The Columbia Guide to American Indian Literatures of the United States Since 1945 9780231511025

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Table of contents :
Editor’s Introduction
The (Post) Colonial Construction of Indian Country : U.S. American Indian Literatures and Federal Indian Law
1. American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance
2. Cannons and Canonization: American Indian Poetries Through Autonomy, Colonization, Nationalism, and Declonization
3. American Indian Drama and the Politics of Performance
4. Sovereignty and the Struggle for Representation in American Indian Nonfiction
5. Imagining Self and Community in American Indian Autobiography
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The Columbia Guide to American Indian Literatures of the United States Since 1945

Columbia Guides to Literature Since 1945

The Columbia Guides to Literature Since 1945 The Columbia Guide to the Literatures of Eastern Europe Since 1945, ed. Harold B. Segel The Columbia Guide to Contemporary African American Fiction, Darryl Dickson-Carr

The Columbia Guide to American Indian Literatures of the United States Since 1945

Edited by Eric Cheyfitz

Columbia University Press New York

Columbia University Press Publishers Since 1893 New York

Chichester, West Sussex

Copyright © 2006 Columbia University Press All rights reserved. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data The Columbia guide to American Indian literatures of the United States since 1945 / edited by Eric Cheyfitz. p. cm. — (Columbia guides to literature since 1945) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0–231–11764–7 (cloth) 1. American literature—Indian authors—History and criticism. 2. American fiction—Indian authors— History and criticism. 3. Imperialism in literature—History and criticism. 4. Postcolonialism in literature— History and criticism. 5. Identity (Psychology) in literature—History and criticism. I. Cheyfitz, Eric. II. Series. PS153.I52C573 2006 810.897′009045—dc22 2005045451 I Columbia University Press books are printed on permanent and durable acid-free paper. Printed in the United States of America c 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Contents Editor’s Introduction / vii

Part I The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country: U.S. American Indian Literatures and Federal Indian Law Eric Cheyfitz / 1

Part II 1. American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance Arnold Krupat and Michael A. Elliott / 127 2. Cannons and Canonization: American Indian Poetries Through Autonomy, Colonization, Nationalism, and Decolonization Kimberly M. Blaeser / 183 3. American Indian Drama and the Politics of Performance Shari Huhndorf / 288 4. Sovereignty and the Struggle for Representation in American Indian Nonfiction David Murray / 319 5. Imagining Self and Community in American Indian Autobiography Kendall Johnson / 357

Contributors / 405 Index / 407

Editor’s Introduction The rules of legal culture rule out tribal stories and abolish chance in favor of causative binaries. —Gerald Vizenor, The Heirs of Columbus

European settlers built the post–1492 Americas on stolen Indian land with stolen African and Indian labor. The very European name “Americas” marks the moment of the beginning of this institutional theft. The United States is no exception. Where the Spanish invaded and settled in North America, stolen Native land and labor were part and parcel of the same violent movement to dominate Native territory and labor through a system of encomiendas and repartimiento (Weber 124–26; citations in this introduction can be found in “Works Cited” at the end of part I).1 The Catholic Church joined the state in playing a significant role in this violence. The Pueblo Revolt of 1680 was a rebellion against this system, which also included the suppression of Native spiritual practices by the Church. After the Spanish reconquest of the Pueblos between 1692 and 1696, the Indians found ways to create spaces for these practices under a somewhat chastened Spanish regime, which also began issuing grants to the Pueblos for their lands, thus recognizing them as communal freeholders. In their quest for colonial domination, the British and subsequently the United States never accorded such recognition to Indian communities. The patterns of exploitation in the British Americas and particularly in what would become the United States and Canada varied from the Spanish design. In the United States, the focus of this volume, control ranged from the antebellum period plantation system in the South, worked largely by the slave labor of Africans, to the smaller freehold farms of the Northeast and the Ohio Valley. But whatever the form of labor needed to work the land, farm, or factory, invading European settlers, with the implicit and explicit—that is, legal— support of the federal government, stole the land itself from hundreds of Indian communities (tribes or nations): Wampanoag, Narragansett, Pequot, Micmac, Passamaquoddy, Niipmuc, Mahican, Mohican, Anishinaabe (Ojibway, or Chippewa), Cayuga, Seneca, Onondaga, Oneida, Tuscarora, Mohawk, Seminole, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, Choctaw, Piankeshaw, and Potawatomi, to list only a few in order to suggest the legibility of all. The invasion and theft of land, and the genocide that accompanied it (see Thornton), extended into the transMississippi West after the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848—the result of the U.S imperial war with Mexico—and intensified after the Civil War. In the western as in the eastern arena, with civilian pressure for land supplying the impetus, the military waged a series of pre-emptive wars, marked by the use of terrorism against noncombatant Indian populations (women, children, and the elderly). As the historian Richard Drinnon has argued, U.S. imperialism did not begin in Vietnam (and certainly not in Iraq), but has its roots in the Puritan wars against the Indians and the Anglo-American policy of wars of dis-

viii Editor’s Introduction

possession that developed from the first colonial settlements. Acoma poet Simon J. Ortiz rehearses this history and its repression with a powerful reticence in his long poem From Sand Creek, memorializing the slaughter on November 29, 1864 of “105 women and children and 28 men” (n.p.) by the Colorado Volunteers of Colonel John Chivington: In 1969 XXXX Coloradans were killed in Vietnam. In 1978 XXXX Coloradans were killed on the highways. In 1864 there were no Indians killed. Remember My Lai. In fifty years, nobody knew what happened. It wasn’t only the Senators. Remember Sand Creek. (15) As in the East and South, Native armed resistance was strong in the West. From the 1850s until the massacre of Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890, the U.S. military fought a series of wars and implemented or condoned massacres of southwestern, northwestern, California, and Plains tribes: Navajo, Apache, Modoc, Miwok, Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne, Sioux, Nez Perce, Crow, Assiniboine, Blackfeet, and Paiute, again, to name a few in order to suggest a multitude. But ultimately armed Native resistance, largely decentralized except for temporary pantribal organizations, was overcome by the invading forces of the nation-state. Demographics certainly played a part. From 1492 onward, Native populations in the Americas decreased radically while European populations increased at the same or greater rates. From a Native population in what would become the continental United States estimated by the Cherokee demographer Russell Thornton at between four and five million at the time of the Columbian invasion, there remained 250,000 to 300,000 Indians by the end of the nineteenth century due to war, cultural attrition, and disease. While there was an inoculation for smallpox, first used in Boston in 1721, the English, who used smallpox-infected blankets as weapons of biological warfare against the Indians, did not make the controversial cure available to stricken Native communities; and vaccination, developed at the end of the eighteenth century, was not made available to them in the United States until the end of the nineteenth (Thornton 78, 82). The increasing efficiency (deadliness) of Western military technology also hastened Native armed defeat, particularly when coupled with the discrepancy in numbers. The organization of Native society in decentralized extended kinship communities, governed through a system of egalitarian consensus, worked against focused armed resistance, even as it worked for social and natural balance in everyday life, in ways that the West has

Editor’s Introduction ix

failed to grasp as it sinks deeper into environmental and social crises. Also, there were hundreds of tribes, culturally diverse, speaking hundreds of different languages, making transtribal organization difficult at best. Nevertheless, from the late seventeenth-century Pueblo Revolt, to the simultaneous Wampanoag/Narragansett resistance to the Puritan military, to maroon resistance (the joining of escaped African slaves with Native communities), to the Iroquois confederacy, to the rebellions of Pontiac and Tecumseh in the mideighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, to the Sioux/Cheyenne resistance against the U.S. military in the 1860s and 1870s, Indian communities managed alliances with one another in order to deal with imperial invaders both militarily and diplomatically. Although, for the most part, armed warfare between Indian nations and the United States ceased after the Seventh Cavalry massacre of Big Foot’s band of Lakota Sioux at Wounded Knee in 1890, transtribal alliances in the form of political action groups such as the Congress of American Indians and the American Indian Movement have been an important part of the political landscape in Indian country throughout the twentieth and into the twenty-first century. What needs to be emphasized about the European invasion and colonization of the Americas is that it began and continues under the name of law. Writing in the 1830s, the era of the forced removal (ethnic cleansing) of eastern tribes to the trans-Mississippi West, Alexis de Tocqueville put it succinctly: “It is impossible to destroy men with more respect for the laws of humanity” (I:355). The engine of this destruction was federal Indian law. And it is federal Indian law that today maintains the colonial structure of Indian country. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), Chief Justice John Marshall grounded this structure in the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, which gives the Congress the right “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes” (Article I, § VIII, ¶ 3). Some contemporary scholars have pointed to the fact that this one clause in the Constitution is at best shaky ground for justifying the “plenary power” of Congress in Indian affairs, a power that, accumulating over the years through congressional acts and Supreme Court decisions supporting and elaborating those acts, has extended federal control over Indian lands and Indian self-governance.2 Through an essay by Eric Cheyfitz on the intersection of U.S. federal Indian law and U.S. American Indian literatures, followed by a set of genre essays covering fiction (Arnold Krupat and Michael Elliott), poetry (Kimberly Blaeser), drama (Shari Huhndorf), nonfiction (David Murray), and autobiography (Kendall Johnson), the two aims of The Columbia Guide to American Indian Literatures of the United States Since 1945 are to provide readers familiar with these literatures a specific political context within which to read them, in line with a paradigmatic shift taking place in the field of U.S. American Indian literary studies; and to introduce new readers to these literatures within that context. Cheyfitz defines the shift as one from an ethnographic-formal approach, which characterized the earliest phase of Indian literary studies, from the 1970s until approximately 1990, to a (post)colonial approach, for which the history of U.S imperialism sketched in the opening paragraphs of this introduction is the ongoing context. As Cheyfitz explains, the “post” in “ (post)colonial” is in parentheses because while Indians became citizens of the United States by an act of Congress in 1924, tribally enrolled Indians simultaneously remained citizens of colonized tribes. This dual status is the status quo today. The essays that follow, then, are intended to construct a literary history of U.S. American Indian literatures that understands them as primarily responsive to colonial situations. At the intersection of culture and politics, these are literatures of resistance and liberation.

x Editor’s Introduction

As a history, the Columbia Guide is necessarily a representative rather than a comprehensive project. The contributors to this volume cannot claim to present here all the significant Native writing since 1945 (an impossible task in any event, given the rich abundance of this writing); but rather, through the use of examples, to suggest a historical-theoretical framework or frameworks within which to read U.S. American Indian literatures of or related to “Indian country.” As Cheyfitz explains in his essay, while all American Indians are Native Americans, not all Native Americans (Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives, to be specific) are Indians. Thus, the use of “Indian” rather than “Native” to modify “Literatures” in the title of this volume points to its primary focus on the citizens of and the exiles from “Indian country,” a legal term used to designate the land held in “trust” by the federal government for the 334 federally recognized tribes in the lower 48 states (Federal Register, vol. 67), those individual Indian allotments also held in trust, and any Indian communities that do not have a land base but are still federally recognized, which is relatively rare. Indian country is predominantly composed of reservations (tribal lands held in federal trust). It is in relation to Indian country that the critical mass of U.S. Native written literatures has been developed in the twentieth century by both tribally and non-tribally enrolled Indians. In discussing examples of Indian writing3 within the (post)colonial framework, this volume also suggests how indispensable a knowledge of this literature is for understanding the cultures and histories of the United States in its local and global contexts. For U.S. American Indian writing, in its explicit narratives and implicit references, gives a thoroughgoing critique of the violence of post–1492 European history, which has brought us to the local and global environmental and social crises of today. This writing also offers alternative visions to the violence, if we pay attention. We offer the Columbia Guide as one way of paying attention.4

Notes 1. Weber notes: “The encomienda never took root in southeastern North America” (125), but the system of repartimiento (forced labor) did. The encomienda itself represents the first “trusteeship” of Native lands in the Americas, in which tribute was collected from the Indians. And while it was against “Royal policy” for the Spanish to settle on “native land,” this policy was breached in practice (Weber 125). The “trust” relationship devised by the U.S. government, under which title to Native lands in the lower forty-eight states is held by the federal government, might be usefully understood as a form of ecomienda. I discuss the “trust” relationship in part I of this volume. 2. The legal history of the recent Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Lara, which upheld Congress’s authority to reverse a prior decision (Duro v. Reina) through legislative amendment, raises questions about the constitutional limits of the “plenary power” doctrine and about whether or not Congress’s “plenary power” is located in the Constitution or is a matter of federal common law. 3. It is necessary to note that when we refer to U.S. Indian writing or Native “literatures” in this volume, we are referring to writing in English; for from the time that the Cherokees adopted Sequoia’s syllabary for their language in 1821, various U.S. Indian tribes have transliterated their Native languages into orthographies for the purpose of creating reading materials for Native speakers. For example, the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper, first published in 1828, appeared in a bilingual form. 4. Because many Indian writers work in multiple genres, the reader will find commentary on some of the writers represented in this volume located in more than one of the genre essays in part II.

Part I

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country U.S. American Indian Literatures and Federal Indian Law Eric Cheyfitz

She was a bear and teased me in mirrors as she did the children, and at the same time she said that tribal stories must be told not recorded, told to listeners but not readers, and she insisted that stories be heard through the ear not the eye. “Printed books are the habits of dead voices,” she said and turned a mirror in my direction to distract me. “The ear not the eye sees the stories.” —Gerald Vizenor, Dead Voices The lives of American Indians are interwoven with the federal government. Federal ownership of tribal and individual lands, the expansive array of governmental services, the control and investment of tribal funds, the assumption of criminal jurisdiction—lives of few tribal members are untouched by the Washington bureaucracy of the Interior Department. —Vine Deloria Jr., American Indians, American Justice Here it doesn’t matter what was decided in the marble building in town. It doesn’t matter what’s written on paper. The old people are the ones who know the laws of this place, this world, laws stronger and older than America. —Linda Hogan, Power

This essay proposes to articulate the field of American Indian literatures of the United States within a political-historical context that could be termed “(post)colonial.” I place the “post” in parentheses to register the particularity of the ongoing colonial regime in Indian country, where Native citizens of the United States are simultaneously colonized citizens of Indian nations. In my understanding, postcolonial studies, operating for the most part within the theoretical sphere of postmodernism/poststructuralism, take as their proper field the histories of European imperialisms, manifested both in colonial situations since the onset of modern


Part I

globalization in 1492 and, where applicable, in the transformation of these situations into neocolonial or postcolonial predicaments. Surprisingly, then, postcolonial studies have virtually ignored American Indian communities in that territory known in European terms since the late eighteenth century as the United States,1 even though various U.S. Native writers have articulated the indigenous predicament in precisely (post)colonial terms, though without, necessarily, postcolonial studies’ commitment to postmodernist/poststructuralist theory. We might understand this indigenous (post)colonialism as emphasizing a practical or political, as distinguished from a theoretical or academic, postcolonialism, or what the Native nationalist school, discussed at the end of this essay, might understand as a (post)colonialism stemming from or emphasizing a tradition of indigenous intellectual sovereignty rather than a global cosmopolitanism. The Anishinaabe scholar and writer Gerald Vizenor, whose writing is committed to a radical poststructuralist (post)colonialism, is a notable exception, as is the cosmopolitan scholar/novelist Louis Owens, of Cherokee/ Choctaw descent. Acoma poet Simon Ortiz puts the indigenous political case this way, while at the same time including the international community: “We need to insist on Native American selfsufficiency, our heritage of cultural resistance, and advocacy for a role in international Third World de-colonizing struggles, including recognizing and unifying with our indigenous sisters and brothers in the Americas of the Western Hemisphere” (Woven Stone 27). Creek/Cherokee novelist and scholar Craig Womack brings the (post)colonial perspective home to Native literary studies in these terms: “I will seek a literary criticism that emphasizes Native resistance movements against colonialism, confronts racism, discusses sovereignty and Native nationalism, seeks connections between literature and liberation struggles, and, finally, roots literature in land and culture” (11). And Crow-Creek Sioux scholar, novelist, and poet Elizabeth Cook-Lynn suggests the as yet untapped usefulness of Native American studies to postcolonial studies: “Native American Studies as an academic discipline . . . could become one of the useful mechanisms for the deconstruction of colonization not only in academia but in society as well. This deconstruction . . . will require of postcolonial theorists that they come to grips with the realities of colonial domination of Indian/White relations in America” (“Who Stole Native American Studies?” 21–22). The ignorance within postcolonial studies, which amounts to an ignoring, of the Native American context may result from the domination of the field by African, Asian, and Caribbean agendas and paradigms grounded in the transformation of indigenous and creole societies in these locales into contemporary forms of the European nation-state, a model that does not apply to the historic transformations of Native American kinship-based communities under Euro-American imperialisms. As Cook-Lynn has suggested, it may be that “In the past twenty or thirty years, postcolonial theories have been propounded by modern scholars as though Native populations in the United States were no longer trapped in the vise of twentieth-century colonialism but were freed of government hegemony and ready to become whatever they wanted, which, of course, they were not” (“Who Stole Native American Studies?” 13)—and are not. On the other hand, the lack of engagement between Native American and postcolonial studies may result, at least in part and with a few notable exceptions (Owens and Vizenor are prominent, as is the non-Native scholar Arnold Krupat) from a resistance to or disregard for postmodernist/poststructuralist theory within certain segments of Native American studies itself, specifically those that operate not only within the Native nationalist par-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


adigm but also within what I term the “ethnographic-formal,” on which I elaborate in this essay. This resistance to theory, including the issue of disciplinary autonomy, which CookLynn and other Native scholars who identify with the nationalist approach to Native American studies have urged, may in part account for the almost total eclipse of U.S. Native American studies within the firmament of the postcolonial. The resistance to theory comes from two fronts. With the notable exception of Krupat, some of the most visible first wave of Euro-American scholar/critics of Native American literatures, like Charles Larson, Kenneth Lincoln, Elaine Jahner, and Andrew Wiget, have from the late 1970s onward grounded their criticism in a combination of ethnographic and formalist methods, which for what may be fundamental philosophical differences have not opened themselves to critical theory.2 At the same time, the group of nationalist Native critics, associated with the notion of “intellectual sovereignty,” have been suspicious of a body of theory that is grounded in Western philosophy and has with few exceptions overlooked Native American literatures in its formulations. So, for example, debates centering around issues of aesthetics and politics emanating from the Frankfurt School from the 1930s forward could have gained a crucial perspective from the identity of aesthetics and social practice in Native oral cultures, as explicated, for example, by the critical work of Greg Sarris and Karl Kroeber, discussed later in this essay. Until the 1980s the dominant approach in the field of American Indian literatures was the ethnographic-formal. It places a strong emphasis on the formal or aesthetic properties of Native texts in limited cultural contexts, while deemphasizing or ignoring the social, political, and historical contexts in which U.S. American Indian literatures take shape. The project of this essay, then, is to situate these literatures in their social, political, and historical contexts, which the term “ (post)colonial” will be useful in articulating. As noted, I place the “post” in parentheses when referring to “Indian country” (a legal termed defined in the “Editor’s Introduction” and below) because although U.S. American Indians became citizens by act of Congress in 1924, Indians who are members of the 334 federally recognized tribes in the lower 48 states and the Eskimo peoples (Yupik/Inupiat/Inuit) who are members of the 228 Alaska Native villages (Federal Register, vol. 67) still remain under what I will analyze as the colonial agenda of federal Indian law.3 Thus, Alaska Natives and tribally enrolled Indians find themselves negotiating in their daily lives a complex dialectic of the colonial and the postcolonial. The project of U.S. American Indian literatures in the contemporary period (post–1924) is the representation of this dialectic. However, Alaska Native villages, while coming under federal Indian law, are, crucially, not classed as reservations (with one exception), but as land-owning corporations under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971.4 In Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government (1998), the Supreme Court determined that Alaska Native villages, in contradistinction to reservations in the lower forty-eight states, were not “Indian country,” as defined in 18 U.S.C. § 1151, which, in broadest terms, includes all federal reservation land, all “Indian allotments,” and all “dependent Indian communities,” whether such communities are residing within a reservation or not. At the same time, in the Venetie case, the court recognized Congress’s constitutional authority to modify the legal definition of “Indian country.”5 In Indian country reservation land is land used by federally recognized tribes but titled to the federal government, which thus has legal ownership of it, keeping it “in trust” for the tribes, a relationship on which I will elaborate.


Part I

Native Hawaiians do not for the most part come under the dictates of federal Indian law because of a distinct colonial history, beginning in the late eighteenth century, which is still playing out. One of the leading textbooks on federal Indian law remarks: “There are several historical distinctions that separate Native Hawaiians from other Native Americans, though none of them explains adequately the federal government’s failure to assume responsibility for the protection of Hawaiian native people, their land, and their political status” (Getches 944). In From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai‘i, Haunani-Kay Trask gives an important history and critique of the (post)colonial situation in that state. Indians who are neither tribally enrolled nor recognized by the federal government as Indians are certainly affected by the (post)colonial situation of Native Americans, but principally when they are barred from realizing their self-ascribed identities by that law. As my discussion of Native Hawaiians and Alaska Natives suggests, the terms “Native” and “Indian” are not necessarily synonymous, though they can be depending on the context. All U.S. Indians are certainly Native, but all U.S. Natives are certainly not Indians, as the historical origins and situation of Native Hawaiians makes clear. Under federal Indian law, Alaska Natives are in certain respects legally Indians but not necessarily in all respects (the matter of land), and may or may not be regarded as Indians in ethnological terms. But the way a particular group defines itself (self-ascription) is of primary importance. My own usage of the two terms tries to be context sensitive, so that when I use the term “Native” I am at times referring to patterns, such as kinship relations to land, that, while allowing for local variations, apply to all the indigenous groups in what is now the United States. At other times, I use “Native” to refer to Indians, who come under the purview of federal Indian law. As noted, my purpose in this essay is to contextualize the history of Native American literary studies within the purview of the (post)colonial, not, I want to emphasize now, by borrowing a theoretical terminology from postcolonial studies (the terminology, for example, of the subaltern) but by adding one to it: the terminology of U.S. federal Indian law, the body of legal norms and regulations that since the late eighteenth century has increasingly constituted U.S. Indian “tribes” or “nations” as colonized communities. Criticizing Patricia Nelson Limerick’s assertion that “‘federal policy . . . is often . . . irrelevant to many aspects of everyday Indian life,’” Cook-Lynn insists on the importance of federal Indian law in forming the fundamental context for Native American studies: “the study of [the ‘machinations of the government and the courts’] should be at the core of curricular development” (“Editor’s Commentary” 7). In what follows I sketch a history of federal Indian law and related topics in order to delineate its force in the colonizing of Native tribes, or nations, and their resistance to that force, because it is my sense that very few readers of U.S. literatures, including, of course, U.S. American Indian literatures, are aware of this crucial history in any significant detail and so cannot understand its various effects, whether implicit or explicit, on the literatures themselves. The lack of awareness of the field of federal Indian law is in large part due to the fact that while studies of U.S. Native American oral and written expression to date have alluded to federal policy in Indian matters, they have done so at best in a fragmentary way, and never in a way that argues the intimacy of law and literatures in this field,6 with the exception of two essays in Abraham Chapman’s 1975 anthology Literature of the American Indians. Without commenting on their implications for the field of Native American literatures, Chapman reprints these essays by the Americanists Constance Rourke and Lawrence C. Wroth, which suggest one form of the intimacy of law and literature. In a book published posthu-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


mously in 1942, Rourke remarks that the pre–Revolutionary War treaties negotiated between colonists and Indians “are in truth our first American plays” (Chapman 259), a collaborative “poetry of a high order” (258). Without crediting it, Rourke seems to be taking off from an essay titled “The Indian Treaty as Literature,” published in 1928 by Wroth, who designates “these printed documents as the single original American contribution to the types of literary expression” (324). Wroth sees in the “dramatic form” (337) of the treaty a play of conflicting ways of life between Natives and settlers, what amounts to a classic drama of colonialism. Both essays point to a rich, potential field of study: federal Indian law as a collaborative American literature, in which the term “collaboration” would be understood in the nuanced range of its meanings from cooperation to coercion. Wroth is particularly interested in the treaties between the Six Nations of the Iroquois confederacy and the English colonists, at a time when the Iroquois held the “balance of power” (327) between the English and the French. That balance ended with the English victory in the French and Indian War in 1763, a necessary prelude to the American Revolution and the subsequent demise of Iroquois power in the context of U.S. expansionist politics, where it had no longer a strategic part to play. Wroth sees in these prerevolutionary colonial dramas, where the Iroquois and the settlers have a relative parity of power, nevertheless, a “tragedy” of colonial politics. For “it is possible to hold the balance of power and be at the same time the corn between the millstones” (327) of European political machinations. In these dramas the meaning of “collaboration” seems to emphasize cooperation. Yet, as Wroth suggests, if at this moment cooperation is the explicit meaning, coercion is the word’s implicit sense: “The Indian knew his doom was upon him, but he suffered no man to hustle him along the path” (327). As his melodramatic language suggests, for Wroth the treaty was a classical tragedy, with fate as the principal engine, whereas in a (post)colonial context we can read it as a documentary drama of cultural conflict over land within the context of global European competition for markets. Wroth not only calls our attention to the content of the law as drama, the Indian treaty as intercultural dialogue (and we should emphasize here that under the U.S. Constitution, the treaty has the status of the law of the land), but also to the form of the law as the expressive matrix of that content. If, for Wroth, the content represents a balance of power between the Iroquois and the English, in the matter of form, the Indians held sway: For the Indian of the of the Long House the dance of life went to a rhythm that reached back through centuries of ceremonial observance. Wherefore in the business of treaty-making he forced upon the white people the rigidly formal conference familiar in the day of his fathers and in the old time before the stranger was known in the land. To deal satisfactorily with him in treaty, the English and Dutch, matter-offact in affairs of court and camp, were compelled to adapt themselves to a procedure entirely foreign to their instincts and casual practices. (326) In spite of the ethnocentricities of Wroth’s perspective here (his blindness to the ceremonial form of European contracts so that he understands the Indian ceremony as “rigidly formal,” in stark contrast to the “casual practices” of Europeans), he points usefully to these prerevolutionary treaties as mixed, or collaborative, forms, written in English but incorporating Native oral traditions. Such incorporation of or attention to Indian oral forms would diminish as the collaborative treaty-making process became increasingly over time an exer-


Part I

cise in European coercion of Indians rather than cooperation between cultures. But the notion of a collaborative, or mixed, writing (a writing in dialogue with the oral tradition) points suggestively to the position of Native writing itself in a (post)colonial situation. As the Abenaki critic and writer Joseph Bruchac puts it: “expression of traditional values in the language of the oppressor has been one of the results of introducing a European written language into predominantly oral cultures. As is the case with African literature, Native American oral traditions and traditional values have breathed new energy into the adopted language” (322). In focusing on the collaborative drama of treaty making, Wroth inevitably calls our attention to the crucial problem of translation in the field of Native American literatures. At the treaty conferences, “The speeches, of course, were delivered through interpreters, and when the interpreter was a man of imagination, the figurative language of the natives was done justice” (327). The relationship of interpreters to “justice” (rendering accurately the Native diplomatic jargon) is, of course, not simply a formal but also a political matter. The very process of translation reminds us that to gain representation, both literary and political, in the treaty, one had to appear in the form of written English. How many Indians who were thus represented could read the texts that were representing them? Extremely few. Thus, even when the content of these early treaties between the Iroquois and the English refers to a cooperative collaboration based on a balance of power (not the absence of conflict, it is important to emphasize, but its containment), the form of the treaties as written English suggests coercion. If, as Wroth and Rourke argue, the Indian treaty is the archetypal American literature, it is precisely because the form and content articulate the colonial situation, where Indian communities are subject to, even as they resist, cultural, social, economic, and political translation. What is true of the form and content of the Indian treaty specifically is true of federal Indian law in general, of which the treaty is both prelude and complex basis. Within a Western legal framework, Native American tribes rightly claim sovereignty because the treaty by definition recognizes the parties to the contract as independent foreign nations. But increasingly, as we will read in what follows, from the Constitution forward, the U.S. government in acts of Congress and Supreme Court decisions compromised this sovereignty, until in 1871 Congress interdicted any further treaty making with Indian tribes, thus confirming Chief Justice Marshall’s oxymoronic definition of the tribes as “domestic dependent nations,” formulated in 1831 in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (17). This colonial dynamic of translation, represented significantly in the agonistic structure of federal Indian law, has been the major theme of U.S. Native American writing from its appearance in published form in the late eighteenth century to the present. Thus, I argue, federal Indian law has been the indispensable but obscured text and context to an understanding of U.S. Native American oral and written expression. I. Land Versus Property U.S. federal Indian law is grounded in the history of Western imperialism in the Americas, and in what were and remain the central issues in the conflict between Native communities and European powers: land and sovereignty. It is not only that the Euro-Americas are built on stolen Native land but also that the traditional Native relation to that land has always constituted a set of practices based in values radically opposed to what was emerging in sixteenth-century Western Europe as a capitalist relation to land, particularly in England,

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country 9

where, by certain accounts, that capitalist relation had been developing since the thirteenth century (Macfarlane). Trask articulates the conflict succinctly: “The constant fighting over land and water that we see throughout Indian country, in Hawai‘i , New Zealand, Australia, and other parts of the world is played out in the language of property law. The inevitable conflict between land that is collectively held and land that is individually owned will never cease because it is a conflict between cultures whose values are directly opposed” (107). I use the key but by no means transparent word “traditional,” which inevitably comes into play in relation to indigenous peoples in the contexts of the cultural ruptures that occurred because of the European invasions that began in 1492 and continue under the name of globalization. Marshall Sahlins has defined “tradition”“as a culturally specific mode of change” (quoted in Krupat, Red Matters, 21), and following Sahlins, Arnold Krupat has defined it as “the means by which changes are integrated into what has been known before” (60). Following Sahlins and Krupat, I use “traditional” in the present context not to denote unchanging cultural practices, the notion of which is in any case a fiction because all societies are dynamic and typically interactive, that is to say, historical; but rather to signify an ongoing resistance marshaled in the postinvasion period against the European translation of Native land, the inalienable ground of indigenous economic, social, and cultural life constructed through kinship relations, into property: land commodified and thus made alienable through its fungibility.7 Such Native resistance is exemplified in the present by the continued refusal of the Sioux Nation to accept from the federal government a monetary settlement, now with accumulated interest worth an estimated $350 million, for the Black Hills. In 1974 the Indian Claims Commission arrived at this settlement as repayment for the wrongful taking of this land by the U.S. government in 1877 (Wilkins 215–34). In spite of pressing poverty, for the Sioux, the Black Hills, central to their identity as a people, are not fungible. That is, the land is not a commodity that can be traded in a market but the very matrix of a historic community life the Sioux led prior to its violent disruption by the U.S. invasion of the trans–Mississippi West in the second half of the nineteenth century. It is this Native view of the relationship between land and community that I term “traditional.”8 Traditionally, land is the absolute resource of the Native community. Land mediates all relationships on a plane where the distinction between the sacred and the secular made by the West does not exist. In Western terms, all we can say is that Native land is sacred, the ground of a complex of spiritual beliefs and practices that have traditionally governed Native societies. In traditional Native kinship economies, which I define below, land was not marketable or alienable by an individual or group acting as an individual within the community. Thus, any treaty, signed by “chiefs” or other designated leaders, in which, centrally, the Indian “tribe” or Native “nation” alienated a portion of its land in exchange for payment of various kinds, is quite literally a sign of the imposition of Western terms on indigenous communities; treaties were always written in Western languages employing Western legal vocabularies, grounded in the term “property.” Native land, therefore, is not what the West understands as property, a decidedly secular institution, but is as a traditional value the antithesis of property. Property, in concept and fact, is the foundation of Western capitalist democracies, in the history of which land is the fundamental form of property. These democracies in their ideal, or ideological, forms as nations and in their instrumental forms as states (political systems that mediate, or express, the nation) are particular articulations of property, which is not


Part I

simply a material relation but, as implied in the very history of the word, a moral and social relation, what is proper, and a metaphysical one as well: the particular properties that define what the West has come to understand as an individual (Cheyfitz, Poetics). When the United States was founded, for example, only property-holding white males by and large had the franchise, that is, were considered individuals in the political realm. Even today, not to hold some substantial form of property in the West (typically a home and the land it stands on) is to have one’s individuality bracketed, to find one’s recognition as a person seriously compromised in the social, economic, political, and cultural realms. It is worth remembering in this regard that the Virginia Declaration of Rights, written by George Mason, the model Thomas Jefferson used in drafting the Declaration of Independence, explicitly equates, in its first section, “the means of acquiring and possessing property” with the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” In his “Plymouth Oration” of December 22, 1820, Daniel Webster succinctly sums up the centrality of property to the emerging Western nation-states in the age of democratic revolutions: “A republican form of government rests not more on political constitutions, than on those laws which regulate the descent and transmission of property.”9 At the beginning of the republic, land was the fundamental form of property. Even today, it can be argued, land remains the fundamental form worldwide: the foundation of real estate, for example, and of mineral wealth, indeed of the nation-state itself, which, however transformed by new corporate and political forms of globalization, remains the territorial arena for the two fundamental political issues of the modern era: sovereignty, and the radically unequal distribution of wealth both within and between nations. These are certainly the twin issues facing indigenous communities throughout the world, including, of course, the approximately 1.5 million Indians and Alaska Native villagers within the United States, who are governed through their tribes and villages by the colonial institution of federal Indian law.10 It has been the overriding purpose of this institution, from its inception in the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution to the present, to translate Indian land into property: not to entitle Indians to it, except, as noted, in the special case of the Alaska Native villages, but to legally entitle the federal government to it and thereby compromise the sovereignty of Indian communities. Over and against the property relation to land, which comprehends land as a commodity, alienable by an individual or an entity acting as an individual, such as a corporation, I can best describe the traditional Native American conception of land as the inalienable ground of the communal, defined exclusively in terms of extended kinship relations. In his poem “We Have Been Told Many Things but We Know This to Be True,” Simon Ortiz puts it this way: The land. The people. They are in relation to each other. We are in a family with each other. The land has worked with us. And the people have worked with it. (Fight Back 35) Referencing the Hawaiian situation specifically, Trask also sums up the kinship between all Native lands and all Native peoples: “The people cannot exist without the land, and the land cannot exist without the people” (116). Whether, to take some examples from the Native Americas, we are referring to such different social and cultural formations as those

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


of Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives, the Pueblos in what would become the southwestern United States (or the Mayan pueblos in Mexico), the Iroquois confederacy in the territory that is now the northeastern United States and Canada, the Creek or Cherokee towns in what became the southeastern United States, or the tiospaye of the Oceti Sakowin (Sioux) on the Great Plains of North America, the traditional Native community can be described as an extended family or system of interlocking extended families, often referred to as “clans,” working in concert for mutual sustenance. Larger formations such as tribes or nations, which typically are centralized political responses to the European invasion, remain based in decentralized extended family relationships. But we should be careful at this point not to conflate the Western nuclear family paradigm with the Native paradigm of family, or, as I prefer, kinship. The relational terms of English (“father,” “mother,” “brother,” “sister,” “aunt,” “uncle,” “cousin,” etc.) and their linguistic counterparts in other Western languages do not translate into the terms of Native kinship. In Navajo Kinship and Marriage, Gary Witherspoon explains this crucial problem of cross-cultural translation: “The point here is that there is no set of biological or sexual ties unless they are said by the culture to exist” (12; my emphasis): For those who follow American and European cultural beliefs, according to which “real” or “true” kinship is limited to those human beings who are blood relatives, it must be pointed out that Navajo define kinship in terms of action or behavior, not in terms of substance. Although the Navajo believe that through sexual intercourse and birth some kind of common substance is shared, their culture attaches no meaning to this alleged common substance. The Navajo never mention common substance in finding or invoking kinship ties and norms. Kinship is discussed in terms of the acts of giving birth and sharing sustenance. The primary bond in the Navajo kinship system is the mother-child bond, and it is in this bond that the nature and meaning of kinship become clear. In Navajo culture kinship means intense, diffuse, and enduring solidarity, and this solidarity is realized in actions and behavior befitting the cultural definitions of kinship solidarity. Just as a mother is one who gives life to her children through birth, and sustains their life by providing them with loving care, assistance, protection, and sustenance, kinsmen are those who sustain each other’s life by helping one another, protecting one another, and by the giving or sharing of food and other items of subsistence. Where this kind of solidarity exists, kinship exists; where it does not exist, there is no kinship. (21–22; internal references omitted) Thus, “Kinsmen are differentiated kinds of mothers who give and share according to need. . . . To put it simply and concisely, true kinsmen are good mothers” (64). Within Navajo society, then, one is not defined as a mother by the biological fact of birth but by what it symbolizes: ideally, the act of giving and sharing according to the needs of your kin. And, crucially, “There is an effort by the Navajo to think of, and to relate to, everyone in terms of kinship. Everyone is addressed as a kinsman; affinal terms and personal names are seldom used” (64). Whereas in the Navajo case the primary kinship term is -ma, traditional Native communities, whatever the particular vocabularies, are, like the Navajos, fundamentally bound together through the extension of kinship terms. In the language of the Diné (the word, meaning “the people,” by which the Navajo designate themselves), the term -ma is not equivalent to the Western term “mother.”


Part I

In comparison to the class and gender hierarchies of Western nation-states, which, as Mark Rifkin argues, are based in the structures of “heteronormativity,”11 Native communities were marked by egalitarian social and political structures, where group action was based on consensus, precisely because (from an economic perspective) the labor of all, female and male, was equally valuable for the sustenance of the group.12 The Navajo origin narratives, which I will consider at length in a subsequent section of this essay, take as their central theme the struggle or striving to maintain gender balance. Hozho, the central term in Navajo philosophy, synonymous with notions of psychic and social balance, translates variously into English as “happiness,”“harmony,” and “beauty.” And Witherspoon remarks, “Through their distinctiveness, males and females are related to each other as complementary equals” (24). Ideally, that is, they are in balance. Native kinship terms extend as well into the part of the world that the West has increasingly alienated, subordinated, and exploited as “nature.” Such extended kinship by folding nature into the Native community sets conservative limits to the use of natural resources precisely because they are valued as kin. William Bevis puts it this way: Native American nature is urban. The connotation to us of “urban,” suggesting a dense complex of human variety, is closer to Native American “nature” than is our word “natural.” The woods, birds, animals, and humans are all “downtown,” meaning at the center of action and power, in complex and unpredictable and various relationships. . . . Nature is part of tribe. (Swann and Krupat, Recovering the Word, 601–2) Santa Clara Pueblo scholar Gregory Cajete notes: “Most Native languages do not have a specific word for ‘animals.’ Rather, when animals are referred to they are called by their specific names. The fact that there are no specific generic words for animals underlines the extent to which animals were considered to interpenetrate with human life. Animals were partners of humans even when humans were abusive” (152). In the Navajo language: Essential parts, as well as the earth itself, are called mother. Agricultural fields are called mother, corn is called mother, and sheep [central to Navajo lifeways at least since the eighteenth century] are called mother. These applications of the concept –ma certainly make it clear that motherhood is defined in terms of the source, sustenance, and reproduction of life. (Witherspoon 16) In this regard, Witherspoon speculates that “mother earth” is not a metaphor but the literal ground of the notion of motherhood itself: “Maybe it is the earth who is really mother, and human mothers merely resemble the earth in some ways and are not really mothers” (21)—that is, I take it, not literal mothers. But it may be the power of Native kinship terminological systems that they break down the distinction between the literal and the metaphoric, a distinction so fundamental to Western notions of identity. James Axtell’s study of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century captivity narratives informs us that European captives, taken in frontier conflicts, were often adopted into Indian communities after going through rigorous ceremonies of cultural conversion to take the place of kin lost in battle (168–206). Arguably the first U.S. Indian autobiography published, A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (1824), as told to and written by James E. Seaver, is the narrative of a Euro-American girl who was captured by the Seneca in 1758, when she was sixteen years old, adopted into the community, and lived with them her entire life. Her descendants are members of the contemporary Seneca community.

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


The literary critic Kenneth Lincoln understands Native kinship relations as the basis of the oral tradition, what he terms “tribal poetics,” “an extended family that reciprocates among people, places, history, flora, and fauna, spirits and gods. . . . As with the land itself, the artists cannot presume to possess the living arts entrusted to them” (42, 44). Tribal poetics, then, are the poetics of kinship, of communality; and these poetics expressed in the various Native oral traditions and literatures, discussed in section V, “interconnect through a poetics resisting Euro-American literary conceptions” (45), which fundamentally pit the individual (artist) against nature. In theory and practice, the indigenous conception of community does not exclude conflict either within or between communities, as indigenous oral traditions clearly attest. That is, kinship is not an ideal but a real mechanism for managing conflict in societies that in most instances were without penal institutions until the twentieth century and in which, because of the importance of every person to the sustenance of the group, exile was an extreme and last resort.13 In the Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan’s novel Power, the narrator, a young Indian woman named Omishto, remarks “that in our language the word for ‘banish’ and the word for ‘kill’ is the same word; it’s the same because in the traditional belief, banishment is equal to death. It is death to be split from your own people, your self, to go away from the place you so love” (172). Banishment is death because in kinship-based cultures, as the syntax of the preceding sentence illustrates, the self is not opposed but apposite to the community. Within the context of this social universe, the Standing Rock Sioux lawyer and legal scholar Vine Deloria Jr. and his coauthor Clifford Lytle explain the philosophy underpinning traditional Native systems of justice: The primary goal was simply to mediate the case to everyone’s satisfaction. It was not to ascertain guilt and then bestow punishment upon the offender. Under AngloAmerican notions of criminal jurisprudence, the objectives are to establish fault or guilt and then to punish. The sentencing goals of retribution, revenge, and deterrence and isolation of the offender are extremely important (though the system often pays much lip service to the concept of rehabilitation as well). Under the traditional Indian system the major objective was more to ensure restitution and compensation than retribution. . . . In most instances the system attempted to compensate the victim and his or her family and to solve the problem in such a manner that all could forgive and forget and continue to live within the tribal society in harmony with one another. . . . Banishment was extremely rare in most tribes and represented a very serious breach of the fundamental folkways that bound the tribe together. . . . Selfhelp was prevalent in many tribes and the specter of continuing blood feud between powerful families, with its subsequent disruption of community life, was sufficiently distasteful to prevent family revenge from getting out of hand. (111–13)14 In the Native community, the killing of a member of one group (family or clan) by a member of another might be balanced by a single counterkilling or, alternatively, a payment of some kind, either of which, it was agreed by the aggrieved party, would close the circuit of violence. The anthropologist Circe Sturm references the Cherokee example: One of the clan members’ most important obligations to one another was to respect and maintain the law of blood revenge. This “law of blood” meant that if a member of the Paint Clan were killed by someone of the Wolf Clan, even if by accident, then


Part I

all Paints were morally bound to avenge the death of their kinsman. . . . The clan of the victim would usually exact vengeance by taking the life of the original killer, at which point “both clans involved would consider the matter settled because harmony had been restored.” (32–33; internal reference omitted) Interclan conflicts within the Hopi villages have been resolved historically by the formation of new villages, which nevertheless remain within the Hopi fold through clan ties that link village to village on the three Hopi mesas in northeastern Arizona.15 As Deloria and Lytle note, the last resort for maintaining balance in indigenous social systems was exile. Psychic and social survival outside the kinship community was precarious at best, and no person was superfluous to the community. These Native values of balance, the consequences of their rupture, and the communal mode of their restoration are beautifully depicted in the Inuit film The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat) directed by Zacharias Kunuk, based on traditional narratives of the Inuit people. As for intergroup conflict, what the West terms “war,” it is enough to say here that whatever its function (ritual, territorial, raiding) between Native communities, it cannot be understood in terms of modern Western warfare, which has been based in an imperialcolonial paradigm: the clash of nation-states over issues of property. Property issues persist even in what might appear to be the postmodern paradigm of a “war on terrorism,” for here too violence centers on the nation-state, which still struggles to maintain its territorial integrity, defined in terms of title, in the face of attacks by extranational and highly mobile organizations. Once capitalist economies disrupted Native economies, of course, Native kinship relations to land were disrupted by property relations and forced to come to terms with them. But Native communities have also managed to mount a continuing, if often divided, resistance to the institution of property. That is, the Western imperial invasions of Native America have brought collaborations. As noted, I use this key word, “collaboration,” in the range of its meanings from cooperation to coercion, emphasizing that in a (post)colonial context cooperation is always more or less inflected by coercion. In the post–Revolutionary War period in particular, treaties negotiated between the United States and Indian tribes were forms of coerced collaboration, a phrase that characterizes to this day the relationships established between Indians and the federal government by federal Indian law. The ascription of the interchangeable terms “tribe” and “nation” to Indian communities is itself a sign of this collaboration: the projection in the first instance of European conceptions of centralized governance and hierarchical social structure onto various kinds of extended kinship-based communities. Even the relatively centralized Iroquois confederacy governed itself by a mode of consensus located in the matrilineal clan structure of the five (and ultimately six) associated tribes (Richter 40–49); thus, the confederacy could never act with the unanimity of a nation-state, a sign of organizational failure, perhaps, in Western terms but a sign of egalitarian flexibility from a Native perspective. In time, to resist and deal with invading European powers, the kinship-based communities that shared language and other cultural patterns were compelled to build tribal or national, and sometimes pantribal, structures to conduct foreign relations such as defensive warfare and treaty negotiations and later to deal with and resist U.S. federal bureaucracies. The history of these pan-Indian movements—most of them marshaled to resist the European subversion of Native sovereignty in one form or another, from the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 against the Spanish through the resistance movements of Pontiac against the British in

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


the mid-eighteenth century and Tecumseh against the United States in the early nineteenth century, to the formation of the Red Power movement in the late 1960s—forms an important part of the (post)colonial contexts of Native American literatures. Today, the terms “tribe” and “nation” are common parlance in referring to Native communities, though Indians and whites often mean very different things when they use these terms, because each is grounded in the key word “sovereignty.” That term, which is at the very heart of Native politics both historically and today, is a vexed notion, for its meanings tend to conflate Western legal definitions used in federal Indian law, where Native communities have historically been grouped for bureaucratic reasons into tribes or nations, with Native notions. Deloria, for example, notes that Native ideas of sovereignty “can be said to consist more of continued cultural integrity than of political powers” (quoted in Wilkins 20) and the Mohawk political scientist Taiaiake Alfred points to an “indigenous reformulation” of sovereignty, which is grounded in kinship values (quoted in Wilkins 20–21). In Vizenor’s novel Heirs of Columbus, the federal judge Beatrice Lord remarks, “‘The essence of sovereignty is imaginative, an original tribal trope, communal and spiritual, an idea that is more than metes and bounds in treaties’” (7). II. The Colonial Construction of Indian Country In a speech given on September 8, 2000, at a ceremony on the 175th anniversary of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Kevin Gover, a Comanche tribal member and outgoing head of the bureau, issued “a formal apology to Indian people for the historical conduct of this agency,”“the first mission” of which, Gover stated, “was to execute the removal of the southeastern tribal nations. By threat, deceit, and force, these great tribal nations were made to march 1,000 miles to the west, leaving thousands of their old, their young, and their infirm in hasty graves along the Trail of Tears.”“And so today I stand before you,” Gover continued, “as the leader of an institution that in the past has committed acts so terrible that they infect, diminish, and destroy the lives of Indian peoples decades later, generations later.”16 The Bureau of Indian Affairs was established by President James Madison in 1824, as part of the Department of War. In 1832, Congress authorized the president to appoint a Commissioner of Indian Affairs; in 1834, Congress enacted a law to officially organize a Department of Indian Affairs. In 1849, the BIA was transferred to the newly created Department of the Interior. By the 1850s, overseeing Indian reservations had become its principal arena of activity, and it continues to be today (Prucha, Documents, nos. 33, 49, 54, 56). In this context, the term “colonialism” has a precise meaning: the control by the federal government over “Indian country,” which is centrally defined by the “trust” relationship. This relationship between the tribes and the federal government is at best a double-edged sword. Ostensibly guaranteeing federal protection of Indian assets, it also casts Indians in the role of perpetual minors, a legal version of the classic European stereotype of the childlike “savage.” Thus, Indians, by definition legally incompetent to manage their own resources, find these resources placed in the hands of a federal bureaucracy, overseen by Congress, which has historically grossly mismanaged them. The BIA is currently embroiled in an almost ten-year-old class-action lawsuit (Cobell v. Norton) filed by the Native American Rights Fund against the bureau and the Department of the Interior for the mismanagement of Indian trust funds since the end of the nineteenth century, estimated by the plaintiffs at over $10 billion. Gover himself was held “in contempt [of court in this case] in February 1999 for not turning over records,” which he claimed “no longer existed.”17


Part I

As it functions, the trust relationship contradicts what for the last thirty-five years has been the stated federal policy of increased “self-determination” for Indian tribes. Yet the tribes, rightly, resist any congressional attempts to dissolve this relationship (and only Congress has the authority to do so) because all such attempts ( the General Allotment, or Dawes, Act of 1887 and the termination and relocation policy enacted by Congress in the 1950s and 1960s) have only offered the dismemberment of the tribes and the dispersal of tribal lands as an alternative. The Dawes Act gave the president the power to translate Indian communal land into property and Indians into individual property holders (Prucha, Documents, no. 104). The act was meant to compel Indians to become individuals (competitive and acquisitive people pitted against one another in a market economy) through the socialization process of property ownership. Or, to borrow some words of Leslie Marmon Silko’s novel Ceremony (1977), which is set in Indian country in the post–World War II period but nevertheless echoes the federal ethos of the allotment era, allotment tried to compel Indians to displace words like “we” and “us” with “I” (125). Quoting Merrill E. Gates’s comments made to the “Friends of the Indian” at the Lake Mohonk Conference in 1900, President Theodore Roosevelt described allotment in his message to Congress of December 3, 1901, as “‘a mighty pulverizing engine to break up the tribal mass’ whereby ‘some sixty thousand Indians have already become citizens of the United States’” (Prucha, Great Father, II:671; Cohen 154).18 The General Allotment Act authorized the president to divide reservation lands he thought “advantageous for agricultural and grazing purposes” among individual Indians in lots ranging from 160 acres for heads of household to 40 acres for single people under eighteen, with the lands remaining after the division, so-called “surplus,” to be purchasable by the federal government for sale to settlers. As if to emphasize the social force of allotment in its effort to displace Indian communalism with Western individualism, along with the act came an official renaming program that replaced traditional Indian names with Western names that would redefine the kinship-based family in terms of the Western nuclear family for purposes of land ownership and inheritance (Prucha, Great Father, II:673–76). Thus, allotment marked a major attack on traditional Native identity formations, based on a sovereign relationship between kinship and land. Although not incorporated into the Dawes Act, a principal weapon in the arsenal was the federal invention of blood-quantum regulations for determining a person’s degree of Indianness, which developed as part of allotment policy in the wake of the Burke Act of 1906 (Prucha, Documents, no. 126; Great Father, II:881–85). The idea of blood quantum, which was a particular culmination of the scientific racism that had been developing throughout the nineteenth century, supplanted, or at the very least significantly modified, Indian cultural logics of identity, based on kinship relations, with a particular bio-logic of identity.19 The bio-logic of blood quantum brings into stark focus an English vocabulary that had been developing throughout the nineteenth century: the vocabulary of racial mixing (“amalgamation” before 1860; “miscegenation” after 1860), which in Indian relations took a particular form, now quite familiar to us. This form embodies the identity of the “mixed-blood” in opposition to the “full-blood.” This is a central figure of conflict in both federal Indian law and Native American literatures.Yet the way it functions in joining law and literature remains to be explored in Native American studies. Because of Cherokee importance in the development of both U.S. federal Indian law (see the section on the “The Marshall Trilogy”) and Native literatures (among other texts, the Cherokees gave us the first Native syllabary, the first Native newspaper, and the first Native

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


written constitution), the Cherokees provide an important and readily available history of the shift in emphasis from cultural to bio-logic in the colonial and antebellum United States. While in certain respects the trajectory of Cherokee history in terms of identity shifts is not universal in Indian country, particularly in its involvement with the Western institution of chattel slavery, it is broadly instructive, if not always representative, as regards the bio-logic of blood quantum in Native identity. Theda Purdue summarizes the processes of political change in Cherokee society that are imbricated with the shift in logics of identity: “Beginning in 1730 . . . Cherokee political history is the chronicle of the centralization of power in response to white pressure for Cherokee land and to the need for regulating the behavior of their own people for the protection of increasing maldistributed property. The process culminated in 1827 when the Cherokees organized a republic under a constitution patterned after that of the United States government” (“Cherokee Planters” 115–16). From a decentralized town structure, in which each community was governed through a process of consensus involving all members (as is typical of traditional Native communities) and the towns were informally linked through a matrilineal clan system (Persico 93–95), the Cherokees changed, first, under the British, into a tribal society with a centralized council representing all the towns, primarily in diplomatic relations, and then, under the United States, beginning in the early nineteenth century and culminating in the adoption of the Cherokee Constitution in 1827, into a nation that administered both domestic and foreign affairs through a republican form of government divided into legislative, judicial, and executive branches, with “the office of the principal chief . . . remodeled in the Cherokee Constitution in imitation of that of the president of the United States” (97–101, 105–6). By 1828, this national formation, thoroughly permeated by market relations, had made significant inroads in transforming Cherokee society into a class-based, patriarchal structure, which, in the words of Wilma Mankiller, former Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, “diminished” “the strength of our people”: “The clan system and the time-honored practice of descent through maternal lines began to erode. The Cherokee Constitution further limited women’s rights by excluding them from all government offices and prohibiting them from voting. Cherokee women were expected to become subservient and domesticated like white women, who were home oriented” (86). The Constitution also prohibited anyone of African ancestry from political participation (sec. 3 and 4). According to Purdue, “an economic class system began to emerge” in Cherokee society in the eighteenth century around the trade of “Indian deerskins and war captives” for “European ammunition, hoes, knives, hatchets, kettles, blankets and other goods”: Contributing to the inequality in wealth were the children of white traders and Indian women; such children inherited the mother’s tribal affiliation along with the father’s property. The warriors and descendants of traders began to dominate politics as well as economics. Previously, every man (and some women) had a voice in government, and leaders only advised and never coerced. But because Europeans desired the alliance of warriors and communicated more easily with bilingual descendants of traders, political power came to be concentrated in the hands of an economic elite. (Cherokee Editor 4) This economic and ruling elite was mainly composed of a small but nevertheless powerful slaveholding class: “over half the signers of the Constitution of 1827 owned bondsmen”


Part I

(Purdue, “Cherokee Planters,” 115). “According to the Census of 1835, the slaveholders cultivated more acres, produced more corn, and owned most of the nascent industries in the Nation” (117–18). Purdue offers an explanation for the ascendancy of this class, which in 1835 comprised 207 out of an estimated Cherokee population of 17,000 (Purdue, “Cherokee Planters,” 118; Mankiller 92); 168 of these slave holders “owned fewer than 10 slaves” and Joseph Vann, the largest holder, owned 110 (Purdue, “Cherokee Planters,” 118): Slaveholders controlled the government of the Cherokee Nation partly because they had created it, but also because their wealth and situation gained the respect of fellow tribesmen and enabled them to deal more effectively with whites. The slaveholders’ advantage over nonslaveholders in relationships with whites stemmed from intermarriage as well. Only 17 percent of the people living in the Cherokee Nation in 1835 had any white ancestors, but 78 percent of the members of families owning slaves claimed some proportion of white blood. Contact with a white parent or grandparent gave these people a head start toward “civilization.” Moreover, the Cherokee slaveholders seem to have identified linguistically with white society. Among the people (including infants and small children) living in slaveholding families, 39 percent could read English, while only 13 percent were proficient in reading Cherokee [the Cherokee government had adopted the syllabary of Sequoyah in 1821; and both the Cherokee Constitution and the Cherokee newspaper the Phoenix were printed bilingually]. In the case of nonslaveholding Cherokees, less than 4 percent were capable of reading English, but 18 percent could read Cherokee. Literacy in English clearly gave the slaveholders a tremendous advantage at a time when troubles with the whites were mounting. (117) The preceding citations register revolutionary changes in Cherokee communal and personal identity in the hundred-year period from 1730 to 1830, though not without resistance from traditional forces within the community (Persico 107–8). These changes worked to replace a nonprofit economy of kin-based communal land in which resources were equally distributed with a market economy of property relations in which certain people began to emerge as individuals, set distinctly and hierarchically apart through the production and investment of surpluses for profit. In Silko’s Ceremony, white psychiatrists tell Tayo “that he would never get well as long as he used words like ‘we’ and ‘us’”; rather,“he had to think only of himself, and not about the others” (125). Two models of sociopsychic health (the European and the Native) are embodied in opposed languages containing opposed subject positions: the individual and the communal, the “I” and the “we.” At Cherokee, a century of European and Indian collaboration was producing a new and antagonistic subject position. Purdue represents the antagonisms in relation to the introduction of chattel slavery in the Cherokee community, though elsewhere she suggests that they began to emerge earlier as a result of diverse pressures of postinvasion politics: Slaves were property and a form of wealth, but traditional Cherokee economics shunned both the accumulation of property and the acquisition of wealth and ridiculed the production of anything in excess of basic needs. A plantation system using slave labor necessitated some sort of centralized control and police power, but traditional Cherokee government bordered on anarchy, and enforcement of behavioral rules was strictly an individual or family matter. Although Cherokees recognized only

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


human beings and possessed no sense of racial identity before extensive contact with whites, the enslavement of one race by another inevitably produced a feeling of racial superiority among the masters. (“Cherokee Planters” 124–25; my emphasis; “anarchy” is an unfortunate choice of terms to describe the democratic, consensus mode of decision making.) In resistance to or compromise with this radical change of communal identity from kinbased to property/individualistic, the Cherokees, through their National Council, formulated a set of laws that, in effect, attempted to contain property relations in land within the nation while interdicting them in foreign relations. Persico summarizes: Another set of articles was adopted in 1825. Its primary objective was to confirm and to formalize the control of the General Council over the lands and other public property of the Cherokee Nation. Articles I and II stated that all lands and annuities were public property. Improvements on the land belonged to those who had made, or bought, them. Article III reserved to the General Council the exclusive right to dispose of public property. Articles IV and VIII denied the principal chiefs any power to dispose of public property, to make treaties, or to overrule the Council’s decisions. (101) “In 1829 the Council passed a law that made cession of tribal land a capital offense” (Purdue, Cherokee Editor, 24). This is a compromise formation, communal property, that from a traditional Native standpoint is an oxymoron. We can read in this history of Native identity that I am piecing together the emergence of bio-logic and its intensifying inflection of cultural logic in forming a new vocabulary of race. While in a passage previously cited, Purdue attributes the introduction of “a feeling of racial superiority” in Cherokee society to the institution of slavery, the identity of the masters in this case, an emerging entrepreneurial class of Cherokees, was already being reformulated beginning in the first quarter of the nineteenth century in terms of the new vocabulary of scientific racism that grounded the hierarchical opposition “civilized”/“savage” in a theory of “blood quantum.” In the simplest terms, this theory was grounded in the idea that the “whiter” one was the more “civilized,” with a concomitant erasure/naturalization of the political agenda that defined both “whiteness” and “civilization.” As noted, Purdue records the social circumstances of this shift in the emergence of a property-holding class composed of “the children of white traders and Indian women.” In addition to inheriting the property of white fathers, these children also inherited the valuable cultural capital of access to English, which gave them a considerable edge, not to mention an inclination, in collaborating with the European community. The collaboration included fulfilling the strategic function of translating between the two communities. This process of acculturation, which preceded the institution of slavery among the Cherokees, brought with it the bio-logic of blood quantum in the vocabulary of racial hierarchy, which ultimately rationalized the enslavement of black people. Thus a class of Indians nominated “mixed-bloods” or “half-bloods” or “half-breeds” in various discourses from the legal to the vernacular emerged in the antebellum United States. Such a class is referenced by these terms of blood quantum in the Opinions of the Attorney General of the United States in 1856: “Indians are not citizens of the United States, but domestic subjects. . . . Half-breed Indians are to be treated as Indians in all respects so long as they retain their tribal relations” (746). Over time, the class of mixed-bloods became identified with, if not wholly identical to, a


Part I

class within tribal society that was linked to white society with terms such as “friendly” or “progressive” and (stereo)typically opposed to a class of “full-bloods,” who in contradistinction were labeled “hostile” or “conservative.” The complicating factors in understanding such oppositions are well illustrated by John Ross, the first principal chief of the Cherokees under their constitution and a member of the emergent propertied class. A “half-breed” according to the Attorney General’s report just cited (752) and one-eighth Cherokee in terms of contemporary blood quantum (Mankiller 85), Ross was both a proponent of Cherokee adaptation of Western forms and an adamant opponent of removal (85–86). Thus, one might say, he was both “progressive” and “conservative,” “friendly” and “hostile” to U.S. designs, though we should also note that there were many “traditionalists,” most of them designated full-blood, who were opposed to both adaptation and removal. In the Cherokee Nation, these traditionalists were represented by the Keetoowah Society: Though the Keetoowah Society was open to Christian Cherokees, it did not admit members of mixed racial ancestry, and even educated full-bloods were suspect. Keetoowah meetings were conducted in Cherokee and the proceedings recorded in the syllabary, which provided a modicum of protection from curious outsiders. However, this “anti-mixed blood sentiment among Keetoowahs was strange, because several important leaders had mixed racial ancestry. . . . The categories of full and mixed were much more complex than mixed biological parentage.” Again, we see how fullblood and mixed-blood were social, cultural, and political constructs. “Politically speaking, the terms served as shorthand. Mixed stood for accommodation with whites, a willingness to negotiate. Full bloods were uncompromising and religiously insistent.” (Sturm 72; internal references omitted) It is important to emphasize, then, at every turn, that while the terms of blood quantum represent an emergent bio-logic, this itself is an effect of a particular cultural logic. Thus, terms like “mixed-blood” and “full-blood” seek to ground cultural practices and political decisions in the imagined stability of categories attributed to nature. These complicated alignments are the result of European colonialism, which instigated tribal factions that would continue to take shape in Indian country over the next century and comprise today a powerfully divisive force in intratribal politics, where in various reservation communities, grassroots groups, composed of people who identify with traditional cultural practices, oppose tribal governments elected within the terms of Western democracies.20 Mankiller summarizes these new biocultural or biopolitical identity configurations as they unfolded in the Cherokee community: “By the 1820s, the mixed-bloods, some of them with blue eyes and light hair, had acquired most of the tribal wealth. Even though they still had to share their power with the full-bloods, they held at least 40 percent of the Cherokee government posts. Although the majority of the white blood in members of the tribe came from the male side, an 1824 Cherokee Nation census noted seventy-three white women as the spouses of Cherokee men, and 147 white men as husbands of Cherokee women” (79). Mankiller maintains “that the influence of the United States government in the area of identifying Indians by degrees of native blood had not yet had its effect on our tribe. To the Cherokee mind at that time, one’s identity as Cherokee depended solely on clan affiliation. Ross’s mixed-blood mother was a Cherokee by definition because she and her sisters were members of the Bird Clan. Cherokee children belong to their mother’s clan and retain

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


membership for life, so Ross, too, was a Cherokee of the Bird Clan” (85). This bio-logic was a new discourse of identity in the West as well, in the process of forming and not fully distinguished yet from cultural logic, of which, as noted, it is merely a particular development. But in the antebellum period, bio-logic, however ambiguously, entered the discourse of federal Indian law in the landmark case of U.S. v. Rogers in 1846. The Lumbee legal scholar David E. Wilkins gives this summary of the facts of the case: [William S.] Rogers, a yeoman, got into a deadly scuffle in September 1844 with Jacob Nicholson, who, like Rogers, was Euro-American by race, had married into the Cherokee Nation, and was, by Cherokee law, a citizen of their nation. Rogers killed Nicholson by stabbing him in the side with a five-dollar knife. Rogers was arrested, then indicted by the grand jury in the district court of Arkansas in April 1845. When he was brought into federal court to hear the indictment, Rogers, representing himself, argued that the district court lacked jurisdiction to try him because both he and the deceased were regarded legally as Indians by the Cherokee Nation and under the 1834 trade and intercourse act the United States lacked jurisdiction in such cases [of Indian-on-Indian crime]. (39) The case came to the Supreme Court in 1846 “on a certificate of division” (45 U.S. at 567), the two circuit court judges not being able to decide the matter (ironically, as Wilkins points out, when the case did reach the Supreme Court, Rogers, unbeknownst to the court, had died by drowning during a prison break [40]). Somewhat contrary to Wilkins’s summary, Rogers, in his plea, did not assert that “he and the deceased were regarded legally as Indians by the Cherokee Nation” but that he and Nicholson were Cherokee Indians (45 U.S. at 568; my emphasis). This may seem to put too fine a point on the matter, but I think not. For Rogers’s identification of himself as a “Cherokee Indian” suggests an important tension between the cultural-political identity “Cherokee” and what was at this moment emerging as the racial designation “Indian.” That is, the identity of “Cherokee Indian” articulates a coupling of cultural logic with a bio-logic. A longer quote from Rogers’s plea can help us understand this coupling, which represents the historic shift in emphasis from Cherokee Indian to Cherokee Indian, that is, from cultural logic to bio-logic: “And the defendant further says, that, from the time he removed, as aforesaid, he incorporated himself with the said tribe of Indians as one of them, and was and is so treated, recognized, and adopted by said tribe and the proper authorities thereof, and exercised and exercises all the rights and privileges of a Cherokee Indian in said tribe, and was and is domiciled in the country aforesaid; that, before______ and at the time of the commission of the supposed crime, if any such was committed, to wit, in the Indian country aforesaid, he, the defendant, by the acts aforesaid, became, and was, and still is, a citizen of the Cherokee nation, and became, and was, and still is, a Cherokee Indian, within the true intent and meaning of the act of Congress in that behalf provided.” (at 568) The syntax of the plea suggests that to be a “citizen of the Cherokee nation,” which is to “exercise . . . all the rights and privileges” thereof, is to be a Cherokee Indian. On the one hand we can say that Cherokee thinking incorporates a biological term of race, “Indian” (coined by Columbus and acquiring its biological meaning in the nineteenth-century discourses of law and anthropology), into a cultural-political term, “Cherokee,” representing a


Part I

particular postinvasion national formation that took shape in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries in response to Anglo-American imperialism. The anthropologist James Mooney notes: “Cherokee, the name by which they are commonly known, has no meaning in their own language, and seems to be of foreign origin” (15). As a term of self-ascription, Mooney gives “Yûñ´ wiya˘´, or Ani´-Yûñ´ wiya˘ ´ in the third person, signifying ‘real people,’ or ‘principal people’” (15). But this unifying term of self-description may not have occurred prior to the period of nationalization; and Mooney also notes: “On ceremonial occasions they frequently speak of themselves as Ani´-Kitu´ hwagı˘ or ‘people of Kı˘tu´ hwa,’ an ancient settlement on Tuckasegee river and apparently the original nucleus of the tribe” (15; see Keetoowah Society above). We might speculate that before any national names took hold, clan and town names were the principal names of self-ascription for the peoples known now as the Cherokee. On the other hand, in contradistinction to the incorporation of bio-logic by cultural logic, Cherokee Indian can represent the invasion and displacement of cultural by bio-logic, as Chief Justice Taney suggests in his decision: And we think it very clear, that a white man who at mature age is adopted in an Indian tribe does not thereby become an Indian, and was not intended to be embraced in the exception [to the 1834 trade and intercourse act, which exempted Indian-on-Indian crime from federal jurisdiction] above mentioned. He may by such adoption become entitled to certain privileges in the tribe, and make himself amenable to their laws and usages. Yet he is not an Indian; and the exception is confined to those who by the usages and customs of the Indians are regarded as belonging to their race. It does not speak of members of a tribe, but of the race generally,—of the family of Indians; and it intended to leave them both [Rogers and Nicholson presumably], as regarded their own tribe, and other tribes also, to be governed by Indian usages and customs. (45 U.S. at 572–73) The preceding passage suggests that for Taney the issue is not whether or not Rogers and Nicholson are Cherokee Indians but whether or not they are Indians. The former designation would mean simply that they are “members of a [particular] tribe,” which Taney seems willing to concede; the latter designation, however, means not inclusion in a tribe but “in the race generally,—of the family of Indians.” Taney’s decision, in other words, gives us the generic “Indian,” invented by Columbus and here refurbished in the language of bio-logic. By 1850, four years after the court’s decision in Rogers, “formal racial classification . . . [became] operative on the census . . . and it was then left to white census enumerators to decide whether or not to accept the classification offered by those who were counted” (Krupat, Red Matters, 78). Yet the passage also implies that Taney’s bio-logical Indian is still operating under cultural logic, suggesting that we are witnessing here the historical moment when the biological Indian was still emerging from the cultural logic of local community, or tribal, logic. Note, for example, that Taney’s implicit bio-logical formulation—a white man cannot be an Indian—is contained within a cultural parameter: “a white man who at a mature age is adopted in an Indian tribe does not thereby become an Indian” suggests that white youths and white females can become Indians through the cultural logic of adoption. This apparently strange proviso may be prompted by the anxiety expressed in the opinion that the Indian tribes will become refuge for adult white male criminals seeking to escape U.S. juris-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


diction (45 U.S. at 573). Whatever its cause, its effect is to circumscribe a certain bio-logic by a certain cultural logic. Further, the definition of “Indian” that the opinion offers “is confined to those who by the usages and customs of the Indians are regarded as belonging to their race.” Thus, it would appear, the emergent bio-logical category of Indians as a race is determined by “the usages and customs of the Indians” themselves. The logic here seems circular: the race of Indians will determine who is an Indian, but the universal situation it invokes, being entirely abstract (there are in fact no generic Indians beyond various jargons, both legal and scientific, only members of particular communities: clans, tribes, and nations), returns us to the local situation (Rogers is a Cherokee), which Taney’s opinion, accepted unanimously by the Court, is trying to transcend with its incipient bio-logic. Prior to Rogers, as discussed previously, Indian communities under certain circumstances adopted Europeans, whether or not these communities referred to themselves as “tribes” or “nations” or with clan or kinship terms. But, it should be emphasized, adoption by the community did not make an “Indian,” a Western racial-political category, but a community member, a person belonging to a Native cultural category: a member of the Cherokee Nation, for example, or of the Bitter Water Clan, to take an example from the Navajos, who only became a “tribe” when they were forcibly tribalized by the federal government in 1868 and did not adopt the term “nation” to describe themselves as a political unit until a hundred years later (Iverson 245). The bio-logic beginning to emerge in Rogers would not reach its full force in federal Indian affairs until the early twentieth century, when it would become a distinct component, first, of government determinations of degrees of “Indianness” and, after 1934, of tribal determinations of their own enrollments as well. In the former case, as noted, the bio-logic of blood had its first major impact through policy stemming from the amendment of the Dawes Act in 1906. The ostensible rationale for the act was “progressive,” the assimilation of the Indians into the American dream of property-holding individualism: at first, allottees “born within the territorial limits of the United States” were automatically granted citizenship by the act (Prucha, Documents, no. 104, sec. 6), which in its original form placed their land “in trust” with the U.S. government “for the period of twenty-five years . . . for the sole use and benefit of the Indian to whom such allotment shall have been made,” at the end of which time the allotment was delivered in fee to the allottee (sec. 5). The citizenship provision was amended by the Burke Act of 1906, by which “the Indian became a citizen after the patent in fee simple was granted instead of upon the completion of his allotment and the issuance of a trust patent” (Cohen 154). The fact of allotment, however, was the massive impoverishment of Indian communities for the benefit of western development. In pushing Congress to annul the Dawes Act, which it did in 1934 with the Wheeler-Howard, or Indian Reorganization, Act (IRA) (Prucha, Documents, no, 141), John Collier, the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, sent a memo to Congress that tabulated the Native loss: “Through sales by the Government of the fictitiously designated ‘surplus’ lands; through sales by allottees after the trust period had ended or had been terminated by administrative act; and through sales by the Government of heirship land, virtually mandatory under the allotment act: Through these three methods, the total of Indian landholdings has been cut from 138,000,000 acres in 1887 to 48,000,000 acres in 1934” (Cohen 216).


Part I

Among the policies implemented in the wake of the Burke Act were authorizations for “competency commissions” to determine whether the newly compelled individual Indians should receive the patent to their land in fee or in trust. Government policy often, though not uniformly,21 deemed the individual “competent” if he or she were one-half or less Indian blood (Getches 174; Cohen 169). Just how autonomous the bio-logic of blood had become since its emergence in federal Indian discourses in the first half of the nineteenth century can be read in federal Indian discourses of the first quarter of the twentieth century. For example, United States v. Shock (187 Fed. 862 [1911]) finds: “The varying degrees of blood most naturally become the lines of demarcation between the different classes, because experience shows that generally speaking the greater percentage of Indian blood a given allottee has, the less capable he is by natural qualification and experience to manage his property” (Cohen 169). Similarly, the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for 1917 states: “While ethnologically a preponderance of white blood has not heretofore been a criterion of competency, nor even now is it always a safe standard, it is almost an axiom that an Indian who has a larger proportion of white blood than Indian partakes more of the characteristics of the former than of the latter. In thought and action, so far as the business world is concerned, he approximates more closely to the white blood ancestry” (169). Pronouncements like these reveal the cultural logic of identity formation through the social act of intermarriage being translated into the bio-logic of blood, that is, the naturalization or biologization of the social construction of race. From the time of U.S. v. Rogers to the present moment, the bio-logic of Indian identity politics has achieved increasing autonomy, which has generated a new configuration of racism. Between the institution of the IRA in 1934 and 1940, the BIA began to issue Certificates of Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB), though without, until the present, any written regulations for such issuance. Written rules were first proposed in 1986 and a draft was composed in 1992. The proposed rules were finally published in the Federal Register in 2000 (65 FR 20775) and, as of my writing, are still under consideration by the BIA.22 The following is language taken from the proposal: A Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood (CDIB) certifies that an individual possesses a specific degree of Indian blood of a federally recognized Indian tribe(s). A deciding Bureau [BIA] official issues the CDIB. We issue CDIBs so that individuals may establish their eligibility for those programs and services based upon their status as American Indians and/or Alaska Natives. A CDIB does not establish membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe, and does not prevent an Indian tribe from making a separate and independent determination of blood degree for tribal purposes. . . . The rolls of federally recognized Indian tribes may be used as the basis for issuing CDIBs. The base rolls of some tribes are deemed to be correct by statute, even if errors exist [“Base roll means the specified allotment, annuity, census, or other roll upon which membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe is based, as designated by a federal statute, by the Secretary, or by the tribe’s written governing document, such as a constitution, enrollment ordinance, or resolution; or the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act roll established pursuant to 43 U.S.C. 1604.” (65 FR at 20781)]. . . . All portions of the Request for Certificate of Degree of Indian or Alaska Native Blood (CDIB) must be completed. You must show your relationship to an enrolled member(s) of a federally recognized Indian tribe, whether it is through your birth mother or birth father, or both. (65 FR at 20776, 20778)

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


The bureaucratic language of Indian identity in the year 2000 is markedly different from that of the explicit language of naturalized racial hierarchies, which rationalized competency commissions in the Dawes era. We immediately recognize the latter, with its claims of innate white superiority, as racist, while the language of identity in the federal regulations proposed for the issuance of a CDIB appears in the bureaucratic rhetoric of neutrality. But in both cases the same colonial bureaucracy, albeit at different historical moments, dictates the legitimate forms of Indian identity for the purpose of resource distribution. Whereas the language of the Dawes era expresses unself-consciously the racial ideology that rationalizes the maldistribution of resources inherent in the colonial system of Indian country, the language of identity in the era of Indian “Self-Determination” (the typical title for the post–1970 phase of U.S. colonialism in Indian country) represses or disavows this ideology both in the very form of its expression (the “value-free” language of bureaucracy) and in the source of its promulgation: the contemporary BIA, staffed by “about 87 percent” Indians, including the Commissioner of Indian Affairs and “most of the high level Indian policy positions within the Interior Department” (Getches 239). An Indian-run BIA is the result of a provision in the IRA, which dictates Indian preference in hiring within the agency. This policy was challenged in 1972 by a group of white workers in the BIA, who claimed it violated the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, which prohibited racial discrimination in hiring. But the practice was upheld by the Supreme Court in a 1974 decision (Morton v. Mancari) that found: “The preference, as applied, is granted to Indians not as a discrete racial group, but, rather, as members of quasi-sovereign tribal entities whose lives and activities are governed by the BIA in a unique fashion” (417 U.S. at 554). In this case, it appears, the Court used cultural logic to trump bio-logic. Yet the regulation in the BIA manual, dictating the hiring preference and cited in the opinion, was itself contingent on the bio-logic of blood: “To be eligible for preference in appointment, promotion, and training, an individual must be one-fourth or more degree Indian blood and be a member of a Federallyrecognized tribe” (554).23 Contemporary regulations of blood, couched in a vocabulary that promises scientific objectivity and generated by an Indian-run bureaucracy, give the bio-logic of blood quantum legitimacy at a moment in which we are witnessing the biologization of a whole range of cultural logics organized around a naturalization and universalization of “the body” both as a material object of knowledge and as a metaphor for “human nature.”The historian Patricia Nelson Limerick has articulated the subversive effects of blood-quantum policy: “Set the blood quantum at one-quarter, hold to it as a rigid definition of Indians, let intermarriage proceed as it had for centuries, and eventually Indians will be defined out of existence. When that happens, the federal government will be freed of its persistent ‘Indian problem’” (338).24 “Jim Oyler” puts it succinctly: “Blood Quantum is just a way the non-Indian is doing away with the Indian” (Triballaw, Sun, 11 Jun 2000 06:25:37 -0700 [PDT]).25 Because of the way colonialism constructs Native bureaucracies, blood quantum also became a means in the twentieth century by which Indians are doing away with Indians. In the post–IRA era, the tribes themselves adopted blood quantum standards as part of their rules for determining tribal membership. Though they generally keep to the federal benchmarks of one-quarter to one-half Indian blood, some tribes have considerably lower minimums: For the Cherokee in Oklahoma descent from a person on the 1906 roll (no matter how small the percentage of Indian blood may be) is all that is required. Therefore, in order to limit the fiscal impact on the federal government, the BIA has an informal agree-


Part I

ment with the state of Oklahoma that the U.S. government will be responsible for the welfare payments of Indians with one-fourth or more Indian blood and the state will be responsible for those with less than one-fourth Indian blood. Various tribes specify one-half, one-fourth, or another degree of Indian blood for membership eligibility. The U.S. census counts anyone who declares himself or herself to be an Indian [although the Census 2000 Web site notes that the form asks those who self-identify as Indians to also write in “your enrolled or principal tribe”]. (Taylor 79) Even given the official respectability (both federal and tribal) of blood quantum regulations at the present moment, the language of the BIA on CDIBs suggests that the bio-logic of blood quantum cannot escape its ground in the cultural logic of the political history from which it emerges. For this language suggests the relative nonidentity of federally identified and tribally identified Indians: “A CDIB does not establish membership in a federally recognized Indian tribe, and does not prevent an Indian tribe from making a separate and independent determination of blood degree for tribal purposes” (my emphasis). The Rights of Indians and Tribes puts it succinctly: “Indian tribes have the authority to determine who is an Indian for tribal purposes but not for state or federal purposes” (Pevar 19) That is, there is no stable answer to the scandalous question that frames the U.S. legal history of Native identity from Rogers forward: What or who is an Indian? In 1979, in its opinion in the case of U.S. v. Broncheau, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit pointed to the legal instability of Indian identity: “Unlike the term ‘Indian Country,’ which has been defined in 18 U.S.C. s 1151, the term ‘Indian’ has not been statutorily defined but instead has been judicially explicated over the years. The test, first suggested in United States v. Rogers and generally followed by the courts, considers (1) the degree of Indian blood; and (2) tribal or governmental recognition as an Indian” (1263; internal references omitted).26 Broncheau points to not only the legal instability of the term “Indian,” which changes its shape from ruling to ruling, from federal to tribal regulations, but also the way federal Indian law has rationalized the historical ambiguities of bio- and cultural logic found in Rogers into the apparent clarity of a twopronged identity standard, of which, ironically, Rogers becomes the ground. However, the cultural prong of the standard is itself grounded in the bio-logical prong. For tribal membership, as noted, is itself widely dependent on some degree of Indian blood. The question, What is an Indian?, formulated as such in the wake of Rogers and the Dawes Act, appears officially, perhaps for the first time as such, in the Sixty-First Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs for 1892: “In close connection with the subject of Government control over the Indians and methods of administration, an interesting question has recently arisen, What is an Indian?” (31). Fifty years later, referring to historic shifts in the legal articulation of the term “Indian,” Felix Cohen’s classic Handbook of Federal Indian Law (1942) begins by noting “the lack of unanimity which exists among those who would attempt a definition of Indians” (2). “Who is an Indian?” is the first question under the heading “Frequently Asked Questions” on the BIA Web site, which was closed by court order in December 2001;27 and its answer is useful not so much for the information it gives, which in view of the legal history of Indian identity is necessarily problematic, but for the way it condenses and displaces the colonial history it represents: No single Federal or tribal criterion establishes a person’s identity as an Indian. Government agencies use differing criteria to determine who is an Indian eligible to participate in their programs. Tribes also have varying eligibility criteria for membership.

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


To determine what the criteria might be for agencies or Tribes, you must contact each entity directly. To be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an Indian must (1) be a member of a Tribe recognized by the Federal Government, (2) [be] one-half or more Indian blood of tribes indigenous to the United States (25 USC 479); or (3) must, for some purposes, be of one-fourth or more Indian ancestry. By legislative and administrative decision, the Aleuts, Eskimos and Indians of Alaska are eligible for BIA services. Most of the BIA’s services and programs, however, are limited to Indians living on or near Indian reservations. The Bureau of the Census counts anyone an Indian who declares himself or herself to be an Indian. In 1990 the Census figures showed there were 1,959,234 American Indians and Alaska Natives living in the United States (1,878,285 American Indians, 57,152 Eskimos, and 23,797 Aleuts). This is a 37.9 percent increase over the 1980 recorded total of 1,420,000. The increase is attributed to improved census taking and more self-identification during the 1990 count. The BIA’s 1993 estimate is that about 1.2 million of this total population live on or adjacent to federal Indian reservations. This is the segment of the U.S. Indian and Alaska Native populations served by the BIA through formal, ongoing relations. In the first place, we might wonder who exactly asks this most frequently asked question. Is it the general public of non-Indians interested in the situation of indigenous peoples in the United States? This seems doubtful. In a country where numbers (quantity) are a critical factor in gaining public visibility, Indians, as the statistics generated by the BIA show, form less than one percent of the population; and because the Native political agenda is historically one of sovereignty not integration, it has only a very marginal place in public discourse. Senator James Abourezk of South Dakota, who was a member of the Senate Subcommittee on Indian Affairs during his years in the Senate from 1973 to 1979 and a strong advocate of Indian sovereignty, is quoted as saying (one assumes with full irony): “Basically, Congress has no interest in Indians” (Benedek 151). If the people’s representatives are fundamentally indifferent to a portion of the people for whom they nevertheless bear full responsibility (“plenary power”), then why should the people themselves be interested? Or is it scholars like myself, non-Natives in the fields of postcolonial and American studies, who ask, Who is an Indian? There are very few of us as well. As noted, postcolonial studies, which ought to be interested in the situations of indigenous peoples internationally, has pretty much excluded these situations from its foundational discourses. This is emphatically true in relation to the situation of Native Americans in the United States. As for American literature and American studies, which ought to be centrally interested in these matters (after all, the United States was and continues to be built on stolen Native land), there has been relatively little attention in proportion to the importance of the issues and the richness of the literature, both oral and written. Finally, that leaves Indians themselves whom the federal government forces to keep asking the BIA this question, which should then be phrased not “Who is an Indian?” but “Am I an Indian?” or “Are we Indians?” The bureau’s deceptively simple answer raises further questions that suggest the way that Indian identity is bureaucratized, composed of legal and administrative contradictions or ambiguities and thus dispersed or deferred until tribunals of various kinds (courts, administrative panels, tribal councils) can come to decisions, which are at best only provisional.


Part I

For example, in answering the crucial question of eligibility for services implied in “Who is an Indian?”, the BIA lists two criteria with a modification of the second, as cited above: “a member of a tribe recognized by the federal government,” a person “half or more Indian blood of tribes indigenous to the United States,” or for some purposes “a person of a fourth or more Indian ancestry.” This language is a modification of the answer previously given to the same question in the third edition (1991) of the pamphlet American Indians Today: Answers to Your Questions: “To be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs services, an Indian must (1) be a member of a tribe recognized by the federal government and (2) must, for some purposes, be of one-fourth or more Indian ancestry” (13). The addition of one-half blood quantum to the rule cites as its authority section 479 of the 25th title of the U.S. Code, which in fact is the codification of section 19 of the WheelerHoward Act (IRA) of 1934 (see note 26). Why, then, has the bureau only recently added this proviso to its definition of “Indian”? Section 479 of title 25 gives a definition of “the term ‘Indian’” limited by the phrase “as used in this Act” (my emphasis). Thus, the BIA appears to be taking the definition out of context in order to generalize it. After limiting its definition to specific sections of the code, section 479 defines Indians as “all persons of Indian descent who are members of any recognized Indian tribe now under Federal jurisdiction, and all persons who are descendants of such members who were, on June 1, 1934, residing within the present boundaries of any Indian reservation, and shall further include all other persons of one-half or more Indian blood” (my emphasis). Whereas the latest available BIA definition of “Indian” specifies tribal membership and one-half blood quantum, except in certain circumstances where one-quarter will suffice, section 479 appears to say that a person is an Indian if he or she is either a tribal member or descended from a tribal member with a reservation residency status on June 1, 1934 or is “of one-half or more Indian blood.” (The qualifying phrase “all persons of Indian descent” seems redundant, but if taken at face value, raises troublesome questions, no doubt unintentionally, about how to determine such descent outside of the definitional boundaries of tribal enrollment and/or blood quantum. That is, how is “Indian descent” determined in the first instance?) Thus, the highly restrictive current BIA definition, which combines a high blood quantum with tribal membership, cites as its authority a more inclusive, if still restrictive, definition, in which one-half blood quantum is an alternative to either tribal membership or conditional descent from a tribal member. Whether the BIA’s citation of the IRA out of context is legitimate rests on individual challenges to the administrative rules governing Indian identity; but it calls attention to the increasing use of the bio-logic of blood quantum to restrict federal resources to Indians, though this trend is not simply linear, as the case of Zarr v. Barlow (1986) illustrates. The appellate court found that the BIA had no legal authority for its “continued application of a one-quarter degree Indian blood quantum eligibility requirement for Indian higher education grants” (1493), but that all members of federally recognized tribes, no matter what their blood quantum, were eligible for these grants. This definition of Indian identity, it should be emphasized, is restricted to the specific subject matter of the case at hand. In addition, it should be noted that the definition of “Indian” in Zarr excludes individuals who are not tribally enrolled but are nevertheless defined as Indians under the blood quantum and descent rules of section 479 of Title 25. While Zarr in combination with other identity regulations suggests the historic tendency of the BIA to interpret federal legislation on the side of the strictest blood quantum rules, the case also points to a tendency on the part of the courts and Congress to make blood

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


quantum and tribal membership separate categories, as if tribal membership were itself not a part of the blood quantum system, with, as noted above, “many” tribes requiring a quarter-blood quantum or more for membership. Further, Zarr comes right to the brink of admitting the incoherence of federal attempts to define Indian identity, when it allows that there might be “ambiguity concerning the interpretation and co-application” of the acts involved in these identity regulations. In light of this acknowledgment, the court’s declaration “that . . . any ambiguity . . . should be resolved in favor of including all enrolled members of recognized tribes within the grant program” (1493) seems ironic. Finally, in elaborating a history of the continual federal amending of Indian identity from 1934 to the present, Zarr implicitly emphasizes the kind of structural contradictions to which I am pointing, which result in the fundamental incoherence of the whole colonial system based in federal Indian law, founded on an immense historical proliferation of laws, legal cases, and regulations that cannot possibly be comprehended in any systematic way. From its beginnings in the 1970s, criticism of Native American literatures has made the question “What is an Indian?” central to its project. The problem is that this criticism does not recognize the political history of the question, which Rogers and its progeny represent. In the first book-length study of the American Indian novel, published in 1978, Charles R. Larson begins by noting: “The concept of Indian identity . . . is a difficult one” (2). And after musing on the blood quantum and phenotype of several Native authors, including N. Scott Momaday and John Joseph Mathews (both now securely in the Native American literary canon), Larson asks: “In short, how can we determine that the writers discussed in this study are American Indians? How can we be certain, even, that they wrote the works attributed to them? I ask these questions because the two primary qualifications for inclusion of an author in this study are, first, the establishment that he or she is genuinely a Native American, and, second, that he wrote the novel himself without the aid of a collaborator or an amanuensis” (4). We will return to the issue of literary collaborations between Indian and whites (see discussions that follow of Black Elk Speaks and The Autobiography of Black Hawk), but I want to note here that Larson is preoccupied with who is “genuinely a Native American” but at the same time is unable to supply a precise definition of “genuine.” Larson’s rejection of fiction written in collaboration with a non-Indian appears to be based on a desire not to dilute or compromise the “‘Indianness’” (2) of the works he includes. Thus, he marginalizes what is now considered to be a major Indian novel, indeed the first major Indian novel published in the twentieth century and, I would argue, the first major Indian novel published,28 Cogewea, the Half-Blood (1927) by Mourning Dove, because she collaborated with Lucullus Virgil McWhorter (5). As for his working definition of “Indianness” in the first place, Larson turns to the tribal rolls: The inclusion of a writer’s name on the rolls of his specific tribe (compiled by tribal leaders and kept in the tribal headquarters as well as in the Bureau of Indian Affairs) implies a kind of kinship with his fellow tribesman. . . . Although their importance should not be overemphasized, the rolls are valuable documents for establishing certain factual matters about these writers. . . . What is of especial interest for my study here is the “degree” of Indian blood suggested by the tribal rolls. This is not simply a matter of the earliest writers having increased educational opportunities if they were mixed bloods. Nor am I trying to suggest that the closer the writer is to being full blood the more truly “Indian” his writing is. . . . My concern with these [enrollment]


Part I

figures has only been to suggest that although a significant test of a writer’s Indian origins falls back on the rolls themselves, compiled by the tribal councils, the “Indianness” of the writing may have little to do with these figures. What is of equal importance is historical or documentary information about the writers that attests to their general acceptance by their own people. . . . Known acceptance by one’s peers, then, is probably a more meaningful test of Indianness. Along these lines, it should be pointed out that many of the writers discussed in this volume have had their work included in anthologies of American Indian writing, edited by American Indians—a further test of this acceptance. (6–8) Larson’s definition hinges on acceptance by an Indian community, either formal (tribal rolls) or, more important for Larson, informal (acceptance by a Native literary community, as represented by “anthologies of American Indian writing, edited by American Indians”). Such community-centered criteria are certainly used today to determine the “Indianness” of Indian writing. But Larson’s presentation of them is circular: how do those Indians who edit Indian anthologies come to be recognized as Indians themselves, if not by the identical processes (tribal enrollment and/or appearance in Indian anthologies) Larson is using to establish his notion of “Indianness” in the first place? Hence, the way he presents his criteria does not answer the question of who is an Indian but begs it in an endless regression. He fails to query the politics of the question itself; that is, he invokes the tribal rolls initially but does not historicize them by connecting them to the colonial history of federal Indian law from which they arose. As we have noted, in that history the very notion of “Indianness” is the product first of a European term (“Indian”; see the section on Columbus) and then of a legal decision (U.S. v. Rogers) aimed at wresting Native community control of identity from the individual communities themselves and investing it first in the European imaginary and then, in this case, in the U.S. federal government. Outside the legal fence that Rogers and its progeny, as practical applications of the European imaginary, have constructed around Native identities by homogenizing them as Indian identity, we might imagine that there are no Indian writers, only Cherokee or Navajo or Lakota writers, and even more locally defined, only writers with particular clan/kinship names to identify them. Such identities, which certainly depend on community recognition, nevertheless conform not to a single bio-logic but to multiple cultural logics, the kind that obtained in Native communities, and still persist in important ways (however “unofficially”), before the onset of federal Indian law, what Vizenor terms “word wars of the whiteman” (Bearheart 14). Within these “word wars,” which generate the history of the question, Who is an Indian?, the question itself is nothing but a scandal of European colonialism. At the same time, however, it is crucial to emphasize that across Native communities, particularly in the twentieth century, the term “Indian” has been adopted not simply out of necessity but as a sign of both personal pride and transtribal organization to deal in various ways with federal policy, as noted in the titles of such organizations, past and present, as the Society of American Indians (SAI), the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI), and the American Indian Movement (AIM). Nevertheless, to repeat the question without emphasizing its political history perpetuates the scandal by naturalizing it. Fifteen years after Larson raised it in the literary realm, Louis Owens begins his influential study of the American Indian novel Other Destinies (1992) with the same question: “To begin to write about something called ‘the American Indian novel’ is to enter a slippery and uncertain terrain. Take one step into this region and we are confronted with difficult questions of authority and ethnicity: What is an Indian?”

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


(3). For Owens the central theme of the contemporary American Indian novel is the “question of identity” (5): “For the contemporary Indian novelist—in every case a mixedblood who must come to terms in one form or another with peripherality as well as both European and Indian ethnicity—identity is the central issue and theme” (5). Informed by both postmodern and postcolonial studies, Owens quotes Vizenor to the effect that all “Indians” are “invented,” and he pointedly notes: “For American Indians, the problem of identity comprehends centuries of colonial and postcolonial displacement” (4). But while he remarks that in addition to “some basic knowledge of the tribal histories and mythologies of the Indian cultures at the heart of these novels, readers should be aware of crucial moments in Native American history of the last two centuries [because] such moments figure prominently in writing by Indian authors” (30), Owens devotes only the last two pages of his thirty-one-page introduction to those moments in the history of federal Indian law, and then he conflates two key cases, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831) and Worcester v. Georgia (1832), which I will take up in detail. Thus, while pointing toward the importance of colonial history in understanding American Indian literatures, Owens does not specify the historic legal forces that give crucial definition to the notion of “invented Indians,” charging the phrase with its particular colonial valence; nor does he query the cultural and bio-logics that both conflict in and construct the term “mixedblood.” The history of these logics makes Owens’s assertion that “every” contemporary Indian novelist is a “mixedblood” problematic. For as we have seen, depending on the context, a mixed-blood might be a full-blood, and vice versa. Owens’s ahistorical, or undertheorized, use of the term “mixedblood” allows him to stabilize it by assuming the word’s transparency and thus to make the claim that “the dominant theme in novels by Indian authors [is] the dilemma of the mixedblood, the liminal ‘breed’ seemingly trapped between Indian and white worlds” (40). In Cherokee novelist Thomas King’s postmodern trickster narrative Green Grass, Running Water, one of the Indian characters catches the schematic banality of the mixed-blood theme: It was a common enough theme in novels and movies. Indian leaves the traditional world of the reserve, goes to the city, and is destroyed. Indian leaves the traditional world of the reserve, is exposed to white culture, and becomes trapped between two worlds. Indian leaves the traditional world of the reserve, gets an education, and is shunned by his tribe. (317) As King’s character points out, the mixed-blood between two worlds has been a standard trope in the literary history of twentieth-century Native writing, though the passage cited locates the trope in the writing per se, while I want to locate it in standard interpretations of that writing. The project of Other Destinies is to revive this exhausted topos by ringing some changes on it. In this vein, Owens remarks of “Leslie Silko, in Ceremony (1977), [that she] writes again of a mixedblood protagonist lost between cultures and identities. However, in the character of Tayo, Silko turns the conventionally painful predicament of the mixedblood around, making the mixedblood a metaphor for the dynamic, syncretic, adaptive qualities of Indian cultures that will ensure survival” (26). And of Vizenor, Owens comments that he “rejects entirely the conventional posture of mourning for the hapless mixedblood trapped between worlds, identifying the mixedblood with the shape-shifting visage of trickster, who requires that we reexamine, moment by moment, all definition and discourse” (27). These remarks usefully complicate the figure of the mixed-blood within a literary tradition where that figure always teeters on and often falls over the brink of sentimentality. But once we place


Part I

the term “mixed-blood” back within the colonial history of cultural and bio-logic, then, I think, the two worlds paradigm with the mixed-blood as mediating term requires revision as an interpretive model, precisely because “mixed-blood” and “full-blood” are not dialectical opposities but ambiguous, overlapping signs, overdetermined by their simultaneous positions in a range of contexts (legal, social, cultural, Native, and non-Native). For example, who says Tayo is a mixed-blood? Certainly, the narrative informs us that his mother is Laguna and his father, a nameless white man. But in a world of intermarriage, Tayo is hardly alone or anomalous as a representative figure, however solitary in certain ways he may be because of the alienation of his war experience. As his aunt remarks, “‘Girls around here have babies by white men all the time now, and nobody says anything. Men run around with Mexicans and even worse, and nothing is ever said’” (Ceremony 33). The Laguna Constitution, as ratified in 1958, makes tribal membership contingent on having two tribally enrolled parents and some degree of Indian blood, unless one is at least a half-blood Indian (born before 1958 with one enrolled parent) or a half-blood Laguna (born in wedlock with one enrolled parent). In making tribal membership very flexible (in terms of blood quantum) for the children of two Laguna parents, the rule suggests the Pueblo’s desire to try to limit a reasonably widespread practice of intermarriage, even as it is prepared to admit the children of intermarriage to tribal membership, though the gateway narrows considerably.29 Because Silko never makes it an issue in Ceremony, we can assume that Tayo is a tribally enrolled member of Laguna Pueblo and a member of a clan, the latter because Laguna is a matrilineal society, clan membership being determined through the mother (A. Ortiz, Handbook, 443). So, in these terms, readers can assume Tayo is not a mixed-blood; he is a Laguna Indian, not positioned between two worlds but ceremonially searching for his balance within Laguna society, after the trauma of World War II coupled with the colonialist thrust of his secondary school education, which denigrated Laguna epistemologies, unbalanced him. Within the novel, the first reference to Tayo as a mixed-blood comes from his aunt, who thinks of him as a “half-breed child” (30). But Auntie, it is clear, is the character in the novel who is the most alienated from traditional Laguna practices. Silko stresses not only her Christianity, which “separated the people from themselves . . . tr[ying] to crush the single clan name” (68), but also her upbringing of her son, Tayo’s cousin, Rocky, who, a full-blood in terms of bio-logic, is virtually a white man in terms of cultural logic. The only other character in the novel who uses the language of racism about Tayo, referring to him as “‘white trash’” (63), is the violent Laguna veteran Emo, who has nothing but contempt for anything Indian and a murderous envy of everything white. Besides Auntie, the Laguna elders who figure importantly in Tayo’s life (his grandmother, his uncle Josiah, his uncle Robert, and the Laguna medicine man Ku’oosh) never refer to him in blood quantum terms but accept him matter-of-factly as a full-fledged member of the community, who needs their help. Thus, Tayo is only a mixed-blood from the most alienated of perspectives. As Owens along with others notices, in Ceremony, Silko certainly is fascinated with mixture as a positive force— Josiah’s cattle are hybrid Hereford/Mexican and Betonie, the Navajo singer who provides the ceremony for Tayo’s cure, is Navajo/Mexican—but Silko never refers to these combinations in the language of blood quantum. So Betonie is not a mixed-blood; the cattle are not mixed-bloods; and Tayo is not a mixed-blood, except in a bio-logical language that Silko marks as alienated. In her book of essays Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit, Silko historicizes this language: It was not so easy for me to learn where we Marmons belonged, but gradually I understood that we of mixed ancestry belonged on the outer edge of the circle between the

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


world of the Pueblo and the outside world. The Laguna people were open and accepted children of mixed ancestry because appearance was secondary to behavior. For the generation of my great-grandmother and earlier generations, anyone who had not been born in the community was a stranger, regardless of skin color. Strangers were not judged by their appearances—which could deceive—but by their behavior. . . . But I could sense a difference from younger people, the generation that had gone to the First World War. On rare occasions, I could sense an anger that my appearance stirred in them, although I sensed that the anger was not aimed at me personally. My appearance reminded them of the outside world, where racism was thriving. (102–3, 104; my emphasis) This passage begins, it seems, by using the language of mixed-bloods between two worlds, though Silko does not use the term “blood” from the bio-logic of nineteenthcentury racism and the related vocabulary of federal Indian law; rather, she chooses “ancestry,” referencing simultaneously cultural and biological kinship. More important, the second sentence and what follows emphasize the primacy of “behavior” (culture) over physical “appearance” (the bio-logic of “skin color”) in determining Laguna identity for an older generation. In Ceremony, then, from the perspective of Grandma’s generation, Rocky’s behavior, however full his blood quantum, marks him as not Laguna, whereas Tayo’s behavior ultimately marks him as fully Laguna. Owens’s insight, previously noted, that “Silko turns the conventionally painful predicament of the mixedblood around, making the mixedblood a metaphor for the dynamic, syncretic, adaptive qualities of Indian cultures that will ensure survival,” makes sense. But within the colonial history of federal Indian law it still leaves us asking in what sense or senses Owens uses “mixedblood.” For what the sentence says is that all Indians are mixedbloods or virtually so, insofar as mixed-bloods are merely metaphors for the dynamism inherent in all Indian cultures. Owens, then, invokes the importance of history in interpreting American Indian writing; but in interpreting Silko’s Ceremony, he also bypasses its importance by situating the term “mixedblood” outside the colonial history of cultural and bio-logic, of appearance and behavior, which gives Tayo’s “quest for identity” (Owens 20) its particular historical weight. Similarly, in his reading of Vizenor’s Bearheart, Owens omits the fact that the narrative of Vizenor’s first novel, published in 1978, a year after Ceremony, locates his mixed-blood tricksters in a flight from the bureaucratic strictures of the BIA and its allied tribal councils created under the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934: The women continued to govern the circus in the traditions of tribal families, the values of shared consciousness until the patriarchal whitemen rewarded the tribal men as chiefs and rulers. Meanwhile reservation governments were gaining new powers and new generations of evil politicians were seeking control of the sacred cedar. The Indian Reorganization Act created constitutional governments on reservations. The constitutions were designed by white anthropologists and the elections of tribal people were manipulated by colonial federal administrators. Men of evil and tribal fools were propped up in reservation offices to authorize the exploitation of native lands and natural resources. The cedar nation and all the sovereign circuses surrounding the cedar wood resisted all government controls, federal and tribal. (Bearheart 12) When Vizenor introduces the notion of “invented Indians” into the narrative, it is a response that emerges from the history of federal Indian law: “‘What does Indian mean?’”


Part I

(195) asks a member of a vicious community of “hunters and breeders,” “‘proud people,’” who in the postapocalyptic world of Bearheart live in a walled community restricted to people of their “‘own breed’” (189), full-bloods, we might say, though apparently non-Native full-bloods in this case. Ironically, the mixed-blood answer is a paraphrase of the BIA regulations governing Indian identity: “‘An Indian is a member of a recognized tribe and a person who has Indian blood.’” Doubling the irony, the immediate full-blood response is: “‘But what is Indian blood?’” And the immediate mixed-blood rejoinder is: “‘Indian blood is not white blood’” (195; my emphasis). This exchange deconstructs the very notion of blood by making it no more than the absence of its hypothetical opposite in a continually circular logic that will never yield a signified. Thus, the logic of Bearheart insists that the terms of blood quantum have no meaning whatsoever outside the colonial discourses that enforce them. This insistence results in the irony, intentional or not, produced by Vizenor’s substitution of the term “mixed-blood” for the term “Indian.” For both are produced by the same legal discourse. Even as it invokes the importance of history, Owens’s approach to the Indian novel as a site of identity conflict is fundamentally philosophical, or theoretical. The result of this theory without history is the translation of the political-historical valences of Indian identity into a metaphysical topos: Ultimately, whereas postmodernism celebrates the fragmentation and chaos of experience, literature by Native American authors tends to seek transcendence of such ephemerality and the recovery of “eternal and immutable” elements represented by a spiritual tradition that escapes historical fixation, that places humanity within a carefully, cyclically ordered cosmos and gives humankind irreducible responsibility for the maintenance of that delicate equilibrium. (20) Within this metaphysical paradigm of Indian identity, which understands history as a “fixation” opposed by Native spirituality rather than as a complex of dynamics inseparable from Native spiritualities, Owens reads Cogewea, which he terms “the first novel by an Indian writer to attempt to define the complex dilemma of the mixedblood” (45), without alluding to its explicit historical context, the period of allotment (1887–1934), in which, as I have emphasized, the bio-logic of blood quantum, stemming from Rogers, achieved its modern legal definition. This critical omission of colonial history is typical of interpretations of the novel, which, occluding the identity politics of allotment, focus instead on a kind of formalistic identity politics bent on distinguishing the Native American Mourning Dove from her Euro-American collaborator, Lucullus Virgil McWhorter.30 The controversy over the part McWhorter played in the actual writing of the text is a typical accompaniment of “as-told-to” autobiographies, translations of Indian orality into Euro-American writing, which form a substantial part of U.S. Native literatures. I address this issue of collaboration later, in my reading of Black Elk Speaks, arguably the most famous example of the as-told-to genre of Native autobiography. Cogewea is unique in the tradition of the U.S. Native novel, being a collaboration between a European and an Indian. William Penn, the novelist/critic of Nez Perce ancestry, remarks of the collaboration between McWhorter and Mourning Dove: “Even though Dexter Fisher [who has written a critical introduction to the modern edition of Cogewea] and Louis Owens seem willing to assume it is hers—and, indeed, she does bear the final responsibility as all writers do—I doubt much more than half of it is. Much of what we have in the published version of

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


Cogewea is Lucullus V. McWhorter” (129). Penn tries to sort out where Mourning Dove begins and ends and where McWhorter takes over, but the analysis assumes that Mourning Dove’s own writing somehow remained uninfluenced by the “Latinate” style, which Penn identifies with McWhorter. In this sorting, Penn essentially identifies Mourning Dove with a pristine oral tradition and McWhorter, the white man, with a corrupted written tradition: “The language in this passage is not the language of storytelling. It is the Latinate language of someone who has read too many bad novels trying to stuff historical event into a chapter which, told simply and elegantly in Mourning Dove’s way would express more ceremony and history than could ever be told by these addenda of the sympathetic white” (128). The test case for Penn, as it is for Fisher before him, is Mourning Dove’s Coyote Stories, her versions of Interior Salish oral traditions, also edited by McWhorter, with the Yakima city newspaperman Heister Dean Guie: “Thus, where the speech in Cogewea resembles this oral, simple (in the sense of poetic), repetitious and expanding style, we can find Mourning Dove” (130). But Penn also has a critique of the way she “took out a good portion of what could be called Indian” (131) under the influence of Guie and McWhorter. Thus, Coyote Stories, rather than solving the problem of identity and style posed by Cogewea, seems to repeat the editorial intrusion. In the same manner, “McWhorter [in Cogewea] helped her make her voice the same as every other overwritten romantic novel. . . . Where he failed was where her voice was the strongest, where her storytelling material was what she most believed in— the Stemteema [Cogewea’s grandmother] sections” (135). For Penn, then, Indian identity in the text is represented by what he terms “the digressive supplementation of the oral tradition” (ibid.): “Oral storytelling allows for digression. It allows for representation of dialect. And it allows for entertaining intrusions by the implied author-teller” (124). On the other hand, the Choctaw scholar Michael Wilson sees the boundary between McWhorter and Mourning Dove in Cogewea not in differences of diction but in differences of content. Wilson identifies McWhorter in the novel with “the ethnological philosophy of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, which sees Indian cultures as either pure or impure, with change as a debasement” (31). In contrast to this static opposition, he identifies Mourning Dove with a discourse that represents “the oral tradition” as a dynamic cultural mode of “those who embody the changing conditions of life—namely, the mixed-bloods who live on the ranch” (33), the setting of the novel. Unlike Penn, then, Wilson understands the different registers of language in the novel not as necessarily identifying the difference between McWhorter and Mourning Dove but as representing Cogewea’s mixed-blood education in both the oral and Western traditions (the tradition of European letters): “On the one hand, Cogewea experienced a traditional Okanogan upbringing under the tutelage of the Stemteemä; on the other hand, she underwent a formal education at the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. Thus Cogewea is able to speak the language of the Okanogan (she sometimes serves as a translator for her grandmother); the language of her formal education; and a third language—that of the Horseshoe Bend Ranch, the area ‘between two fires,’ where the novel takes place. Her multilingual abilities are not lost on other people at the ranch, nor is she unaware of her multiple voice” (28–29). Such multilingual abilities were certainly a part of Mourning Dove’s repertoire. Thus, while both Penn and Wilson identify Mourning Dove with the oral tradition and McWhorter with the written, their ideas of the oral tradition are opposed in such a way that the style of Penn’s McWhorter blends into the style of Wilson’s Mourning Dove. Is there any reason not to believe that Mourning Dove herself, whose education in both Western and


Part I

Indian cultures provides a model for Cogewea’s, did not “read too many bad novels,” and so produced the kind of mixed style that Wilson finds characteristic of the oral tradition? This question is meant to emphasize the difficulty, if not the impossibility, of distinguishing Mourning Dove from McWhorter in the text. I find it a particularly futile quest, generated by “evidence” that tempts as it foils. In a letter to McWhorter that Fisher cites in her introduction to the novel, Mourning Dove remarks of McWhorter’s editorial job: “‘I felt like it was someone else’s book and not mine at all’” (xv), though after stating, “‘the changes that you made . . . are fine . . . a tasty dressing like a cook would do with a fine meal’” (ibid.). The metaphor suggests that Mourning Dove’s text (the meal) and McWhorter’s rewriting (the dressing) can be distinguished, while Mourning Dove’s feeling that her book had become “‘someone else’s’” in the process of revision suggests a wholly transformed original, where the two writers are indistinguishable. Fisher also quotes a letter from Martha McKelvie to McWhorter stating that “‘you practically wrote Cogewea’” (xxv). Perhaps, then, the question ought not to be, where is McWhorter and where is Mourning Dove in the text, but why should such a question be asked in the first place. My answer would be that the question is generated by the colonial politics that asks, Who is an Indian? It is these politics and the historical question of identity they pose that, in revising the philosophical or theoretical theme of the mixed-blood between two worlds (two identities), ground a reading of Cogewea and by extension of the American Indian novel in an urgent, material reality. Cogewea’s author, Mourning Dove (Hum-ishu-ma, or Christine Quintasket), was born, by her own estimation, in 1888, a year after the General Allotment Act, and died in 1936, two years after its repeal by the IRA: She was born in a canoe while her mother was crossing the Kootenay River near Bonner’s Ferry, Idaho, but she grew up in the lands of her people, members of Interior Salishan tribes along the upper Columbia River. Her father, Joseph, was from the Okanagans, and her mother, Lucy (née Stuikin), was from the chiefly family of the Colvilles at the important fishery of Kettle Falls. (Hoxie, Encyclopedia, 401) In his introduction to her autobiography, Jay Miller remarks: “Mourning Dove claimed [her paternal grandfather] was a Scot, but his other children and the census records deny this. Evidently Christine provided a white ancestor to appeal to her readers” (xvi). In his introduction to Cogewea, McWhorter notes only “a remote strain of good Celtic blood, dating back to the earlier advent of the Hudson Bay Company into the Northwest” (9). McWhorter also identifies her with the Okanagans, “whose language she speaks” (9). She married Hector McLeod, a Flathead, in 1909, which would account for her placing the action of Cogewea on the Flathead reservation, which was opened to allotment in 1905 (Hoxie, A Final Promise, 157) and where she “witnessed the 1908 roundup of the last freeranging bison herd” (Mourning Dove xvi), an event that Cogewea laments in the novel (143). Mourning Dove locates the action on the Horseshoe Brand Ranch, carved out of the reservation and owned by the Euro-American cattleman John Carter, who is married to Julia, Cogewea’s oldest sister. Mourning Dove’s marriage to McLeod lasted only a few years. “By 1912 Christine was living in Portland, where she began her novel and took Mourning Dove as her pen name” (Mourning Dove xvii). The novel appears to be set around this time. She met McWhorter in 1915. Fisher notes that they had finished the “collaboration” on Cogewea by 1916 (Cogewea xiv), though it would not be published until 1927.

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country 37

In contrast to her main character, then, Mourning Dove, who appears to have fantasized her mixed-bloodedness, was a full-blood by blood quantum standards, an enrolled member of the Colville Confederated Tribes and Reservation of Washington State (Hoxie, Encyclopedia, 401). Cogewea is the child of an Okanogan31 mother, who, like Mourning Dove’s own mother, dies early in her life, and a white father of Scots descent, Betram Macdonald, who abandons her and her two sisters, Mary and Julia, to prospect for gold in Alaska. At the end of the novel, a legal error,“‘a technical flaw in daddy’s will,’” will allow the girls “‘a share in some of his fortune, amounting to a quarter million dollars each’” (284). While Mourning Dove and Cogewea are not identical in terms of blood quantum, what they do share in common is an allotment; that is, they are both beneficiaries (in the strictly legal sense) of the Dawes Act. On March 14, 1921, Mourning Dove “was approved for a patent in fee simple for her allotted land” (Mourning Dove xiii) on the Colville Reservation. In order to receive this allotment “in fee,” she would have had to be judged by BIA authorities legally “competent” to manage her affairs. Under the BIA administration of Cato Sells, who served as commissioner of Indian affairs during the two terms of Woodrow Wilson (1913–1921), “persons who were less than one-half Indian or who had graduated from a government school would receive fee patents immediately” (Hoxie, A Final Promise, 181). Because she was more than half Indian, it would appear that in order to support her competency claim, Mourning Dove “listed her school as Colville Mission, four years; Fort Spokane, one year; Fort Shaw, three years; and Calgary College, two years” (Mourning Dove xiii), certainly enough Western education to have learned to read the bad novels and perhaps write in the Latinate style that Penn and others attribute solely to McWhorter. Because it is not clear from the Miller introduction to her autobiography that she graduated from either of the two government schools she attended, the judgment of competency may have needed the support of the Colville superintendent O. C. Upchurch, who wrote,“‘She is intelligent and industrious, and as capable of handling her affairs as the average white woman in the community’” (xiii). The competency standard here (“‘the average white woman in the community’”) is thoroughly racialized. Unlike her creator, Cogewea, presumably because she has one-half white blood, could have been judged competent on that standard alone to receive her “allotment of eighty acres” (162, 262) in fee.32 The question of Cogewea’s legal competency comes up near the end of the novel, when she goes to the bank to withdraw a thousand dollars, conned from her by marriage promises of her white, eastern suitor, Alfred Densmore—who, the reader knows long before Cogewea catches on, is only after what he believes, wrongly, to be her wealth in land and livestock. In response to a bank cashier, who tries to talk her out of the withdrawal and into an investment in “‘preferred stock,’” imploring her to “‘recall’” the recommendation of her former official guardian “‘the Indian Agent, [who advised her] to draw only small amounts as [she] might need for immediate wants; and if [she] contemplated an investment to advise with the bank’” (255–56), Cogewea gives this “retort”: “Yes, I do recall but who recommends the Agent? I know what a time I had getting this money pried loose from the grasp of the Bureau, and I now intend handling it without an assistance from that bunch. I am no longer an ‘incompetent’ and in the present instance I believe that I can determine my own affairs. . . .” (256) The “Bureau” referred to here is, of course, the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA); and a modern, informed reader cannot help but hear an ironic resonance in Cogewea’s insistence that she will manage her money “‘without any assistance from that bunch’”; for, recognizing


Part I

the corruption in the BIA’s handling of Indian trust accounts at the time of the novel, her rejoinder to the advice of the Indian Agent uncannily looks forward to the present crisis (the unaccounted-for billions of dollars now under scrutiny in federal court) caused by over a century of mishandling by “‘that bunch,’” an issue to which I referred earlier in this essay. In the immediate context of the conversation, Cogewea’s mention of her former incompetency references her coming “‘of age,’” her status as a legal minor and her subsequent attainment of her majority (255). But the quotes around “incompetent” and the larger context of the novel cannot help but invoke the competency commissions of the allotment period, which, as noted, came into being in the wake of the Burke Act in 1906.33 The subject of allotment is referenced throughout the novel and, in fact, the plot is driven by the politics of allotment, of the Euro-American legalized theft of Indian land, which includes as an integral part of its grand larceny the theft of Indian identity. The subtitle of the novel, A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range, references the theft of Indian land on the Great Plains, which was converted from buffalo to cattle range by Euro-American invaders, just as the title of the novel, Cogewea, the Half-Blood, references the theft of Indian identity by BIA regulations. When Cogewea laments “‘the invader[’s]’” destruction of the buffalo (“‘Colleague of my race, with him went our hopes, our ambition, and our life’”), Densmore dismisses her elegy by invoking allotment: “‘The Government is working hard for his (“the Indian”) betterment, and he should respond with a willingness to advance by adjusting himself to the new order of things. The opening of this reservation to settlement, tends to mingle him with his white brother, leading to an inter marriage of the two races’” (143–44), an intermarriage, Densmore might have added, voicing the explicit ideology of allotment, that envisioned the eventual disappearance of Indians through assimilation. In the novel, these integral thefts of land and identity are figured by Densmore’s plot to marry Cogewea so he can possess what, taken in by the playful exaggerations of the ranch hands (207–8), he thinks is her vast allotment and herds. As in the Osage murders of the early 1920s, where a group of whites conspired to marry and then murder Osage men and women for their oil wealth gained through allotment, Densmore fantasizes about marrying and then murdering Cogewea for what he imagines to be her wealth (254), though in the end, when Cogewea finally realizes what he is up to, his violence is limited to beating her and robbing her of the thousand dollars (262–63).34 Densmore’s plot to disposses Cogewea of what he imagines to be her land and its products takes on a representative status generated not only by the historical context of allotment but also by the context of the European invasion of the Americas in which allotment finds its ultimate rationale, a topic this essay takes up in its discussions of both Columbus and the foundation of federal Indian law in the “Marshall Trilogy.” Having already invoked “‘the just laws of our land’” (263) to justify his plot, Densmore gives a cynical rejoinder to Cogewea, when she protests his robbing her, that could well stand as my epigraph: “‘The law’” [she begins] . . . “‘Is absolutely helpless to help you! [he interrupts] . . . The law is of the white man’s make, interpreted by the white man, made to talk by the white man’s money’” (264). Within the colonial contexts that generated Cogewea, Densmore is a figure of the archetypal settler, Columbus, haunted by his hallucinations of Indian gold, always receding before him, always over the next horizon: The touch of sadness in Cogewea’s voice as she spoke of her parents, [sic] was lost on the Easterner. But the mention of “gold in the Yukon” had aroused to new life his latent passion for wealth. It was the one god of his ambition to go back home a rich

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


man. For this, he had left the city and society. He must make good; he was not so particular how, but in some way. He had struck a rough, strange people and was gaining an exuberant experience with which to regale his associates upon his return to his old haunts. There must be wealth somewhere in this new country—mines of it among the Indians—requiring only brains and strategy to possess. (84) This description of Densmore’s consciousness is the stuff of settler romance, of which Columbus’s journals or the narratives of Coronado’s trek north from Mexico into the land of the Zunis in 1540, to find the Seven Cities of Cíbola, are the epitome: the adventure of the younger son (excluded from Old World wealth by primogeniture or class) into new worlds, where he seeks his fortune among a “rough, strange people,” who seem to offer both captivating narratives and vast wealth, fabled but never found, at least not in the infantilized form of instant gratification. Early in the novel, before the arrival of Densmore, while in conversation with her future husband, James LaGrinder, the mixed-blood foreman of her white brother-in-law’s ranch, Cogewea invokes “‘Columbus . . . honored by all nations for the correctness of his ideas’”(34). Her honoring of the first Euro-American invader of Native America rings with irony by the end of the novel, in light of Densmore’s Columbian rapacity. In Cogewea, race matters are matters of the law. This situation is focused in what is the most analyzed scene in the novel: the two racially divided Fourth of July horse races, one for the “squaws” and one for the “ladies,” both of which Cogewea enters and wins, asserting her Indian blood to enter the former and her white blood to enter the latter. Critics have noted the pun on “race” (Wilson 29–30; Krupat, Red Matters, 85–86). What also needs to be noted is the connection between race and law that the scene makes explicit. “Squaws” and “ladies,” though apparently intended in the chapter to distinguish Indians from whites through bio-logic or essentialist reasoning, are logically not mutually exclusive categories, and the fact that both terms are placed in quotation marks in the title of the chapter suggests an ironic consciousness at work. For outside of the polemical purposes of the context, each category could be included in the other: a squaw can be a lady logically and a lady, a squaw, a point Cogewea seems intent on making by her participation in both races. She makes the point explicitly when, in response to her white competitor’s racist query, “‘Why is this squaw permitted to ride?’” Cogewea responds: “‘Perhaps I am allowed because no “ladies” of the silvery-hue have entered’” (63). In the Algonquian language of the Naragansett Indians,“sunksquaw meant ‘queen’ or ‘lady’” (Hoxie, Encyclopedia, 607). And though the “literal meaning of the word squaw is obscure” (ibid.), its meaning did not become derogatory until taken over by non-Natives and applied to all Indian women, which is the way the white community in the novel is using it. On the other hand, Cogewea seems intent on restoring the Algoquian term to its proper usage. When Jim compliments her on winning the ladies’ race, referring to her as my “‘tiny squaw,’” Cogewea’s “eyes sparkled at the compliment, for ‘squaw’ had not been intended as epithetical” (64). Whatever the intended biologic of the terms “ladies” and “squaws” in the novel, cultural logic keeps subverting them. When Cogewea enters the “squaw” race, she changes from her Western riding habit into “‘native costume,’” so that even the ranch hands who know her “recognized her only by the horse” (64–65). “Proceeding to the grandstand, Cogewea paid her entrance fee of two and a half dollars. Supposing that the Indian girl did not understand English, the judge turned to his companion” with some comments disrespectful of Indian women (“‘Some swell looker for a Kootenai squaw, eh? Mighty good pickin’ for a young feller like you’”) and gets a reply “of like sinister import”before the two of them begin “conversing in lowered tones.”This dia-


Part I

logue necessarily jolts Cogewea: “The girl’s eyes filled with tears, as she turned away; brooding over the constantly light spoken words of the ‘higher’ race regarding her people of the incessant insults offered Indian women by the ‘gentleman’ whites” (65). The quotes around “higher” and “gentleman” reinforce the cultural logic that identifies “lady” with “squaw” and thus deconstructs the bio-logic of racial definition, which seeks to decouple the two terms. This is a deconstruction that Cogewea performs at every turn, asserting the importance of behavior and, crucially, community recognition of such behavior over bio-logical appearance in identity formation. And this deconstruction is one of the primary functions of Native American literatures. At the very least, in Cogewea the dismantling of essentialized identities has the effect of problematizing the melodramatic rhetoric in the novel that seems to insist that the theme of the mixed-blood caught between two worlds be taken at face value. This kind of rhetoric comes into play after Cogewea is rebuffed by one of the contestants in the squaw race with “‘This is a race for Indians and not for breeds!’”: Cogewea made no reply, but she was overwhelmed with the soul-yearning for sympathy. For her class—the maligned outcast half-blood—there seemed no welcome on the face of all God’s creation. Denied social standing with either of the parent races, she felt that the world was crying out against her. (66) One wonders if those critics who identify the Latinate style solely with McWhorter would also identify such Latinate passages with him as well. This characterization of Cogewea’s extreme social isolation is contradicted by her actual position in the narrative. After she wins the squaw race, she is welcomed at an Indian dance by the traditional figure of the “Chief of the Pend d’Oreille,” the husband of the woman whom she beat in the race, with these words: “‘To this maiden of another tribe, I give, as a token of my good will to her and her people, one of my best horses. It is the pinto, ridden by my wife and which took second prize in today’s race. My gift!’”(77). Cogewea also finds constant community with her grandmother, another traditional figure, the Stemteemä, for whom behavior, even when couched in the language of blood, seems much more important than blood quantum in determining who is an Indian. “‘You are an Indian,’” the Stemteemä tells the mixed-blood Jim LeGranger, hoping to enlist him in convincing Cogewea not to believe in Densmore, although she [the Stemteemä] is “in doubt about confiding to this strong, determined man—a stranger. But the blood-tie was there, strengthened by the mutual knowledge of language and her need was sore” (216). “‘If you were not of my own kind, I would not talk,’” the Stemteemä tells Jim. “‘Although the white blood has made fairer your skin, I like you and I trust you’” (217). Grounded in important cultural attributes (Jim speaks Okanogan) and trusted by the community, a mixedblood can be a full-blood, an unqualified Indian, she seems to imply. This culturally driven definition of Jim, and more generally of who is an Indian, is strengthened in an encounter between Jim and Mary, the youngest sister and the closest of the three to the Stemteemä and traditional Okanogan life, when the two join in building a traditional “‘sweat house’” in which the Stemteemä can “‘commune . . . with the Great Spirit’” (238): For the first time since their acquaintance, he seemed near to her. She now regarded him as one of her own kind. He had not scorned the sweat house! He had not thrown aside the beliefs of his Indian forefathers, as had so many of the educated half-bloods. The books of the white man had not destroyed the earlier training of his mind. (241–42)

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


Like Cogewea and Julia (the most assimilated of the three sisters), Mary is a mixedblood, and with her fair skin and deep blue eyes (43), she is bio-logically the whitest of the three; yet as her place in the narrative and this passage suggests, she thinks of herself and is thought of by the traditional community, represented by the Stemteemä, as a full-blood because of her adherence to traditional Okanogan cultural practices. When she thinks of Jim “as one of her own kind,” then, we are to assume that she thinks of him as a full-blood because, though bio-logically a mixed-blood like herself, he also conforms to a traditional cultural logic, represented by figures such as the Stemteemä and the Chief of the Pend d’Oreille. We are reminded here of the culturally logical identity criteria that Silko attributes to the pre–World War I Laguna generation as opposed to the bio-logical criteria of subsequent generations, influenced by the European biologization of race: for the former, behavior rather than bio-logical appearance is crucial. The logic of Cogewea seems to state that while some degree of Indian “blood” is necessary for Indian identity, blood itself is not sufficient without the cultural logic of behavior and recognition thereof by the Native community. The novel also seems to say that the difference between full-blood and mixed-blood is not biological but cultural. As progenitor of the major theme in the U.S. Native novel, Cogewea folds the mixedblood caught between two worlds into the conflict and imbrication of two cultural logics of identity, one Native, the other Western. The Western identity logic finds its apotheosis in federal Indian law. After Cogewea wins the two races, she and Jim approach the judge so that she can collect the prize money. The judge, “surprise[d]” at the “perfect English” of “this breed girl . . . direct[s] his assistant to pay her the prize money” for winning the squaw race, not realizing (because of Cogewea’s changes of costume, her cultural cross-dressing) that the winner of the squaws’ race is also the winner of the ladies’—that the “squaw” is also the “lady” (67). Cogewea is quick to inform him that she is, indeed, the winner of both races and so can claim both prizes, which the judge finds an “‘effrontery’” (ibid.). At first, he supports his judgment by telling Cogewea that “‘[a] protest has already been filed against you in this race, in behalf of Miss Webster, to whom the first prize money will be paid. You never would have led coming in had you not quirted her horse over the head’” (ibid.), a move the reader knows was provoked by Miss Webster’s use of the quirt against Cogewea. At this point Jim intervenes, explaining how “‘Every one who saw the race know [sic] how the quirt fightin’ come ’bout’” (68) and appealing to the judge for a “‘fair’” decision. But the judge refuses to change his decision (Cogewea will only get the money for winning the squaw race) and adds: “‘No Injun can come around here and dictate to me in regard to judging these races. Do you savey that?’” (68). This rejoinder is at once gratuitous and revealing. Simply put, the judge’s response tells us unequivocally that the law is racially based. Jim’s instant response makes this fact explicit: “‘The white man’s rulin’ is law,’ rejoined Jim calmly, [‘]but maybe you’ll tell the little gal just why she’s not to have this here prize she won so fairly in the ladies’ race’” (ibid.). “‘Because,’ sneered the now irate judge, ‘she is a squaw and had no right to ride in the ladies’ race’” (68). The judge’s opinion in the case, his absolute separation of the categories “squaw” and “lady,” is affirmed and backed up with the threat of violence by a crowd of white men (68–69). But Jim, coolly, seeks a clarification of the logic and in doing so spells it out: “‘I take it that little gal bein’ a squaw, she can’t be a lady! Is that it?’” (69). Enraged at “the brazen effrontery of the breed” (ibid.) for challenging his authority, the judge orders Jim arrested for “‘malicious interference with an honest distribution of race


Part I

awards’” (70; my emphasis). The force of the pun is certainly lost on the judge, but not on Cogewea, who returns the “‘tainted money’” for the “‘racial prizes’” (ibid.) with disgust. This judgment of the two races with a law that is imperiously race-based epitomizes the history of federal Indian law and the allotment period in particular. Just as Cogewea (Cogewea) works to expose the social construction of race, its political valences, U.S. law both inside and outside the novel works to construct race bio-logically in order to assert the essential separateness of the terms “squaw” and “lady,”“mixed-blood” and “full-blood,”“Indian” and “white.” Between the institution of the Dawes Act in 1887 and 1934, when Congress annulled it as the first provision of the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA), the result of allotment was the loss of approximately 90 million acres of Indian communal land and the consequent deepening impoverishment of Indian communities. Tribal Indians were educationally and technologically ill-equipped to farm small holdings individually, and the government did not bother to better equip them; the sale of surplus lands to white settlers turned the reservations into islands of small farms on which the members of former Indian communal holdings were further isolated. According to a memorandum of February 19, 1934 “submitted to the Senate and House Committees on Indian Affairs by Commissioner [of the Bureau of Indian Affairs John] Collier,” who had been opposed to allotment throughout his public career before coming to the BIA, “‘the total of Indian landholdings has been cut from 138,000,000 acres in 1887 to 48,000,000 acres in 1934.’” Collier noted in the same memo, which was incorporated into the IRA: “‘The approximately one third of the Indians who as yet are outside the allotment system are not losing their property; and generally they are increasing in industry and are rising, not falling, in the social scale’” (Cohen 215, 216). In the wake of Collier’s resignation from the BIA in 1945 and the issuing of the Hoover Commission Report in 1949, Congress embarked on a policy over the next twenty years that sought to undo the tribal consolidation of the IRA and finish what allotment had begun: the termination of the tribes and the forced assimilation of Indians, this time through their relocation in urban areas. Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday’s landmark novel House Made of Dawn (1968), published at the end of this period, charts in its second half the urban Indian landscape of relocation. The engine of congressional termination and relocation policy was House Concurrent Resolution 108, introduced on June 9, 1953. Couched, as allotment had been, in the classical liberal language of individualism (Indians “‘should be freed from Federal supervision and control and from all disabilities and limitations specially applicable to Indians’” [Getches 205–6]), the policy, implemented incrementally through distinct congressional acts, resulted in the further erosion of tribal sovereignty not only through the termination of “approximately 109 tribes and bands” and the loss of “about 3.2 per cent” of trust land (209) but also through the transfer of areas of tribal and federal jurisdiction, such as criminal law, to particular states (208). “Although the great majority of Indian spokesmen were opposed to the legislation” (207), it went forward until—in the face of pantribal resistance, particularly that of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) founded in 1944, and governmental policy shifts, beginning in the Kennedy administration—termination was officially abandoned during, and with the support of, the Nixon administration. Still, “Termination stands as a chilling reminder to Indian peoples that Congress can unilaterally decide to extinguish the special status and rights of tribes without Indian consent and without even hearing Indian views” (204). As distinct from reservation lands, allotted lands are lands, on or off reservation, that the federal government has granted to individual Indians. The Dawes Act is the massive

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


instance of such grants. The government may retain title to the individual lands, which is most often the case, or the individual may hold title. Approximately 80 percent of the Indian land to which the federal government holds title (in sum, 55.7 million acres) is reservation land.35 It is clear under the law that any tribe occupying reservation land is considered a “dependent Indian community” in relation to the federal government. There are also tribes, like the Oklahoma Cherokees, numerically the largest in the United States, that, while not occupying a reservation per se, still come under federal superintendence with title to their tribal lands held by the federal government, and are thus considered a “dependent Indian community.” In carrying out U.S. Indian policy today, the BIA counts on the collaboration of elected tribal councils, which were first put into place under the auspices of the IRA. The decision whether or not to adopt IRA-sponsored constitutions was left up to the tribes. At the time, 181 tribes voted to adopt them and 77 tribes voted to reject them (Limerick 204). However, each federally recognized tribe needed a governmental mechanism (tribal council) in order to deal with the BIA for the resources the bureau controlled under congressional mandate, which included principally (as it does today) tribal lands, so that whether or not a tribe constructed a constitution as the BIA requested, it had to comply in one way or another to BIA pressure to form a representative government. For example, the Navajo Nation, the tribe with the largest reservation land mass in the United States, does not have a constitution to this day. But it has developed a highly organized Western-style government, with a tribal council composed of elected representatives from districts called “chapters,” a “president” elected by the whole tribe, and a judiciary. Councils have faced various forms of resistance from the grassroots of their communities. Because of the resistance of traditional village leaders (Kikmongwis), a Hopi tribal council was unable to form successfully between 1934 and the early 1950s. And, to take another example, on the Pine Ridge Reservation, home of the Oglala Lakota, resistance has at various times over the last thirty years taken the form of advocacy for traditional modes of Native governance (direct democracy by informal consensus) rather than Western-style representative governments, where power and wealth can too easily become concentrated in the hands of the representatives at the expense of the community.36 Thus, in Indian country one finds democratically elected tribal governments that are at the same time opposed by or alienated from the grassroots population precisely because they are perceived as arms of U.S. colonial power. But, it is important to emphasize, a tribal council may also oppose U.S. colonial power and so claim the support of its constituency on certain issues, particularly those dealing with land and sovereignty. These kinds of divisions within the tribes have a long history, which is a direct result of European colonial “divide and conquer” policies in the Americas. Moreover, this complex colonial situation is further complicated by the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, wherein Congress imposed citizenship on all Indians living in the United States. In conjunction with allotment, which linked citizenship and holding land as property, a majority of Indians had already been made citizens by congressional mandates (Prucha, Great Father, II:793). The 1924 act granted no particular rights to the Indians. The right to vote came subsequently on a state-by-state basis, and Fourteenth Amendment rights did not apply to tribal Indians on the reservation. In 1968 Congress passed the Indian Civil Rights Act, which granted certain constitutional rights to Indians on reservations. But in 1978 in a landmark case, Santa Clara Pueblo v. Marinez, a female member of the Pueblo,

44 Part I

whose children were denied Pueblo membership under a rule that denied membership to the children of all Santa Clara women, but not to those of men, marrying outside of the tribe, “claimed that this rule discriminates on the basis of both sex and ancestry in violation of Title I of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 (ICRA), 25 U.S.C. §§ 1301–1303, which provides in relevant part that ‘[n]o Indian tribe in exercising powers of self-government shall . . . deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws” (at 51; brackets and ellipses in original). However, granting certiorari, the Supreme Court effectively decided for “tribal sovereignty’s precedence over [the] civil rights [of an individual tribal member], except in the case of habeas corpus appeals to federal courts sanctioned under 25 U.S.C. § 1303 (ICRA), although in this case Marinez makes it clear that the respondent is not the tribe but the individual tribal official holding the prisoner [at 59]. Thus, today, the ten constitutional rights of Indians in their tribes, as enumerated in 25 U.S.C. § 1302, come under the sole authority of tribal courts; and the tribes are protected from federal lawsuits in this area through the principle of ‘sovereign immunity’” (Cheyfitz, “The Colonial Double Bind,” 225). At best the Indian Citizenship Act was and is a double-edged sword, at once an assimilationist attack on tribal existence and a leverage for empowerment in the larger nation. But, and this is crucial, the act only empowers one as an individual, operating beyond the reservation, the home community. If an Indian remains on the reservation, which, despite all its economic hardships due to colonial underdevelopment, is still the place of identity—the nurturing nexus of kin and land—then she or he is constrained to live under the colonial regime of federal Indian law without the constitutional guarantees of U.S. citizenship, excepting the right to vote in U.S. state and national elections. The relationship, or lack thereof, between the citizenship of individual Indians and the colonial status of the tribes is succinctly stated in 1921 in Winton v. Amos, where one cannot help but notice that in the case of Indians the fundamental ground of citizenship is a “mere grant”: It is thoroughly established that Congress has plenary authority over the Indians and all their tribal relations, and full power to legislate concerning their tribal property. The guardianship arises from their condition of tutelage or dependency; and it rests with Congress to determine when the relationship shall cease; the mere grant of rights of citizenship not being sufficient to terminate it. (391–92; my emphasis) The Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, then, in no way affects the colonial status of federally recognized Indian tribes but presents the legal paradox of sovereign U.S. citizens who are at the same time colonial subjects of the United States if they choose to reside in Indian country. While because of reforms instituted by the IRA, the BIA is today administered from top to bottom largely by Indians, and while all Indians are now citizens of the United States, the colonial politics and policies of Indian country continue, resulting, in spite of Gover’s optimism, not only in continued removals and the gross mismanagement of Indian trust funds but also in the general impoverishment of Indian people. In classic colonial fashion, Indian country continues to be by far the most underdeveloped part of the United States, though it encompasses some of its richest mineral resources. The relatively optimistic (the glass is half full) Taylor and Kalt report for the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development points to the effects of underdevelopment in Indian country, even after a decade of gaming revenues and what the report understands as increasing “self-determination” for the tribes:

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


Notwithstanding evident socioeconomic improvement in Indian Country between 1990 and 2000, the glass is also half-empty. The Census data make it clear that, on average, Indians on both gaming and non-gaming reservations have a long way to go to [sic] with respect to addressing the accumulation of long-enduring socioeconomic deficits in Indian Country. Across many indicators—even those displaying remarkable improvement—the gap remained large in the 2000 Census: real per capita income of Indians living in Indian Country was less than half the U.S. level; real median household income of Indian families was little more than half the U.S. level; Indian unemployment was more than twice the U.S. rate; Indian family poverty was three times the U.S. rate; the share of Indian homes lacking complete plumbing was substantially higher than the U.S. overall level; and the proportion of Indian adults who were college graduates was half the proportion for the U.S. as a whole. In sum, the gains made by the tribes in the 1990s did not eliminate the socioeconomic disparities between Indian Americans and other Americans. Much remains to be done to close the gap: If U.S. and on-reservation Indian per capita incomes were to continue to grow at their 1990s’ rates, it would take half a century for tribes to catch up. More critically, the reality of falling real incomes and worsening socioeconomic conditions on reservations during the 1980s are testament to the vulnerability of the gains made in the 1990s. Solidification and extension of the gains of the 1990s will require steady hands on the policies of self-determination in the decades to come. Without that—or worse, under policies that actually erode tribal powers essential to self-government—the gains in Indian Country could easily be reversed. Such a reversal would dash prospects for socioeconomic progress in Indian Country and would increase demands that federal and state governments address the problems of reservation poverty. That would be a losing proposition for all. (xii) The continuing colonial history of Indian country suggests that “the gains” registered in the Harvard report, which still leave the tribes in drastic arrears compared to the rest of the United States, are precarious at best. While Gover acknowledges the complicity of, indeed the central part played by, the BIA in the “ethnic cleansing” of Native Americans and understands this cleansing as having continuing devastating social effects in the present, he also makes a distinction between the BIA “in the past” and now, “in this era of self-determination, when the Bureau of Indian Affairs is at long last serving as an advocate for Indian people in an atmosphere of mutual respect.” But this all too clean separation of institutional past from institutional present requires the overlooking or denial of certain salient facts, such as the mismanagement of trust funds. Another fact that complicates Gover’s sense of history is the ongoing NavajoHopi land dispute, which, begun in 1882 by the bureau’s machinations, since 1974 has resulted, under the BIA’s direction, in the displacement of twelve to fourteen thousand Navajos from their traditional lands, with catastrophic social results.37 Despite Gover’s claims for “an atmosphere of mutual respect,” the colonial structure of federal Indian law, which the BIA administers, dooms the bureau to be a certain kind of classic colonial bureaucracy. Since the ratification of the Constitution, this colonial structure has been articulated in laws of Congress, decisions of the federal courts, and administrative regulations emanating from the Department of the Interior and put into action by the BIA within the context of federal Indian Law.


Part I

III. European Imperialism in the Americas The colonial structure of Indian country has its roots in European imperialism in the Americas, which began with Columbus’s invasion of the Caribbean in 1492. I emphasize “invasion” because that is precisely what it was from the indigenous perspective—not a “discovery.” For the indigenous peoples of what Europeans would name the Americas, Columbus’s appearance proved to be an apocalypse. Between 1492 and 1504 Columbus made four voyages into the Caribbean, believing all the while that he was traveling the margins of Asia and would therefore come upon the limitless supplies of gold that Europe wove into its Orientalist narratives of the Great Khan (“El gran Can,” as he is referred to in Columbus’s journal). Columbus’s gross error in geography, his confusion of the Caribbean with the Indies, caused him to homogenize under the name of “Indians” the indigenous peoples he encountered. While there were apparently trace amounts of gold in the Caribbean islands that Columbus invaded, his commitment to finding the precious metal in abundance caused him to hallucinate the mines of his imagined Asia until the day he died. His journal obsessively notes every fleck of gold he sees, or thinks he sees, in indigenous artifacts. He translates rumors of gold into testimony of fact, when these rumors are translations of Native languages that the invaders could not have known before arriving in the Caribbean and would have taken a long time to learn even if they had been interested in doing so. In other words, when it came to his fantasies of gold in this place he imagined to be Asia, Columbus understood what he wanted to believe, regardless of the linguistic barriers—an epistemology that was typical of the European invasion of the Americas.38 Columbus’s hallucination of gold proved deadly for the indigenes. On his second voyage to the Caribbean, which lasted from 1493 to 1496, Columbus with his two brothers, Diego and Bartolomé, organized the colonization of Hispaniola (present-day Dominican Republic and Haiti) for the principal purpose of extracting the fabled gold through the forced labor of the Arawak communities on the island (J. M. Cohen 190–91; Koning 82–89). Native resistance developed and by the fall of 1494 had turned into a revolt against the Spanish settlers. According to Columbus’s son Hernando, who, not present at the time, composed his account from his father’s papers, the revolt was caused by the indiscriminate brutality of the settlers against the Arawaks, a result of the failed leadership of Pedro Margarit, whom Columbus had left in charge of “pacifying” the Indian population of Hispaniola and instituting the gold extraction, while “the Admiral” continued his incursions throughout other parts of the Caribbean between the end of April and the end of September 1494 (J. M. Cohen 186–87).39 Upon his return to Hispaniola, Columbus, with his brothers, took control of the situation and, aided by internal conflicts among the Arawaks, suppressed the revolt and pacified the population. According to Hernando’s account, “the region became so peaceful that a Christian could go anywhere he pleased alone and in complete safety. Indeed, the Indians would carry him on their shoulders in the way they carry letters, wherever it pleased him to go” (190). The language of “peace” here only serves to accentuate the actual violence that converted Arawaks into beasts of burden for the Spanish. In effect, under the restored regime of the brothers Columbus, the violence of Margarit was systematized; the pogrom became the concentration camp. Here is Hernando’s account: Hispaniola was reduced to such peace and obedience that all promised to pay tribute to the Catholic sovereigns every three months. That is to say: in the province of Cibao, where the goldfields lay, every person over the age of fourteen would pay a large bell-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


full of gold dust, and everywhere else twenty-five pounds of cotton. And in order that the Spaniards should know what person owed tribute, orders were given for the manufacture of discs of brass or copper, to be given to each every time he made payment, and to be worn around the neck. Consequently if any man was found without a disc, it would be known that he had not paid and he would be punished. (190) Because there was virtually no gold, punishment, which was death by having one’s hands cut off, was inevitable. Armed Arawak resistance having been suppressed by the settlers, the Indians resorted to mass suicides, using cassava poison: “During those two years of the administration of the brothers Columbus, an estimated one half of the entire population of Hispaniola was killed or killed themselves. The estimates run from one hundred and twenty-five thousand to one-half million” (Koning 87). Columbus inaugurated what demographer Russell Thornton has aptly termed the “American Indian Holocaust,” the ongoing destruction of Indian communities throughout the Americas by a variety of means “stemm[ing] from European contact and colonization: introduced disease, including alcoholism; warfare and genocide; geographical removal and relocation; and destruction of ways of life” (43–44). It is important to emphasize Thornton’s contextualization of “introduced disease,” for it has been the strategy of official Western histories to decontextualize, that is, depoliticize disease in order to make the Indian extermination appear to be the result of uncontrollable natural processes rather than of political will. In fact, even when diseases such as smallpox were not strategically introduced into Native communities (by the use of infected blankets, for example), cures or medical help were not made widely available (78, 82, 100–102). As Thornton’s list of deadly agents makes clear, disease fit perfectly into an arsenal aimed at Native destruction so that we should properly speak of it in terms not of natural causes but of biological warfare. Thornton “estimate[s] . . . a total population of 72+ million American Indians in the Western Hemisphere in 1492. This 72+ million declined in a few centuries to perhaps only about 4 to 4.5 million” (42). Of this Native population at invasion, Thornton estimates a population of more than 5 million in “the conterminous United States area” (32), which by the end of the nineteenth century had been reduced by the forces of European colonization to around 250,000 (30), a figure that today is up to over 2 million (see note 3). This increase should be taken as a sign not that the colonial war of attrition against American Indians is over, but only that its strategies have shifted in certain ways and that Native resistance, which has been persistent since the Columbian invasion and has accounted for Native survival, has itself taken on new forms. Since the massacre of approximately 300 Lakota men, women, and children by the Seventh Cavalry (Custer’s regiment) at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890,40 conflict with Indians in the United States has taken on a predominantly legal/economic form, which among its other effects keeps Indians the poorest of the poor with, for those living on reservations, a per capita income less than one third that of the population as a whole (Taylor and Kalt 6). Although the Canadian situation must be viewed in detail within the particular circumstances under which Canadian federalism developed,41 it is in broad outlines similar to the contemporary U.S. trajectory of legal/economic conflict, likewise deriving its fundamental colonial relations to the Indians from the British imperial system. This system is articulated in the Royal Proclamation of 1763, which, among its other provisions, assumed control of Indian lands for the Crown, using the language of “Protection” as its justification.42 While contemporary North American Indian-government conflict is


Part I

centered in the legal/economic arena, primarily on Indian land rights, armed confrontations between Indians defending civil and land rights and governments violating those rights throughout the Americas are an ongoing part of the history of Indian–Euro-American conflict. In 1973, in the second “Wounded Knee,” Indian activists from around the United States, most associated with AIM, joined with traditional Lakotas on the Pine Ridge Reservation against the BIA-supported tribal government, which was using violence to suppress dissent, and a heavily armed federal military force called in to support that government.43 In 1990, at Kanehsatake, Québec, a small group of Mohawks protecting traditional lands from urban development in the form of a golf course faced the Canadian military.44 Historically, Latin American governments have pursued terrorist wars against indigenous peoples. In the post–World War II era, these wars have had the strategic support of the United States. The 34-year genocidal civil war in Guatemala, ended in 1996, clearly demonstrates such support. The official report of this war, Guatemala, Memory of Silence, compiled by the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH), “established through the Accord of Oslo on 23 June 1994, in order to clarify with objectivity, equity and impartiality, the human rights violations and acts of violence connected with the armed confrontation that caused suffering among the Guatemalan people,” articulates unequivocally the overwhelming state violence (physical, social, cultural, and economic) perpetrated against Mayan communities, who historically were and are seeking social justice, and the part played by the United States in supporting this violence.45 The Columbian invasion of the Americas was only the first wave of forces put into play by the emerging Western European nation-states of Spain, England, France, Holland, and Portugal as part of an expansionist movement whose most recent manifestation has come to be known as “globalization” but whose early modern manifestation, is known retrospectively as “imperialism”: the creation of European empires through the mechanism of colonization. Although the word “imperialism,” along with its companion “colonialism,” only emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century (both, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, with connotations of exploitation that have since become denotations), the emerging Western European nation-states of the sixteenth century clearly thought of themselves as “empires” and their trans-Atlantic adventures as “planting colonies” on the classical model of imperial Rome, which was for them to be emulated (Cheyfitz, Poetics of Imperialism). IV. The Marshall Trilogy The laws that govern the colonial space of Indian country today are for the most part codified in the 25th title of the U.S. Code. This makes Indians the only group of people in the United States who are governed by a distinct body of law. This body of law, which defines the colonial status of Indians, claims its ultimate authority from the Commerce Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section VIII, Paragraph III), giving Congress the power “To regulate commerce with foreign nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian tribes.” Congress enacted a series of trade and intercourse laws between 1790 and 1834 that extended the definition of “regulating commerce” to include control over the buying and selling of Indian land, as had the British Proclamation of 1763, which was the model for U.S. Indian policy in this regard. These laws became the constitutional rationale for the three major legal cases that to this day form the foundation of federal Indian law. Known as the Marshall Trilogy, after John Marshall, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court who wrote the

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


defining opinion in each case, these are, in the order of their enactment, Johnson v. McIntosh (1823), Cherokee Nation v. the State of Georgia (1831), and Worcester v. Georgia (1832). Like all bodies of knowledge that claim objectivity, the law has a subjectivity—its social, cultural, political, and economic biases—that can be located in the narratives that underlie it but are rarely brought into play in legal practice. The U.S. law upholding the constitutionality of the death penalty is exemplary. It seems at this point clearly driven by the social and economic biases of race and class (a radically disproportionate number of prisoners on death row are poor and black); thus, it provides a historical narrative of race and class discrimination not only in the workings of the criminal justice system but also in the nation as a whole, which Congress and the Supreme Court have agreed to ignore so that the death sentence can continue to be administered (in the majority of states) as if it were being administered fairly. Federal Indian law works in precisely the same way: it is grounded in a narrative of cultural and political bias, which the government ignores so that it can continue to administer this body of law as if the narrative of the necessary domination of inferior peoples that drives it were a thing of the past. When Kevin Gover apologized to Indian people for the genocidal past of the BIA, he implicitly acknowledged this narrative. But when he uncoupled the present BIA from the past BIA, he repressed the persistence of this narrative in the present. In Johnson v. McIntosh, however, this narrative remains quite explicit, so it is only by the continuing implicit endorsement by the majority (in Congress and hence of the voters in the United States) that the imperial edifice of federal Indian law remains uncondemned. Reasons for this endorsement range from the government’s refusal to relinquish control of Indian land and resources to public and official ignorance and indifference as well as bureaucratic inertia. These are the principal props for the continuing colonization of Indian country. Perhaps the main irony is that in a case that has determined the status of Indian land and hence Indian sovereignty from 1823 to the present, there were no Indian parties to the suit, which was brought by the Anglo-American heirs of one of the parties to a land sale consummated in 1775 between the Piankeshaw Indians and a group of British investors in what would become after the Revolutionary War the state of Illinois (21 U.S. at 555). As the facts of the case explain, this land was taken militarily from the British by the state of Virginia in 1778 and incorporated as “the county of Illinois,” which in 1783, at the conclusion of the revolution, Virginia ceded to the United States (at 558–59). Then in 1818, the United States sold 11,560 acres in what was by then “the state of Illinois” to William McIntosh, a citizen of the state (at 560). This sale provoked the suit by the lessee of Joshua Johnson and Thomas J. Graham, heirs of Thomas Johnson, one of the original purchasers of the Piankeshaw lands, and citizens of Maryland (at 561). The suit came to the Supreme Court on a writ of error from the District Court of Illinois brought by the plaintiff. The Supreme Court confirmed the verdict of the lower court in favor of the defendant, McIntosh. At stake was the status of Indian title to Indian lands—that is, whether Indian title to the lands Indians inhabited superseded U.S. title to the same lands—and therefore, whether sale of those lands by an Indian tribe to private individuals was legal. The court found that such a sale was not legal, precisely because, in the opinion of the court, the United States held absolute title to the lands. The problem in interpreting this case from Marshall’s opinion to the present has been that all commentators have assumed the naturalness or universality of the terms of Western property law, the terms of title, under which the case was argued, and


Part I

decided in favor of the federal government’s right to the title to Indian lands. This ethnocentric assumption is explicit in the stated facts of the case: That from time immemorial, and always up to the present time, all the Indian tribes, or nations of North America . . . held their respective lands and territories each in common . . . there being among them [“the individuals of each tribe”] no separate property in the soil; and that their sole method of selling, granting, and conveying their lands, whether to governments or individuals, always has been, from time immemorial, and now is, for certain chiefs of the tribe selling, to represent the whole tribe in every part of the transaction; to make the contract, and execute the deed, on behalf of the whole tribe; to receive for it the consideration, whether in money or commodities, or both; and finally, to divide such consideration among the individuals of the tribe. (at 549–50) The fact here stated is a legal fiction that at once recognizes Indian communities “from time immemorial” as communal land holders but then constructs the communal holdings on the model of a Western corporation or joint-stock company whose “individuals” own equal shares in a common “property,” which, upon the vote of the stockholders, as communicated to a “chief ”(a CEO of sorts), is fungible in terms of “money or commodities, or both.” No one from Marshall to the present has commented on this, though nine years later in Worcester, arguing for the sovereignty both of Indian tribes and of the federal government over and against the states in Indian matters, Marshall would in passing allude to the imposition of Western legal terminologies on Indian communities: “The words ‘treaty’ and ‘nation’ are words of our own language, selected in our diplomatic and legislative proceedings, by ourselves, having each a definite and well understood meaning. We have applied them to Indians, as we have applied them to the other nations of the earth. They are applied to all in the same sense” (31 U.S. at 559–60). In retrospect, this comment, which seems disingenuous in light of the usurpation of Native sovereignty accomplished by the court in Johnson and Cherokee Nation, serves to highlight the fact that in order for Johnson to be argued in the first place, Indian communal conceptions of land were implicitly translated into the terms of property so that the issue of title could be raised. Before Johnson ever came to court and in the absence of any indigenous input, Indian lands were translated into property and the Indians given “aboriginal title,” not to recognize Indian sovereignty but to allow the Court to legally subsume a title it declared prior but inferior under the federal government’s superior title, thereby placing Indian sovereignty under U.S. control. The summary of the argument for the defendant in Johnson captures succinctly the extent of that control: “Such, then, being the nature of the Indian title to lands, the extent of their right of alienation must depend upon the laws of the dominion under which they live. They are subject to the sovereignty of the United States. . . . The statutes of Virginia, and of all the other colonies, and of the United States, treat them as an inferior race of people, without the privileges of citizens, and under the perpetual protection and pupilage of the government” (21 U.S. at 568–69). The language of “protection and pupilage” used to argue against Indian superior title points to the language that Marshall would employ eight years later in Cherokee Nation to compromise Indian sovereignty by defining Indian “nations” or “tribes” as “domestic dependent nations.”Following the logic of his opinion in Johnson, Marshall, in Cherokee Nation, reasoned of Indian tribes:“They occupy a territory to which we assert a title independent of their will. . . . Meanwhile they are in a state of pupilage. Their relation to the United States resem-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


bles that of a ward to his guardian” (30 U.S. at 17). Marshall’s oxymoronic phrase “domestic dependent nations” (for by definition in international law, both then and now, a “nation” is at once both foreign and independent) allowed the Court simultaneously to recognize that the Cherokees were “a distinct political society separated from others, capable of managing its own affairs and governing itself ”(at 16) and to deny that fact. Further, Marshall’s metaphor of the Indian–government relation as one of “a ward to his guardian” contains the basis for the “trust” relationship discussed earlier. While, as noted, all Indians were granted citizenship by an act of Congress in 1924, those living on reservations as well as all who were tribally enrolled continued to be dominated by the colonial relationship of “trust.” Among other issues, Johnson points to the culturally relative status of the term “legal.” Nowhere is this clearer than in the narrative Marshall constructs to validate his opinion in favor of U.S. title to Indian lands. This is the European narrative of the conquest of the Americas in which Marshall, following European precedent, locates the so-called “doctrine of discovery”: On the discovery of this immense continent, the great nations of Europe were eager to appropriate to themselves so much of it as they could respectively acquire. Its vast extent offered an ample field to the ambition and enterprise of all; and the character and religion of its inhabitants afforded an apology for considering them as a people over whom the superior genius of Europe might claim an ascendency [sic]. The potentates of the old world found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new, by bestowing on them civilization and Christianity, in exchange for unlimited independence. But, as they were all in pursuit of nearly the same object, it was necessary, in order to avoid conflicting settlements, and consequent war with each other, to establish a principle, which all should acknowledge as the law by which the right of acquisition, which they all asserted, should be regulated as between themselves. This principle was, that discovery gave title to the government by whose subjects, or by whose authority, it was made, against all other European governments, which title might be consummated by possession. (21 U.S. at 572–73) No doubt Marshall inflects this expansive and expansionist narrative with a bit of irony by noting what he appears to recognize as the ethnocentric perspective of the imperial powers of the Old World who “found no difficulty in convincing themselves that they made ample compensation to the inhabitants of the new.” The implicit stereotype is the one that Columbus recorded early in his journals, before he met with indigenous resistance: innocent savages willingly exchanging all their wealth for the blessings of Christian Europe. But if Marshall is to a certain extent being ironic in order to suggest his historical sophistication vis-à-vis 1492, he nevertheless ultimately justifies the taking of Indian land with the same stereotypical opposition between the savage and the civilized, hunters and cultivators, that mapped the ideological terrain for Columbus: . . . . the tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. To leave them in possession of their country, was to leave the country a wilderness; to govern them as a distinct people, was impossible, because they were as brave and as high spirited as they were fierce, and were ready to repel by arms every attempt on their independence. (at 590)


Part I

The characterization ends with praise of “brave” Indians that damns them to dependent status, and it is also in bad faith because Marshall had available to him an abundance of published ethnographic material that contradicted the stereotype of savage Indian hunters (not to mention its implied counterpart: the stereotype of Europeans as peaceful farmers who did not hunt). In the “history of America, from its discovery to the present day” (at 574), a history focused from the Anglo-American perspective, which Marshall constructs as the context and rationale for his opinion in Johnson, he references the first two permanent British colonies in North America, those at Jamestown (1607) and Plymouth (1620) (at 577–78). However, he doesn’t mention what was paramount in the historical narratives written by the first colonists: these colonies couldn’t have survived without Indian agriculture, especially corn. Marshall’s narrative of the Anglo-American conquest of North America necessarily mentions the French and Indian, or Seven Years, War (1756–1763), which effectively established British control of the continent and thus set the stage for the American Revolution (at 581–84). This narrative also mentions the alliance of the British with the Iroquois confederacy, but not the crucial part that alliance played in assuring British victory. More important, in propping up his figure of the Indian as an ungovernable savage, Marshall does not reflect on the way the very act of alliance contradicts the stereotype, just as indigenous economies from the agricultural Pueblos in the Southwest to the mixed agricultural/hunting/fishing societies of the Northeast contradicted his stereotype of an Indian “wilderness.” Ironically, within eight years of Johnson, Marshall would have the example of the Cherokee Nation before him in the person of its attorneys, William Wirt (the former attorney general) and Thomas Sergeant (a renowned legal scholar), petitioning the Court to recognize it, based on its treaty relationship with the United States, as a fully sovereign foreign nation, so that it could bring suit against the state of Georgia for violating its treaties with the United States. The Cherokees, who had in 1821 incorporated a written language developed in a syllabary by the Cherokee Sequoyah, adopted a written constitution in 1827, modeled on that of the United States, and established in 1828 the first Indian newspaper in the United States (the Cherokee Phoenix, written in both Cherokee and English and circulated in a bilingual edition). They contradicted in the most obvious ways Marshall’s stereotype of Indians as unregenerate savages, as did the other four of the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” (Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Seminoles), who were effectively dispossessed of their lands in the Southeast by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (Prucha, Documents, no. 42) and forced between 1831 and 1838 out to “Indian territory” (present-day Oklahoma) on the Trail of Tears, for which Kevin Gover apologized 170 years later. It is within Marshall’s imperial narrative in Johnson, loaded with the ideological charge of racial stereotyping, that nonfungible Indian lands were translated into property, and that: the rights of the original inhabitants . . . were necessarily, to a considerable extent, impaired. They were admitted to be the rightful occupants of the soil, with a legal as well as just claim to retain possession of it, and to use it according to their own discretion; but their rights to complete sovereignty, as independent nations, were necessarily diminished, and their power to dispose of the soil at their own will, to whomsoever they pleased, was denied by the fundamental principle, that discovery gave exclusive title to those who made it. (574) The language here may be deceiving because it only seems to restrict Indian “power to dispose of the soil at their own will.” But, as I have emphasized, Indian tribes had no inter-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


est in selling their land outside of a context of conquest, that is, of forced sales called “treaties.” And within the context of conquest, for which “discovery” is a euphemism, the forced translation of Indian land into property, accompanied by the forced transfer of “exclusive title,” gave to the conquerors ultimate control over that land in all respects, as the history of federal Indian law demonstrates. The Lumbee legal scholar Robert A. Williams Jr. catches the force of Johnson at the time it was enacted: “While the tasks of conquest and colonization had not yet been fully actualized on the entire American continent, the original legal rules and principles of federal Indian law set down by Marshall in Johnson v. McIntosh and its discourse of conquest ensured that future acts of genocide would proceed on a rationalized, legal basis” (Getches 71). The fundamental decision in Johnson, the transfer of title of all Indian land to the federal government through the implicit translation of that land into property, which is the cornerstone of the colonial edifice of federal Indian law, remains intact, and thus so does the “legal” ground of the decision: the imperial “doctrine of discovery.” The United States continues to celebrate this doctrine every Columbus Day, a day of mourning and a continued call to resistance in Native American communities. Marshall’s rulings in Johnson and Cherokee Nation helped solidify the geopolitical integrity of the expanding and expansionist United States as a nation during the age of Manifest Destiny. His ruling in Cherokee Nation—that the Cherokees were not a foreign nation— barred them from suing Georgia for their treaty rights before the Court and avoided a potential constitutional crisis: a confrontation between the Court and both the president and the state of Georgia. Andrew Jackson had refused the Cherokees’ request for U.S. troops to enforce their treaty rights (as a foreign nation) against Georgia (30 U.S. at 9), which was invading their lands and usurping their laws (at 7–8). And Georgia itself refused to appear before the Court in this case, as it would in Worcester, asserting that it was solely a state matter. The Court’s expedient politics in Cherokee Nation were paid for by the Cherokees and ultimately all Indian communities. For the Marshall decision rationalized the breaking of Native treaty rights and thus paved the way for “removal,” or what Gover refers to rightly as “ethnic cleansing,” as the centerpiece of federal Indian policy in this period. Ethnic cleansing did not begin or end with the infamous Trail of Tears, on which approximately 4,000 Cherokees died from murder and murderous exposure in 1838 (Hoxie, Encyclopedia, 640), an event chronicled powerfully in two contemporary Native novels by writers of Cherokee descent: Diane Glancy’s Pushing the Bear and Robert J. Conley’s Mountain Windsong. In the same month (March 1831), the Court’s decision in Cherokee Nation was being handed down, the state of Georgia, in violation of Cherokee sovereignty guaranteed by treaty, arrested two missionaries, Samuel Worcester and Elizur Butler, who were living and working with the Cherokees on Cherokee lands at Cherokee behest. The two had broken a Georgia law interdicting “white persons” from “‘residing within the limits of the Cherokee nation without a license’” (31 U.S. at 528). That law itself, the two stated in their representation by Wirt and Sergeant, violated both Cherokee sovereignty over their internal affairs and U.S. sovereignty over the Cherokees. Reading Worcester v. Georgia, the final case in the Marshall Trilogy, which was decided only a year after Cherokee Nation and is based in the same set of legal issues regarding Indian sovereignty, evokes the schizophrenia, the constant double-takes, induced by an analysis of federal Indian law. Marshall echoes the arguments presented in the dissenting opinion of Justice Thompson in Cherokee Nation (arguments reasoning that the Cherokees are a fully sovereign, foreign nation) in order to reach the following conclusion:


Part I

The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter, but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties, and with the acts of Congress. The whole intercourse between the United States and this nation, is, by our constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States. (at 561) Marshall’s reasoning in Worcester, if not his opinion, contradicts his reasoning in both Cherokee Nation and Johnson, based on “the doctrine of discovery,” which in Worcester he is at pains to qualify as “an exclusive principle which shut out the right of competition among those who had agreed to it; not one which could annul the previous rights of those [the Indians] who had not agreed to it” (at 544; my emphasis). But as in the Freudian model of the psyche, such contradictions remain permanently in the unconscious so that consciousness, in this case the law, can appear coherent. While the language of Marshall’s opinion in Worcester seems inconsistent with the infantilizing language in Cherokee Nation that describes the Cherokees (and by extension all Indian communities) as the “ward” or “pupil” of the federal government, the opinion is nevertheless careful not to limit the federal government’s powers in Indian affairs but only to assert the limits of the power of the states in relation to both tribal autonomy and the authority of the federal government. Far from rocking the foundation of the colonial edifice of federal Indian law, Worcester puts the capstone on it by making clear what this law will come to define in Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock (1903) as the “plenary authority” (187 U.S. at 565) of Congress in governing Indian country, a power if not absolute, then virtually absolute in its force, though, it must be emphasized, a power that Indian communities have historically resisted and continue to resist both in and outside the courts. This “plenary power” allowed Congress in 1871 to pass a law prohibiting any further treaty making with Indian tribes (see Prucha, Documents, no. 83), though treaties signed before this time retain the force of law and typically form the basis for ongoing tribal land claims. And in Lone Wolf, the Supreme Court ruled that the plenary power of Congress in Indian affairs allowed it “to abrogate the provisions of an Indian treaty, though presumably such power will be exercised only when circumstances arise which will not only justify the government in disregarding the stipulations of the treaty, but may demand, in the interest of the country and the Indians themselves, that it should do so” (at 566). Given the history of U.S. governmental relations with the Indians, the presumption of congressional good faith and of the coincidence of Indian and federal interests in these matters is, to say the least, ironic. While subsequent Supreme Court decisions have qualified to some extent the congressional power to abrogate treaties (Congress must compensate tribes monetarily for land taken that was reserved by treaty46), “the holding [in Lone Wolf ] remains a valid precedent,” according to one of the fundamental textbooks in federal Indian law today (Getches 184). Former BIA head Kevin Gover might wish that “in this era of self-determination . . . the Bureau of Indian Affairs is at long last serving as an advocate for Indian people in an atmosphere of mutual respect,” but the continuing colonialism of federal Indian law subverts such advocacy at its source. V. The Oral and the Written I want to emphasize that in referencing American Indian literatures I am using “literature” in the literal, or strictest, sense of the word to denote what is formed by letters, that is, writ-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


ten. Native cultures in what Europeans were to name the Americas were oral.47 Until the European invasion, beginning in 1492, writing was not a part of Native technological repertoires; and even after that, Native societies, if not geographically removed from its influence (and by the second half of the nineteenth century, such distance would come to an end for all the U.S. tribes), were divided over its adoption, so that, for example, in the United States, which is the terrain of this volume, Native writing in English did not become visible until the end of the eighteenth century, in the sermons and letters of the Mohegan Christian convert Samson Occom, who also wrote an ethnography of the Montauk Indians, which was published after his death in 1809. While the oral tradition forms an important ongoing part of the social and cultural life of Native communities, always contributing both form and content as well as ideological energy to Native writing, I, varying from customary scholarly practice, have chosen to distinguish it from Native American literatures per se, for a complex of political, historical, and cultural reasons, which have to do with its strategic positions in relation to writing. These strategies are embodied in the complicated word “traditional,” defined in section I of this essay. In his generative study Native American Renaissance (1983), Kenneth Lincoln develops an opposition between Native and Western relationships to language that is virtually ubiquitous in contemporary Native writing and that threatens to become a cliché in its unquestioned, that is, its unhistoricized repetition. Lincoln quotes the Sioux medicine man Lame Deer, whose statement epitomizes the opposition: “We Indians live in a world of symbols and images where the spiritual and the commonplace are one. To you symbols are just words, spoken or written in a book” (52). Westerners are alienated from language, and writing is the vehicle of that alienation, whereas for Indians words “are part of nature, part of ourselves. . . . We try to understand them not with the head but with the heart” (52). The opposition idealizes as it romanticizes a complex history of European–Native American conflict in which the primal negotiation is the apocalyptic, discontinuous movement from preinvasion to invasion, from orality to writing. Writing a literary history, I have no choice but to narrativize this negotiation, which, because of the discontinuities between the oral and the written, cannot simply be written. Nevertheless, here is the outline of the story, which I will attempt to complicate. Before contact with European cultures, there was no Native American literature, precisely because the word “literature,” which derives from the Latin word for “letter” and thereby implies the technology of alphabetic writing, cannot translate a preinvasion Native oral relationship with language, however we (Natives and non-Natives alike) may imagine such a relationship. And it has been one of the major drives of Native American literatures of the United States (by which I mean writing by Indians) to imagine this precontact relationship, what Lincoln terms “tribal poetics”: “the song-poet lives an individual for the sake of the tribe; his singing is a matter of life or death for the people. He does not celebrate himself separately, his vision apart from the natural world, but sings of kinship in the tribal circle” (59). Imagination in this context performs the crucial political work, as Lincoln puts it, of “resisting EuroAmerican literary conceptions”(45). The assertion of tradition by Native Americans has been historically a crucial mode of resistance to European colonialism. It is within the context of this resistance that statements about language like Lame Deer’s must be understood. When we remove them from this history, they become clichés, figurations of the “noble savage.” The resistances to the translation of land into property and of orality into alphabetic writing are linked. At its introduction in the Americas, this writing was destructive of the


Part I

traditional Native relationship to land. When the Spanish, following Columbus, invaded, they brought with them a legal document, the Requirimiento, declaring with an imperial narcissism that knew no bounds the virtual dispossession of Indian land and culture (Hanke 16). The first act of invasion was to read this law aloud to indigenous communities, which could no more be expected to understand the language of its global imperatives than the invaders could be expected to understand the local Native languages for which they expressed such contempt as to deem them virtually nonexistent. Four hundred years later, U.S. agents, as a part of federal policy, were kidnapping Indian children and sending them to boarding schools where they were forbidden to speak their Native languages on pain of punishment and were forced to learn to speak, read, and write English. In a 1999 letter to Hopi tribal chairman Wayne Taylor, which represents her refusal to sign a rental agreement (the Accommodation Agreement or AA) for traditional Navajo land taken in the name of the Hopi tribe by the U.S. government, the Navajo elder Katherine Smith, who suffered the boarding school experience in the 1920s and whose life since then has been, as she puts it, lived within the “prison” of Western law,48 draws a familiar distinction between the Native relationship to land and that law: Here I sit on the East side of Big Mountain. My prayers, my songs, that I communicate with the stars, the rain, the Earth, and all the living beings here on this land. Those are my laws of understanding. If you put upon me the White Man’s laws your socalled AA’s, how can we both live in harmony? For these reasons, I have never signed anything that comes from the gov’t. At the end of her short story “Keyo,” about an alienated Indian boy desperately resisting literacy at school, Diane Glancy, a writer of Cherokee heritage, has her narrator remark, “He was angry he was born in a world that required books. He was angry at words that swarmed like insects in the creek bottoms, forever out of reach, forever spelling their own secret language that left him a stranger in their world” (Trigger Dance 22). We should remember, then, that writing has a history, or more precisely, histories; that its history within Native America is at best ambivalent because of its advent and continuance in the form of a law of dispossession and exclusion (federal Indian law). Writing would eventually become a tool of resistance to this law as well, beginning in the late 1820s with the antiremoval writings of Elias Boudinot,49 editor of the first Indian newspaper, the Cherokee Phoenix; and Pequot activist William Apess, whose Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Law of Massachusetts (1835) is the first detailed critique of federal Indian law and whose public address, “Eulogy on King Phillip” (1836), is the first thoroughgoing revision of Western colonial history from a Native point of view. By emphasizing the distinction between oral tradition and literature as strategic, I want to emphasize that whether a given culture developed or did not develop writing has nothing to do with the “sophistication” or “complexity” of that culture, i.e., its value. Plato, whom the West claims as a generative thinker, viewed the innovation of writing as a distinct threat to the integrity of intimate human discourse and the function of memory (Phaedrus 274c–276). This is a view quite compatible with a strain of Native thinking, as N. Scott Momaday makes clear through his character and porte-parole Tosamah in House Made of Dawn, the generative text for the development of the Native novel that has followed its publication. Tosamah, the self-styled “Priest of the Sun” and founder of the “Pan-Indian Rescue Mission” (a figure in the novel for the Native American Church, incorporated in 191850),

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


delivers Momaday’s famous set piece, a sermon on the “Word,” focusing the difference between what Tosamah understands as the white man’s deceptive use of language, in effect the secularization of it through writing, and Indian storytelling, the oral tradition, which for Tosamah retains its sacred force (92–98): “‘The white man takes such things as words and literatures for granted, as indeed he must, for nothing in his world is so commonplace. . . . He has diluted and multiplied the Word, and words have begun to close in upon him. He is sated and insensitive; his regard for language—for the Word itself—as an instrument of creation has diminished nearly to the point of no return’” (95). In contrast to this diminished white use of language, in which the “‘multiplied’” word would appear to refer to the technology of writing translated into print culture, Tosamah offers the example of his Kiowa grandmother’s relation to the oral tradition: “Consider for a moment that old Kiowa woman, my grandmother, whose use of language was confined to speech. And be assured that her regard for words was always keen in proportion as she depended upon them. You see, for her words were medicine; they were magic and invisible. They came from nothing into sound and meaning. They were beyond price; they could neither be bought nor sold. And she never threw words away.” (96) Tosamah’s grandmother’s relation to language is implicitly intertwined here with the Native relation to land, which, like language, is not a commodity to be bought and sold but a precious resource to be husbanded and shared with the kin group. Thus, the force of the oral tradition, of storytelling itself, becomes a nodal point of resistance to U.S. colonialism, as this passage from House Made of Dawn suggests: The people of the town have little need. They do not hanker after progress and have never changed their essential way of life. Their invaders were a long time in conquering them; and now, after four centuries of Christianity, they still pray in Tanoan to the old deities of the earth and sky and make their living from the things that are and have always been within their reach; while in the discrimination of pride they acquire from their conquerors only the luxury of example. They have assumed the names and gestures of their enemies but have held on to their own, secret souls; and in this there is a resistance and an overcoming, a long outwaiting. (58) In the novel, which, as noted, is set during the post–World War II period of termination and relocation, Momaday’s Jemez Pueblo protagonist Abel, a returning veteran, represents in part the tradition of Indian resistance to Western law. Abel kills an albino member of the tribe, known in the novel as “the white man,” whom, within the context of Pueblo traditions, he believes to be a witch. Momaday makes a point of noting that Abel’s killing of “the white man” (his understanding of the albino as a witch) cannot be contained within the terms of Western law. “‘Homicide,’” says the Catholic priest of Jemez during Abel’s trial, “‘is a legal term, but the law is not my context; and certainly it isn’t his’” (102). Thus, as if to mark the radically different contexts of Jemez culture and Western law, under which Abel is being tried, the narrator comments: “When he had told his story once, simply, Abel refused to speak . . . for he should not have known what more to say. Word by word by word these men were disposing of him in language, their language, and they were making a bad job of it” (102; my emphasis). Linguistic difference here implicitly points to national differences. Though Momaday does not state it explicitly, the informed reader understands that Abel is


Part I

being tried in Western rather than Jemez terms of law because under the provisions of the Major Crimes Act of 1885 (Prucha, Documents, no. 101), Congress subordinated tribal sovereignty to federal jurisdiction over major felonies. Since the generative work of Franz Boas (1858–1942), who, breaking the link between race and culture, displaced the bio-logic of a nineteenth-century racist anthropology with a cultural logic based in a paradigm of societies as diverse, historical developments, the discipline of anthropology has discarded a unitary evolutionary model of social development, based, for example, in line with this discussion, on the progression of culture from oral to written.51 Such a model was grounded in a now largely if not entirely discredited scientific racism,52 developed in the first half of the nineteenth century and exemplified by a prominent U.S. figure, Dr. Samuel George Morton, whose anthropological theory provided rationalizations for slavery and Native American genocide. Of Morton’s friends and colleagues, George Robins Gliddon and Dr. Josiah Clark Knott, who embraced his theories, which equated the structure of the brain with racial characteristics, Boas wrote in 1910–11 that their “views are generalizations which either do not sufficiently take into account the social conditions of races, and thus confound cause and effect, or were dictated by scientific or humanitarian bias, by the desire to justify the institution of slavery, or to give the greatest freedom to the most highly gifted” (100–101). While this last clause about “the most highly gifted” appears to betray a certain evolutionary bias in Boas that I will touch on shortly, his overall assessment of the scientific project Morton represents is unequivocal: Notwithstanding the numerous attempts that have been made to find structural differences between the brains of different races of man that could be directly interpreted in psychological terms, no conclusive results of any kind have been attained. The status of our present knowledge has been well summed up by Franklin P. Mall. . . . He holds, that, on account of the great variability of the individuals constituting each race, racial differences are exceedingly difficult to discover, and that up to the present time none have been found that will endure serious criticism. (29) William Stanton situates Morton’s work within the late eighteenth- and antebellum nineteenth-century debates about race, which focused on the scandalous question of whether human beings were one species, stemming from a single act of creation (monogenism) or, as others argued, were the product of multiple creations generating multiple human species in a hierarchical order, with Caucasians at the zenith and American Indians and Africans at the nadir. In this theory of polygenism, the terms “race” and “species” were synonymous. While racism pervaded both sides of the argument, clearly polygenism was more useful in justifying both slavery and the extermination and ethnic cleansing of Indians. Though he did not explicitly speak for one side of the debate or the other (41), Morton’s generative text Crania Americana (1839), which “received favorable reviews” (39), proposed a theory of racial essentialism based on the measurement of skulls (cranial capacity) that found, unsurprisingly, that “the Caucasian was distinguished for ‘the highest intellectual endowments,’” while the Native American was “‘averse to cultivation, and slow in acquiring knowledge; restless, revengeful, and fond of war’” (33). Morton’s views on the Indians, Stanton notes, supported “the appropriateness of suppression” (35). Morton identified “‘five races of men,’ Caucasian, Mongolian, Malay, American [North and South American Indians], and Negro,” which he ranked hierarchically in relation to cranial capacity, with the Caucasian first on the list and the Negro last (41). The U.S. Euro-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country 59

American community could generally agree about such a ranking, which all evidence tells us it did, while disagreeing about the issues of slavery and final solutions to the “Indian problem.” Nevertheless, the weight of public opinion being racist, whatever the specific disagreements and their manifestation in public policy, official and unofficial violence against African Americans and Indians continued long after the end of slavery and the Indian wars. Without denying obvious gains that the United States has made in ideas of race (there are no genetic markers for it) and civil rights, the violence of racism continues today in familiar and new forms, represented, for example, in both economic and penal policy (under-represented minorities form a disproportionate part of the poorest classes and of the prison population; and there is a clear statistical correlation between poverty and incarceration). Morton’s cranial science, which posited the historical immutability of the races (41), made him a collector of skulls, including Indian skulls. Stanton notes that Morton’s “wide scientific correspondence, especially with army surgeons stationed at remote frontier outposts, brought him crania from every state, territory, and nation. . . . In this manner Morton was able to gather at the Academy of Natural Sciences the largest collection of crania in the world—‘the American Golgotha,’ it was called in scientific circles” (28). It was “his methodical research in his own collection . . . which made him the founder of the new anthropology in the United States” (39). Thus, the American anthropological museum and its work began as a charnel house of Indian remains, garnered from grave robbing and genocidal massacres. With its gothic plot of the haunting of the Smithsonian by the vengeful spirits of murdered Indians, the Pawnee/Otoe writer Anna Lee Walters’s novel Ghost Singer bears witness to this history, as does the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which, after years of Native activism both in and outside of the courts, was passed by Congress in 1990. The act “prohibits trade, transport, or sale of Native American human remains and directs federal agencies and museums to take inventory of any Native American or Native Hawaiian remains and, if identifiable, the agency or museum is to return them to the tribal descendants” (Getches 788). But, even as NAGPRA is a monument to the genocidal history that it implicitly represents and ameliorates to some extent, it also, as D. S. Pensley has noted, erases that history in its representation: The text of the Act in no way implicates the genocide of Natives since 1492 and the scavenge of their dead that has brought it into being. In fact the first definition of the Act, for the term “burial site,” reads: “any natural or prepared physical location, whether originally below, on, or above the surface of the earth, into which as part of the death rite or ceremony of a culture, individual human remains are deposited.” At first glance inclusive, the definition avoids any intimation of mass graves and hangings or entire Indian bands killed and left unburied (the haste of retreat precluding ritual) at a battlefield or massacre site. (internal references omitted) The invidious Western terminology of the “primitive”and the “civilized,”which the “new” anthropology of Morton and his colleagues53 grounded in a bio-logic, has, as noted, been largely if not thoroughly deconstructed in most academic circles, so that some four hundred years after the fact, students of culture can recognize as true Montaigne’s dictum, published in 1580, “that each man calls barbarism whatever is not his own practice” (Frame 152). With his characteristic irony, Montaigne, in articulating the doctrine of what has come to be known as cultural relativism, was emphasizing the West’s ignorance of indigenous American cultures, which he found in fundamental areas of human conduct more “civi-


Part I

lized” than the cultures of Europe. Thus, we ought to note in passing, contra the Right’s reaction to multiculturalism, that cultural relativism was never intended to imply the equality of all values in the moral realm. Rather, it recognizes that the West does not have a corner on the ethical market and thus that it also has something crucial to learn about social life from the cultures it has termed “savage” or “primitive” and now disdains in the updated evolutionary jargon of “development,” though the recently declared U.S. “war on terrorism” has revived the fundamentally racist discourse of “savagery” versus “civilization” in order to justify its doctrine of preemptive war, with the concomitant suspension of civil liberties for those deemed “enemies.” While Boas broke with the bio-logic of scientific racism, he retained the vocabulary of the “primitive” to reference the cultures of what I shall term, following my earlier discussion,“kinship communities.” Thus, Boas at moments clearly holds on to a notion of cultural “development” based on a European model of “progress” that privileges the Western mode of logic: Another fundamental difference between the mental life of primitive man and that of civilized man lies in the fact that we have succeeded in developing, by the application of conscious reasoning, better systems from these crude, unconscious classifications of the sum total of our knowledge, while primitive man has not done so. (201–2) But at the same time, Boas’s idea of the primitive also derives from a tradition of romanticism, associated in the first place with Montaigne, that links the speech of American Indians to a primal language of metaphor and symbol, which is understood as inherently poetic and next to which the aesthetic impulse of the “civilized” can appear quite drab, even inadequate in terms of expressiveness: “Among primitive people the aesthetic motive is combined with the symbolic, while in modern life the aesthetic motive is either quite independent or associated with utilitarian ideas” (232). More pointedly in this vein, in refuting evolutionary ideas that see all development as moving from the simple (primitive) to the complex (civilized or modern), Boas finds: Primitive languages are, on the whole, complex. Minute differences in point of view are given expression by means of grammatical forms; and the grammatical categories of Latin, and still more so of modern English, seem crude when compared to the complexity of psychological or logical forms which primitive languages recognize, but which in our speech are disregarded entirely. (194) Thus, in Boas, evolution can be devolution; and in The Mind of Primitive Man, he continually blurs the boundaries between the categories of the “primitive” and the “modern,” until he arrives at a statement that echoes the cultural relativism of his intellectual progenitor, Montaigne, while also pulling back from it: To the mind of primitive man, only his own associations can be rational. Ours must appear to him just as heterogeneous [by which Boas means metaphorical] as his to us, because the bond between the phenomena of the world, as it appears after the elimination of their emotional associations, which is being established with increasing knowledge, does not exist for him, while we can no longer feel the subjective associations that govern his mind. (239) At the beginning of the passage, Boas suggests that what is literal from the perspective of a cultural insider is metaphoric for the observer from another culture. But by the end, he

