21 user 18 critic

The Education of Little Tree (1997)

PG | | Drama | 25 December 1997 (USA)
Little Tree is an 8-year-old Cherokee boy, who, during the time of the depression, loses his parents and starts to live with his Indian grandma and grandpa and learn the wisdom of the ... See full summary »


(novel), (teleplay) (as Earl Hamner) | 2 more credits »

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From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

4 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »


Cast overview, first billed only:
Little Tree / Joshua
Little Girl
Pine Billy
Wilburn (as Chris Fennell)
Willow John
Leni Parker ...
Rebecca Dewey ...
Bill Rowat ...
Robert Daviau ...
Norris Domingue ...
Mr. Jenkins
Calf's Owner


Little Tree is an 8-year-old Cherokee boy, who, during the time of the depression, loses his parents and starts to live with his Indian grandma and grandpa and learn the wisdom of the Cherokee way of life. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A boy of two worlds must learn to be his own man.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for language and thematic elements including old fashioned discipline | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 December 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

L'éducation de Little Tree  »

Box Office


$119,254 (USA) (23 January 1998)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


The book on which this movie was based was originally published in 1977 under the title and subtitle "The Education of Little Tree: A True Story," with the author's name given as "Forrest Carter." However, after the publication, it was revealed that the book was not really a true story, and "Forrest Carter" was actually a pseudonym for Asa Earl Carter. Asa Carter was a Ku Klux Klansman and the alleged author of George Wallace's 1963 "segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever" speech. See more »


When Little Tree is petting the calf outside the church he alternates between kneeling to the right and then left of the calf's head. See more »


Featured in Troldspejlet: Episode #21.7 (1999) See more »

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User Reviews

Sweetly Sentimental; Beautiful Scenery; Just Not Much of a Story, Unevenly Told
30 November 2009 | by (DeKalb Co., Georgia) – See all my reviews

I loved the novel and wanted so much to love the movie, too. And it does have some lovable parts. But all-in-all, I am sorry to say, the movie is let down by (1) the incredibly syrupy portrait (diabetics beware) of the Cherokee; (2) the ponderous tones of the narrator (Little Tree as an adult looking back, much like John Boy on "The Waltons"); and (3) the much-too-broad portrayals of the white characters (James Cromwell aside), ranging from despicable to oblivious. Watch out in particular for some hardcore stereotypes when the Preacher gets wound up in the little church, when the Politician stops by and makes a speech about the "Jews and the Catholics," and when Little Tree encounters a trio of white "lawmen" in the woods.

Left totally unexplained is why -- if, as the story implies, the deck is perpetually stacked for the white, against the Cherokee -- a 1/4-Cherokee child would be taken from his white relatives (against their wishes), and given to the Cherokee side of the family. A quite curious omission for a story in which the Cherokee/white distinction is a central -- in some ways, THE central -- theme. Passed over in similar silence is why -- if the white-man's church is such a festering sore of hypocrisy and hysteria (and it is definitely portrayed that way, with all the subtlety of the Three Stooges) -- Little Tree's grandparents (and Willow John) choose to attend it, much less why they would want the young boy himself exposed to it at such a formative age (the ninth year of his life).

It is quite improbable, bordering on incredible, that a 1/4 Cherokee child, born in rural east-Tennessee of 1927, would not have been given a name at least partly "American" (either first, middle, or last). Yet that is the necessary implication of the scene in which the Indian School headmaster peremptorily strips Little Tree of his "Indian name" and pronounces his new, "American name" to be Joshua. Otherwise, he could have reclaimed the "American name" he had prior to, or in addition to, Little Tree. At any rate, the audience is left to sort this out on its own.

I know what I have said up til now is quite harsh, so let me add that the performances by James Cromwell, Graham Greene, and Tantoo Cardinal are all outstanding. The scenes of the mountain-type men gathered in Jenkins' Store in "the settlement" are nicely played, as are the domestic scenes in and around the grandparents' cabin in the hills. The music and scenery are beautiful, and finally the the child-actor Joseph Ashton is splendid in the title role. He was apparently 10 years old at time of filming, and his performance is thoroughly credible from start to finish.

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