From Intellectual Takeout:
Growing up, I never got into stories with knights and fair maidens. Walking around in princess dresses while imagining I was trapped in a castle by a vicious dragon? Not interested.
But give me a sunbonnet and braid my hair and I was lost in the world of Laura Ingalls. I still remember being in a titter of excitement at age four when my parents took me to the famous Little House on the Prairie pageant in Walnut Grove, Minnesota.
As I grew older, my conception of Laura grew a little less romanticized as I read her books and realized the amazing hardships she and her family went through. I certainly wouldn’t want to spend six months freezing and starving through a horrendous winter, nor do I relish the thought of huddling in a cabin for several days thinking I could be killed at any moment by my screaming, angry neighbors close to going on the warpath. The Ingalls family had a tough life, yet they weathered through the storms and gave America an inspiring story of strength and perseverance.
Unfortunately, good ol’ Laura is the latest victim of our PC culture. As the New York Daily News reports, Ingalls was the first recipient of an author award given by the Association for Library Service to Children. The award was then named in her honor.
After 60 years, however, the award is being renamed as “the Children’s Literature Legacy Award” because of the attitudes conveyed toward minorities in the Little House books:
“‘This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder’s legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC’s core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness,’ the Association for Library Service to Children said in a statement after the unanimous vote.
The racial issues in her books have been debated long before February, when the ALSC announced it would be voting on whether to keep Wilder’s name on its award, calling her legacy ‘complex.’ At the forefront of the argument is her handling of black and Native American characters, both in namecalling and characterization.”
In the PC culture in which we live, I can see why Laura’s family story might be problematic. Because of bad experiences, the family – Ma especially – had some understandable fears of Indians, which naturally resulted in prejudices. And while these prejudices weren’t right, they were a fact of life which the pioneers had to wrestle with.
Link to the rest at Intellectual Takeout
PG worries that if de facto censorship of historic voices continues, the people who live in nations where such censorship occurs will increasingly become historically ignorant of past events and the sources of today’s (and tomorrow’s) social values.
In a very real way, the world in which Laura Ingalls Wilder lived and about which she writes is a direct cause of the nature of the United States in which its citizens live today. If the citizenry doesn’t know where it’s been, it may not collectively make wise decisions about where it’s going.
There were, in fact, Indian wars in the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries, wars in which both Native Americans and Anglo Americans, including active participants and innocent bystanders, were injured and killed. To paint all those on either side of those conflicts as innocent of bad behavior is simply incorrect. Blood lust characterized each side on more than one occasion.
When PG was in high school, he lived within walking distance of the site where a major massacre of white troops was carried out by a group of Native Americans. A number of white civilians were also killed. Later, Native Americans, combatants and non-combatants, were also killed in retribution.
The descendants of some of those on either side of this battle attended a small local school together. The school’s athletic teams were called the Indians and both whites and Indians played on those teams.
At the time, the tribe lived in poverty on land set aside for their settlement several years after the big battle. PG did some checking a few years ago and the fortunes of the tribe and its members have taken a distinct turn for the better. The former lands held by Native Americans have been transformed into a reservation.
The tribe has built a gambling casino on its land and one of PG’s former high school football and basketball teammates is the President of the tribe. According to the reports PG has read, the financial conditions for members of the tribe are much better today than in former days in large part from the jobs and financial distributions to tribal members from the casino.
PG is not trying to imply a happily ever after ending for all or most survivors of the Indian wars in the United States. He does suggest that learning this history, whether through the fiction of Laura Ingalls Wilder or from even-handed historians, is important, in part because doing so may help us avoid a repetition of it in the future.
For those who think that 21st century residents of western civilizations are well beyond the behavior others exhibited in former times, PG suggests that many things change, but human nature is remarkably similar in all ages. Having a clear view of former hostile manifestations of human nature is important if we are to diminish and eventually eliminate the adverse consequences of future disagreements.