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Rez Life
Cover of Rez Life
Rez Life
An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life
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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

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

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Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    October 10, 2011
    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.

  • The New York Times “An affecting portrait of his childhood home, Leech Lake Indian Reservation, and his people, the Ojibwe."
  • David Ulin, Los Angeles Times “[Rez Life] is not, for all its intimacy, just as it is not exactly a work of reportage or a work of history. Rather, it is a nuanced hybrd, a memoir, broken into six chapters, each of which begins in the personal, then expands outward to a larger theme. Sovereignty, fishing, treaty rights, the tribal justice system, education, language and assimilation – Treuer examines all of it, finding associations between the broadest stories and the most individual."
  • The New Yorker “[Treuer's] upbringing on an Ojibwe reservation in Minnesota makes him adept at delving behind stereotypes of Indian life and infuses his account with passion and meticulousness."
  • Greg Sarris, San Francisco Chronicle "Smartly, this book blends journalism, history and memoir... to provide both anecdotes of present-day reservation life and history... Treuer's message - the picture he gives of Indian reservation life today - is not one of defeat or demise but of miraculous survival."
  • Jonathan Messinger, Time Out Chicago “Rez Life is a fascinating, air-clearing look at Native American reservation life, strengthened in equal measure by its anecdotes and its scholarly attention."
  • Kate Tuttle, Boston Globe “Blends memoir and history to reveal what life on a reservation is really like - neither the festival of dysfunction nor the oasis of noble, nature-loving stoics that many non-Indians imagine. ... [A] blistering, illuminating, ultimately hopeful book."
  • Kirkus Reviews “In a book that is part memoir, part journalistic exposé and part cultural history, novelist Treuer offers a movingly plainspoken account of reservation life... Powerful, important reading."
  • Hampton Sides, bestselling author of Blood and Thunder “In this, his first foray into non-fiction, novelist David Treuer has given us a gritty, raw, and thoroughly authentic look at reservation life -- as experienced from the inside out. Here is modern America glimpsed through a different membrane, narrated in a fresh new voice. In this searching, at times heartbreaking, but often triumphant melange of history, journalism, and memoir, Treuer loudly proclaims that all reports of the American Indian's demise have been greatly exaggerated."
  • Peter Matthiessen "An invaluable study and vivid account of problematic life on our reservations by a writer--a very good writer!--raised 'on the rez' who knows what he's talking about only too well and also knows how to tell a story, lots of stories, that document and effectively banish a number of misconceptions still held by white society. Highly recommended."
  • Eric Jay Dolin, author of Fur, Fortune and Empire: The Epic History of the Fur Trade in AmericaRez Life is a powerful, poignant, and beautifully written history/memoir that weaves together strands of joy and tragedy, empathy and greed, hope and despair, and tradition and wrenching change. It is an important and insightful book that should be read by anyone interested in the fascinating role of reservations in America's past, present, and future."
  • Peter Nabokov, Professor of American Indian Studies, UCLA, and author of Where the Lightning Strikes: The Lives of American Indian Sacred Places “Free of academic jargon, overflowing with terrific storytelling, David Treuer has given us the best book I have ever read on contemporary reservation life. A courageously intimate memoir of family life and community survival in his Great Lakes Indian homeland, it deftly sashays between gritty everyday realities and their well-researched historical contexts and cultural resonances through the magically readable kind of non-fiction that perhaps only a novelist could pull off. Alive with memorable personalities and harrowing dips into reservation hell, wonderfully observed road trips through Indian country and inspiring examples of traditional subsistence and linguistic renewal, this introduction to Native America is destined to be a classic."
  • Philip J. Deloria, author of Indians in Unexpected Places and Playing Indian "One of the most provocative voices in American Indian literary writing and criticism, David Treuer turns his piercing eye to the intertwined experiences of Native resurgence and crisis. Rez Life is for those who really want to understand Indian casinos, fishing rights, poverty, alcohol, spirituality, family, crime, war, law, sovereignty, violence, love,...
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An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life
David Treuer
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