Why I Was Excited About a Native American Wizarding School
I have always been on J.K. Rowling’s side, but there is one issue that confuses me. In 2016, when it was announced that Rowling would be introducing new wizarding schools, I was as excited as all other Potterheads were. I was thrilled to hear rumors about a Native American wizarding school. My mom’s side of the family is Native American, and I loved the idea of incorporating rich, beautiful Native American history into the Potter world.
When the new wizarding schools were introduced, Rowling made it clear that Ilvermorny was inspired from Native American mythology. I was truly excited about any Native history and mythology being included; I didn’t even care that it wasn’t an exclusive school for that purpose. However, once the backstory of Ilvermorny was revealed, I was perplexed. While Isolt Sayre is a fascinating and intriguing woman, her story was told at the expense of Native American wizarding history. I wish Isolt’s story had been told separately so that I could appreciate her as an early feminist who created her own school. Instead, she traveled to North America and adopted the land as her own. Instead of the story of Ilvermorny being about strong, independent women and a powerful and learned nation of peoples, Isolt’s story took over all else.
I kept telling myself it’s just a fictional story, but fictional stories influence modern culture. People read books, and if they don’t see themselves in the stories, they assume that only a certain type of person is worth writing about. While I have read stories about girls who look like me, that’s only a recent addition to literature. Books are only just now including girls of every body type, level of intelligence, and beauty standard. Then, there’s Native American representation in general, which I hardly ever see in modern stories. I can’t remember the last time I read a book with Native American characters unless it was a book strictly about Native Americans. People take it for granted that some characters can’t exist unless there’s a specific reason. We don’t think of white Americans belonging to only one genre of work, so why should any other ethnic group?
While Rowling’s writing is traditionally well-researched and thoroughly planned, I never believed that Native American mythology was incorporated well. For example, the concept of Native Americans being Animagi was fascinating, but lots of fans don’t talk about it. Why’s that? They don’t talk about it because the concept was hardly written about. The mythology wasn’t deeply integrated into the story; it just read like it was plopped in. It was only referenced; it wasn’t a plot point. This was disappointing as all the ideas were there, but they weren’t cohesive.
With the new wave of diverse storytelling in the young adult genre, I expect more diversity in Rowling’s upcoming work. Instead of this being at the expense of her already dynamic and beloved cast, more characters will invite more readers into her world. Introducing more characters and locations gives new readers a chance to relate to the Potter books. If anything, more Native American characters will encourage a whole new audience of readers. Not only that but there are plenty of American readers who love the books, myself included. We are living in a time when the Potter world is being brought to America, and we couldn’t be more pleased. More than ever, we feel included in the fandom. With Potterheads all over the world, we all want to feel represented in the stories.
There is another hope in the form of Newt Scamander. In the Fantastic Beasts movies, the characters have traveled to New York, and Potterheads anticipate Ilvermorny being included in the upcoming movies. If Ilvermorny does make an appearance, it’s crucial that Ilvermorny’s story is told accurately. Hopefully, any confusion will be cleared up, and the incorporation of Native American history will be respectfully included.
Now, as it’s been a couple of years since the introduction of Ilvermorny, it’s thought of as Isolt’s school and no one else’s. It seems like just another European school. In the backstory, I wanted Isolt to work more closely with tribes in North America. Also, I wanted there to be some specific Native American characters and more explanation about their magical training. All Potterheads are anxious for Rowling to release more Ilvermorny information in the coming years. I’m hoping that such information will give Potterheads more insight into the Native American wizarding world. As it stands now, I’m afraid these peoples are barely acknowledged.