Marian Miner Cook
Athenaeum

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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Wednesday, April 21, 2021 - Evening Program
Native American Life Beyond Wounded Knee
David Treuer

David Treuer is the author of "The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee," a sweeping history and counter-narrative of Native American life from the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre to the present. Treuer grew up Ojibwe on a reservation in Minnesota, trained as an anthropologist, and has spent his career researching Native lives, both past and present. In his work, both written and oral, Treuer explores the intense struggles to preserve Native identity and tells an essential, intimate story of a resilient people in a transformative era. Professor Treuer will deliver the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies' 2021 Lerner Lecture on Hinge Moments in History.

Photo credit: Jean-Luc Bertini

Anthropologist and author David Treuer struggled with popular depictions of Native American history (including the bestselling Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee), many of which seemed to conclude that his culture was a relic of the past.  Having grown up on an Ojibwe reservation, Treuer knew that Native American history did not end with a battle in 1890. In both fiction and nonfiction, Treuer has spent his career dissecting narratives around Native American life, and reveals the unprecedented resourcefulness and reinvention it took to preserve Native languages, traditions, families.

In The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, a shortlist nominee for the 2019 National Book Award in Nonfiction, Treuer combines history, reportage, and memoir to tell the sweeping story of the tribes’ distinctive cultures from their first contact with settlers, exploring how each era spawned new modes of survival. From devastating land seizures to forced assimilation and conscription, Treuer traces how each generation developed their own form of resistance and renewal. His previous works include four novels—Prudence, The Translation of Dr. Apelles, The Hiawatha, and Little—and Rez Life, a complex and subtle examination reservation life. In his talks, Treuer presents a counter-narrative to Native American history—one that tells an essential story of resiliency, survival, and strength in the face of catastrophic odds.

Treuer’s essays and stories have appeared in Granta, Harper’s, The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Esquire, Slate, and The Washington Post, among others. In addition to his works of fiction and nonfiction, he is the author of a book of criticism, Native American Fiction: A User’s Manual. Treuer is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, two Minnesota Book Awards, and fellowships from the NEH, Bush Foundation, and Guggenheim Foundation. The Translation of Dr. Apelles was named a Best Book of the Year by the Washington Post, Time Out, and City Pages. Treuer is a graduate of Princeton University and earned a Ph.D. in anthropology. He divides his time between his home on the Leech Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota and Los Angeles, where he teaches literature and creative writing at the University of Southern California.

Professor Treuer will deliver the Gould Center for Humanistic Studies' 2021 Lerner Lecture on Hinge Moments in History.

Photo credit: Jean-Luc Bertini

(Text adapted from Penguin Random House Speakers' Bureau.)