Books banned on Native Americans are at Potawatomi Library, Wisconsin | Green Bay Press Gazette
‘We carry a lot of titles that, I think, a lot of traditional public libraries don’t carry,’ the Potawatomi Cultural Center’s manager said.
CRANDON – As history books are being banned across the country by certain school districts and libraries in an apparent culture war against critical race theory, officials at the Potawatomi Library in Crandon say their institution will always be a source of Native truth.
In 2021, the Central York School District in Pennsylvania banned several books by Indigenous authors, including “Fry Bread: A Native American Story” by Kevin Maillard, “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and “The People Shall Continue” by Simon Ortiz.
These books shed light on the atrocities committed against Indigenous people by European colonizers and how Indigenous people survived and persevered.
Several parents in that district had brought up concerns about teaching white guilt.
“(These books) contradict a lot of the history that we were taught growing up in Western schools,” said Donald Keeble, director of the Forest County Potawatomi Cultural Center, which is home to both the tribe’s library and museum. “And sometimes this history makes some individuals feel uncomfortable because when you take on real history you take on a responsibility of what people have done in the past. It makes you feel like you’re almost connected to that.”
The ban at Central York was lifted later that year after students protested.
The Potawatomi Library opened in 2001 and contains around 4,000 titles by mostly Native authors from all over Turtle Island (the Native term for North America).
“We carry a lot of titles that, I think, a lot of traditional public libraries don’t carry,” said Samantha Smith, manager at the Potawatomi Cultural Center. “When I go to my local public library there aren’t very many Native titles to begin with. So, we pride ourselves on carrying the newest, latest and greatest books that are published by Indigenous authors.”
The library is open to anyone wanting to check out titles, but college students from all over the state and Midwest typically find useful resources there for their research papers and can mail back the materials when they’re finished.
“I’ve always relied on books here to write papers and do research for my program,” said Keeble, who is studying for his doctorate in the First Nations education program at UW-Green Bay.
Local school districts also access the Potawatomi Library for materials to teach in Act 31 education courses. Act 31 is the state requirement that education about Native Americans be taught in public schools in Wisconsin.
Smith and Keeble usually recommend a lot of books by Tim Tingle to school districts because they’re historical fiction, which are a hit with young readers.