Like many American Indian children, Viola Martinez — a Paiute Indian from California’s Owens Valley — was taken from her family and sent to a government boarding school in the early 20th century. There, she was to be “civilized” and trained as a maid. But instead of giving in to the system, she decided to use it to her advantage — to use her schooling as a springboard to a university degree and, ultimately, to achieve what white people consider professional success.
In Viola Martinez,
California Paiute: Living in Two Worlds, Diana Meyers
Bahr uses Martinez’s own words, exposing both the pride and
the confusion of a woman who lost her native language and has asked
herself questions such as, “How is my brain different from a
white person’s brain?” Martinez pushed to see how much
higher education an Indian woman could attain in the 1930s,
reunited herself with long-lost kin and then worked to improve
cultural education in inner-city Los Angeles.
revered tribal elder, Martinez calls herself an urban Indian. From
the trim, palm tree-dotted boarding school to dusty Owens Valley,
Viola Martinez is truly a trip between white and Indian worlds, and
a chance to see history — Los Angeles’ water wars, the
Sierra’s Basque sheepherders and the local Japanese
internment camp — through the eyes of an articulate Paiute
Viola Martinez, California Paiute: Living
in Two Worlds
by Diana Meyers Bahr.
202 pages, hardcover: $29.95.
University of Oklahoma
Living in two worlds
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