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About the Author

David Treuer is Ojibwe from the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. The author of four novels and two previous books of nonfiction, he has written for The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and other publications. He teaches at the University of Southern mostrar mais California. mostrar menos

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Image credit: Author David Treuer at the 2019 Texas Book Festival in Austin, Texas, United States. By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84683391

Obras por David Treuer

Associated Works

Lucky Peach : Issue 4 : American Food (2012) — Contribuidor — 36 exemplares


Conhecimento Comum



David Treuer em Book talk (Dezembro 2021)


I believe this to be a very valuable resource for anyone with Native American blood. It gets just an average 3-star rating from me because I really thought this was going to be more of a personal journey of the author’s, but it turned out to be more political than anything else, which made it a little rough for me to get through. I did learn a lot about the different ways our government has duped the Native Americans over the years, which is not saying anything new. Governments, not just ours here in the US, are infamously greedy and crooked, and have duped many ethnicities, and even their own people, over hundreds of years. I've learned that even the Native American’s are not innocent in the whole scheme of history, nor are they innocent in their current situation. They were warring and sparring over land rights and territories (which continue even today), scalping and kidnapping, and participating in cannibalism way before the white man ever showed up. It’s too easy to blame the white man for all their problems, but I found in this book that when the tables were turned, the Native American leaders reacted the same way. They became crooked and greedy, even against their own people.

The author, David Treuer, is part Ojibwe. His family settled just off the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. His mother, an Ojibwe, grew up in Bena in the 40’s, a very small town with no more than about 140 people. He lets you know that today they are a rough lot and do not take kindly to outsiders.

Life on the rez was and is still a tough life. There are more crimes, more ex-prisoners than their neighboring counties. In 2008, the average income on the reservations was $21,000 versus $52,000 for the rest of Americans. There’s high drug trafficking within the reservation. There’s a 60% unemployment rate and high school graduations are the lowest in the state of Minnesota. Could this be because of their “sovereignty”? They are their own “nation” within our nation. They live by their own rules and their own laws. At first, they thought they could punish one bad person they didn’t want on their reservation by extricating him to live off of the reservation for 10 years. The U.S. government said, Hold on a minute. We don’t want him. You find a way to deal or we will take up the matter of “law”. So there was definitely a learning curve, and the reason why education was to be so important in making the reservation successful over time.

The US, per previous treaties, gave land, and continues to give housing, welfare assistance, free healthcare, along with other social services, and free college education…IF they so desire. Now, about the land, our government has deceptively created the Dawes Act to take back some of that land and allot a portion (120-130 acres per family and 40 acres per single person), then reclaim any remaining land leftover. So now, this has created a checker board of mixed U.S. government territories and Native American territories inside the reservations. The rules and laws have become increasingly complicated on who has the right to enforce certain laws. This has also created a lot of division and hostility among the whites and natives.

The longer the Native Americans stay uneducated, the longer they will stay poor. The treaties, agreements, and laws weren’t designed to make them rich, only to provide the bare necessities to sustain life. The rest is left up to them, just like welfare for citizens of the U.S. It just isn’t designed to make the poor rich…IT SUSTAINS LIFE! That’s it! I say this because when before they were living in uninsulated, boarded shacks with tar paper roofs, the U.S. government finally gave them insulated HUD housing built in tracts with indoor plumbing and electricity. They complained about living in tracts because it put warring bands living next to each other, even though they had the option to opt out. It wasn’t a requirement to live in the tract housing. They complained about having to live with sheetrock because they weren't used to it and didn’t like it. They complained about how cheap the houses were made, when before their situation was much worse. It almost seems like they were mad and unappreciative because they weren't living better lives than what they were seeing surrounding them...outside the reservation...but their desire was to be a sovereign nation.

The only difference that I can see between the Native Americans and the super poor hillbillies living in the Appalachian hills of Jackson, Kentucky (“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D. Vance), and the super poor hillbillies living in the hills of Buck’s Peak, Idaho (“Educated” by Tara Westover), and of the 10,000 Acadians (my ancestors) whose villages were pillaged and families separated and deported from Grand Pre in 1755-1765, of which 53% of the first 3,100 died during that earliest deportation, is that the Native Americans were provided for by the United States and were allowed to stay Sovereign. They were even allowed to keep their 5,000 slaves as they made their way across the Trail of Tears, and they continued to be their slaves until emancipation. These blacks are called the Freedmen, and are considered a tribal member, as well as all their descendants today. They receive all the benefits that the Native Americans receive, within the tribe and from the U.S.

