The Education of Ruby Loonfoot

Written by Paxton Riddle
Review by Marcia K. Matthews

Loon Lake, Wisconsin, 1957. Ojibwe elder Cecelia starts the day in her unheated cabin and chants the nagamoon to the Great Spirit, Gitche-Manitou. She prays for her granddaughter Ruby, whose Indian name is Little Warrior. Ruby is away at Catholic boarding school, being proselytized by “the Robes.” Their mission is to stamp out Indian culture and heritage. Cecelia wants to start a school with native teachers.

This is a novel of child abuse and cultural genocide. Rich in detail and fast-paced, it grips the reader and sweeps one along in its deep currents. Thirteen-year-old Ruby is a rebel who fights the system and endures life-threatening punishment. Author Paxton Riddle channels the girl, and transcends his white milieu to educate readers about the language and traditions of the Ojibwe. He sprinkles the dialog with Ojibwe words, and provides a glossary. This is an original story, an unexplored branch of the Civil Rights movement.