On the Rez, by Ian Frazier, is about modern-day American Indians, especially the storied Oglala Siouz, who live now on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the plans and badlands of the American West. Crazy Horse, perhaps the greatest Indian war leader of the nineteenth century, and Black Elk, the holy man whose teachings became known around the world, were Oglala; Frazier visits their descendants on Pine Ridge Reservation -- "the rez" -- now one of American's poorest places. With his longtime friend Le War Lance (whom he first wrote about in his 1989 best-seller Great Plains) and other Oglala, Frazier drives around the rez as they visit friends and relatives, go to powwows and rodeos and package stores, and tinker with various falling-apart cars. In the career of SuAnne Big Crow, the most admired Oglala basketball player of all time, who died in a car accident in 1992, Frazier finds a modern reemergence of the Sious hero who saves her people; and he learns about the ancient and enduring Sious concept of the hero, in its pulse-quickening, death-defying, public-spirited glory.
Most of all, with compassion and imagination, Frazier brings up into the private world of the reservation. He portrays the survival, through toughness and humor, of a great people whose culture has shaped American identity.
This book is about Indians, particularly the Oglala Sioux who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, in the plains and badlands in the middle of the United States. People want to know what a book is about right up front, I have found. They feel this way even if the book does not yet exist, if it is only planned. When I describe the subject to non-Indians, they often reply that it sounds bleak. "Bleak" is the word attached in many people's minds to the idea of certain Indian reservations, of which the Oglala's reservation is perhaps the best example. Oddly, it is a word I have never heard used by Indians themselves. Many thousands of people-not just Americans, but German and French and English people, and more - visit the reservations every year, and the prevailing opinion among the Indians is not that they come for the bleakness. The Indians understand that the visitors are there out of curiosity and out of an admiration which sometimes even reaches ...
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