Children’s literature activist to speak at ASU indigenous lecture

October 12, 2016

For Debbie Reese, cutting classes in high school was an opportunity to indulge her passions. Rather than finding trouble, however, she used that time to volunteer at Head Start, a program dedicated to helping impoverished youth.

The Illinois-based educator has always been drawn to helping others, especially kids, which was inspired by her upbringing. Debbie Reese / Courtesy photo “What I'm doing isn't for me and my well-being,” says scholar and critic Debbie Reese about her work dispelling literary stereotypes of Indigenous people. “It is for the children, Native and not, who will read those books.” Reese will give an ASU-sponsored lecture on Oct. 20 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Download Full Image

“I remember that as a child growing up at Nambé Pueblo, our elders taught us that the things we do are not for us as individuals, but for our community.”

Reese has incorporated those values into her life’s work as a scholar and activist. She is the publisher of the blog American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), which provides critical perspectives and analysis of Indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, school curricula, popular culture and society.

“What I'm doing isn't for me and my well-being,” she said. “It is for the children, Native and not, who will read those books.” 

Reese will speak about the work of dispelling misconceptions in her presentation “Some Truths, but Lots of Lies: Indigenous Peoples in Children’s Literature” in the fall 2016 Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community. The ASU-sponsored lecture will take at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. An on-campus, meet-and-greet reception with Reese will take place at the Labriola Center in Hayden Library also that day at 10:30 a.m.

In public and for the public

Since its beginning in 2006, AICL has been a heavy influence on authors and readers alike — sometimes even prompting authors to make revisions to their work.

“A good example is Ashley Hope Perez's ‘Out of Darkness,’” Reese said. “It isn't about Native people, but it did have a character saying he was the ‘low man on the totem pole.’ That is one of those common phrases people use that embodies lack of knowledge of the Native peoples who create and use totem poles. I wrote to her, and she edited that passage out of her book. It does not appear in the second printing.”

Reese shares that this immediate impact is precisely the reason she does public-facing work.

“I launched my blog with the goal of making my research accessible to anyone who had access to the Internet,” she said. “Most scholars publish in journals and books that teachers, parents, and librarians never see or can't afford.”

It wasn’t until pursuing her doctorate at the University of Illinois that Reese became aware of the extent of the misrepresentation of Native peoples. To her amazement, she found an overarching ignorance of American indigenous culture outside of indigenous communities, even at the university level.

Reese remarks that her acknowledgment of her Nambé heritage at school, “led to people asking or inviting me to dance at their gatherings. I was surprised by that and realized how deeply they were miseducated by the university's stereotypical Indian mascot, ‘Chief Illiniwek.’

Starting at the beginning

When she also struggled to find books with accurate portrayals of Native culture to read to her own young daughter, Reese decided to change her focus of study from family literacy to depictions of Native peoples in children’s texts. Reese had come to understand that she could help address the rampant misconceptions with young children, long before they reached university.

“I started looking critically and found images like that of the mascot in much-loved books: dearly-loved characters, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, [who] wears a headdress in one of Norman Bridwell's books,” Reese said. “My research found that children were far more likely to see that sort of thing in their books than stories and images that accurately portray us.”

With a refocused passion, Reese became a vocal leader while at the University of Illinois; she helped establish the Native American House and an American Indian studies program at the university.

Reese has amassed a plethora of awards and achievements. She regularly travels around the country to speak publicly about Native American culture and representation. As a touchstone, she points to a widely cited concept discussed by Rudine Sims Bishop in the 1990s — that books can function as “mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors,” validating and reflecting children’s lived experiences. Reese’s motivation is to create more opportunities for accurate reflections of, and for, American Indians.

“We need those mirrors for Native children,” Reese said, “and we need more people in our communities and university settings to speak up about those distorted mirrors.”

The Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community at Arizona State University addresses topics and issues across disciplines in the arts, humanities, sciences, and politics. Underscoring Indigenous American experiences and perspectives, this series seeks to create and celebrate knowledge that evolves from an inclusive Indigenous worldview and that is applicable to all walks of life. Simon Ortiz, a poet of Acoma Pueblo heritage and the series namesake and organizer, is a Regents’ Professor of English and American Indian studies at ASU.

ASU sponsors include the American Indian Policy Institute; American Indian Studies Program; Department of English; School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies (all units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); the Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law; Labriola National American Indian Data Center and ASU Libraries; School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; and Women and Gender Studies in the School of Social Transformation. The Heard Museum is a community partner.

More information about the Indigenous Lecture Series is available on its website.

Written by Josh Morris

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English


Cronkite students win big at Rocky Mountain Emmys

Election special, story about marijuana legalization in Mexico among honored pieces

October 12, 2016

Arizona State University students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication took home more Student Production Awards than any other school at the annual Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards Gala this weekend.

Cronkite students won nine Student Production Awards, including best newscast for Cronkite News from the Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Students bested the field, winning nearly half of the 20 Student Production Awards presented at gala on Oct. 8 at Talking Stick Resort in Scottsdale. ASU Cronkite student Katie Bieri with her Rocky Mountain Emmy Katie Bieri won a Student Production Award in Public Affairs/Community Service for a Cronkite News story on a ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court involving marijuana. Bieri, who traveled to Mexico for the story, said the experience was invaluable. Download Full Image

Cronkite alumna Yahaira Jacquez won three Student Production Awards for her work on Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS. Jacquez won two Student Production Awards for News: General Assignment and another in the Editor category.

