Luke knows Inupiaq names are full of sounds white people can't say. He knows he will have to leave his behind, when he and his brothers are sent to boarding school hundreds of miles from their Arctic Village. Luke, and his brothers know they will be sent to a Roman Catholic boarding School called Sacred Heart School , where they are treated as students, not family. The students are of diverse nationalities such as Eskimo, Athabascan, Yupik and white. The students line up in different areas of the school cafeteria staying with kids like themselves. Every nationality must speak English. The native tongues must not be heard. If Father Mullen hears students talking in their native tongues he will slap their knuckles hard with a ruler to discipline them. Luke struggles at Sacred Heart School. The story is told by alternate narrators including Amiq, a cocky leader of the Eskimo students, Chickie, mixed race, Donna, Sonny and a few others. The
teens at the boarding School had many adjustments being this was their first time away from their families for many of them. The novel I recommend it's interesting.
This is one of the most enjoyable historical fiction novels I've read. It takes place in an Alaskan Catholic mission boarding school in the 1960's. The students have travelled hundreds of miles from home. There are no local schools for native Alaskans who are living far from urban centers in sparsely populated areas. There is an attitude on the part of the Father's and Sister's that the kids need to be tamed. I was in catholic school learning about Indians as they were still called then, about how their ways were savage and had to be replaced by our ways. That attitude is present in this novel as well. There is a disrespect for the native languages, customs, and foods. The languages are not easy for these people and they do not want it used in front of them.
Most of the kids have already had lives unique from and harder than the missionaries who are keeping them and teaching them. I really grew to like these feisty, durable kids. They are often wise to their keepers' prejudices and misconceptions and have a good time with them. The scene in which two boys from a "tribe" known to be hunters are asked to butcher a roadkill moose is hilarious. They had watched their uncle do caribou. They had never done it themselves. They had never even seen a moose. Though the teachers can be stern they are also obviously good people. The events such as sending one young boy away to be adopted without parental consent, the testing of the kids with radioactive iodine by the army, project chariot which was meant to show peace time use of atomic bombs are real. They are things that started native activism to save their hunting, fishing grounds, get local schools and much more. jdw 12/29/11