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


seems to have nominated the West as the locale of “increasing knowledge,” or the literal (objective or empirical understanding), while primitive societies remain the realm of the subjective, or poetic. Yet, as noted, such oppositions are never stable in Boas. And he is a keen observer at moments of critical differences in thinking and being between “kinshipbased” and “capitalist” communities, though he does not use these terms, differences I will take up shortly in discussing the Native trickster figure. That is, Boas recognized the crucial shift from culture to culture in epistemologies: “In short, the whole classification of experience among mankind living in different forms of society follows entirely distinct lines” (198). Finally and most important, while working within and limited by a Western tradition of Native stereotypes, classified under the “primitive,” he had no tolerance for the figure of the primitive produced by scientific racism: Before we entered into the comparison of the mental life of primitive man and of civilized man, we had to clear away a number of misconceptions caused by the current descriptions of the life of primitive man. We saw that the oft repeated claim that he has no power to inhibit impulses, no power of attention, no originality of thought, no power of clear reasoning could not be maintained; and that all these faculties are common to primitive man and to civilized man, although they are excited on different occasions. (247) By “different occasions” Boas means, I take it, different modes. Boas, then, took a crucial step in removing anthropology from an essentialist notion of cultural development based on race by insisting that the discipline include a historical and rigorously comparative dimension. This was, ironically, a step back to Montaigne, back to a future from which we can point to the ethnocentricity of the European model of “progress” (of “development,” “sophistication,” “complexity”), based as it is on a certain view of technology tied to the market values of capitalism. We ought to remember, and this act of remembering is certainly a central function of Native American oral and written expression, that from a certain indigenous perspective, what the West calls “progress” has been an exercise of massive violence turned against millions of people around the globe and against the globe itself, resulting in genocide, poverty, and environmental catastrophe. Silko’s novel Almanac of the Dead bears a particularly acute witness to this situation. From this perspective, which the West has largely ignored at its increasing peril, traditional Native technologies, which did not include alphabetic writing, tied to traditional Native social structures, which, except in a few cases (Aztec, Inca, and Maya), did not include anything remotely resembling the nation-state, were fundamentally more productive in maintaining human and environmental balances than Western technologies linked to nation-state formations have been to date. We live in a world, generated by Western colonialism and neocolonialism, of increasing global poverty and environmental damage. In this context, it seems important, in the interest of accurate translation, to insist on terminological distinctions that point to strategic differences between Western and Native models of social life, of which writing is one. This terminological distinction is not essentialist. It does not suggest that writing is inherently “bad” or orality inherently “good.” Rather, it points to a particular historical situation (European colonialism in the Americas) in which writing was marshaled against orality in the name of “progress.” However, for the sake of convention, when I refer to the “field” of either Native American “literary” study or Native American “literatures,” it should be understood that this includes both oral and written forms, though for the most part, with the exception of video-


Part I

and audiotaped oral performances, which are not as easily accessible as printed material, students of U.S. Native American literatures come into contact with the oral tradition through translations into written English, of which so-called trickster narratives have been the most visible. Ubiquitous in the stories of Native oral cultures, moving fluidly between what the West categorizes as human and animal forms, as well as between what the West categorizes as genders, the trickster is a consummate figure of communal conflict. However, in kinship societies, where there were divisions of rank but no divisions of class (in the sense of one group exploiting another for the products of its labor),54 every person’s contribution was equally valuable to the sustenance of the group, and there were no systems of incarceration, solutions to intragroup conflict were conceived primarily in terms of restoring balance to social relations rather than, as in Western societies, isolating transgressors. The trickster figure is always both losing and regaining balance in extreme social situations, but is never apart from the social. Following Kenneth Lincoln, Vizenor contrasts the comedic trickster figure Naanabozho to the Western tragic hero in that the trickster is a figure of community (nature); the tragic hero, a figure of isolation from community, a prototype of the alien, or alienated, individual: The trickster is related to plants and animals and trees; he is a teacher and healer in various personalities who, as numerous stories reveal, explains the values of healing plants, wild rice, maple sugar, basswood, and birch bark to woodland tribal people. More than a magnanimous teacher and transformer, the trickster is capable of violence, deceptions, and cruelties: the realities of human imperfections. The woodland trickster is an existential shaman in the comic mode, not an isolated and sentimental tragic hero in conflict with nature. The trickster is comic in the sense that he does not reclaim idealistic ethics, but survives as a part of the natural world; he represents a spiritual balance in a comic drama rather than the romantic elimination of human contradictions and evil. (The People Named the Chippewa 3–4) “Stand up, fall, regain balance, and stumble again; such was the pattern of Nana’b’oozoo’s life,” remarks Basil Johnston in his recounting of some Nana’b’oozoo narratives (90). In his generative English compilation of Winnebago trickster narratives, a collaboration with tribal members Sam Blowsnake, John Baptiste, and Oliver Lamere,55 the anthropologist Paul Radin has read in Trickster a combination of “benefactor and buffoon” (124). Arnold Krupat speculates on the origin of the term “trickster” itself and suggests the multiple local manifestations of this figure across Native communities: It has been said again and again in print that the term trickster first appeared in English in Daniel G. Brinton’s The Myths of the New World, published in 1868, although Lewis Hyde, in a recent major study of the trickster, states that he has not been able to find the word in any one of the three editions of Brinton’s book! Hyde suggests that it is in Franz Boas’s introduction to James Teit’s Traditions of the Thompson River Indians (1898) that the term actually first appears. In any case, since the end of the nineteenth century, the term trickster has been used to describe a wandering, bawdy, and gluttonous figure . . . able to alter his sex at will, who appears in the oral narratives of most of the Native nations of the United States and Canada. . . . Whatever we mean by trickster, it should be noted that there is no such generic term in the languages or

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country 63

narrative of Native nations. Rather, these peoples all give the figure or, indeed, figures in their oral narratives who scholars classify as tricksters specific, concrete names. In California, Oregon, the inland plateau, the Great Basin, the southern Plains, and the southwest, the trickster is most commonly called Coyote. In the southeast, the trickster is Rabbit or Hare; Raven or Crow in the Arctic and sub-Arctic; Jay or Wolverine in parts of Canada. Among the Lakota, the trickster is Iktomi or Ikto, a word translated as spider. Among the Winnebago, the trickster is called Wakjankaga, although Hare (Wacdjungega) is also a Winnebago trickster. For the Anishinaabe or Chippewa, the trickster is Nenabos, or Manabozho in a number of variant pronunciations and spellings. For the Gros Ventre, Nixant is the trickster’s name, as it is Veeho for the Cheyenne, Sitconski for the Assiniboine, Napi for the Blackfeet, and Istinike for the Ponca. In the northeast we find Gluskap or Gluskabe. Among the Cree peoples of Canada, the trickster is known as Wesucechak, or Wisahketchahk (also in many variant pronunciations and spellings), anglicized to Whiskey Jack. New England Algonquian nations have Lox, who combines characteristics of the beaver, the badger, and the wolverine, along with a figure known as Ableegumooch, who seems to be Rabbit by another name. And there are yet many more trickster figures. (“The Trickster in Native American Oral Narrative”; internal note numbers omitted) The trickster, then, has no fixed form either from Native community to community or within any given community, where, as Krupat notes, in line with precedent scholarship, the trickster combines attributes of “human, animal, and divine nature” (ibid.). But Barre Toelken has cautioned against inferring from these local figures “a universal macro-tradition of ‘The Trickster,’ a concept that has become not only a handy carrying bag for anthropologists, but a passionately faddish focal point for Jungian analysts, literary critics, and New Age gurus” (cited in Elliott 744, note 7). Citing the comments of Native storytellers themselves, Krupat notes that the function of trickster narratives across Native communities appears to be both philosophical, prompting the listeners to think about the world, and pedagogical, teaching the listeners what it means, by example, to be a good and a bad community member—that is, I would add, teaching about the reciprocal responsibilities of kinship. Thus in the Radin/Blowsnake/Baptiste/Lamere Winnebago narratives, trickster is the very principle of kinship and its antithesis. Trickster is related to everyone and everything by kinship terms, even, amusingly, the parts of its own body.56 “He ambled along calling all the objects in the world younger brothers when speaking to them. He and all the objects in the world understood one another, understood, indeed, one another’s language” (section 3). Trickster is usually “older brother,” even to its anus and penis (sec. 14 and 16). Trickster is “First-Born” (sec. 16) and “old man” (sec. 25). But it is also “grandson” to grandmother skunk, who digs a hole for trickster in the hill, which trickster uses to lure its raccoon kin into a trap, then roasting them for a meal. But as usual in this world of tricks and countertricks, trickster is in turn tricked out of the meal by a tree and some wolves (sec. 28–30). At one and the same time, trickster is continually prevailing on kinship relations, principally for food (trickster is always hungry), and continually violating them by refusing reciprocity, often in the most violent of ways. The importance of kinship, which is the very fabric of Native societies, is highlighted through its comic violation by trickster, who engages in what Western readers or listeners might recognize as an extreme form of slapstick, particularly of the ribald (scatological and sexual) kind, which has its parallels in such Western literary figures as Chaucer and Rabelais (Krupat, “The Trickster in Native American Oral Literature”),


Part I

though not, it is important to emphasize, with the same cultural valence.57 Trickster kills a buffalo and there ensues a battle between trickster’s right and trickster’s left arm for the carcass (sec. 5). Trickster fools some ducks into dancing with their eyes closed, and then, hungry as usual, wrings their necks one by one, putting its anus on guard to watch the cooking ducks while trickster sleeps. But trickster’s anus, even though it farts continually, cannot repel the foxes who come to eat the food. So, upon waking, to punish its anus, trickster burns it and later eats it roasted, not remembering at first in either case that trickster is burning and then eating the nether parts of trickster (sec. 12–14). In another narrative, trickster’s detachable penis, which it carries in a box, swims through the water to have intercourse with the chief ’s daughter (sec. 16). Vizenor himself and his younger contemporary, the Spokane/Coeur d’Alene writer Sherman Alexie, have employed this kind of trickster slapstick in their work to powerful, disturbing, and often hilarious effect.58 In a similar pedagogical vein, the Tulalip storyteller Johnny Moses, in a taped bilingual performance, tells the story of the trickster figure Crow, who, visiting the members of its community in turn, makes itself unwelcome by displaying the kind of arrogant behavior that is the antithesis of Native etiquette.59 Whenever anyone tries to give advice of any kind at all, this trickster replies in a nasal, scratchy whine,“I know everything; nobody can tell me anything,” a kind of assertion tellingly close to the Western style of competitive individualism, which is the very opposite of Native kinship behavior. Moving from family to family in the village of “animal people,” Crow is warned first by “Deer Woman” and then by the “Bear People” not to visit “Octopus Lady” when the tide is out; at each warning, he repeats in his annoying whine the refrain “I know,” until all the people in village no longer want to entertain him. So, Crow, aggressively intoning, “‘Nothing can bother me; I’ll go wherever I want to go,’” ventures down to the beach at low tide, where Octopus Lady appears, “with the biggest head [Crow] had ever seen in the world.” Octopus Lady welcomes Crow. But “he’d never seen Octopus Lady before because he never listened to the people; he knew everything.” “Every night, every day, there was always stories,” Johnny Moses tells his audience about his childhood in a Native community,“always stories being born every day as well as the oldtime stories . . . so this is the way we memorized our way of life; the stories was a way of life; this is how we survived in the forest; how we survived, knowing what kind of plants to use and what kind of animals to relate to for our healing.” Born in local experience, Native stories are that experience. But having never listened to the stories of the people, Crow, who thinks he knows everything, is unprepared for the deadly charms of Octopus Lady, when in her lilting voice she welcomes him into her multiple arms: “‘Come a little closer; it is nice to see you, Crow.’” To which Crow whines characteristically, “‘I know,’” and moves closer. “‘Oh, you are handsome, Crow,’” lilts Octopus Lady. To which Crow whines, “‘I know,’” as she puts another arm around him. “‘Where do you live; do you know a lot of things?’” “‘I know everything,’” Crow whines again, as she puts still another arm around him. “One arm after the other as they talked longer and longer. He was getting hungry; he was getting very hungry,” and so he demands: “‘I’m hungry. When are we going to eat?’” Liltingly, Octopus Lady replies, “‘We’re going to eat pretty soon, Crow.’ And then she got down to her last arm. And then, you know, when they were talking away, talking away, the water began to rise, began to rise, and the water was way up to his neck now.

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country 65

“When it was up to his neck, he demands of her again: ‘What is for dinner? I’m hungry right now. I want to eat something. What is for dinner?’” And as she wraps her last arm around him, she coos, “‘You are the dinner, Crow.’” To which Crow, of course, replies, “‘I know.’” Thus, knowledge, the narrative suggests, if it is not communally based, proceeding from reciprocity, is not only useless but potentially fatal. Trickster narratives, like all oral productions, are not frozen in time but are repeated in ongoing and changing contexts, in which they gather new meanings. As the Miwok/Pomo scholar Greg Sarris reminds us: “Naturally stories are told differently in different situations, and tellers often do not suggest much about the situation in which they are told or invite further discourse about the stories or the world of the stories” (46). We should be aware, then, that among its multiple contexts, this Crow story, which exists actually and potentially in a range of contexts, moved from entirely Native contexts located in what is now the state of Washington to the time and place of its tape recording in Detroit, Michigan before a nonNative audience, where it not only had a different meanings for its audience but also commented on them in different ways. “More and more,” Sarris notes, scholars of oral literatures are looking to the broader contexts in which these literatures live. Specifically, they are considering what lies beyond the spoken word, beyond their perceptual range as listeners and readers, and what that larger context says about their position as literate speakers and writers for and about oral traditions. Concerns regarding context become particularly significant in cross-cultural situations. (39) The cross-cultural situation that concerns us here is the translation of Native oral production into alphabetic writing, about which Sarris remarks: Writing recreates oral experience in given ways. The transcriptions of American Indian oral literatures, for example, sometimes provide nothing about the context in which the literatures were told and recorded or the manner in which they were translated. In the end we have a story as an object devoid of the context that might suggest something about the story beyond our interaction with it as an independent text. (38) While the figure of the trickster presumably originated in preinvasion times and thus refers to cultural contexts that are not simply answerable to the European invasion, nevertheless, trickster later became expandable to include responses to the effects of European imperialism and its colonial forms on Native communities. Thus, without getting into problems of intention or origin, we can understand a narrative like that of Crow, in one of its possible meanings, as offering a particular critique of Western epistemology in contrast to Native modes of knowing. Indeed, for all we know this particular narrative may have originated within the colonial context as a direct response to the egocentric arrogance of the colonizers.60 As Krupat notes, trickster logic blurs the boundaries between identities that the West has come to think of as “oppositional, hierarchical, and exclusionary” (“The Trickster in Native American Oral Narrative”): This logic developed in the West as a consequence of the internalization of the habits of alphabetic literacy. But the traditional philosophy of an oral culture, and particularly . . . the philosophical thought expressed by means of trickster tales, does not construct its posited pairs in oppositional, but, rather, in conjunctural or comple-


Part I

mentary fashion. This thought is expressed not in abstract, analytical discourse, but, rather, in highly particularized narratives. Thus, Krupat concludes, “Narrative is the privileged epistemological mode of an oral culture; storytelling is the primary means of gaining and conveying knowledge, of doing philosophy.” As suggested by the epigraphs from Vizenor for this essay and the passages cited in Momaday, this epistemological privileging of storytelling is articulated by a range of contemporary Native writers. Silko left law school because she “decided the only way to seek justice was through the power of stories” (Yellow Woman 20). And the power of stories is always communal, the power of kinship: The stories are always bringing us together, keeping this whole together, keeping this family together, keeping this clan together. . . . And so there is this constant pulling together to resist the tendency to run or hide or separate oneself during a traumatic emotional experience. This separation not only endangers the group but the individual as well—one does not recover by oneself. (52) Ultimately, Native storytelling, which reinforces kinship, is land based, tied to the local sites of communities that narrate their origins as autochthonous. In the Southwest this typically takes the form of emergence narratives where, in contradistinction to the Judeo-Christian narrative of the Fall into alienated separation, community is formed and constantly tested as it rises through a series of worlds to its present home. “Human identity, imagination and storytelling were inextricably linked to the land,” Silko tells us, “to Mother earth, just as the strands of the spider’s web radiate from the center of the web” (21). We might read Native oral narrative, then, and specifically trickster narratives, as, through their centering the social value of kinship/land, inherently resistant to the Western narrative of the Fall. Following Krupat, we can understand that narrative as grounded in the epistemology of alphabetic writing, of “opposition, hierarchy, and exclusion”; that is, the epistemology of alienation, which creates what the West will come to valorize as the “individual,” the I-centered person. This is also the epistemology of tragedy, of the fall of the singular figure, the prototype for which is Sophocles’s Oedipus, into separation from community. As noted previously, Vizenor contrasts this tragic epistemology to the comic/ communal, or we-centered, epistemology of trickster. In Silko’s Ceremony, her Puebloan protagonist Tayo, returning to the hegemonic white world of the United States from the trauma of World War II, struggles to free himself from the disease of a Western I-centered narrative through the active telling of a Native we-centered story. In the following passage, previously cited in part, we hear Tayo struggling with the issue of health, his return to balance, in the person of the Navajo singer (healer) Betonie: “We all have been waiting for help a long time. But it never has been easy. The people must do it. You must do it.” Betonie sounded as if he were explaining something simple but important to a small child. But Tayo’s stomach clenched around the words like knives stuck into his guts. There was something large and terrifying in the old man’s words. He wanted to yell at the medicine man, to yell the things the white doctors had yelled at him—that he had to think only of himself, and not about the others, that he would never get well as long as he used words like “we” and “us.” But he had known the answer all along, even while the doctors were telling him he could get well and he was trying to believe them: medicine didn’t work that way, because the world didn’t

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


work that way. His sickness was only part of something larger, and his cure would be found only in something great and inclusive of everything. (125–26) In one of the the Winnebago trickster narratives, trickster, traveling alone, meets his “younger brother” fox, who tells him, “‘The world is going to be a difficult place to live in.’” To which trickster replies: “‘Oh, oh, my younger brother, what you have said is very true. I, too, was thinking of the very same thing. I have always wanted to have a companion, so let us live together.’ Trickster consented and so they went on to look for a place in which to dwell” (section 19), ultimately joining with other companions to found a community. This is one of the few narratives that Radin reproduces in the “Winnebago Trickster Cycle” in which the community is not fractured by tricks and countertricks. By putting the comic antics of trickster in parentheses for a moment, the story seems to stress in fairly direct terms the necessity of kinship for survival in a difficult world. This is Ceremony’s insight as well. To the extent that Tayo, until the very end of the novel, struggles with himself and other figures he meets along the way, we can read him as a trickster, affirming kinship, often through showing us the disasters of its subversion. In one way or another, one could argue, this trickster dialectic of kinship is the central dynamic of Native writing from Apess to Alexie. Kenneth Lincoln remarks, “Silko’s novel is a word ceremony. It tells Tayo’s story as a curative act” (237). Formally, this “curative act” is committed to the representation of oral narrative in writing: “I began to think more about the written word as a picture of the spoken word” (Yellow Woman 14–15). In this respect, Ceremony’s protagonist Tayo seems to picture in writing the oral narratives of the Hopi cultural hero, Tiyo, who, with the help of Spider Grandmother, retraces the path of emergence in order to obtain the spiritual power that will bring an end to a drought that is threatening the community (Mullett 7–43). In terms of content, the curative act of contemporary Native American writing is committed to the communal, or kinship, logic of trickster narratives. While these narratives, as a social formation, precede the European invasion of the Americas, the logic of these narratives, trickster logic, is inherently positioned, because of its commitment to kinship as the driving principle of social life, to resist the Western oppositional logics that came to buttress and be buttressed by the logic of capitalism: individualism, commodification, and acquisitive competition. Chief among these is the logic of the law. In its agonistic structure, the written law forms a zero-sum game founded in the exclusionary idea of property that is the antithesis of the communal ethos of Native oral narratives, which I have been using trickster narratives to exemplify. Before writing, and persisting to this day, even with the forced acculturation that has taken place over the centuries since Columbus, American Indian societies expressed themselves in material creations (ceramics, weaving, etc., some adapted from Western forms) and oral verbal arts that were fully integrated with the everyday life of the community, whose members were active participants. Simon Ortiz’s definition of the oral tradition epitomizes these dynamics. The oral tradition of Native American people is based upon spoken language, but it is more than that too. Oral tradition is inclusive; it is the actions, behavior, relationships, practices throughout the whole social, economic, and spiritual life process of people. In this respect, the oral tradition is the consciousness of the people. I think at times “oral tradition” is defined too strictly in terms of verbal-vocal manifestations in sto-


Part I

ries, songs, meditations, ceremonies, ritual, philosophies, and clan and tribal histories passed from older generations to the next. When I consider the “idea” of Acoma oral tradition, I think of the interaction of the grandfather with his grandson, as well as what he spoke and what the story verbalizes as it is told. Oral tradition evokes and expresses a belief system, and it is specific activity that confirms and conveys that belief. (Woven Stone 7) Thus, a term like “literature,” which in its contemporary sense implies a special category of written production incorporated into a set of distinct genres, and a special category of producer (the author), would have found no translation in Indian vocabularies. Karl Kroeber understands the radical contrast between Western literatures and Native oral expressive cultures in these terms: the latter transform personal power immediately into the social power of ritual and act: The tribe consists not in listeners or audience merely, but of cultural supporters who can physically aid the poet by giving a social form to the power speaking through him. . . . The poem thus is means by which psychic energy flows into sociological structure, thence into practical activity . . . which makes the participants effective in the natural world, provides them with power. (331) The example that Kroeber gives of Native art as social practice is of a person’s dream of a deer that he shares with the community, which in turn interprets the dream in a dance that inaugurates and lends efficacy to a deer hunt. While Kroeber uses Western literary terms like “poem” and “poet” to refer to oral performance of a certain kind, he clearly means to emphasize that Indian poetry is radically different from ours, particularly in its cultural functions. . . . Indian poetry becomes more interesting, as well as more valuable as a contrast to our art, the more we attend to differences, instead of depreciating it by creating spurious genetic orders and connections. . . . Even the best-intentioned students of Indian literatures tend to assimilate them into our theory of art, thereby destroying their value as a counterforce to our habitual fashions of thinking about literary processes. (323, 326) Terms such as “genius” or “originality,” which, at least since the eighteenth century, the West has applied to an author-based system of individualized writing, individualized in both the aesthetic (style) and economic (copyright) realms (Foucault), do not translate into Native vocabularies of communal oral production where each “singer participates in a tradition recreatively, rather than merely reciting a later ‘version’ of some definitively placed original. The Indian tradition is not so purely genetic as our own; origination does not equate with primacy so neatly as in our art. . . . Whereas we put stress upon particularized sequences of art works, the Indian, focusing on reenactment, regards specificity of genesis [originality] as less important than continuity of power-flow. Hence the repetitiveness in the poem is reflective of the performative repetitiveness which constitutes its persistence as a practical social force. (328, 331) Practical social power, not aesthetic originality or genius, is the category of understanding in Native art. Or, if we insist on retaining the category of the aesthetic, then we might say

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


that for a Native community the beauty of expressive oral culture is synonymous with its practical social power. This communally integrated mode of art as social action makes the oral tradition “less alienated, more democratic” (330) than Western literary production. The folklorist Barre Toelken gives an example of this social power: the intimate connection of Navajo Coyote stories to the healing power of ritual. Referencing the work of the anthropologist Gary Witherspoon, whose conception of kinship I have discussed in this essay, Toelken remarks, “The Navajos believe that language does not merely describe reality; it creates it” (390). Thus the function of “healing rituals” is “to re-establish reality and order after a break with it has taken place” (ibid.). And “elliptical reference to [Coyote stories] in a ritual can invoke all the powers inherent in their original dramatic constellations” (ibid.). Navajo Coyote stories, then, are always either potentially or actively connected to the transformative social forms of healing rituals. Toelken notes three levels to the stories: entertainment, moral, and medicinal (390–91), and a fourth level, witchcraft, which in effect is an inversion of the third level (395–96). Within the context of Navajo culture, all three levels are integrated, though the emphasis on one or another changes according to the context. Translated, however, the levels become dis-integrated: the medicinal, or ritual, is necessarily lost; the moral can only be understood if an ethnographic context is supplied; and what is left is the entertainment value of the story, which is radically modified because a member of Navajo society is entertained in a much different way than a Western reader of a textualized Coyote tale. Kroeber understands expressive culture (“art” in Western terms) as a processor of “energy.” And for him the radical difference between Western art and Native expressive culture is that the former is “energy-consumptive,” while the latter distributes its cultural energy democratically in “socially productive activity” (332). In this “profound and no[t] [sic] paradoxical sense,” Western expressive culture is “anti-cultural.” I would extend Kroeber here to say that modern (post–1492) Western art, when compared to Native expressive cultural practices, is antisocial, and has become increasingly so up to the present moment, with its emphasis on genius, which might be understood from a Native perspective as a form not of heightened creativity but of alienation.61 While since the nineteenth century in the United States, translations by both Native and non-Native writers and scholars of the oral tradition have been published, because that oral tradition does not have an aesthetic dimension that can be separated from its social forms, what is lost in translation, necessarily, is the social forms of the oral tradition—and that is pretty much everything. What we have, then, in literary translations of Native oral forms are precisely not those forms but new amalgams of them rendered in Western prose and poetry. I would emphasize, however, that what contemporary Native writing does, in contradistinction to some of the Western translations of oral expression I am about to discuss, is to represent the social force of oral expression in its community contexts. Silko’s Ceremony is a primary example of this kind of representation of the oral in the written. In the post–World War II period, the first collection of translations of Native oral expression to appear was Margaret Astrov’s 1946 The Winged Serpent (reprinted in 1962 as American Indian Prose and Poetry: An Anthology). Implicitly invoking a tradition of the “noble savage” running from the ancient Greek notion of a prelapsarian Golden Age through Montaigne, Rousseau, the nineteenth-century Romantics, and Boas in the ways noted, Astrov’s conception of the Indian is grounded in the anthropological notion of “the primitive mind” (20); yet, as in the tradition of the noble savage, she reads the Indian as “an outstanding poet, as a singer of exquisite songs” (17). Here notions of the primitive and of


Part I

the purity or primalness of language merge. From Montaigne forward, these notions have been a reaction to what has been understood as the West’s corruption of language, so that, for example, in Ralph Waldo Emerson’s first book, Nature (1836), the social crisis that Emerson finds in the contemporary United States is marked by the fact that words have become alienated from things (22–23), from, if you will, reality itself, understood as spiritual truth, very much in the manner that Momaday articulates through Tosamah’s sermon on the Word. This sense of the alienation or corruption of language is intimately connected in the tradition I am referencing with the secularization of language, a point that Momaday drives home in House Made of Dawn. Thus, Indian languages are typically idealized by the writers in this tradition because of their indissoluble bond with what these writers understand as the sacred, equated in the Romantic tradition with “nature.” As she works within this particular European context, Astrov’s interest in the expressive verbal cultures of Native America appears motivated by what she terms the “spiritual starvation” (38) of the West, which she characterizes in typically Emersonian terms (repeated by Momaday) as “an alarming inflation of the word” (39) with a consequent devaluation of silence.62 In contrast, Astrov stresses the measured, reticent, patient, and polite, low-key rhythms of Native conversation, and the way children are taught the uses of silence and stillness. Following the Romantic program, then, in both its nostalgia for uncontaminated origins and its often cogent political critique of capitalism, Astrov’s agenda is a reaction against the empty spiritual life of “modern man” (40). Hence, the idealization of Indian life that she presents is a deeply spiritual existence according to the “reverent economy” (43) of the word. As the previously cited passage from Simon Ortiz defining oral culture suggests, the idealization of the Native word that Astrov promotes as part of the long Western tradition of the noble savage is not simply a fiction of a Western poetic and philosophical tradition but significantly grounded in part in Native American social realities, particularly those emphasizing the centrality of communal life. When Montaigne, who never voyaged to the Americas, remarks of the Tupi Indians, whom he met in Rouen in 1560, that they spoke of themselves as “halves” of one another (in contrast to the violently alienated Westerners he sees all around him), he is not simply idealizing the communal life of the Americas in order to criticize European class divisions between rich and poor but also intuiting something crucial about American kinship at a very early moment in the history of anthropology (Frame 159). Like Montaigne, then, Astrov locates her ethnography in the Western fiction of “the poetic imagination of primitive man” (22), but this does not necessarily preclude insight into that imagination. In her introduction, presaging the comments by Kroeber I have referenced as well as the Momaday, Astrov notes that “the Indian’s relation to the ‘word’ as the directing agency . . . stands powerfully behind every ‘doing,’ as the reality above all tangible reality. . . . The native feels deeply responsible in using the word as a tool designed not only to perpetuate but also to actuate” (3–4), “which only proves again that song, at least with the American Indian, hardly exists as a pure art form: it always serves an end” (23). Thus, “on the whole the song of the American Indian can fully be understood only in its functional setting, as a product and tool of the group and deep-rooted tradition. Only if it is heard as part of a ceremony, be it one of purification, curing, or initiation, does one become quite aware of the intensely pragmatic function of all song” (33). Like Kroeber after her, having understood Native American verbal expressive traditions as profoundly social, Astrov nevertheless goes on to construct an anthology of translations, organized regionally with brief examples of expressive verbal forms from a range of Indian cultures, that cannot help but encourage a formal, that is, antisocial approach to these “intensely pragmatic” traditions.

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


This turn to and then displacing of the social and the political by the formal is characteristic of Astrov, as of much of the work on Indian literatures over the succeeding forty years. I term this work “ethnographic-formal” because it derives its agenda from two sources: Boasian anthropology’s focus on the ethnographic details of specific cultures, independent of the colonial histories of these cultures;63 and academic literary study’s focus during the same period (roughly 1920–1960) on the literary work, with poetry as the paradigm of literature, as a self-contained artifact independent of its social and political contexts— work typified by the movement known as the New Criticism.64 While noting, for example, that “the idea of ‘the’ Indian is an abstraction” (4), Astrov herself writes of Indians as if they existed in a kind of timeless space. She isn’t concerned that the “abstraction” is first and foremost a political one coined by Columbus in an imperial venture and used thereafter by the various state apparatuses that organized the “Americas” (another abstraction) in order to bureaucratize its indigenous peoples. That is, Astrov doesn’t give us the historical origin of the abstraction; while she is centrally concerned with translation, she is concerned with its aesthetics, not its politics. Thus, she projects “translator[s] as congenial collaborators” (17) rather than violent appropriators. This view obscures the colonial and imperial history of translation in the Americas, except in the section of her introductory material that deals with “The Influence of Christianity Upon the Aboriginal Cultures of America” (53), which contains an implicit reference to the ongoing history of Native American and EuroAmerican conflict that must necessarily inflect the word “collaboration”: In this collection of indigenous prose and poetry there is hardly a passage or a verse which is not faintly touched by the white man’s influence, if only by passing through the medium of a foreign language. Even those examples chosen from biographies written and translated by natives themselves can only be understood against a background of transition and as the results of the tragic clash of two cultures which could, as yet, neither be fused nor welded into a new creative whole. Many of the items of this anthology, then, represent vividly a state of transition and assimilation, or are the expression of dogged defense and passionate rejection, as the case may be. (53) Astrov does not unpack the political questions of translation, the questions of colonialist assimilation and resistance to it alluded to in the last paragraph of the citation. They are, however, raised by what she references fatalistically as “the tragic clash of two cultures,” suggesting that these questions cannot be separated from the aesthetic problems of translation, which Astrov discusses in her introduction: the need to translate “cultural matrix” (5); the problem of translating “style”; the resort, as in all translation, of rendering the “spirit” of the translation, because the letter remains locked in the specific material circumstances of the original language, which is to say that every translation is a figure for rather than a literal rendering of the original. In keeping with the ethnographic tradition of the pristine primitive within which she places her own work, Astrov refers to Native linguistic expressive forms as “primitive poetry” (5), and her models of excellent translation come from anthropologists. For in 1946, interest in Native lifeways and languages was largely confined to the discipline of anthropology; Boas’s and his Indian collaborators’ extensive project of translating Native oral narratives provide an important archive. Still, with all the caveats about translating, Astrov remains confident in the possibility of translating Native linguistic expressive culture because she remains confident that the translator-ethnographer can know Native cultures (6).


Part I

Astrov’s heir apparent is Jerome Rothenberg, whose 1972 anthology Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas marks the onset of a theory of translation of Native oral production known as “ethnopoetics,” a term credited to Rothenberg by the anthropologist Dennis Tedlock (xvii), one of whose translations of Zuni narratives appears in the Rothenberg collection and who developed a particular practice of ethnopoetics. The folklorist Dell Hymes, who along with Rothenberg and Tedlock is one of the principal theoreticians and practitioners of “ethnopoetics,” remarks that “it is first of all a matter of taking seriously the ways in which narrators select and group words. It is through attention to such choices that individuality of attitude and style can be recognized” (41). For Tedlock, Hymes, and Rothenberg, though in different ways, this means freely translating oral narratives into improvised Western written poetic forms. In contradistinction to Kroeber’s analysis of Native oral traditions as being in the first place social formations of practical power, ethnopoetics foregrounds what it takes to be the formal characteristics of individual performances, very much in the manner of the Anglo-American New Criticism. In the broadest sense, then, ethnopoetics treats all Indian oral narrative as if it were Western poetry, thus repeating, unconsciously perhaps, that strain of Western thinking going back to the Renaissance and continuing through the nineteenth century, which, as already noted, understood all Native speech as metaphoric, that is, as a kind of primal poetry. In his essay Of Cannibals (1580), for example, Montaigne compares the speech of the Tupi Indians whom he met in France to Greek poetry (Frame 158), and in the nineteenth century the scholar Peter S. Duponceau elaborated what had become by then the commonplace comparison of Indian languages to Latin and Greek (Cheyfitz, “Literally White, Figuratively Red,” 68–71). This kind of translation of Indian languages and expressive forms into Western categories (for the purpose of making invidious or positive comparisons or sometimes both at once65) marks the first and one of the continuing legacies of Western colonialism (Cheyfitz, Poetics of Imperialism), even when its intent appears to be anticolonial, as is certainly the case with the practitioners of ethnopoetics, though, for example, Hymes, in a moment that reanimates the history of colonial translation, represents Indian languages as themselves incapable of grasping the ethnopoetics that is grasping them: The fact is that the underlying patterns revealed by ethnopoetics are not available in consciousness, even to those who enjoy an uninterrupted heritage. Like the beautiful and complex patterns of the languages themselves, the patterns that make so many Indian narratives a kind of poetry are acquired and employed without awareness. They are not topics of analytic discussion. The languages lack terms for them. (42; my emphasis) I emphasize Hymes’s use of “lack” here because it seems to give a particular version of the colonial game away: the one in which the Western scholar acknowledges in a kind of noblesse oblige “the beautiful and complex patterns of the languages themselves,” while at the same time denying the languages the complexity to understand their own complexity.66 There is no doubt that Indian languages do not contain the terminologies of ethnopoetics, but there is also no doubt that this is not a lack on their part. Rather, it is a sign that ethnopoetics is an imposition of Western aesthetic norms, the norms of formalism tied to alphabetic writing, on indigenous oral expressive forms, what, as previously noted, Kenneth Lincoln terms “tribal poetics” that, communally based, “resist . . . Euro-American literary conceptions.”

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


Rothenberg’s “Pre-Face” to Shaking the Pumpkin alludes to the political, specifically colonial context within which the translation of Indian oral production by Europeans takes place: The question for the translator is not whether but how far we can translate one another. Like the poet who is his brother, he attempts to restore what has been torn apart. Any arrogance on his part would not only lead to paternalism or “colonialism”. . . . it would deny the very order of translation. Only if he allows himself to be directed by the other will a common way emerge, true to both positions. To submit through translation is to begin to accept the “truths” of an other’s language. At the same time it’s a way of growing wary of the lies in one’s own, a point of vigilance that translators & poets should be particularly keyed to. (xix–xx) Without referencing it explicitly, Rothenberg’s language here seems sensitive to the immediate political context of his project: the violence of America’s imperial war in Vietnam and the clashes of the civil rights movement. At the end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s, these clashes helped generate the Alcatraz–Red Power movement, of which the American Indian Movement (AIM) became the most visible representative: The occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969–71 initiated a unique nine-year period of Red Power protest that culminated in the transformation of national consciousness about American Indians and engendered a more open and confident sense of identity among people of Indian descent. Between 20 November 1969 and the Longest Walk in 1978, there were more than seventy property takeovers by Indian activists. This series of collective actions is referred to as the Alcatraz-Red Power Movement (ARPM) because it started with—and was modeled after—the Alcatraz takeover. (Johnson et al. 9) As this quote from three scholars of Indian activism suggests, the focus of this period of American Indian activism, modeling itself on revolutionary pan-Indian movements that went at least as far back as the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, was primarily not the civil rights of individual Indians but the sovereign rights of the tribes to land, an issue discussed in previous sections of this essay. This period was also marked by the beginnings of a revolution in Indian writing that is still going on today. Such important Native writers as Momaday, Simon Ortiz, Silko, and James Welch began to publish; Rothenberg includes work by the first three in a “revised edition” of Shaking the Pumpkin (1986). In response to what Kenneth Lincoln terms this “renaissance” of Native writing,67 the field of Native American literary criticism began to develop. Like ethnopoetics, it marginalized or ignored the colonial contexts of Native American literatures, at least in its formative stages. For while Rothenberg’s allusions in his “Pre-Face” to “colonialist ideology,” “genocide,” and “‘red power’” suggest that the translations in his volume represent an Indian oral expressive tradition of resistance, in the ways that I have suggested trickster logic is inherently prepared to resist the European invasion and colonization of the Americas, Shaking the Pumpkin in fact positions its translations within the ethnographic-formal contexts of ethnopoetics. Formally, the poems in the collection represent what Rothenberg terms “‘total translation’—a term I use for translation (of oral poetry in particular) that takes into account any or all elements of the original beyond the words” (xxiii); that is, “the rendering of all sounds & repetitions which the translator can be made to perceive in the original”(424). Ted-


Part I

lock’s translations from the Zuni narratives—with their use of line breaks and spacing within and between lines to represent the speaker’s dramatic pauses; shifts in typography from upper- to lower-case letters to represent dramatic changes of vocal volume; and placement of words above and below the line to represent changes in intonation—are Rothenberg’s model. In contrast to the apparent modesty of Rothenberg’s caveat about colonialist translation, the very phrase “total translation” suggests an imperial appropriative gesture in which Zuni social practice becomes contemporary Western poetry. While the look of the poems on the page and the theory of their rendering in Shaking the Pumpkin emphasizes the formal, the endnotes accompanying them are bits and pieces of ethnographic information from and about the Indian communities represented in the anthology. Isolating this fragmentary cultural information from the ongoing histories of the societies it references has the same effect that typical museum collections have on uninformed spectators, who wander from display to display, from culture to culture, in a construct of disconnected, ahistorical worlds, collections whose own histories are obscured. This is the problem of this kind of anthology in general, and it compounds the issues of translation of Native oral expression raised by Kroeber and Sarris. It not only rips the expression from the social contexts that give it form and meaning, but it further alienates the utterance by disconnecting it from its history and placing it according to some alien organizing principle (the principle of the collection in which it appears) next to other oral expressions similarly alienated. All of these displacements, however, are dependent on a primary displacement: the relationship of the “translators” to the original languages represented in English. It is clear that most of the translators in Shaking the Pumpkin do not speak the languages they are “translating” but are themselves working from translations of the original material; hence the language of “versions” or “workings” that roughly indicates the degree to which the “translator” is removed from the “original.” Even the notion of an “original” is highly problematic at best (hence my scare quotes), based as it is on a modern Western notion of authorshipownership linked to copyrighted written texts, which, clearly, does not obtain in oral cultures. But even the distinctions among “translations,” “versions,” and “workings” do not accurately indicate proximity to the original language. For example, the translator of an Ojibwa (Chippewa, Anishinaabe) “poem” (328) is given as Frances Densmore (329), the noted ethnologist of Chippewa culture. But although Densmore herself labored for years among the Minnesota Chippewa, she never learned their language and so was dependent on Native translators (Archabal), who remain anonymous in Rothenberg’s attribution. Rothenberg does not mention Densmore’s linguistic dependency in his ethnographic notes (460), if he is even aware of it. But if the reader is aware of it, when he or she finds at the end of the sequence “Songs & Song Pictures” (330–35) the attribution, “Workings by Jerome Rothenberg from Frances Densmore,” an ironic awareness of what “translation” means in this context must obtain.68 While Shaking the Pumpkin begins, then, with a caveat about colonialist appropriation, it seems to ignore its own warning or, ironically, the warning of the first translation in the anthology, which is titled “what the informant said to Franz Boas in 1920,” taken from “Keresan” in an “English working by Armand Schwerner”: “long ago her mother/had to sing this song and so/she had to grind along with it/the corn people have a song too/it is very good/I refuse to tell it” (3). The note accompanying this fragment tells us that it is taken from Boas’s collection, Keresan Texts, but does not give a translator. Rothenberg simply adds:

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


A FURTHER CAUTION: To the reader who imagines that a book like this can really hold the spirit-of-a-people, etc., the editor testifies that in instance after instance the best remains untold or its powers reserved for those who “have ears to hear,” etc. But the rest of us have to begin somewhere. (403) What Rothenberg doesn’t tell his readers, who may or may not “have ears to hear,” is that Keresan is one of six Puebloan languages. Variations of it are spoken at seven pueblos in New Mexico: Acoma, Cochiti, Laguna, San Felipe, Santa Ana, Santo Domingo, and Zia (Sando 8). There are fourteen other pueblos, speaking five other languages,69 all of them in New Mexico as well, save for Hopi in Arizona and Tigua in El Paso, Texas, where, because of displacements due to the Pueblo Revolt, Spanish replaced Tiwa as the spoken language (see Nicholas P. Hauser in Alfonso Ortiz, Handbook, 336). The Pueblos are the only Indian communities in the lower forty-eight states that have not been displaced from their original lands by the European invasion and U.S. colonialism, though their land base has certainly been diminished by these forces (Sando 5).70 And in the early twentieth century, all Pueblo lands were brought under the colonial rule of U.S. federal Indian law as “trust” lands, notwithstanding the fact that the Pueblos held grants from the Spanish crown for this territory, dating from the late seventeenth century (Cohen 383–415). The Pueblos also organized the first pan-Indian resistance in North America, indeed the first North American revolution, the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 that forced the Spanish south to El Paso for twelve years until the deVargas reconquest of New Mexico, which began in 1692 and came to a formal end four years later. Pueblo resistance had then for the most part to take forms other than armed revolt (Sando 63–79). Corn, which is the subject of the fragment from Boas worked over by Schwerner, is the fundamental material-spiritual substance in the Native Amerian Southwest. The fragment offered as the first poem in Shaking the Pumpkin, with its declaration of refusal to repeat for the outsider certain songs, is, then, part of an ongoing history of resistance to colonial violence of which an invasive anthropology is a central component. As the fragment suggests, in 1920 one form the resistance took was refusing to share a certain sacred knowledge, a song of “the corn people,” with the anthropologist. This kind of resistance continues today across Indian communities in the Americas, though a collaboration between anthropologists and their “informants” has historically pried some of the knowledge open to the world in what amounts to ethnographic-literary voyeurism. However, as Rothenberg’s note cautions, it would be foolish to think that such translations “hold the spirit-of-a-people” or that people who are not members of the community understand what they are reading (“have ears to hear”) or understand that what they are reading has a literal relation to the community of its origin, so removed are both readers and translations from the sources. Increasingly, though—and this is particularly true in the late twentieth and early twentyfirst centuries, with the emergence of Native scholars, including anthropologists, and Native writers—the transmission of guarded knowledge into Western contexts has become much more complex, the result not simply of compromised collaborations but of judgment calls by Native community members who, in conjunction with building professional careers in Western institutions, are seeking to translate valuable cultural knowledge in the spirit of constructive criticism of certain Western values and instruction in alternative social visions. I am speaking not of New Age rip-offs of Native cultures but of attempts to create crosscultural dialogue about social change in which an increasingly desperate U.S. society needs


Part I

to engage. Nevertheless, these judgment calls are not necessarily appreciated by or directed to the Indian communities they represent. Such is the complicated pattern of fissures that ongoing colonialism has opened up, which the best writing by Natives and non-Natives alike tries to address. Because of this colonial context and its forcible introduction of writing into oral cultures, the position of an anthology like Shaking the Pumpkin in the pattern of fissures, indeed the position of all translations of traditional oral narratives, remains problematic. In a passage cited previously, Greg Sarris warns that the risk of translating oral performance into writing is that we may wind up with “an object devoid of the context that might suggest something about the story beyond our interaction with it as independent text.” There are undoubtedly some beautiful poems in the Rothenberg collection, like the song about corn grinding, which can be appreciated in and of themselves as poems in English. But a historically and culturally informed reader will be able to better understand them through access to contexts that, if they are not literally at home, are at least closer to home than the Rothenberg collection allows. This kind of reading is what I am trying to suggest by supplying a wider context to the Keresan fragment. Wanting to know about Indian communities constrains most of us, including most Indians, to use translations—and in the spirit of this fragment, we ought to be very self-critical about our intentions. But if we proceed, I argue, it ought to be with translations that are deeply contextualized both politically and culturally, which is to say historically. Concurrently, we ought to ask questions about the translator’s relation to the linguistic community being translated or, better, ask that the translator ask such questions: in the first place, questions of linguistic competency, though competency, of whatever degree, does not necessarily guarantee the integrity of the translation, if by “integrity” we mean proximity to the community’s understanding of itself. In this regard, the anthropologist Anthony Mattina has said of Tedlock’s linguistically informed translations from the Zuni that “he himself has seemed more interested in Zuni diction than in Zuni meanings” (132). Montaigne, on the other hand, spoke no Tupi when he met the Brazilian Indians in Rouen, and acknowledges that his interpreter was virtually useless. Yet his understanding of Brazilian kinship, probably from his reading of Jean de Léry’s History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil, among other sources (xxiv), strikes me as uncannily on target (Cheyfitz, Poetics of Imperialism, 142–57). Between the formal and the contextual approaches to translation of Native oral production, which in a way define the historical limits of the field, is a project represented by Paul Zolbrod’s translation, Diné bahanè: The Navajo Creation Story. While Zolbrod has been influenced by ethnopoetics, as the introduction to his translation makes clear, his approach in contradistinction to that school is conservative, in the most literal sense of the term. He aims to conserve a significant part of an oral tradition, however problematic that is when done in writing by someone outside the community. Zolbord’s introduction bears witness to this effort in terms that recall Kroeber’s and Sarris’s caveats about the translation of Native oral expression into Western literary contexts: The separateness of art that marks our own culture simply does not apply in Navajo culture, and Navajo poetry in particular cannot be isolated from its social context or its moorings in the broader frame of life. . . . To try to monitor Navajo poetry without acknowledging the details of its social and cultural matrix is like trying to study law in America without acknowledging the United States Constitution and British

