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New book by Kasey Keeler examines history of American Indian homeownership in Minnesota

A Native woman smiling, wearing a patterned blue and red dress with red beaded earrings, on the right and a cover of the book on the left. The cover has a black and white photo of a mother and child with a blue tint. Bold, yellow text overlays the image that says, American Indians and the American Dream.

A new book by Civil Society & Community Studies Assistant Professor Kasey Keeler explores American Indians’ relationship to suburbanization through processes of homeownership — a milestone for many in achieving the so-called “American dream” — and what it means to a population whose ancestral lands were largely stripped away.

American Indians and the American Dream, published by University of Minnesota Press, examines the long history of urbanization and suburbanization of American Indian communities in Minnesota. The book, out May 23, investigates the ways American Indians accessed homeownership — working with and against federal policy — and underscores American Indian peoples’ unequal and exclusionary access to the way of life known as the American dream. In doing so, Keeler highlights the significance of place and placemaking across an Indigenous landscape in Minnesota’s Twin Cities, a Dakota homeland.

Although nearly seven out of 10 American Indians live in urban areas, research about this experience is rare. Even more rare are studies about the lives of suburban Natives, the fastest-growing American Indian demographic.

At the intersection of federal Indian policy and federal housing policy, American Indians and the American Dream analyzes the dispossession of Indian land, property rights and patterns of homeownership through programs and policies that sought to move communities away from their traditional homelands to reservations and, later, to urban and suburban areas.

Keeler, also an assistant professor of American Indian Studies at UW–Madison, begins this analysis with the Homestead Act of 1862. She then shifts to the Indian Reorganization Act in the early 20th century, the creation of Little Earth in Minneapolis and Indian homeownership during the housing bubble of the early 2000s.

For Keeler, this book is also personal: she was raised in suburban Minneapolis and, as an adult, critically reflected on her experience and that of her family and peers. She aims to emphasize the sizable American Indian population in suburbs and the ways race and racism underscore their experiences. The near-total absence of scholarship on American Indians in suburbs elevates the significance of Keeler’s work.