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this is a mixture of my lazy academic reviews and personal moments as a mama going through academia, and it is all my own opinion, and has absolutely no affiliation with anybody else

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Back on the Rez – Brian Maracle

Published in 1996, this is a memoir from Brian Maracle about his first year living back on the reserve, the Six Nations. While an easy read,, it does delve into complicated topics like the politics of Six Nation and the relationship, or lack thereof, with the Canadian Government. He chats about the struggles of becoming more physically active than he was in city, about how reserve living has changed him – he plants a garden, he brings his own garbage to the dump, he goes out and visits socially more often.

“As he participates in life on the reserve, Maracle introduces his readers to native history, culture, and spirituality. Although he writes specifically about the Six Nations (the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Tuscarora people), much of the ground he covers – the matrilineal and matriarchal society, the clan system – applies to other native peoples. Maracle finds the reserve torn between white culture and the pull of traditional ways.” – Review, Quill and Quire

I liked how he gives non-Mohawk readers a lot of back information about the land, the history and the language. This is important, he’s grounding us in story as he is being grounded by his experiences on-reserve. I like how he is honest about moving back an the struggles he goes through, although I also feels that makes him an outsider as well – he’s writing from a new-comer’s point of view, but we aren’t all newcomers. His viewpoint is also very optimistic, which is just a personal thing, but it grates on me, because I’m hella more sarcastic. I found myself doubting his stories where ever folly had a point and every mistake carried a teaching – because he was so happy about it.

While this is an important read, and very tribal specific (again, important), I think I find it hard to find where it fits in the larger scheme of “what is the point?” There is no hard hitting punchline – but rather a layered and gradual year in review of his community, his history and his experience in trying to fit in. All great and an enjoyable read, but to what point… questions to ask the thesis advisor. 

Find the book: Back on the Rez


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