The book “Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe year” was written by Linda LeGarde Grover and published by the University of Minnesota Press in October 2017. The book is a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award in the category Memoir and Creative Nonfiction. Winners of this year’s Minnesota Book Awards will be announced at a ceremony on April 21.
Grover is from Duluth where she is a professor of American Indian Studies at UMD. She is a member of the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe and the other of several other award winning books. “The Road Back to Sweetgrass” received the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Fiction Award. The short fiction collection “The Dance Boots” received the Flannery O’Conner Award. The poetry collection “The Sky Watched: Poems of Ojibwe Lives” received the Northeastern Minnesota Book Award.
With the announcement of this book being a finalist for the Minnesota Book Awards, I reached out to Grover over email and she agreed to an author question and answer session.
LR: Who are you? Where do you live and what do you do?
LG: I am a professor in the department of American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota Duluth, where I teach a variety of courses including American Indian Women, North American Indian Arts, American Indians in Sports, American Indians and the Media, and The American Indian Novel.
LR: What have you written?
LG: My publications include research articles, essays, poetry, newspaper columns, and fiction - my first book of fiction, The Dance Boots, received the Flannery O'Connor Award; my second book The Road Back to Sweetgrass received the Native Writers and Storytellers 2015 Fiction Award. Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year is a collection of short essays based on newspaper columns.
LR: What is your area of interest as a writer?
LG: My body of work reflects my research field, which is to examine some of the effects of federal Indian policy, with an emphasis on Indian boarding schools and the Termination era, upon American Indian individuals, families and communities. As an Ojibwe woman who has lived most of my life in Duluth, I began with what I had some familiarity with, which was my own history. I was born in Duluth, and my grandparents came here from Bois Forte (Vermilion) and Fond du Lac.
“Onigamiising” is a collection of 50 short essays that are organized around the four seasons, and life of the Ojibwe. Why did you organize the book like this?
The essays in “Onigamiising”, presented by themes that are seasonal, are layered over time. I believe this is an Ojibwe way of looking at the world: Everything has a season, not only each year of the Earth but the span of each generation, and of every individual person’s life. One day it begins, and everything is new, unknown and untested. Through the four seasons, experiences emerge, we learn, and knowledge grows—and with this our ability to understand, and to care for and pass along what we have learned. We work on our education as Anishinaabe people every day, realizing that any season, or any day, could be our last; we do our best to practice Mino-bimaadiziwin, the living of a good life, and to gift those who will follow us as we have been gifted. It is my hope that “Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year” will communicate some of what this Anishinaabe-Mindimoye-Ikwe has experienced and learned, and how she feels.
LR: How does it feel to be a finalist for a Minnesota Book Award?
LG: Because “Onigamiising: Seasons of an Ojibwe Year” is at heart a love story written to the extended tribal family of Ojibwe ancestors, relatives and descendants of Minnesota, I feel great appreciation that my small part of our big story has received this recognition. When I first learned about “Onigamiising” being named a finalist, it was on the Star Tribune’s website: I stared at the computer screen, blinked, read it again and then called my husband. Then I began to purely and simply enjoy, as I do to this minute, being in such company as the other Memoir/Creative Nonfiction finalists.
LR: How did you first become interested in writing?
LG: “I have always enjoyed writing, whether my work was published or not - but what a wonderful thing it is to have it published!”
LR: How does it feel to write?
LG: Writing is fun, it makes me happy to do it, and I have a story to tell... The backdrop of Anishinaabe (Ojibwe) history and worldview and impacts of government Indian policy on the world of northeastern Minnesota Anishinaabe life is the story I write to tell, through my perspective as an Ojibwe woman born in the mid-twentieth century who now lives in the twenty-first.
Many Anishinaabeg who went before me made this possible: writing is a privilege and an honor.