by Rae Rose
Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over!, by Dr. Oriel María Siu with illustrations by Víctor Zúñiga, is a children’s book written to challenge historical misconceptions resulting from the way history is currently taught: with bias, from a colonizer’s point of view. By contrast, Dr. Siu’s new book speaks from the heart of Indigenous endurance, highlighting the strength of spirit we pass with love from one generation to the next.
Dr. Oriel María Siu is of Náhuatl, Pipil, and Chinese heritage. Growing up in Honduras, Dr. Siu was surrounded by community. In 1997, she left her homelands and moved to Los Angeles, California. As a Woman of Color, moving from a home where she looked like the majority to a very westernized Los Angeles was challenging. Dr. Siu obtained her Ph.D. in literature, and in 2013, she became a mother. As an Indigenous mother, she ran into the same problem many BIPOC mothers find: There is little to no literature that reflects, uplifts, or acknowledges our history — especially for our children.
Taking everything she had experienced, all of her knowledge, and her love of her people, she began to write the books she wanted to see. It is a dilemma all BIPOC mothers face. I began creating stories just for my children — Dr. Siu created books for all of our children. Children who deserve to have their truth told; children who deserve to be seen and to see themselves in the stories they read.
This story, part of a series Dr. Siu began writing while living in South Seattle, is written with a bright and beautiful spirit that leads readers to the truth of colonialism’s monstrous intent. Dr. Siu poignantly reveals the very real impacts of colonialism and the strength of Indigenous people to overcome generational trauma.
In Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over! EuroLandia is representative of Spain’s very real, very brutal and detrimental, Catholic Church-backed Inquisition conquest, Manifest Destiny. Christopher the Ogre is, of course, representative of the very real Christopher Columbus and his genocidal conquest of Mother Earth’s lands and her people. Dr. Siu’s story brings attention to the question, “Who are the heroes we celebrate, and how do we change the narrative to tell the true story of European conquest?”
The king and queen of EuroLandia, in their greed for more riches and more lands, send their most “ruthless, heartless, and savagely capricious” Ogre, Christopher Cologre, to steal more of everything from everyone. In this refreshing and honest children’s book, Dr. Siu offers readers an Indigenous perspective on the truth of Spain’s Christoper Columbus in the form of EuroLandia’s greed-driven champion, “the ogre explorer.”
In addition to EuroLandia’s ogre, readers are introduced to the people who have inhabited the lands since time began. The thriving AbyaYalans have lived on and loved the lands since time immemorial. They are living a rich and happy life as a united tribe when Chistopher Cologre arrives to take over. (Much like the tribes encountered by the European colonizers — Roman Catholic, Spanish, British, French, or otherwise.)
The AbyaYalans try to resist EuroLandia’s prize ogre’s conquest. But their resistance causes Christopher Cologre to viciously enforce his unjust rule.
As Christopher the Ogre’s reign tightens on the AbyaYalan children, a grandmother has a dream. This AbyaYalan grandmother creates a refuge for as many children as she can within the protection of the Ceiba tree. Within this new home, their refuge, the AbyaYalans write their truth and entrust their story to the Ceiba tree for future generations to find. Their story waits there for hundreds of years until it can be given to one of their beloved descendants, Rebeldita the Fearless.
Rebeldita is a character young children of Indigenous heritage can relate to and cheer on. At the end of Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over!, our young hero finds the story of her AbyaYalan ancestors, which has been kept safe by the Ceiba tree. “Our existence is resistance!” Rebeldita reads from the book — a message of love and strength from those who came before.
Every school library should carry Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over! to encourage students to learn about Indigenous people’s true power of strength and spirit.
Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over! is an important step forward in rewriting history with truth as the guiding light, for all of our children. All of us deserve to know where and what we came from to decide where we are going. The period of European “exploration” at its height, between 1492 and 1620, was a time of brutal conquest funded by church and country in a race to steal as many resources as possible. There were explorers long before Europe went looking to rape the land. This book reflects what the Catholic Church and Spain were really about. The truth of church-backed European “exploration” was not really about expansion, progress, or civilized growth. The European doctrines of Manifest Destiny, discovery, and exploration were solely born of greed and raised in cold blood, leaving a legacy of destruction and desecration. This period of exploration forced all of us away from our connection to the Earth, her waters, and our connection to each other. It is about time we are writing with truth instead of the lies glorifying the bloody conquest and rape of Mother Earth and her people.
It is refreshing to open a book where European colonization is finally spoken of in truth — especially to me as an Indigenous Woman of Color. As a child, my Indigenous father told me we should conform. He told me to be white — he said that was the only way I could exist. Even as a child, those words never sat well with me. I knew this was not true, and I refused to bow my head to anyone based on my worth being less because of my brown skin. As I learned what my grandfather went through in Indian boarding school, I understood, but I never agreed. For me — the child I was, the mother I became, forced to make up stories so my children could see themselves with pride — this book is a promising step forward. I hope Dr. Siu continues to write with love and pride for every child.
With Dr. Siu’s book in hand, there is so much Rebeldita can do now, and I, for one, cannot wait to see what our young Indigenous hero does next!
Learn more about Christopher the Ogre Cologre, It’s Over! and Rebeldita’s future.
Author Dr. Oriel María Siu is Pipil-Náhuatl/Chinese from Central America (Honduras). She left her homeland for Los Angeles in 1997 due to the violence lived back in the late ’90s in Central America. She has since dedicated herself to uplifting the voices of People of Color in the U.S. by creating and expanding academic spaces where our voices and histories can be heard. This children’s book series is her latest effort in contributing to anti-racist, decolonial education in the United States.
Rae Rose is a Pacific Northwest author of Paiute, Mayan, and Japanese heritage. She writes historical fiction, poetry, and picture books. “Stories are very important to me, I hope you enjoy these stories I share with you.” You can follow her @Rae_Rose7.
📸 Featured Image: Illustration from “Christopher Cologre the Ogre, It’s Over!” (Artist: Víctor Zúñiga. Image courtesy of Dr. Oriel María Siu)
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