dramatic flair that made the long fringes on his leather jacket
dance, St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly unveiled this year's St. Paul
Reads One Book selection.
"Night Flying Woman,'' an Ojibwe family narrative by the late
Ignatia Broker, published in 1983 by Minnesota Historical Society
Paul schools superintendent Patricia Harvey, who shared Monday's
press conference with Kelly, pointed out that this is the first
book in the three-year-old St. Paul Reads program that was written
by a Minnesotan, the first by a woman and the first published by
a local press.
Paul Reads is a partnership between the city and the school system.
Its goal is to encourage high school students and adults to read
a "common book" they can discuss together. Previous selections
were John F. Kennedy's Pulitzer Prize-winning memoir "Profiles
in Courage'' and Christopher Paul Curtis' "The Watsons Go to
administration is a great believer in education as a foundation
for success, and strong reading skills are part of that foundation,''
Kelly said. "Reading one book is a unifying experience for
our diverse community.''
and Harvey pointed out that "Night Flying Woman'' (which costs
$12.95) perfectly fit the criteria for St. Paul Reads: It is well-written,
appeals to young adults and adults, offers positive themes and encourages
people to grow. The book also ties in with this summer's 150th Grand
Excursion celebration, because the story's narrator lived during
those times of huge and often painful changes in the lives of Minnesota
who was born on the White Earth Reservation, said she wrote the
book for "young Ojibwe who could hum the songs from the radio
but did not know the songs of the drum.''
can read all kinds of scholarly, dry things written in big words
about Indian people,'' Broker told the Pioneer Press when the book
came out. "But kids aren't interested in that. I wanted a character
kids can relate to.''
a fictional narrative born out of the Indian oral tradition, Broker
tells the life story of her great-great-grandmother, who was named
Ni-bo-wi-se-gwe Night Flying Woman because she was
born during a solar eclipse in 1860. Her family called her Oona.
family lived peacefully in the woods during her childhood. But they
had to move deeper into the trees when lumber companies began clear-cutting
the great pines.
Indians were forced onto reservations, Oona realized her family
would have to change some things, such as moving to a house in the
village and sending the children to school. But she struggled to
keep traditional Indian values, such as sharing with others and
respect for old people, the land and the "animal brothers.''
this book expands our concept of history beyond the viewpoint of
white people and reflects on the experiences of change that people
of many cultures have to confront,'' Harvey said.
an opportunity for us to learn a little about Indian culture. And
it's a story of hope and inspiration.''
expects the storytelling traditions in "Night Flying Woman''
will be familiar to the 800 Indian students in St. Paul public schools.
Native Americans make up 1.2 percent of the 43,000 students in the
city's public schools.
overcame a lot to write a book that was widely praised by book critics
and teachers and is still taught in high schools and colleges. She
received national attention in 1984, when she was among 14 women
over age 40 honored by the Wonder Woman Foundation for "achievements
based on principles and humanitarian ideals.''
Broker was only five years old, she was taken from her family at
White Earth and sent to the Wahpeton Indian School in North Dakota.
After graduating from West High School in Minneapolis, she attended
North Star College in Warren, Minn.
prologue to "Night Flying Woman'' tells of Broker's life in
Minneapolis and on the old West Side Flats near Lilydale. That's
where she lived while completing a course at the Minnesota School
of Business in 1953, earning a living by doing housework. She also
raised two nieces and a nephew.
the 1960s, Broker worked with American Indians Inc., Service to
American Indian Resident Students, Indian Upward Bound, halfway
houses and the minority task force of the Minneapolis public schools,
for which she wrote educational materials.
was one of the earliest staff members of the Upper Midwest American
Indian Center, where she headed a research staff that collected
data on the handling of welfare cases, mobility patterns of Indian
families and their needs in housing, employment, youth training
and community development.
of that research was used to better conditions for urban Indians.
this time, Broker kept journals and files in preparation for writing
a book. She used the typewriter at the American Indian Center to
finish "Night Flying Woman.''
Broker came to the Minnesota Historical Society Press with a sheaf
of dog-eared onionskin and carbon-copy pages, individual stories
she'd been trying to sell to women's magazines,'' recalled Patrick
McCormack, Minnesota Historical Society's head of program. "The
staff recognized immediately that Ignatia was a gifted storyteller.''
moved to Bemidji when she retired in 1981. She was 68 when she died
of lung cancer in 1987.
to St. Paul Reads One Book, a new generation is going to read her