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John Smelcer

John Smelcer is an Alaskan Native of the Ahtna tribe, and is now the last tribal member who reads and writes in Ahtna. He is the poetry editor of Rosebud magazine and the author of more than forty books, including the recent young adult novels Lone Wolves, Edge of Nowhere, and Savage Mountain (Leapfrog Press, 2013, 2014, 2015). 

John holds degrees in anthropology and archaeology, linguistics, literature, and education. He also holds a PhD in English and Creative Writing from Binghamton University, and formerly chaired the Alaska Native Studies program at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

His first novel, The Trap, was an American Library Association BBYA Top Ten Pick and a VOYA Top Shelf Selection. The Great Death was short-listed for the 2011 William Allen White Award, and nominated for the National Book Award, the BookTrust Prize (England). His Alaska Native mythology books include The Raven and the Totem (introduced by Joseph Campbell). His short stories, poems, essays, and interviews have appeared in hundreds of magazines, and he is winner of the 2004 Milt Kessler PoetryBook Award and of the 2004 Western Writers of America Award for Poetry for his collection Without Reservation. John divides his time between a cabin in Talkeetna, the climbing capitol of Alaska, where he wrote much of Lone Wolves, and Kirksville Mo., where he is a visiting scholar in the Department of Communications Studies at Truman State University.

Stealing Indians
Format: Paperback
Text Content Territories: Indigenous American;
Grade Levels: 7; 8; 9; 10; 11; 12; University/College;

Four Indian teens are kidnapped from different regions, their lives immutably
changed by an institution designed to eradicate their identity. And no matter
what their home, their stories are representative of every story, every stolen life.
So far from home, without family to protect them, only their friendship helps
them endure. This is a work of fiction. Every word is true.
Foreword Reviews, Young Adult feature

In a riveting work that Chinua Achebe calls “a masterpiece,” four Indian teenagers are taken from their homes all over America and shipped to a faraway boarding school to begin a new life. To make them “less Indian,” their kidnappers—government men in suits with slips of paper that the children’s parents often couldn’t even read—take the children from their original homes and send them away to distant locales, ostensibly to help them escape poverty and lack of opportunity. The children enroll in a school at Wellington, a place that is desolate, gloomy, and cruel. The purpose of Wellington seems to be to eradicate the “Indian”—to assimilate the children to American culture while driving out their heritage.

More than just a story of survival, Stealing Indians is focused on the changing, shifting, and even disappearing identities of the four young teens, who must rely on and trust one another as they navigate their new challenges. Without their connections to home, the young teens adapt to their new world, and the institution behind their kidnapping and forced journey seems to have intentionally orchestrated this crushing of their old senses of self. A commentary on colonialism and oppression, Stealing Indians moves beyond a survival tale by plumbing the depths of the teens’ psychology as they struggle forward in this new world. Ideal for anyone looking for a rich adventure story with depth and heart, Stealing Indians is a work that engages and challenges until the very end.
A poignant story of colonization and assimilation, something I know a little bit about. A masterpiece."-Chinua Achebe

"One of our most brilliant writers tells a harsh truth about American history."-Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, An Indigenous Peoples' History of the United States

Praise for Edge of Nowhere :

"Smelcer's prose is lyrical, straightforward, and brilliant . . . authentic Native Alaskan storytelling at its best."- School Library Journal (starred review)

"A spare tale of courage, love and terrible obstacles."- The Wall Street Journal

"More psychological depth than Robinson Crusoe."-Frank McCourt

Authentic Indigenous Text