Discussion Guide for "In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse"

Discussion Guide for In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse

Though it is common for students to begin reading books like In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse on their own, teachers often read aloud a chapter at a time, or, students take turns reading aloud in small reading groups. Parents can do that, too, in the car or in the home. Reading a chapter aloud creates an opportunity for what reading specialists call “grand conversations,” which are active discussions of a passage or idea in the book. Below are passages for which you can have a grand conversation with your child, expanding what they know about Native peoples.

  • Jimmy, the main character in In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse, is teased because he’s got blue eyes, light brown hair, and his last name is a white one: McClean. He doesn’t have the physical appearance of a Native American that others do, but as the story demonstrates, appearance and names do not matter. When you get to the passages about Jimmy being teased, introduce the word “stereotype,” what it means, and why it is detrimental to understanding who people are. 
  • The story starts out on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation in South Dakota. A common misperception is that the U.S. government “gave” reservations to Native peoples. In fact, the reservations are an outcome of diplomatic treaty negotiations between heads of state by which Native leaders traded tracts of their land for their right to continue their existence as sovereign nations under the protection of the U.S. government. Talk with your child about diplomacy and negotiations. This is especially helpful because it helps children displace the erroneous idea that Native peoples were primitive and uncivilized.  
  • The author, Joseph Marshall, included a glossary in the back of In the Footsteps of Crazy Horse. It includes names of specific nations, like Arapaho and Arikara. Marshall takes care to say that these tribes pre-dated Europeans and to specify where they were, prior to the arrival of the Europeans. That care is present throughout the story. When Jimmy and his grandfather visit historic sites, his grandfather gives him a Native point of view about it that is older and different than the ones commonly taught in school. These teachings are an opportunity to talk with your child about perspective, or point of view, and how a moment or event has more than one side, and that there’s much to learn from knowing those differing viewpoints. This also provides the opportunity to talk about biased points of view and why they are biased. 
  • Inside the book is a map of Jimmy and his grandpa’s road trip. Study the map as you read aloud together, and if a road trip is in your future, consider visiting sites specific to Native peoples, and learning a different point of view on those sites.

Joseph Marshall III