Alexie Sherman "Confessions of a Part-time Indian" Book Essay

Topics: Ethnic group, Sherman Alexie, Spokane people Pages: 8 (2007 words) Published: December 3, 2014

Identity is a complex concept that can be a difficult to discover and understand. Identity is diverse, and can include a person’s connection to culture, ethnicity, environment, sex, gender, and many other factors of an individual’s life. Sometimes a person’s social location will include contradicting or conflicting elements, which can further complicate an individual’s understanding of their own identity. In Sherman Alexie’s novel, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”, the reader is narrated through the life of Arnold Spirit (Junior), a young First Nations male of the Spokane tribe who in implicated in a struggle to understand his personal identity. Arnold is bullied by others on his reservation for being different, and decides to transfer schools where he is the only First Nation’s student. Arnold struggles with his sense of belonging – being singled-out at his new school for being Indigenous, and rejected from his tribe for leaving the reservation. Many First Nation’s individuals and communities lack a healthy cultural identity because of obstacles specific to their communities, such as colonialism and Enfranchisement, and it becomes problematic to their well-being. Using the story of Arnold Spirit, it can be seen how a healthy sense of identity can strengthen and enlighten the well-being of a First Nation’s individual, where as discomfort and negativity can stem from a lack of positive identity.

Arnold and Wellpinit
Arnold Spirit is a target to bullies at his home reservation of Wellpinit. The first chapter reveals this with its title “Black-Eye-Of-The-Month-Club”, and Arnold explains how he is singled out from others for having health problems and his physical appearance. Already it is clear that Arnold is disconnected with his peers on an individual level. It is also revealed that Arnold comes from a poor family, where he explains that his parents never pursued their dreams. The author states, “ But we reservation Indians don’t get to realize our dreams. We don’t get those chances. Our Choices. We’re just poor. That’s all we are” (Alexie, 2007). These realities affect Arnold’s identity because he does not have any positive First nation’s role models on the reserve. A study in January 2002 entitled “Role Models, Ethnic Identity, and Health Risk Behaviours in Urban Adolescent” has shown that healthy ethnic identity and self-esteem in adolescence is connected to having positive role models (Yancy, Siegel, McDaniel, 2002). Besides his family and peers, Arnold’s view of his tribe and First Nation’s individuals living on reservations is also exposed. After Arnold talks with Mr. P, a teacher whom he assaulted with a book, he is convinced that his only hope to be successful is to leave the reservation. The idea that First Nation’s people cannot be successful is a concept developed by colonialism. A Enfranchisement, which was part of a colonial act called the Gradual Civilization Act in Canada, embodied the idea that First Nation’s people could not be educated or successful by taking away First Nation’s peoples Indian statues is they did become educated or successful (Belanger, 2010). In fact, First Nation’s people would receive full Canadian citizenship if they became educated (Belanger, 2010) which establishes the belief that one had to shed their First Nation’s identity to be successful. This belief is portrayed in the book when Arnold asks his parents about who they believe had the most hope, and they both replied that they believed “White people” did (Alexie, 2007). It is apparent that Arnold and his tribe have been damaged by colonialism from their belief that white people have the best chance at being successful. At this point of the novel Arnold’s personal identity has negative condensations in regards to both himself and his ethnicity, as he is not content with his current identity.

Arnold and Reardan
When Arnold first arrives at Reardan High school, he is immediately stands...

Bibliography: Alexie, S. (2007). The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian. Boston: Little, Brown and Company.
Belanger, Y. (2010). Ways of Knowing: An Introduction to Native Studies in Canada. Toronto: Nelson Education.
Berkhofer, R. (1978). The idea of the Indian: Invention and perpetuation. In The White Man’s
Indian: Images of the American Indian from Columbus to Present
Baumeister, R. (2011). Identity, Self-Concept, and Self-Esteem: The Self Lost and Found. Handbook
of Personality Psychology, pp
Horse (Kiowa), P. G. (2005), Native American identity. New Directions for Student Services, 2005: 61–68. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Johnston, B. (1995). A Day in the Life of Spanish. In Indian School Days. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
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Behaviors in Urban Adolescents. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2002;156(1):55-61. doi:10.1001/archpedi.156.1.55.
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