ISLETA PUEBLO, N.M. -- "Don't eat so much candy and I should get more
"I need to eat more good stuff, like vegetables."
"We've all gotta listen to the elders."
Fourth- and fifth-graders Timmy Yazzie, Vanessa Bitsilly and Akkiio Herrera
reacted immediately and strongly to hearing a new book about health,
"Through the Eyes of the Eagle," read by Isleta elder Eleanor Abeita. "We
really liked it!" they concluded.
It did not escape them that their grade school's mascot is an eagle. "They
loved the eagle character," said fourth-grade teacher Emelda Chimoni. "Most
of them took the books home to share with their families."
In mid-December, the three Indian students, along with 30 of their
classmates at Isleta Pueblo Elementary School, made one of their seasonal
visits to the elders at Isleta's Senior Citizen Home, next door to their
Then, as a surprise from the elders, each child received a copy of the
"Eagle" book as they sat on the floor in a circle around elder Eleanor
Abeita, who read the story aloud.
The series of four books, written by Georgia Perez of Nambe Pueblo, is
hitting the national education spotlight -- including a feature article in
USA Today -- thanks to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's
Native Diabetes Wellness Program, based in nearby Albuquerque. The books --
"Through the Eyes of the Eagle," "Knees Lifted High," "Plate Full of Color"
and "Tricky Treats" -- are vividly illustrated by Patrick Rolo, Bad River
Band of Ojibwe, and Lisa A. Fifield, Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin.
In 2001, the Tribal Leaders Diabetes Committee (sponsored by the IHS) first
suggested creating a book series to teach children about preventing
diabetes. Now that dream has become a reality.
The books, written for Native children aged 5 to 8, offer timeless messages
about the importance of good health, diabetes prevention, physical activity
and healthy eating. "They are relevant for children of all ages and ethnic
groups," according to Anita Blankenship of the CDC.
The book series features a young Indian boy, Rain That Dances, who learns
from the wise eagle that long ago, Indian people worked hard to take care
of each other and had strong, healthy bodies. "Now as I fly around," the
eagle continued, "I do not see the children playing and moving around like
the Old Wise Eagle used to see ... [but instead are] eating foods that are
not good for them. That makes me sad."
Mr. Eagle and Miss Rabbit encourage Rain That Dances and his friends,
Thunder Cloud, Little Hummingbird and Simon, to consider what they can do
to be healthy while having fun. They are reminded of the wisdom of elders
and of the traditional ways of their people, including living healthy,
staying active and being grateful for the gifts of mother earth.
The CDC is printing 200,000 books to be provided free of charge to Indian
children across the nation. Distribution plans, currently being finalized,
include a partnership with First Books, a nonprofit distributor
specializing in delivering new books to disadvantaged children. Registered
nonprofit organizations, government entities and Title I schools can apply
for books (free except for shipping charges) at www.NationalBookBank.org or
by calling (866) 393-1222. Plans also include distribution through
intertribal councils and health boards, nearly 400 IHS Special Diabetes
grant programs, and 170 Indian Head Start programs across the nation.
As distribution plans are finalized regionally, Indian country's primary
school teachers, administrators and tribal leaders will all be advised as
to how to obtain the books. Tribal governments or other tribal
organizations seeking to obtain the books can call Dave Baldridge at (505)
232-9908. Single copies of the books can already be requested by a home or
school by calling (800) CDC-INFO.