Historians and authors Kent Koppelman and Dan Green (Ben Blue) talk about their collaborative book My Name is Not Chief: The Life of an American Indian.
Blue, born in 1956, bounced back and forth between the Ho-Chunk community in rural Wisconsin and the urban Indian community in and around Los Angeles. Over the years he seemed to fit the statistics that allows many among the white majority to shake their heads in despair and not think further about the matter. Ben Blue dropped out of high school, became a alcoholic, lived in poverty, watched his alcoholic mother being beaten, and faced both blatant and subtle racist discrimination. He found himself living at one point on Skid Row in Los Angeles.
He pulled himself out of this downward spiral, and he and Koppleman have constructed a page-turning narrative of that long struggle. Blue is a pragmatist who seized on whatever seemed to work in his battle against booze and drugs. He found strength in his own culture: the powwow community, the Feast Lodge, healing ceremonies, etc. His culture had been presented to him in fragmented form, but he turned even that into something positive by learning more about his own Indian culture so that he could present it to his two daughters. He found strength in other places: basketball, for example, and Alcoholics Anonymous. A crucial development in his life came when he went to college. He eventually received a master’s degree and became a college teacher.
Dan Green and Kent Koppelman do not pull punches in their description of Blue’s struggle. They have devised an exciting form of a hybrid biography/autobiography and left readers with a precious gift.
Dr. Kent Koppelman is Professor Emeritus of Education at UW-La Crosse, and Dan Green is an Educational Studies Lecturer at UW-La Crosse.