Introduction to Indian Boyhood
by Curry Kenworthy
Charles Eastman's autobiography Indian
Boyhood lets the reader venture into the fields, forests,
and teepees with the Dakota Sioux as he relates his early years
with his tribe as a toddler, boy, and teen.
This book holds a wealth of information
for those who are interested in American Indian life. Eastman
does an excellent job of painting his boyhood world vividly so
that readers can see it from an authentic point of view.
You'll marvel at the way the Sioux lived,
whether it was the daily routine, special occasions, or emergencies
and adventures. The author not only fills us in on what the adults
and children in his tribe were doing, but also shares some of
the goals and motivations behind their actions.
Nature and the animal world are always
close to the reader, just as they were constant companions to
the boy. If you keep your eyes peeled, you'll learn some interesting
tips from the Indian hunter/warrior. Childhood games and grown-up
pastimes also come to life again on these pages. Ever wonder
how an Indian hunter could have tried to turn back a charging
predator, if a display of courage could prevent a massacre, or
whether Indian kids could get up the equivalent of a paintball
match? Here's your chance to find out.
Even more intriguing, for me, was reading
about Dakota customs such as courtship, and especially the Maiden's
Feast; the book would be well worth the reading if it contained
only these. The seasonal activities, the journeys and adventures,
the struggles and the times of plenty, even the Indian police--it's
all here. This book covers a lot of ground, as did the people
Along the way, readers will likely find
it necessary to adjust some of their concepts as they are confronted
with all this information. This works both ways; you will gain
new respect for some aspects of Sioux life, but politically correct
notions of perfect Native Americans may also fall by the wayside.
Negative stereotypes concerning American
Indians have been replaced with positive ones in much of our
media and education, but replacing one set of simplistic beliefs
with another only encourages a different type of simplistic and
inaccurate viewpoint--a different mindset, but a similar mind.
The alternative is to actually gain greater and more realistic
understanding, and books like Indian Boyhood will help.
Eastman completes the picture by sharing
legends, teachings, ceremonies, and beliefs of the Dakota that
allow us to see the mental, social, and spiritual side of the
In short, it's an outstanding work, and
it's my hope that anyone interested in Native American life will
read Indian Boyhood.