John Milton Oskison (Cherokee) (1874-1947)

    Contributing Editor:
    Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr.

    Classroom Issues and Strategies

    Students are interested in American society's insistence that Indians conform to the expectations of Anglo-dominated society versus the social exclusion of blacks of the same period.

    Major Themes, Historical Perspectives, and Personal Issues

    1. Imposition of one's ideology upon another

    2. Cultural roots of personal world views

    3. Racial-cultural biases, stereotyping

    4. Religous ideology's role in destroying cultures

    5. Religous zeal and the devaluing of cultures

    Significant Form, Style, or Artistic Conventions

    The story should be dealt with in the context of the short story form. It relates to the local color writing of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

    Original Audience

    The piece was written for a popular audience during a period when federal policy aimed to move the Indian into mainstream American society, to eliminate cultural differences, to make the Indian, as it were, a red white person. In retrospect, present-day readers see the failure of such policies. But on another level, the story has something to say to the reader who is concerned about the imposition of one's ideology upon the unwilling, whether that ideology is religious, social, or political.

    Comparisons, Contrasts, Connections

    The same issues raised by works of Posey ("Fus Fixico's Letter"), Eastman ("The Great Mystery"), and Bonnin are raised by Oskison's story. The Indians' anti-assimilationist response is recorded in "Ghost Dance Songs." In its harsh tone and didacticism, the story can be compared with some of Chesnutt's or those of other black writers of the period. After the student has read his story, Bonnin's "Why I Am a Pagan" is a good chaser.