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Virtual Indigenous book clubs

On this special edition of Indian Country Today, Editor Mark Trahant talks Indigenous books with the Erin and Dani Book Club, Indigenous Book Club's Carolann Duro and author Jacqueline Keeler.
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Native American representation is critical in literature because it's an opportunity to share our narratives and take pride in our culture. It's also a way for the broader community to learn a lot more through Indigenous books. Today, we talk to the founders of two Indigenous book clubs including Erin Tripp, Dani Roulette and Carolann Duro. Also on the show, Jacqueline Keeler discusses her new non-fiction book, Standoff.  

Some quotes from the show:

Erin Tripp, Dani and Erin Book Club

"(It started) in the, before time, before the pandemic. We had decided we wanted to read all of Louise Erdrich back lists together, and to read it with other people to lift up her voice, her Indigenous work and discuss it with other people. The first three months of the book club were before the pandemic, and we were doing a lot of the discussion, like we would put posts up and people would respond to discussion questions, but then after the pandemic, we started using Zoom to have these video ones and to connect with each other that way. It's been so great that recently, like a couple months ago, we decided to start its own page for our book club. And, so that's how Erin and Dani's book club was started."

"I've been on Instagram, running a book account Bookstagram for about four years and I think the Dani's about the same,  but we met through that platform. When I first started my account, I didn't really think there were any other Native people on there and so when Dani and I connected, I was so excited to have another Native person. And yeah, so that's how we became friends. We actually never met in person."

Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

"It is a historical fiction it's set, I think, in the fifties. And you get to learn about historical events and there's a great cast of characters, but I think a lot of the themes of that book are still relevant today. Like a lot of them and it touches on a lot."

Dani Roulette, Erin and Dani Book Club 

"Our members fluctuate each month on who's able to join in with each book, but we've had members in Australia and New York, from various reservations and Canada. So really it's the same thing. We're bringing together readers from all over the world who have a shared interest, which is reading Indigenous literature and having meaningful discussions around that."

Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

"It's a fictionalized, but very well-researched and emotional account of a man named Saul who survived going to a residential school on Canada. I think that a lot of people kind of view Canada as a friendly place, and sometimes they don't realize how much we were affected by colonialism. And I think just even readers in America would get a really good view on residential schools, boarding schools, if they weren't already informed."

"Our last meeting, I think, was one of the highest pronounced we'd had. I think there was 20 people. So there was quite a few readers who are joining and I find that everybody's pretty good. Me and Erin usually lead the discussion a bit and give prompts. And then it's almost just like a conversation and everything will kind of flow. And then once that aspect is kind of summary down, we'll kind of move on to the next topic."

Carolann Duro, Indigenous Book Club

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"Yeah, it was kind of born from boredom during quarantine and deciding I wanted to read some more Native literature. I had been reading more Native books since last year and I posted a YouTube video kind of suggesting to start a book club. And from there someone reached out to me and helped get it started and then more and more people got involved. It really just came from an effort to read more Native authors." 

"I didn't even know about the Bookstagram community until I started this book club and started an Instagram for our book club. And I found so many other Indigenous readers out there. And yeah, some of my best friends that I've made this year have been from the book club. And even though we've never met in real life, we've got people in New Mexico, we've got people in Alaska, New York, our members are all over. I just feel such a deep connection, even though it is just virtual. It's still real."

Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer 

"Braiding Sweetgrass was one of the best books that I've ever read and reading it alongside a bunch of book club members just really enhanced the opportunity. And especially reading it along so many other fellow Indigenous readers. So Braiding Sweetgrass was really like a monumental experience reading that. It really changed my outlook a lot, on our relationship with plants, our relationship with the environment, Indigenous epistemologies and how it contrasts to colonial epistemologies of science. That was one of I think the best reads of this year for our club."

Jacqueline Keeler, author, Standoff

"Well, in 2016, I covered both of them as a journalist. I actually covered the Bundy takeovers here in Oregon for Indian Country Today. And then I ended up in January of 2016, I was here in Oregon in the snow covering white men with guns. And then in December of 2016, I was at Standing Rock covering that as well."

"I was rather alarmed. I had actually written about Cliven Bundy's claims to his Ridge, his claims to the land for the nation in 2014. And I had compared at that time, his claims to that of the Paiute and Shoshone people in Nevada because they have never actually by treaty, seen any of the land in Nevada."

"A lot of people don't realize that... what the tribe did. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe did to negotiate, to make sure that they would preserve that area as well. And that was part of the agreement that they made with the Army Corps of Engineers."

"And it's sort of lots of people in particular, you know, when you're talking about Standing Rock, you're talking about the home pop-up people, primarily who their leader was Sitting Bull and you're talking about folks that are renowned as warriors, and yet they chose to take a stand nonviolently and were met with brutal repression. And then really to try to understand this difference. I really looked at an examination of sort of the philosophies that guide each group and each people. And I do a historical analysis of that because of course the Bundy's are, you know, they're carrying these little pocket constitutions and they're making little proclamations that came out of the Revolutionary war, which was really a war to gain access to Indian land."

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Mark Trahant, Shoshone-Bannock, is editor of Indian Country Today. On Twitter: @TrahantReports Trahant is based in Phoenix.

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