PRIMER: David Treuer

April 10th, 2012, by

Photo courtesy: Van Evers, Tavis Smiley Media, Inc.

Airdate | Thursday, April 12, 2012

Hometown | Leech Lake Reservation, MN (but was born in Washington, DC)

Parents | Robert Treuer, an Austrian Jew and Holocaust survivor, and Margaret Seelye Treuer, an Ojibwe tribal court judge

Why He’s Buzzing | Rez Life, Treuer’s first full-length nonfiction work, offers a candid examination of what life is like on a Native American reservation and shines light on issues of sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource conservation and the historical relationship between the U.S. government and the Native American population.

David Treuer Trivia

  • He’s the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment of Humanities, the Bush Foundation and the Guggenheim Foundation.
  • His essays and stories have been published in Esquire, TriQuarterly, the Los Angeles Times, and The Washington Post.
  • Treuer attended Princeton University and wrote two senior theses, one each in the subjects of anthropology and creative writing. He also earned his PhD in anthropology. According to his 2006 bio on The New York Times, Treuer and his brothers were inspired to apply to Princeton after watching the movie Risky Business.
  • He’s an English professor at the University of Southern California.
  • His novels (see bibliography below) have been translated into Norwegian, Finnish, Greek and French.
  • According to the NYT article, he spent a year and a half recording, transcribing and translating Ojibwe speech with the goal of preserving the language. Only 15% of the tribe speak the language. (Watch a video on his embarrassing experience speaking Ojibwe.)


  • Pushcart Prize
  • Minnesota Book Award (1996)
  • The Translation of Dr. Apelles: A Love Story was named Best Book of the Year by The Washington Post, Time Out and City Pages, according to his bio on


1995 Little
1999 The Hiawatha
2006 The Translation of Dr. Apelles
2006 Native American Fiction: A User’s Manual
2012 Rez Life

Video: David Treuer Recalls an Embarrassing Moment Speaking Ojibwe

  • susan daley

    Hi David,

    I thoroughly enjoyed, ‘The Translation of Dr. Apelles:A Love Story’…I adored it. Thank you. I had family, non-native, who lived in Walker, Mn and we would visit there during the summer for short periods of time. I am now sixty-seven years old and that was a long time ago! I was probably seven or eight at the time. There would be a Saturday night pow-wow that I, of course, found fascinating. And to this day, I find Indian history very interesting, and I am looking forward to reading ‘Rez Life’. My maiden name is DeMarais, and I have tried to determine if we have native blood running through our veins…so far it doesn’t look like we do. I believe my DeMarais relatives migrated from Quebec and settled in Wisconsin. My father certainly could have passed for native during the summer months though. But, I have not made any historical connection. My aunt from Walker, when she was a very young woman, was a teacher at the Indian school in Ball Club, Mn. That was many, many years ago. I’m guessing somewhere around the years 1936-1946… there is no one left to ask today. I am aware of the name DeMarais being common on some of the Minnesota reservations, but can’t place any of my people there. My father’s family was small.

    So happy I became aware of you and your special talent and your interest in preserving native languages…so important.

Last modified: May 3, 2012 at 12:11 pm