Rez Reporter

This guy has produced some videos which are hilarious. The video accompanying the article is not his best, but it is safe for work. 

Last week, I taught three classes at a Young Author's conference in Thief River Falls. In one class were three Native boys who were full of vinegar, giggling the whole time. Like the Rez Reporter, they were from Cass Lake. 

We did writing exercises. The three guys kept including phrases which contained the word "tract." Tract dog. Tract kid. They had a character, whom I won't name, who they said was the ultimate in "tract." I thought this was some kid thing that I didn't get, like most of the pop references I heard that day, but finally my curiosity got the best of me and I asked them to explain. 

Turns out there is an area in town called "the tracts" which is apparently the butt of jokes. 

The kids had only a little bit of the "rezzy accent" described in the article. 

When I was in fourth grade, I attended Oak Hills Bible Camp. That year somebody decided to bus in kids from the reservation. It was half Native kids from the Red Lake Band and half Caucasian kids from small towns in the area. The social experiment did not work. Lots of fighting. But I made a native friend, James Downwind, who had a delightful sense of humor, a great accent which he used to make subtle jokes. Tanya Tucker's "Delta Dawn" was popular at the time ("Could it be a faded rose from days gone by?"), and I think James milked every phrase in the song for puns and jokes, most of which probably flew over my head. 

Fast forward thirty years. I went up to the Red Lake Reservation to plant trees. I was assisted by no fewer than fifteen teen kids who were in some sort of work program. I didn't have enough spades for them all, so most of them stood off to the side to wait their turn and gently mocked those of us who were trying to get some trees in the ground. What really got them going was when I tried to use a Bobcat. The controls were counter-intuitive to what I had learned on the Mitey Macs. I bounced the machine all over. When I finally gave up, oh the comments. And it brought back memories of James Downwind and his sense of humor. The humor takes the form of a slightly naive observer who slices the victim up in a story which starts in reality and graduates quickly to the absurd. I wish I had an example. 

While I was on the board of the Northwest Minnesota Foundation, I had many chances to visit Red Lake and meet the people and visit. Each time, I was transported to a different culture, one which exists in relative isolation only a few miles from home. And I think I had a smile on my face most of the time as the "rez humor" is a constant.