1. WingedClover

    WingedClover Member

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    Worldbuilding a Reservation

    Discussion in 'Research' started by WingedClover, Aug 16, 2019.

    I have thought up a a backstory for a native american character in my story, but my knowledge of the reservation is very limited. All I know about them is that they are apparently a rough place to live and that it's pretty much just drinking, hunting, dirtbikes and all of the like. But I also am trying to figure out the architecture... Is it like a large neighborhood with each house separated by dense forest or grassland or is there a trailer park as well?

    I've only heard it be sparingly spoken of among people I've met in college, but their testimony seemed shaky. It seemed more like one of my contacts was trying to exaggerate how rough the reservation is to come off as tough according to another contact whom is well affiliated with the people on the reservation.

    Does any of this prove true? I was thinking of treating it as it's own 'town' of sorts with a casino, trailer park, restaurant, houses and culture based on this information. Also, if possible... some information on "longhouse" would be helpful. I am of the Northeast, but I would like to know if reservations of the Midwest and West have any defining differences that offer up more life or accuracy in order to flesh out this special place.
     
  2. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    I imagine it varies considerably depending on what part of the country the reservation is in. I'm only knowledgeable about Seminole reservations in Florida. The Rez I worked in is out in the middle of nowhere, with a little casino serving as it's biggest draw. The people there definitely have their own distinct culture apart from their neighboring towns. Nearly every resident has a CBS home, and many of them are spacious. They have their own charter elementary school (kindergarten through fifth grade) which is well funded. There is a general store. They have their own police force (SPD). And they have a pretty nice rodeo arena. There really isn't much else outside of that.
     
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  3. Cdn Writer

    Cdn Writer New Member

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    Take a look at this:

    https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0106087/

    It's Canadian but it will give you some ideas.

    In Canada, my impression is that a lot of reserves are not the best places to live. Serious lack of opportunities for education and employment. For example, in a reserve with approx 300 residents, there may not be a school and children need to be bused to a school in a larger community. Also with 300 people, there is not a large potential labour force once you take out children, the elderly and people who can't work due to disabilities, addictions, criminal activities.

    In terms of economic development, a reserve all the way out in the boonies that is only accessible via air, there is no reliable manner for this reserve to transport any manufactured goods to market. If you want to have a serious "sticker shock" google 2% milk prices in winnipeg + 4 litres. Then repeat the search for Churchill, Manitoba or Thompson, Manitoba. Or Yellowknife, Yukon. Look at the price for fresh fruits/vegetables, things like ketchup or butter.

    Housing.....well, the first issue is that there was not enough. The second issue is that building techniques which were developed in the Southern parts of Canada were applied to the Northern parts. The housing wasn't designed for the extreme weather that it experienced over the course of a regular year. Then going back to not enough houses, housing that was designed for one family (approx 6 to 8 people) was asked to house upwards of 20 people at times.

    Water.....most reserves do not have healthy drinking water. You can google "boil water advisories + Canadian reserves" if you want full details. To make the issue even more depressing, look at how long the advisories have been in place.

    A few years ago there was some type of summit in Canada, the G20 or something. This was probably 15 years ago. A lot of protestors were demonstrating about a specific country's human rights record (don't remember which) and it came time for the president/prime minister/king whatever he was to make a speech. He stood up and said words to the effect of: "I've heard a lot about human rights this week. I am worried about human rights too. I'd like to know about the Canadian Indian, why he doesn't have safe drinking water, why do his children commit suicide, why he lives in poverty, why he has to use an outhouse or a slop bucket rather than enjoying indoor plumbing like every other Canadian citizens." Oh, shit!!! You should have seen the protestors after that....they were so deflated. Especially when the media started to look at the Canadian aboriginal experience and reported on things like the lack of safe water, the high suicide rates of aboriginal youth, etc.

    Anyways....google. I have the basics correct but not the specifics so don't depend on me being too accurate.
     
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  4. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I would suggest you read as much as you can. Read fiction and non-fiction written by the people who live there or have lived there. There are umpteen Indian authors around whose writings touch on, or focus on, reservation life That can certainly get you started.

    I think it kind of depends on which generations you are writing about, as well as the layout and location of the reservations, etc. I don't imagine life is the same for young people today as it was for their grandparents or great-grandparents, no matter what reservation they live on.

