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The Middle Five

Francis La Flesche


The Middle Five, written by the Omaha ethnologist Francis La Flesche, is a series of vignettes portraying La Flesche’s childhood growing up on the Omaha Reservation and attending a Presbyterian mission school. Published in 1909, the book portrays both the cultural conflicts arising from the assimilatory nature of the mission school and the youthful escapades of Frank (La Flesche’s younger self), Brush, Edwin, Warren, and Lester, who together make up the titular gang of schoolboys called the “Middle Five.”

Like Zitkála-Šá’s short story “The School Days of an Indian Girl” from American Indian Stories, The Middle Five depicts life in an American Indian residential school, but takes place much closer to the reservation and thus portrays the interactions between the mission school and reservation life. It is regarded as a classic work of Native American literature and is often assigned in classrooms as a vivid firsthand account of 19th-century indigenous life.

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