At 19 years-old, Native American Jaylyn Atsye started a movement on social media #rockyourmocs to encourage Native Americans to wear their moccasins to honor and celebrate the unity and diversity of Indigenous cultures.
Rock Your Mocs, a children’s picture book by Native American author Laurie Goodluck is scheduled for release in October 2023. The theme is about how important it is for Native kids, and all kids, to realize the importance of their culture and that their culture can give them superpowers. They can rely on it, lean on it, and learn how to problem solve and critically think.
The Paper. spoke with Goodluck, who lives in Albuquerque about the importance of diverse books with modern Native themes that reflect children’s cultural experiences and everyday life.
“Since 2014, Native American kids and adults across the nation are wearing their moccasins in November during American Indian Heritage month to show that we still rely on our culture, that we know our identities and we have a style and that kids can walk into the future in their moccasins,” Goodluck told The Paper.
“When I grew up, I never saw our history portrayed in children's books. When my kids were growing up, I could never find anything portraying our modern life, so I decided that I would give it a try.” She wanted to let young readers know that Native Americans are still here living in this modern world and are using their art to make that point.
One of the things that inspired Goodluck to get into writing for children was her sons. Her oldest, Kalen Goodluck is a journalist and a freelance photographer for the New York Times. Her youngest son, Forrest Goodluck is an actor and filmmaker who played Hawk, the half-Native American son of frontiersman Leonardo DiCaprio in the Oscar award winning film, The Revenant.
Goodluck was chosen to write a young reader’s chapter book on Deb Haaland for Chelsea Clinton’s series, She Persisted. The series introduces little kids, young feminists and tiny activists to women who spoke up and rose up against the odds, refused to take no for an answer, and without fail, persisted.
Half of the book is on Haaland’s young life, and what influenced her to be the leader that she is. Her grandparents, from the Pueblo of Laguna, had a big influence on her.
“Haaland’s grandfather taught her the importance of conserving resources, farming, and loving the land,” Goodluck explained. “They didn't have any water or electricity in the house. Her grandmother showed her how to cook and use produce from their gardens and the importance of water and how to conserve and respect it.”
“Haaland’s two generations of grandparents went to the boarding schools and that's one of the first things that she did was focus on boarding schools as Madam Secretary of the Interior,” Goodluck said.
Goodluck explained the themes of her books are universal; they're for everybody. “There's a need to have kids reflect their world in books to feel value and identify with their culture. In all my stories I write the fun story, the front, to the kids and hope the educators and parents will dig deeper into the back matter.”
Goodluck’s picture books have an age range from three to eight. Her chapter books are for young readers from six to nine. Indigenous illustrators are used in her picture books so that the Native voice is continuous throughout the story.
Check out laurelgoodluck.com for more information about Goodluck’s books.
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