Not since Alex Haley's Roots, has a story probed so deeply into the intimate details of an indigenous American family. Inspired by the events of this Native American author’s family, this creative non-fiction narrative chronicles seven generations of his Ojibwe “roots.” But just as importantly, it places the events within the context of a tumultuous time in American History – a time when Western European Civilization was gaining enormous inroads in the Americas and leaving in its wake a devastating clash of cultures.
But this story is not about typical Indian-White confrontations – bloody, violent, avaricious Indian battles. It reveals a more subtle, yet just as deleterious, subjugation of a people through the proliferation of White trade goods, overzealous missionaries, diseases for which there were no cures, and the most contemptible allurement of all – alcohol .
Back to the Blanket is a story of tragedy, shame, pride, perseverance, hope and survival which begins in 1988 when the author undergoes a life-threatening bone marrow transplant for leukemia, a deadly blood disease. During the rigorous transplant procedure, he receives a powerful Native Vision, which begins to weave together the stories he has heard as a boy and his curiosity regarding his father’s rather dark, tumultuous past. But it isn’t until six years later when he and his father are on a train trip bound for the White Earth Reservation in Northern Minnesota that the Vision returns to reveal his legacy and the Red Trade Blanket that has been handed down through the generations. Ahaw!
Pictures with permission of The Minnesota Historical Society; Walter Muma; The Smithsonian Institute; & The Canadian Museum of Civilization.