Sherman Alexie, the son of a Coeur d’Alene
Indian father and a Spokane Indian mother,
was born in 1966 and grew up on the Spokane
Reservation in Wellpinit, Washington, home to
some 1,100 Spokane tribal members. Alexie
attended the tribal school on the Spokane
reservation through the seventh grade, when
he decided to seek a better education at an
off-reservation all-white high school. As this
year-by-year account of his schooling makes
clear, he was not firmly at home in either
setting. This essay first appeared in Alexie’s
book The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in
My hair was too short and my U.S. Government
glasses were horn-rimmed, ugly, and all that
first winter in school, the other Indian boys
chased me from one corner of the playground
to the other. They pushed me down, buried me
in the snow until I couldn’t breathe, thought I’d
never breathe again.
They stole my glasses and threw them over my
head, around my outstretched hands, just
beyond my reach, until someone tripped me
and sent me falling again, facedown in the
I was always falling down; my Indian name was
Junior Falls Down. Sometimes it was Bloody
Nose or Steal-His-Lunch. Once, it was Cries-
Like-a-White-Boy, even though none of us had
seen a white boy cry.
Then it was a Friday morning recess and
Frenchy SiJohn threw snowballs at me while the
rest of the Indian boys tortured some other
kid, another weakling. But
Where did the author of this narrative essay,
Sherman Alexie, grow up?
Based on what you know about life on Indian
reservations, predict 2 problems Alexie might
describe in this essay.
How do the other boys treat Alexie at school?
Make a list of the nicknames or “Indian
names” Alexie was given in first grade.
What do these “Indian names” show about his
What does Alexie do
that shows he has
changed by the end of first grade?