Tuesday, December 11, 2012

BC2012: Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask by Anton Treuer

I read this aloud to my wife after purchasing it at the Book Cellar last month.

Treuer answers all sorts of common questions about Columbus, Thanksgiving, schools, casinos, AIM, taxes, Leonard Peltier, and anything else you can think of about native American life past and present. He clearly has an underlying agenda, which is to promote the preservation of tribal culture and language (not that that's a bad thing). That is his solution for a number of problems in modern Indian life. I don't know enough to say whether he's right.

Treuer is an Ojibwe from Minnesota, and that made this book especially interesting to me. Although I had seen the reservations on maps, this is the first time I've ever read anything about Minnesota tribes. Plus it is easier for me to identify with the Upper Midwest versus the Southwest and West. There are also many native Americans here in Chicago--they even have a cultural center just two miles from my home--but I don't know anything about them.

Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask is a very informative book that largely delivers on its promise. The only caveat, as Treuer notes, is that many of the responses in this book are the opinions of one Indian, and he does not pretend to speak for all the native peoples of North America or even for his own tribe. In fact, he encourages the reader to engage with other Indians to learn different perspectives. This book is a great starting point for understanding.

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