Native and Indigenous Authors

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

Indigenous Cooking and New Traditions

Indigenous Cooking and New Traditions

Jennifer Jordan, Children’s Librarian

Cover image of "The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen". Grey background with a circle in the middle, split evenly into four photos of berries, herbs, and chopped fruit. With Thanksgiving coming up and the pandemic still affecting our family gatherings, I’ve started thinking about my plans. My partner and I decided that we’ll have a small dinner for us and our toddler and maybe video chat our families throughout the day. I don’t want to do the “traditional” Thanksgiving like I had growing up and I do not want to teach my child the schoolhouse story of the first Thanksgiving.  I want him to celebrate Indigenous culture and learn the long history of what the United States, along with other countries, have done to Indigenous populations. The first step I want to take as a family is to learn and celebrate Indigenous food.

As I was searching recipes and ideas of what to make for two adults and a small child, I came across the idea of making all Indigenous food to help learn about their culture. In my search through the Manhattan Public Library’s catalog for the perfect cookbook, I found “The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen” by Sean Sherman (Oglala Lakota). This book is full of amazing recipes from Omníča Aǧúyapi Saksáka (Crispy Bean Cakes) to Pté Wasná (Bison Wasna).

The first recipe that caught my eye will be the main dish for my family, Ȟaŋte úŋ Pté Lolóbyapi (Cedar-Braised Bison). I love slow cooking and having all the flavors mix and soak into meat to create a tender and savory meal. Sherman has a simple recipe that merges sweet, nut and herbal flavors. As a side to pair with the slow cooked bison, I will make his Wagmíza Aǧúyabskuyela (Crispy Corn Cakes). It’s a simple, four ingredient recipe using cornmeal, salt, water and oil. Serving tender bison over a dense and crispy corn patty will create an amazing bite filled with tons of flavor and textures. As the second side, I will make Čhaŋnákpa na Bló Skúya na Omníča Waháŋpi (Hearty Mushroom, Sweet Potato and Bean Soup). This warming soup will also pair with the corn cakes and add a lightness when eating the savory bison. The last dish I will be making is Ptaŋyétu Wóksapi Aǧúyabskuyela (Autumn Harvest Cookies) and Psíŋ Čhaȟsníyaŋ (Wild Rice Sorbet). The cookies are a mix of acorn flour and cornmeal for the base and allows for any optional mix-ins like dried cranberries, wild rice or walnuts. The sorbet is a creamy and nutty frozen dish that will serve well with the warm cookies. These desserts will be a sweet but not too sweet way to finish our meal.

Along with the recipes, Sherman wrote about his journey as a chef and the importance of food to Indigenous people. One of the main values Sherman gave us in his writings is respecting the food and ingredients. He says, “nothing was ever wasted; every bit was put to use.” This is something that lines up with my values of keeping food waste down and nature being sacred. This value is what I want to start with and expand when teaching my child about Indigenous culture. One day we may forage for the food around us and start cooking what we grow and find but today we can learn together and teach each other. Sherman’s cookbook and writings are eye opening to how Indigenous people cook and create food. Food is how I connect with my partner, my child, my mother and Filipino culture. Sherman says, “food weaves people together, connects families through generations, is a life force of identity and social structure.”

The Manhattan Public Library has an amazing ReadMHK podcast to go along with the reading program. This month they talked with Dr. Debra Bolton, the Director of Intercultural Learning and Academic Success at Kansas State University, about Native American and Indigenous authors. You can signup for monthly ReadMHK challenges on the library’s website or by stopping in.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger:  A Review

“Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger:  A Review

by Rashael Apuya, Teen Services Librarian

November is Native American Heritage Month, a month dedicated to the history and current culture of the Indigenous peoples of this country. A great way to learn more about Indigenous cultures is to read books by and about Indigenous peoples. If you are participating in the Manhattan Public Library’s ReadMHK reading program, you can read a book by a Native American author and log it for this month’s theme of “Native Authors.” Looking for a young adult option to fulfill the prompt? I encourage you to check out “Elatsoe” by Darcie Little Badger, who is an enrolled member of the Lipan Apache tribe of Texas.

I picked up “Elatsoe” solely because of the book’s cover, which was illustrated by Rovina Cai. It depicts a girl in a hooded jacket surrounded by running white dogs in a painted style. Once I found out the book was about a teenage girl with a pet ghost dog who goes on a journey to investigate the mysterious death of her cousin – I was all in.

The book follows a seventeen-year-old girl named Elatsoe, or Ellie, who is Native American and grounded firmly in her Lipan Apache tradition and culture. Ellie lives in an altered version of modern-day America. There are the usual things like high school, best friends, and over-protective parents; however, there is also magic and monsters that are shaped by the legends of its peoples – Indigenous and otherwise. For instance, Ellie has the gift of “ghost-calling,” allowing her to raise the ghosts of dead animals, thanks to a skill passed through generations of her family. In the book, Elatsoe’s namesake, Six-Great-Grandmother, is legendary for her ghost-calling gift. Woven into the main plot are tales of Six-Great summoning and training the ghosts of ancient animals to serve as guardians for her people.

