Laura Ingalls Wilder's Name Cut From Award For Her 'Stereotypical' Depictions

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Name Cut From Award For Her 'Stereotypical' Depictions

Her "Little House on the Prairie series" is world-renowned for its portrayal of the struggles of prairie life in North America in the 1800's.

After months of deliberation, the organization behind a prestigious book award has chose to remove the name of author Laura Ingalls Wilder because of her portrayal of Native Americans.

The ALSC said the decision was made in consideration of "expressions of stereotypical attitudes" in Wilder's work that are "inconsistent with ALSC's core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness". In the first chapter of the book about pioneer life in the late 19th century, Wilder says that her father, Pa, wanted to move "where the wild animals lived without being afraid", where "the land was level, and there were no trees", and where "there were no people". It said, "The award was created in 1954 when an understanding of the message it sends to people of color, specifically American Indians and those of African descent, was not recognized".

It was also, as a statement about the award change from the Laura Ingalls Wilder Legacy & Research Association acknowledged, "encumbered with the perspectives of racism that were representative of her time and place".

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"Changing the name of the award, or ending the award and establishing a new award, does not prohibit access to Wilder's works or suppress discussion about them". Wilder herself called the word choice a "stupid blunder" in 1952, saying "Of course Indians are people and I did not mean to imply they were not". But, as many teachers and scholars have pointed out for years, the books are riddled with historical errors, most of which are connected to United States policy toward native Indians. The ALSC, which is based in Chicago, said her work continues to be published and read but her "legacy is complex" and "not universally embraced".

Some applaud the ALSC for taking measures to correct oppressive outdated racial attitudes, but other readers and critics argue that Wilder certainly had no ill intent and that her books - like all art, were merely a reflection of the social mores of their times.

"Each generation revises the literary canon". She wrote that they smelled of skunk, had hard, glittering eyes and came constantly to the little house demanding food and tobacco. "For decades, her legacy has been awash in sentimentality, but every American ... should learn the harsh history behind her work".

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