Please welcome back picture book author Lisa Gammon Olson to Frog on a Blog! Lisa is the author of the American Herstory Series and a huge proponent of spreading kindness and preserving nature. Lisa last visited in April of 2019 to talk about her book And the Trees Began to Move. Today, on October 12th, Indigenous Peoples’ Day, an alternative to Columbus Day, Lisa’s stopped by to tell us about her latest book, Remembering Green: An Ojibwe Girl’s Tale. And Lisa has an important message for us all at the end.
Good morning! My American HerStory Series, with Eifrig Publishing, features a snapshot in American History as seen through the eyes of one young girl.
My newest picture book, Remembering Green, is the 4th book in this series and features an Ojibwe heroine named Wenonah and her struggles to keep her native identity during the forced attendance of Indigenous children at residential schools.
In the late 19th century, the United States Government began establishing Indian Residential Schools with the intent of forcibly assimilating Native American children into Euro-American culture. In order to “Christianize” and “civilize” them, Indigenous children were taken from their families and housed in boarding schools where they were to be “educated” and stripped of their culture.
Children arriving at the schools had their long hair cut and their native clothing exchanged for a regimented school uniform and were not even allowed to keep their native names. They were forbidden to speak their native languages and were often beaten and treated harshly when they were caught doing so. Overcrowding, disease and abusive discipline were present in these children’s daily lives changing the very core of who they were.
In Remembering Green, my Wenonah is one such girl from the Lac Du Flambeau Ojibwe tribe in northern Wisconsin. She runs away from the boarding school where she seeks out her great grandfather, Nimishoomis and his wisdom. Together, using their five senses, he will help Wenonah think of ways she can retain her culture and remember their customs to pass down to future generations. Even as she is learning chimookoman ways, Grandfather reminds her it is not the learning that will change her but the forgetting of her heritage that will change who she is.
I worked extensively with the Lac Du Flambeau tribal members on this book to be sure every detail was true to history even using Ojibwe words in the story to authenticate the setting.
My personal research discovered a beautiful culture with people who revere the earth and live in harmony with the changing seasons. Our Native Americans were brutalized, persecuted and killed in horrifyingly vast numbers for their differences and for their land. I often wonder how corporate America would look now had the roles been reversed and we had all learned to live in harmony with the natural world as our Native friends did. I know which world I personally would choose to live in.
Writing historical fiction has opened my eyes to the suffering and hardships our ancestors endured in our past and I am amazed at the tenacity of the human spirit and how people have coped during really tough times.
It’s important we bring to light the untold history of these strong, spiritual people and help them heal. A first good step has been the national movement to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on October 12th in lieu of Columbus Day.
I work in an elementary school as the secretary and I want our kids to know “there is always something positive you can do to impact others in every situation.” As a child, it’s easy to get sucked up into the enormity of life and not think you could ever possibly make a difference.
In my first book, Dust Flowers…set in the midst of the Dust Bowl…a little girl can do nothing about the weather but she CAN grow one tiny flower and bring a smile to her mother’s face. That’s what I like ALL my books to say. What you do, DOES make a difference! YOU ARE IMPORTANT!!!
Every human being on this planet has made an individual journey…has a rich past and story to tell. Listen to each other in a respectful, responsible & kind manner and together we will learn all the wondrous secrets this world has to tell…Cover your ears and we will be destined to repeat these shameful failings at humanity’s peril.
First and foremost, Lisa Gammon Olson is a mom of three amazing young men; Grant, Kyle & Jay. She lives with her husband Bruce in Coon Valley, WI, where she is the secretary at the Coon Valley Elementary School….a job she adores! She believes the most important skill we can ever teach our children is “How to be Kind.” Any kindness we do, no matter how small, has the power to change someone’s life. Growing up in northern Wisconsin has instilled in her the wonder of nature… sparkling lakes, endless forests and trails littered with pine needles and possibilities. Preserving our planet and populating it with human beings who are Respectful, Responsible and Kind seems like an awesome idea.
You can learn more about Lisa’s books and the history behind the story by clicking Here or on the images below: