Turtle Mountain, Thomas, Congress discussed on Fresh Air
She won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for fiction twice or Drik is a member of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians and much of her writing is centered on the experience of Native Americans. Her new novel is set in. Nineteen fifty three and is inspired by her grandfather's role in resisting a congressional effort to withdraw federal recognition. From her family's tribe. The book is called the night. Watchman Balui urged Rick. Welcome back to fresh air. It's been a while Thank you you say. In the acknowledgements to this novel that you tried to write several books before getting underway on this one and that your impetus had disintegrated. You kind of weren't getting anywhere. Which is kind of a shock to me. Considering how prolific you have been what shook you loose and got you started on this book. I went back to reading my grandfather's letters which were written during the year. I was born nineteen fifty four so of course those years are somewhat mysterious to me and I knew that he had fought termination during that time but I never put together his letters and the details of what it was like for him to work as a nightwatchman. I never put that together with the timeline for the termination. Bill and what effect it had on the first five tribes slated to be terminated. A lot of this story is about this effort which your grandfather lead in which the main character in your book Thomas Leads. Which was this effort to oppose an initiative in the United States Congress to effectively kind of terminate the existence of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa which he was chairman of you. Want to just explain what this proposal was. What impact would have been termination was out way to finally resolve what Congress thought of his the Indian problem and that would be to move everyone off reservation land? Because it wouldn't be reservation land anymore. Turn over their Land Sutherland. Move everyone to cities and the most important part in doing that was to abrogate. All treaties and these trees have been made since the beginning of our country on a nation to nation basis with every tribe and they all contain these words as long as the grass grows as long as the rivers flow so the original intent and purpose was to guarantee the land. That was agreed upon by the two parties. The two nations those were thrown out the window by both houses of Congress and to simply declared the existence of Indians or native American or American Indians. A non non issue and to not recognize tribal nations Federal Assistance Terminate Travel Admiral Rec to terminate off federal assistance and all federal recognition of who indigenous people are an were. The reason for termination was not just to get rid of the Indian problem but to To acquire the lands that in many cases were covered with some of the most beautiful stands of virgin forest in the country so the first tribe slated for termination where the menominee and the Klamath and intent because of the postwar housing boom was to get those big stands of timber which they did you know for those of you. Who Don't know your story as well tell us just a bit about your background and your connection to the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. I well so my mother is Turtle Mountain Chippewa as was my grandfather. And so am I. I am an enrolled member a citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. It would be impossible for me to say that if termination had indeed won the day so my father is German. I'm very mixed person. And yet being a citizen of a nation within our nation give us one a certain sense of It it changes your life. It means that I I care deeply about my people. My Mother's people and I grew up knowing who I was and accepting all parts of myself and this is a part that I realized would not have existed. Had My grandfather not fought for it. Did you grow up speaking Is it is it. Oh Gee where the language that the chippewas speak. It's Gyp Way Moen or initial Ottoman or at the time my grandfather was speaking at just plain. Chippewa. I didn't grow up. He was the last fluent speaker in the family. And I am very proud to say. My daughter is the next fluent speaker because she is teaching at an gibb way immersion school. Water could adding in Wisconsin on the Likud. Ray Reservation an art art or Chippewa and Ojibway synonymous different terms for the same thing. Yes they're all versions of the original word initial Abbey you Grew UP IN MINNESOTA. Is that right? Did Not on a reservation right now. I grew up in Walkerton. North Dakota okay. That's that's on on the border of The SISSON Dakota reservation. It used to be within the borders but I didn't grow up on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. I was visiting grandchild. And your did your parents both teach in bureau of Indian affairs schools to have my mother and my father taught at the same school that my grandfather attended while Boarding School Walkerton. That brings us to a reading. I'd like you to to share with us This is a bit of history and I guess it talks about sort of what you can set this up. This is about when your grandfather ended up going away to school when you want to set this up and give us this reading from your book. Sure the for my grandfather went to the wotton boarding school. He went to a school that was somewhat closer. Fort totten it's Known as Spirit Lake now and in that time one thing for sure was that every classroom was decorated with flags. Flags were everywhere. This had been a former military fort turned into a boarding school for children so it was still run in his time as a military school and this is about when he leaves for school and this was a very common experience for children who left it was It was known that they would have to have their their heads shaved their hair cut. And that was one of the things that was most difficult for children in for their parents because their hair was personal and in many cases or many tribes many families allowing your hair grow long was a symbol of your long life. Cutting your hair is a symbol of grief. So for that to happen was always very disturbing for the family that year his father was gone. His cheekbones jutting out. Thomas was always hungry. They were down to desperation. Food thin a bit of bannock smeared with deer fat. The day schools on the reservation gave out just one meal. The government boarding school would feed three meals for taught in boarding school was days wagon ride. If you started well before dawn. Thomas's mother Julia or a one wept and hid her face as he went away she had been torn whether to cut his hair herself. They would cut his hair off at the school and to cut hair meant someone had died. It was a way of grieving just before they left. She took a knife to his braid. She would hang it in the woods. So the government would not be able to keep him so that he would come home and he had come home and that is our guest. Louise urge reading from her new novel. The night watchman you know. What's striking about. This is that people often send their kids away to school. For Opportunity the impetus future was really starvation. The impetus was starvation and the reasoning behind the best schools being far away was to assimilate native children to train them to live in a culture. That was very different from their parents. So that when they came home often children couldn't speak the language that their parents were speaking to say right here. That boarding schools are often characterized in sort of a lump definition. But they're all very different and the government had secular boarding schools which underwent a real sea change in the nineteen thirties and became much more supportive of native culture while many of the boarding schools which were run by religious groups did not and remained hostile to native religion. Native culture. Louise urge new. Book is the Nightwatchman. We'll talk more after a break and John Powers will review the new Brazilian movie. Back Row. Which he says is at once. A portrait of community a horror thriller and a timely.