The Middle Five, first published in 1900, is an account of Francis La Flesche's life as a student in a Presbyterian mission school in northeastern Nebraska about the time of the Civil War. It is a simple, affecting tale of young Indian boys midway between two cultures, reluctant to abandon the ways of their fathers, and puzzled and uncomfortable in their new roles of "make-believe white men." The ambition of the Indian parents for their children, the struggle of the teachers to acquaint their charges with a new world of learning, and especially the problems met by both parents and teachers in controlling and directing schoolboy exuberance contribute to the authen-ticity of this portrait of the "Universal Boy," to whom La Flesche dedicated his book. Regarded by anthropologists as a classic of Native American literature, it is one of those rare books that are valued by the specialist as authentic sources of information about Indian culture and yet can be recommended wholeheartedly to the general reader, especially to young people in high school and the upper grades, as a useful corrective to the often distorted picture of Indian life seen in movies, comics, and television.
Francis La Flesche, born about 1857, was the son of Estamaza, or "Chief Joseph" La Flesche, himself the son of a French trader and an Omaha mother In a lifetime devoted to the study of his people and their customs, Francis La Flesche achieved great distinction as a scientist and scholar, his most important work being two great series of studies on the Omaha and Osage tribes.
The foreword, written by David A. Baerreis, Professor of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin, sketches the life and career of Francis La Flesche and gives background information on the Omaha tribe and the teaching in the mission schools of the period.