Broker, Ignatia 1919-1987

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BROKER, Ignatia 1919-1987


Born February 14, 1919, at Pine Point on White Earth Indian Reservation, MN; died of lung cancer, June 23, 1987; daughter of John Work and Emma Broker. Ethnicity: "Ojibwe, Ottertail Pillager Band and A-Wa-sa-si Clan." Education: Attended North Star College, Warren, MN, and Minnesota School of Business.


Civil servant in Hanford, WA, until 1945; Minneapolis Public Schools, member of the Minority Task Force, 1966-1987; wrote for the Audio Visual Based Indian Resource Unit. Worked for the Minneapolis Star and Tribune.


Upper Midwest American Indian Center (1971-72), Minnesota American Indian Historical Society (founder), National Indian Council on Aging, Ikwe Marketing Collective, Indian Upward Bound, Council of Native Americans, Concerned Indian Citizens, Indian AFDC, American Indian Center in south Minneapolis, Urban Indian Federation of the state of Minnesota, Division of Indian Work of the Great Minneapolis Council of Churches.


Wonder Woman Foundation Award in acknowledgement of her personal accomplishments in the face of adversity, 1984.


Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative, Minnesota Historical Society Press (St. Paul, MN), 1983.


Ignatia Broker was born at Pine Point on White Earth Indian Reservation, located in northwestern Minnesota. As a young child, she, like many children of her generation and generations to follow, was sent to a military-type boarding school, to be trained in the ways of the "white" people. The first school she attended was Whapelton Indian School, located in North Dakota. She remained there until 1933, completing the first nine years of her formal education. Then she was sent to Haskell Indian Institute in Lawrence, Kansas. Transferred once again, during her senior year, Broker completed high school in Park Rapids, Minnesota, then graduated after yet another transfer to West High School in Minneapolis.

Except for a few years that she spent as a civil servant in Hanford, Washington, Broker would spend the rest of her life in Minneapolis, working toward the goal of improving the lives of her Native American people. She accomplished this in many different ways. She was a member of many Native American organizations; she worked for the Minneapolis Public School system through which she helped to develop the Title IV Indian Studies Curriculum, was a member of the Minority Task Force, and authored several stories, filmstrips, and booklets for the Audio Visual Based Indian Resource Unit. In this latter position, she wrote a story called "Ahmik Nishgadahzee," an Ojibwe legend, and "Weegwahsimitig," a story about a birch tree.

Besides writing for the schools, Broker also wrote one novel, Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative, which was published in 1983, fourteen years after she first began writing it. The story concerns Broker's great-great-grandmother, Ni-bo-wi-se-gwe, also called Oona. It is through the retelling of Oona's life that the reader gains knowledge of the great changes that were happening to the Ojibwe people as white people began settling around their territories.

According to Katie O'Gara, who wrote an article about Broker for the Web site Voices from the Gap, Broker wrote her novel "with young people in mind. She wanted to be able to pass on the Ojibway ways to them and keep their traditions alive in the hearts of the young."

Broker begins the book with the words "My grandchildren," then proceeds to tell them the story of Oona, to offer them a philosophy for living in which people must always be conscious of keeping a balance between their own needs and the needs of nature and the land around them. With the coming of the white people, Oona and her people were constantly challenged in remembering their own ways. The white people insisted that the Ojibway become acculturated into the white society, imposing their lifestyle, language, as well as their culture upon them. Keeping life in balance was a major challenge for Minnesota's Ojibway people in the nineteenth century.

Broker's grandmother, Oona, was called a night flying woman because she had prophetic dreams. Although she could see the future in her dreams, she could not stop the future from happening. According to Gretchen Furber, in her Booklist review of the audio version of this novel, Oona "sadly recalls the loss of traditions and the hard choices Indians made to survive in white society."

Not only has the story itself been praised by critics but also Broker's ability to tell it. A reviewer for Choice stated: "Ignatia Broker writes with the beauty of Ojibwa female oral style." In a review from the Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, Mary I. Purucker, making reference to the audio version of this novel, not only commended the actress who recorded Broker's story but also applauded the author's storytelling abilities, which Purucker called "mystical." Purucker concluded that the audio recording was "a rewarding and pleasurable listening experience."



Booklist, November 1, 1997, Gretchen Furbert, review of Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative, p. 494.

Choice, March 1984, review of Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative, p. 1042.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, November, 1997, Mary I. Purucker, review of Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative, p. 48.

Library Journal, September 1, 1997, Barbara J. Vaughan, review of Night Flying Woman: An Ojibway Narrative, p. 233.


Voices from the Gap, (April 8, 2002), Katie O'Gara, "Ignatia Broker."*