Charles Eastman
b. 1858 d. 1939

Eastman’s multiple names. What was his birthday? What was its significance? And what of the name ? Mysterious Medicine”? Does Eastman, in effect, come to embody this name? Does he fuse Native and “white” “medicines”?

His description of his mother (page 5): “sometimes called the ‘Demi-Goddess’ of the Sioux, who tradition says had every feature of a Caucasian descent with the exception of her luxuriant black hair and deep black eyes.”

How does Eastman refer to his childhood self? How does Uncheedah, his grandmother care for him?

How does Eastman open the text? What is his invocation? What audience does he imagine for his stories? Does he use “indianist” (commonly used by white “admirers” of Natives) tropes (like Hanson)? Where?

Eastman’s experience on the lumber wagon. What does he learn from this experience?

Consider the passage “I was now an exile as well as motherless; yet I was not unhappy” (16).What was the exile precipitated by?

Eastman writes: “The Indians are a patient and clannish people; their love for one another is stronger than that of any people I know . If this were not so, I believe there would have been tribes of cannibals among them. White people have been known to kill and eat their companions in preference to starving; but Indians—never!” (17). The statement proclaims that whites are potentially more barbaric than Natives. Why is this the case? How does Eastman resolve “the primitive” as somehow unenlightened while at the same time supremely moral, family-oriented, and just?

“Such was the Indian’s wild life!” Eastman writes of the time of hunger. He writes that “little preparation was made for the future. They are children of Native, and occasionally she whips them with the lashes of experience, yet they are forgetful and careless. Much of their suffering might have been prevented by a little calculation” (17). Does this not sound like a critique, or a harsh indictment of the condition of Native people? Why does he infantalize Native people? Does this suggest that he has bought into white attitudes of Natives, partially because he has succeeded by “preparing for the future”?

His focus is definitely on children, as he is telling the story of his own boyhood. “The Indian boy enjoyed such a life as almost all boys dream of,” Eastman writes, “and would choose for themselves if they were permitted to do so” (18). If this life is the stuff of the dreams of white boys, does Eastman thereby define it is an immature, or uninformed, life?

What does Eastman believe became of his father and brothers? Why is this significant?

Explain the lengthy passages dedicated to Eastman’s grandmother. What is her societal role? How does she fulfill it and defy it? For Eastman, why is she an exemplary “Indian woman”?