O'Neill, A. (2004). Indigenous Children’s Literature In Transformation. Cultural Studies Association of Australasia Annual Conference.
Children’s Literature makes a significant contribution to the diverse and dynamic cultural geographies which constitute contemporary Western society. Indigenous children’s literature, in particular, reflects both the way a society likes to see itself and the way it actually is. Not surprisingly, these two visions rarely coincide, although they are constantly under revision in response to the pressures of twenty-first century life. This is evident when a comparative approach is taken to Indigenous children’s literature in such countries as Australia and Canada, whose treatment of their Indigenous peoples is both strikingly similar and remarkably different. For example, movement from the early treatment in Australia of David Unaipon’s work to such recent picture-books as Henry Cook Jakamarra’s (Warlpirir) Dreaming narrative The Two Wallabies and Matingali Napanangka Mudgedell’s (Kukatja) The Cocky, The Crow and the Hawk is illuminated when considered alongside Susan Jeffers’ Brother Eagle, Sister Sky (Canada) and Mohawk Chief Jake Swamp’s Giving Thanks, A Native American Good Morning Message.
Each of these texts engages with everyday life, mapping as it does so a diversity of cultural geographies and utilising the visual as well as written text in which a variety of voices can be heard in dialogue and dispute. As such, it can be argued that much children’s literature could also be described as a form of resistance literature. Possibly its greatest power derives from the fact that the process of communicating stories to children – whether in the spoken or written form – is integral to the development and continuation of ideology in any society. An understanding of this process provides valuable insight into the socio-cultural and political transformations that marked the latter part of the twentieth century and continue to mark the early years of the twenty-first.