July 23, 2006
Why Indians like Little Tree
A Lingering Miseducation: Confronting the Legacy of Little Tree
This isn't necessarily surprising, for Indians still come to the book with appreciation of its apparently positive depiction of Indian life in the 1930s, while others see it as just another example of white appropriation of Native identity. Little Tree speaks to stereotypes that aren't rejected by all Indians; after all, the Noble Savage is much less degrading than his ignoble counterpart who runs around scalping everyone and burning their wagons and cabins to the ground. According to Modoc writer Michael Dorris, these stereotypes are manifest in the "popular and persistent folk belief [that] The Indian is, among other things, male, red-skinned, stoic, taciturn, ecologically aware, and a great user of metaphor" (46). The Noble Savage is in touch with the sacred ways of the Earth; he (almost always a male) is sought after by whites and thus possesses something that they don't have quite yet; he is also a wise, understanding, sometimes humorous sachem who is admired by all and a true leader to a noble yet broken people. Such are the images evoked by the Noble Savage, and while there are many problems with this figure, it is still a more benign and ego-enriching role than that of the rabid savage that does nothing but howl and slaughter whites and his fellow tribespeople.