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Indian Education Sherman Alexie 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 Heaven (1993). First Grade 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 snow. 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 top-yogh-yaught kid, another weakling. But 1 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. 1. 2. 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 personality? _______________________________________________ _______________________________________ What does Alexie do that shows he has changed by the end of first grade? _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ ___________________________________ 1
Frenchy was confident enough to torment me all by himself, and most days I would have let him. But the little warrior in me roared to life that day and knocked Frenchy to the ground, held his head against the snow, and punched him so hard that my knuckles and the snow made symmetrical bruises on his face. He almost looked like he was wearing war paint. But he wasn’t the warrior. I was. And I chanted It’s a good day to die, it’s a good day to die , all the way down to the principal’s office. Second Grade Betty Towle, missionary teacher, redheaded and so ugly that no one ever had a puppy crush on her, made me stay in for recess fourteen days straight. “Tell me you’re sorry,” she said. “Sorry for what?” I asked. “Everything,” she said and made me stand straight for fifteen minutes, eagle-armed with books in each hand. One was a math book; the other was English. But all I learned was that gravity can be painful.

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