The Vanishing American (Zane Grey, 1925)

Nophaie is a Pahute Indian who was kidnapped at a young age and sent to school in the East. Now that he’s returned West to his people, he struggles reconciling his culturally white upbringing and his Indian heritage, particularly in matters of faith. He intellectually cannot bring himself to believe in the Pahute animist religion, but neither can he accept Christianity, which he associates with being inherently white. It doesn’t help that the Christian figurehead in the region sets a poor example. The Pahute suffer under the missionary Morgan, who, far from being interested in spreading the faith, wishes only to consolidate his power and enrich himself. Also complicating Nophaie’s life is Marian Warner. They went to school together and fell in love, but Marian is white, and such miscegenation would not be supported by either’s relations. Still, she follows Nophaie to the desert.

In the aftermath of World War I, the Pahutes’ condition becomes dire. The price of wool, their primary trade, plummets. Morgan has stolen most of their land, and more, their water rights. They are overworked and starving, and when the Spanish Influenza arrives, they die in droves. Nophaie, who had fought and sustained serious injury in the war, is not spared. As he nears death, he realizes that the “God of Indian and white man” is universal and the same, but the Indians’ days are numbered and they will soon vanish in the face of the whites’ onslaught.

Inscription: On the back of the frontispiece in smudged green ink is a signature that’s very difficult to decipher, but I think it’s Maymie Fitzpatrick.

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