Point mutations within the histone H3.3 are frequent in aggressive childhood brain tumors known as pediatric high-grade gliomas (pHGGs). Intriguingly, distinct mutations arise in discrete anatomical regions: H3.3-G34R within the forebrain and H3.3-K27M preferentially within the hindbrain. The reasons for this contrasting etiology are unknown. By engineering human fetal neural stem cell cultures from distinct brain regions, we demonstrate here that cell-intrinsic regional identity provides differential responsiveness to each mutant that mirrors the origins of pHGGs. Focusing on H3.3-G34R, we find that the oncohistone supports proliferation of forebrain cells while inducing a cytostatic response in the hindbrain. Mechanistically, H3.3-G34R does not impose widespread transcriptional or epigenetic changes but instead impairs recruitment of ZMYND11, a transcriptional repressor of highly expressed genes. We therefore propose that H3.3-G34R promotes tumorigenesis by focally stabilizing the expression of key progenitor genes, thereby locking initiating forebrain cells into their pre-existing immature state.