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The official reason why Chuck is kicked out of school is that his enrollment is in violation of the law. The unofficial reason for his exclusion is a deeply ingrained attitude of racism and hatred.
Chuck is the half-breed son of one of the inhabitants of the settlement of Chicken, Alaska - Joe Temple. The child has recently been brought from a neighboring Indian village characterized by squalor and extreme poverty. Although he can read and cipher after a fashion, Chuck's ways are different, and he speaks only limited English. The denizens of the settlement call him a "siwash", a demeaning term for "Indian", and look upon him as being "dirty" and inferior to the white children among whom he lives.
When Anne invites Chuck into her classroom, the children are rude and angry, reflecting the attitude of their parents. Anne tries to instill in them the idea that a person's nationality does not make them better or worse than anyone else, but the next evening she is confronted by members of the school board. The board members assert that Chuck "doesn't belong" in a classroom with white children; "he belongs in the Indian village school". The fact that he lives in Chicken and not at the Indian village does not matter to them. The board members refer to a law that says the "school is open to...white children and children of mixed blood who lead a civilized life". In their eyes, Chuck, who has come so recently from the Indian village, "isn't civilized...none of those Indians from that village are".
Anne is astounded by the animosity and narrow-mindedness of the settlers in regards to their Indian neighbors, and realizes just how different things are there in the Alaskan bush territory. Her battle with the community on behalf of Chuck is only the first of many confrontations during her year at Chicken.
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