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A renowned activist recalls his childhood years in an Indian boarding school

Best known as a leader of the Indian takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969, Adam Fortunate Eagle now offers an unforgettable memoir of his years as a young student at Pipestone Indian Boarding School in Minnesota. In this rare firsthand account, Fortunate Eagle lives up to his reputation as a ?contrary warrior? by disproving the popular view of Indian boarding schools as...

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Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School

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A renowned activist recalls his childhood years in an Indian boarding school

Best known as a leader of the Indian takeover of Alcatraz Island in 1969, Adam Fortunate Eagle now offers an unforgettable memoir of his years as a young student at Pipestone Indian Boarding School in Minnesota. In this rare firsthand account, Fortunate Eagle lives up to his reputation as a “contrary warrior” by disproving the popular view of Indian boarding schools as bleak and prisonlike.

Fortunate Eagle attended Pipestone between 1935 and 1945, just as Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier’s pluralist vision was reshaping the federal boarding school system to promote greater respect for Native cultures and traditions. But this book is hardly a dry history of the late boarding school era. Telling this story in the voice of his younger self, the author takes us on a delightful journey into his childhood and the inner world of the boarding school. Along the way, he shares anecdotes of dormitory culture, student pranks, and warrior games. Although Fortunate Eagle recognizes Pipestone’s shortcomings, he describes his time there as nothing less than “a little bit of heaven.”

Were all Indian boarding schools the dispiriting places that history has suggested? This book allows readers to decide for themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

School Library Journal
Gr 9 Up—Adam Fortunate Eagle entered the Pipestone Indian Training School at the age of six. From that time until his graduation at age 16, he spent each school year and many summers under the care of the teachers and wardens at Pipestone. Growing up with other children, some sent by their families and others enrolled as orphans, Fortunate Eagle experienced the loneliness of separation, the camaraderie of school life, and the absence of his culture. While traditional practices were not forbidden, neither were they taught. Piecing together his heritage through hunting excursions, visits to nearby Native families, summer trips home, and the thoughts and ideas of his schoolmates, Fortunate Eagle eventually matured into a proud, resourceful, well-educated young man. This journey, told through his spare narrative, is filled with school pranks, tender memories, and a growing sense of the world at large between 1935 and 1945. While his account does not follow the general bias against this boarding-school system, the author acknowledges its shortcomings. Brief language and bare, honest descriptions of adolescence add strength and truth to the story, making Pipestone well suited to high school readers. Fortunate Eagle's memories of his time in an Indian boarding school fill a vital need in the canon of available literature about the American Indian experience.—Sara Saxton, Tuzzy Consortium Library, Barrow, AK
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806141145
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 3/19/2010
  • Pages: 248
  • Sales rank: 532,196
  • Lexile: 910L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Adam Fortunate Eagle is an Ojibwe artist, writer, and frequent guest lecturer. As an advocate for Native civil rights throughout his life, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from the State University of New York, New Paltz. He is the author of Heart of the Rock: The Indian Invasion of Alcatraz and Pipestone: My Life in an Indian Boarding School.

Laurence M. Hauptman is Professor of History in the State University of New York, College at New Paltz, and the author of several books on the Iroquois in New York state.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Acknowledgments xi

Introduction xiii

Life at Pipestone Indian Boarding School, March 1935-June 1945 3

Life after Pipestone Indian Boarding School 149

Appendix 1 Excerpt from "The History of Pipestone Indian School," Gaylord V. Reynolds 163

Appendix 2 A Brief History of "The Pipestone Indian School," Courtesy Pipestone County Museum 167

Afterword Laurence M. Hauptman 171

Notes 187

Glossary 193

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 2 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 21, 2013

    I purchased this book and other books on Minnesota American Indi

    I purchased this book and other books on Minnesota American Indians to
    provide reading material for our visit to Minnesota to take our 6 & 8 years old grandchildren on an RV trip. One of our destinations was Pipestone, MN to visit the National Monument where the stone for ceremonial peace pipes is quarried only by American Indians. I read the book before the trip and was so pleased with the way it was written, how well it was written, and the adventures it provided. The author was a student at the Pipestone Indian Boarding school from 1935 to 1945 and was sent there with most of his siblings when he was 5. He tells the stories from the perspective of a child. Coming from a Chippewa (Ojibway) reservation and meeting Indian children sent to the school from other reservations, he learns what other Indian boys know from their elders. His experiences of being raised in a boarding school and returning to the reservation in the summers make you realize the hardships he and many of the other Indians experienced. Adam's stories are entertaining, sometimes sad, sometimes funny, but always pointing out that the training he received from the teachers as well as the other students, made him and his brothers the strong and courageous men they grew to be. Another point he makes is how the Indian boys combine their respective reservation skills to be more self sufficent and to ponder what an Indian is, even practicing what they think an Indian should know. My grandchildren begged for more "Adam Stories" as we traveled the state. In Pipestone we found the Three Maidens rocks and looked for where the kingfisher nest may have been; we saw the falls and quarries where Adam often ventured to; and finally drove to the site of the school. All that remains is the superintendent's house. We walked in the woods in the back and saw a path that Adam may have taken to the quarries. My grandchildren practiced dog-trotting in those woods and imagined Adam and his classmates sneaking out over the same path. The book is interesting for adults and with some sensoring, can be read to grade school aged children. I am purchasing more copies of the book to give to friends. Adam Fortunate Eagle, thank you for taking the time to write your memories in this book. It was a big part of a great memory for us.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 19, 2012

    Highly Recommended if you are interested in Native American history.

    I've always been interested in the truth of the history of Native Americans. This book is written from the authors perspective as a child when he went to boarding school in the late 1800's. I toldly enjoyed this book and learned alot I didn't know of what the Native Americans went through. I totally think you should read this book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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