"The reservations are not places that have been set aside; they're the heart of the heartland. They're central in the same way Indians have always been central to America's self-conception: as fantasy and history. Indian people have lived in tension with Western governments from the beginning. We had to be moved or done away with in order for America to take shape, but this had to be done in a certain way so America could keep its sense of itself as a moral democratic project. This raises all sorts of tensions, but also all sorts of possibilities, not least the unassailable moral position in which it puts us, as a set of sovereign nations within the United States."
At heart here is a sense of place, of identity, and it affects Treuer directly; even now, he spends about a third of the year "in some capacity" at Leech Lake. Yet this comes with a set of complications built in. What does place mean when land allotments have divided reservations up like checkerboards, so that in some, including Leech Lake, more whites than Indians live on native land? What does identity mean when traditional languages are dying, when the very thing that has brought money into Indian communities — the commercialization of the casinos — threatens to undermine a more traditional way of life?