    The advent of casinos made a huge impact on reservations in parts of my home state, for example. When they were given legal status to run huge casinos, money poured in, and tribal members who had been dirt-poor suddenly had unexpected wealth. This had all sorts of effects on the way they lived...some good, some not so good. Similar to what happens to big lottery winners, except it happened to whole communities at once.

    I'd say start to focus your story ...generally where you will be setting it, and what time period, and what generations will be involved. Then dig in and do a lot of research.

    But maybe start by reading what Indian authors have written about their lives.


    https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&channel=trow&q=first+nations+authors

    https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-d&channel=trow&q=native+american+authors
     
    Last edited: Aug 16, 2019
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  5. matwoolf

    matwoolf Contributor Contributor

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    Maybe you only have to 'give the appearance' of knowing what you're talking about? Give yourself a chance.

    If you write it "was a ramshackle house on the edge of the reservation. Dust blew through the porch, coyotes sang distant harmonies from their far waterhole," I do tend to believe you, and fill the gaps with my own pictures.

    You can build the authenticity with a dozen trips to the Wiki, and you're away, and you are ACTUALLY WRITING.
     
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  6. badgerjelly

    badgerjelly Contributor Contributor

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    Try and catch the movie “Dance Me Outside” if you can.
     
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  7. WingedClover

    WingedClover Member

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    Thanks a lot. By any chance does the police force have it's own jurisdiction and does it work with the local police force outside of the Rez. As far as I recall, the Rez my contact spoke to me about had a fairly amicable relationship between the two forces.

    Yeah, I also want to convey is that if a person from the Rez ever does read it, they'll say 'oh this guy sounds like such and such that I've met here or my uncle or my brother'. Thanks a lot. The planned process is to study the culture and history so that I can ask myself 'how did this guy grow up and how did it affect him or push him in a certain direction', then I will draw a conclusion.

    Thank you. I will do my best to watch it. I've heard of Smoke Signals resonating with lot of young adults from the Rez. By any chance does it offer up a perspective.

    Thank you so much. I'm trying to basically create a reservation (maybe multiple over time) with people ranging from mostly young adults in their late teens, early 20s to middle aged adults to elders pushing through their 90s to give a full view. Almost like a sort of slice of life feel. And thank you for the information on the casinos, layouts and personalities of these various communities. That's a lot of variables that allow me to go off into so many different conclusions with how their lives turned out.
     
  8. Shenanigator

    Shenanigator Has the Vocabulary of a Well-Educated Sailor. Supporter Contributor

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    Having lived most of my life in Southern California and parts of the Southwest, economic conditions on reservations vary depending on the location. It also depends on the resources of the tribe (does the tribe own casinos/hotels/other holdings), how they're allocated, and how far it is from the nearest city. In the Southwest, many reservations are in fairly inaccessible desolate areas.

    I would not handwave any of the research on this. You're writing about a culture that's been much maligned, mistreated, and misrepresented throughout history.

    Don't ask us. Ask the people you want to write about. This is a case where I'd seek out people to interview who come from similar places as your character, before writing a single word.
     
  9. Bone2pick

    Bone2pick Contributor Contributor

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    They do have their own jurisdiction (the boundaries of the reservation), and they do work with local law enforcement. Keep in mind most SPD officers aren't tribal members. They're often former sheriff deputies from neighboring towns who jump ship for better pay and a slower paced work detail. Which means they all know the same people and are friendly with one another. You know, typical small town stuff.

    Same with their school. 85 - 90% of their teachers use to work in nearby schools. Most of which got fed up with their local school district so they opted to work for the Rez.
     
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  10. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    It depends on the reserve. The one I grew up on (in Northern Ontario) was okay. It was actually four reserves surrounding a backwoods lumber town, but it basically functioned as one large-ish town but one where everyone would pick up their gas and smokes in the suburbs because it was cheaper. There are some truly terrible reserves out there, but they're the news-worthy exception rather than the rule. Most of them aren't as nice as non reserves, but a lot of that has to do with location (most of the bad ones are very isolated) and management by the Band. Incidence of drug abuse and suicide are definitely higher, but they usually are in systematically oppressed communities. As for rough... yeah, there's a lot of fighting, but not all of it is malicious fighting. It's a very different culture that should really be thoroughly researched and witnessed firsthand with an open mind.
     
  11. WingedClover

    WingedClover Member

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    Thanks man. From what I gather when a community is oppressed it normally has something to do with corrupt leadership or some sort of law being detrimental to growth. Although, I'm not familiar with the Band. I've mostly met Iroquois because of where I grew up... and also a Lakota roommate during my college days. Is the Band something like how tribes and people are organized or accounted for?

