The Tucson Unified School District has banned its Mexican American Studies program and a number of books including Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years, which includes pieces by various Native American authors including Suzan Shown Harjo, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Joseph Bruchac, Leslie Marmon Silko and Winona LaDuke, and two books by Native American author Sherman Alexie.
Bruchac is “astonished” by the banning of Rethinking Columbus. “Any book banning bothers me, but why they would choose that book in particular—an anthology that was carefully edited, that features the work of respected scholars and writers, and that has been used in schools for decades—was a real shock. I was honored to be part of it and still point to my being part of the book with pride.” Bruchac also wondered if those who voted to ban Rethinking Columbus had ever actually read the book.
“The school board’s action is a sign of incredible narrow-mindedness and the sort of racial and cultural prejudice that I thought was no longer an accepted part of public discourse in this nation,” he said.
“I’m honored to be in the company of Buffy Sainte-Marie, Sherman Alexie and Lesie Marmon Silko, all nationally acclaimed artists in the banning of my writing,” LaDuke said. “I’m just surprised at the work they banned, I’ve written much more critical essays and books.”
“A school board and a community that cannot face sharing the truth of history with their children is one that is penalizing the very kids they may think they are protecting,” Bruchac said. “Books such as Rethinking Columbus—a book which might have been seen as controversial five decades ago, but surely not now—are as necessary in a democracy as the ability to be able to hear more than one side of any debate or any issue. This kind of action is not just stepping on a slippery slope, it’s going over the edge of a very steep cliff.”
LaDuke had this to say about Arizona: “I heard someone say that if the states are the laboratory for democracy in the U.S., then Arizona is a meth lab, “I think they may be right.”