Yvonne Wakim Dennis

Children of Native
America Today

Foreword by singer, activist, and founder of The Nihewan Foundation, Buffy Sainte Marie.

Book Chapter: Haudenosaunee

The Haudenosaunee, which means “people of the longhouse” in the Iroquois language, are also called the League of Six Nations for the Iroquois Confederacy. There are six separate nations: Cayuga, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca, and Tuscarora. Before contact with Europeans, they lived mainly in the Northeast, but now there are several Haudenosaunee communities: 10 in New York State and more in Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Canada. Many live in cities like New York, Buffalo and Toronto. As with the Wabanaki lands, the United States and Canadian borders separate the original Haudenosaunee homelands, but Indian people have the right to travel back and forth. Did you know many Iroquois people have passports issued by their own Indian nations?

Haudenosaunee ancestors wisely created a democracy with a constitution called the Great Law of Peace. Every voice is heard equally--men, women and even children. The founders of the United States were greatly influenced by their fair system and borrowed many of its ideas. The Great Law of peace, along with other history, is recorded on wampum belts. It is now written in English, so you can read it, too.

Children can attend the Freedom School on the Akwesansne/​St. Regis Mohawk Reservation. Math, reading, and writing are taught, along with the Mohawk language and culture. The school on the Wisconsin Oneida reservation is shaped like a giant turtle. Tiles on the floors and walls show Oneida history.

Have you ever heard of skywalkers? Many Haudenosaunee, especially Mohawks, are called that because they are experts at building skyscrapers. The high steelworkers help build tall buildings in many cities. They helped build the World Trade Center towers in New York, and many Mohawk skywalkers helped remove debris from the buildings after they were destroyed in 2001.

Many Haudenosaunee play their traditional game of lacrosse--it is part of their religion. Although it is still a sacred game to them, its popularity has spread. Today many different people play it for sport. The Iroquois National Lacrosse Team has players form different Haudenosaunee nations and competes internationally.

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More facts about the Haudenosaunees:

Reservations/​Communities: nine reservations plus a traditional community in New York, one reservation in Wisconsin, one community in Oklahoma and reserves in Canada

Total population: 80,822

Some people to learn about:
Ray Fadden (1910-), Mohawk cultural teacher, historian, writer

Richard Hill (1950-), Tuscarora artist, museum curator, photographer

Joanne Shenandoah (contemporary), Oneida singer, actor

Neighbors: Ramapough in New Jersey, Mohegan and Schaghticoke in Connecticut

Children of Native America Today: An Activity and Resource Guide is available. This companion to Children of Native America Today includes biographical sketches, activities, and suggested print and on-line resources. It can be used in conjunction with the Children of Native America Today or independently.

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Editorial Reviews:

From Booklist March 1, 2003:
This photo-essay features 25 of the more than 500 native cultures of the U.S. as well as a section on urban Indians. In this "book of few words and many pictures," the clear, captioned photographs speak eloquently of contemporary Native Americans young people. Some show Indian kids in traditional clothing while others picture them in T-shirts and sandals. Some shots feature lacrosse teams and canoeing; others show Indian children playing golf and videotaping. Each group is introduced in a two-page spread that includes pronunciation and a brief, but lively, narrative covering major businesses and interesting cultural tidbits. A quick facts section notes locations of reservations and communities, total population, prominent people "to learn about," and tribes. A map, an extensive list of resources, and a glossary add valuable information and access. This updates Arlene Hirschfelder's Happily May I Walk (1986) but is for younger students. An excellent resource for multicultural studies, this handsome album will also attract browsers.
--Linda Perkins

From Kirkus Reviews:
"A well thought-out, neatly executed, and extremely attractive volume that strives to fulfill the promise of its title. There are more than 500 Native American cultures: on two-page profiles arranged geographically, the authors focus on about 26 groups from the Haudenosaunee (The Six Iroquois Nations) of New York to the Inupiat of Alaska. Striking color photos of children in both traditional and contemporary activities adorn each, along with a fact box giving population, communities, and people of note. A map of the US locates them across the country. The authors strive to give their young readers the sense of the struggle to preserve traditional cultures and values alongside a very contemporary life with activities every child will recognize. They do it in a lively style, too, full of rhetorical "did you know?" queries, a sprinkling of exclamation points, and bits about the code talkers and skywalkers. Information is sometimes fascinating, or even touching-state senator Bill Yellowtail asked for his Crow clan's counsel before he ran for office. Supai, in Arizona, can only get mail via pack-mule train. There's even a page for Native people living in cities; after all, New York City, has the largest Native American population in the country. An invaluable and attractive resource, particularly for younger children. (resources for further study, glossary, index) (Nonfiction. 7-11)"

From Book Links:
"This title contains two-page features on 25 contemporary Native American communities. Each spread briefly describes the history of the tribe and then shows what life is like for its members today. A helpful map shows the locations of the Native American communities profiled. The book helps dispel the myth that most American Indians live on reservations, revealing that more than half reside in urban areas."

From School Library Journal: This glossy photo-essay helps show students some of the variety and diversity in the lives of 25 contemporary Native communities and features youngsters living in both rural and urban settings. The book is arranged by region, with each spread profiling a tribe. The narrative provides a fact section with lists of the reservations or communities for each nation, the total population, some prominent people, and the names of neighboring tribes. The text presents interesting facts abut each group; for example, the Passamaquoddy tribe has the third largest blueberry farm in the world. The large typeface and lush photographs make this an inviting title. Reminiscent of Diane Hoty-Goldsmith's Totem Pole (1990;o.p.) or her Potlatch: A Tsimshian Celebration (1997, both Holiday), this special book belongs in all libraries."

Selected Works

Non-fiction
Children's Non-Fiction
Winner of the 2014 Arab American Museum Children's Book of the Year, this book chronicles the diverse histories and contemporary lives of Arab Americans.
Children's Nonfiction
Winner of the 2010 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Gold Medalist in Activity Books and the 2010 Independent Publishers Silver Award for Interactive Books. Hands-on activities, games, and crafts introduce children to the diversity of Native American cultures and teach them about the people, experiences, and events that have helped shape America, past and present.
Kennedy Center Multicultural Book Honoree, 2005; The Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2004; International Reading Association Notable Book for a Global Society, 2003. This award-winning book highlights 26 contemporary Native groups.
Winner of the 2008 Moonbeam Children’s Book Awards Gold Medal in Multicultural Non-Fiction and the Bank Street College "The Best Children’s Books of 2008." This children's non-fiction multicultural book highlights diversity in the United States.
Adult Nonfiction
A realistic and diverse guide to teaching about today’s Native Americans.
A manual for anyone interested in telling the truth about American Indians.