    I distinctly remember noticing my supervisor was native because of her accent and she revealed to me her father was, but she wouldn't be recognized as native when she was born so they just cut off ties. Does stuff like that kind of hurt families or the community? From what I gather from another friend it's usually community where everyone knows everyone or they know someone related to that person.
     
  12. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    It's kind of like the people of the reserve, but more the government of it. Like, up here, when you're native, you could be Cree or Ojibway, and that would be your people you're a part of, like saying you're English or Jewish, and your band is a smaller unit within that, kind of like a tribe or a city state. The band governs the reserve, but you're also a part of that band, even if you don't take part in the councils or actual governmental work if that makes sense. Up here because of treaties, Natives do get certain benefits and tax exemptions, so if they want to take part in that, they do have to register and are given a status card to carry that has their band number on it, so it kind of follows you your entire life no matter where you go. So, I guess it's partly their organizational system, partly their home community, partly a bit of someones personal identity, and partly a label imposed by a repressive colonialist empire. It's complicated, thought it's mainly brought up in conversation as either the government or community/area. Context is important.

    That depends of government, like of the federal kind, and the band. In Canada, there used to be laws on the books that would strip native women of their status if they married white men and their children would not be eligible. There were a couple of other laws that kept legitimately Native persons from being able to register, too, but they've mostly been amended and now it's mostly up to the band to decide who is or isn't eligible. This could, of course, be prone to abuse, but it seems to work for the most part.

    My immediate family and myself are not status, but half of my nieces and nephews are as well as most of my cousins on my fathers side (including one who could be mistaken for an Aryan princess). It hasn't been an issue for us, but different families are different.
     
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  13. WingedClover

    WingedClover Member

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    Okay, now I am familiar with that. It's like being being of the Turtle, Bird or Deer clan of a tribe here. And I can make the educated guess the status card is somewhat similar to that of a card given to someone who is married/the child of military personnel.

    As for the fighting mentioned earlier. Is it just guys being guys like competition (be it for sport or over other things) or something like family fights where it may not be the healthiest thing, but everyone makes up in the end.

    Another thing I recall up here in New York is that there's a thing called Longhouse and you have your regular name and your Longhouse name (or am I recalling something else entirely.

    The last few questions I can think of at the moment right now are: Are Inuit counted as native or are they just indigenous? Do they even separate themselves from Islanders like Samoans, Hawaiians and Tongans or is everyone regarded as just "indigenous" instead of native? Is there is a big meeting place for a lot of native along the lines of a conference among leaders that try to improve conditions for everyone or even help improve the reservation system or even replace it?

    And lastly, since you are further north, how has Canada treated natives in comparison to the United States. I learned about the Red Power Movement here in the states and how the Alcatraz Protest turned out... as well as the well known Trail of Tears, Custers Last Stand and Tecumseh's situation... but we didn't learn much about the Canadian side in my studies here despite the close proximity to Niagra
     
  14. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    We have more of them because less were killed in outright warfare and a lot of refugees from the States migrated north, but they have not been treated well. There used to be extended programs endorsed by the government and carried out by several religious organizations intended to basically wipe out their culture in an attempt to "help them adapt better to modernizing society." One of the most public of these programs was a Residential School System that basically kidnapped children, taking them from their communities and making aggressive efforts to assimilate them as students. These schools were eventually closed sometime in the late '60s and early 70's, so there are still some people around that had attended them. None of the ones I've met ever described their time there as pleasant, if they were willing to discuss it at all.

    Inuit are original natives of North America, so yeah, they're Native. 'Indigenous' comes from the Latin 'indigena' meaning 'a native,' so they're that, too. Inuit are not, however, Indians under Canadian law. Indigenous is the preferred politically correct way to say Native, or Indian. While Indian is just wrong in everyday conversation, it does have a legal definition that hearkens to the times when these laws were made and treaties were signed. Both Indian and Native have collected some serious negative connotations over the years so indigenous or First Nations is probably the best term to use. You may even hear people using the term aboriginal instead of indigenous, but it means basically the same thing, but they use the Australian Aboriginal word for whatever reason.

