Cover image for Rez life : an Indian's journey through reservation life / David Treuer.
Title:
Rez life : an Indian's journey through reservation life / David Treuer.
Title Variants:
Res life
ISBN:
9780802119711
Edition:
1st ed
Publication Information:
New York : Atlantic Monthly Press : Distributed by Publishers Group West, c2012.
Physical Description:
330 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm.
General Note:
Maps on endpapers.
Abstract:
Novelist David Treuer examines Native American reservation life--past and present--illuminating misunderstood contemporary issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation while also exploring crime and poverty, casinos and wealth, and the preservation of native language and culture.
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Summary

Summary

Celebrated novelist David Treuer has gained a reputation for writing fiction that expands the horizons of Native American literature. In Rez Life , his first full-length work of nonfiction, Treuer brings a novelist's storytelling skill and an eye for detail to a complex and subtle examination of Native American reservation life, past and present.

With authoritative research and reportage, Treuer illuminates misunderstood contemporary issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, and natural-resource conservation. He traces the waves of public policy that have disenfranchised and exploited Native Americans, exposing the tension that has marked the historical relationship between the United States government and the Native American population. 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 Native American life.

A member of the Ojibwe of northern Minnesota, 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 work of history and reportage, a must read for anyone interested in the Native American story.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

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. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


New York Review of Books Review

American Indian reservations account for 2.3 percent of the country's land. Indian gambling revenues are $14 billion annually, and male life expectancy among Indians is 64 years. Acoma Pueblo has been continuously occupied since the 12th century. The Cherokee owned black slaves until Emancipation. And in 1780, Frederick the Great released "a great number of sturgeons in Lake Gardno in Pomerania." These are among the varied and variously relevant facts strewn throughout Treuer's survey of life on American reservations. The details about sturgeon aren't entirely random - they relate, however tangentially, to Treuer's discussion of treaty rights and the battle to control the waterways of the upper Midwest. But it's an example of the kind of fat that slows this otherwise admirable amalgam of history, memoir and polemic, and that heightens the frustration when Treuer gives short shrift to his most interesting subject - his family. The book's most riveting and pertinent scenes show Treuer cleaning up after his grandfather's suicide by gunshot; his Ojibwe mother, who rose from penniless rez girl to judge, presiding in court; his Jewish father marching a delegation, unannounced, into Vice President Hubert Humphrey's office to demand a share of War on Poverty funds (Humphrey granted the request). Treuer offers a kaleidoscopic view of reservation life but loses his way in pursuit of Everymen who illustrate points in his thematic outline. One hopes for a sequel that fulfills the promise extended here - a more vivid book that sticks closer to home.


Library Journal Review

Treuer's story is more a history of broken promises by the U.S. government in their dealings with Native Americans than a recounting of his early years growing up on an Ojibwe Indian reservation in Leech Lake, MN. Legal battles over jurisdiction rights regarding property use, gaming licenses, tribal justice, casino management, and other issues continue to challenge Indian autonomy on reservations today. Controversial blood quantum laws, particularly as applied to the Cherokee Freedmen, are fully explained and argued by the author. Actor Peter Berkrot does a fine job carrying the author's voice, though at times he hits the last word of a sentence a la William Shatner. VERDICT Recommended for listeners interested in Native American history and seeking a clarification of how contemporary problems were forged by past events. ["A look into Native life from a Native perspective...for anyone interested in how history has shaped Native people and the ways in which Native peoples are shaping their future," read the review of the Atlantic Monthly hc, LJ 2/1/12.-Ed.]-Deb West, Gannon Univ. Lib., Erie, PA (c) Copyright 2013. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.