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


constitutional history. . . . Somehow we have established an academic system that has encouraged many of us to isolate an individual poem from its fuller context, an object of art from the broader fabric of values and customs that influenced it in one way or another, or a laboratory experiment from its ultimate impact when the theory it generates finds its way to the marketplace. Such a system finally threatens to isolate us from one another. Maybe the isolation has already set in. (25–26) Following Rothenberg, Hymes, and Tedlock, but in a way more polemical than literal, Zolbrod characterizes Navajo narrative as “poetry”: “The term literature, I now believe, has outlived its usefulness as a broadly applied generic term and ought to be replaced by the word poetry. . . . In its conventional application, the term literature limits poetic activity to the medium of print and fails to record the origins of poetry in performance” (28). Zolbrod’s translation, however, does not employ the orthographic acrobatics of Tedlock or the transcription of narrative into verse forms of Hymes. Instead, he tells us, with characteristic modesty,“At best, I could work out a modified form of prose that might suggest some of the general features of Navajo storytelling and reflect the narrative’s preliterate origins” (15). While Zolbrod’s use of the term “preliterate” here and elsewhere in his introduction unfortunately evokes an evolutionary schema that implicitly privileges writing and summons up unintentionally the corollary term “primitive,” Zolbrod’s stated intent is quite the opposite, even as it recognizes the ultimate futility of trying to preserve a dynamic oral tradition in writing: “At best a printed work like this one would be to the whole dynamic tradition what a fossilized pawprint would be to some giant prehistoric creature typical of its species and total environment”(19–20). Certainly, the metaphor conveys the stasis of written translation compared to the dynamism of the oral tradition it is translating. However, the content of the metaphor, again apparently unintentionally, consigns that oral tradition to a “prehistoric” past, implying that only cultures with writing possess a history. But the opening passage of the Diné bahanè makes clear that while this narrative has roots in a past prior to the European invasion (not a past without history, a paradoxical notion at best, but a past with a different history), the stories are being narrated in the postinvasion period: “Blue arose in the south. It too was considered day. So the Níłch’i dine’é, who already lived there, moved around. We would call them Air-Spirit people in the language spoken today by those who are given the name Bilagáana, which means White Man” (35). “White Man” appears to refer to those white men who speak English, that is, whites from the United States, who invaded the Southwest in large numbers after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), in which Mexico formally ceded territory the United States had taken with imperial force. Until that time the Navajos had successfully repelled the colonial rule of first the Spanish and then the Mexicans. But the United States coveted Navajo lands (Diné Bikéyah) in what would become north central New Mexico and so made war on the Navajos from the late 1840s until 1868. At that point the Navajos, most of whom were confined in a concentration camp in eastern New Mexico, were forced to sign a treaty removing them to a reservation, the largest part of which is today in northeastern Arizona (Iverson 35–65). The reference to the “White Man” in the Diné bahanè, then, is a reference to the Navajos under colonial rule, which is necessarily marked by disruptive changes in Navajo life. In terms of social configuration, for example, this meant reorganization from decentralized extended kin groups linked by matrilineal clan affiliations into a centralized “tribal” structure governed in increasingly patriarchal forms, even as the matrifocal clan structure stayed


Part I

unofficially in place, as it has up to the present. Because, as Zolbrod tells us in his introduction, the central theme of the Diné bahanè is the achievement of gender balance (hózhó), the unbalancing of gender relations brought about by U.S. colonialism becomes a crucial part of the context within which we read the Navajo origin narratives. For within this context, these narratives become a form of resistance to the dominant Western gender system. So while, in contradistinction to the Rothenberg, Zolbrod’s introduction and his textual notes are an example of the ethnographic/formal approach used responsibly, that is, to conserve the integrity of an important and ongoing cultural moment, his omission of the colonial context (one of multiple contexts for the narrative) omits a crucial dimension of the story. However, it is only fair to remark as well that the omission is not complete. While noting resistance among the Navajo, particularly the most traditional people, to discussing their origin narratives, Zolbrod does mention in passing “special circumstances” under which resistors might be prepared to discuss these narratives: when resistance to revealing them outside the community is superseded by resistance to the appropriation of Navajo land, the very basis of the narratives themselves. For if we were to note only one significant difference between written and oral narratives, it might be that while the former are necessarily temporal in form, the latter are spatial, that is, grounded predominantly in place, not time. Traveling around the Navajo reservation intermittently over the last eight years with Katherine Smith, Julian Begay, Marie Gladue, Mary Katherine Smith, Mary Beth Sage, and other Navajos with whom I have lived and worked, I have been continually reminded how specific stories are always located in specific places. And I find this to be the case as well in other Native cultures. Thus, Zolbrod recounts a moment where traditional Navajos reveal sacred narratives to outsiders in order to try to protect the land that generates the narratives: Under special circumstances, it might even be possible to get an old Navajo—maybe even a medicine man—to talk about the deeply sacred dimensions of the story. Throughout the seventies there was a legal controversy over whether a commercial ski facility on the San Francisco peaks, or Dook’o’ oosłííd, was to be expanded. Like their neighbors the Hopis, they objected and agreed to testify against the plan. During the litigation process, attorneys gathered depositions from a number of Navajos, who reluctantly referred to the creation story, insisting that certain episodes therein stood as proof that it would be sacrilegious to install an additional ski lift or pave over any ground in the vicinity of the Arizona Snow Bowl. (23) The oral tradition inevitably responds, implicitly or explicitly, to changing historical circumstances; it is not a static artifact but a dynamic social process. In the example above, it responds directly to the machinations of federal Indian law. To take only one other example, the complex historic relationship between Navajos and Hopis, represented in the Navajo origin narratives, contradicts the reductive stereotypes of an ageless enmity between aggressive Navajos and peaceful Hopis that have been generated in the federal court cases since 1958 concerning a conflict known in Western legal parlance as the “Navajo-Hopi land dispute.”71 In examining this problematic of translation, it should also be noted that because of the violence of European colonialism, in this instance causing cultural attrition, significant numbers of Indians today do not speak their Native languages, though some tribes have instituted language education programs to try to remedy this. Many Indian languages have either functionally disappeared or are in danger of doing so, though some language recla-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


mation projects are under way. Thus, I would venture to say that at this moment the majority of U.S. Indians today are themselves dependent on translations of one kind or another (either oral explanations from other community members or materials written by both Natives and non-Natives) in the active imagining of themselves as Native people. My use of “imagining” here subsumes processes common to all communities in the social construction of a range of identities. Perhaps the most useful, because most controversial, case of such imagining is the relation of Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux, as told to John G. Neihardt (Flaming Rainbow) to contemporary Native communities. First published in 1932 and still in print today, this text is the most famous of the as-told-to genre of Indian autobiography. Beginning with the 1961 University of Nebraska Press edition of the book, the “to” in the title, “at the author’s request” (Neihardt copyright page) was changed to the vatic “through,” as if Neihardt thought of himself as a kind of medium through which Black Elk channeled his own voice. However, the translation history of the work points to worldly problems. In attempting to explain the collaborative process that produced the autobiography, Neihardt stated: “‘Black Elk Speaks is a work of art with two collaborators, the chief one being Black Elk. My function was both creative and editorial. . . . . The beginning and ending [of the book] are mine; they are what he would have said if he had been able. . . . And the translation—or rather the transformation—of what was given me was expressed so that it could be understood by the white world’” (cited in DeMallie 52; ellipses and brackets DeMaillie’s). The anthropologist Raymond DeMallie, whose work has been crucial in representing the collaborative processes of translation that resulted in Black Elk Speaks, notes in trying to define the respective parts of translator and translated: “The book is Black Elk’s story as he gave it to Neihardt, but the literary quality and the tone of the work are Neihardt’s” (DeMallie 51). Neither of these statements, I emphasize, serves to clarify the distinct part that either man played in the collaboration. Rather, in equating translation with “transformation,” and in trying to separate form and content, these statements only complicate the collaborative process, suggesting that from the textual standpoint, a final determination of the identity of the author(s) of the book is impossible. As in the case of Cogewea, the attempts to sort out the identities of the collaborators has generated a debate about the production and reception of Black Elk Speaks that itself raises questions about the authenticity of Native texts and their authors, which trouble Native American studies to this day. H. David Brumble III, whose American Indian Autobiography (1988) is an influential book in the field, comments on the debate over the Indian–editor relationship in Black Elk Speaks in response to an introduction to the 1979 edition of the book by perhaps the bestknown Indian activist and scholar of our generation, Vine Deloria Jr., himself, as noted previously, a Standing Rock Sioux: As early as 1979 Vine Deloria expressed concern about the effects of such “debates . . . on the question of Neihardt’s literary intrusions into Black Elk’s system of beliefs.” Deloria goes on to conclude that it does not matter “if we are talking with Black Elk or John Neihardt.” It is easy to understand Deloria’s concern; he is speaking as a believer, as one for whom Black Elk’s words “now bid fair to become the canon or at least the theological core of a North American Indian theological canon.” To speak with specificity of Neihardt’s contribution to Black Elk Speaks might seem to diminish what is Indian in the book. (21; ellipsis in Brumble; internal references omitted)


Part I

In this instance I think Brumble has understood Deloria only on his (Brumble’s) own terms, which is to say without appreciating the context in which Deloria’s “concern” is operating. For Deloria appears not to be concerned about “diminish[ing] what is Indian in the book,” about distinguishing the identities of the collaborators and determining precisely the contribution of each. That is, Deloria appears not to be concerned, as Brumble supposes, with identity politics, but with the force of the collaboration in its context, with its reception, as I believe citing the passage in full from which Brumble quotes will show: Present debates center on the question of Neihardt’s literary intrusions into Black Elk’s system of beliefs and some scholars have said that the book reflects more of Neihardt than it does of Black Elk. It is, admittedly, difficult to discover if we are talking with Black Elk or John Neihardt, whether the vision is to be interpreted differently, and whether or not the positive emphasis which the book projects is not the optimism of two poets lost in the modern world and transforming drabness into an idealized world. Can it matter? The very nature of great religious teachings is that they encompass everyone who understands them and personalities become indistinguishable from the transcendent truth that is expressed. So let it be with Black Elk Speaks. That it speaks to us with simple and compelling language about an aspect of human experience and encourages us to emphasize the best that dwells within us is sufficient. Black Elk and John Neihardt would probably nod affirmatively to that statement and continue their conversation. It is good. It is enough. (“Introduction” xiv) In order to arrive at an understanding of Deloria’s reception theory, which marginalizes the identity debates surrounding Black Elk Speaks, it is necessary to read those debates within the context of the production of the book. Black Elk Speaks is the result of a complex “conversation” that took place on the Pine Ridge Reservation, beginning and ending in May 1931 (Neihardt ix), but had its preamble in August 1930, when Neihardt first met Black Elk. The narrative of these meetings compiled by DeMallie is by no means coherent. In his 1960 preface to Black Elk Speaks, for example, Neihardt names the Lakota interpreter who accompanied him at the first meeting “Flying Hawk” (viii), whereas DeMallie names him “Emil Afraid of Hawk” (26). Perhaps the discrepancy is a result of translation problems in relation to Lakota naming or of the twenty-eight years between the 1932 edition of Black Elk Speaks and the 1960 preface, though DeMallie does not mention the difference. And whereas Neihardt states in his 1960 preface that, when he first met Black Hawk, “I had known many of the Oglala Sioux for some years, and had good friends among the old ‘longhairs’” (vii), a point he does not mention in the preface to the 1932 edition, DeMallie initially says that “Neihardt probably did not know that both Black Elk and Afraid of Hawk were Roman Catholic catechists, pillars of the Church at Pine Ridge” (27). If, as he claims in 1960, Neihardt had familiars among the Indians at Pine Ridge, how could he not have been aware of Black Elk’s very public Catholicism? In addition to Neihardt and Black Elk, those participating in the conversation that finally took place in May 1931 were Black Elk’s son Ben and Neihardt’s daughter Enid. Neihardt’s other daughter, Hilda, was also present. In addition, other tribal members “met with Black Elk and Neihardt to modify, add to, and affirm Black Elk’s stories” (Wong 122). Black Elk’s narrative was translated/interpreted in English by Ben. Neihardt’s daughter Enid, as DeMallie tells us, also played a crucial part: “Neihardt’s 1931 interviews exist in two forms, Enid Neihardt’s original shorthand record in four spiral notebooks and her typed manu-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country 81

script, from which Neihardt wrote Black Elk Speaks” (xxiv). DeMallie describes the translation process as both painstaking and circuitous, to say the least: Black Elk would make a statement in Lakota, which his son Ben then translated into English. Ben spoke the idiomatic “Indian English” typical of the time—a dialect that had arisen out of the need for Indian students in off-reservation boarding schools, coming from many tribes and speaking many different languages, to communicate with one another in English. Neihardt would repeat Ben’s translation, rephrasing it for clarity in more standard English. When necessary, the sentence was repeated to Black Elk in Lakota for further clarification. As each sentence came forth in revised form from Neihardt’s repetition, Enid wrote it down in shorthand. (32) We can infer from the preceding passage that Neihardt, who apparently spoke no Lakota, communicated with Black Elk through Ben, though it would appear that Black Elk, by his own admission, spoke at least some English, gained in his travels between 1886 and 1889 with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show (DeMallie 9, 11), an episode given a chapter in Black Elk Speaks. However, Neihardt states in his 1960 preface that Black Elk “knew no English” (ix) even though Black Elk had written, in a letter from Europe in Lakota, printed in 1888 in the monthly newspaper Iapi Oaye, “I am able to speak some of the white men’s language” (DeMallie 9). Thus, perhaps, Black Elk understood a good deal of English, after years of contact with white English speakers, both in his travels with Buffalo Bill and in his extensive missionary work for the Jesuits of Pine Ridge. In this context, Neihardt’s statement that he “knew no English” would suggest either that Neihardt is dissembling what he must have known about Black Elk’s history, at least by 1960, in order, perhaps, to keep his image of the Indian pristine in terms of what he believed his white audience expected a “real” Indian to be (one untouched by Western civilization, an impossibility in 1932); or that Black Elk and the other informants were dissembling before Neihardt, who “chose” to remain in the dark because of his investment in a traditional literary figure of Black Elk, of the kind we can recognize more recently in the vanishing Sioux of Kevin Costner’s film Dances with Wolves (1990). In the course of his narrative, DeMallie suggests the first of these possibilities: “In line with his assertion that this was to be ‘the first absolutely Indian book,’ Neihardt minimized everything that reflected Black Elk’s knowledge and experience in the white man’s world previous to his travels with the wild west shows” (52). In pointing out an apparent contradiction in DeMallie’s narrative, the anthropologist William Powers inadvertently suggests a kind of collaborative dissembling, based on an unacknowledged, almost unconscious, agreement to tell a certain kind of story, one that fit into the Western romance tradition of the vanishing Indian: Black Elk Speaks was published in 1932. There is no trace of Black Elk’s Christian life in it. But Neihardt was clearly aware of the old man’s participation in the Catholic church. Although DeMallie states [in the passage cited previously] that Neihardt probably did not know about Black Elk’s participation in the Catholic church, later in the book he states: “Black Elk told Neihardt [very] little about his later life, his experiences in the Catholic Church, his travels to other Indian reservations as missionary, and his work as a catechist at Pine Ridge. Neihardt was curious about why Black Elk had put aside his old religion. According to Hilda (Petri), Black Elk merely replied, ‘My children had


Part I

to live in this world,’ and Neihardt did not probe any further.” (49; Powers is quoting from 47 in DeMallie; he omits “very” and adds the italics and “(Petri)”) While Powers is rightly concerned with the contradiction in DeMallie’s text that calls into question just exactly what Neihardt knew or didn’t know about Black Elk’s Catholicism at the time of their conversations that resulted in Black Elk Speaks, I want to point to the apparent reticence that DeMallie’s narrative suggests on both Neihardt’s and Black Elk’s part about giving and exploring this information. Whatever the conflicts in this collaboration— and DeMallie’s narrative, while taking account of these conflicts, emphasizes a mystical harmony between the two that Neihardt focuses in his 1960 preface—the concerted drive in the passage Powers quotes, expressed by both parties, appears to be away from the figure of Black Elk as a complex figure of modernity and toward the figure of Black Elk as a Lakota healer prior to a time when the Sioux came under U.S. colonial rule in the late 1870s (Black Elk was born, according to Black Elk Speaks, in 1863). Powers’s notion that “there is no trace of Black Elk’s Christian life in [Black Elk Speaks],” however, must be bracketed; for while it certainly obtains on the explicit level of biographical detail, the question of how this life is represented in the Lakota religion described in the book remains. DeMallie, for example, notes: “It seems likely that for Black Elk, minimization of warlike themes in the vision resulted from his Christian perspective” (54). In assessing the production of Black Elk Speaks, DeMallie comments on the problems of mediation: “The reader must understand . . . that these are not verbatim records of Black Elk’s words, but that they are the combined efforts of the interpreters and of Neihardt to express in English the meaning of the old man’s Lakota words” (xxii) of which we have no record, for they were never written. When DeMallie asserts, then, that “the intention of [his] book is to allow readers direct access to Black Elk, the historical personage; to make his life more fully understandable; and to publish at last the entirety of the teachings that he gave to John G. Neihardt” (xxiii–xxiv), the notion of “direct access” is already complicated, not to say ironized, by the narrative of what we can term “the textual production of Black Elk speaking.” DeMallie’s gesture of outlining the complexities of written mediation with one hand while erasing them in the service of a certain identity politics with the other is a problem in the translation of oral expression into writing. Hertha Wong, commenting on the textual production of Black Elk speaking, says, “Such a multilayered dialogic transmission of information compounds Neihardt’s mediation of Black Elk’s words as well as the complexity of the final form” (122), yet asserts, “Despite Neihardt’s many contributions, though, versions of Lakota autobiographical forms are found in Black Elk’s autobiography. Discussion here will be limited to tracing traditional Lakota autobiographical forms and Black Elk’s and Neihardt’s modifications of them in Black Elk Speaks” (124). Despite the ubiquity of writing and its collaborative entanglements, Wong takes on the project of clearly identifying Neihardt and Black Elk, the written and the oral, as if this were possible. We might note as well a bias in assigning active and passive roles to the figures of Neihardt and Black Elk; in Wong’s formulation it is Neihardt who mediates Black Elk (“an individual from a dominant culture shaping the experience of a member of a ‘minority’ culture” [119]). The question of how the Indian is also mediating the white man, of Neihardt as a complex figure of modernity (Indian and white) as well, is never raised. Further, in assuming the genre of autobiography as a universal rather than a culturally and historically specific form, Wong, before she even

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


begins her discussion of Black Elk Speaks, has already translated the oral tradition into writing. The Black Elk who participated in the conversation at Pine Ridge in 1931 was already a figure of modernity, an actor/collaborator in a variety of scripts. A year after he was born in 1863, the Bozeman Trail permanently changed the actual and political topography of his birthplace, bringing his people, the Oglala Lakotas, “into active conflict with the white men. These hostilities continually escalated into warfare until 1877, when the western Oglala bands returned east of the Black Hills and joined their relatives on the Great Sioux Reservation in present-day South Dakota” (DeMallie 3). By 1881, Black Elk had become a medicine man like his father and grandfather; he settled the following year with the Oglalas on the Pine Ridge Reservation, where the traditional Lakota economy based on the buffalo and interlocked with a warrior culture had been radically altered by the depletion of the herds and the end of intertribal warfare (DeMallie 7), both a result of U.S. imperialism on the Plains. In 1886, a year before the Dawes Act continued and intensified the Euro-American assault on the communal cultures and economies of Native America in the continental United States by turning communal holdings into property, privatizing/individualizing them, Black Elk joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, where it appears, from his letter just cited, that he started to be interested in Christianity. In fact, based on the exclusive presence of Episcopalian missionaries on the Great Sioux Reservation from 1879 until 1888, when the first Catholic mission was built, and the requirement that all Indians joining Buffalo Bill be Christian (Powers 45), Powers argues that sometime before he joined the show, Black Elk had already converted to Episcopalianism. Whatever the case, by 1889, Black Elk was back at Pine Ridge, where during his theatrical sojourn, the Jesuits had gained a foothold (DeMallie 12). During this period, Black Elk, who was still practicing traditional medicine, came “into conflict with the missionaries” (12) and also became involved with the Ghost Dance religion, itself a combination of Christianity and Native beliefs, which developed amid despair about and resistance to the U.S. genocidal colonization of the West, first in the late 1860s among some California and Northwest tribes and subsequently among the Plains tribes (see Hoxie, Encyclopedia, 223). After the massacre of Big Foot’s band of Lakota by U.S. cavalry at Wounded Knee in 1890 brought Indian–white warfare (though not conflict, I want to emphasize) to its brutal, official close, Black Elk, in 1892, married Katie Warbonnet. They had three sons, all of them baptized in the Catholic Church, between 1893 and 1899 (DeMallie 13). “Shortly after the turn of the century,” DeMallie writes, “Black Elk turned his back on the entire practice of shamanistic healing and joined the Roman Catholic Church” (14). “As Black Elk’s daughter Lucy later told the story, the turning point had come in 1904” in a conflict with a Jesuit priest, Father Joseph Lindebner, over the healing of a sick Indian boy, in which the priest physically prevented the shaman from completing his ceremony, finished it according to Catholic ritual, and then “invited Black Elk to return with him to Holy Rosary mission” (ibid.), though as Powers tells the story it was “after curing a young Indian through traditional methods, that he chanced upon . . . Lindebner [and was converted]” (47). In any event, Black Elk became a Catholic, though in all accounts there is an obscure space between the moment of his traditional practice and the moment of his conversion. Here is DeMallie’s: “There [at Holy Rosary Mission], after two weeks of instruction, he [Lindebner] baptized Black Elk on December 6, giving him the Christian name Nicholas in honor of the saint whose feast day it was. Black Elk’s conversion was unquestionably gen-


Part I

uine. By accepting Catholicism he at last put himself beyond the onerous obligations of his vision, and he never practiced the Lakota religious ceremonies again” (14). The question of genuine conversion must, it would seem, be put in the forcible context that DeMallie provides: “there was real coercion on the part of the government to force Indians to join churches” (15). “From the beginning of the reservation period, the government had systematically suppressed all traditional social institutions—especially the tribal bands, the traditional chiefs, and the men’s sacred and dancing societies—and tried to force the Lakotas to deal with the government as individual Indians rather than as a tribe” (15, note 17). In this situation of colonial repression, “such men’s and women’s sodalities as the Roman Catholic St. Joseph and St. Mary Societies could function as replacements for traditional men’s and women’s societies that had been fundamental social building blocks in earlier times” (15). Within this context, questions of correspondence certainly arise: If Catholic institutions displace Lakota ones, are the former unaffected by the latter? Everything we know about cross-cultural exchanges tells us otherwise. And of the statement that Black Elk “never practiced the Lakota religious ceremonies again,” I would only ask: How do we know that? In fact, DeMallie gives an extended account of a Lakota ceremony, held on May 15, 1931, in which Black Elk was a central figure, the one in which Neihardt was adopted into Black Elk’s kinship group (36–37), hence the name of “Flaming Rainbow,” which appears in parentheses after “John G. Neihardt” on the title pages of all the editions of Black Elk Speaks: “This was the day Black Elk would take Neihardt as his son, making the relationship between them public, preparing him to receive the teachings of his holy vision. After the prayer, Black Elk smoked the pipe and presented it to Neihardt for the ritual four puffs; then it was passed around the circle of the old men, who witnessed and validated the proceedings” (DeMallie 34). In and of itself this adoption ceremony would contradict, in any literal sense, the notion that Black Elk “never practiced the Lakota religious ceremonies again,” unless, perhaps, one wants to make a clear distinction between the social and the religious, which the Lakota present do not seem to make; for, as DeMallie tells us, the ceremony functioned simultaneously both to adopt Neihardt as an Oglala, the “‘son’” or “‘nephew’” of Black Elk (38), and to admit him as a participant in Black Elk’s sacred vision (36–37). Further, DeMallie, whose narrative at crucial moments appears to contradict its own assertions about the changing identity of Black Elk, also recounts his participation from 1935 on in the “Sioux Indian Pageant,” held in the Black Hills and sponsored by Alex Duhamel, “a businessman from Rapid City” (63), in which “Black Elk demonstrated traditional religious activities including the offering of the pipe, the burial enactment, and the sun dance” (64). Apparently DeMallie does not consider such demonstrations to constitute an actual practice, by which he means, perhaps, a practice the context of which is unchanging. He does hypothesize that “Black Elk’s motivation in publicly performing these sacred rituals appears to have been to teach white audiences that the old-time Lakota religion was a true religion, not devil worship as the missionaries claimed” (66). This is strange educational work for someone who was a devoted Catholic; who had, apparently, signed a statement, dated January 26, 1934, written in Lakota and then translated into English, titled “BLACK ELK SPEAKS AGAIN—THE FINAL SPEECH,” in which, in the wake of the Pine Ridge Jesuits’ reaction against what they had perceived as the resurgent paganism of Black Elk Speaks, Black Elk affirmed his total commitment to Catholicism and renounced the Lakota practices that he affirmed in the book and was now rehearsing in the Duhamel pageant (59–60). Within the complex interplay between Lakota and Catholic prac-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country 85

tice that mediates Black Elk’s life, a life that is only available to us in writing, the question of Black Elk’s intent in giving these paid performances, in which, as in the Wild West Show, he appears to be representing himself for a largely white audience, has no clear answers. But we can remark on the relationship between these performances and the performance that constitutes Black Elk Speaks, if only to note the tangle of mixed devotions that is further tangled in a web of colonial coercion and resistance. Nicholas Black Elk was no doubt a devoted “catechist,” “help[ing to]speed conversion and maintain the faith” (DeMallie 16), but the question arises, if only to remain unanswered: What was/is the collaborative relationship between that catechist, Nicholas; the Ghost Dancer; and the Lakota medicine man? Because “priests were able to celebrate Mass in the isolated communities on the reservation only about once a month, . . . in their absence catechists held Sunday services, led the prayers and hymns, read the Epistle and Gospel, and instructed the people—all in the Lakota language” (ibid.; my emphasis). What was the form and force of those services translated from Latin into Lakota and administered by a man whose life was powerfully structured by Ghost Dancing and the practice of Oglala medicine? To assert within the context of this dynamic of correspondent identities that Black Elk “never practiced the Lakota religious ceremonies again” is not only to suggest an impossible because absolute mechanism of surveillance over a community’s practices but also to assert the ontological purity, or identity, of cultural practices in general, a purity, or stasis, that lives like Black Elk’s and Neihardt’s contradict. DeMallie, in passing, gives possible examples of Lakota/Catholic correspondences, both in the relation of Christian charity to traditional Native communal relations and in the juxtaposition of “priestly garb” and “native finery” in the performance of Catholic ritual (25). And near the end of his narrative, he asserts a position of correspondence that appears to reverse the identity-bound, or developmental, schema of Black Elk’s life that he has previously offered: “Black Elk, like other Lakotas, could express his firm belief in the truth of the Catholic religion without the necessity of rejecting Indian beliefs. The two systems were not compartmentalized; rather, they were stages in his life. Unlike the missionaries, however, Black Elk did not conceive of the two religions as forming a developmental sequence. Both were intimately bound up in his being, and both sets of beliefs molded his character and personality” (66). More pointedly than DeMallie, both Powers and Julian Rice focus on Lakota/Catholic correspondence within the context of Black Elk’s life, while at the same time practicing an identity politics that seeks to resolve the correspondence into its component parts. For Powers this means uncovering the correspondence that he reads Neihardt as trying to suppress at the same time that he seeks to discredit Black Elk Speaks as simply a white man’s book written for the white man. For Rice it means returning to the original transcripts of the 1931 and 194472 conversations in order to “cleanly disentangle” (x) Black Elk’s Lakota “voice” from Neihardt’s Christian one. My own approach to this crucial question, which writers like DeMallie, Powers, and Rice have brought to our attention in important ways, is in the first place to read it as much more conflictive than does DeMallie, who tends to read an identity, a harmony, between Lakota and Catholic practices and between the intentions of Black Elk and Neihardt, even as he describes a complex interplay between identity and difference, conflict and harmony, that does not allow us to come to rest on any one of these terms. My approach emphasizes the colonial context of the collaboration, which even when it is not in the foreground is never-


Part I

theless present as an inflection that keeps the meaning of the term “collaboration” oscillating between notions of coercion and cooperation. Even as Black Elk’s kinship relation to Neihardt is asserted in the Lakota terms for “son” or “nephew” or in the fact that Black Elk’s son Ben and his wife named a son born in 1934 “John Neihardt Black Elk” (DeMallie 62), letters in Black Elk’s name or imputed to him (and how do we determine what hand he had in them?) accuse Neihardt of deceiving him about the financial outcome of Black Elk Speaks (the book was in fact a failure at its publication) and castigate Neihardt for suppressing Black Elk’s Catholicism in the book (see Wong 120, and DeMallie 62–63). Here the Black Elk/Neihardt collaboration is defined by the conflict between kinship and property (communality and individualism), which is the classic conflict structuring Native American–Euro-American conflict, a point central to my argument. Considering Native American literatures within this particular collaborative configuration might significantly and productively reorder the forms of the field. Brumble, for example, insists on making the distinction between preliterate and literate Indians in order to distinguish between two forms of Native American autobiography, the “as-told-to” and the “self-written”: “Geronimo, Black Elk, Plenty-coups, and Black Hawk speak to us without benefit of such education [in letters], but they do speak to us through their editors—after many hours of storytelling and questions, all slowed by interpreters” (10). So while “there is a sense . . . in which every autobiography is a fiction of the self . . . . self-written autobiography is at least the subject’s own fiction, the subject’s own conception of the self, and so it must always be authentic in this sense at least. With the as-told-to autobiographies of the nonliterate Indians, on the other hand, it is the Anglo editor, who decides, finally, what is to be the shape of his subject’s ‘autobiography’” (11). Brumble’s apparently clear sense of agency/identity defines two forms of Native American autobiography here. But what does it mean to assert that the “self-written” is one’s “own,” whereas the literally collaborative is not? To term Black Elk, as Brumble does, “nonliterate” is problematic in even the most literal sense. Black Elk apparently could write in the Lakota syllabary and signed his names in English as well to letters written in his name and to the contracts with Buffalo Bill (DeMallie 7). Thus, in both the “as-told-to” and the “selfwritten” autobiography, we are dealing with issues of the self and ownership in writing. In the West the conjunction of the self and ownership is classic, for it produces property, in the Lockean, liberal, or capitalist senses of the word, to deploy some crucial synonyms. As I have stressed, this conjunction is alien to Native American kinship cultures. Defining forms within the genre of Native American autobiography involves a distinction not simply between the oral and the written or the as-told-to and the self-written but between various forms of writing as property relations and resistance to those relations in the form of kinship. What we might think about, then, in defining the forms of Native American literatures are the forms of contract, of which the first in Indian–European literary and legal relations is the treaty, as both federal Indian law and the essays by Wroth and Rourke testify. What, for example, in both the literal and figurative senses of the term, are the forms of contract that structure the collaboration between Black Elk and Neihardt? “The mystic in Neihardt and the mystic in Black Elk were kindred souls,” asserts DeMallie (56), yet he also asserts, “There has been a misunderstanding of purpose” in the composition of Black Elk Speaks: “Neihardt conceived of the project as writing Black Elk’s life story, whereas Black Elk conceived of it as making a record of the Lakota religion” (62). While acknowledging differences in intention in noting the difference between the social

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


function of Native oral expression and the aesthetic function of Western written expression, I want to emphasize not DeMallie’s clear sense of separate and clearly readable intentions in Black Elk and Neihardt, which would return us to the identity politics I am questioning in cases of collaborative art, but the way assertions of harmony or kinship and assertions of conflict suggest a complex of contractual obligations that cannot be resolved in any simple, unified notion of identity, of the kind that appears so seductive in much of Native American literary studies. Because of its colonial context, the figure of collaboration that I am suggesting does not collapse the difference between the oral and the written. Rather, it suggests their intimate interplay, their inseparability at this point in history such that one is always inflected by the other, though with different emphases dependent on context. Because the situation of writing in the field of Native American literatures is fundamentally collaborative, we can understand that “Indian autobiography” is not a special case but a figure for the whole field, which thus becomes, in the formulation of Arnold Krupat, a field of “original bicultural composite composition[s]” (For Those Who Come After 31), of cultural collaborations elaborating in various forms the ongoing dynamics of Euro-American–Native American conflict. In this sense the phrase “Native American literatures” is not a simple contradiction in terms—the anachronistic imposition of letters on essential orality—any more than Indian “autobiography” is. Rather, the phrase focuses the issue of cultural collaboration that begins in 1492, the issue of the representation of Native American voices in European writing, within a nuanced reading of the term “collaboration” that works across an overlapping range of meanings from coercion to kinship. The collaborative dynamics of Black Elk Speaks, and the problems they raise, can figure the field of Native American literatures. Deloria’s reading of Black Elk focuses discussion not on the identity of the authors but on the text, as a political or social performance rather than as a referent or key to transcendent identities. Deloria is in effect treating the text as social act, not aesthetic object, that is, as Native oral performance, not Western writing. In this sense, as performance, the text is itself an effect of its social or political reception in Native communities: The most important aspect of the book, however, is not its effect on the non-Indian populace who wished to learn something of the beliefs of the Plains Indians but upon the contemporary generation of young Indians who have been aggressively searching for roots of their own in the structure of universal reality. To them the book has become a North American bible of all tribes. They look to it for spiritual guidance, for sociological identity, for political insight, and for affirmation of the continuing substance of Indian tribal life, now being badly eroded by the same electronic media which are dissolving other American communities. (“Introduction” xii–xiii) Black Elk Speaks, then, claims its Indian identity not through essence—the sorting out of European from Native American, of the written from the oral, of Neihardt from Black Elk— for such sorting, in any absolute sense, is impossible. Rather, it claims its identity through practice—of a particular pantribal, Indian community’s resistance to the erosion “of the continuing substance of Indian tribal life.” In this sense, identity, like the Indian practice of adopting European captives, is situational not essential; it is the function of a position in a political/cultural debate, which is always ongoing and therefore subject to change, that is, to interpretation. This is to say that we can imagine Black Elk Speaks in the hands of a differ-


Part I

ent community claiming a European identity for the book; and these differing and conflicting identities can exist simultaneously as well as sequentially. Powers, for example, understands the Indian community that has claimed Black Elk Speaks as a revitalizing source of tradition as doing so only because it is alienated from what Powers understands as tradition—the “direct source of inspiration on the reservations”—both physically, in that it has moved to the cities, and mentally, in that it mistakes “a form [of] literary imperialism. . . . written by a white man” (54), for a form of resistance to that imperialism. Clearly Deloria disagrees with this reading of Black Elk Speaks by a Western anthropologist. Questions of legitimacy arise—for example, of who defines “tradition”—as these questions drive historic issues of representation. As the work of Native American literary studies proceeds, the first and last question should be: Who represents the Indians, in both the legal and literary senses of the term “representation”? The issues of representation that Black Elk Speaks manifests are integral to the genre of collaborative Indian autobiography at its inception. Vis-à-vis my earlier discussion of the conflict between Indian kinship and Western property relations to land, the very term “autobiography” is itself problematic when applied to traditional Indian narratives because of its emphasis on individual achievement within a framework that privileges the paradigm of property, as exemplified by Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, which remains the archetype of the genre in U.S. Euro-American literatures. The two earliest examples of collaborative Indian autobiographies are the Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison (1824), told to and written by James Everett Seaver, and the Life of MA-KA-TAI-ME-SHE-KIA-KIAK or Black Hawk . . . Dictated By Himself [to Antoine LeClair, “U.S. Interpreter for the Sacs and Foxes”] (1833).73 Though Euro-American by birth, Mary Jemison, as noted previously, was adopted by the Seneca after being captured in 1758 at the age of fifteen and lived with them until she was ninety. The name Jemison appears on tribal roles today. In line with Axtell’s argument, rehearsed earlier, this pattern of adoption, in which whites became fully acculturated and accepted by Native communities, was not unique. Vizenor makes the same argument: The application of mixedblood geometric scores was not a form of tribal cultural validation. Skin color and blood quantums were not the means the tribe used to determine identities. The Anishinaabeg “classified a person Indian if he lived with them and adopted their habits and mode of life,” according to David Beaulieu. . . . Some tribal people . . . “focus on style of dress as the main feature in distinguishing Indian and mixedblood. . . . Percentage of Indian and white blood was not a determining factor in distinguishing a mixedblood. . . . For the most part the distinction was cultural.” These tribal distinctions, which were not racial but experiential, were not adopted by the federal government. Beaulieu pointed out that through treaties the government “attempted to render fixed and static definitions of mixedbloods and Indians not only for the people alive at the moment but to their descendants.” (The People Named the Chippewa 107; ellipses within quotes are Vizenor’s) Thus, as Susan Walsh suggests, following Thomas S. Abler: “Read as the story of a Seneca woman, the Seaver/Jemison Narrative may well be ‘the first Indian autobiography to reach publication’” (51). Although Jemison, who apparently did not read or write English, told her story to Seaver in English (xx, xxvii), it was he who wrote the narrative. So in reading the Jemison autobiography we face the same kinds of issues that Black Elk Speaks raises.

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


In the case of Black Hawk’s autobiography, his collaborators were the government translator Antoine LeClaire, a mixedblood, Potawatomi and French-Canadian; and the Illinois newspaper editor John B. Patterson. Before Black Hawk’s story begins, there is a statement by LeClaire testifying to the authenticity and accuracy of the narrative, which he assures the reader was dictated to him by Black Hawk (in Sauk) at Black Hawk’s request, and checked by LeClaire for accuracy after it had been put into literary English by Patterson (35). Following this is a dedication by Black Hawk to General Atkinson, who in 1832 had directed the troops that defeated him and his band of Sauks, Mesquakies (Fox), and other Indians resisting removal from traditional lands in Illinois. This dedication appears both in English translation (37) and in English transliteration from the Sauk (36). The transliteration, we can assume, is meant to give a further authenticity to the text, although in a strange way it serves to undermine the appearance of authenticity, both by the distance it figures between Sauk and English and by the very need to have it in writing to assure genuineness. Following this dedication is a statement by Patterson, which in its last part also testifies to the authenticity of the narrative, its origin in the voice of Black Hawk through the writing of the translator and himself (38–39). Donald Jackson, the contemporary editor of Black Hawk: An Autobiography, tells us: “Since there are no known documents by which the authenticity of the work can be established, except the signed statements of LeClaire and Patterson, much depends upon the evaluation of those men” (26). The most skeptical reader, then, might wonder if Black Hawk played any part in this text, more so than in the case of Black Elk Speaks, where a much more detailed record of the translation process exists and the subject appears to have been a more willing collaborator (Black Hawk was a war captive). The least skeptical reader, however, must wonder about the blurring of boundaries between Black Hawk, LeClaire, and Patterson, although perhaps, following Deloria’s thoughts on Neihardt and Black Elk, that is only a Western worry stemming from an obsession with individualism that produces autobiography in the first place. As with Black Elk Speaks, my purpose is not to bypass or try to resolve this skepticism, this question of Black Hawk as either literal or figurative presence in the text named after him, but to deal with its politics. The text itself, dictated and written only three years after the passage of the Indian Removal Act (1830), is in part eloquently critical of federal Indian policy, with its aim of dispossession through removal, and is sensitive to ethnographic details of American Indian social life. At the same time, the text at its end takes a conciliatory tone toward the United States that could be read as blunting or undermining that critique and as participating in the elegiac tone characteristic of one major movement in the genre of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century western, which projects American Indians through a thick white haze of nostalgia as a noble but vanishing race; a nostalgia also characteristic of the ending of Black Elk Speaks (which, as noted, Neihardt admitted to crafting), that obscures both the violence being done to the Indians by the United States and the historical fact of continuing Indian resistance, as well as the ethnohistorical facts of the persistence of Indian cultures that drives this resistance. As in the case of Black Elk Speaks, my point here is that skepticism about the text and the many others that follow it can both serve and undermine Indian interests. As Jackson points out, for example, “the government attorneys participating in hearings before the Indian Claims Commission in Washington, August, 1953 . . . argued that the Sauk and Fox, seeking payment for lands taken from them in 1804, were basing some of their testimony upon state-


Part I

ments in the Black Hawk autobiography—a book which history had already discredited” (25). The quality of the skepticism, then, is crucial—the Western reader’s awareness of his or her own motives, which means an awareness not only of the contexts within which texts are produced but also of the fact that context is also text, open to interpretation because of the inevitably political form of what we often ingenuously call “reality,” as if it were an essence, rather than an effect, of cultures. What, for example, do the government lawyers mean by the terms “history” and “discredited”? They speak as if there were only one uncontested history that had the transcendent power to determine the truth of discourses, when, in fact, the legal process in which they are involved suggests that “history” itself is no more than the contests of discursive processes. The context in which we must read Black Hawk’s autobiography is crucially informed by a case visited in this essay, Johnson v. McIntosh, the second Supreme Court decision in the history of federal Indian law and the most important, for it denied the Indians ultimate title to their lands by placing this title in the hands of the U.S. government. Here, in a passage already cited, are some of the grounds for such a denial: But the tribes of Indians inhabiting this country were fierce savages, whose occupation was war, and whose subsistence was drawn chiefly from the forest. To leave them in possession of their country, was to leave the country a wilderness: to govern them as a distinct people, was impossible, because they were as brave and as high spirited as they were fierce, and were ready to repel by arms every attempt on their independence. (590) Writing the foundational chapter in the literature of federal Indian law, Marshall first conjures ethnographic hallucinations about Indians: they are all warriors and hunters who do nothing productive with the land they live on, for it is a “wilderness” (and notice that there is no room in these hallucinations for Indian women). Next he stereotypes the Indians as noble (“brave and high-spirited”) but vanishing (this kind of bravery, it is implied, is savage and thus has no place in modern life), and combines the stereotype with partial truths about Indian resistance, which in most cases was a last resort after attempts at political accommodation did not end white violence. In fact, Indians did and do resist assimilation in significant, though clearly not in all, ways, as the Cherokee example suggests. And why shouldn’t they, since their communal cultural forms are so antithetical to the property-centered forms of the West that to lose them is to lose their identities as tribal peoples? But historically they have been willing (with all the irony that the word entails under the circumstances of ever increasing Euro-American power) to be governed as distinct peoples, so long as they had sufficient share in that government to allow them political and cultural integrity. But ever since the Marshall Court, in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, defined, contradictorily enough, the relation of Indian peoples to the U.S. government as that of “domestic dependent nations,” the federal government, as Deloria has pointed out, has increasingly emphasized dependency at the expense of nationhood (Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties 158). Black Hawk’s autobiography, published ten years after Johnson v. McIntosh and two years after Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, which, as previously analyzed, elaborates and extends the implications of the Johnson case, takes on a particular strategic importance when read as one of the Indian voices of the time that, along with those of Boudinot, Apess, Jemison, the Tuscarora David Cusick and the Ojibway George Copway, among others, emerged in writ-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


ing to contradict in various ways the developing literature of federal Indian law that was based on the ideology of “savagery” Montaigne had contradicted, without any widespread cultural effect, 250 years previously. Maureen Konkle remarks of “Native intellectuals” in the antebellum period: “Their texts taken together dramatize a continuous process . . . of essentially thinking one’s freedom into existence in a political and epistemological system that not only oppresses Native peoples but also renders them literally dead” (41). However, she does not include the Jemison and Black Hawk texts, noting: “Whatever traces of Native agency remain in these accounts, both are versions of conventional forms—captivity narrative and frontier war story—and both close off their subjects by reiterating the narrative of Indians’ providential doom” (162). The view of “Native agency” I am taking clearly extends, vis-à-vis Deloria’s take on Black Elk Speaks, to Jemison and Black Hawk. Konkle’s notion of conventional forms as, apparently, restricting agency could easily be applied to the work of Apess et al., who used the conventional Western forms of the sermon, the autobiography, the history, etc. to project their discourses. And, of course, anyone using alphabetic writing has no choice but to use certain conventional forms; for writing is itself a conventional form imposing certain restrictions in its very structure and history. In this context, the question, then, is not if one uses conventional forms but how. Walsh comments on the Jemison/Seaver collaboration: “Sought out at the advanced age of eighty by certain New York ‘gentlemen of respectability’ anxious to ‘perpetuate the remembrance of ’ Indian atrocities committed during the French and Revolutionary wars, Jemison (undoubtedly to their surprise) told a tale extolling Indian virtue and denouncing the genocidal introduction of alcohol into the Iroquois nations” (49).The point is that Jemison subverted or transformed the convention of the captivity narrative to include a critical Native voice. In determining the boundary line between those Indian writers who have agency and those who don’t, Konkle seems to be applying a metaphysics of presence and absence of the kind that Brumble uses in making a distinction between “self-written” and “as-told-to” Native autobiographies. Certainly there is a distinction to be made, but just exactly what it is or if it can be made exactly remains to be specified. Meanwhile, specifying such difference, as Konkle and Brumble do, risks importing into Native American studies the very identity politics (of who is and is not a “real” Indian) instituted by federal Indian law, with rigid ideas of agency/identity in the intellectual realm taking the place of blood quantum regulations in the legal realm. Following Deloria’s reading of Black Elk Speaks, my notion of Indian voices is strategic. That is, this reading does not take the voice of Black Hawk as Indian because of a belief in an original presence, or verifiable contact, that generates the writing representing that voice—and as stated in Black Elk Speaks, “This they tell, and whether it happened so or not I do not know; but if you think about it, you can see that it is true” (5). Rather, this reading takes the voice as Indian because of its position in a political/cultural debate. The identity of the voice is cultural, then, not biological. As the case of Mary Jemison articulates, a European voice, under certain rigorous circumstances that must finally be determined by the Native community involved, can speak as a member of that community. Contra Marshall’s characterization of Indians as fierce hunters and warriors in Johnson, in Black Hawk’s autobiography, the reader learns that the Sauk led a way of life that combined agriculture and hunting, fixed settlement with patterned movement, in a seasonal economy (Jackson 88–89). The reader also learns that Indian bravery, as whites perceived it, was not based in some simple or savage warrior reflex, but in a mental resistance to the kind of Western ideology that projected Indians as savage. So, as Black Hawk recounts, the Sauk


