121 pages 4 hours read

Louise Erdrich

The Night Watchman

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2020

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Themes

The Indigenous Effort to Survive

Characters in this novel must contend with two regular struggles for survival. The first is existential and is the result of efforts like House Concurrent Resolution 108 (“the Termination Bill”), which will harm their community if the United States government dissolves their treaties and revokes individual tribal recognition. For Thomas, this would mean “eras[ing] as Indians him, Biboon, Rose, his children, his people, all of us invisible and as if we never were here, from the beginning, here” (79). The bill is cloaked in seemingly neutral, if not positive language, using terms such as “emancipation,” which Thomas quickly sees through. The bill puts Thomas and the whole community in a tricky position in which they must continue to seek financial support from the government even though the government has been responsible for not only taking their lands but also decimating their ancestors through colonial massacres and forced schooling. To fight this bill, Thomas must work with state governments, not because the state governments believe that the bill is wrong but because they do not want to take on the financial responsibility of providing for Indigenous communities. This fight is one that exhausts Thomas; it takes all that he has until he finally has a stroke on the way home from Washington.

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