Traci Sorell & Frané Lessac
Framed around an Indigenous Peoples Day presentation night at a school, We Are Still Here gives snippets of information in the history of Native Peoples in what is now called the United States. The story is broken up into different students’ presentations, and centers around the resilience that Indigenous folks embody despite the harsh and unfair treatment, marginalization, and genocidal tendencies of white colonizers. This isn’t a happy story time book like it’s predecessor We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga, it’s a tool to have difficult conversations about the repeated human rights violations and abuses that the government has inflicted upon tribal nations and their fight to remind colonizers that in fact, they are still here and will not be erased or forgotten or destroyed.
The repeated phrase throughout the book of “we are still here” is a powerful thread that binds together all of the history presented in the story. The unique bulleted style of the text breaks down the implications and triumphs of the laws enacted on tribal nations, and focuses on the activism and organizing that Indigenous people have been engaging in since contact was first made with colonizers. In the back of the book is a lot of historical information about the events covered in the presentations, as well as a glossary and timeline.
I chose this book for #SweetsAndSocialJustice with a very specific message during the week of Earth Day. The only way our land will have a chance to heal is if it is returned to the original stewards of the land, Indigenous Peoples. This means that tribal nations have more freedom to care for the land in traditional ways, and to stop colonizers from putting profits and capitalist gains over what’s best for nature. The phrase “Land Back” can mean something different to every Indigenous person, but I urge you to learn the history of the colonized land where you reside and how to take steps to return it.
This book was kindly sent by Charlesbridge but all thoughts and opinions are my own.
For more information about original land stewards check out this website. You can also check out Resource Generation, and organization focused on land reparations and Indigenous solidarity. The website linked has a ton of resources and articles about various nations that have had some land restored and what it means for colonizers to stand in solidarity with tribal nations.
Traci lives with her family in the Cherokee Nation, out in the country like she did as a child. Back then, she had geese, chickens, horses, dogs and cats. Her mother’s Cherokee family has been in the area since the removal of most Cherokee people from their southeastern homelands in 1838. Traci grew up hearing stories about her ancestors and looking at their photographs with her elisi (eh-lee-see), grandma. Now her son does that with his elisi in addition to fishing in the nearby lake and learning their Cherokee culture.
Frané Lessac is an author and illustrator, having created beautiful illustrations for more than fifty books. She was born in New Jersey and lived on the Caribbean Island of Montserrat and later London before moving to Australia. Travelling is a major source of inspiration for her work as she renders her impressions of a country in her illustrations. Her greatest ambition is to instill pride and self-esteem in children about their own unique heritage and their ability to capture it in pictures and words. Frané visits schools, libraries and festivals around the world sharing the process of writing and illustrating books.