The Winnipeg Public Library is returning Herge’s Tintin in America to its shelves — but in the adult graphic novel section, not the children’s area.
The book was pulled for review in March following news that the Chapters bookstore in Winnipeg had briefly removed copies from its shelves due to a complaint about the portrayal of Native Americans. An email sent to all library branches at that time reveals Tintin in America wasn’t supposed to be on the shelves in the first place.
“The decision to withdraw this title was originally made in 2006 after several patron complaints about the content being offensive,” the email stated. “The complaints were reviewed by the Youth Services Librarians at the time and the decision was made to remove it from the public collections based on overtly stereotypical and racist depictions of indigenous people.”
As a result of the 2006 review, both Tintin in America and Tintin in the Congo were moved to a special research collection. That collection was removed in 2013, but the book was re-ordered and returned to the general collection last year — “in error,” according to a library spokesperson. This week’s decision restores the book to general circulation, but to the adult collection, where it will be available to adult readers who want to see it for themselves or “carry on discussions with their children or others.”
In the book, serialized from September 1931 to October 1932, Tintin pursues a gangster from Chicago to a western town, “Redskin City,” where they are held captive by members of the Blackfoot tribe. In March, First Nations educator Tasha Spillett asked Chapters to stop selling the book, saying “the impact of racist images and perpetuating harmful narratives.” Chapters withdrew the book but quickly returned it to store shelves after determining it didn’t violate company policy, which states only three reasons why a book can be removed: child pornography, instructions on how to build weapons of mass destruction, or “anything written with the sole intent of inciting society toward the annihilation of one group.”
University of Manitoba professor Niigaan Sinclair, who teaches a course on graphic novels, said that while the book should not be banned, it isn’t a book that children should read before they are provided with the proper context.
“The problem is when you show Indians carrying weapons coming out of the 15th, 16th centuries always invested in violence, deficiency, and loss, then [children] think that is what First Nations culture is,” he told CBC News. “When they see a First Nations person riding the bus, going to a job, they can’t conceive the reconcilability of those two things.”
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