Why This Information is Useful and Important and How I Came to Write About It
I have to tell you all, I am astounded at how boring they made studying Native nations in schools when there are actually such great materials out there. To be fair, they were all unavailable to my teachers…I was in school way before they invented the Internet…but the scholars who wrote our giant textbooks did a terrible job.
I guess concocting..sorry, I mean EXPLAINING…Manifest Destiny took a lot of time.
To be honest, I came across these additional resources when I was doing the post on Stories from India, which I did last week. I scheduled the post on Stories from India when I was doing the original post on North American First Nations…so if you see yet another post on India, you will know why.
As with many of my posts, the materials are free because they are in the public domain, which means that they are so old that the author no longer has exclusive rights to the material. In many cases, public domain materials are also outdated, but actually, when it comes to this topic, I find these materials even MORE exciting because the people who wrote them either lived or got a chance to talk to First Nations who still lived in the traditional way.
I certainly hope these resources can be helpful to all people, no matter what their ethnicity, to help them understand more about what was here before the Europeans invaded North America.
And just for the record, I have relatives on both my maternal and paternal side who emigrated from England in 1640 or earlier. My maternal ancestors came to the Massachusetts Bay colony and my paternal ancestors came to Virginia.
The previous post features materials that are mostly appropriate for children ages 6-11. This post features materials that are a bit more difficult and are good for children 11 and up.
Be sure to review them all for cultural bias…remember, they are more than 100 years old…but I believe both the authors to have written with the intention of educating children about the truth, and one of them, in fact, is a member of the Santee Dakota nation.
Note that one glaring difference between current books about American First Nations and older books is the use of the term “Indian”. That can’t be helped as that was the term used 100 years ago. I strongly encourage you not to judge books their covers in this case.
Dr. Charles Eastman, née Hakadah and later named Ohíye S’a
The First Native American Historian
Charles Eastman was Santee Dakotan and also had French and English ancestry. He was also the first Native American to become licensed in the United States as a doctor.
He was a physician for the Native Americans as the Wounded Knee massacre as an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
He took the name “Charles Eastman” after converting to Christianity.
He was also active in the founding of the Boy Scouts of America and the Campfire Girls and also founded numerous Indian chapters of the YMCA.
And, in addition to all of this, he wrote numerous books about his own life and Native Americans.
Yup, and many of his books are free.
Indian Boyhood: The True Story of a Sioux Upbringing
In this book, you can read Charles Eastman’s own experiences told in his own words, rather than being translated or told to someone else.
It starts with his earliest memories and concludes with his introduction to life among the “white people” when he joined his father, who he though was dead.
Link to clickable, online edition of Indian Boyhood
The Soul of an Indian
This book subjectively explains the religious beliefs of Native Americans but through the point of view of a converted Christian. In case you’re wondering what that looks like, at the end of his Forward, Eastman writes this:
We know that all religious aspiration, all sincere worship, can have but one source and one goal. We know that the God of the lettered and the unlettered, of the Greek and the barbarian, is after all the same God; and, like Peter, we perceive that He is no respecter of persons, but that in every nation he that feareth Him and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him.
Link to clickable, online version of The Soul of the Indian
More Histories by Charles Eastman
Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains
Old Indian Days
Indian Child Life
Folktales from the “Sioux”, or the Lakota and Dakota Nations
Red Hunters and the Animal People
See note on Elaine Goodale Eastman below.
Indian Scout Talks/Indian Scout Craft and Lore
Originally written for Boy Scouts and Camp Fire Girls, this book covers just about everything you would want to know about making Native American equipment, proper behavior in the camp, rituals, and more.
The Indian Today
Part of a series of books on various aspects of American culture.
Links to online versions of all the above texts may be found at Project Gutenberg here.
Elaine Goodale Eastman
Charles Eastman’s wife, Elaine Goodale Eastman, was a poet in her own right. She met Eastman when she was working with the Indian schools, and she also taught a group of Indian students at what is now Hampton University, in Hampton Virginia, a historically Black college. In their early days, they had a separate section for Native American students.
Goodale Eastman was an advocate for establishing schools for Native American students on the Reservations, rather than sending them away to boarding school, which was the custom at the time.
After a 30 year marriage, the Eastmans separated, and after Charles Eastman’s death, his widow (they never divorced) claimed to have cowritten all of her husband’s books, rather than the one that is co-credited. It seems to be clear that she did his typing for him, but the extent of their collaborations remains unclear.
As far as I am concerned, the reason this work is interesting is because it’s by someone with first hand knowledge, and many people have assistance with their writing. That doesn’t make them the author of the work.
Goode Eastman did, however, publish her own memoirs, which are worth reading in light of her work apart from her husband.
If it weren’t for her own work and interest in Native Americans, certainly she and Eastman never would have met and perhaps he wouldn’t have written his experiences, which are so valuable to have.
Goodale Eastman published several books on her own, but none sold as well as her husbands. Yellow Star, pictured below, is described by scholar Ruth Alexander (see link below) as a sort of Sioux version of the Anne of Greene Gables type of novel, in which the heroine seeks acceptance in Caucasian life but ultimately has to make a permanent choice between Sioux and Caucasian lifestyles.
Ruth Alexander, in a scholarly article on Goodale Eastman, mentions Hundred Maples as Goodale Eastman’s best work, but unfortunately, it is not available digitally.
Yellow Star: A Story of East and West at Project Gutenberg
ELAINE GOODALE EASTMAN AND THE FAILURE OF THE FEMINIST PROTESTANT ETHIC by Ruth Ann Alexander
Scholarly paper on Elaine Goodale Eastman and her work
More from The Lois Level on North American First Nations
Don’t miss our previous article First Nations, which focuses on Folk Tales.
Indian History for Young People by Francis S. Drake
The important thing to remember about this history is this thesis: “Indeed, the great lesson of the struggle is that it shows conclusively the superiority of the civilized man over the savage, even in those warlike arts in which the latter most excelled” (Forward).
Drake’s conclusion is that as of his writing, in the late 18th century, the “Indian” problem has been pretty much solved because the people have assimilated.
Painful to read, isn’t it?
There is a lot of information in this book, which is ordered geographically and chronologically, as the core of the struggle moves from place to place.
The language in the book is too difficult for younger readers, and the purpose of using this book, if you were to, is to cross reference it with different texts, such as those of Charles Eastman, to show the shades of meaning.
It’s hard for kids to understand that there is more to the “facts” than the “facts”. I wince every time I hear “fact” defined as something that is true.
My question is always, “But how do you know?”. Contrasting Eastman’s work with Drake’s is a perfect way to show how stories can be slanted different ways.
Full text clickable version with illustrations: Indian History for Young Folks
Who was Francis Samuel Drake?
Drake was a bookseller, originally from Boson. His father had an interest in history, which the son inherited. In addition to his Indian history, Drake wrote the Dictionary of American Biography, which included over 10,000 entries!