About Ernest Schusky
Ernest Schusky began graduate work in anthropology in 1952 at the University of Arizona. His field work focused on a Tohono O’odham biography of Roswell Manuel. Roswell was the first interpreter, policeman, Presbyterian elder, and one of Schusky’s foremost teachers. Schusky also had an incredible experience with Pia Machita, leader of a remote village that resisted Selective Service registration. Due to his inexperience Schusky said he failed to realize the importance of this incident at the time. However, he now hopes to bring the event to a wider audience through his novel, In Saguaro’s Shadow.
Two years in the U.S. Army interrupted academic work for Schusky; however, his time in Korea laid a foundation for his first published short story, “Korean Exodus.” Schusky returned to the University of Chicago where his dissertation research was directed by Fred Eggan and Sol Tax, experts on Native American ethnology and highly empathetic to Indian causes. Schusky emulated them in his own work.
During Schusky’s fieldwork for his dissertation he investigated why the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe agreed to end relations with the federal government under the Termination Policy. The work initiated a life-long interest in the relationship between Indian nations and the Federal Government. In the The Right to Be Indian, Schusky reported on a history of this relationship for the Institute of Indian Studies; the book was widely distributed afterward by the Indian Historian Press. In a later history of the Lower Brule Reservation, published as The Forgotten Sioux, Schusky showed Indian youth that their people had not been defeated, but rather had engaged in an ongoing struggle to define the sovereignty of Indian nations. It is the same struggle that the
In retirement Schusky’s fiction draws attention to events in the lives of Indians that have been ignored or misunderstood. His novel Journey to the Sun describes the reconstructed culture of prehistoric Cahokia—North America’s only urban site—by following a linguistically gifted young woman into diverse cultures and languages throughout the Mississippi Valley. He also wrote a non-fiction work about the Cahokia for young readers: Ancient Splendor of Prehistoric Cahokia. Ride the Whirlwind uses fiction to show how Pueblo Indians united in 1680 to drive out or kill every Spaniard in what is now New Mexico. Their victory provided a twelve-year period of freedom and an improved relationship with the Spanish after the Reconquest. Schusky uses a young Dene woman as the victim of Spanish slavery in the late 1700s and early 1800s to show the extent of captive labor in the Nuevo Mexico economy. Slaves were so numerous that they shaped the economy of all northern Mexico, yet slavery of Indians is often denied by Anglo society. Schusky’s novel Return to Beauty will enlighten people.
His latest novel, Too Many Miracles, is based on an actual incident. It shows the plight of detribalized Yaqui and Mayo Indians in the mountains of Sonora who search for an Indian identity. It also shows how sustainable agriculture must find a place in Sonoran agriculture alongside an escalation in producing export crops for a U.S. market.