Letters About Literature National Winners 2008
National Winner, Level 2: Dana Vigue
Dear Janet Shaw,
I was always ashamed of my Native American heritage. I looked different from everyone else in my elementary school. I had a strong nose, high cheekbones, and long black hair. All of my friends had freckles, dainty noses with a dip, and light, beautiful eyes. I was never concerned about my looks. I wasn't abnormally different. I was just different enough for someone to ask.
When my classmates found out that I was a Micmac Indian, they made fun of me. It started out as an annoyance but soon transformed into something close to abuse. They'd bat their hands against their mouths to make an "Indian" sound whenever they saw me. They'd call me names and act like I was some kind of alien, running away whenever I'd show up. My cheeks would burn with embarrassment but there was nothing that I could do about it. I couldn't stop being me.
Being a Native American could be fun. My mother would always take me to pow wows in the summer and fall. I loved them. It was great to have hundreds of other people who were like me. We'd dance, sing, play the enormous drums. My mother and I even joined a drum group called The Red Hawk Medicine Drum. We traveled around Maine and played at pow wows. We also met other drum groups. Everyone could act like family together, laughing, talking, and eating like we'd known each other for years. Eventually, when the summer came to an end, I had to go back to school. The torture that I had been dreading when I would return to school was, indeed, waiting for me. Every morning when I woke up, I'd have a huge lump in my throat and try to make up an excuse to stay home. It was like I was living a nightmare.
One day I saw one of your books in my school's library. "Meet Kaya" it read. The cover of the book was what caught my eye. Kaya, the Indian girl was standing there with her gorgeous black stallion. She was an Indian girl? I just had to pick it up. Kaya's adventures captivated me. I felt like it was me who was flying through the air on a black stallion. I was the girl who took care of my dear and very best friend. I was living in an animal hide Tee Pee in a beautiful field. When I finished the first book, I quickly went out and bought the entire series. I read them every night, like a ritual. They opened my eyes to the beauty of being a Native American. When I realized that, I began to stand up for myself. I stopped putting up with the bullying that I was receiving and defended myself. I tried extremely hard to make friends and forced myself to be less shy. Before I knew it, my life had been transformed.
Janet Shaw, your book has changed my life. Nobody bully's me about my heritage anymore. I'm proud of being a Micmac Indian and I will always take a stand for myself. Thank you sincerely for the cherished inspiration that you've given me.
Your dedicated reader,