Part I

resistance of 1832, which lasted for fifteen weeks and ended with a massacre of fleeing Sauk women and children by U.S. troops (138), was in response to what Black Hawk and his band understood as the fraudulent treaty of 1804. This treaty, which ceded a vast tract of land on the east side of the Mississippi River between Wisconsin and Missouri, including the site of Black Hawk’s village, had been negotiated under the most dubious of circumstances without the mechanisms of tribal consent (53–54). Even so, Article 7 of the treaty stated: “As long as the lands which are now ceded to the United States remain their property, the Indians belonging to the said tribes [Sauk and Fox], shall enjoy the privilege of living and hunting upon them” (159). This article clearly promises the extension of continuing usufruct rights to the Indians on what became federal land. But under the pressure of expanding white settlement, the U.S. government sold the land to individuals (thus it was no longer federal property) and ordered the Sauk and Fox tribes to remove west of the Mississippi in the early 1830s, forcing the Indians to abandon their traditional places of life, which were intimately involved with their traditional ways of life (104). Black Hawk and his compatriots resisted this removal because of the fraudulence of the treaty and because, in threatening their traditional way of life, the removal threatened their economic survival. In fact, Black Hawk tells his readers that before resorting to armed resistance, he was willing to remove with the people of his village in exchange for the equivalent amount of corn that had been lost in the sale of the village to whites. But after signing an agreement with the Sauks for the corn, the government failed to deliver the necessary amount: The corn that had been given us, was soon found to be inadequate to our wants; when loud lamentations were heard in the camp, by our women and children, for their roasting-ears, beans, and squashes. To satisfy them, a small party of braves went over, in the night, to steal corn from their own fields. They were discovered by the whites, and fired upon. Complaints were again made of the depredations committed by some of my people, on their own corn-fields! (Jackson 114–15) Black Hawk’s acute sense of irony explodes Marshall’s projection of the savage, of the Indian as reflexive physical force, and exposes federal Indian law at the same time for the parody of social justice that founds it. From the Indian perspective, the treaty was always a form of force, because within Native American societies, as Black Hawk tells his readers and as this essay has stressed, “land cannot be sold” (Jackson 101) or ceded, that is, alienated in any form. Also, contrary to European characterizations of Indian forms of government for their own political designs, tribal entities were not representative forms of government but consensual forms in which no one could act for anyone else. Europeans brought to the Americas a whole battery of Western terminology, of which “property” was the central weapon, that helped translate the Indians into a Western legal system determined to thrust property on Native Americans so that they could be legally dispossessed of it. Finally, as Black Hawk repeatedly states, treaties were always being broken by the Americans, whose written words, whose literature, could not be trusted (Jackson 63–64, 86–87). Marshall’s projection of the Indians as savage rationalizes or legitimizes their dispossession while serving to repress, while it represents in allegorical form, a complex of EuroAmerican social problems that are still with us, more virulently than ever because of continuous repression. So, for example, the projection of the Indian as savage warrior represses

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


as it figures the Euro-American obsession with violence, the fetishization of the gun and masculinity, that Euro-Americans have yet to confront and so continue to project on “others” at home and abroad (the Black Hawk narrative, to the extent that it is generically a western, frames itself in terms of Western patriarchy, while still suggesting the importance of women in Native American cultures). The Marshall text also represses the movement of an unregulated capitalism, of land speculation in this case, that put irresistible pressure on the government to violate treaties. The savagery of the Indians ironically allegorizes the actual savagery of untamed Western individualism in its fierce acquisitive drives. And the figure of the Indians as inhabiting a “wilderness” expresses as it denies a Euro-American relationship to nature that is one of dominance and submission, masking a terror of the natural world that even in the nineteenth century was beginning the environmental imbalances that today threaten to turn nature into an actual wilderness. Keeping in mind the processes of translation by which American Indian oral traditions become Native American literatures, we should emphasize that these oral literatures in translation are, nevertheless, if read with attention to the issues raised here, part of the repertoire of texts we have available to understand Native American literatures insofar as, working across a wide range of cultural differences, they allow us not only to gain some insight into specific cultures but also to make comparisons and so construct a set of transcultural, or specifically Indian, values, particularly in relation to the central values of land and community, or kinship. In this hazardous venture of cross-cultural understanding, some translations are more useful than others, as I have been suggesting, though, as the Black Elk example suggests, the criteria for judgment are controversial. So, for example, while I have raised substantial questions about the integrity of Shaking the Pumpkin as a representation of oral tradition, it should be noted that in its revised edition, Rothenberg includes the work of the contemporary Native writers Simon Ortiz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Lance Henson, N. Scott Momaday, and Ray A. Young Bear. This could be taken as an endorsement of Rothenberg’s project by these important Indian writers, though in 1976, four years after the publication of the first edition and ten years before the revised edition, Silko published an “attack” on ethnopoetics (Parker 83). While translations into English make oral performance available in written contexts, however transformed, the oral tradition is an ongoing and dynamic process in Indian communities across the United States. In addition to traditional forms—ceremonial songs and chants, origin narratives, and stories of communal conflict exemplified by the culturally ubiquitous trickster—there are the everyday stories that people tell each other as part of the fabric of social relations: personal and tribal histories, anecdotes, and jokes, more or less formal. The anthropologist Keith Basso, for example, has recorded the way Cibecue Apache jokes about white people play a formative role in social relations, providing a critical commentary on white behavior directed at Indians in colonial contexts, thereby ironically affirming Indian social relations while testing them. In this way, the jokes function in some of the same ways as trickster narratives, but their origin is clearly colonial. The jokes appear to develop spontaneously and, in Basso’s experience, usually take place between two men who have a close relationship, typically kin. One man, who initiates the action, will play a type of white functionary encountered on or near the reservation (anthropologist, doctor, teacher, bartender) and the other Apache will play (along) as the Apache butt of the aggressive, condescending language of the “whiteman.” The joke, which is carried on in the infantilizing pidgin that the colonizer typically adopts when talking to


Part I

the colonized and about which Frantz Fanon has written so probingly in the first chapter of Black Skin, White Masks (30–35), comes to an end when the Apache playing the Apache says in Apache what translates as “Whitemen are stupid.” The punch line clearly acts as commentary on the egocentric, racist behavior of the white man, and in doing so implicitly affirms Apache (and by extension Indian) values of communal respect for every person. The joke says, in effect: this is not how Apaches treat each other. Yet the joke is risky business, for in commenting on the colonial situation, it re-creates or summons it (because the colonial context is always present, in either the foreground or the background) and so threatens the violence inherent in the situation itself. That is why, Basso surmises, the two men involved in the joke must have a close bond to begin with, so that the Apache who is the ostensible butt of the joke does not read it as an attempt to belittle him but as a joint critique of white social behavior toward Indians. The transtribal Native values that emerge from these translations of the oral tradition help us understand the basis of European–Indian conflict from 1492 to the present. For this conflict, implicitly and explicitly, has been the primary subject of U.S. Native American literatures since the works of the Pequot William Apess and others (see Konkle) established a polemical, anticolonialist tradition of Indian writing in the late 1820s and the first half of the 1830s, when federal Indian law was in its formative stage. Casting the conflict in terms of collaboration may also be useful if we understand the term in the full spectrum of its meanings, from coercion to mutual cooperation, with all the nuances that occur in between. Apess himself is a case in point. A mixed-blood Pequot, he grew up in a world where his own tribal heritage had been brutally fractured through decimation by European diseases in the early 1630s, the Puritan massacre of Pequots in 1637, and the subsequent reduction in population in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries “in part because of the scattering of tribal members as a result of the loss of land and livelihoods,” so that by 1860, there were only one hundred surviving tribal members (Hoxie, Encyclopedia, 476). Forced by these colonial circumstances to grow up as an indentured servant in a white, racist world, he nevertheless seemed to find in his conversion to Methodism, a religion that welcomed the marginalized, and in his vocation as a preacher a substitute for the Indian communalism that he lacked as a child but regained as an adult through his championing of Indian rights (Tiro). In his narrative A Son of the Forest (1829), the first published autobiography written by an Indian, Apess writes of his collaborative journey—of Native and Christian communalism, of Native oral tradition and an oral spontaneity that he discovered in particular in Methodist services. In his Indian Nullification of the Unconstitutional Laws of Massachusetts (1835), he presents an eloquent defense of human rights and native sovereignty. In his Eulogy on King Phillip (1836), the seventeenthcentury Wampanoag Indian leader who died resisting Puritan tyranny, he gives a powerful model of anticolonialist history written from a Native perspective. Native American literatures, then, are fully nuanced forms of collaboration; with origins in the colonial coercion of writing, they often become at crucial moments a countercolonial force. VI. Critical Perspectives Beginning with Astrov’s introduction to The Winged Serpent and continuing through the 1980s, the contexts of American Indian oral and written expressions established by their most visible critics, with a few notable exceptions, have been predominantly what I have been describing as ethnographic-formal: primarily focused on issues of culture and aesthetics outside of a political-historical framework.74 The comparative, structural approach

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


of Boas seems generative here, sensitive as it is to cultural difference and microhistorical change without focusing on the global politics of a historical force like colonialism on Native American cultures. This Boasian approach certainly seems the dominant influence on valuable projects that have undertaken the comprehensive task of representing the field of Native American literatures, such as Literature of the American Indians: Views and Interpretations (1975), edited by Abraham Chapman; Native American Renaissance (1983), by Kenneth Lincoln; Studies in American Indian Literature: Critical Essays and Course Designs (1983), edited by Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna Pueblo); Native American Literature (1985), by Andrew Wiget; and American Indian Literatures: An Introduction, Bibliographic Review, and Selected Bibliography (1990), by A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff. As valuable as these and other collections of similar intent have been in offering bibliographic information and interpretive paradigms for the reading of American Indian literatures, I suggest, by looking at Wiget’s Handbook of Native American Literature (1996) (the most recent in this group), that critical gaps occur when the colonial context of federal Indian law is left out of or marginalized by the ethnographic-formal method. In making this suggestion, I will, necessarily, be repeating some of the dogma of federal Indian law already discussed. The omission of the legal text from studies of U.S. Native American literatures has left readers largely ignorant of the fundamental domain of these literatures, what federal Indian law defines as “Indian country.” The Wiget volume, for example, contains an essay by Ronald A. Janke, “Population, Reservations, and Federal Indian Policy,” that, while providing some useful, detailed information, never mentions that policy’s grounding in U.S. federal Indian law or the colonial structure this law established, within which, crucially, treaties were “negotiated” to the tune of an ever-increasing power imbalance between the United States and the Indian nations. Janke never uses the word “colonialism” in relation to U.S. Indian policy. Hence, he understands the removal treaties, which the United States forced the tribes to sign in the 1830s, as a matter of Indian “consent” (157) to vacate traditional lands for territory in the trans-Mississippi West. And although he notes, rightly, that “the United States inherited the title asserted by Great Britain to all lands occupied by the Indians” (156), he later refers to “tribally owned reservations” (164; my emphasis), when in fact, the cornerstone of federal Indian law was and is the retention of title to tribal lands by the U.S government, which is the very definition of a “reservation.” Because it confers ownership, the foundation of Anglo-American land law is title. So the phrase “tribally owned reservations” is an oxymoron, unless it is defined within the context of the “trust” relationship that Indian tribes have with the federal government, a context Janke omits. This relationship, which renders Indian tribes perpetually legal minors in relation to the federal government, complicates the oxymoron but does not disable it; in fact, it intensifies it in certain respects: as legal minors, Indians “own” their lands but do not hold title to them. One of the leading textbooks on federal Indian law repeats the oxymoron, stating “most Indian land is tribally owned” (Getches 8) after informing the reader: “Congress can abrogate treaty promises as old as the country, alter tribal powers of self-government, and extinguish not only title to land, but even the special relationship of a tribe to the federal government” (5). This is a paraphrase of the “plenary power” doctrine of Congress over Indian country formally stated in 1903 in the Supreme Court decision in Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock. And while the textbook I am citing claims that congressional power in these matters is not “unlimited,” it also notes that “no exercise of congressional power limiting or terminat-


Part I

ing Indian tribal rights has been set aside” by the Supreme Court (5). Within this context, what does the phrase “tribally owned land” mean? The question is meant to point to the colonial structure of Indian country, and the masking of this structure, under which the most precious of Indian resources, land, was and continues to be appropriated by the U.S. government. Because land was and is the central topos, at once ideal and material place, in American Indian thinking of all kinds, expressed in both oral and written form; because it was and is also the central site of conflict between European invaders and Indian communities, a precise articulation of its Indian and European valences should be at the heart of any history, handbook, or guide to Native American verbal expression. The Janke essay, then, does not pay attention to this precise articulation. Further, its decentering in the Wiget volume tends to marginalize the topos of land. Janke’s comes as the second essay in the second section, “The Historical Emergence of Native American Writing.” Yet it does not connect federal policy to this topic or to the topic of the first section, “Native American Oral Literatures,” where the introductory essay by Andrew Wiget is entitled “Native American Oral Literatures: A Critical Orientation.” The essay, decidedly in the ethnographic-formal mode, uses a set of Western literary categories in combination with ethnographic material on oral performance to compare and contrast Western written forms with Native oral productions. Yet no connections are made with the political-historical topic of land employed in the Janke essay. While A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff ’s essay, “Native American Writing: Beginnings to 1967,” which immediately precedes the Janke, makes some connections between federal policy and Indian writing, they are brief and the essay is fundamentally a catalogue of works, certainly useful in and of itself, but without a theme outlining any particular tradition of Indian writing in this early period, which is in significant ways concerned with federal Indian law (see Konkle). In the third and final section of Wiget’s Handbook, “A Native American Renaissance: 1967 to the Present,” the Abenaki writer Joseph Bruchac, in the first essay, titled “Contemporary Native American Writing: An Overview,” remarks “that much Native American writing seems to embrace the political as an integral ingredient” (315) and links the political thrust of this writing not only to Indian activism since the 1960s but also to the “many oral traditions of Native America . . . [that] are deeply political” (ibid.). In a passage cited in part previously, Bruchac, crucially, also understands Native American writing within a global postcolonial context: A good comparison might be made between the relationship of Native American writing to American literature and the relationship of African writing to British literature. In both cases, the writing is usually in the language of the colonizer. In both cases, cultural conflict is a major issue, and, ironically, the expression of traditional values in the language of the oppressor has been one of the results of introducing a European written language into predominantly oral cultures. As is the case with African literature, Native American oral traditions and traditional values have breathed new energy into the adopted language. Similarly, the current generation of colonized writers is as fluent in the adopted tongue as are the best writers whose roots are solely in European traditions. With American Indian contemporary writing, as with African literature written in English . . . , we have passed the point where the body of literary work can be seen only as a literary curiosity or a mere adjunct to the colonizer’s literature. It is, indeed, part of the body of world literature written in En-

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


glish, but it is—just as much as American literature is no longer a colonial appendage to British tradition—also a literature which stands on its own and can be seen to have its own traditions and directions. (322) Employing the political-historical paradigm of postcolonialism to discuss Native American writing, Bruchac, while making an important contribution to the discussion of Native literatures in a political context, nevertheless does not reference federal policy in his essay, while Janke does not tie federal policy to the colonial situation of Indian country nor to its base, federal Indian law. As I have noted, the Wiget essay introducing oral expression employs an ethnographic-formal paradigm that does not engage the political-historical approaches of either the Bruchac or the Janke, and an essay by Kenneth Roemer entitled “Teaching Indian Literature” is also grounded in what is for the most part a purely ethnographic-formal model. These contextual, or paradigmatic, discontinuities, which have the effect of marginalizing, isolating, or containing the (post)colonial context of the field of Native American literatures, persist within the biographical essays on contemporary Indian writers in the Wiget Handbook. So, for example, the essays on Simon Ortiz and Silko, by, respectively, Robert M. Nelson and Elaine A. Jahner, do not engage the postcolonial contexts of the work of these two outspoken anticolonialist writers, contexts that include significant explicit and implicit references to federal Indian law. In fact, both Nelson and Jahner explicitly separate the political from the cultural, centering the latter while marginalizing the former. This separates the work of Ortiz and Silko from the postcolonial context for contemporary Indian writing that Bruchac proposes, displacing the political-historical paradigm with the ethnographicformal. Thus, while noting that “most of the nineteen poems and the lengthy mixed-format piece comprising this volume are stories of ‘now-day’ Indians and their co-workers . . . struggling against government and corporate exploitation” (486), Nelson begins his critique of Ortiz’s 1980 book Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land—a hybrid of poetry and prose that chronicles microcosmically and macrocosmically the resistance of the Native peoples of the Southwest to Spanish and then U.S. colonialism—by discrediting the politics of its preface by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz: Despite the preface to the volume by Roxanne Dunbar, which proposes an ideologically Marxist reading of both Pueblo history and Ortiz’s work in this volume, the strong recurring theme in these works—the way Ortiz proposes to ensure survival— is that the people have survived and continue to survive both as individuals and, more importantly, as a collective entity by identifying themselves with “the creative forces of life.” . . . Heroism, or “fight back,” in these works takes the form of maintaining and promulgating the old ways, of preserving life in the oral traditional way. . . . (ibid.) Nelson goes on to term the macrohistorical section of Fight Back, “No More Sacrifices,” “a cultural history of the Southwest” (487; my emphasis), when it is clearly a political history or, more precisely, a history in which culture and politics are inseparably intertwined. It details the usurpation of Native land and water rights beginning with the Spanish invasion of the Southwest in 1540 and continuing through the U.S. invasion (the Mexican War), which culminated with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), to the contemporary moment, when U.S. corporations, signing sweetheart leases with tribal councils under the auspices of the Department of the Interior, exploit Native land and labor. Ortiz makes clear that this his-


Part I

tory of U.S. imperialism (“of a ruthless, monopolistic U.S. empire” [Fight Back 58] from east to west) is a history of Western law: “To cast away Indians was easy enough . . . and there was even something called Manifest Destiny which ordained the U.S. with a religious mission. There was no need for conspiracy to steal and defraud; rather there was a national goal to fulfill and godly purpose to be done. Laws, in fact, could be made and changed and new ones made which would legally serve economic and social interests with more proficiency” (59–60). What Ortiz can only have in mind here is federal Indian law, which, as noted, under the “plenary power” of Congress could be made and unmade to serve the interests of the country. Of special provenance here are the Supreme Court decision in U.S. v. Sandoval (1913) and the Pueblo Lands Act of 1924, both of which, though for different reasons, converted lands titled to the Pueblos by the Spanish crown in the eighteenth century into Indian trust lands in order to protect them from depredations by white settlers , which began in force after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. While both Sandoval and the Pueblo Lands Act protected Pueblo territory from white claimants, they did so within a colonial system where the best position was still very limited: before Sandoval, the Pueblos as communal freeholders were left open to settler land claims within a legal system where they were being defrauded; after Sandoval, as government wards, they were left open to government control of their lands.75 In Fight Back Ortiz is referencing not only a complex legal history but also, intertwined with it, a complex history of resistance to European imperialism, by Indians and by working peoples of all kinds. Ortiz conceives of this resistance as specifically anticapitalist:“If the survival and quality of the life of Indian peoples is not assured, then no one else’s life is, because those same economic, social, and political forces which destroy them will surely destroy others. . . . But it will take real decisions and actions and concrete understanding by the poor and workers of this nation. . . . They will have to be willing to identify capitalism for what it is, that it is destructive and uncompassionate and deceptive” (71). Ortiz identifies this resistance historically with a specifically pan-Indian, panethnic movement that began in 1680 with the Pueblo Revolt, which has been referred to as “the first American Revolution”: In August of 1680 when the Pueblo people rose against the ruling Spanish oppressor, they were joined in the revolt by the mestizo and genizaro ancestors of the Chicano people, and the Athapascan-speaking peoples whose descendants are the peoples of the Navajo and Apache nations, and descendants of Africans who had been brought to the New World as slaves. They were all commonly impoverished. These people rebelled against the oppressive rule of the civil, church, and armed guard of the Spanish colonialist. They were forced to submit to the control of the wealthy and so-called royalty and religious fanatics who forbade native spiritual practice and beliefs because of the social integrity and strength upon which they were based. (57) When Nelson writes of Fight Back “that the roots of Ortiz’s story lie not in the political ideology of the times but rather in his heritage of received oral tradition” (Wiget 487), he sunders, and by doing so implicitly opposes, two forces that Ortiz unites, oral tradition and contemporary politics: “In the oral tradition, war, crisis, and famine are spoken about. The people had to cope with epochs when catastrophe came suddenly, inevitably, and perhaps necessarily when the people had not paid careful heed to their responsibilities. . . . The oral tradition does not ignore bad times and mistakes the people made throughout their history. And they are told in mythic proportions in order to impress upon those hearing that there are important lessons, values, and principles to be learned” (Fight Back 55–56). Fight Back

The (Post)Colonial Construction of Indian Country


itself is an example of the oral tradition translated into written form. And because it represents the political stance of Fight Back precisely, presumably Ortiz himself authorized the Marxist reading of his work that prefaces the volume. As does Nelson’s reading of Ortiz, Elaine Jahner’s reading of Silko’s writing marginalizes the political-historical paradigm. Commenting on Silko’s Ceremony, Jahner remarks: “Tayo’s response indicates Silko’s way of switching reference away from simple social concerns and into more comprehensive matters of mind, spirit and story” (Wiget 508; my emphasis). Why the “social concerns” of the novel—Tayo’s struggle to reintegrate himself with Pueblo communal life after the disintegrating experience of Western individualism intensified by war—should be termed “simple” and simultaneously opposed to “more comprehensive matters of mind, spirit and story” requires an explanation, which is not in Jahner’s critique, because it runs counter to Native traditional theory and practice to sunder the social and the spiritual, the social and the intellectual, the social and storytelling (the oral tradition). In this respect, Jahner’s reading seems to run counter to Silko’s narrative, because Tayo struggles, through the ceremony provided him by the Navajo singer Betonie, to reintegrate the social, the spiritual, and the intellectual through the process of storytelling. In effect, the oppositions of Jahner’s criticism appear to contradict both traditional Native social practice and its representation in Ceremony. “Tayo needs communal interpretation of what is happening to him,” Jahner rightly argues. “But the subject’s need for communal reference is more fundamental than political history, which [Silko] consistently presents as a passing, superficial although dangerous phenomenon. Any subjectivity which separates itself emotionally and referentially from living community is, for Silko, even more deadly than isolated political acts, and in Silko’s writing such separation is linked to witchcraft” (508). As in Nelson’s reading of Fight Back, Jahner argues here for a separation in Ceremony of “political history” and “communal reference,” of political history and ceremony, both of balancing/healing and of destabilizing/infecting (“witchcraft”). But in Ceremony, as in Fight Back, political history and ceremony, i.e., the oral tradition of storytelling, are intertwined, not opposed. It is witchcraft in the novel that creates “white people” (always in Silko, as in traditional Native practice, a social not a biological position), and white people who colonize Indian lands, mine them for uranium (a key theme in Fight Back as well), and produce the atomic bomb, the ultimate political, historical, and communal apocalypse in Ceremony, which Jahner never mentions. In this regard, it is important to note that, although she lists it in the bibliography, Jahner does not discuss Silko’s monumental 1991 novel Almanac of the Dead, which, in a way that precisely coincides with Fight Back, imagines pan-Indian/panethnic revolution in the Americas in an intellectual context where traditional Indian communal views of land both coincide and clash with a Marxist agenda. While it seems to me difficult at best to claim a separation between “communal reference” and “political history” in Ceremony, it seems impossible to claim such a separation in Almanac. Further, the plot of the novel centers on issues stemming from federal Indian law, as Silko makes clear in the figure of “Wilson Weasel Tail, Poet Lawyer” (713), who appears near the end at “the International Holistic Healers Convention in Tucson” (ibid.): Weasel Tail was Lakota, raised on a small, poor ranch forty miles from the Wounded Knee massacre site. Weasel Tail had dropped out of his third year at UCLA Law School to devote himself to poetry. The people didn’t need more lawyers, the lawyers were the disease not the cure. The law served the rich. The people needed poetry; poetry would


Part I

set the people free; poetry would speak to the dreams and to the spirits, and the people would understand what they must do. (ibid.) Weasel Tail is at the convention “not as a lawyer-poet” but “as ‘a Lakota healer and visionary’” (716); and yet we are told by Lecha (one of the central characters in the novel), who listens raptly to Weasel Tail’s revolutionary lecture-poem on the Ghost Dance: “Still, Weasel Tail was a lawyer at heart; Lecha noted that he had made the invaders an offer that couldn’t be refused. Weasel Tail had said to the US government, ‘Give back what you have stolen or else as a people you will continue your self-destruction’” (725). “Lecha had met Wilson Weasel Tail on a cable-television talk show originating in Atlanta years before”(713); before Weasel Tail was forcibly removed, he had seized control of the show long enough to recite a revolutionary poem about the U.S. government’s theft of Indian land, couched entirely in the language of Anglo-American law in general and of federal Indian law in particular. I quote the poem in its entirety because of the way it figures the central argument of this essay, the imbrication of U.S. Indian literatures and federal Indian law: Only a bastard government Occupies stolen land! Hey, you barbarian invaders! How much longer? You think colonialism lasts forever? Res ipsa loquitur! Cloud on title Unmerchantable title Doubtful title Defective title Unquiet title Unclear title Adverse title Adverse possession Wrongful possession Unlawful possession! [the poem is interrupted briefly here by the narrative] We say, “Adios, white man,” to Five hundred years of Criminals and pretenders Illicit and unlawful governments, Res accedent lumina rebus, One thing throws light on another. Worchester [sic] v. Georgia! Ex parte Crow Dog! Winters v. United States! Williams v. Lee! Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock! Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe v. Morton!

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Village of Kake, Alaska v. Egan! Gila River Apache Tribe v. Arizona! breach of close breach of conscience breach of contract breach of covenant breach of decency breach of duty breach of faith breach of fiduciary responsibility breach of promise breach of peace breach of trust breach of trust with fraudulent intent! Breach of the Treaty of the Sacred Black Hills! Breach of the Treaty of the Sacred Blue Lake! Breach of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo! Res judicata! We are at war. (714–15) This poem, composed with legal terms, the titles of federal Indian cases and treaties, is in the form of a verdict, pronounced by a transtribal voice, which judges the U.S. government guilty of colonialism and thereby declares an anticolonial war against it, a war by implication both legal and just. Although Wilson Weasel Tail’s ultimate cry is transnational, a cry for all the dispossessed (Indians, African Americans, and the poor across races and ethnicities, that is, beyond identity politics) “‘to take back the Americas!’” (724), he necessarily grounds that cry, in both his Ghost Dance poem and this one, in nationalist terms—in both the Native (tribal or indigenous) and the nation-state sense. For both are imbricated within the context of U.S. colonialism structured by federal Indian law. This transnational cry must be grounded in the national because revolutions can only take place in specific locales by overturning specific institutions. Federal Indian law is the one on which Weasel Tail focuses. The Marshall Trilogy, discussed in this essay, is text and context evoked by Weasel Tail’s anticolonial poem. Of the three treaties mentioned in the poem, we should note that there is no “Treaty of the Sacred Blue Lake” specifically. But in 1906 the federal government took Blue Lake from Taos Pueblo and made it part of the Carson National Forest, thereby violating one of the provisos of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which “guarantee[d] protection of all property rights recognized by Spanish and Mexican law” (Gordon-McCutchan xvi). Congress restored the lake to the Pueblo as trust title land in 1970, a rare concession in the history of federal Indian law, where money is typically offered for land the Indians traditionally consider nonfungible. In this context, Weasel Tail’s reference to “the Treaty of the Sacred Black Hills” necessarily invokes the refusal of the Sioux to accept money for the government theft of their most sacred ground. Weasel Tail’s poem, then, invokes the colonial history of the U.S. translation of inalienable Indian communal lands into property, and ongoing Indian resistance to this imperial process. It is this ongoing resistance, not some timeless cultural essence, that is represented


Part I

by the word “traditional” in an indigenous context. The chant of “title” (of various synonyms for “Doubtful” and “Defective title”) in the second stanza and the chant of “breach” in the fifth invoke the national history of struggle over land/property instituted in federal Indian law by the cornerstone of the Marshall Trilogy, Johnson v. McIntosh, which from the U.S. nation-state perspective is a lawful claim to title of all Indian lands but from the Indian nationalist, or tribal, perspective is a decided “breach of close”—“the unlawful or unwarrantable entry on another person’s soil, land, or close” (Black’s Law Dictionary 188). As noted, the Cherokee Nation came to the Supreme Court in 1831 to remedy this breach in the second case in the trilogy, Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. The third case, Worcester v. Georgia (misspelled “Worchester” in the Weasel Tail poem), is invoked as the first line of stanza 4. This case triangulates the legal relationship between the U.S. nation-state, Indian “domestic dependent nations,” and the several states. In the conclusion to his opinion, in a passage cited previously, Marshall asserts: “The Cherokee nation, then, is a distinct community occupying its own territory, with boundaries accurately described, in which the laws of Georgia can have no force, and which the citizens of Georgia have no right to enter, but with the assent of the Cherokees themselves, or in conformity with treaties, and with the acts of congress. The whole intercourse between the United States and this nation is, by our constitution and laws, vested in the government of the United States” (561; my emphasis). In relation to the several states, Marshall makes it quite clear that Indian sovereignty is absolute, while he appears at points in his decision to accord considerably more sovereignty to the tribes than he does in both Johnson and Cherokee Nation, terming them in one instance “distinct political communities, having territorial boundaries, within which their authority is exclusive, and having the right to all the lands within those boundaries, which is not only acknowledged, but guarantied by the United States” (557). In a concurring opinion, however, Justice McLean references the qualification of Indian sovereignty in the first two cases of the trilogy: “At no time has the sovereignty of the country been recognized as existing in the Indians, but they have been always admitted to possess many of the attributes of sovereignty. All the rights which belong to self government [sic] have been recognized as vested in them. Their right of occupancy has never been questioned, but the fee in the soil has been considered in the government” (580). Following Worcester in the Weasel Tail poem, the rest of the cases cited, which, including Worcester, span the time from 1832 to 1972, have to do with legal conflicts resulting from the triangle of sovereignties established by the Marshall Trilogy and always played out at the local level, where Indian nations struggle for their land (Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock [1903]), their water (Winters v. United States [1908], Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe v. Morton [1972], Gila River Apache Tribe v. Arizona76), the sovereignty of tribal law (Ex parte Crow Dog [1883], Williams v. Lee [1959]), and the right to use their natural resources in order to survive (Organized Village of Kake v. Egan [1962]). As the poem tells us, though there have been some local or temporary victories,77 the game is rigged in favor of the colonial power, which stages it. Lone Wolf, already cited in this essay and appearing conspicuously in the fourth stanza of the poem because, articulating the doctrine of “plenary power,” it collapses the triangle of sovereignties articulated in Worcester, shows the government’s hand by asserting the virtually absolute power of Congress to keep the game under its control. Hence, the inevitability of the declaration of “war” that concludes the poem. Almanac of the Dead, then, displays a keen interest in the national issues of U.S. federal Indian law, as well it might, because, as Silko herself narrates in a book of essays that

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appeared in the same year as the Wiget Handbook, and from which I have cited, her development as a writer, like that of her character Weasel Tail, began during her brief stint in law school, where she recalled that when she “was only five or six years old [and her] father was elected tribal treasurer” (Yellow Woman 18), Laguna Pueblo was pursuing a land claims case. “I should have paid more attention to the lesson of the Laguna Pueblo land claims lawsuit from my childhood: The lawsuit was not settled until I was in law school. The U.S. Court of Indian Claims found in favor of the Pueblo of Laguna, but the Indian Claims Court never gives back land wrongfully taken; the court only pays tribes for the land. The amount paid is computed without interest according to the value of the land at the time it was taken” (19).78 The Laguna people, in a response typical across Indian communities, didn’t want money; they wanted their land. Ultimately, Silko understood “that injustice is built into the Anglo-American legal system” (19) and decided to leave law school and pursue a career in literature and the arts: “the only way to seek justice was through the power of the stories” (20). But her sojourn in law school was far from a waste of time: “It seems to me there is no better way to uncover the deepest values of a culture than to observe the operation of that culture’s system of justice” (20). Silko joins Cook-Lynn at this point in emphasizing the intimate connection between literatures and law and in arguing, at least implicitly, for the inseparable connection between the ethnographic-formal and the political-historical in the field of American Indian literatures. Beginning in the late 1980s and continuing to the present, there has been a shift in paradigms governing the definition of the field from the ethnographic-formal to the politicalhistorical. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the latter paradigm has lately emerged forcefully in the field where it operates alongside the former, sometimes in conjunction with it, sometimes in opposition to it. The work of such Native and non-Native scholars as Gerald Vizenor, Arnold Krupat, Louis Owens, and Robert Dale Parker exemplifies the political-historical paradigm operating in conjunction with the ethnographicformal paradigm, though from a postmodernist/poststructuralist viewpoint characterized by skepticism about the claims of any given perspective. At the same time, a group of Native critics, associated as contributors and/or editors of the journal Wicazo Sa Review, including Elizabeth Cook-Lynn (Crow Creek Sioux), Jack Forbes(Powhatan/Delaware), Gloria Bird (Spokane), Robert Warrior (Osage), Craig Womack (Creek), and Jace Weaver (Cherokee), have been articulating and calling for a “nationalist”(read “indigenous”or “tribal”) approach to the field of Native American literatures, based in a notion of “intellectual sovereignty,” which presupposes a grounding in Native rather than European, or cosmopolitan, intellectual traditions such as postmodernism and poststructuralism, while not necessarily rejecting them if they are subordinated to indigenous theory. Warrior, for example, suggests a cosmopolitanism grounded in a Native nationalist approach: With this open-ended perspective we can further humanize ourselves and our works by engaging our particular questions in the context of other Others around the world who face similar situations. Whether such engagement is fruitful is not so important as is opening ourselves, from the standpoint of intellectual sovereignty, to a wide range of perspectives. (113) However, to the extent that the ethnographic-formal approach is the earliest cosmopolitan paradigm in Native American literary studies, this nationalist work exemplifies the historical-political paradigm in opposition to the ethnographic-formal.


Part I

What has remained common to the various critical approaches is the subject of culture, understood, as I have been employing it, as both the differential domain of global social life (as in the anthropological notion of cultures) and the artifacts a given society constructs, including its verbal expressions, in their social as well as formal-symbolic relations. Synthesizing the views of a number of anthropologists, Gary Witherspoon defines “culture,” taken as a symbolic system, as “a set of beliefs, concepts, ideas, views, and attitudes about the universe of action, being, and emotion [that is, social life] which orders human behavior but is distinct from it” (6). Culture is what Witherspoon himself terms the “rule book” of the “social system” (5). But whether “culture” is used synonymously with “society” or as the symbolic set that governs social action—and it seems to me that these two usages must inevitably blend at certain points—it should be emphasized that, just as a shift in context marks a decisive shift in the way we read a text, so a shift in paradigm marks a decisive shift in the way we read a subject (and, of course, a paradigm is a form of context, just as a subject is a form of text). The subject of culture shifts its shape depending on whether the paradigm invoked is ethnographic-formal or political-historical or one of many combinations of the two with differing emphases. The phrase “intellectual sovereignty” has a wide range of possible meanings. It is derived from historic and ongoing Native struggles for political sovereignty, but as an autonomous term, it has no particular history of its own. In responding to Jack Forbes’s essay “Intellectual Self-Determination and Sovereignty” (1998), Vine Deloria Jr. remarks: “Today the definition of sovereignty covers a multitude of sins, having lost its political moorings, and now is adrift on the currents of individual fancy” (“Intellectual Self-Determination and Sovereignty” 26–27). Deloria’s point is that the academic turf wars in Native American studies are distracting Native scholars from the literal turf wars waged between the federal government and Indian tribes, where their talents and resources are needed. Forbes equates intellectual sovereignty with a “decoloniz[ation of] our [Indian] minds” (“Intellectual Self-Determination” 16), which means wresting Native studies from the “alien control” of “non-indigenous scholars” (17) and “develop[ing] a new branch of Native American Studies, perhaps known as Americology. . . . This would be the integrated holistic study of ancient American history [by which Forbes means indigenous history throughout the Americas] from an American indigenous perspective” (19). There are problems with this formulation, not the least of which is the assumption of a single, unified “American indigenous perspective” and the edging toward a simple opposition between “us” and “them” grounded in the dubious equation that being equals knowing. Womack asserts this without reservation, remarking, “it seems to me that the minimal requirement for a Native studies course should be that every classroom text is written by a Native author; otherwise, how can we possibly lay claim to presenting Native perspectives?” (10; my emphasis). In contrast to Forbes, he allows that there are “Native perspectives” rather than a single “American indigenous perspective.” What he doesn’t allow in this formulation is that at least some of these “Native perspectives” might choose or be compelled by the historical forces of cultural interaction to incorporate non-Native work into their visions and thus end up in what might appear to be the contradictory or ironic position of rejecting theory from a theoretical perspective. It could be argued that Womack’s Red on Red finds itself in just such a position, employing the Western theory of deconstruction in order to denaturalize Western perspectives on Native literatures. Thus, to take another example, in an essay in Wicazo Sa Review on the problem of Indian stereotypes in Sherman Alexie’s

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Reservation Blues, Gloria Bird makes the following statement, which, I think, is representative of the nationalist credo: “In thinking about the purposes of native literary production, the temptation to use western theories to inform one’s reading is not the type of engagement with the literature I find most useful” (48). At the same time, Bird’s reading of Alexie, like Womack’s of intellectual sovereignty, seems informed explicitly by postcolonial and postmodern theory, which raises the question of how precisely vis-à-vis “western theories” she understands her “engagement” with Alexie’s work. But while at certain moments Womack can take an absolutely separatist position, at others he seems to acknowledge that such a position is rhetorical rather than actual: “Naturally, this process does not call for abandoning literary theory, and if one examines the work of most Native critics, one will find that few of us have anyway” (13). Within the context of such a statement, “intellectual sovereignty” becomes a call not to deny or repress the history of cultural interaction between Europe and the Native Americas, in which a particular cosmopolitanism is the inevitable result, but to emphasize Native traditions of resistance to certain European culturalpolitical influences in reconsidering Native American literatures. Perhaps the problem with the concept of intellectual sovereignty is that in conjunction with its just emphasis on considering Native materials on their own terms, insofar as that is possible, it invites slippage into an ahistorical and atheoretical view of Indian communities, though this is not inevitable if intellectual sovereignty is understood as political, not absolute. Here, for example, is Womack in a statement that follows the one just cited, in which, as noted, he acknowledges the almost inevitable involvement of Western theory in intellectual sovereignty: “Even postcolonial approaches, with so much emphasis on how the settler culture views the other, largely miss an incredibly important point: how do Indians view Indians?” (13; my emphasis). This question would seem to be at the heart of intellectual sovereignty. And here Womack separates it from what he understands as the postcolonial overemphasis “on how the settler culture views the other.” One might respond that classic postcolonial texts, Fanon’s Black Skin, White Masks, for example, have been centrally concerned with the question of how the native views the native but crucially have not seen it as simply separable from the question of how the settler views the native, the native the settler, or the settler the settler. Postcolonial theory at its best views native and settler as inextricably engaged for historical reasons in a complex set of mediations. This does not mean that we cannot separate them as far as certain key cultural practices go, as I am doing in making a distinction between land as kinship and land as property; it only means we must remain aware that such separations occur within a complex dialectic that we place in the foreground or the background, depending on the polemical gestures we wish to make and the histories we wish to emphasize. Womack appears aware of this dialectic when he states: Whatever one might argue about postmodern representation, there is the legal reality of tribal sovereignty, recognized by the U.S. Constitution and defined over the last 160 years by the Supreme Court, that affects the everyday lives of individuals and tribal nations and, therefore, has something to do with tribal literatures as well. (6) Because I have elaborated the history and problematics of federal Indian law at length in previous sections of this essay, I will only note in passing here Womack’s statement that the U.S. Constitution recognizes tribal sovereignty, which needs some clarification: the fact is that, as interpreted by Congress beginning in 1790 with the first of the Trade and Intercourse acts and affirmed by the Supreme Court beginning in 1823 in Johnson v. McIntosh, the Con-


Part I

stitution recognizes tribal sovereignty only as it is subordinated to U.S. sovereignty. However, I want to emphasize that in this formulation of the relationship between “tribal literatures” (which I take to mean both oral and written Native literatures) and federal Indian law, Womack appears to recognize that the former is inevitably mediated by the latter. How Indians view Indians in tribal literatures (and in tribal life) is inevitably mediated by how the settlers view the Indians, for federal Indian law is nothing but the Western legal view of Indians by settlers, inflected, though disproportionately because of power discrepancies, by how Indians view settlers in return; and for that matter, of how settlers view settlers, a view corrected from a Native perspective in tribal literatures themselves. Thus, when Womack goes on to assert the temporal and substantive primacy of tribal American literatures in relation to the European-formed canon, we can acknowledge the justness of such an assertion, recognizing the autonomy of tribal literatures while recognizing that they exist for most of us, Europeans and Indians alike, in translation, that is, in the written forms that give them the ironic power of writing against writing, in the ways that I have been elaborating and that Womack confirms, intentionally or not, when he notes the importance of federal Indian law in the formation of American Indian literatures of the United States. Yet, when Womack gives a “concrete example of Indian literary history,” of how precisely “Indians view Indians,” he ignores or is simply unaware that his example of Indian intellectual sovereignty, the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, has been from its founding in 1962 imbricated in (post)colonial politics. One cannot imagine a less sovereign entity historically, as I can attest from having worked in 1997 with a group of faculty, students, and administrators of the school who were engaged in a struggle for the intellectual and political sovereignty of the institution over and against a president (Beatrice Sanchez, a non-Native) and a board of directors (largely made up of presidentially appointed Indians, as mandated by Congress) who were actively subverting Native sovereignty by firing outspoken Indian faculty and curtailing the Native curriculum. In a post to the Native Lit listserv in 1996, which was then operating from Cornell University, Gloria Bird, who was then teaching writing at IAIA, describes the situation, on which I was subsequently consulted by the president of the student council at the time, Sarah Chewiwie (Isleta Pueblo), and the dean of students, Mary Nordwall (Cherokee): I am posting an announcement here because I thought it would be relevant and of interest to native lit folks. You should know what is happening at the only school in this country devoted to the study of native arts and culture. On June 28, 1996, seventeen of the Institute’s full-time faculty’s contracts were terminated. Of the ten remaining faculty being offered contracts, only four are native, and of those, only two will actually teach an art form in the fall. Ten of the terminated faculty are native artists and writers, and include: Linda Lomahoftewa, Barney Bush, Elizabeth Woody, William Yellow Robe, Jr., Don Chunestudey, Steve LaBoueff, Manuelita Lavato, Larry McNeil and Maxx Stevens. We lost more than half of our faculty in the Creative Writing Department. Not only has the Administration cut faculty positions, it has also gutted the curriculum. We are no longer a unique institution devoted to native arts and culture. We are now a mediocre two year community college with a very expensive tuition unaffordable to most native students. On Wednesday, the Coalition to Save the IAIA will go on line in order to disseminate updates and information. I will post the address as soon as I have one. We will be soliciting support for the return of the native arts education to the hands of the faculty of the IAIA.

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The group struggling for the sovereignty of IAIA, the only national Indian arts school in the United States, ultimately lost its battle. While the school is in better financial and academic shape than it was in 1996–97 (it is now a four-year degree-granting college), when it was renting dilapidated space in trailers and Quonset huts from the College of Santa Fe (it now has its own long-promised campus), and while it has a Native president, Della Warrior (a holdover from and former supporter of the discredited Sanchez administration), the question of its sovereignty, of how and whether it is serving Indian people, remains controversial in the Indian community, so that Womack’s unequivocal endorsement of it as an example of Native intellectual sovereignty seems at best misplaced. The history of IAIA is documented in a book, The Institute of American Indian Arts: Modernism and U.S. Indian Policy, by Joy L. Gritton, a non-Native who taught art history at IAIA before and during the struggles I am describing. In his introduction to Gritton’s study, Gregory Cajete, a scholar of Indian education from Santa Clara Pueblo, who was also teaching at the institute during this period, points precisely to the very serious problem of using IAIA as an example of intellectual sovereignty: In her analysis, she [Gritton] advocates a closer look at the culturally problematic modernist agenda, which figures so prominently at the inception of IAIA. This “closer look” allows for moving beyond the “P.R. curtain” and the myths that have long been perpetuated by and about the IAIA toward a truer picture of the Institute and a clearer view of its potential as a truly Native-centered institution. The inherent potential of the IAIA has remained relatively latent as a serious realm of discussion and research because of the IAIA’s “manufactured image” which hides the “colonized” origins of the school [in the collaboration of corporate capital and federal Indian policy79]. Gritton observed very astutely: The decontextualization and appropriation of non-Western arts and the fragments of “primitive” peoples’ ways of life were essentially an extension of EuroAmerican political and economic imperialism. Both harvests were intended to revitalize and nourish the colonizers. The intellectual and cultural could now sweeten an already rich colonial pot. (xiii–xiv) As Cajete summarizes Gritton’s insights, the effect of the policy that informed IAIA was to replace the social, cultural, political, and historical contexts of Indian communities in the United States with a detribalized ethnographic-formal paradigm of what Indian art should be: In a very real way the infusion of the modernist paradigm into the world of American Indian art forms created an illusion which largely denied the deeper cultural reality from which American Indians came. This denial is akin to the implied denial of the lived cultural experience of indigenous peoples throughout the world through the superimposing of Western scientific interpretation on all aspects of their life. This Western interpretation of indigenous art and experience combined with the “sterilization” of the history of conflict and tragedy after European contact in favor of the notion of “ancient roots” formed a foundation for the dissociation of the “new” forms of American Indian art being encouraged at the IAIA from traditional Native values and beliefs. (xiv) The ethnographic-formal agenda that generated a translation project like Rothenberg’s Shaking the Pumpkin is identical to the agenda that generated IAIA, however different the


Part I

conscious political intent. While Rothenberg announces his project as decidedly anticolonial, IAIA never reflects at all on its colonial roots, so deeply is it enmeshed in the corporate/federal bureaucracy: a child in the late 1950s of Rockefeller money and New Deal federal Indian policy, it was administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) from 1962 to 1986, when Congress wrote its present enabling legislation, placing it directly under congressional supervision. While Cajete notes that “in spite of its assimilationist underpinnings,” an “undercurrent of a truer representation of ‘evolving and tribally based’ Indian art forms has always existed at the IAIA” (xv), and while there is no doubt that students and graduates of the school have produced a body of important work in the visual and written arts, it is also true, as Cajete suggests, that this production is due at least as much to resistance to the school’s ideology as to the technical expertise gained from its teachers. Cajete cites Gritton to this effect: “The Institute of American Indian Arts did not begin its tenure as a place of true exploration of indigenous art education. And those now entrusted with the future art education of generations of Indian students cannot begin to plan effectively for the future without objectively assessing the school’s past.” (xiv) Whether such an assessment of the colonial history of IAIA is going on remains to be seen. However, I would argue that as long as the school exists within the colonial context of federal Indian law, it will not be able to conduct such an assessment, either because the ideological filters prevent it or because biting the hand that feeds it risks starvation even if the food is not in the final analysis nourishing. The example of IAIA suggests that Womack’s call for “a literary criticism that emphasizes Native resistance movements against colonialism, confronts racism, discusses sovereignty and Native nationalism, seeks connections between literature and liberation struggles, and, finally, roots literature in land and culture” may be at odds with a notion of intellectual sovereignty that seeks to celebrate Native autonomy without factoring in the historic force of federal Indian law, a force that elsewhere Womack recognizes. In his essay on teaching Indian literatures in the Wiget volume, Kenneth Roemer writes of “the ethics of teaching Indian literature” as consisting of “present[ing] sacred ceremonial literature or origin narratives . . . with a respect appropriate to the discussion of the liturgical literatures and creation accounts of Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other great world religions” and of “be[ing] careful not to reinforce old or create new stereotypes” (350). Certainly. But I would add that the necessary context for such ethics is the politics of teaching the colonial situation of Indian country and its legal base. Inherent in this colonial situation, as the work of Simon Ortiz and Silko and many other Indian writers eloquently demonstrates, is the Native resistance to it. Native American oral and written expression is, if not univocally then significantly, a literature of liberation, which, to echo Fight Back, affects all, not only Indian, lives. This literature is composed of nationally based cosmopolitan literatures, focused on issues of community sovereignty in which the political and the intellectual are inseparable. Elizabeth Cook-Lynn reminds us of this when she notes that in 1970, when Native American studies was in its founding stages at the First Convocation of American Indian Scholars at Princeton University, its projected agenda “was the defense of the land and indigenous rights” (“Who Stole Native American Studies?” 9). Intellectual labor and social activism were to be joined through indigenously based Native American studies departments. But, as she acknowledges, to date this agenda has largely

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failed, and this “is directly related to the failure of structural transformation in the learning institutions of America” (27)—which, she might have added, is itself related to the failure of the United States to transform its economic and political institutions into agents of social justice. Nevertheless, Cook-Lynn reminds us, “Those visionaries at Princeton twenty years ago and at thousands of Native American Studies conferences since that time enjoined the academic community and their contemporaries in an effort to pass on a vibrant tradition of indigenous resistance to colonization and oppression” (28). Within this context, which is not optional, the teaching of Native literatures as literatures of resistance and liberation is imperative.

