"Between Earth and Sky" by Amanda Skenandore is a harrowing story of American history. The author has written a delicate story about the Indian colleges established in 1870. Some circumstances are based on real events.
The story is divided between the present and the past for Alma Mitchell. The present is 1906 in Philadelphia. Alma is reading the morning paper when he finds a title that reads "Indian Man Faces Gallows for murder of federal agent". Alma reads the article several times because he knew the name of the man and knew his. Harry Muskrat could not have killed anyone.
Alma is very upset and goes to see Stewart, her husband in his office. Stewart is a patent attorney. Alma tells him the article. After reading it, Stewart sees how angry she is and comments that she didn't think she had been in touch with any of her former classmates. Alma says she never returned to Philadelphia, but knows she wouldn't have committed a murder. Harry was intelligent, kind and sophisticated.
Alma insists that Stewart does something. Stewart calls the federal court and explains why he is calling. Stewart discovers that Harry's case is rather bleak. Stewart tells Alma that the prosecution has at least one witness who saw Harry near the agent just before the shooting. A weapon similar to the one found on the murder scene had been sold to Harry. Harry isn't talking to anyone.
Alma wants Stewart to help Harry. Stewart has no experience defending someone accused of murder. The case was tried in Minnesota and Stewart's license does not extend outside of Pennsylvania. It's so much that Alma hasn't told Stewart about his childhood, but he just can't. Eventually Stewart tells her that perhaps with the defender's permission he could have appealed to the court to assist in the case. Alma is so happy that Stewart is willing to help.
The second part of the story is set in rural Wisconsin in 1881, when Alma is just a girl. Alma is an only child and so far has been instructed by the governesses. Alma's father took a new position as superintendent of the Stover School for Indians and the family moved to Wisconsin. When Indian children arrive, it's clear that his mother doesn't want to be there. Alma's father tells us
she has the same potential as anyone else. Alma is excited to have friends of her age.
You quickly begin to learn about the many injustices against Indian children. Alma is young and struggles to understand why they treat children as they are. They give children new clothes and burn all the clothes they wore when they came. At this moment a doll is taken by one of the girls and Alma is told to throw it in the fire. Not understanding why and seeing how angry the child is, Alma instead hides the doll.
Alma is put at school with the children. She is even allowed to sleep in the dorm with the girls. Alma had to give the example for these children. But Alma wants to belong and be accepted by other children. Alma will develop friendships with them. Learn some of their language and customs and ask how they are treated.
Alma has kept a secret for all these years that he has revealed and will bring together past and present in history.
This was a difficult story to read sometimes. The things that were done to children while trying to make them "civil" were disturbing. I felt a lot of compassion for these people and I was ashamed of what the whites had done during this time. They have robbed the Native Americans of their heritage, language, culture and even their names.