Event—Public Programming

Francis La Flesche’s School Days: The Political Work of Childhood in The Middle Five: Indian Boys at School


In 1900, Omaha author and Smithsonian ethnologist Francis La Flesche published a memoir of his school days entitled The Middle Five: Indian Boys at School. A book for juvenile readers, La Flesche’s story recounts his childhood at a Presbyterian Missionary School in 1860s Nebraska. Recalling the clashes between the Omaha pupils and their white missionary teachers, La Flesche’s book reveals the violence subtending the settler colonial project. Ilana Larkin shows how her work in the archives with ethnographic writings, nineteenth-century school books, and hymn books for indigenous peoples help us better understand the political claims about Native childhood in La Flesche’s book.