Sunday, March 22, 2020

MMGM: Indian No More by Charlene Willing McManis with Traci Sorell

I have to be honest and say that I did not know anything at all about the Indian Termination Policy which ended the Federal government's recognition of the sovereignty of Native American tribes, including all support services, and the dissolution of reservations. Native Americans were now supposed to live "like Americans" and relinquish all tribal life, culture, and traditions. In 1954, Congress passed Public Law 588, The Western Oregon Termination Act, terminating 61 tribes, including the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde. Aside from the loss of services, it meant the loss and sale of reservation land. Now, if you had the money, you could buy the land you had been living on at an inflated price; if you didn't have the money, you were required to leave. But wait! The 1956 Federal Relocation Program promised those who left the reservation good jobs, schooling, housing in an urban area so that they could really live "like Americans."

For 10-year-old Regina Petit, this law means she is no longer Indian, no longer part of the Umpqua tribe because now there would be no Umpqua tribe or Grand Ronde reservation anymore as far as the government is concerned. And since her family doesn't have the money to buy the land they have lived on, it means moving to South Central Los Angeles with her father, mother (who is actually Portuguese), younger sister Peewee, and her beloved Chich (grandmother). But it also means leaving behind a way of life, relatives, friends, and the cemetery where her Chup (grandfather) had recently been buried. 

The promised house is run down, the furniture is old, but the schooling promised her father was
An example of the brochure used by the
Bureau of Indian Affairs to convince
 Native Americans to relocate
good.  Regina is especially pleased that there is indoor plumbing, including an indoor toilet. The neighborhood is diverse, and the first kids that Regina and Peewee meet are two African Americans siblings Addie and Keith Bates. The sisters have never seen black people before, and their new friends have never seen Native Americans before. At first disappointed that Regina and Peewee aren't like the stereotype of "Indians" they have seen on TV or in the movies, they still becomes friends and spend the summer playing together and learning about each other,  along with two Cuban brothers, Anthony and Philip Hern├índez.

The move to Los Angeles has left Mrs. Petit sad and angry, and she just wants to go back home. Chich tries to make the best of it, using her sewing skills to help the family out, and continues to tell her tribal stories to the girls so they never forget they are Umpqua. But they are also introduced to customs like Halloween and Thanksgiving. Regina loves Halloween at first, after all, it's free candy, but a particularly disturbing incident involving white teens throwing eggs at her, Peewee, Addie and Keith while yelling the N-word spoils the pleasure she had found.

Indian No More was an eyeopening book for me. I went to school in NYC at a time when nothing was taught about the history of Native Americans and when they did come up, it was all very stereotypical. Regina's struggles with retaining her Umpqua identity and somewhat assimilating into life in Los Angeles offer readers lots of everyday details about what that was like there and on the reservation.

Front matter includes a map of the Pacific Coast tracing the route Regina and her family traveled, and a Glossary of Umpqua words and pronunciations. Back matter includes a list of important Definitions, an Authors's Note with photographs by Charlene Willing McManis, whose story this really and who sadly passed away in 2018, and a Co-Author Note by Traci Sorell.

Coronavirus Home Schooling Suggestion: Indian No More would be a excellent and instructive choice right now for anyone homeschooling their children and who wish to provide a unit on Native American History. The publisher, Lee & Low, have made an extensive Teacher's Guide available that can be downloaded HERE

Lee & Low also has a very interesting explanation of the dust jacket for Indian No More HERE

And The Classroom Bookshelf at SLJ has an extensive article called "Shedding Light on 20th Century Termination and Relocation Efforts with Indian No More that also include lots of useful links. You can access it HERE

This book is recommended for readers age 9+
This book was an EARC received from Edelweiss+
Be sure to check out the other Marvelous Middle Grade Monday offerings, now being carried on by Greg at Always in the Middle. 


  1. This would make a great companion to I CAN MAKE THIS PROMISE by Christine Day. Both books would fit perfect for our current in home learning status. Thanks for featuring on MMGM.

  2. This sounds like a fantastic book. And I didn't learn much about Native Americans in school either. We need to spotlight their history more. Thanks for sharing such a great-sounding book.

  3. Like you, I grew up in the 50s-60s and never was taught about anything more than the Trail of Tears. Always was fascinated by Native Americans when we traveled outwest on family camping trips. But in past years I have read a lot about the First the Nation tribes in Canada in PB and MG books published by Secondary Press. One in particular chilled me, "I Am Not a Number." The Canadian publishers have done a great job of making these stories available. Wish the U.S. publishers did more. Will check out your recommendation. Thank you!

  4. This looks like an interesting historical! Thanks for sharing.

  5. I definitely don't know enough about this particular unpleasant period for Native Americans, so it’s great to see a new book about it! Thanks for the great post!

  6. I had no idea about this ugly part of our history. I will be looking for this book. Thanks for the heads up.

  7. I've seen this book, but really didn't know the background either. I'm thankful we are learning more and more about the terrible acts against Native Americans, like in the adult book, Killers of The Flower Moon. Thanks, Alex for this detailed review!

  8. This was my last hold to come in before we shut down the library...sounds like I will learn a lot from it!


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