What is it about?

The diminishment of the ancient North American grasslands on both sides of the forty-ninth parallel and the undermining of Indigenous ways of life are among the most disheartening histories of the western states and provinces. When trying to
understand how such an alteration of the grasslands happened, writers and historians use words such as catastrophe, ecological
holocaust, and unmitigated tragedy. In the centuries since European contact and the radical transformations of European settlement, the Great Plains of North America has endured a thorny, difficult, disruptive historical passage that has significantly tested
Indigenous communities and the grasslands biome. In this essay, I focus on non-Native late twentieth- and early twenty-first-
century essayists from the Plains of Canada and the United States who are helping to shift the paradigm and define restorative narrative.

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Why is it important?

Reconciliation is an important process of decolonization in its nascent years in both Canada and the United States. Reconciliation brings Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities together to find a way into a better future, acknowledging the contested, often brutal history of settler colonialism and creating trust out of generations of distrust and betrayal. Restorative narrative is one way that writers from the Great Plains can contribute to this reconciliation process.


Writing "Restorative Narrative" gave me the opportunity to explore how non-Indigenous nonfiction writers are part of the Zeitgeist of the restorative journalism and restorative justice movements. In both of these movements, healing among communities that have been harmed by colonialism and racial injustice is primary. I have been heartened by reconciliation efforts in Great Plains communities on both sides of the 49th Parallel, and hope that my article will familiarize readers with writers addressing the harms that their own communities and cultures have propagated.

Susan Maher
University of Minnesota Duluth

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Restorative Narrative: Nonfiction and the Resetting of the Grasslands' Future, Great Plains Quarterly, January 2020, Project Muse,
DOI: 10.1353/gpq.2020.0000.
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