The title refers to the lessons Little Tree learns when he goes to live with his grandparents. His education isn't a traditional learning experience, but it reflects the daily lives of Native Americans and their relationship to nature and the land. As readers, we learn along with Little Tree how to appreciate the beauty of the earth, the vitality of nature, and how man should find a way to live with nature. Little Tree also learns the importance of one's place in the world and his eternal connection to his own people. By learning about his past, Little Tree learns how to live in the present and prepare for life in the future. Mr. Wine expresses the ultimate lessons of Little Tree's education:
He said education was a two-part proposition. One part was technical, which was how you moved ahead in your trade. But, he said, the other part you had better stick to and not change it. He called it valuing. Mr. Wine said if you learnt to place a value on being honest and thrifty, on doing your best, and on caring for folks, this was more important than anything. He said if you was not taught these values, then no matter how modern you got about the technical part, you was not going anywheres atall."
Mr. Wine's comments about the purpose of Little Tree's education also apply to the Depression and the effects of modernization and mass consumerism on society.