Professor. Writer. Critic. Academic. David Treuer was born in 1970 and is a member of the Ojibwe tribe, people who live mainly in Canada and the northern United States. They are one of the largest groups of indigenous people north of the Rio Grande.
Treuer’s father Robert, a Holocaust survivor, met Treuer’s mother, Margaret Seelye, when Robert taught high school on her reservation. They settled together on the Leech Lake Reservation, where Treuer and his brothers grew up.
Treuer attended Princeton University where he wrote two senior theses for his Anthropology and Creative Writing degrees — his creative writing thesis advisor was Toni Morrison. Treuer went on to earn his anthropology Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1999.
Since graduating, he has taught at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis and Scripps College in California. Currently, he’s a literature professor for the University of Southern California’s Creative Writing & Literature program.
In 1995, Treuer published his first novel Little. Set up with multiple narrators, the novel mines “the layers of family secrets that have built up over three generations on a reservation town called Poverty, [where] members of the tiny community tell their own stories, leading finally to the heart of the mystery that surrounds an eight-year-old boy named Little.” The novel won the Minnesota Book Award.
Since then, Treuer has published a handful of novels. He has earned the NEH Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship. In 2014, he was awarded with the NACF Literature Fellowship.
Treuer continually goes back to his Ojibwe roots and is concerned with the preservation of the Ojibwe language. Currently, Treuer and his brother are working on a book of grammar to carry on knowledge of the language. As he explains, “it’s not clear why so many Indian critics and novelists suggest that stories, even great ones, in English by writers whose only language is English are somehow ‘Indian stories’ that store the kernels of culture.” Through this books, Treuer sheds light on the Ojibwe language and gives Native Americans another language to share their stories.