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The Road Back to Sweetgrass

The Road Back to Sweetgrass

Linda LeGarde Grover
Copyright Date: 2014
Pages: 200
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  • Book Info
    The Road Back to Sweetgrass
    Book Description:

    Set in northern Minnesota,The Road Back to Sweetgrassfollows Dale Ann, Theresa, and Margie, a trio of American Indian women, from the 1970s to the present, observing their coming of age and the intersection of their lives as they navigate love, economic hardship, loss, and changing family dynamics on the fictional Mozhay Point reservation. As young women, all three leave their homes. Margie and Theresa go to Duluth for college and work; there Theresa gets to know a handsome Indian boy, Michael Washington, who invites her home to the Sweetgrass land allotment to meet his father, Zho Wash, who lives in the original allotment cabin. When Margie accompanies her, complicated relationships are set into motion, and tensions over "real Indian-ness" emerge.

    Dale Ann, Margie, and Theresa find themselves pulled back again and again to the Sweetgrass allotment, a silent but ever-present entity in the book; sweetgrass itself is a plant used in the Ojibwe ceremonial odissimaa bag, containing a newborn baby's umbilical cord. In a powerful final chapter, Zho Wash tells the story of the first days of the allotment, when the Wazhushkag, or Muskrat, family became transformed into the Washingtons by the pen of a federal Indian agent. This sense of place and home is both tangible and spiritual, and Linda LeGarde Grover skillfully connects it with the experience of Native women who came of age during the days of the federal termination policy and the struggle for tribal self-determination.

    The Road Back to Sweetgrassis a novel that that moves between past and present, the Native and the non-Native, history and myth, and tradition and survival, as the people of Mozhay Point navigate traumatic historical events and federal Indian policies while looking ahead to future generations and the continuation of the Anishinaabe people.

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-4299-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. The Odissimaa Bag
    (pp. 1-2)

    Today, the opening dayof the Mozhay Point Ojibwe Reservation’s wild rice harvest, cumulus clouds drift slowly over the boat landing on Lost Lake, bringing with them the scent of sweetgrass. Among the ricers who pause to inhale the blessing are a teenage boy and his father who park at the side of the road in a gray-primered Ford truck faded to the near no-color of glass, a young married couple who argue as they carry her parents’ canoe toward the water, and an elderly woman who has just placed a pot of coffee to boil on an old car...

  4. Bezhig:: The Frybread Makers

    • The Power of Frybread 2014
      (pp. 5-11)

      As she approached elderhood, Margie Robineau had come to be regarded as unarguably the hands-down best frybread maker on the entire Mozhay Point Indian Reservation. Although she had unofficially held that title since she was twenty-two, Indian Country protocol and etiquette called for no recognition beyond “that Margie, she makes pretty good frybread” until after Annie Buck, venerable elder and longtime frybread queen, had died. Only then, and after a decent and respectful interval, did Margie become the person to ask about the fine points of frybread making: baking soda, powder, or yeast; commodity flour or Gold Medal; lard or...

    • In Her Dream, Margie 1998
      (pp. 12-16)

      The young margie robineau moving through the landscape of her early-morning dream knew as well as would a much older woman all the songs and where they ended. She had danced this one a hundred times. As it neared the tail, the last minute of the fugue of drumbeat and voices, she danced nearer to the men at the drum, who in anticipation of the quickening of the pace leaned forward on their folding chairs. The lead singer bent to pick a Styrofoam cup up from the floor with his left hand, his right hand holding the drumstick in midair...

    • The Art of Dressing a Rabbit 1971
      (pp. 17-46)

      On the first day of fall quarter Michael Washington, the first member of the Washington and Dommage families to set foot in a college, walked into the “Indians of America” class and sat in the center of the back row, armed for the struggle with the unknown with a GED, a spiral notebook, and a leaky blue ballpoint pen. His wallet held a Duluth Transit Authority bus pass, his new student identification card, his draft card, a small photograph of his mother, taken at a Woolworth store booth in Minneapolis, and nearly two hundred dollars in cash, what remained from...