Just like the Acadians in Louisiana, whose culture and language was nearly extinguished, the Native American’s have nearly lost their culture also. But, I think they may be a little too fixated on the idea of sovereignty, land possession, and government handouts, and I believe it is holding them back. Their own leaders in each band who set the laws and regulations for governing have long been known to be morally corrupt, along with the U.S.’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). GREEDY! GREEDY! GREEDY!

Both our cultures are now bringing back an immersion into our native languages. That’s step one. Good or bad, reservations have invested in Casinos, which has and is still bringing in billions of dollars to whichever band and/or reservation it is built. Depending on the success of the Casino, each tribal member can receive up to at least $80,000 per year. Now this is where the greed comes in because a portion of this Casino money has to be split among all noted tribe members. For example, the Cherokee tribe, which has grown to unimaginable proportions are now, in court, trying to remove the Freedmen from being a part of the tribe. They don’t want to share the mother-lode with them any longer. The Native American's want their restitution for life, but not willing to give it up for the people they enslaved...hmmmm....

The Cajun's have used their ingenuity well to make a name for themselves in Southwest Louisiana, and all without sovereignty, and without the free amenities and special status in life. I don't feel slighted at all and am super-proud of our heritage! The authors, Tara Westover and J.D. Vance, made it out of the hills and, because of being educated, became successful in their lives…without sovereignty, and without losing a part of themselves. They each were lucky enough to have had that one stable person in life who lead them in the direction they needed to go. People grow up to be a product of their environment! Period! And if, on the reservation, there continue to be the highest crime, dropout’s and drugs, and poorest-of-poor who are complacent and satisfied with menial handouts, then their people aren’t taking responsibility for their young. It doesn’t take a village to raise a child, it takes one person keeping an eye on that child 24/7 and leading him. If they want to see change, then they need to start that change now.

Now, I’m not taking anything away from the Native Americans. I actually do have much love and respect for their culture and would hate to see it disappear, but, I am tired of all the excuses of failure from the different ethnic groups here in America being put on the white man because, believe it or not, there are also plenty of white men who are dirt poor and freeloading on the system too. And I know that if our Cajun culture slips away, I will know it's our own fault for not leading our youth. No one else to blame but ourselves!
… (mais)
MissysBookshelf | 14 outras críticas | Aug 27, 2023 |
I remember liking or at least learning a lot from Brown's Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, but Treuer's framing of his work as a response to rather than a continuation of it is absolutely necessary. Treuer's juxtaposition of living Native Americans with historical events post Wonded Knee drives home his point that while it is important to know the history of his people - they should not be relegated just to the past.
Bodagirl | 11 outras críticas | Feb 4, 2023 |
This novel of hardscrabble life in a town bordering an Ojibway reservation in Minnesota, in a housing tract called "Poverty", after President Johnson's War On. Three generations venerate the land - the descriptions of which are the true beauty of the book - and there's interference in the form of Vietnam, the Catholic Church, and the brutal weather. Jeannette and her twin brother lovers have two children after Duke and Ellis rescue her from servitude in an Iowa home where she was placed by the church in 1918. They walk from Iowa back to Wisconsin on an old Indian trail. Neither their children nor grandchildren can make much progress nor put much distance between themselves and destitution, but they stay close to the land and to each other. There's an elemental sadness and hopelessness living side-by-side with family love and interdependence that remains with the reader.… (mais)
froxgirl | 3 outras críticas | Nov 20, 2022 |
“Like reservations themselves, this book is a hybrid. It has elements of journalism, history, and memoir. As such it is meant to be suggestive rather than exhaustive. It is meant to capture some of the history and some of the truth of reservation life—which is not any one thing but many things depending on where you’re looking and to whom you’re talking.” – Dave Treuer, Rez Life

Based on the author’s above-stated purpose, I think he succeeds. Treuer starts the book with his personal experience growing up on a reservation. He then relates the results of many interviews that offer insights on what “rez” life is like today. In the process, he delivers a history of reservations, including past treaties, violations, and major changes in the law since conception. His primary focus is on his own tribe, the Ojibwe in the Great Lakes region, but he visits other tribes as well.

The book is structured around people and their stories. This works for the most part, though it can occasionally seem disjointed and allows for many digressions into side topics. Content includes the origins of casinos on Indian land, treaty rights, tribal sovereignty, and the various states of Indian cultures – some thriving and others dwindling. It highlights ongoing social problems on reservations such as poverty, violence, and substance abuse. It clears up many misconceptions. The author is obviously proud of his heritage. He remains optimistic, while not glossing over the challenges faced by reservation residents.
… (mais)
Castlelass | 14 outras críticas | Oct 30, 2022 |



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