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Indian No More

Book review by
Joly Herman, Common Sense Media
Indian No More Book Poster Image
Moving story of Umpqua family relocated to L.A. in '50s.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this book.

Educational Value

A historical novel set in the 1950s, this story is told through the voice of a young girl whose Native American identity is challenged when she and her family move to urban Los Angeles. Includes many facts about Umpqua life on the Grand Ronde reservation and sayings in the Chinuk Wawa language. Spotlights rituals and respect for elders and the environment. Regina's grandmother, her Chich, talks about what has happened over time to their ancestors, including forced relocation, boarding school, harassment by the white community, and other instances of oppression. A Cuban neighbor speaks in Spanish to her sons.

Positive Messages

Being poor doesn't mean you can't be proud. Family is what holds you together. Honor your elders because it's the right thing to do. All that you experience, whether won or lost, is yours. Stories hold power. Identifying as a minority can be challenging, but it's an important way to honor your ancestors.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Regina's Chich and Chup (grandmother and grandfather) live with the family, as is traditional in Umpqua homes. Their values of care, kindness, community and respect for their people are very important to the family. Regina's father works hard to support his family, which is especially challenging as a Native American man in a White world. Regina's neighbors and friends who are Cuban and African American, show dignity and solidarity in the face of white aggression. 

Violence

Oppression and mistreatment by the U.S. Government includes forced relocation that kills children who get sick during the move. A group of White teens use the "N" word (spelled out) and throw eggs at a mom and kids while trick-or-treating. An adult gets drunk and insults a child by using scissors to cut her braid off.

Sex

Regina's dad sometimes says he wants her mom to give him a "smooch."

Language

The "N" word (spelled out), "dammit."

Consumerism

Brands reflecting life in the 1950s. Ford, Chevrolet, Lincoln, Dodge, Jello-O, Macy's Popeye, Boy Scouts, Kool Aid, Tarzan, The Lone Ranger, Tonto, Raggedy Ann, Elvis Presley, The Platters, Superman, J.C. Penney's , Sears, Jean Nate, The Three Stooges, Los Angeles Examiner, The Oregonian.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Regina's mother smokes constantly. Her father gets drunk and behaves in an aggressive way. Young men on the reservation smoke and drink beer. Uncle Harlin "smells like beer" on another night that her dad has been drinking. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Indian No More is a novel set in the 1950s about a Native American family who are moved from their home on the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in Oregon to Los Angeles, as directed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ten-year-old Regina's tribe had been "terminated" by the U.S. Government, which means that their tribal identity was no longer recognized by the government, they lost rights to their ancestral home and their house. Consequently, and for other historical reasons as told by her elders, Regina's family teaches her to be suspicious of the government or any government officials. In her new Los Angeles community, Regina copes with being called names, having eggs thrown at her, and having her friends called the "N" word (spelled out) when she's with them. She wonders if she's "the right kind of Indian," when compared with stereotypes played out in TV shows and movies. Young men on the reservation smoke and drink beer. Adults smoke, drink, and act out while under the influence.

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What's the story?

INDIAN NO MORE is a historical novel by Charlene Willing McManis, a member of the Umpqua tribe (with posthumous help from author Traci Sorell). The story tells of the mass relocation efforts by the U.S. Government of Native American tribes in the 1950s. Told through 5th-grader Regina Petit's point of view, it's about a girl whose Native American identity is challenged when she and her family move to urban Los Angeles. Regina and her family are members of the Grand Ronde tribe, who come from a reservation near Salem, Oregon. When the U.S. Government enacts a decree terminating their tribal rights, Regina's dad decides to take the Bureau of Indian Affairs' offer to relocate to a big city to learn a new trade and start a new life. Regina copes with major culture shock, never having eaten in a restaurant before and never having seen a television. The tribal school she had gone to was two rooms full of people who all knew one another, or were otherwise family. In Los Angeles, however, Regina and her little sister, Peewee, find that they have to figure out a lot about their identity very quickly in order to hold on to the things that are important to them, or else assimilate in ways that are expected of them.

Is it any good?

A dramatic and touching tale of cultural assimilation, this story fills an important historical gap. Indian No More does shows how forcing people from their land affects generations of people. The struggle that Regina undergoes to learn about herself in the context of white society is extremely moving. When her family is told that their people are no longer recognized as a tribe, Regina personally attempts to understand what this means. It means that she is seen as foreign, even though her people have inhabited the country longer than the European Americans who dominate it. It means that sh's called names. It means that though the American Dream is achievable to some degree, the loss of identity might take a major toll.

What makes this story good, and why kids will like it, is that the struggle is told with the clarity and honesty that only a kid can call forth. It's not cut and pasted from an experience and put into another time and place. It feels real, because it was real. It's a nice addition to the middle grade historical fiction canon.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the issue of American identity is explored in Indian No More. How do you identify? How is your identity reflected in social media or in TV shows and movies? 

  • What do you know about people who come backgrounds different from yours? How many of your ideas have been shaped by what you watch or read? How are stereotypes fostered by the media?

  • This story takes place in the 1950s. What major differences do you notice in this story as compared with how life is today? How does watching television for the first time affect Regina? 

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