On the Rez is a sharp, unflinching account of the modern-day American Indian experience, especially that of the Oglala Sioux, who now live on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in the plains and badlands of the American West. Crazy Horse, perhaps the greatest Indian war leader of the 1800s, and Black Elk, the holy man whose teachings achieved worldwide renown, were Oglala; in these typically perceptive pages, Frazier seeks out their descendants on Pine Ridge—a/k/a "the rez"—which is one of the poorest places in America today.
Along with his longtime friend Le War Lance (whom he first wrote about in his 1989 bestseller, Great Plains) and other Oglala companions, Frazier fully explores the rez as they visit friends and relatives, go to pow-wows and rodeos and package stores, and tinker with a variety of falling-apart cars. He takes us inside the world of the Sioux as few writers ever have, writing with much wit, compassion, and imagination. In the career of SuAnne Big Crow, for example, the most admired Oglala basketball player of all time, who died in a car accident in 1992, Frazier finds a contemporary reemergence of the death-defying, public-spirited Sioux hero who fights with grace and glory to save her followers.
On the Rez vividly portrays the survival, through toughness and humor, of a great people whose culture has helped to shape the American identity.