Forrest Lonefight Writes
The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich
Updated: Aug 23, 2021
Funny story: I was going to finish this review that I was writing on my phone after a long hard day at the factory, when I got home I got the big news that "The Night Watchman" by Louise Erdrich gets awarded the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction!
I was like, hey, I know that book!
Anyways, The Night Watchman, is Thomas Wazhashk. He is a veiled tribute to Erdrich's grandfather who was a night watchman at a factory on the Turtle Mountain Rez of the Chippewa Tribe in North Dakota and who was involved in taking the fight to DC in the legislation of the Indian Termination Act of 1953-54. Which was pushed by Mormon Senator Art V. Watkins as the "final" means of assimilation of the American Indian to mainstream U.S. life, no matter how bad their living conditions were after decades of displacement and hardship.
The book follows all kinds of characters, most notably, Pixie Paranteau, who is our heroine. Her story takes her from the Rez to the hard-drinking streets of Minneapolis in search of her long-lost sister who is rumored to have a child.
This part of the novel tackles the Missing Murdered Indigenous Women(#MMIW) issue head-on with actual events and a citing of a source in the book: Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota, by Melissa Farley and various others in actual accounts. These issues could have yielded two separate books and things tend to get a little confusing as it brings out other familiar, what I call: "Rez Tropes." Those of us in NDN Country know a lot about these, but we never get to hear about it in major publications like this. The confusion is a small gripe, though.
That being said, I started writing this review as how it pertained to me and my NDN experience in the contemporary U.S.
We have the NDN boxers, the gossipers, the aunts, the uncles, the medicine men, the smart NDN's who make it out of the Rez, Pixie's drunk father, her traditional mother figures, and especially Thomas Wazhashk himself, who reminds me of my own grandfather!
His story and my grandfather's story, who was a Tribal Council Chairman, also, were a lot alike and it was great to read something that resonated. The struggle of holding down a precious factory job in those days and having to provide for the family, AND to serve his people in their most important fight for survival is something that needs to be told! I applaud Erdrich in bringing this relatable story to light and hopefully others like this will be brought out to the world to be heard...and win Pulitzer Prizes. Yeah!
Visit @ Birchbarkbooks.com:
Garden of Truth: The Prostitution and Trafficking of Native Women in Minnesota
@msn The Pulitzer Prize story: