“The Banning of Little House on the Prairie”
Objections to Little House on the Prairie arose in the mid 1990’s. Until then, the book, as well as the rest of the series, was highly praised for children of all ages. In fact, Laura was such a highly praised author that a book award was named in her honor, The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award. It was established in 1954 by the American Library Association and was first presented to Mrs. Wilder herself for the Little House on the Prairie series. It is now presented every three years to an author who has produced a piece of work that has made a substantial and lasting contribution to children’s literature.
Little House on the Prairie was first challenged in 1993 by parents of students at Lafourche Parish elementary schools in Thibodaux, Louisiana. They were requesting the novel be removed on the grounds of it being “offensive to Indians.” Parents recited excerpts from the book supporting their objections as follows: “naked wild men”, “terrible men”, and “glittering black eyes”. A phrase repeated several times the Ingalls neighbor, Mrs. Scott, was also cited, “The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” Further, another quote was given to the school board from when Ma and the girls were alone in the cabin since Pa was gone hunting. Two men from the Osage tribe visited the cabin in which Laura describes them as, “Those Indians were dirty and scowling and mean. They acted as if the house belonged to them.” Wilder then goes on to describe how the Indians went through their cupboards and began to take food and tobacco and fur that was to be traded for plows and seeds until the Indian’s companion stopped him. The school board denied the request and the book was retained. In 1994, the book was banned from elementary schools in Sturgis, South Dakota again on the grounds that “it contains statements that are considered derogatory to Native Americans.” The objection presented to the Sturgis School Board were mainly cited in the Lafourche Parish challenge, and Sturgis evidenced significantly greater public support for the ban.
Should we read this book? This is a question that can be answered in many shapes and forms. I think the Little House on the Prairie series is a delight to read, and a wonderful addition in any person’s library. I own copy of the series myself and practically know it by heart. If a child or children are taught how to think positively about people of different race and that the only real difference is skin color, why should this book, or any other pertaining to race differences, be subjects of banning? Laura wasn’t being racist in this story. She was describing how her neighbors felt and how an Indian was viewed through the eyes of an eight-year-old. How would you feel if you were a child alone with your mother and sisters and your father, who is the sense of security in your home, wasn’t there to protect you? Wouldn’t you view them as naked and wild, especially with how they used to dress in Laura’s day? In either time the novel was brought up for banning, it was never once mentioned that the parents of the children were Native American, yet they were saying it was offensive to Native Americans. I think rather it was offensive to them and they were using the Native Americans as a crutch.
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