In 1877 the 4th U.S. Cavalry was ordered to annihilate the Indian problem in Texas.
As Ndé/Lipan Apache protagonist Casita and her mother discuss her Changing Woman ceremony, the cavalry attacks her village, massacring most, including Casita’s mother. Taken with her younger brother and other survivors to Fort Clark, Casita hides how she has learned English while traveling with her father until a white Quaker nurse, Mollie Smith, earns her trust. Considered prisoners of war by the Army, the children live with the nurse and her lieutenant husband as servants. Jack is delighted to train the soldiers’ horses and pleased to be called their “mascot.” After three years at the fort, the children are all transferred to the Carlisle Indian School. While there, Jack excels and later is adopted by one of the white teachers, but Casita remains and, with her Apache girlfriends, defiantly re-enacts the Ndé Changing Woman ceremony to honor lost traditions. Though evidently approved by two Native elders—a relative of the real-life Casita supplies an afterword—much of MacColl’s book is problematic for today’s readers. Jack’s pleasure at being named mascot feels very out of touch with current campaigns to eliminate Indian mascots, and calling the Changing Woman deity a “goddess” forces Ndé cosmology into Western structures. Furthermore, perhaps out of an overabundance of sensitivity to middle-grade readers, MacColl downplays the Carlisle School experience, a well-documented historic trauma.
Misses the cultural mark. (author’s note, photos, bibliography) (Historical fiction. 10-14)