It's hard to live in the United States and not be within a few hundred miles of a Native American Indian reservation, harder still to live on land that wasn't promised to one tribe or another in one treaty or another at some point. Yet most American citizens rarely see more of the reservations than the highway signs announcing their presence, if that. David Treuer (The Translation of Dr Arpelles) spent five years researching tribal histories and interviewing tribe members in order to bring us Rez Life, an authoritative and vastly entertaining book.
Treuer's Minnesota-centered Ojibwe tribe is the largest in North America; its difficult language has given English such wonderful words as moccasin, toboggan and wigwam. With a novelist's sense of narrative and character (and a refreshing sense of humor), he proudly tells how the Ojibwe defeated the Sioux--not that it matters now. "The Sioux hunt buffalo from horseback and we Ojibwe go out on snowshoes to snare rabbits," Treuer reflects. "The Sioux have cornered the market on Indian cool."
His history of the convoluted treaties among diverse tribes and various local, state, and U.S. governments is sadly reminiscent of the history of agreements, boundary disputes and wars in the Middle East. It's through the stories of today's reservation life, however, that Treuer debunks the stereotypes and delivers insights into the Indian people, their languages and cultures and their future. There may be no more accurate, more engaging, more thought-provoking book on contemporary Native American Indian life than this. --Bruce Jacobs, founding partner, Watermark Books & Cafe, Wichita, Kan.