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In the Education of Little Tree, the character Little Tree learns the Cherokee way of life from his grandparents, especially from his grandfather who becomes his father figure when he is orphaned. He learns to use nature wisely, taking only what he needs and using it completely. His grandfather teaches him to “listen” to what nature is telling him, and together they examine the concept of the life cycle. One of the most important lessons that Little Tree learns is about “Kin” or enduring understanding through love. Little Tree’s grandparents exhibit this type of love from their years as partners. One tradition the grandfather explains is the marriage stick which is not to be broken. Little Tree’s grandfather also teaches him about his Cherokee heritage including the story of the “Trail of Tears.” Grandfather feels that you must know your past in order to move forward with your future. Work ethic is another lesson taught by the grandparents as they work to make a living. All the while, they also encourage Little Tree to learn new vocabulary by using the dictionary and they have him read books. They try to give Little Tree an education that is both practical for his life situation but also important to his future.
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