Katie Bieri won a Student Production Award in Public Affairs/Community Service for a Cronkite News story on a ruling by the Mexican Supreme Court involving marijuana. Bieri, who traveled with Cronkite Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor Angela Kocherga to Mexico for the story, said the experience was invaluable.

“I’m really grateful to have a professor like Angela Kocherga, who guided me through the whole process in covering borderlands issues,” said Bieri, who also had previously received a scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. “My successes are because of the connections I have made at Cronkite.”

In the 2016 contest, Cronkite students received 24 Student Production Award nominations, the most of any school in the contest. (Find links to the winners and nominees at the end of this story.)

The Student Production Awards annually represent the best in collegiate and high school journalism, and the Cronkite School regularly leads them. Since 2009, the Cronkite School has won 35 of the awards.

“We are extremely proud of our outstanding students who won and were nominated for Student Production Awards,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “Their reporting has made a significant impact in Arizona and beyond.”

Other ASU honors

Two Emmy Awards were also earned by the ASU Enterprise Marketing Hub video team.

Salute to Service at ASU 2015,” a half-hour show aired on the Pac-12 Network, was selected as the best in the category of Military Program Feature/Segment or Program/Special. Produced by James Daniels, senior director of video production, the presentation celebrated ASU students and alumni serving in the U.S. armed forces, their personal and service stories, inspirations and college experiences — all set against the backdrop of ASU’s Salute to Service football game against the University of Oregon.

A second Emmy in the Commercial/Single Spot category was the result of a collaboration with Phoenix-based Flock of Pixels. The 30-second spot aired in the greater Phoenix market area and offered proof points of ASU innovation on the occasion of the university’s first of two consecutive recognitions as the country’s “Most Innovative” school by U.S. News & World Report.

“We have such great stories to tell at ASU — stories of innovation, success, discovery, commitment, growth — and to receive such prestigious recognition from your peers is a reflection of this university, its faculty, students and staff,” said Dan Dillon, university chief marketing officer. “These Emmys are a testament to what can be accomplished at ASU and during your time after graduation, and we’re very proud of this recognition.”

In other categories, Arizona PBS videographer Scot Olson won an Emmy for lighting for his work on the local restaurant-review show “Check, Please! Arizona.” “Check, Please! Arizona” is Arizona PBS’s highest-rated locally produced series. Operated by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Arizona PBS is a member-supported community service of ASU.

Student Production Award winners


Windsor Smith, Nicole Fox, Jennifer Soules, Emily Antuna and Madison Romine: “Election Special: March 22, 2016,” Cronkite News

News: General Assignment

Yahaira Jacquez: “Food Waste Problem Along US-Mexico Border Sees Progress,” Cronkite News

Ben Margiott: “LEGO KidsFest Invades Glendale,” Cronkite News

Yahaira Jacquez: “Navajo Family Without Water and Their Daughter,” Cronkite News

Long Form: Fiction/Non-Fiction

Zackary Moran: “El Otro Lado: The Divide Over Arizona's Border Crisis”

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy and Rashinda Bankhead: “Stingray,” documentary

Public Affairs/Community Service

Katie Bieri: “Mexico Opening the Door to Legalization of Marijuana,” Cronkite News


Yahaira Jacquez: “West Phoenix Music Teacher Making a Difference,” Cronkite News


Megan Thompson: “Anchor Reel

Student Production Award nominees


Windsor Smith and Madison Romine: “Newscast: Feb. 17, 2016,” Cronkite News

Katy Burge: “Newscast,” Cronkite News

News: General Assignment

Jacob Garcia: “Donald Trump’s Arizona Rally Showcases His Polarizing Nature,” Cronkite News

Megan Thompson: “Many Who Have Died Crossing Arizona’s Border Remain Unidentified,” Cronkite News              

Megan Thompson: “Phoenix Parking Meter Changes Ease City's Financial Woes,” Cronkite News

Ross Leviton: “TC Chillemi: Keep on Keepin On

Yeowon Kim, Suzanne Jumper and Johnathan Rugg: “Tres Rios – A Constructed Wetland

Long Form: Fiction/Non-Fiction

Langston Fields, Cassie Ronda, Mindy Riesenberg, Rajneesh Bhandari, Nadia Mouelhi, Omar Hassan, and Glaiza Boccelli: “Camels Don’t Fly, Deserts Don't Bloom

Alicia Gonzales, Sierra LaDuke and Graham Bosch: “The Blake Project

Jackie Cotton, Jennifer Soules and Angela Schuster: “Unzipped: Naming Arizona's Nameless


Jacob Garcia: “Building for the Future: Garvin Alston Jr. Quietly Developing for ASU,” Cronkite News

Jacob Garcia: “Tommy Puzey: Marathon Winner Second, Family Man First,” Cronkite News

Public Affairs/Community Service

Lillian Donahue: “Collegiate Tree Planting Challenge”


Katie Bieri: “Congress Has Gone to the Dogs,” Cronkite News


Jacob Garcia: “Anchor Reel

The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences is a professional service organization dedicated to the advancement of the arts and sciences of television and the promotion of creative leadership for artistic, educational and technical achievements within the television industry. The Rocky Mountain Southwest Chapter, formed in 1959, represents Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming and El Centro, Calif.

Stephen Des Georges contributed to this report.