Middle School (9 - 14) Books

ON THE (MINNESOTA OJIBWE) RESERVATION, Caroline Gilman et al, special issue of Minnesota Roots magazine published for schools; Minnesota Historical Society, 345 Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1986, reprinted 1990; 39 pages oversize magazine. Photos, teaching resource listing, reservations map. $3.50. No ISBN

This special issue of the twice-yearly magazine provides a good overview of Ojibwe life and culture at about the time Minnesota Indians were being forced onto reservations. An initial essay is drawn by Gilman from the thoughtful and colorful autobiography of Way-quah-gishig (John Rogers of the White Earth reservation. Another essay describes the effects of th Dawes Allotment Act, with a map that shows the checkerboarding of Leech Lake (once a part of what had been intended to be the larger White Earth), where 90% of the land has been lost either to private purchasers or to state and U.S. Forest Service land. It's one of the better presentations on this shameful and important aspect of American history for young people.

For on-reservation life, the total control of the Indian (Bureau of Indian Affairs) agent -- a power so easily and so often abused -- is shown. There is a short essay about how the agents arrested the Beaulieu brothrs and seized the printing presses and issues of the first Indian newspaper, the White Earth Progress, because it opposed some misdeeds of the white rulers. The Beaulieus successfully fought their federal expulsion from their homes on the reservation, and the surpression of their newspaper in court, and won. Other essays tell about life for young people in th Indian boarding schools of the period, which were intended to stamp out the traditional culture and language. A final section tells of 20th century life in the cities -- prejudice, difficulty of finding work, the post-World War II relocation policy (part of th U.S. policy then to terminat -- end -- all Indian reservations). There is a rare picture of the first AIM office, in the sleazy area of Indian bars on Franklin Avenue. Red School House, started by AIM, and Migizi Communications, which teaches communications skills, are also shown and written of as modern survival efforts organized by Indian people, not by white charities or political agencies.

Although this special issue focusses on Minnesota Ojibwe, it is also highly recommended as a good explanation of what things were like (in general) for reservation Indian people everywhere, as the reservations were robbed of land by allotment, and as people came to nearby cities for work, after World War II. A photo-essay of life on the Red Lake reservation, taken from the book by photographer-essayist Charles Brill who lived there for several years, contrasts this life -- hard work, no luxury, but idyllic all the same -- with the city grind.

For non-Indian schools, it is better to have exposure to some real Indian people and real Indian culture in real historical contexts than generalities about long-ago peoples living in tipis and making pottery, how quaint. This issue of Roots (which is available in discounted larger quantities for classroom use) was prepared by well-known Native people. Reviewed by Paula Giese

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Native American BOOKS, text and graphics copyright Paula Giese, 1996

Last Updated: Tuesday, April 30, 1996 - 3:55:44 AM