Dear America: My Heart is on the Ground, The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, A Sioux Girl (Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania 1880) by Ann Rinaldi

heartongroundNannie Little Rose leaves her home and family to become educated and integrated into white society among a diverse student body of other Native American tribes at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. While some have viewed this book as racist, and have accused this author of presenting this integration of the natives out of their respectable, ancient cultures and into the “white world” as a good thing – and I’m not saying they’re wrong – I still thought this book told a tale of growth, change, forgiveness, and honesty.

Throughout this story, Nannie tries to fuse her Sioux upbringing, beliefs, and family’s values with her new experiences at the Carlisle School, including seeking wisdom from her spirit helper, a mouse in the school kitchen, and a fierce rivalry between another girl, Belle Rain Water. One memorable subplot in the book was that Nannie wished her father would take their kind, young, and beautiful friend, Red Road, as his second wife, but this made Nannie’s mother very angry, as she would not permit her husband to take another wife, even though it would heighten his social standing among their tribe. Red Road continues to be Nannie’s friend and takes a husband of her own. Later, Nannie discovers that her father finally took a second wife, but she’s a woman who is very cruel to Nannie’s mother and makes her mother cry. Nannie reflects that Red Road would have been “good medicine” and that Father should have married her when he had the chance, but that his new wife is “bad medicine.” I found the family and social structures of the Natives to be interesting and educational, if they are indeed accurate. A good story.