ten little indians disappear forever from a swedish daycare

Last June I wrote about my conflicted feelings about the Swedish version of an American counting song with racist roots – Ten Little Indians:

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 dropped it then because we hit our two months of summer break (and I did not want to cause a fuss and the Swedish version is actually complimentary to Indians, sort of).  And it never came up again, until last week, when the state children’s television channel, of all places, showed a little girl singing the stupid song.

I told NK that I did not like that song.

“But I like it.”

“It is not nice to Indians.”

“I like Indians!”

“But they might not like it.”

“I want to go to India!”

I stopped there, more or less.  I mean, she is 3.  But I did ask if she sang the song at daycare, and she said yes.

So I wrote the head of the daycare, echoing my post from last year.

And she wrote right back.  The song is gone!


3 thoughts on “ten little indians disappear forever from a swedish daycare

  1. Well done. Since your first post about the song, I have realized how pervasive the little indian image is in Swedish culture. It was used as a term on endearment by a Swede about her baby on a facebook post I read seconds after I read this blog entry- she called him her little indian! Must be in the song book somewhere. Nice to know your feedback was received. What did you end up saying? I saw little indian coloring pages at the IKEA playroom that made me cringe, but did not follow through on it.

  2. Hi, i’ve been reading your blog for a while now, and I think it’s good reading, in just a few weeks I’m leaving for 9 month of parental leave so anything daddy related is good stuff. Anyhow, I’m raised in sweden and I grew up with a very romantizised picture of cowboys and indians, the wild west and all that. I loved dressing up in beutiful feathers and facepaint and running around like an idiot in my parents garden with a plastic tomahawk, my friends preffered the cowboy style so they all looked like tiny country music singers with silver pistols and sherriff badges, cute and lethal at the same time I guess. This was during the cold war, Russia was Swedens potential enemy and the general attitude towards USA was obviously way more friendly here, so of course I also wanted to be an american fighter pilot (Top Gun), or Rambo, or one of the grunts from The Platoon (I was way too young for that movie…), but indians were the coolest without a doubt. I’m not sure where I’m going with all this, I guess it’s good that you got the song removed, and that the daycare boss listened to you, but at the same time it would feel a bit sad if my daughter couldn’t play indians and cowboy like I did. Perhaps I would just have to buy a ninja outfit or something for her instead.

  3. Yeah, the whole Indian thing is definitely the fault of American pop culture. And you can’t expect Swedish culture to move on with the same speed. I also played my fair share of cowboys and indians but I guess I have just been exposed to so much information at this point on why my daughter shouldn’t play it.

    Anyway, I guess I can put it this way – it is a little like playing Turks and Armenians, with the Armenians as crazy, simple warriors.

    Or another way, what can you explain without embarrassment if you meet an actual Native American, say, a lawyer from Oklahoma with a couple kids and a house and all that?

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