Thursday, August 31, 2006

Rediscovered Book II -- The Light People by Gordon Henry

Gordon Henry, a member of the White Earth Band of Chippewa and professor at Michigan State University, published "The Light People" in 1994. The book is a collection of vignettes featuring Anishinaabe people. One vignette, "Requiem for a Leg," is about the discovery of an Ojibwe leg in a Minneapolis museum, frozen and preserved for all time. The story is about the discovery of the leg by members of the leg's family, so to speak. They make a demand for the leg and the museum denies the claim. A federal trial ensues.

The story of the leg had already been told earlier in the book in a chapter titled, "Oshawa's Uncle's Story." The leg came from a guy named Moses Four Bears around in the early 20th century. He had the leg amputated as a result of frostbite. He ordered younger family members to dress the leg in his best regalia and bury it. Of course, it was during a fierce blizzard and the leg was lost in the white blindness.

During the trial in "Requiem," the anthro who discovered the leg floating downstream in the spring brought the leg to the museum. All the anthros opined that is was evidence of ancient culture and was hundreds of years old. This portion of the trial is hilarious. The defense attorney for the museum is named Nugush. I can't repeat here what my grandmother told me that word means.

In the end, the court awarded the leg back to the family. A good story.


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