Tales of an Iroquois storyteller

A review of How to Be An Indian in the 21st Century by Louis V. Clark, III

This new biographical collection from Wisconsin Historical Society Press is an important contribution to our local and national culture. The cover art demands attention and I predict book groups will spend lots of time discussing that image as well as the poetry and prose of Louis V. "Two Shoes" Clark III. 

Louis grew up on the Oneida Reservation in northeastern Wisconsin near Green Bay during the 1960s and shares his history as an Oneida going to school, finding work, developing a social network and raising a family. Louis started writing poetry in sixth grade and this didn't make him popular. He was bullied and got beat up for being different and life didn't get any easier after that. Louis's treatment in school and later during his career was fraught with discrimination and hatred. The constant struggle to dismantle stereotypes is a theme throughout the book and that made me angry and sad.

The fact, idea or impression of Oneida heritage externalized by others has affected the author-poet deeply and his life story in poems recognizing this is sincere, somber, and at times wickedly funny. A poem about the issues surrounding Indian mascots for sports teams struck a particular chord with me, and I hope that other Wisconsinites and beyond will take this book to heart, as well.

Available in Too Good to Miss Collections at the Madison Public Libraries.