Children of the Dragonfly

Edited by Robert Bensen
Foreword by Carter Revard

Native American children have long been subject to removal from their homes for placement in residential schools and, more recently, in foster or adoptive homes. The governments of both the United States and Canada, having reduced Native nations to the legal status of dependent children, historically have asserted a surrogate parentalism over Native children themselves.

Children of the Dragonfly is the first anthology to document this struggle for cultural survival on both sides of the U.S.-Canadian border. Through autobiography and interviews, fiction and traditional tales, official transcripts and poetry, these voices—Seneca, Cherokee, Mohawk, Navajo, and many others—weave powerful accounts of struggle and loss into a moving testimony to perseverance and survival.

Invoking the dragonfly spirit of Zuni legend who helps children restore a way of life that has been taken from them, the anthology explores the breadth of the conflict about Native childhood. Included are works of contemporary authors Sherman Alexie, Joy Harjo, Luci Tapahonso, and others; classic writers Zitkala-Sa and E. Pauline Johnson; and contributions from twenty important new writers as well. They take readers from the boarding school movement of the 1870s to the Sixties Scoop in Canada and the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978 in the United States. They also spotlight the tragic consequences of racist practices such as the suppression of Indian identity in government schools and the campaign against Indian childbearing through involuntary sterilization.

The custody and upbringing of children is one of the most urgent issues that Native Americans have ever faced. Children of the Dragonfly shows that Native children—as well as their families and descendants—are both victims and victors in the crucial struggle for cultural and personal survival. Like the dragonfly of lore, this book can lead us all toward a better understanding of adopted children everywhere.


From the Reviewers

"A wonderful collection of stories, poems, songs, dreams and interviews, shining a bright light on the dark practice of removing Native American children from their homes and families to send them away to boarding schools or adopting them out. . . both informative and thought-provoking." —Access Genealogy Native American Book Review

"Together, the essays in this compilation provide one of the most creative and thought-provoking analyses yet published of the trauma that has been inflicted on Native American children by the governments of the U.S. and Canada. . . . It is an excellent work and essential reading for anyone concerned with children and social policy." —Readings: A Journal of Reviews and Commentary in Mental Health

"The collection honors and encourages a spirit of renewal, hope, and pride in traditional cultures focusing on children, community, and family. . . . Those interested in American Indian life, literature, and history as well as educators will find Children of the Dragonfly to be insightful and enriching." Multicultural Review

"This beautifully organized and inclusive anthology provides a vital contribution to understanding the harmful policies aimed at destroying Indian cultures and to remembering the often creative resistance to these efforts. . . . This anthology adds essential voices to 'the long story of the people.' " SAIL

"Recommended reading for anyone who seeks more knowledge about the Native American experience with forced displacement caused by the government, or simply those who enjoy reading about Native American culture in all its forms." —Red Ink

"Lifts us up and encourages us to believe that human courage and ingenuity may keep alive our finest human values." — Carter Revard

280 pp. / 6 x 9 / 2001
Paper (0-8165-2013-5) $19.95
Cloth (0-8165-2012-7) $47.00s