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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Historical novel set in 1950s, told in voice of young girl whose Umpqua identity is challenged when the U.S. government signs a bill saying her tribe no longer exists. With no opportunities in Oregon, her father relocates the family to urban Los Angeles. Teaches about the termination and relocation programs of the 1950s, which sought to cease legal recognition of certain Native tribes and encourage members to assimilate into White society. Includes many facts about Umpqua life on the Grand Ronde reservation and sayings in Chinuk Wawa language. Spotlights rituals, 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 White community, other instances of oppression. A Cuban neighbor speaks in Spanish to her sons.
Having less money than those around you doesn't make you lesser than and should not be associated with your pride or self-worth. Family can provide a strong support system, and it's important to respect your elders. All that you experience, whether won or lost, is yours, and it is crucial to acknowledge your personal history. Stories hold power.
Positive Role Models
Regina's Chich and Chup (grandmother and grandfather) live with the family, as is traditional in Umpqua homes, and provide great support and wisdom. Values of care, kindness, community, and respect for others are very important to the family. Regina's father works hard to support his family, which is especially challenging as a Native man in a White world. Regina's neighbors and friends, who are Cuban and Black, show dignity and solidarity in face of White aggression.
Main character Regina is Umpqua and lives on the Grand Ronde reservation with her family. She deals with persecution from the government and wider society due to her Native identity but is also a multifaceted character going through broader experiences related to growing up. There are characters from a number of other races in the book, including Black, Latino, and White. Regina and her sister, Peewee, bond with Black children over stereotypes they see on screen, showing a level of shared experience. Multiracial identities are explored, such as Regina's father being Umpqua and her mother being Portuguese.
It is not just the words on the page that spotlight underrepresented voices; the author, Charlene Willing McManis, was Umpqua and enrolled in the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde. Traci Sorell, who helped to finish the book after Charlene's passing, editor Elise McMullen-Ciotti, and cover artist Marlena Myles are all of Native descent -- Cherokee and Dakota.
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Violence & Scariness
Oppression and mistreatment by 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 assaults a child by using scissors to cut her braid off.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Regina's dad sometimes says he wants her mom to give him a "smooch."
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Examples of 1950s-era and racist language such as "colored," "negroes," and the "N" word (spelled out). Mild language such as "dammit."
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Products & Purchases
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 Naté, the Three Stooges, Los Angeles Examiner, The Oregonian. Money and belongings become of greater importance to Regina when she moves to Los Angeles and is surrounded by a more consumerist culture.
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.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Indian No More is a novel set in the 1950s about an Umpqua family who are moved from their home on the Grand Ronde Indian Reservation in Oregon to Los Angeles, as directed by the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Ten-year-old Regina's tribe had been "terminated" by the government, which means that their tribal identity was no longer officially recognized, and 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 wary of the U.S. government or and its officials. In Los Angeles, Regina copes with being called names, having eggs thrown at her, and having her Black 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 that play 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.
Is It Any Good?
A dramatic and touching tale of forced cultural assimilation, this story fills an important gap in what most textbooks cover about the U.S. government's role in the persecution of Native Americans. Indian No More shows how uprooting 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. And what it means is that she's seen as foreign, even though her people and other Native tribes have inhabited the continent for far longer than the European American settlers oppressing them. It means that she's called names. It means that although the American dream is achievable to some degree, the loss of identity might be the very steep price.
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 an important addition to the middle-grade historical fiction canon.
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