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Indian Child Life by Charles Alexander Eastman

A LETTER TO THE CHILDREN

DEAR CHILDREN:--You will like to know that the man who wrote these true stories is himself one of the people he describes so pleasantly and so lovingly for you. He hopes that when you have finished this book, the Indians will seem to you very real and very friendly. He is not willing that all your knowledge of the race that formerly possessed this continent should come from the lips of strangers and enemies, or that you should think of them as blood-thirsty and treacherous, as savage and unclean.

War, you know, is always cruel, and it is true that there were stern fighting men among the Indians, as well as among your own forefathers. But there were also men of peace, men generous and kindly and religious. There were tender mothers, and happy little ones, and a home life that was pure and true. There were high ideals of loyalty and honor. It will do you good and make you happier to read of these things.

Perhaps you wonder how a "real, live Indian" could write a book. I will tell you how. The story of this man's life is itself as wonderful as a fairy tale. Born in a wigwam, as he has told you, and early left motherless, he was brought up, like the little Hiawatha, by a good grandmother. When he was four years old, war broke out between his people and the United States government. The Indians were defeated and many of them were killed. Some fled northward into Canada and took refuge under the British flag, among them the writer of this book, with his grandmother and an uncle. His father was captured by the whites.

After ten years of that wild life, now everywhere at an end, of which he has given you a true picture in his books, his father, whom the good President Lincoln had pardoned and released from the military prison, made the long and dangerous journey to Canada to find and bring back his youngest son. The Sioux were beginning to learn that the old life must go, and that, if they were to survive at all, they must follow "the white man's road," long and hard as it looked to a free people. They were beginning to plow and sow and send their children to school.

Ohiyesa, the Winner, as the boy was called, came home with his father to what was then Dakota Territory, to a little settlement of Sioux homesteaders. Everything about the new life was strange to him, and at first he did not like it at all. He had thoughts of running away and making his way back to Canada. But his father, Many Lightnings, who had been baptized a Christian under the name of Jacob Eastman, told him that he, too, must take a new name, and he chose that of Charles Alexander Eastman. He was told to cut off his long hair and put on citizen's clothing. Then his father made him choose between going to school and working at the plow.

Ohiyesa tried plowing for half a day. It was hard work to break the tough prairie sod with his father's oxen and the strange implement they gave him. He decided to try school. Rather to his surprise, he liked it, and he kept on. His teachers were pleased with his progress, and soon better opportunities opened to him. He was sent farther east to a better school, where he continued to do well, and soon went higher. In the long summer vacations he worked, on farms, in shops and offices; and in winter he studied and played football and all the other games you play, until after about fifteen or sixteen years he found himself with the diplomas of a famous college and a great university, a Bachelor of Science, a Doctor of Medicine, and a doubly educated man--educated in the lore of the wilderness as well as in some of the deepest secrets of civilization.


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