On the Rez

Ian Frazier, Author
Ian Frazier, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $25 (311p) ISBN 978-0-374-22638-1
Reviewed on: 01/03/2000
Release date: 01/01/2000
Paperback - 336 pages - 978-0-312-27859-5
Open Ebook - 311 pages - 978-1-4299-3617-0
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When telling non-Indians that he was writing a book about the American Indian, Frazier (Great Plains, etc.) received a nearly unanimous reaction: that the subject sounds bleak. ""Oddly,"" he says, ""it is a word I never heard used by Indians themselves."" Frazier builds his narrative--or, more deliberately, unpacks it, since he has no discernable plot, chronology or conclusion--around his 20-year friendship with the Indian Le War Lance and the Oglala Sioux of South Dakota's Pine Ridge Reservation. Though no ""wannabe"" or ""buckskinner,"" Frazier emulates and reveres ""the self-possessed sense of freedom"" that he claims is the Indian contribution to the American character, adopted by the earliest European settlers and preserved in our system of government. Frazier's record of his travels with Le War Lance includes the tolls of alcohol, fights and car wrecks (Le claims to have survived 11 of them) and acknowledges the realities as well as the clich s of reservation life. But in his rendering, the calamities of American Indian life are outweighed by the pervasiveness and endurance of that same sense of freedom, a feeling that Frazier captures in his style, his organization, his wonderful eye for detail. Probably no book since Evan S. Connell's Son of the Morning Star has so imaginatively evoked the spirit of the American Indian in American life; like Connell's tours of the Little Bighorn battlefield, Frazier's visits to Pine Ridge and Wounded Knee, and to the descendants of Red Cloud and Black Elk, frame a broad meditation on American history, myth and misconception. Funny and sad, but never bleak, his meandering narrative is, in fact, the composite of many voices and many kinds of history. Agent, Andrew Wylie. (Jan.)
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