STEALING INDIANS by John Smelcer

STEALING INDIANS

Age Range: 13 - 17
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KIRKUS REVIEW

Smelcer’s (Indian Giver, 2016, etc.) new novel focuses on the residential Indian boarding schools, where, according to the headmaster of the infamous Carlisle Indian School, the main purpose was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The novel shares the experiences of four Native American children stolen from their families and then taken to Wellington, a fictional residential school referred to by its students as “Wekonvertum,”—that is, we-convert-them to the mainstream culture. The four protagonists, Simon, Noah, Elijah, and Lucy, live in traditional Native homes in different geographic regions of the country. When government men arrive with legal documents, the families are forced to send them to Wellington. There, the children bond quickly and help one another survive inadequate food and clothing, cruel punishments, and the “English Only” signs. Unfortunately, readers are given only occasional, glancing hints to the 1950s time setting beyond the general absence of references to modern technology and communications. Without firm context, references to King Kong may well have teen readers mistakenly imagining the 2005 version. Furthermore, the protagonists' tribal affiliations are not explicitly provided, beyond one boy's punishment for speaking Navajo; Smelcer mostly uses the term “Indian.”

Though the book attempts to decry this blight on our history, without sufficient context and specifics, it may inadvertently encourage Native American stereotypes, particularly with teen readers. (discussion questions) (Historical fiction. 13-17)

Pub Date: Aug. 9th, 2016
ISBN: 978-1-935248-82-8
Page count: 200pp
Publisher: Leapfrog
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2016




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