Forest County Potawatomi Community.
The district asked the Tribe to go through the school libraries and weed out books that either had harmful Native American stereotypes or were historically inaccurate.
“We want to ensure that, culturally, we are supporting our students and families in the most appropriate ways and honoring our students cultures,” said Kelly Huseby, the district’s Director of Curriculum and Instruction.
About 42% of student in the School District of Crandon’s are Native American with students coming from both the Forest County Potawatomi and the Mole Lake Sokaogon Chippewa Communities.
“Being the only school district in the state of Wisconsin that has two indigenous sovereign nations feeding into our school and our community at large, we need to ensure and develop that great partnership in honoring our students and their culture,” said Huseby.
As a way to say thank-you and support the district’s mission, the Forest County Potawatomi Community donated 26 books that will be distributed to the elementary and middle/high school libraries.
“It's important and it's new and it's exciting to see that there's a whole variety of Native American books written by Native Americans with Native American characters in fiction and nonfiction,” said Frank.
The partnership isn’t ending there.
Anytime the district buys books that features indigenous people, they ask the Frank and other staff at the Museum and Cultural Center to screen them to ensure they’re free of harmful stereotypes and racism.
“We have to highlight the success of the indigenous authors and what they bring to our students. As far as representing accurately his historical events, as well as, like Lois said, to have our students see themselves in materials that they can get off of our shelves as they come for library checkout or within their own classrooms,” said Huseby.
The Forest County Potawatomi Community is also donating the same set of books to the Wabeno, Laona, and Goodman school districts.