My Authors
Read all threads
Questions about National Geographic's ENCYCLOPEDIA OF AMERICAN INDIAN HISTORY AND CULTURE: STORIES, TIME LINES, MAPS, AND MORE are picking up. This is a thread for notes as I look through it. Cover of Encyclopedia of American Indian History & Culture:
A couple of days ago, friend and colleague @readitrealgood tweeted about the use of "history of settlement" in the publisher's note. She thinks--and I agree--that "history of colonization" would be more accurate and honest.
She noted a problem in captions that do not name the Indigenous person in the photograph.
When I got the review copy some weeks ago, I noted a deeply problematic glossary definition of boarding school as "a private school where students live." That isn't an inaccurate definition but it completely inappropriate to have it in a book about Native peoples! Photo of page 290 of the glossary with definition of boardin
I have concerns about the photos and art used throughout. Here's some artwork that appears on the timeline about the southwest. See the boxes with specific years? None of them tell us what that art is supposed to represent.
I'm still mulling over what sort of analysis I will do on this book.

What do we expect from an encyclopedia?
Some of us know that National Geographic has a problematic history of misrepresentations, biased information, exotic treatments of people... They knew they had problems, and asked a historian to do an analysis of their covers.… Screen capture of article title "For Decades, Our Cover
The book I'm discussing in this thread is an encyclopedia. It 304 pages long. It is meant for kids between 8-12 years old, or 2nd-7th grade. That's a huge span in reading ability. I'm critical of rigid adherence to who can read what, when, etc. but this bk is a bit of a stretch.
One thing I've talk abt w/ colleagues in publishing/review circles is the use of sepia-toned photos, esp. those by Edward S. Curtis. I am pretty sure you've seen his work. It gets used, uncritically, a lot. Ppl assume photos from that period are authentic, but, they aren't.
Here's an excerpt from a good article about Curtis's body of work:… "I can’t help but be stunned at times when I look at
The Publisher's Note for this encyclopedia takes abt 1/3rd of this page:
As I share photos I take as I look through the bk, I'm sure you'll notice things I did not see. I welcome replies or retweets with comments. Here's a closer look at the Publisher's Note. I put a pencil there for scale so you can see the print size on that page.
The note says that "The following terms and notes help provide critical context for readers of this encyclopedia." One of those notes is about Curtis photos. In essence it is a caution abt the controversial nature of his work.

The caution itself is useless because as you page through the book, which of the photos are by Curtis? We have NO WAY TO KNOW. Captions don't tell us. See? This photo is on page 20 on the Ahtna page.
A teacher or librarian wanting to know if it is a controversial photo would look it up in the Photo Credit pages, but... no mention of the photographer there, either. Look in the ARCTIC section to find info on page 20.
Earlier I asked ppl to share their observations of photos I'm pasting in this thread. Here's one from @desmondcwong, about the Publisher's Note on the Métis:
Circling back to the "Two Ahtna girls" photo, I found it online, here:…

In the original photo, you can see the name "Miles Brothers" on the lower left but that info was cropped out of the photo in the encyclopedia.
Do readers assume that all the photos in this book are by Curtis? They aren't, as my search for "Two Ahtna girls" shows. I know that Curtis is not the only photographer who staged photos. Did Miles Brothers do that, too?
That last is a question for myself, really, for further research on my own.

The larger point is about how an encyclopedia presents information about photographs, and who took them. Ok... shall I page through and see if I can find a Curtis photo? (Nods to self.)
Finally found a Curtis photo, on page 125. Caption says "Lone Wolf, also known as Guipago, was chief of the Kiowa tribe in the 1860s and 1870s. He led the tribe's warriors in raids against other tribes. He is pictured seated with his wife, Etla."
Here's info about it being a Curtis photo from the Getty file:… but the Library of Congress doesn't name the photographer:… (I'll keep looking...)
In the meantime, I'm paging on thru the book. I've found several black and white or sepia-toned portraits or photos and looked them up. So far, none of them are by Curtis.
Ok, here's a photo on page 187. The caption (as is the case throughout the book) does not tell us who the photographer is. I found the photo at the Library of Congress. There, it says Curtis is the photographer.
To remind you why I'm doing this close look at the photos in this National Geographic encyclopedia: it has a note up front that is a caution about Curtis photos. But none of the photos throughout the 300+ pages are captioned with photographers names.
As we look at that "Cayuse woman" photo, did Curtis do something to romanticize the woman and her baby? We don't know--and that's a problem for an encyclopedia -- especially one that tells readers to be careful of photos!
So far in this thread I've focused on photographs because this encyclopedia is full of images. Some are paintings, some are photographs of artifacts, and some are black/white or sepia, or full color photos of Native ppl. Kids will hone in on the images on these pages.
Those images will carry a lot of weight! This is an encyclopedia. The information provided in captions must be accurate! Especially because we all know that most kids who pick it up will already have a lot of biased info about Native peoples, that they were "taught" by someone.
On page 193 of the encyclopedia is a photo w/caption "Klamath people built round, pole-framed houses in summer, and covered them with mats (pictured). Winter homes were built partly underground." LOC says it is a Curtis photo.
Feedback I've gotten in the thread that I want to add to the thread itself so others can see include:

Randell Baze, a Native librarian (see his Twitter profile @RandellBaze) noted the frequent use of Fancy Dancers on book covers:
Well, that's about all I want to do right now on old photographs. Maybe I'll take a look at images per page, do some counts and see how that looks.
I will say this: the book is heavy. My wrists get tired holding it up.

Elsewhere I noted that the white font on yellow background is a design flaw. It is hard to read and I think it would fail a contrast test.
In my quick count of images in the first section, Arctic and Subarctic, most of the images are photos of an article of clothing. There's 8 photos of items. Next highest count is 7 of what I called unnamed person. They're things like "Alutiq girl" in a traditional headdress...
A woman w a handdrum; caption says "An Idle No More protest in Toronto..."

"A Gwich'in man" in a wolf mask at Denver March Powwow.

"Yup'ik elder with her grandchildren..."

"An Inuvialuit girl wears a modern-day parka..."

"An elderly James Bay Cree woman prepares a fire..."
In the back, the book includes a list of 10 consultants. I recognize a couple. They do terrific work. I doubt that they saw the glossary definition for boarding school.
And I doubt any of those consultants would have said ok to "Spirit Dolls."
Starting a new thread as I continue to read through this book:
Missing some Tweet in this thread? You can try to force a refresh.

Keep Current with Dr. Debbie Reese (tribally enrolled, Nambé Pueblo)

Profile picture

Stay in touch and get notified when new unrolls are available from this author!

Read all threads

This Thread may be Removed Anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Follow Us on Twitter!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just two indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year) and get exclusive features!

Become Premium

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!