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Learning the White Man's Ways

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THE LEDGERBOOK OF THOMAS BLUE EAGLE By Jewel H. Grutman and Gay Matthaei; Thomasson-Grant Inc., 72 pp., $17.95

FOR an eight-year-old Sioux Indian boy named Blue Eagle, his whole life centered on Two Painted Horse, a pony given to him by his father.

``Two Painted Horse was my very best friend,'' says Blue Eagle in a colorful ledgerbook written and drawn to resemble the Indian ledgerbooks of the late 1800s.

``The Ledgerbook of Thomas Blue Eagle'' is fiction, but the story is typical of the experiences an Indian boy might have had in those days. And the drawings are simple, energetic, and direct - just like a real ledgerbook.

Before the arrival of the white man in the plains area of North America, Indians did not have written languages or paper. Many of their drawings were either scratched on canyon walls or painted on buffalo hide. Stories were told around campfires.

But the white man brought ledgerbooks. These are vertical books with lined pages and columns for keeping records of money transactions. Many Indians used the books for drawing pictures of their horses, battles, and daily life.

In this ledgerbook, Thomas Blue Eagle lives in a tribe that hunts buffalo for all their needs. ``We were the people of the buffalo,'' says Blue Eagle as he rides his horse and lives in a tepee made of buffalo hide. His tribe follows the buffalo herds, moving with them as the seasons change.

Indians find a spiritual connection to the outdoors, and to the ways they are provided with food, water, and animals. Indians also think dreams are important and learn from them.

After escaping from an attack on his tribe by Crow Indians, Blue Eagle has a vision (a sudden insight or clarity) in which he thinks he is an eagle. Eventually, he returns to his family as Thomas Blue Eagle.

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