Required Reading: Indian Country
Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life
Outside's long reads email newsletter features our strongest writing, most ambitious reporting, and award-winning storytelling about the outdoors. Sign up today.
Seventeen pages into Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life (Grove/Atlantic, $26), Ojibwe writer David Treuer finds himself in his grandfather’s shack, cleaning the old man’s brains off the floor. The 83-year-old had shot himself in the head the day before. But Rez Life isn’t another voyeuristic march through Indian country’s wrenching ills. While Treuer doesn’t shy from the miserable side of Indian life, he unveils a world—grounded in Minnesota’s Leech Lake Reservation, where he grew up—that is complex and rich. Scenes of him catching walleye, for example, segue into examinations of tribal treaty rights. At times you want a bit more on Treuer’s journey—his mother was an Ojibwe judge, his father an Austrian Jew, and he attended Princeton. Still, Treuer manages to write a book about Indian life that is often fun and occasionally hilarious. At a powwow held at Minnesota’s Mystic Lake Casino resort, owned by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux, “everything is pleasantly backward,” Treuer writes. The parking lot is full of Hummers, and white employees hustle to serve their native guests. “Most of the time,” Treuer notes, “the Indians don’t tip.”