The inciting incident of the story is when Ellie is informed that her beloved cousin Trevor has died in a mysterious accident, leaving behind his wife and infant son. When Trevor visits her in a dream and tells Ellie he’s been murdered, she knows she needs to figure out what happened so his spirit and family can be at peace. With the help of her family, best friend Jay, and ghost dog Kirby, Ellie uncovers secrets surrounding Trevor’s death. She and Jay are led to the small, mysterious town of Willowbee, Texas, where the population is overwhelmingly white, lawns are surprisingly lush in the scorching Texas sun, and inhabitants experience a lack of injury and illness.

With expert storytelling and worldbuilding, Little Badger blends modern-day America with Lipan Apache lore that plants the reader solidly in the world. The story confronts the grief of losing a family member and the human desire for truth and vengeance. Even as an avid fan of crime shows and novels, I was genuinely surprised by the sinister motives unearthed, and the twists and turns Little Badger takes the reader through.

If you read young adult novels, you know that even YA fantasy books tend to have romance at their centers. It was refreshing to see that Ellie and Jay’s friendship remains a platonic boy/girl relationship. It is even explained in the book that Ellie is asexual, which is an identity not often represented. That doesn’t mean the book lacked any love, though. Ellie’s strong connection with her family members, and deep trust of her best friend are palpable throughout the book.

I highly recommend “Elatsoe” to anyone who enjoys legends, mystery, fantasy, and reading about close familial relationships. If you need more convincing, “Elatsoe” was named on TIME’s list of 100 Best Fantasy Books of All Time. Be on the lookout for Darcy Little Badger’s next book coming out this month called “A Snake Falls to Earth,” which weaves together the lives of Nina and Oli in another tale of family, monsters, and magic rooted in Lipan Apache legend.

by Alyssa Yenzer Alyssa Yenzer No Comments

ReadMHK Native Authors 

ReadMHK Native Authors

by Jared Richards, Learning and Information Services supervisor

ReadMHK is Manhattan Public Library’s community-wide reading program. November’s theme, books by Native authors, was inspired by American Indian and Alaska Native Heritage Month. What began in the early 1900s as an attempt to get a day of recognition, became a week-long celebration in the mid-1980s, and was expanded to the entire month of November in the 1990s. This is a month to broaden your perspective, celebrate the culture, and acknowledge the contributions of Indigenous and Native peoples. One of the best ways to do this is through reading poetry written by Native authors, and we’ve got plenty to choose from at the library.

One of my more rebellious youthful acts was starting sentences with “and” when I was writing. And I got the courage to do that after reading poetry and learning that writing didn’t need to follow standard conventions. Capital letters could be ignored, sentences could be broken up across multiple lines, and you could use math and patterns to create stories. Poetry allows for the freedom to express yourself as you are without trying to fit into a restrictive box. This makes for a unique and compelling format for Native authors to tell stories about their people, history, and culture.

I’ll be the first to admit that I have a fairly simple view of what poetry is, but thankfully, poets have never come to me for advice on how to write or structure their work, so you’ll find a wide variety of poetry, both in content and structure, to suit your tastes. In “New Poets of Native Nations” edited by Heid E. Erdrich, a Turtle Mountain Ojibwe author, you’ll find the selected works of twenty-one poets who were first published within the last twenty years. One of my favorite poems is by Oglala Lakota poet Layli Long Soldier, not only because it breaks the fourth wall in an interesting way, but also because I learned about a historical event I was unfamiliar with. In “38,” Long Soldier tells the true story of the Dakota 38, which references the mass-hanging of thirty-eight Dakota men following the Dakota War of 1862 in Minnesota. The war lasted 37 days and was in response to the treatment of the Dakota people in the region, land restrictions, and fear of starvation going into winter.

The Dakota War of 1862 occurred at the same time as the Civil War, an event that tends to pull focus in the study of American history during that period, but it’s imperative that we learn about all aspects of our history during that time, not only the fight to end slavery, but also the continued mistreatment of Indigenous people throughout the country. Long Soldier’s poem about this event is tragic, but one that’s important to read.

When the Light of the World Was Subdued, Our Songs Came Through” is an anthology of Native nations poetry edited by Joy Harjo of the Muscogee Nation, who is the first Native American Poet Laureate of the United States. This book features the poetry of more than 160 poets from almost 100 Indigenous nations. Rex Lee Jim of the Diné (Navajo) tribe has a poem called “Saad” featured in this anthology written entirely in Diné Bizaad, the Navajo language, and then translated into the English poem “Voice.” Even though Jim does his own English translations, he has said it makes him uncomfortable because he knows that what he has written can’t really be explained in English. It is dependent on the sounds that are part of the Navajo language, and those do not translate.

Jim is also a proponent of more work being written in Navajo so the language won’t be lost. And he encourages readers to find someone fluent in Navajo to help them with words they don’t know, rather than relying on the English translation. This will not only help them learn, it’s also a way of making connections and building a community, which is one of our goals for ReadMHK.

Along with informal book discussions at the library on the third Tuesday of each month at 7:00 PM, we are also producing the ReadMHK Podcast. Each month we get to know our guest, talk about books related to our theme, and offer reading suggestions. Our guest for November is Dr. Debra Bolton, who directs Intercultural Learning and Development and is faculty in geography at Kansas State University. It’s a great episode, and you can find it on the library’s website or wherever you like to listen to podcasts.