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  • Searching for My Destiny
  • Tanya Finchum
Searching for My Destiny. By George Blue Spruce Jr., as told to Deanne Durret. (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009. Pp. 312. Illustrations, index. ISBN9780803213739, $45.00 cloth.)

Through Deanne Durret, an experienced freelance writer, George Blue Spruce Jr. shares his life story as the first American Indian dentist in the United States. His journey began on the Santa Fe Indian School campus and took several turns before he ultimately achieved the rank of assistant surgeon general of the United States and completed his career as the director of the Phoenix Regional Indian Health Service, having served twenty-eight years in the U.S. Public Health Service. Blue Spruce retired in 1986 at the age of fifty-five. A theme throughout the book is Blue Spruce's desire to encourage young American Indians to follow the path he has cleared and to continue to work toward improving the lives of "his people." An additional theme is the role of self-determination and the importance of education.

Storytelling is an important tradition in the American Indian culture as a means of preserving history and passing knowledge from one generation to the next. It is only fitting that the life story of Blue Spruce be told in first person as if the reader is sitting across the kitchen table from him. His story is presented in chronological order and although there are more positive accounts, it does include a few negative experiences. He sets the stage by sharing some information about his Pueblo Indian heritage along with a brief history of his Pueblo ancestors in the southwestern United States. Blue Spruce talks about experiences living among two cultures, the American Indian culture and the culture of the dominant society. He shares details of his youth, perhaps as an additional way of connecting with today's youth, including stories about visiting grandparents, doing chores, school activities, and what led to his decision to be a dentist.

His parents were among the first generation of assimilated Indians and the lessons they instilled in him carried him throughout his career. They believed in the power of self-determination and encouraged their children to have goals and [End Page 222] accept the responsibility to use the status they reached to benefit American Indians. As the lone American Indian in many of his ventures, including college, he worked diligently to do his best. Dental school was a challenge both academically and financially and the reader comes to appreciate his accomplishments through his storytelling.

As the life story continues, the reader garners a look back at clinical dentistry, public service administration, and legislation impacting American Indians. The conversational tone lends itself to an easy read and is highly recommended for the social studies or history classroom, career-planning activities for youth, and for the public and academic library.

Tanya Finchum
Oklahoma State University, Stillwater


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pp. 222-223
Launched on MUSE
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