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NONFICTION : CHILDREN OF THE SUN: STORIES BY AND ABOUT INDIAN KIDS by Adolf and Beverly Hungry Wolf; photographs from museum and private collections (Morrow: $13.95; 203 pp.).

April 05, 1987|Quannah Karvar

"Children of the Sun" explores traditional Native American family life from a childhood perspective. Drawing from North American tribal lore, museum archives and the reminiscences of elders, the authors chronicle the ancient ways cultural identity was handed down from one generation to another and the experiences of native children in more recent times.

An overriding theme, stressing the importance of rediscovering traditional family unity, is directed primarily to the Indian reader.

The depth of this book varies according to the authors' source material. Brief excerpts from books and periodicals detail the physical aspects of specific rituals but make no attempt to explore their spiritual significance, while the childhood memories of elders are often insightful and informative.

Also examined are the attitudes of missionary and government school teachers in the early 1900s who, in their own words, attempted to bring "education and civilization" to "sun worshipers and pagans," and the ongoing struggle of Indian children to retain their heritage.

The illustrations reflect images of tribal life from the 1870s to the present, images that seem to speak more powerfully than much of the text.

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