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This book describes the impact of U.S. government civilization and education policies on a Native American family and its tribe from 1763 to 1995. While engaged in a personal quest for his family's roots in Choctaw tribal history, the author discovered a direct relationship between educational policies and their impact on his family and tribe. Combining personal narrative with traditional historical methodology, the author details how federal education policies concentrated power in a tribal elite that controlled its own school system in which students were segregated by social class and race.
The book begins with the cultural differences that existed between Native Americans and European colonists. The civilization policies discussed begin in the 1790s when both Presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson searched for a means of gaining the lands occupied by the southern tribes, including the Choctaws. The story involves a complicated interaction between government policies, the agenda of white educators, and the desires of Native Americans. In a broader context, it is a study of the evolution of an American family from the extended support of the community and clan of the past, to the present world of single parents adrift without community or family safety nets.