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Recent News
9/21/2012
Award-Winning Ojibwe Author Brenda J. Child Will Speak About Her Latest Book, ‘Holding Our World Together,’ on Oct. 16 at Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis Central
Program Includes Introduction by Rep. Susan Allen, Reception Honoring Ojibwe Women Leaders
Brenda J. Child, an award-winning Ojibwe author and associate professor in the department of American Studies at the University of Minnesota, will talk about her latest book, “Holding Our World Together: Ojibwe Women and the Survival of Community,” on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 7-9 p.m. in Pohlad Hall at Hennepin County Library – Minneapolis Central, 300 Nicollet Mall, Minneapolis. Admission is free.
 
Child will be introduced by State Representative Susan Allen (District 62B), the first Native American woman elected to the state Legislature.
 
A post-presentation reception will honor Ojibwe women leaders, including those whose advocacy led to passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act of 1978. Books will be available for purchase and signing.
 
The program is sponsored by the Friends of the Minneapolis Central Library and the Hennepin University Partnership, and funded by Minnesota’s Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund. 
 
“Holding Our World Together” examines women’s pivotal and powerful leadership roles in the Ojibwe band in the Great Lakes region as it struggled for cultural and economic survival from the 1800s to today.
 
Born on the Red Lake Ojibwe Reservation in northern Minnesota, Child received a Ph.D. in History from the University of Iowa. She also is author of “Boarding School Seasons: American Indian Families, 1900-1940,” which won the North American Indian Prose Award and was nominated for a Minnesota Book Award.
 
Child was a consultant to the exhibit, “Remembering Our Indian School Days” at the Heard Museum in Phoenix, Ariz., and is co-author of the exhibit’s accompanying book, “Away From Home.” The exhibit will travel to the National Museum of the American Indian in 2014.
 
Child is a board member of the Minnesota Historical Society and will join the board of trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian at the Smithsonian Institute in 2013.
 
At the University of Minnesota, she was a recipient of the President’s Award for Outstanding Community Service and served as chair of the Department of American Indian Studies (2009-12). Child also is part of a research group that developed a new digital humanities project, the Ojibwe People’s Dictionary, which launched as a website in 2012. 
 
Child was asked about her book and the status of Native American women today:
 
Why did you write "Holding Our World Together"?

“I hoped to establish the roles and significant involvement of Ojibwe women in the Great Lakes as society builders, which allowed their communities to persevere in an era dominated by the expansion of American colonialism. I was deeply impressed by historical documents that clearly demonstrated the expansive role of women in the economy, including a time when European newcomers were becoming established in the Great Lakes, such as during the fur trade, as well as during the difficult years when the Ojibwe were losing access to traditional lands and were reduced to living on allotments and reservations. But I also wrote the book for my own Ojibwe family, especially my 11-year-old daughter.”

Why have women's pivotal roles in Native American culture not been recognized?

“I believe women's work and roles were highly regarded in Ojibwe society, and women did not hold a lesser status in their own societies, unlike European and American women who suffered in the past because of patriarchy and disadvantages they experienced within their legal systems. Still, even as Ojibwe people we may have forgotten some aspects of Ojibwe women's historical roles, and I hope this book is a remedy, and one that inspires Ojibwe people today. Of course, in the writing of Indian history, which has largely been the privilege of EuroAmerican men, women's historic roles were poorly understood and often denigrated.”

Are Native women still powerful activists in their communities and beyond today?

“During the course of researching this book, I came to especially appreciate the work that women did on behalf of their communities when they migrated to the urban cities of the Great Lakes, particularly in Minneapolis. The organization and community-building began immediately, and was especially visible after World War II throughout the 1970s. I was impressed by the national leadership role of women in Minnesota that directly led to new laws in the U.S. regarding Indian child welfare.”

Who are positive role models for Native Americans, especially women, today?

“Many of the women we interviewed for the ‘Minneapolis’ chapter of the book cited their own grandmothers as role models, women who grew up on reservations during difficult years for Indian people in the United States, yet were hard-workers who labored on behalf of their families and communities. Those values are still with us in the Indian community today, and are one of the reasons Minneapolis continues to be a vital center of Indian life in North America. There are amazing Indian women who are social workers, teachers, politicians, artists and writers — so many I cannot name them all.  Personally, I greatly admire Rose Robinson, a leader on child welfare issues who works on the Leech Lake Reservation, and Louise Erdrich, a gifted American writer whose body of literary work will be read for generations to come. I also admire the younger generation of American Indian students I have the privilege of working with at the University of Minnesota, especially for their dedication to learning and preserving the Ojibwe language.”

Which other writers and scholars do you recommend for anyone interested in reading about Native American cultural history and activism?

“I am happy that so many schoolchildren and youth in Minnesota are exposed to Ojibwe literature and culture early in their lives, since Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House’ series is widely read and popular, as well as Ignatia Broker's ‘Night Flying Woman.’ I appreciate so many writers and historians — and some of my current favorite history books are those in the Penguin series in American Indian History, along with ‘Holding Our World Together.’ I highly recommend the historian Jeffrey Ostler's beautifully written book ‘The Lakotas and the Black Hills.’


For more information:  www.hclib.org
9/21/2012


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