Laura Ingalls Wilder's name removed from book award over portrayal of minorities

Tonya Becker
June 28, 2018

"Only Indians lived there", implied that Native Americans were not people-in response, the publisher then changed "people" to "settlers".

The decision to remove her name from the award was the result of years of charges that Wilder's depictions of Native Americans and African-Americans are racist.

The ALSC board made the recommendation in May, noting Wilder's name "has painful associations for many". Although Wilder's books continue to be widely read, the organization says her "legacy is complex" and "not universally embraced".

Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prarie" books are a staple of countless American childhoods.

"This decision was made in consideration of the fact that Wilder's legacy, as represented by her body of work, includes expressions of stereotypical attitudes inconsistent with ALSC's core values of inclusiveness, integrity and respect, and responsiveness", the association said in a statement on its website.

It was followed by Little House on the Prairie in 1935, On the Banks of Plum Creek in 1937 and By the Shores of Silver Lake in 1939.

Wilder's blunt depictions of settler bigotry toward Native Americans has come under increased scrutiny in recent years. 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".

The books inspired the hugely popular 1974-1983 television series Little House on the Prairie starring Melissa Gilbert.

The American Library Association knows the books are deeply meaningful to many readers, and they said they are not calling for censorship-just an understanding of the times reflected in the stories.

Elsewhere in the book, Osage tribe members are sometimes depicted as animalistic, notes the critic Philip Heldrich: In one scene, Wilder describes them as wearing a "leather thong" with "the furry skin of a small animal" hanging down in front, making "harsh sounds" and having "bold and fierce" faces with "black eyes". The racial content in her books "should be discussed in our modern perspective and addressed directly", the group said, "rather than hidden or avoided". Fraser stated that Wilder's work "vividly, unforgettably ... still tells truths about white settlement, homesteading and the violent appropriation of Indian land and culture".

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