We have been reading and loving books by Traci Sorell all year; in fact, we are HUGE Traci Sorell fans. I was so excited to share her newest book, We Are Still Here; Native American Truths Everyone Should Know, with my students in the month of May. The story takes place on Indigenous Peoples’ Day. Twelve students from different Native American tribes make presentations about the history and current challenges of Native people in this country since the introduction of Europeans, while emphasizing the fact that Native Americans are STILL HERE! There is so much for fourth graders to learn and know about Native Americans and even more for them to think and wonder about. It is with the “think and wonder,” lens that we read this book together.
Students used post it notes to record ideas that made them think and wonder. Here is some of what they had to say:
- To this day, we STILL live on Native American Land and I wonder what land my school is on?
- To think, our government didn’t keep its promises to over one hundred tribes and this makes me wonder why we didn’t keep our promises?
- To think, we didn’t let Native Americans speak their own languages and now many of them are gone. This makes me wonder what languages are being taught now?
- I think it is good that Native Americans have continued to speak up and this makes me wonder what strategies they have used to keep speaking up?
- I think it seems like the schools are so different and this makes me wonder are the schools really that different from mine?
- I think that children should stay with their own families and not be taken away. This makes me wonder why we would take children away from their parents?
- It is hard to think that we treated them differently because they were different and this makes me wonder why would we do that?
- I think it is important to know that Native Americans are still here and it makes me wonder about the Native Americans near me and what can I learn about them.
This book also sparked a great deal of interest in the Native Tribes near our school. Our school is located very near to where the first Europeans landed in New England. Students were eager to learn more about the Native Americans on whose land our school is located and NOT so much their history, but about them NOW. First, we used the Native Land website to locate the tribe on whose land our school is built. Once we learned the name of the tribe, we were able to develop research questions. At the end of the book there is a More Information section which also helped us to frame our research questions. We are hopeful to find answers to many of our wonderings and to begin to develop a better understanding of the Indigenous people who are STILL HERE. Students are excited to continue their research and we will use the skills gained in studying our own area to springboard into additional research projects for the different regions of the United States.
My students’ love of Traci Sorell has enabled them to examine her books all year and to think deeply and critically about Native Americans and Indigenous People. We Are Still Here is the perfect book to end the year and I know that these students will continue to follow Traci Sorell through their school careers. Up next for some of them this summer is, Indian No More, by Charlene Willing and Traci Sorell. I KNOW this will be a hit!
You can watch an interview about We Are Still Here with Traci Sorell and her editor, Karen Boss right here!