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Celebrate Native American Heritage Month with the Annual Young Readers Center Puppet Show (the Day After Thanksgiving!)

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Teaching with The Library of Congress is cross posting this blog post from the Poetry and Literature Center.

The following guest post is by Sasha Dowdy, program specialist in the Library’s Young Readers Center.

The Young Readers Center is excited to invite you to see the annual Puppet Show on the day after Thanksgiving on November 29, 2019. This year we are sharing Native American Folktales, with stories and poems from nations such as Cree, Seneca, Winnebago, and Navajo adapted from books by Abenaki authors and storytellers—the father-son duo Joseph and James Bruchac.

Most of the stories are about animals because, as James Bruchac says in his author’s note of Turtle’s Race with Beaver (Puffin Books, 2005), “Our animal brothers and sisters are always teaching us things—in many ways.”

Here is our plan for the fun-filled day:

  • 11 AM – 11:30 AM: First show (Whittall Pavilion, ground floor of the Jefferson Building)
  • 11:30 AM – 1 PM: Puppet-making workshop (Young Readers Center, ground floor of the Jefferson Building)
  • 1:00 PM – 1:30 PM: Second show (Whittall Pavilion, ground floor of the Jefferson Building)
  • 1:30 – 3:00 PM: Puppet-making workshop (Young Readers Center, ground floor of the Jefferson Building)

This year’s theme has strong roots in the Library’s celebration of Native American Heritage Month. The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the rich ancestry and traditions of Native Americans (explore here).

We also asked Poet Laureate Joy Harjo—a member of the Muscogee Creek Nation and the first Native American to serve as U.S. Poet Laureate—to help kick off the festivities with a written message for the young people who will attend the puppet show performance.

A Message from Poet Laureate Joy Harjo:

Joy Harjo performs with her band during her opening event as the U.S. Poet Laureate at the Library of Congress, September 19, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller/Library of Congress.

All human beings are story gatherers. We native peoples have been fed by stories we have gathered for thousands of years, long before any Europeans arrived on the shores of this country.

We need stories, poems, songs, dance, and art as much as we need food, clothing, and shelter. We need to feed our imaginations, our spirits.

We share stories by drums talking across distances, in novels and movies, and now on cellphones.

We love to gather in circles around the fire, whether it’s outside at a ceremonial ground, a trash can in the forgotten part of the city, or in the kitchen around the stove—to hear.

When we listen to stories together our hearts beat together. We become one.

The puppet show is the Young Readers Center’s unique way to collaborate with other divisions within the Library and pay tribute to the oral traditions of Native American storytellers. After all, as Joseph Bruchac expressed in the same author’s note of Turtle’s Race with Beaver, “Every storyteller brings something of himself or herself to the stories that become part of their repertoire.” We hope you enjoy what we bring to this puppet

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