National Endowment for the Arts - The Big Read
Love Medicine

Love Medicine

by Louise Erdrich

To be mixed blood is great for a writer. I have one foot on tribal lands and one foot in ordinary middle-class life.


Louise Erdrich (Photo by Persia Erdrich, courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers)

Teachers may consider the ways in which these activities can be linked to other Big Read community events. Most of these projects could be shared at a local library, a student assembly, or a bookstore.

  1. Students should research how Native Americans have been portrayed in American photography, prints, and painting over the decades. They should collect specific examples of works that either reinforce mainstream stereotypes of Native Americans or work against those stereotypes. Particular focus might be given to contemporary Native American artists such as Zig Jackson, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, and Tom Fields, and how their work deals with current Native American life and addresses stereotypes.
  2. Ask students when they last saw a Native American in a movie or television program. When was it made? If it was made within the last 15 years, how has the portrayal of Native Americans changed in American movies since the 1950s, when Nector Kashpaw had his very short-lived movie career? Students should watch a traditional western from the late 1940s or early 1950s, and contrast that with a more contemporary film about Native Americans such as Smoke Signals (1998), Dances With Wolves (1990), or even Little Big Man (1970). How do outdated images of Native Americans limit our understanding of today’s Native Americans?
  3. Students should look at images of Native American objects (pottery, baskets, clothing) in museums and find out more about them (e.g., the National Museum of the American Indian, http://www.nmai.si.edu/searchcollections). Students also can learn about the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and why Native Americans sought the return of important ceremonial and funerary objects that were held in museums and other federal agencies.
  4. Students should find examples of traditional and contemporary Native American music. A good resource is sound of America Records, which has examples of both. Discuss how some Native American musicians are making jazz, rock, reggae, and hip hop recordings. Are some of the contemporary musicians blending the old and the new?
  5. Have students research the indigenous people of your local area. Are they still living there or were they moved to another area? If there is not a reservation nearby, what vestiges (place names, historical references, etc.) still exist today?
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