At a time when Native American rights are being trampled on even as I write this, Dr. Anton Treuer's presentation is more important than ever. His book, "Everything You Wanted to Know About Indians But Were Afraid to Ask," focuses on helping redefine how Americans view Native American culture in 2015.
We had a chance to talk with Dr. Treuer, a professor of Ojibwe at Bemidji State University, who grew up in and around the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota.
Source Weekly: How do you go about helping people redefine Native Americans?
Dr. Treuer: Even in areas where there are quite a few Native American people, we are frequently imagined as well understood. We get a little sugarcoated version of Christopher Columbus and the first Thanksgiving going to school and while the curricular things are changing a little bit, it's not enough to create the visibility. As a result, there is a lot of invisibility and marginalization of Native people.
SW: Do you think that's a change that you will see in your lifetime?
DT: It's the kind of thing that's bigger than any one person. I am seeing some change now and I certainly hope it will continue to expand going forward. There's a lot of programming that we receive of stories of Native people before 1900. They're usually a story with a tragic ending. I think providing information about stuff after 1900 that doesn't end sad or complicated will help people see that we are ancient and modern. We are many thousands of years of fluid history still in the making.
SW: Do you think if more Americans had a more modern understanding of Native Americans something like Standing Rock would still be happening?
DT: This is a subject that has mobilized Native people in a way that I have not seen before. There's a consciousness rising that isn't just Native people. I think many others are seeing Native people as the point of a spear that is trying to attack issues of environmental justice, climate change and human rights. People are getting mobilized and aware that there are fundamental structural flaws in our political system that are inhibiting many voices from being heard and having a true democracy where our citizens can impact their government.
Dr. Anton Treuer
Wednesday, Nov. 16, 6:30pm
Willie Hall, Coats Campus Center COCC Bend Campus. 2600 NW College Way, Bend