Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

Book Talk

Faculty/Staff RecommendationNorthCountry

Title: North Country, by Mary Lethert Wingerd
Tuesday, February 1, 2011. Noon - 1:00 p.m.
Location: Atwood Memorial Center, TBA
Facilitator: Mary Wingerd, Professor of History

This book talk belongs to a series offered once a semester called "Conversation with the Authors." The series will bring you the opportunity to meet and talk with SCSU Campus Authors.

"North Country" describes a racially and culturally hybridized society based on intermarriage, kinship and the fur trade. Cooperation and reciprocity were key dynamics in the interpersonal and commercial relations among Ojibwe, Dakota, Europeans and Americans, according to Wingerd.

Joseph "Jack" Frazer personifies life in the "borderlands," Wingerd's metaphor for the two-century long encounter between Indians and Euro-Americans.

Frazer was the son of a Dakota woman and a Scottish trader. When he lived with his father Frazer dressed as a white, spoke English and received some schooling. When he lived with his mother he dressed as an Indian and spoke Dakota. He was known as Jack to some and Ite Maza or Iron Face to others.

"It's a central concept of the book that ideas about race are incredibly fluid and unfixed," Wingerd said. "Remember, you have all these people of mixed ancestry and it didn't matter if you were European or African-American or Indian or mixed ancestry -- the way people sorted you out was by how you dressed, by what kind of customs you observed."

Nearly two centuries of cooperation began unraveling in the mid-19th century when exploitation became the key dynamic. In short, Euro-Americans' exploitation of timber and land did not require partnering with Indians, according to Wingerd.

That exploitation spawned the state's most bloody period, the 1862 war in southwestern Minnesota that caused hundreds of deaths and prompted the exile of nearly every Dakota man, woman and child.

History enthusiasts will appreciate the book's attention to detail, including 155 illustrations and 17 maps.

 

Mary Wingerd addresses a standing-room-only crowd in the Heffelfinger Room at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul

Mary Wingerd addresses a standing-room-only crowd in the Heffelfinger Room at the Minnesota History Center, St. Paul.

 

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