Native American Read-In celebrates Indigenous creators

By Shanzay Shabi Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Dozens of children and people from across the country joined via Zoom to celebrate the work of Native American creators and enjoy an afternoon of storytelling, poetry, art, music and dance. 

The Native American Read-In, a virtual storytime where Indigenous creators shared their work, was jointly hosted by the Information School and the nonprofit Read-a-Rama. The inaugural read-aloud event on April 24, invited all to appreciate and learn more about Indigenous culture and talent, with nearly 200 people viewing on Zoom and more watching at libraries across the country. 

Michelle H. Martin, the iSchool’s Beverly Cleary Professor for Children and Youth Services, opened with a land acknowledgment, followed by Read-a-Rama Chief Operating Officer Monique Law. Martin then introduced the event’s emcee, Kinsale Hueston, who is a Native American poet, writer, and critically acclaimed narrator from Navajo Mountain, Utah.   

The event kicked off with music and dance from the Duncan family. Tony Duncan, world champion hoop dancer, began with an honoring song on the traditional flute, expressing gratitude for the gift of life. Violet Duncan then read her children’s book Let’s Hoop Dance. The Duncan family concluded with a traditional hoop dance performance from Tony Duncan and his children. 

“We’re here to share this style of dance with you to show that as Indigenous people, our stories and our songs are still alive. They are told not only through ourselves as parents but also through our children,” Tony Duncan said. 

Hueston then introduced Cheryl Metoyer, an associate professor emerita at the iSchool and a member of the Cherokee nation, who shared the creation story of Turtle Island. 

The event included a session of arts presentations in which attendees chose to join one of five breakout rooms. Each breakout room featured one of the following Native American creators: Roger Fernandes, Michaela Goade, Kinsale Hueston, Cynthia Leitich Smith and Traci Sorell. 

During the main arts session, Fernandes told the children’s story of the snake and Goade shared her illustrations for the children’s book We Are Water Protectors, encouraging children in attendance to share their favorite pictures from the book. Hueston shared some of her own poetry as well and read pieces written by Native American authors. 

In the other breakout rooms, Leitich Smith read aloud chapter one of her book Sisters of the Neversea while Sorell shared her journey to publication and the importance of Native American literature. 

“The humanity, history, and cultures of Indigenous communities are always left out of school curriculums,” Sorell said. “Native American books and literature show the agency of Indigenous people and that Native nations have been here since time immemorial.” 

Joe Seymour brought the event to a close with a powerful prayer and a song. 

“I’m grateful for my life. I’m grateful for this spirit. I am grateful for all things,” Seymour recited. “Fix my mind, fix my heart, fix my thoughts. It is you who make them one in this world and all will be good.” 

The Read-In was a memorable celebration of Native American creators. It was certainly an emotional afternoon for many getting to witness the power of storytelling, whether that be through song, dance, poetry or illustrations. 

“I feel like I’ve been holding back tears the whole time,” Hueston expressed. “This has been such a wonderful and beautiful space.”

Pictured at top: An illustration from Michaela Goade's We Are Water Protectors.