Music—Kindergarten 1985, 151). While some Native American music
features vocables, when these are the only representations of Native songs
included, as is often the case, non-Native children are left with the impres-
sion that Indians have no fully developed languages. Perhaps the most bla-
tant and familiar example of stereotyped music is the musical Peter Pan, with
its “Ugh-A-Wug” song. We cannot excuse blatant stereotypes just because
they are considered “art.” These images are still damaging to children.

§ Depersonalization
One of the most insidious stereotypes of Native American peoples is their
dehumanization in books and songs. They are often portrayed as animals in
children’s books, because authors and illustrators seem to believe that just
adding a headdress automatically makes anything into an “Indian.” The fol-
lowing are just a few of the numerous books that portray Native American
peoples as animals, or vice versa: The Eleventh Hour (Base 1993), which shows
a tiger in feathered headdress; Teddy Bears ABC (Gretz 1975), which includes
two teddy bears carrying a headdress; Richard Scarry’s Find Your ABC’s (Scarry
1986), which includes a cat dressed in buckskin shirt and headdress and a
raccoon in a headband and feather; Clifford’s Halloween (Bridwell 1967), in
which a dog wears war paint, a blanket, and a headdress and smokes a pipe;
Alligators All Around: An Alphabet (Sendak 1962), in which one alligator wears
a headdress and carries a tomahawk, and another alligator sits stoically,
smoking a pipe; and The Stupids Step Out (Allard 1974), which shows a dog
wearing a headdress. Native peoples are further objectified when they are
used as objects for counting in children’s songs and counting books. The
most widespread example is undoubtedly “Ten Little Indians,” which
spreads generationally by word of mouth and is perpetuated in music books
such as the kindergarten volume of Silver Burdett Music (1985, 30). Many
adults who grew up singing this song themselves have a hard time under-
standing why it is objectionable. They must remember that items used for
counting are almost always inanimate objects or animals. To group Native
Americans with animals or objects is the height of dehumanization. It
supports an image of Indian peoples that is undifferentiated by culture and
less than human. Just to experience how it feels to be a counting object, try
putting your own race or ethnic group into the song. Would any of us sing
about ten little white boys, Jews, or African Americans?
Chapter 1: Native American Issues in Early Childhood Education § 17

Cultural Insensitivity
Omission of Native peoples from the curriculum, inaccurate curriculum, and
stereotyping all amount to cultural insensitivity. This is heightened, however,
when well-meaning teachers introduce projects that are culturally inappropri-
ate. Teachers may decide to have children “make” an object from a Native
culture or ceremony because they equate such activities with hands-on
learning. In fact, these activities often demean Native cultures, lead to mis-
understanding, and perpetuate stereotypes. It is helpful to analyze various
activities in order to understand why they are so problematic. The following
are some typical projects often introduced into early childhood programs,
along with an explanation of what the objects signify to Native cultures and
why including them as projects is inappropriate. Several activity books, all pur-
chased at national early childhood conferences, are discussed; however, teachers
will recognize that the types of activities described in these books are typical of
those in numerous books sold throughout the country. Teachers should espe-
cially note that many of these activities involve sacred objects. When teachers
simplify these ceremonial objects, they take away from their sacredness.

§ Feathers and Headdresses
This is one of the most common “Indian” activities used by teachers of
young children. Some activity books, such as More Than Moccasins (Carlson
1994, 51–56), give specific directions for war bonnets or headdresses. They
illustrate the somewhat prevalent attitude that children can play Indian,
just as they might play cowboy. The important difference is that cowboy is
an occupation, while Indian is a race. Native peoples do not consider making
headdresses or using feathers in “Indian” projects to be acceptable. To Native
peoples, feathers are sacred. They are often used in ceremonial practice. As
a comparison, teachers would not have children make and wear yarmulkes,
the traditional rounded caps used by Jewish men to cover their heads in the
presence of G-d, as a strategy for understanding Jewish people.

§ Peace Pipe
We often hear references to a “peace pipe,” and in More Than Moccasins
children are directed to make peace pipes out of toilet paper tubes
(Carlson 1994, 36). The Pipe is so sacred to Native American peoples that
it is brought out only for very significant occasions. Although traditional
18 § Lessons from Turtle Island