Gerald Vizenor is a prolific writer and literary critic. In his career, he has written over 40 books in a variety of genres, including 12 novels and innumerable essays. He is a member of the White Earth Nation of the Anishinaabe in Minnesota and is Professor Emeritus at University of California, Berkeley. Vizenor also held academic appointments at the University of New Mexico, University of California (Berkeley and Santa Cruz), University of Oklahoma, and the University of Minnesota. His newest novel is Treaty Shirts: October 2034—A Familiar Treatise on the White Earth Reservation (2016). Previous novels, poetry, and short story collections from Wesleyan include Favor of Crows (2014), Blue Ravens (2014), The Heirs of Columbus (1991), Landfill Meditation (1991), Shadow Distance (1994), and Hotline Healers (1997). In addition to his works of fiction, poetry, and poetics, Vizenor has authored a number of books on Native American identity, politics, and literature.
After losing his father at a young age, Vizenor was raised by his grandmother, mother, and also spent time in foster care. He was eager to join the National Guard, and then the Army, as a means to support himself financially. Vizenor served in the U.S. Army, in Japan, during the era of reconstruction after WWII. His time in Japan led to his eventual adoption of haiku, which he found similar to Anishinaabe dream songs. However, before pursuing a career in creative writing and academia, Vizenor worked as a journalist for the Minneapolis Tribune.
As a writer for the Minneapolis Tribune, Vizenor wrote about the high rate of suicide among Indian people, particularly native youth. He wrote on the tragic suicide of 13-year-old Dane White (Dakota); and also on Senator Walter Mondale’s response to White’s suicide, and what Mondale described as “the shocking national trend of suicides among young Indians.” Sadly, more than 40 years later, the high rate of suicide among native Americans persists. Vizenor also wrote an intriguing article on the death and funeral rights of John Ka Ka Geesik, a practitioner of herbal medicine and member of the Midewiwin, the Ojibway grand medicine society. It was noted that the Ojibway service was conducted “in the auditorium while the minister and those attending the Christian services waited outside.”
Vizenor is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships including the American Book Award and PEN Oakland’s Josephine Miles Award. He was a delegate and principal writer for the White Earth Reservation Constitutional Convention, ratified in 2009.
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