Mary Ann Key Book Club: Author event this Tuesday

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April 18, 2022

Upcoming event

Mary Ann Key Book Club: A Conversation with Debbie Reese

Tuesday, April 19, 7-8:30 p.m. Register for this Zoom event.

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In preparation for co-hosting Tuesday's author event, Myron discusses his reflections on land and Indigenous history. (Duration: 4 minutes 35 seconds)


Message from Myron Medcalf

Today, there is this ongoing push to strip our history books of the truth. The concern, per those who’ve backed these efforts, is that children will be offended if they learn about all the blood in the soil beneath their feet. But the children these individuals describe are all white. As I’ve continued to digest the enlightening content in “An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People” by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz and adapted by Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza, I’ve wondered how young children from Indigenous communities must feel in these classrooms when their history courses and teachers tell them a biased version of their history.

This is a conversation I can’t wait to begin with Reese on Tuesday at 7 p.m. during our author event through Hennepin County Library. I had a conversation with Reese before the event and I asked her about the inspiration behind this version of the book.

“When invited to adapt Dunbar-Ortiz's book, we saw an opportunity to help change what young people learn in school,” she said. “It was an opportunity to use the book to interrupt a cycle of misinformation. Based on our experiences as teachers, we had a pretty good idea on how we'd need to adapt the book to make it optimally useful for teachers to use in the classroom, and for kids to read on their own.”


Reflections from our panelists

Marlena Myles

Marlena Myles (Spirit Lake Dakota, Mohegan, Muscogee)

I appreciated the difficult questions asked of the reader throughout “An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States for Young People.” In many cases, the reader is asked to question their connections to land as something we can own, the way it’s exploited for resources as well as the Myth of the Pristine Wilderness. In this book, Debbie Reese and Jean Mendoza teach us the many ways Indigenous worldviews were removed from our territories – as sacred lands became real estate and as people were forced away from their ancestral homelands.

These questions make me think about the work I do to reconnect people to a Dakota worldview as land-based education. As a visual artist, my work illustrates the world as seen through our eyes. That includes creating Dakota land maps which teach the past and present place names in our language. My people did not have a written language prior to missionaries creating a Dakota-English alphabet and dictionary in Minneapolis in the 1800s; regardless, we kept our stories as data “written” in the natural world around us through place names, plants knowledge, star knowledge, the motion of time, so on and on. Dakota society is based on kinship roles and responsibilities, and our language reflects our kinship with the entire world around us. Expanding upon those maps, I have created public art (and will continue to create art) that uses the land as a teacher. This land-based education is a natural “library” that ensures the preservation of Dakota history, culture, spirituality, language and philosophy.

Speaking of Dakota homelands, it’s becoming commonplace for organizations in Minnesota to have land acknowledgments that state such and such is on the traditional homelands of the Dakota people. This book will educate the reader on why it’s important to do so, after learning the brutal ways in which lands were stolen from Native people and how we are still disenfranchised from our homelands. Someday I hope these land acknowledgments will go further and teach an Indigenous acknowledgment of the land; giving thanks for what we responsibly harvest, following the natural cycles of the earth, being stewards of the lands. That would be a true land acknowledgment and it's what we need to realize in order to survive the damage done to the Earth through human exploitation in the past 500 years.


Dr. Katie Philips

Dr. Katie Phillips (Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Ojibwe)

It takes my breath away to open a book and read, “Under the crust of that part of the earth called the United States of America are buried the bones, villages, fields, and sacred objects of the first people of that land – the people who are often called American Indians or Native Americans. Their descendants, also called Indigenous peoples, carry memories and stories of how the United States came to be the nation we know today.”

As a Native woman who grew up in rural northern Wisconsin – and, maybe more specifically, as a Native kid who grew up to be a historian of Native American and Indigenous Studies – I’m left to wonder about what my own education could have looked like if I’d had access to a book like this back then. I’m thrilled that my own kids will grow up with this book on their shelf, that they’ll grow up with books like this as part of their everyday experience. And while that’s just one of the aims of a book like this, it’s also crucial to note that my sons’ classmates will have the chance to access a book that can help reframe how we teach American history.


Spring events

Mary Ann Key Book Club: A Community Discussion of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People

Thursday, May 12, 7-8:30pm

Join columnist Myron Medcalf and moderator Ramona Kitto Stately in an online conversation with Native American community leaders Sharon Day, Marlena Myles, Dr. Katie Phillips and Pearl Walker-Swaney. Panelists will discuss An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People. Collaborator: Star Tribune. Sponsor: Friends of the Hennepin County Library.

Register for this May 12 virtual community panel discussion.


Share your feedback and reflections

Tell us your thoughts as you read An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States for Young People. Share your feedback, reflections or questions. Your responses and questions may be shared with Myron Medcalf and library staff, and quotes may also be shared with readers through our newsletter.


Upcoming Hennepin County Library programs of interest

Writer to Writer: Ed Bok Lee and Kevin Yang

Wednesday, May 4, 7-8:15 p.m.

Join writers Ed Bok Lee and Kevin Yang in a conversation about their writing, lives and mutual admiration. Lee and Yang will reflect on their identities as Asian American artists living in Minnesota and creating art for themselves versus creating art for their communities. They will also explore writing in different languages. Collaborator: More Than a Single Story. Funded by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. Register online.

Author Talk: Paul Yoo

Thursday, May 19, 7-8 p.m.

Join us for an online talk with Paula Yoo who will discuss her writing journey and share exclusive photographs from her research. Yoo is the author of From a Whisper to a Rallying Cry, which details the life of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American man whose death galvanized the Asian American movement and has remarkable parallels to today's anti-Asian violence. Find more information and join the online event.


Questions about the Mary Ann Key Book Club? Email us at

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