A prize-winning writer offers “an affecting portrait of his childhood home, Leech Lake Indian Reservation, and his people, the Ojibwe” (The New York Times).
A member of the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota, David Treuer grew up on Leech Lake Reservation, but was educated in mainstream America. Exploring crime and poverty, casinos and wealth, and the preservation of native language and culture, Rez Life is a strikingly original blend of history, memoir, and journalism, a must read for anyone interested in the Native American story. With authoritative research and reportage, he illuminates issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation. He traces the policies that have disenfranchised and exploited Native Americans, exposing the tension that marks the historical relationship between the US government and the Native American population. Ultimately, through the eyes of students, teachers, government administrators, lawyers, and tribal court judges, he shows how casinos, tribal government, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs have transformed the landscape of modern Native American life.
“Treuer’s account reads like a novel, brimming with characters, living and dead, who bring his tribe’s history to life.” —Booklist
“Important in the way Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee was when it came out in 1970, deeply moving readers as it schooled them about Indian history in a way nothing else had.” —Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“[A] poignant, penetrating blend of memoir and history.” —People
Novelist Treuer (Little) offers an ambitious, impressionistic study of life on Native American reservations. His blending in of the history of his Ojibwe tribe and his own family results in a nuanced view of personal and tribal identity. It's neither definitive nor a work of full personal disclosure, but it is "the story of the paradoxically least and most American place in the twenty-first century. Welcome to the Rez." Whether he's describing the central role of fishing walleye, the region's signature fish; the Ojibwe's treaty right fights; or the timeless method for harvesting wild rice, Treuer paints a picture of a vital if economically strained tribal life, deftly supplying historical context to explain how the Mille Lacs, Red Lake, and White Earth reservations came to be and survive. If the stand-alone chapters don't always flow smoothly into one another, the vignettes of treaty rights fishing activists; of how casinos have changed economic life on the rez; how his mother, a tribal judge, dispensed justice; how an Ojibwe language teacher ensured the viability of the tribal language for another generation; and most powerfully, how Treuer's grandfather's suicide left the family reeling bring the world and personalities of the rez to vivid, heartrending life.