10 Little Indians scared in Sweden

There is often a hidden, or naive, prejudice in Sweden. For instance, when illustrating a song about Gypsies, the national newspaper, DN, used a graphic of a shabby trailer. Or when it needed to illustrate the American foreclosure crisis, it created a huge page about a typical mortgage defaulter named “Rodriguez,” with plenty of sketchy ethnic assumptions to match.

I get sensitive about all this, coming from America, where small messages and words matter, and whether you think that is too politically correct or not, it still matters.

So I was not happy when NK came home from daycare singing the song 10 Little Indians. Then we took her to an open preschool the next week, and they sang the song there too.

The American original is based on a minstrel show song that had 10 Little N*****s, later switched to Indians. The Indians disappear one by one, in the spirit of many children’s counting songs. Ouch.

This Swedish song is different. The Indians do not disappear one by one, but rather get scared by a bear in a group. And they turn out to be brave in the end.

I was going to write about it, but then I googled the song, and it got confusing and I did not.

Then I showed up at daycare last week, and there she was, with an Indian headband and feather in her hair, her face painted with “Indian” stripes. And then I started to hum the song to myself because, well, it is catchy.

And I realize that I do not like my American daughter singing this song. They would not sing Arab songs at her daycare and dress her up as an Arab princess. Or a Chinese one. Or a Greek one.

NK will almost surely live in the US again, and I do not want her to have this slightly disengaged, way up north, disconnect from the sensitivities of the world. She will almost surely know Indians, or Native Americans, if you prefer. I am not happy this stupid song is her first contact with that culture.

I feel like I should say something to the teachers, that they have an American in the class, so please do not sing that song. But this is her last week before summer vacation, so in the spirit of wimpy liberals through time … I am doing nothing.

But watch out in the fall. I will be fierce then.

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4 thoughts on “10 Little Indians scared in Sweden

  1. Great link. And Swedes are well-meaning, if tone deaf, you are absolutely right. I will talk to the dagis teachers next time it comes up.

  2. Just came cross your post.

    Thanks for the link to my site. The link provided by “TheSwedeLife” went to a specific page that is not meant for children, but is a teaching tool to help people see images of Indians in a new way.

    For your child’s teacher, I suggest you give them a copy of a book called LESSONS FROM TURTLE ISLAND. It’s meant for early childhood classrooms, and uses children’s books to teach children about American Indians. It’s an excellent resource.

    I blogged it a couple of times:
    http://americanindiansinchildrensliterature.blogspot.com/2007/10/elementary-school-lesson-plans-on.html

  3. Pingback: ten little indians disappear forever from a swedish daycare « Dispatches from Daddyland

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