John Milton Oskison (Cherokee) (1874-1947)
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
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.