Here in Minnesota, and in surrounding states, there is some real tension between Native and Immigrant communities. The poorest, most drug-ridden, down trodden and repressed communities here are often Native, and conveniently these communities tend to be (but not always are) located far away from urban areas or other places with a lot of white eyes. Health in Native communities is of major concern to the usual institutions and people that are concerned with such things.
Indians make White people nervous. White people are either worried that the Indian has kooties, or are criminals or something, or they are worried that the Indians will think poorly of them or feel bad about, you know, all that bad shit that happened between our people. And some of that bad shit, here in the Upper Plains and the far western edge of the Eastern Woodlands, is very recent. From here, I could drive to Wounded Knee II in a day. I’ve been told that there are still people…white people…in the southern part of Minnesota with curios made of human body parts taken out of the mass grave filled with those executed at the end of the Dakota War of 1862. Many of our historical monuments, homes, and other sites relate to those troubled times. Fort Snelling, the home of one of the Minnesota Historic Society’s facilities (a State institution) was one of those forts where the guys in blue uniforms parodied on F Troop garrisoned. That is where Chief Shakopee was killed when the blue uniformed soldiers arranged a “running of the gauntlet,” a gauntlet manned by Shakopee’s enemies, as a means of executing him. There were starvation camps set up to cause the population of Native people to go down. There are lakes, towns and counties named after the engineers of those concentration camps. I’m thinking that many Native people know a lot more about these things than the White people do. For instance, my in laws, and many of their friends, and several cousins and relatives have cabins on on lakes in Cass County. I think very few of the White people know who Cass was. Lewis Cass, after whom the county and a major lake in the area were named, was one of those architects. I do end up on a Native reservation for several days a year in that area. The reservation is entirely located within Cass County. That would be like having a Jewish homeland in a province or region named after Himmler.
So, why am I talking about this? Because one of Minnesota’s own, a professor at Bimidji University, just upstream from Cass Lake, has written a book called Everything You Wanted to Know about Indians But Were Afraid to Ask. This is not just another white guy talking about Indians. Author Anton Treuer is Native, and I just saw him interviewed on a Minneosta political and news show, and that made me want to get the book. It seems to be a sort of FAQ of questions that a lot of White people have about Indians. I’m not sure how much of a focus there is on this region vs. the country, or North America, as a whole, but in the interview, Treuer did discuss the issue of diversity; a question one might have about Indians could sound fairly dumb if you reversed the situation and said something like “What do White people think about abortion?” or “What kind of cars to White people drive?” …. There are hundreds of Native tribes.
I’m looking forward to learning stuff I didn’t know. I’ll have to look Anton up and see if he’s around during the summer. Maybe we can grab a cup of coffee and swap tales about academia!
Treuer and his book are also written up here, in the Strib.