Read of the Week: Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes

As a parting gift to us, our Reading Resources Intern Deborah shared a recommended read for our revitalised Read of the Week feature, Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir by Ernestine Hayes.

Blonde Indian reads like fiction to me. It is, however, real life for thousands of people.

“Listen to me, Tawnewaysh. These white people kill something, and then they love it. They run us over, and they run the land over, and they take what they want, and when they got us beat they plant a fence around everything and say that it’s all theirs.” He covered his face with cheerless hands. His words choked through ragged fingers. “Our land,” he moaned. “Our forest. Our fish. Our stories.” With one more ragged sigh he dropped his hands. “Remember, boy,” he said. “Whatever they do to the land they’ll do to us.”

This story frankly states and shows the atrocities that were- and still are- being committed against Native Americans. Not only were their boys kidnapped, given a ‘white’ name, and essentially brainwashed into acting like a white man, but also whole tribes were eradicated, split up, and locked into reservations, which exist to this day. It is a story that will make you feel angry, but I also think it is one that is important to listen to and learn from, and that feels akin to the stories of many – in all kinds of different communities – who have not been allowed to be who they are.

As a memoir this is also a personal story about being losing one’s home, being forced to encounter homelessness, and returning. Because sometimes moving backward is the only way to allow for movement forward. And moving further and further away from your home is not always the best way to become happy.

As is stressed throughout the book, from grandmother to grandchild: “The spiders are your friends. The wind is your grandfather. The bear is your cousin. Remember who you are.

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