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November's Book of the Month with Milwaukee Public Library's Greg Comly

Greg Comly, Milwaukee Public Library November Book of the Month
Greg Comly
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Greg Comley standing in front of Aztec sun stone at Museo Nacional de Antropología in México City.

Every month on Lake Effect, we’re highlighting a Milwaukee Public librarian and their personal book recommendation in what we call our Book of the Month Series. For November, we’re looking at works related to Native American Heritage Month.

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James Welch
Fools Crow Book Cover

Greg Comly is the public service area manager of the Center Street Library.

"I ended up choosing a fiction one and a non-fiction one. It’s really important for me they also told this history from a different point of view. And that it being that it was more of a reflection of Native American history from Native Americans rather than colonists trying to tell their history," Comly says.

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Colin G. Calloway
One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark Cover

Comly's shares his fictional choice, which is Fools Crow by James Welch. He says main reason this book is his favorite is because the story is told from a Native point of view. The author, James Welch, was a Blackfeet Indian himself Comly says.

Other notable features of this book include the main character translating Blackfeet terms to English. One example is the main character's power animal, which is a wolverine. Comly says the word translates to "Skunk Bear." Another example is moon being translated and referred to as "night red light."

"[James Welch] has taken a lot from his own childhood, growing up on an Indian Reservation learning oral traditions of his tribe, and then putting that in a fictionalized historical account," Comly says.

Comly says that his non-fiction choice, One Vast Winter Count: The Native American West before Lewis and Clark, is another great read if you're looking into challenging the telling of American history.

History books focus heavily on the east to west movement or in other words, "manifest destiny" Comley says. The study of this movement focuses heavily on white narratives and can neglect the stories of Natives who were here before.

"The goal of this of this book is to really illuminate millennia of history — that is American history. One of the big takeaways of this book is: everything before 1492 is American history, and it's really important to see that history."

Comly encourages people to look around to learn more about the histories of Indigenous peoples and tribes, especially those here in Wisconsin.

"Read, of course, but that's not always accessible. Go to a museum, [and] talk to people," Comly says."There's more people than you realize in Milwaukee that are Native American."

Corrected: November 2, 2021 at 9:39 AM CDT
Previously we wrote: "Comely says the word translates to "Strapped To Bear." Another example is moon being translated and referred to as "night and red light."

We misspelled Comly's name. And the word translates to "Skunk Bear" and moon is translated into "night red light".

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