Author finds her own family’s history entangled with government taking of Native land

In an excerpt in Time from her new book, “The Cost of Free Land,” Rebecca Clarren explores the “blank spaces around the edges” of her own immigrant forebears’ acquisition of land in the American west and their rise to the American middle class. Her research found that her family’s history was linked to the appropriation of land by the U.S. government from the Lakota Nation. By 1908, the year her Russian family was planting their first crops in South Dakota, approximately 98% of the land reserved for the Lakota by an 1851 treaty was owned by white settlers and railroads. Contemporary high school texts and politicians either ignore or minimize the stories of Native Americans in the 20th century, Clarren wrote. Her book, for which she received a grant and other support from the Fund, investigates how the United States repeatedly created laws and policies that benefited settlers such as Clarren’s family at great cost to Native Americans. The Boston Globe called the book “a monumental piece of work,” and the Jewish Book Council called it “powerful.”