by Charlene Willing McManus and Traci Sorell
First sentence: “Before being terminated, I was Indian.”
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Content: There is an adult who chain smokes, and the use of the n-word, twice, once by a racist passerby and once when the main character asks when what it means.
Regina has gown up as a Umpqua tribal member in Grand Ronde Oregon, surrounded by her family. Her father is gone a lot, working at a logging camp, so they don’t have a lot of money, but they are happy. Then the US government comes in and “terminates” the tribe, dissolving the relationship between the tribal members and the government. Because of this, if I understand it right, the tribal members no longer have rights to their land, and thus are forced to move. Regina’s father opts for an opportunity down in Los Angeles, and moves everyone down there. It’s not an esay adjustment: Regina has to face stereotypes of what an “Indian” is (from both white and non-white kids), and questions about whether she’s American enough. She has to deal with her relative poverty (in comparison to the other families in their neighborhood), and her lack of knowledge about cultural things like Halloween and the Lone Ranger. She has to learn what being an Umpqua means to her, in spite of all the challenges she and her family face.
It was a fascinating little book, about something I knew nothing about. I had no idea that the government had “terminated” tribal contracts and agreements, setting people with no real place to go. It doesn’t surprise me. This book is an excellent portrayal of people in a native tribe and the trials they face when interacting with those of us who conquered their land. It’s eye-opening, even if it is set in the 1950s. Definitely a well-written and much-needed book.