Indigenous Environmental Activism in Children's Fiction
This Friday’s Earth Day edition of Fiction Featuring Activists is a children’s book told from the viewpoint of a young Indigenous girl.
The young protagonist of this beautifully illustrated story takes a stand against a “black snake” threatening to poison her people's water. The snake represents the Dakota Access Pipeline and and is a reference to the Black Snake Prophecy, “an ancient Lakota prophecy about a black snake that would slither across the land, desecrating the sacred sites and poisoning the water before destroying the Earth.”
Written by Carole Lindstrom of the Turtle Mountain Band of Ojibwe and illustrated by Tlingit and Haida artist Michaela Goade, the book was inspired by the many Indigenous-led environmental movements across North America, but particularly the epic battle of Indigenous people and allies at Standing Rock, North Dakota, against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
The American Library Association awarded the 2021 Caldecott Medal to We Are Water Protectors — marking the first time in history that Indigenous authors have received this prestigious children's literature award.
Here is one of over 1,200 glowing Goodreads reviews:
This is a gorgeously-illustrated book that would be a great way to start so many conversations, whether it's about environmentalism, pipelines, activism, or Indigenous cultures. I loved the repeating refrain of "We stand / With our songs / And our drums / We are still here." which shows Indigenous culture and beliefs being passed down through generations. This is beautiful and powerful, and I'm so glad that the Caldecott will put it on more libraries' shelves!
Danika, the Lesbrary
I quote this review in particular because it highlights the very basic point Indigenous people make that they are indeed still here, still fighting. This is the case for the amazing community of many tribes and allies that was created in 2016-2017 in Standing Rock, at the center of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.
As in all these struggles, and in this story, many children are there at the heart.