On the Rez Summary & Study Guide

Ian Frazier
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On the Rez Summary & Study Guide Description

On the Rez Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on On the Rez by Ian Frazier.

"On the Rez" by Ian Frazier is a narrative about the Oglala Sioux Indians who live on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Southwestern South Dakota. Frazier describes the lives of modern-day American Indians, sharing their private world with compassion and respect. Considered one of the most accurate accounts of modern Native Americans, "On the Rez" explores the survival and lifestyle of a culture which has greatly impacted America's identity and concepts of freedom and equality.

The narrative begins with Frazier praising Indians for their sense of freedom and explaining how this idea contributed to America's founding principles of liberty and equality. Seeing Indian reservations as the last area of the U.S. to maintain its original identity and refrain from yielding to the country's "paving mechanism," Frazier admires the Indian's culture, especially their affinity for heroes.

While living in New York, Frazier meets Le War Lance, an Oglala Sioux, and the pair develop a long-lasting friendship. Le often introduces Frazier to his visiting family and friends, such as Floyd John, and they discuss various Indian-related topics, such as Indians' role in Hollywood. After being sentenced to prison on a driving while intoxicated charge, Le seeks refuge in Pine Ridge. Soon after, Frazier relocates his family to Montana, and after settling in, he visits Le on the reservation where Le takes him to the cemetery and tells him about his deceased relatives. Frazier shares many anecdotes about the site-seeing ventures he goes on with Le, paying particular attention to his trip to Wounded Knee, the site of an infamous Indian massacre in 1890 as well as a protest occupation in 1973.

Frazier examines how various tribes were oppressed by European settlers when America was being founded and explains how their affinity for gambling led to the establishment of casinos on many tribes' reservations. Detailing how many Indians choose their tribe by affinity rather than birthright, Frazier proudly claims affinity to the Oglala, and he is also proud that Le identifies him as a brother, not just a friend. When Frazier visits the reservation, Le and Floyd John escort him around, introducing him to members of their tribe, and many of these impromptu interviews are included in the narrative. Frazier also visits neighboring towns and shares their histories which are usually rife with tales of bigotry and violence, especially as it pertains to the negative effect alcohol has had on Indian culture. A conflict arises between Frazier and Le when Le visits his friend's home and family while drunk, but their sense of kinship is restore after Frazier gets into a car accident on his way home from his next visit to Pine Ridge. Frazier attends the August pow-wow, and though he enjoys himself, he imagines how terrified he would be as a young European immigrant visiting the wilderness for the first time in the 19th century.

Frazier learns much about Pine Ridge Reservation through his conversations with its inhabitants, but he is most interested in SuAnne Big Crow, a popular high school basketball player who died in a car wreck during her senior year. Frazier conducts many interviews pertaining to SuAnne, and her story encompasses nearly a quarter of the narrative as he details examples of her bravery and tribal pride. After SuAnne's death, her mother honors her by establishing a recreation center in her name, ensuring that her daughter's legacy of goodwill continues. In conclusion, Frazier admits that Pine Ridge Reservation remains unchanged, and though he offers no advice to the Indians, he encourages the rest of America to restore the Black Hills to their rightful owners. Bidding adieu to his friends, Frazier heads home to his family in Montana.

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This section contains 610 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the On the Rez Study Guide
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