Byron Dorgan (U.S. congressman and senator from North Dakota for 30 years before retiring in January 2011) will discuss his book “The Girl in the Photograph: The True Story of a Native American Child, Lost and Found in America,” 2 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 18, 2020 at D.G. Wills Books, 7461 Girard Ave., La Jolla.
Through the story of Tamara, an abused Native American child, Dorgan describes the plight of many children living on reservations and offers hope for the future.
Dorgan reports that on a winter morning in 1990, he picked up the Bismarck Tribune with a front-page photo of a small Native American girl gazing into the distance, shedding a tear under the headline “Foster home children beaten — and nobody’s helping.”
Dorgan, who had been working with American Indian tribes to secure resources, was upset. He flew to the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to meet with 5-year-old Tamara, who had suffered a horrible beating at a foster home. He visited with Tamara and her grandfather and they became friends; but then Tamara disappeared.
Dorgan would search for her for decades until they finally found each other again. This book is her story, from childhood to the present, but it’s also the story of a people and a nation.
More than one in three American Indian/Alaskan Native (AI/AN) children live in poverty. They are disproportionately in foster care and awaiting adoption. Suicide among AI/AN youth, ages 15 to 24, is 2.5 times the national rate.
As distressing a situation as it is, this is also a story of hope and resilience. Dorgan, who founded the Center for Native American Youth (CNAY) at the Aspen Institute, has worked tirelessly to bring Native youth voices to the forefront of policy discussions, engage Native youth in leadership and advocacy, and secure and share resources for them.
North Dakota Senator (from 2013 to 2019) Heidi Heitkamp has said: “ ‘The Girl in the Photograph’ is one of the most important civil rights books written in this century ... once you recover from your shock, the author gives you an opportunity to participate in the change that will restore opportunity and justice to the precious children of our first Americans.”
Dorgan is also the author of The New York Times bestseller “Take This Job and Ship It.” — dgwillsbooks.com