    Yes, no, maybe. It depends on who's involved. It could also be used for dick measuring or even just something to do on the weekend. Point is, it's a culture where physical aggression is not nearly as vilified as in other parts of the world. It may not be the healthiest thing, but neither is active passive aggressivism. The main areas where it becomes a problem is when this culture runs up against people of other cultures that have never been punched in the face. I'm not saying there aren't problems with it, because there are, but it's probably best that we leave it up to the people within that culture to address those problems and present their own solutions given how well our intervening in that culture has historically worked.
     
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  15. WingedClover

    WingedClover Member

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    Didn't they even forbid the kids from even using their given names and they had to use their newly given christened names by the school/program? I can see why some indigenous peoples would be wary of the government of that. My professor also mentioned an attempt to sterilize indigenous women, but I've been unable to find any record of that, so I took it that as conspiracy theory. But this leads me to wonder if there are any non-residential communities that try to exist outside of reservations. I understand for years natives were forced onto reservations and even played a western game that referred to "renegades" or "cheyennes" escaping their reservation.


    Okay. Thank you for that info.


    Yeah, I can see why. You don't want to hold something against a guy and then just blow up and it goes out of turn. Just settle it right then and there. I've only heard of that happening once second hand from someone and that was a complete accident. Apparently a guy had long hair so someone insulted his hair and said "indian hair" which offended an indigenous guy behind him and caused a stir.

    Oh right, I definitely have to ask. Is there some sort of cultural connection to long hair? I knew a native chick who was obsessed with guys with long hair (not me tho, ya boi got an afro). Then I also recall scalping being a thing in some cultures and how a lot of guys rock their hair long, but I've seen some native dudes with shaved heads occasionally.

    Yes, it is best that it be sorted out among them, but I do wonder again about that system. I remember my old Lakota roomie being very prideful about how hardcore his Rez is and how subjugated the Natives were and his hatred of the Redskins... Then I had a friend who was one of the Iroquois tribes. She revealed to me that she secretly hated her reservation, although currently she seems happy. Do you think I should make my own conclusions about how the individual characters feel about the reservation or could that backfire and cause a disconnect from readers?
     
  16. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    Absolutely, but again it also depends on what group you're talking about. The Mohawk is called the Mohawk for a reason, though historically what we think of as a Mohawk was more worn by the Pawnee. Some group felt that hair should only be cut under certain circumstances and in some places having short hair meant you were in mourning for a loved one. Modern day, though, it's down to personal preference.

    Up here it was called coerced sterilization, because it was still illegal for doctors to do without the patients permission, but that didn't stop them from doing some not good things to convince them. As well as also actually forcing them by having people declared mentally incompetent and then performing the procedure on them regardless. Of note is that this didn't happen only on women.

    Scalping was a practice of removing someones hair and scalp from their skull by force and was practiced by some Native American peoples as well as other ethnic groups all over the world. Historical documents show that Earl Godwin was prone to having this done to people in medieval England. Though, in North America it was largely seen as a sign of savagery and godlessness of the native people even though they weren't the only ones there that practiced it and were frequently encouraged to continue the practice by people paying bounties for scalps. Also something that could be potentially troubling in conversation today and is a topic that should broached with great care, if at all.

    I think that would be topic where you have characters express their differing feelings and opinions, like the people you know did, and have the reader come to their own conclusions. It's a complicated subject and different people are different.
     
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  17. WingedClover

    WingedClover Member

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    The short hair mourning reminds me a lot of how the Romans would wear beards when they mourned.

    Thank you so much. I was able to find it via the words "coerced sterilization", now I will have to research that. I didn't know it was also the men as well.

    I didn't know it was seen as savagery. I always compared it to how people in the Old Testament like David would cut off few hundred guys' foreskin after a battle. Just a cultural difference.

    Thank you.

    Alright, I think we've covered everything that there is to cover... politics, government, society, history.. Oh and religion. I think I can look up everything online about that.. But is there anything that I have to be hands off about or anything like a cultural taboo or just something an indigenous person would never say?

    I also wonder what some indigenous people think of the character of Injun Joe in Tom Sawyer. I always saw the character as somewhat tragic since he clearly hated himself because of his environment. Although, I wonder if some people didn't take kindly to that, especially if that was someone's summer reading. I know the guy he was based on didn't quite like it and was a pillar of the community.

    The current idea for the story I'm going with is either a coming of age story, or thriller or urban fantasy. Reading Native Americans in Comic Books: A Critical Study recently has been helpful if I ever want to tackle a fantasy aspect that's related to the culture and not just a mutant like Forge without it just being a stereotype.

    Once again dude, you've been a godsend and thanks!
     

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