Charles Alexander Eastman (Sioux) (1858-1939)

    Contributing Editor:
    Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.

    Classroom Issues and Strategies

    Students need to know what the Ghost Dance movement was, its importance to the Indians, and reasons why U.S. officials viewed it as something that had to be suppressed. James Mooney's The Ghost-Dance Religion and Wounded Knee is a good starting point. They also are curious about the status of an assimilated Indian like Eastman. Supply background on these issues. It is also helpful to deal with Eastman's work in the same manner as you would an autobiographical narrative written by any other author of the same period.

    Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues

    Discuss cultural ignorance, social discontinuity, national goals versus cultural integrity, cultural assimilation, the narrator as an "in-between" person, the creation of national symbols (Wounded Knee as symbol in the Sioux Nation and for American Indians in general in this century).

    Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

    Attention can be focused profitably on the form of the autobiographical narrative, touching on such matters as narrative control, style, self-revelation, etc.

    Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections

    Compare the autobiographical works of other Indians, such as Gertrude Bonnin, John Joseph Mathews, and Thomas Whitecloud, as well as any other autobiographical works, especially by writers who belong to other racial or cultural minorities. Compare "The Great Mystery" and Bonnin's "Why I Am a Pagan."


    The list of primary and secondary works in the headnote is comprehensive.