Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life, A Review

David Treuer’s Rez Life: An Indian's Journey Through Reservation Life is a remarkable look into the heavily intricate reality of life on the reservation. Through personal anecdotes and history, Treuer reveals the many-sided influence and importance that the reservation has become to American Indian nations today. Treuer writes solely about his reservation, Leech Lake, in Minnesota, but the truths he brings out there are largely transferable to most, if not all, other reservations in America. Many issues are addressed, from tribal sovereignty to indigenous resilience and many more in-between.

Where Treuer shines is in masterfully educating the reader on historical and political topics that are elsewhere explained dryly. Through his personal narrative, Treuer shares deep insights on several topics while maintaining the reader's interest throughout. Typically, educational treatises on sovereignty and other tribal rights are written about well, but take a heavy dose of caffeine and rereads to get through. Treuer explains simply and interestingly each concept throughout his book.

To understand American Indians is to understand America. This is the story of the paradoxically least and most American place in the twenty-first century. Welcome to the Rez.
— David Treuer, Rez Life: An Indian’s Journey Through Reservation Life

Personally, my idea of the reservation has been confused. I go back and forth on whether the reservation is good or bad for Natives as a whole. As community centers for traditions and cultures, they are perfect. As wards of colonialism, they are destructive. Treuer focuses on the reservation as a bringer of life in the midst of many struggles. When we as a people can receive the rights we are to have concerning sovereignty, we can find in the reservation a better life and better freedoms. Will our rights ever be fully realized by the US Government? I don’t know.

However, there’s no sense in being pessimistic. As Treuer shows us in Rez Life, there is much to celebrate in the people found in the reservation. Life is happening and beauty is occurring in the midst of struggle on the rez. Rather than focus on the bad, let’s work towards the good. Treuer wrote a tremendous memoir/history about the reservation. Rez Life is a must-read for those who wish to understand the history of American Indian reservations and the current political struggles that many Native nations face today.

Check out Rez Life on Amazon or through your local indie bookstore.