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Stealing Indians

a novel

John Smelcer

Four Indian teens are kidnapped from different regions, their lives immutably
changed by an institution designed to eradicate their identity. And no matter
what their home, their stories are representative of every story, every stolen life.
So far from home, without family to protect them, only their friendship helps
them endure. This is a work of fiction. Every word is true.

Foreword Reviews, Young Adult feature

 In a riveting work that Chinua Achebe calls “a masterpiece,” four Indian teenagers are taken from their homes all over America and shipped to a faraway boarding school to begin a new life. To make them “less Indian,” their kidnappers—government men in suits with slips of paper that the children’s parents often couldn’t even read—take the children from their original homes and send them away to distant locales, ostensibly to help them escape poverty and lack of opportunity. The children enroll in a school at Wellington, a place that is desolate, gloomy, and cruel. The purpose of Wellington seems to be to eradicate the “Indian”—to assimilate the children to American culture while driving out their heritage.

 More than just a story of survival, Stealing Indians is focused on the changing, shifting, and even disappearing identities of the four young teens, who must rely on and trust one another as they navigate their new challenges. Without their connections to home, the young teens adapt to their new world, and the institution behind their kidnapping and forced journey seems to have intentionally orchestrated this crushing of their old senses of self. A commentary on colonialism and oppression, Stealing Indians moves beyond a survival tale by plumbing the depths of the teens’ psychology as they struggle forward in this new world. Ideal for anyone looking for a rich adventure story with depth and heart, Stealing Indians is a work that engages and challenges until the very end.

“A poignant story of colonization and assimilation, something I know a little
bit about. A masterpiece.”
—Chinua Achebe

Four young teenagers meet and become fast friends at boarding school…. But this is no Hogwarts: the Wellington school is an Indian boarding school [in the 1950s], and its students have been forcibly enrolled, taken from their Indian communities across the country. We meet new students Lucy Secondchief, Simon Lone Fight, Noah Boyscout, and Elijah High Horse at their homes and follow their parallel journeys via train and bus to the school, where a sign informs them of the school’s most important rule: “English Only.” Simon’s breaking of this rule later in the narrative provides the book’s central dramatic episode as the boy refuses to forswear his language and is left handcuffed in a basement as punishment, sparking rebellion by the other students who surreptitiously visit and feed him. Almost all of the chapters function as stand-alone stories, with some focusing on one student or another while others bring the four together. Throughout, Smelcer’s anger about these stolen children is apparent but controlled, and he provides a well-judged balance of horror and hope, with the friendship among his protagonists giving the book heart and an opening to empathy.
—Horn Book Magazine

About the Author

John Smelcer is the author of fifty books. His books of mythology include  Trickster, The Raven and the Totem (introduced by Joseph Campbell), and A Cycle of Myths. In 1994, he co-edited the acclaimed anthology Durable Breath: Contemporary Native American Poetry. His writing has appeared in over 400 magazines and journals worldwide, including in The Atlantic.

The son of an Alaska Native father, John served as executive director of his tribe’s Heritage Foundation, compiling and editing The Ahtna Noun Dictionary and Pronunciation Guide (forewords by Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker). He is now the last living tribal member who can read, write, and speak Ahtna. For four years he served as the director of Chenega Native Corporation’s Language and Cultural Preservation Project, working with elders to compile The Alutiiq Noun Dictionary and Pronunciation Guide (foreword by H. H. The Dalai Lama) and editing The Day That Cries Forever and We are the Land, We are the Sea. In 1999, Ahtna Chief Harry Johns designated John a Traditional Culture Bearer, awarding him the necklaces of the late Chief Jim McKinley. That same year, John was nominated for the Alaska Governor’s Award for his preservation of Alaska Native languages and cultures.

The Trap, John’s first novel, received the James Jones Prize for the First Novel and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association and the New York Public Library. The novels The Trap and Edge of Nowhere were both published in the UK and the U.S., and Lone Wolves was included on the American Library Association’s Amelia Bloomer list as one of the best feminist books for young readers in 2013.

Read more at www.johnsmelcer.com.

Stealing Indians • John Smelcer

192 pages • ISBN 978-1-935248-82-8 • Trade paperback, $13.95

e-Book available

Published by Leapfrog Press LLC • www.leapfrogpress.com

Distributed to the trade by Consortium Book Sales & Distribution • www.cbsd.com

Stealing Indians

 

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