This rare firsthand memoir of late-19th-century Santee Dakota life offers a valuable counterpoint to inaccurate and biased accounts of Native American civilizations told by outsiders.
Ohiyesa (1858-1939), also known as Charles Alexander Eastman, wrote 11 books, the first of which was the 1902 account of his youth until age 15, Indian Boyhood. Greatly condensed and simplified for younger readers, this version includes memories of daily life—childhood games, traditional skills and lore learned from elders, times of feast and famine—as well as foreboding signs of changes to come, including expulsion from their land at gunpoint, the capture by the U.S. Army of Ohiyesa’s father and brothers, the incursion of the railroads. Ohiyesa’s original prose was majestic and lyrical, with rich cultural details brought vividly to life over the course of a novel-length work. This 34-page offering is bland by comparison, though intriguing details of a tame grizzly bear and grueling practice for becoming a warrior may inspire curious readers to pick up Ohiyesa’s classic. Detailed notes show the care that was taken to achieve historical accuracy in the illustrations, which unfortunately suffer from inconsistent and awkward proportions.
Notable for its content more than its execution, this book nevertheless deserves recognition given the relative scarcity of historical works that give voice to Native writers. (Picture book/biography. 6-9)