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Stereotype of the Month Entry

Another Stereotype of the Month entry:

I have a favor to ask you.

As you all know...I've been an Early Childhood Educator for some 17 yrs. I know this teacher who doesn't accept that singing the lame song "1 little 2 little 3 little Indians" is wrong, racist, and stereotyping.

She also claims that it is OK for HER to sing this song because she has Choctaw Blood *giggling* Her name is Carolyn R.

If you all could for a moment take some time and write why you find this song to be insulting and why it is demeaning to us...I would greatly appreciate it.

Maybe it's ME she just doesn't believe *L* And if she could hear from other [people] who are Indian as to why this song is BAD BAD BAD...maybe she will have an awakening.

Many thanks


Though you may feel it is demeaning and so may millions of others does not mean that all Indians or native Americans feel that way. Last time I checked this was a free country and we could still feel that something is okay, even when others did not. I do not personally teach this song but that doesn't mean someone else cannot.

I am a Christian and would not be at all offended if someone chose to use this song this way by substituting the word Christian for Indian. Heck it might even start a discussion.

Just my thoughts on the subject

Nicole in OK


See? THIS is the kind of mind I have to deal with on a regular basis! *groan* And this isn't even the person I was telling you about! Any input would be helpful.


Natives reply

The way I see it,the song "Ten Little Indians" puts our people on the same level as the saying "One Potato, Two Potato." In other words, as THINGS, not people. And whether "Nicole" realises it or not, changing the names does not change the disrespect it depicts.


Oki Folks,

"Ten Little Indians?" Why perpetuate such ludicrous nonsense? When teachers teach their children such songs, do they stop to think of a song's origins, or do they just teach it because it's a song they were taught, eg... "It's a children's song that I was taught!"

Well, that song was a "counting song" that wagon train families taught their children. Not only did "Ten Little Indians" teach those children how to count, but the basis for counting involved the death of First Nations peoples. It wasn't just "counting Indians," but rather "counting DEAD Indians!" Oh those compassionate and loving wagon folk!

All right, the meaning of the song (or its origins) may have slipped through the cracks in the last century and a half, and perhaps many descendants of those "wagon folk," or otherwise, do not know the true source of the song (although most of us do!). But does that make it right to teach such songs? Of course not. If you are a teacher, don't you want to know as much background information on any given subject you teach? Or do you just teach regardless of the background information, regardless of whether what you are teaching is right or wrong?

We, as human beings, are a product of our environment, both physical and emotional. In many instances we have the ability to shape, or somewhat alter, that environment. There is a moral sense of right and wrong that we must abide by in our society. We have goals of truth, honesty, integrity, and teachers have the greatest responsibility to instill in our children a moral code or foundation of those same characteristics.

Teaching songs such as "Ten Little Indians" violates that code of honor, integrity, & honesty. How can one be honest with one's self to teach such nonsense? And even more so if an individual "continues" to teach such a song after KNOWING the source! That speaks volumes about a teacher's character! Might as well just give the kids a white sheet and hood to wear!

Can you imagine Roman families teaching their children "Ten Little Christians" 2000 years ago every time Christians were led into a Roman arena? Or more recently, German families teaching their children "Ten Little Jews" in light of places such as Dachau, Auschwitz, or Birkenau? Or in today's world...how about Israeli families teaching their children "Ten Little Palestinians" as the Palestinians are knocked off one by one?? Are we as First Nations people less human? How about a little societal justice? I know, I know...that's something hard to come by these days!

Think about it...

Jake Two Feathers

Rob's comment
A quote from Teaching Kids the Wonderful Diversity of American Indians by Bernhard Michaelis:

Not all American Indian communities have had the same historical experience and because each American Indian is unique, what may be offensive to one may not be offensive to another. For example, most Native Americans find the popular Head Start song "Ten Little Indians" offensive. But others don't mind it. One American Indian Head Start teacher sings an enlightening variation of the song in which she adds verses for "Ten Little Mexicans," "Ten Little African-Americans," and so on.

I don't think one has to probe deeply to see the problem with the "Ten Little Indians" song. By referring to Indians in a sing-song and diminutive way, it equates them with children. You wouldn't sing about presidents or physicists in that tone of voice, so why Indians?

I wouldn't call it a major problem as stereotypical problems go. But I'd say the problem exists. Think of "The Three Little Pigs" or "This little piggie...." The idea of counting Indians and the repetition of the word "little" seems to trivialize Indians as cute and childlike.

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