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Dartmouth College Case

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Louise Erdrich (birth name, Karen Louise Erdrich) was born on June 7 (some sources say July 6), 1954, in Little Falls, Minnesota. She was the first of seven children born to Ralph and Rita Joanne Gourneau Erdrich, both of whom taught for the Bureau of Indian Affairs schools. Erdrich was reared in Wahpeton, North Dakota, near the Turtle Mountain Chippewa Reservation, where her mother's parents lived. The family visited the reservation often, giving Erdrich a strong sense of her Native-American heritage. Erdrich's father was of German descent, and this part of her heritage was also fostered, although to a lesser degree.

In 1972, Erdrich entered the first co-educational class at Dartmouth College. She graduated with a degree in English in 1976 and then taught for the Poetry in the Schools Program sponsored by the North Dakota Arts Council. In 1978, she entered Johns Hopkins University where she completed a master's degree in creative writing a year later.

While at Dartmouth, Erdrich studied with Michael Dorris, a writer who was also part Native American. Dorris was an anthropologist who chaired the then-new Native American Studies program. After Erdrich graduated, she and Dorris stayed in touch and became literary companions. In 1980, Erdrich returned to Dartmouth as a writer-in-residence, and a year later she married Dorris. In addition to the three Native-American children Dorris had already adopted, he and Erdrich eventually had three children of their own. Erdrich and Dorris enjoyed a great deal of success as literary collaborators until their separation in 1995. Two years later, Dorris committed suicide.



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