Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe
By Anton Treuer
Publisher: Minnesota Historical Society Press (September 1, 2015)
Paperback: 288 pages
Since European settlers arrived on the eastern shores of what became the United States, land borders have been drawn, people moved and communities erased. Centuries have passed and the Red Lake Nation, located in Northwestern Minnesota, has stood solid, unyielding and with little of its story known by the outside world. Anton Treuer’s book "Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe," sheds light on what has been left in the dark.
“Researchwise it’s very different from a lot of books,” Treuer said. “It covers the entire history of the band from the Battle River fight in 1760 to present.”
Red Lake, one of two closed reservations in the U.S., is touted as having the first modern indigenous democratic governance system in the nation, while maintaining a hereditary chief system. Treuer was called upon by former Red Lake Tribal Chairman Floyd “Buck” Jourdain Jr. to begin researching Red Lake’s history and write a book chronicling the band’s progression over the years. Current chairman Darrell G. Seki Sr. continued to support the project after his election in 2014, Treuer said.
“They have had a long, long battle to keep their land and water and sovereignty in tact,” Treuer said.
Treuer was selected in part due to his experience with oral histories. Treuer, an Ojibwe historian and linguist, conducted oral history interviews with elders across the Red Lake reservation. Treuer is a member of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe. Being of a different band can be seen as positive in that Treuer writes without bias, but he said, some people may say “Warrior Nation” should have been written by a Red Lake band member.
“There are very few people who work with oral histories. And of those, few who work with Ojibwe,” Treuer said. “And they wanted their people and their voices to tell the story.”
Treuer also had access to Red Lake archives and personal papers of Peter Graves, a leader preceding Roger Jourdain. Jourdain was elected in 1959 as the first tribal chairman. Both men have chapters dedicated to them in the book. Treuer said the reason the book reads well is because of the “stunning and dramatic leaders” showcased in each of the seven chapters.
“Each chapter is a new story, a new person and a new political change,” Treuer said.
Chapters are titled with a summary of what a monumental person did for the Red Lake Nation. “The Uniter,” a chapter on Nodin Wind – a spiritual leader from Ponemah who lived to be 106 years old – is an observation of missionaries attempts to convert Red Lakers and also a revelation about isolationism.
Red Lake has been mentioned in books before, but Treuer’s “Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe” is the first major history book about the Red Lake Indian Reservation. Treuer said the book has multiple purposes. It can be used in curriculum, for research, to educate people of Red Lake and others on the band’s history, and as a historical guide.
“I’m sure it will be used in a lot of different ways,” Treuer said.
Treuer teaches Ojibwe language at Bemidji State University where he served as president of the American Indian Resource Center for three years. Treuer resigned the position in June to return to faculty, he is currently on sabbatical.
“Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe,” a Minnesota Historical Society publication released this month, is Treuer’s fourteenth book. He is currently writing a National Geographic work about U.S. Indian wars.
Treuer will be presenting “Warrior Nation: A History of the Red Lake Ojibwe” from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 27 in the Bremer Student Union on the Red Lake Nation College Campus in Red Lake. In addition to Treuer, Red Lake spiritual leader Anna Gibbs, who chapter seven “The Dreamer” is named for, is scheduled to speak. Books will be available for sale and signing at the Red Lake event. Books can be purchased for $19.95 on Amazon.com, through the Minnesota Historical Society Press, at the BSU Bookstore, Bemidji Woolen Mills and at other stores where fine books are sold. The book is also available in e-book format.
Crystal Dey is a Crime, Courts, Tribal Relations and Social Issues Reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. Reprinted with permission of The Bemidji Pioneer. www.bemidjipioneer.com .