CMLE Reads Across MN: Rez Life

Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes, but it also has many interesting books. In this series, we are sharing some of the books we like from Minnesota, or Minnesota authors.

We are mapping our literary journey around Minnesota, so you can see all the interesting places where our books are set. Follow our progress on our Google Map, accessible by clicking that link or searching for the title CMLE Reads Across Minnesota!


Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life, by David Treuer



This week I’ve been reading the nonfiction book Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life, by David Treuer. I’m about half-way through it, and feel like I’m learning a lot about life on reservations. Growing up as a white person, in the cornfields of Central Illinois, I knew essentially nothing about modern Indian life. As I’ve traveled more, especially out West, and spent more time visiting both modern and historic sites, reading and talking with people, I’m learning more about the different history and cultures of tribes. (I cried when visiting Big Hole National Battlefield and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument – but it would be hard not to. And you see how much more there is to learn in these visits.)

So I am always interested in learning more,  and more about Minnesota cultures. I found this book in the shop at the Grand Portage National Monument. (Yes: I’ve never passed a single state or national park/forest/monument that I didn’t want to visit!) I’m not finished with it yet; but am enjoying it enough to recommend. Treuer explains some of the challenges faced by his tribe, the Ojibwe; and also the larger picture of life on reservations, with the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

As with other cultures I don’t share, it’s daunting to realize how much I don’t know, and that I will never understand it all. But more understanding, more learning, and more ideas about the ways other people approach life is always good!

As a member of the library profession, I definitely like to learn more – and to have another interesting book to recommend!

From Amazon:

“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.”