The Education of Little tree is the story about the unbreakable spirit of a half Cherokee six year old boy who has become an orphan. However he isn’t completely alone he has his grandparents who take him to the mountains of Tennessee. Little Tree embodies the strength of an oppressed people, who have been robbed of their way of life, but not their dignity. Little Tree looks to and learns from his Grandma and Grandpa they tell him about the power of nature as well as how to appreciate all that it does for you. Little Tree’s Grandparents teach him life lessons in addition to telling him the history of his people and where he came from.
Little Tree’s view of the world is shaped by his Grandparents love for him along with the experiences he has while living with them. Little Tree’s Grandma and Grandpa live up in the mountains of Tennessee in a small log cabin which little tree quickly identifies as his home. Grandma and Grandpa are of Cherokee decent as is Little tree except he was only half Cherokee like his Grandpa. When Little Tree and his Grandparents board the bus after his parents’ funeral, Little Tree is introduced to the insensitive views toward Indians. The passages on the bus laughed and made fun of them.
Little Tree didn’t understand then why the people acted that way but he would learn later the harsh truth that meant he would encounter that type of treatment his whole life. Part of Grandpa and Grandma’s role in Little Tree’s life was to help him understand the world he was born into along with how to handle the situations that were inevitable. Little Tree’s huge heart and spirit were a large part of his ability to lead as well as influence the lives of those around him. Although little tree was six years old he was able to comprehend the lessons his grandparents were teaching him.
His Grandpa would take Little Tree on hikes along the mountain trails; he spent most of his time with his Grandpa. Little tree’s ability to apply the knowledge he learned along those trails stand out because he was six years old but he learned quickly about “the way” and all of the knowledge that his Grandpa gave him about life in the mountain. The most amazing moment was when Little Tree scaled the mountain to get away from the officers who were headed for the still. As Little Tree is running for his life he was also protecting the whisky jars.
He knew that without that whisky they wouldn’t make any money, which would affect the whole family. Another outstanding quality that he had was he internalized the values and lessons that his Grandparents taught him. More amazing is how he applied it when they were not around. When Little Tree was taken to the orphanage far from his home he didn’t forget about the strength of the Cherokee. At the orphanage Little Tree was beaten by the priest because his teacher was offended by his interpretation of a deer painting that was presented in class. Little Tree remembered the story his Grandma told him about the way that Indians bear pain.
Little Tree applied this knowledge while the Reverend beat him across his back with a stick. The Reverend broke one stick across his back he replaced it and beat him until he was tired but Little Tree never cried nor showed any sign of being hurt. He had beard the beating by letting his body mind go to sleep and escaping into his spirit mind which allowed him to see his pain but not feel it. Little Trees’ Grandparents taught him about what was “right”. The Grandparents grew up in the mountains around the few Indians who managed to stay hidden from the officials who forced the Indians to go out west.
The ones who managed to stay hidden got to keep their families alive and together. Grandma and Grandpa learned from their parents the way the Indians viewed life and what things were truly important. They instilled the same values into Little Tree. Grandpa taught Little Tree about the importance of hard work. Grandpa and Little Tree worked together to complete almost every task that had to be done around the cabin. Little Tree helped Grandpa plow even though he wasn’t tall enough to really see over the plow he found a way to work it anyway.
Through plowing Little Tree learned about patience. The mule that pulled the plow was old and couldn’t hear well so you had to yell real loud, he also couldn’t see out of his left eye so making turns on the field were difficult because he would only turn one way. Little Tree and Grandpa worked together to get the old mule to pull the plow to get the crops planted. The other lesson that Grandpa taught Little Tree was about “the way”. While they sat underneath a tree a hawk swooped down and grabbed a quail it upset Little Tree.
Grandpa explained that that’s how nature works that it is all a cycle and that it’s natural. Another lesson that was taught to Little Tree had to do with the way you love people. His Grandparents taught him that to love something you have to understand it, love without understanding isn’t really love at all. Which is also manifested through the word kin it meant I understand you which to them means I love you and we are one. Although Little Trees Grandparents taught him about the way to love and how to think about life. It was the others around him who often taught him the hard lessons.
While Grandpa and Little Tree were at the settlement selling their wares a man pulls up and starts preaching about the evils of Catholics. Little Tree and Grandpa got stuck in the crowed who gather around the man. Little Tree spotted a baby calf and went up to pet him. A good Christian man was the owner of the calf and sold it to Little Tree for fifty cents, the man told him that it was worth a hundred times that but he saw the calf liked him. On their walk back home the calf died. The good Christian farmer should him a sick cow which couldn’t be used for anything besides its hide.
Little Tree learned not to trust everyone who said that they were honest. The people in the settlement were decent for the most part. However there was prejudice towards the Indians which Little Tree encountered often. He meets a little girl whose family worked as sharecroppers, she was dirty and they were poor. Little Tree’s Grandmother made the little girl some moccasins which she loved until her father spotted them. He whipped his daughter and returned the shoes to Little Tree saying that he didn’t accept charity especially from Indians. Little Tree and Grandpa talked about it on the way home.
Grandpa told Little Tree about the plight of the sharecropper that they were looked down upon, at the end of the conversation Little Tree understood the father’s actions and felt for the family. Little Tree was a strong character who grew up a lot within a short amount of time he learned fast and knew how to apply those core values that were instilled in him. Little Tree never forgot that the little things were the most important that having respect and understanding meant love. He also remembered the Indian way of gift giving that it doesn’t require a thank you nor a public show because that person deserved whatever gift you gave to them.