  5. Niizh:: Termination Days

    • Shades of Through the Looking Glass 1970
      (pp. 49-81)

      “Hey, what d’hell you think yer doin’?” The old woman in the rusty black coat and overshoes had forgotten to latch the stall door in the ladies’ room at the Stevens Point bus depot, and the girl ahead of Dale Ann in line had pulled the door wide open. Perched and huddled on the edge of the toilet, she glared at both girls, a crow ruffled and outraged, caged in a public toilet stall. “Get the hell out of my goddam toilet, you.”

      The girl ahead of Dale Ann blushed. “She didn’t lock the door.”

      “Goddamn door’s broke; get the...

    • The Veil in the Jar 1971
      (pp. 82-102)

      The first time i saw margie was when she and her friend Theresa stopped at Tuomela’s for gas. I went out to pump five dollars’ worth; when I came back inside, cold air blew across the counter where they sat drinking coffee. They turned and looked at me over their coffee cups, the tall one sliding those wrap-around almond eyes my way and the other one holding her cup with both hands, her worried-looking mouth open to a little “o” and her eyes murky and iridescently oily as the coffee, and that is how they got an eyeful of my...

  6. Nisswi:: The Wild Ricers

    • Margie-enjiss 1973
      (pp. 105-121)

      At the mozhay point indian reservation’s late summer powwow in 1973, not that long before he would become Margie’s ricing partner and then flee to Minneapolis, Michael Washington danced in his father’s moccasins. A folded blue bandanna wrapped across his forehead and tied in back held his hair in place and framed his face, which he had painted black with a narrow white stripe across the eyes. Michael’s face looked fierce, predatory, superhuman; his feet appeared to not quite touch the dusty ground of the powwow circle. For the rest, he was dressed in his everyday street clothes: secondhand corduroy...

    • Animoosh 1998
      (pp. 122-143)

      The stranger showed up at the Lost Lake boat landing on opening day of the Mozhay Point Indian Reservation wild rice harvest and stood on the shore next to his ricing car, a forest green Jeep Cherokee with a “Save Our Forests: No Logging” bumper sticker on the rear door, a Che Guevara decal on the driver’s side window, and a bicycle mounted upright on the roof. He was dressed for the occasion in an outfit that stood out in the crowd of rice pickers: a new-looking, many-pocketed North Face windbreaker with matching pants tucked into laced Gore-Tex hiking boots,...

    • The Ar-Bee-See 2003
      (pp. 144-150)

      After henry and baby al fished them out of the lake, Crystal and that poor young man with the funny name and the fancy ricing clothes, both of them soaking wet and Crystal without any shoes, walked away from the boat landing and past the row of chairs where Sis and me were waiting for a ride home.

      “My, my, Beryl; do you see that?” Sis asked.

      We could see that Crystal was having nothing nice to do with Dog Fin; she walked away fast, just fa-a-ast, yelling at him, and headed toward Sweetgrass; shoulders all hunched, he walked past...

  7. Niiwin:: Migwechiwendam

    • Enchanted Agwaching 2008
      (pp. 153-174)

      Crystal sat with her hands folded together at the top of her belly, feet flat on the floor pushing the rocking chair. Floorboards on the recently refinished wooden floor creaked slightly as the chair rocked back and forward. Margie, standing in the doorway, listened with pleasure to the sound. She remembered sitting in that same rocking chair, which Zho Wash had pulled out to the porch that was now half of the combined front room and sunroom, right about where the chair sat now, rocking baby Crystal as she nursed. She had sat with one leg bent under her body,...

    • The Occasional Scent of Sweetgrass 2008
      (pp. 175-196)

      For the past twenty minutes or so I have heard the sounds of the Mesabi Convalescent Care night shift getting ready to hand us, elders grown fragile in body, mind, or both, to the next day. Those of us to whom the Creator has given this day, I should say, since every week or so the day begins with the soft sounds (shuffles, faint thumps, murmurs of the nursing home staff, the roll of gurney wheels that sounds like bowling) of one of us being carefully handed over to the van driver from the Mesabi Mortuary.

      Today might be your...

  8. Back Matter
    (pp. 197-200)