Notes In a different form, parts of this essay appeared in Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies and in the online journal Common-Place. Research for the essay was supported by fellowships from the Society for the Humanities at Cornell University and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as a grant from the University of Pennsylvania Research Foundation. 1. For example, in The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, edited by Ashcroft, Griffiths, and Tiffin, published by Routledge in 1995, and then reprinted in 1995, 1997, and twice in 1999, there is not a single selection on the historic situation of American Indians who inhabit this territory (there is a reference to Black Elk Speaks ”as a white man’s construct” in the selection by Diana Brydon, “The White Inuit Speaks: Contamination as Literary Strategy” [136], but this reference is clearly ignorant or neglectful of the 1979 introduction to the text by Vine Deloria Jr., which emphatically contradicts the notion that Black Elk Speaks is “a white man’s construct” [xiv]. I take up the Black Elk debate at length later in this essay). And the recent compilation Cosmopolitics: Thinking and Feeling Beyond the Nation, edited by Cheah and Robbins for University of Minnesota Press (1998), contains only a single passing reference to American Indians (1). 2. In “Post-Structuralism and Oral Literature,” Krupat suggests that the alienation of these critics from poststructuralism may be due to its focus on writing as a figure for all language, whereas traditional Native cultures are oral. But as he points out, the precedence of writing in poststructuralist thought is “logical,” not “historical” (115). That is, poststructuralism is primarily interested not in the historical interactions of oral and written cultures but in deconstructing a Western linguistic dichotomy that from Plato at least through Nietzsche has opposed speech and writing, claiming a metaphysical priority of speech over writing. 3. The latest government statistics list the total of federally recognized tribes in the lower 48 states and Alaska as 562 (Federal Register, vol. 67). The Indian Labor Force Report of 1999 gives the tribally enrolled population, based on a figure of 556 federally recognized tribes, as 1,698,483 (i). The federal census for 2000 reports 2.5 million people self-identifying as American Indian and Alaska Native without any other racial combination. In addition, “1.6 million people . . . reported American Indian and Alaska Native as well as one or more other races. . . . The term ‘American Indian and Alaska Native’ refers to people having origins in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America), and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment. It includes people who reported ‘American Indian and Alaska Native’ or wrote in their principal or enrolled tribe” (The American Indian and Alaska Native Population 1–2; cen2000/briefs.html [accessed April 26, 2005]). 4. The Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act can be accessed at uscode/43/1601.html (April 26, 2005). 5. My comments on the Venetie case come from a summary in Getches et al. 941–44. 6. An exception to this is Maureen Konkle’s book, Writing Indian Nations (2004), which takes a central aspect of federal Indian law (the treaty relationship) as the ground for her reading of antebellum Native writing, asserting: “The political autonomy of Native peoples remains generally absent from


Part I

the scholarship on the representation of Native peoples and on Native writing. In literary criticism at least, treaties are understood to have been all ‘broken’ and therefore of no real consequence other than as signifiers of white perfidy” (7). It is hard to know what Konkle means by “generally absent,” because in the last ten years, at least, in the work of both Native and non-Native scholars in the humanities and the social sciences, including my own, the question of Native political autonomy has come increasingly to the forefront. An essay I published in the journal Interventions in 2002,“The (Post)Colonial Predicament of Native American Studies,” which has been incorporated in part into the present essay, argues for the imbrication of U.S. American Indian literatures and federal Indian law. Beginning in the late 1960s with Custer Died forYour Sins, Vine Deloria’s writing, which Konkle quotes extensively, has helped situate the question of Native political autonomy as the central theme in Native studies. Since the 1942 publication of Felix Cohen’s classic Handbook of Federal Indian Law, the question has been central to the scholarship on federal Indian law. As to literary study and the treaty, the Rourke and Wroth essays, discussed immediately in what follows, are two early instances in twentieth-century U.S. literary study that took the treaty seriously as a literary form. Their republication in the mid–1970s in the Chapman volume suggests that at least someone was paying attention to the treaty as something beyond a “signifier . . . of white perfidy.” Non-Native critics of American Indian literatures like Arnold Krupat, whom Konkle quotes briefly and out of context in order to make a polemical point about the general absence of political awareness in the criticism of American Indian literatures, have written about literary/legal matters, including the treaty. Similarly, except for a bibliographical reference, Konkle ignores Joshua Bellin’s important historicizing (and thus politicizing) of the Native presence in Euro-American antebellum literatures in his book The Demon of the Continent. Because Konkle recognizes that the nationalist school of Native critics (Cook-Lynn, Womack, Warrior, et al., discussed in this essay) have been quite aware of the colonial parameters and the attendant issue of autonomy in Native affairs, although she only nods in passing at their work (34), her reference to the lack of awareness of political matters in the “scholarship on the representation of Native peoples and on Native writing” appears to mean, by and large, non-Native scholarship. If that is what it does mean, then clearly I take exception with both its literal claim and the identity politics it suggests, which Konkle disavows in general. Given her interest in federal Indian law, we might note that her attention to this law has missed some details. For example, contra to her assertion (4), and as the title of the case suggests, the Cherokees did not bring Worcester v. Georgia to the Supreme Court; it was brought by the missionary Samuel Worcester. More important, “[the] most important arena for determining relations with Native peoples” is not the Supreme Court, as Konkle asserts (8), but Congress. As a quote from Getches et al. in the body of my text points out, the Supreme Court has been historically a rubber stamp for congressional acts: “no exercise of congressional power limiting or terminating Indian tribal rights has been set aside” by the Supreme Court (5). This fact, the lack of significant judicial review in federal Indian law, gives the law its colonial character. Finally, in her rush not to be a “culturalist” critic, not to make cultural “difference” the center of her essay, Konkle overlooks in her introduction—or simply deems unimportant— the radical cultural difference between Native and Western notions of land (land as kinship versus land as property) that is at the heart of Native and Western material and ideological difference. Without an understanding of this difference, federal Indian law as an oppressive tool of translation makes no sense at all. So while my argument in this essay, the importance of federal Indian law to the study of American Indian literatures, certainly joins Konkle’s in its immediate formulation, it differs in significant ways, not the least of which is that her leveling and, I think, racializing of the field of American Indian literary studies makes the terrain much less complicated (less interesting) than it is, though her book provides some useful individual studies of Native intellectual work in the antebellum United States. 7. See Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism, for a history of the translation of Native relationships to land into the Western relationship of property. 8. This refusal to accept a monetary settlement for the Black Hills has not been seamless. That is, inevitably, given the pressures of U.S. colonialism, politics within the Sioux nation have produced tensions around the shape a settlement should take. Edward Lazarus in Black Hills, White Justice details a version of these politics (423–28). While he is certainly highly critical of the federal government in its

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Indian relations, he is also harshly judgmental of the present-day Sioux: “the claims process has encouraged them to evade any real responsibility for repairing the tragic conditions of their lives” (428). While I am not an expert in this case, and I find the Lazarus history a very useful book, this final judgment strikes me as reductive and in need of correction from other points of view. 9. See (accessed Sept. 18, 2005). I want to thank Arnold Krupat for calling the oration to my attention. 10. According to the latest government statistics, “There are about 1.5 million Indians who are enrolled in 562 federally recognized tribes. These tribes are located in 32 of the contiguous states and Alaska.” “According to the U.S. Census, there are about 4 million people who identified themselves as American Indian, Alaska Native, or combination of Indian and other races.” See http://resources (accessed Sept. 18, 2005). Except in special circumstances, one is not legally considered an Indian unless tribally enrolled. I will have more to say about the legal constitution of Indian identity in a subsequent section of this essay. 11. In an unpublished essay, “Romancing Kinship: A Queer Reading of Indian Education and Zitkala-Sa’s American Indian Stories,” Mark Rifkin notes: “In interpreting late-nineteenth-century Indian policy as compulsory heterosexuality, then, I hope to propel a two-sided critical dialogue/ dialectic: indicating the ways attending to American Indian histories and forms of self-representation as part of the history of sexuality in the U.S. can aid in rethinking what constitutes heteronormativity; and emphasizing how native articulations of home and family can and do serve as sites of resistance to the mappings and governing logics of Indian policy.” Rifkin is referring here to the policy of the 1887 Dawes Act (discussed later in this essay) of compelling Indian kinship relations, which extended family ties throughout the community into Western nuclear family form, which was heterosexual and patriarchal. 12. Though they are apparently hierarchical in structure, I am, as my use of the term “Native” suggests, including Hawaiian social structures in this description. Refuting the Western stereotype of preinvasion Hawai‘i as a feudal society, Trask notes: “And when they [Europeans] said that our chiefs were despotic, they were telling of their own society, where hierarchy always resulted in domination. Thus, any authority or elder was automatically suspected of tyranny” (117). In contrast to the stereotype, Trask defines traditional Hawaiian leadership by two terms: mana, which “requires specific identification by the leader with the people, just as the ali’í, or chiefs, in days of old were judged by how well they cared for their people”; and pono, ”balance between people, land, and the cosmos” (91). Pono seems to find its translation in the Navajo word hozho, discussed immediately below. Rifkin describes the traditional Hawaiian social structure thus: “traditional Hawaiian political structures and processes were organized around flexible notions of authority based on efforts to acquire mana (spiritual power), to be pono (engaging in right conduct), and to ma¯lama (care for) the people and the ’a¯ina (land). Although decisively operating as a hierarchy, then, this system was organized around reciprocal aloha (love and regard) between rulers and ruled and inverted but ultimately complementary principles of legitimacy: genealogy which took one away from a direct relationship to the ‘a¯ina; and kama’a¯ina (closeness to the land) which marked a sustained connection to it” (279). 13.“A growing number of tribes across the country, desperate to slow the wounds of drug and alcohol abuse, gambling, poverty and violence, have used banishment in varying forms in the last decade. Tribal leaders use this ancient response, which reflects Indian respect for community, as a painful but necessary deterrent” (Kershaw and Davey 1). The article also notes that banishment is a controversial measure in the tribes that are employing it. If banishment means being removed from tribal rolls— and the article does not make this entirely clear—then it is, indeed, a catastrophic measure; for this in effect takes away a person’s legal identity as an Indian and the federal benefits of health, welfare, and education that come with it, along with any tribal revenues to which the person may be entitled. While the tribes have autonomy in determining the rules of enrollment, by law, and if he or she so chooses, the Secretary of the Interior can make the final determination on enrollment. As of this writing, I know of no appeals on banishment that have been made to federal authorities. The article does mention one appeal being made by the exile to the tribal court.

112 Part I 14. Deloria and Lytle published American Indians, American Justice in 1983. Twenty years later, the U.S. judicial system is not even paying lip service to rehabilitation. 15. For analysis of Hopi “fissioning,” see Titiev, chapters V–VI; and Cheyfitz, “The Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute,” 248–75. 16. This speech can be found easily at various Web sites by inserting “Kevin Gover” and the title of the speech in any search engine, such as Google. 17. Neely Tucker, Washington Post, August 17, 2000, A27. 18. Prucha cites “to break up” as “for breaking up.” The sense is the same in any event; and I have not seen a copy of the original speech by Gates. 19. The OED gives 1819 as the date of origin for the term “biology,” used to refer to “the division of physical science which deals with organized beings or animals and plants, their morphology, physiology, origin, and distribution.” 20. For a discussion of the history of these intratribal conflicts see Cheyfitz, “The Colonial Double Bind.” 21. For a discussion of the varying criteria of competency, see McDonnell, chapter 7; and Cohen, 167–69. 22. I arrive at this date from information supplied to me in a telephone conversation with Karen Ketcher, Branch of Tribal Operations, Eastern Oklahoma Region, Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, 101 North 5th Street, Muskogee, OK 74401. “In reviewing the Bureau’s practices, the Interior Board of Indian Appeals (IBIA) ruled that the degree of Indian blood of an individual Indian cannot be changed by the Bureau on the basis of ‘the evidentiary standards set forth in unwritten policy statements’ and advised the Bureau to develop and issue regulations, Underwood v. Deputy Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs, 93 I.D. 13, 14 IBIA 3, January 31, 1986. In the absence of regulations, the Bureau has been without the authority to invalidate or amend CDIBs issued in error. As a result, there are individuals who do not receive services for which they may qualify and individuals who receive services for which they do not qualify” (65 FR at 20776). For a history of the proposal see 65 FR at 20776–78. 23. Title 25 of the Code of Federal Regulations, section 5.1 (25 CFR § 5.1) currently uses the criteria of 25 USC § 479, which does not require a minimum blood quantum of any kind if one is tribally enrolled or descended from a specific category of tribal member, though, once again, we ought to remember that tribal enrollment itself typically requires, among other criteria, a certain blood quantum. The ACLU’s handbook The Rights of Indians and Tribes notes: “Many tribes require that a person have at least one-fourth tribal blood to be enrolled” (Pevar 19). 24. Limerick’s statement is in reference to a 1986 proposal by the Indian Health Service “to change the definition of Indian,” which she seems to extend to all of federal policy. She appears unaware, then, of the history of blood quantum that I am sketching, which goes back to at least 1846 and the Rogers case. The 1986 proposal, she claims, “carried the added threat of making Indianness a racial definition rather than a category of political nationality” (338). But in fact the definition of Indianness was already both racial and political, emphasizing one or the other depending on the legal context. 25. “Tribal law” is a listserv. The URL as of April 22, 2005 is nl/9502/0006.html; or Google “tribal law.” 26. The Wheeler-Howard Act does define “Indian” for its purposes (25 USC 479), so the court in Broncheau is, strictly speaking, wrong when it says that “the term ‘Indian’ has not been statutorily defined.” But the definition refers to the use of the term in the act alone and so appears to be contextually limited, that is, not generally applicable, though the BIA, as I discuss below, has nevertheless tried to generalize from the act. 27. These questions were accessible on the BIA Web site ( .html) before federal judge Royce Lamberth ordered the site closed in December 2001 in relation to the Indian trust fund litigation, pending assurances that trust fund accounts were not vulnerable to hacking through the site. The criteria for “Who is an Indian?” can be found at http://lycos.factmonster .com/ipka/A0192524/html (accessed April 22, 2005). On request the BIA sent me in November 2003 a

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pamphlet,“American Indians and Alaska Natives,” which contains “Answers to Some Frequently Asked Questions.” Among these is: “Who is an American Indian or Alaska Native?” The answer is: As a general principle an Indian is a person who is of some degree Indian blood and is recognized as an Indian by a tribe and /or the United States. No single federal or tribal criterion establishes a person’s identity as an Indian. Government agencies use differing criteria to determine eligibility for programs and services. Tribes also have varying eligibility criteria for membership. It is important to understand the difference between the ethnological term “Indian” and the political/legal term “Indian.” The protections and services provided by the United States for tribal members flow not from an individual’s status as an American Indian in an ethnological sense, but because the person is a member of a tribe recognized by the United States, and with which the United States has a special trust relationship. This special trust relationship entails certain legally enforceable obligations and responsibilities. There is nothing in this pamphlet about the criteria for eligibility for BIA services, and no definition of “ethnological.” But as we will see in the following discussion, section 479 of the 25th title of the U.S. Code suggests that a person does not have to be a tribally enrolled Indian to be recognized as an Indian by the federal government if he or she can prove that his or her blood quantum is half or more. And the above citation as well points to “some degree of Indian blood” and federal recognition as sufficient, independent of tribal recognition, to establish legal status as an Indian. In any event, this BIA publication is only one more piece of evidence in the case that can be made for the utter incoherency of the way federal Indian law has historically defined Indian identity. 28. The Cherokee writer John Rollin Ridge published his novel The Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit in 1854. But the book, as the title suggests, is not about Indians but about Mexicans fighting for their land in Anglo-occupied California. In his study of the U.S. Native novel Other Destinies, Louis Owens reads Ridge’s championing of Mexican resistance to U.S. land theft as a displacement of the novelist’s criticism of U.S. theft of Native lands, while noting that the brief portraits of California Indians are scurrilously stereotypical. Owens finds this simultaneous embrace of Mexican/Indian land rights and a “racist” view of California Indians “paradoxical” (39). I find, on the other hand, that Ridge’s racist portraits of the only literal Indians in the novel make it difficult to read as an indirect defense of Native land rights. Ridge himself, born in 1827, was the son of one of the leaders of the Treaty Party, which in the 1830s supported removal and signed the infamous Treaty of New Echota (1835). This agreement violated the will of the majority of Cherokees against removal, as expressed in the elected government of John Ross and in the Cherokee Constitution, which, as noted, forbid sales of Cherokee land by persons acting without the authority of the Cherokee council. In 1839, after their arrival in the what would become the state of Oklahoma, the leaders of the Treaty Party, including Ridge’s father, grandfather, and cousin (Elias Boudinot), were assassinated for their subversion of the Cherokee polity. Afterward, Ridge and his mother left Oklahoma for Fayetteville, Arkansas. In 1850, after killing David Kell, a Cherokee whom he suspected of being one of his father’s assassins, Ridge left for California (Hoxie 550–52). S. Alice Callahan’s novel Wynema (1891), the first novel we know to have been published by a U.S. American Indian Woman, remains to be critically assessed. 29. The Laguna Constitution, with membership requirements, as ratified in 1958 can be found at (accessed April 23, 2005). While Tayo was born in a fictional time that lies outside the purview of the Laguna Constitution (the time of the novel is immediately following World War II, presumably placing Tayo’s birthdate somewhere in the late 1920s), he would appear to be a half-blood Indian with an enrolled mother, which would afford him membership in the tribe if the Constitution was applicable. 30. While not focusing on allotment specifically, Arnold Krupat reads Cogewea within the historical context of race theory in the early twentieth century (see chapter 4 in Red Matters). 31. The spelling of “Okanagan” (Miller spells it this way in the Hoxie Encyclopedia) is “Okanogan” in Cogewea and in Miller’s edition of Mourning Dove’s autobiography.

114 Part I 32. Though the exact date for the action of Cogewea is not given, it clearly takes place during allotment and after 1905, when the Flathead reservation was opened to settlement. Because competency standards varied with different Department of the Interior administrations and the novel does not spell them out, it is unclear exactly what standards might be at play in Cogewea’s attaining competency. But I think it is safe to say that whatever the standards (from education to evidence of self-sufficiency), blood quantum always played some part in the decision about competency, and that the more white blood a person had, all other criteria being equal, the more competent he or she was assumed to be. 33. The Burke Act, among its other provisions, gave the Secretary of the Interior the power to transfer title of trust allotments in fee to allottees who were judged “competent” to handle their own affairs. See Prucha, Documents of United States Indian Policy, Document 127. 34. The Osage murders form the plot of the Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan’s novel Mean Spirit (1990) and most recently of the Osage novelist Charles H. Red Corn’s A Pipe for February (2002). The date of the Osage murders in the early 1920s and the date of the publication of Cogewea suggest that the novel may well have been worked on subsequent to 1916, projected as the time it was written. Buttressing this suggestion is also the date 1921, when Mourning Dove was judged “competent” to receive her allotment in fee. For an historical account of the murders, see Donald L. Fixico, The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century: American Capitalism and Tribal Natural Resources, 27–53. Full citations of these texts are in the bibliography. 35. Annual Report of Indian Lands, U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Trust Responsibilities, Division of Real Estate Services (December 31, 1997). 36. For a discussion of Hopi resistance to the tribal council, see Indian Law Resource Center, Report to the Hopi Kikmongwis and Other Traditional Hopi Leaders on Docket 196 and the Continuing Threat to Hopi Land and Sovereignty (Washington, D.C., 1979), 55–69. Oglala Lakota resistance to its IRA–constituted tribal council is focused in the second Wounded Knee conflict on the Pine Ridge Reservation. For a history of this conflict, see Peter Matthiessen, In the Spirit of Crazy Horse (1983; reprint, New York: Viking, 1991), particularly chapter 6. For a history of contemporary resistance in 2000–01, see (accessed April 24, 2005). See also Cheyfitz, “The Colonial Double Bind,” 226. 37. There is by now an extensive literature on the dispute. See, for example, Eric Cheyfitz, “The Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute: A Brief History,” which contains some salient bibliography. 38. On the first voyage Columbus kidnapped seven Indians and took them back to Spain so that they could be displayed as proof of his voyage and so that they could learn Spanish and act as interpreters on subsequent voyages. The letter by Dr. Chanca, which is a report of the second trip, tells us that of the seven, two survived to return to Hispaniola (J. M. Cohen 151). How effective they were as interpreters cannot be assessed because the Spanish were at that point relatively unconcerned with the problems of translation. For an extended discussion of these problems in the European conquest of the Americas, see Cheyfitz, The Poetics of Imperialism. It should be emphasized that historians of the conquest have for the most part relied on European narratives without questioning the knowledge they contain, even though the problems of translation to which I refer are both implicitly and explicitly manifest in these narratives, which are, of course, ideologically driven. 39. Columbus had left his brother Diego in charge of the settlement on Hispaniola, but apparently he could not control Margarit, and internal factions developed among the settlers. During this time Columbus’s brother Bartolomé arrived, and Margarit used one of his ships to return to Spain and begin fomenting resistance to Columbus (Koning 82–83). 40. See in particular “Wounded Knee Massacre, 1890,” by Paul M. Robertson in Hoxie, Encyclopedia of North American Indians, 694–97. 41. These particular Canadian–Indian issues are elaborated in The Hawthorn Report (October 1966), (accessed April 26, 2005). 42. For a copy of the Royal Proclamation, see English/PreConfederation/rp_1763.html (accessed April 26, 2005). 43. Joseph M. Marshall, “Wounded Knee Takeover, 1973,” in Hoxie, Encyclopedia of North American Indians, 697–99. See also the essay on nonfiction in this volume.

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44. I recommend the film, available on video, Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance, directed by Alanis Obomsawin (1993; The National Film Board of Canada, 1994). 45. The CEH report can be accessed at (April 26, 2005). The quoted language is from the second paragraph of the prologue. Sections 13–14 implicate the United States. Sections 80–126 detail state violence against Indian communities. Section 122 reads: “In consequence, the CEH concludes that agents of the State of Guatemala, within the framework of counterinsurgency operations carried out between 1981 and 1983, committed acts of genocide against groups of Mayan people which lived in the four regions analysed [sic].” 46. See United States v. Shoshone Tribe of Indians (304 U.S. 111 [1938]) and United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians (448 U.S. 371 [1980]). 47. In Red Matters, Arnold Krupat notes: “Just as there is no people without history, so, too, is there no people without writing—by which I mean material or tangible means of information storage, or in I. J. Gelb’s phrase, ‘A system of human intercommunication by means of conventional visible marks’” (66). I concur, which is why I have emphasized “alphabetic” in distinguishing oral from written cultures. In alphabetic cultures, writing subsumes speech; in oral cultures, the reverse is true. When I refer to “writing,” then, the reader should understand “alphabetic writing.” From time to time to emphasize this understanding, I will use the phrase “alphabetic writing.” 48. Katherine Smith’s comment about being imprisoned by Western law is taken from a videotape made by myself and my wife, Darlene Evans, in 1998. We have the permission of the author for the use of this tape and the letter cited below. 49. In 1830 Congress passed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the president the authority to negotiate treaties with Indian tribes that would legalize their removal from Native lands to lands west of the Mississippi. Needless to say, Indian communities signed these treaties under duress. The Removal Act is the foundation for the infamous Trail of Tears, on which the so-called five “civilized” tribes were forced to march to Oklahoma territory throughout the 1830s. The Cherokees were the last to undergo this march. Boudinot, who initially opposed removal, became an advocate because he thought resistance to U.S. force was futile and removal was the best chance the Cherokees had for survival as a nation. Though the overwhelming majority of the tribe, through its elected president John Ross, opposed removal, Boudinot and a group of dissident Cherokee leaders agreed to sign a treaty with the United States, which they did at the Cherokee capital of New Echota in 1835. Shortly after their arrival in Oklahoma, several of the leaders of this group, including Boudinot, were assassinated for having violated a provision of the Cherokee constitution that forbade the sale of land to outsiders without the express permission of the tribe. 50. For an article on the Native American Church, see Hoxie, ed., Encyclopedia of North American Indians, 418–20. 51. In his “Summary” to the Mind of Primitive Man, Boas remarks, “Our analysis showed that the similarities [‘of cultural traits in all parts of the world’] were more apparent than real, that they often developed by convergent development from distinct sources, and that not all stages have been present in all types of cultures. Thus all attempts to correlate racial types and cultural stages failed us, and we concluded that cultural stage is essentially a phenomenon dependent upon historical causes, regardless of race” (249). William Stanton in The Leopard’s Spots succinctly characterizes the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century scientific racism in the nascent field of anthropology against which Boas was working: “Those who studied man noted that certain biological types were peculiar to their own geographical areas and that each exhibited a peculiar culture” (3). 52. See, for example, Herrnstein and Murray’s The Bell Curve and the debate surrounding it. Writing in The New Yorker in 1994, the same year as the book’s publication, Stephen Jay Gould summarized: “‘The Bell Curve,’ with its claims and supposed documentation that race and class differences are largely caused by genetic factors and are therefore essentially immutable, contains no new arguments and presents no compelling data to support its anachronistic social Darwinism, so I can only conclude that its success in winning attention must reflect the depressing temper of our time—a historical moment of unprecedented ungenerosity, when a mood for slashing social programs can be powerfully abetted by an argument that beneficiaries cannot be helped, owing to inborn cognitive limits expressed


Part I

as low I.Q. scores” ( .html; accessed April 29, 2005). For access to articles on both sides of this debate, visit http:// Murray and Hernstein’s argument presupposes that race is an immutable biological category. The weight of scientific evidence today, based in genetics, contradicts this notion. That is, there are no specific genetic markers for race, so we conclude that race is a socially constructed category. 53. Morton’s second book, Crania Aegyptiaca (1844), was informed by the theories of the Egyptologist and popular lecturer George Robins Gliddon. The book “discovered to anthropology the great age of the races and noted that slavery was ‘among the earliest of the social institutions of Egypt.’ The social position of Negroes had been the same as it was in the nineteenth century, that of servants and slaves” (Stanton 51) to the Egyptians, whom Morton’s skull-measuring science confirmed were not Negroes (51). It is clear that, though Morton himself did not endorse the institution of slavery, this kind of bio-logic serves the interests of slavery quite neatly. As Stanton remarks, “All in all, Gliddon thought Crania Aegyptiaca would soon be ‘fairly launched down South,’ where Morton’s findings would ‘draw plenty of customers’” (53). And another of Morton’s friends and colleagues, “Dr. Joseph Clark Nott of Mobile . . . . one of the founders of the ‘American School’ of anthropology” (65), employed Morton’s theories to rationalize Southern slavery (see, for example, Stanton 81). 54. “The ability of the kin-ordered mode to regenerate itself may lie in the absence of any mechanism that can aggregate or mobilize social labor apart from the particular relations set up by kinship. The oppositions as they are normally played out are particulate, the conjunction of a particular elder with a particular junior of a particular lineage at a particular time and place, and not the general opposition of elder and junior as classes. . . . While genealogical rank differentiates people by the functions they perform, the society as a whole appears to be laced together through common interests, common descent, and general redistribution. All are kinsmen, as it were; only some are more so than others” (Wolf 95, 97). For a study that does address issues of rank and how it is balanced in one such kinship society, see Alfonso Ortiz, The Tewa World. Ortiz points to a conception of rank that is never fixed in particular individuals or groups but circulates throughout the social network over time. So, for example, the most exclusive category, “the Made people” strives to be inclusive: “the Made people and their assistants comprise a very sizeable percentage of the population. This was more true in the past . . . until about the turn of the century, nearly every Tewa adult belonged to a group of Made People” (82). 55. Radin explains that Blowsnake received the narratives in 1912 from “an old Winnebago Indian living near the village of Winnebago, Nebraska. It was written down in the Winnebago syllabary. . . . Who this individual was I do not know. There were a number of reasons, into which I cannot enter here, why it was inadvisable for me to ask, the most important being that the myth was a sacred one and that I was a stranger and a white man. . . . The identity of the narrator is, however, not really of great importance. What is important is whether it was obtained under the proper conditions and whether Sam Blowsnake wrote it down as it was told to him. By proper conditions I mean that adequate offerings of tobacco were presented to the narrator and gifts commensurate with the traditionally accepted value of the myth given to him. This I know was done” (Radin 111–12). Radin also assures the reader that “Sam Blowsnake recorded it as he heard it” (112) and that Baptiste and Lamere, “both of whom knew English very well, particularly the former,”“made”“the initial translation” and that “it was then revised by [Radin him]self,” who “could read the syllabary with some ease and knew Winnebago well” (112). What Radin does not tell the reader is whether or not the Winnebago elder, whose story it was, was informed by Blowsnake of its intended incorporation into Western print culture. 56. I use “it” here and elsewhere in reference to trickster to emphasize the indeterminacy of the character’s gender. My references to the “Winnebago Trickster Cycle” in Radin are to the textual divisions imposed on the narrative, not to the page numbers. 57. But, as Krupat notes, the trickster is not just a figure of ribald fun but also a figure of “special powers and abilities to transform the world into what we now know it to be” (trickster essay, earlier version). That is, the trickster is a creator as well as a destroyer.

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58. Some of my students have found the violence against women in Vizenor’s Bearheart profoundly disturbing because it has seemed hyperfocused on that gender, the way it is not in trickster tales. 59. I thank my brother, Kirk Cheyfitz, for passing this story on to me via a tape of a public performance of Johnny Moses, in Detroit, Michigan. In my transcription of the Crow story, I have only supplied the English version. Moses’s approach is to give the Native-language version of a sentence or two, followed immediately by the English version. 60. For a discussion of the problems of the translation of oral narratives into multiple written contexts, see in addition to Sarris, Elliott, “Coyote Comes to the Norton: Indigenous Oral Narrative and American Literary History.” 61. My comments contrasting Native and Western art are made with an awareness that certain forms of contemporary art, interactive installations of various kinds and performance, are intended to emphasize aspects of the social by engaging the viewer. But even these forms of Western art maintain a distance between the artist and the viewer that is not characteristic of Native oral production. 62. For Emerson, words detached from things are like “a paper currency . . . when there is no bullion in the vaults” (22). 63. In his edited collection Colonial Situations, published in 1991, George W. Stocking Jr. notes: “Twenty-five years ago, the relation of anthropology to colonialism/imperialism became for the first time a burning issue for anthropologists” (3). 64. See Eagleton (43–53) for a succinct, if partisan, account of the development of the New Criticism in both its British and American manifestations. Based on the methodology of “close reading,” Eagleton recognizes its necessary rigor, which arrives at a crucial historical moment in English literary studies, but notes: “It implies a limiting as well as a focusing of concern—a limiting badly needed by literary talk which would ramble comfortably from the texture of Tennyson’s language to the length of his beard. But in dispelling such anecdotal irrelevancies, ‘close reading’ also held at bay a good deal else: it encouraged the illusion that any piece of language, ‘literary’ or not, can be adequately studied or even understood in isolation” (44). 65. Duponceau positively compares the language of the Delaware Indians to Latin and Greek poetry but simultaneously laments the fact that there are no Indian poets sufficiently adept to make uses of the inherent resources of their languages (Cheyfitz, “Literally White,” 71). 66. Robert Dale Parker refers to this passage as “disturbingly condescending” (88) in a reading of Hymes and Tedlock that intersects with my own at various points. 67. The title of Lincoln’s formative book of criticism, Native American Renaissance, consciously echoes the title of F. O. Matthiessen’s classic critical study of antebellum U.S. writing, American Renaissance, which, published in 1941, included only Euro-American writing in its purview and within that context canonized only five male writers (Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, Thoreau, and Whitman). Intentionally or not, Lincoln’s evocation of Matthiessen cannot help but sound a certain irony; for Indians were writing during the antebellum period, as this essay and a lot of other critical work now attests, though Matthiessen’s work and the academic curricula it generated for the next thirty years were impervious to that fact, as to the fact of antebellum African American writing and Euro-American writing by women. 68. In the revised edition of Shaking the Pumpkin, “Workings by Jerome Rothenberg” has been changed to “English versions by Jerome Rothenberg” (275). Just what the difference is between “versions” and “workings” is not explained. 69. These five other languages are Tiwa, Tewa, and Towa, Zuni, and Hopi. Sando refers to the first three as “dialects” of the Tanoan language (8). But Kenneth Hale and David Harris refer to Tiwa, Tewa, and Towa as separate languages of the Kiowa-Tanoan language family (A. Ortiz, Handbook, 171). 70. Peter Iverson notes that unlike many Indian nations, the Navajos, through the Treaty of 1868, “regained a central part of their traditional lands” (36); but it is nevertheless true that the tribe was also displaced by this treaty from homelands in north central New Mexico into what would become Arizona, with only a small part of the reservation remaining in the far western part of New Mexico. 71. See Cheyfitz, “Theory and Practice,” 621–22.

118 Part I 72. Neihardt returned to Pine Ridge in 1944 to gather information for a cultural history of the Oglala. He interviewed Black Elk once again (DeMallie 68–69). 73. See Jackson 33, 35. In the Black Hawk text itself, “Le Clair” is spelled without a final e. In his introduction, Jackson spells the name with a final e. 74. Konkle critiques the “culturalist” (as opposed to the political) emphasis in Native literary studies (27–35). 75. For a legal history of Pueblo Indian lands in the post–1492 period, see Cohen 383–400. 76. A search both in Getches and on the Westlaw Web site did not turn up any case titled Gila River Apache Tribe v. Arizona. The case Weasel Tail has in mind would appear to be a water rights case involving the Gila River Indian Community, the San Carlos Apache Tribe, the United States, and private entities in Arizona, which goes back to 1925. 77. Of the cases that Weasel Tail lists in his poem, Crow Dog represented a temporary victory for Indian tribes to hold legal jurisdiction over all Indian-on-Indian crime. But this was reversed by Congress in the Major Crimes Act of 1885, which was confirmed by the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Kagama in 1886. The act and the case severely limited tribal jurisdiction in Indian-on-Indian criminal matters, giving the federal government jurisdiction in major felonies. In Williams the court, ruling on a civil suit involving a non-Indian doing business with Navajos on the Navajo reservation, upheld the jurisdiction of tribal courts in civil matters arising on reservations, involving suits brought by nonmembers against tribal members. While Winters can certainly be considered a formal victory for tribes in reserving water rights, Getches et al. point out that historically the doctrine has been more honored in the breach (799). Pyramid Tribe is, perhaps, an example of this. The district court found in favor of the government’s trust obligation to protect the tribe’s reserved water rights. But a subsequent suit brought to the Supreme Court found that a prior agreement superseded the district court’s ruling (Getches 337–45). 78. Contra Silko, the Indian Claims Commission did award interest in the case of the Sioux claim for the wrongful taking of the Black Hills (Wilkins 224–25). Getches et al. note that exceptions to the “no-interest” rule “require[s] interest payments under some circumstances, such as when a Fifth Amendment taking is involved” (281), which was the case in the Sioux claim. 79. As Gritton demonstrates, the ideas that generated IAIA came from a “melding of New Deal Indian policy with MOMA [Museum of Modern Art]-Rockefeller modernism” (26).

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Part I

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Konkle, Maureen. Writing Indian Nations: Native Intellectuals and the Politics of Historiography, 1827–1863. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004. Kroeber, Karl. “Poem, Dream, and the Consuming of Culture.” In Smoothing the Ground: Essays on Native American Oral Literature, ed. Brian Swann, 323–33. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983. Krupat, Arnold. “Post-Structuralism and Oral Literature.” In Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature, ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 113–28. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. ——. For Those Who Come After: A Study of Native American Autobiography. 1985; reprint, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. ——. Red Matters: Native American Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. ——. “The Trickster in Native American Oral Narrative.” Unpublished article, 2005. Larson, Charles R. American Indian Fiction. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1978. Lazarus, Edward. Black Hills, White Justice: The Sioux Nation Versus the United States, 1775 to the Present. New York: HarperCollins, 1991. de Léry, Jean. History of a Voyage to the Land of Brazil. Trans. Janet Whatley. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990. Limerick, Patricia Nelson. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. New York: Norton, 1987. Lincoln, Kenneth. Native American Renaissance. 1983; reprint, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985. Macfarlane, Alan. The Origin of English Individualism: The Family, Property and Social Transition. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978. Mankiller, Wilma and Michael Wallis. Mankiller: A Chief and Her People. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1993. Mattina, Anthony. “North American Indian Mythography: Editing Texts for the Printed Page.” In Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature, ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 129–48. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. McDonnell, Janet A. The Dispossession of the American Indian, 1887–1934. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1991. Miller, Jay, ed. Mourning Dove: A Salishan Autobiography. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1990. Momaday, N. Scott. House Made of Dawn. 1968; reprint, New York: Harper & Row, 1989. Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. 1900; reprint, New York: Dover, 1995. Moses, Johnny. Audiotaped performance, Detroit, Michigan, undated. Mourning Dove (Hum-Ishu-Ma). Cogewea, the Half-Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range. 1927; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981. Mullett, G. M. Legends of the Hopi Indians: Spider Woman Stories. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1979. Neihardt, John G. “Preface.” In Black Elk Speaks, ed. John G. Neihardt. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1961. Nelson, Robert M. “Simon J. Ortiz.” In Handbook of Native American Literature, ed. Andrew Wiget, 483–89. New York: Garland, 1996. O’Connell, Barry, ed. On Our Own Ground: The Complete Writings of William Apess, A Pequot. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1992. Ortiz, Alfonso. The Tewa World: Space, Time, Being, and Becoming in a Pueblo Society. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1969. ——, ed. Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 9. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1979. Ortiz, Simon J. Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land. Institute for Native American Development Literary Journal 1, no. 1 (1980). ——. Woven Stone. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992.

122 Part I ——. From Sand Creek. 1981; reprint, Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2000. Owens, Louis. Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. Parker, Robert Dale. The Invention of Native American Literature. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003. Penn, W. S. All My Sins Are Relatives. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995. Pensley, D. S. “The Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (1990): Where the Native Voice Is Missing.” Wicazo Sa Review (forthcoming, 2005). Persico, V. Richard, Jr. “Early Nineteenth-Century Cherokee Political Organization.” In The Cherokee Indian Nation: A Troubled History, ed. Duane H. King, 92–109. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997. Pevar, Stephen L. The Rights of Indians and Tribes: The Authoritative ACLU Guide to Indian and Tribal Rights. 3rd ed. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2002. Powers, William. “When Black Elk Speaks, Everybody Listens.” Social Text 24:43–56. Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. 2 vols. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. ——. Documents of United States Indian Policy. 3rd ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000. Purdue, Theda, ed. Cherokee Editor: The Writings of Elias Boudinot. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1996. ——. “Cherokee Planters: The Development of Plantation Slavery Before Removal.” In The Cherokee Indian Nation: A Troubled History, ed. Duane H. King, 110–28. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997. Radin, Paul. The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1956. Red Corn, Charles H. A Pipe for February. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Rice, Julian. Black Elk’s Story: Distinguishing Its Lakota Purpose.1991; reprint, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1994. Richter, Daniel. The Ordeal of the Longhouse: The Peoples of the Iroquois League in the Era of European Colonization. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1992. Rifkin, Mark. Manifesting America: Imperialism and National Space, 1776–1861. Ph.D. diss., University of Pennsylvania, 2003. ——. “Romancing Kinship: A Queer Reading of Indian Education and Zitkala-Sa’s American Indian Stories.” GLQ (forthcoming, 2005). Roemer, Kenneth M. “Teaching Indian Literature.” In Handbook of Native American Literature, ed. Andrew Wiget, 347–52. New York: Garland, 1996. Rothenberg, Jerome, ed. Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. New York: Doubleday, 1972. ——. Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas. Rev. ed. 1986; reprint, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1992. Rourke, Constance. “The Indian Background of American Theatricals.” In Literature of the American Indians: Views and Interpretations, ed. Abraham Chapman, 256–65. New York: New American Library, 1975. Ruoff, A. LaVonne Brown. American Indian Literatures: An Introduction, Bibliographic Review, and Selected Bibliography. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1990. ——. “Native American Writing: Beginnings to 1967.” In Handbook of Native American Literature, ed. Andrew Wiget, 145–54. New York: Garland, 1996. Sando, Joe S. Pueblo Nations: Eight Centuries of Pueblo Indian History. Santa Fe: Clear Light, 1992. Sarris, Greg. Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993. Seaver, James E. A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison. 1824; reprint, Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1990.

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Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: Penguin, 1977. ——. Almanac of the Dead. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991. ——. Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit: Essays on Native American Life Today. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996. Smith, Katherine. Letter to Wayne Taylor Jr. May 17, 1999, private collection. Stanton, William. The Leopard’s Spots: Scientific Attitudes Toward Race in America, 1815–59. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960. Stocking, George W., Jr. Colonial Situations: Essays on the Contextualization of Ethnographic Knowledge. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1991. Sturm, Circe. Blood Politics: Race, Culture, and Identity in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002. Taylor, Jonathan B. and Joseph P. Kalt. American Indians on Reservations: A Databook of Socioeconomic Change Between the 1990 and 2000 Census. Cambridge, MA: The Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development, 2005. Taylor, Theodore W. The Bureau of Indian Affairs. Boulder: Westview Press, 1984. Tedlock, Dennis, trans. Finding the Center: The Art of the Zuni Storyteller from Live Performances in Zuni by Andrew Peynetsa & Walter Sanchez. 1972; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999. Thornton, Russell. American Indian Holocaust and Survival: A Population History Since 1492. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1987. Tiro, Karim M. “Denominated ‘SAVAGE’: Methodism, Writing, and Identity in the Works of William Apess, A Pequot.” American Quarterly 48 (1996): 653–79. Titiev, Mischa. Old Oraibi: A Study of the Hopi Indians of Third Mesa. 1944; reprint, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1992. Tocqueville, Alexis de. Democracy in America. Ed. Phillips Bradley. 2 vols. New York: Knopf, 1963. Toelken, Barre. “Life and Death in the Navajo Coyote Tales.” In Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature, ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 388–401. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. Trask, Haunani-Kay. From a Native Daughter: Colonialism and Sovereignty in Hawai’i. Rev. ed. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1999. Triballaw. Internet mailing list. Vizenor, Gerald. The People Named the Chippewa: Narrative Histories. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1984. ——. Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. 1978; reprint, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. ——. The Heirs of Columbus. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1991. ——. Dead Voices. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. Walsh, Susan. “‘With Them Was My Home’: Native American Autobiography and A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison.” American Literature 64 (1992): 49–70. Walters, Anna Lee. Ghost Singer. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1988. Warrior, Robert Allen. Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. Weber, David J. The Spanish Frontier in North America. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992. Wiget, Andrew, ed. Handbook of Native American Literature. New York: Garland, 1996. ——.“Native American Oral Literatures: A Critical Orientation.” In Handbook of Native American Literature, ed. Andrew Wiget, 3–18. New York: Garland, 1996. Wilkins, David E. American Indian Sovereignty and the U.S. Supreme Court: The Masking of Justice. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1997. Wilson, Michael. “Writing a Friendship Dance: Orality in Mourning Dove’s Cogewea.” American Indian Culture and Research Journal 20, no. 1 (1996): 27–41. Witherspoon, Gary. Navajo Kinship and Marriage. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975. Wolf, Eric. Europe and the People Without History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

124 Part I Womack, Craig S. Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999. Wong, Hertha Dawn. Sending My Heart Back Across the Years: Tradition and Innovation in Native American Autobiography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Wroth, Lawrence C. “The Indian Treaty as Literature.” In Literature of the American Indians: Views and Interpretations, ed. Abraham Chapman, 324–37. New York: New American Library, 1975. Yellow Bird (John Rollin Ridge). Joaquin Murieta: The Celebrated California Bandit. 1854; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1955. Zolbrod, Paul G. Diné bahanè: The Navajo Creation Story. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1984.

Cases, Statutes, Federal Regulations, Reports, etc. Cited Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. 43 U.S.C.A § 1601 et seq. (1971). Alaska v. Native Village of Venetie Tribal Government. 522 U.S. 520 (1998). The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2000. Census 2000 Brief (by Stella U. Ogunwole). U.S. Census Bureau. February 2002. An Act to Quiet Title to Lands within Pueblo Indian Land Grants, and for Other Purposes. 43 Statutes 636 (1924). Cherokee Nation v. Georgia. 30 U.S. 1 (1831). Duro v. Reina. 495 U.S. 676 (1990). Ex Parte Crow Dog. 109 U.S. 556 (1883). Federal Register. Vol. 65, No. 75. Tuesday, April 18, 2000; Vol. 67, No. 134. Friday, July 12, 2002. Guatemala, Memory of Silence. Compiled by the Commission for Historical Clarification (CEH). Established through the Accord of Oslo, June 23, 1994. Indian Labor Force Report. U.S. Department of the Interior. Bureau of Indian Affairs. Office of Tribal Services, 1999. Johnson v. McIntosh. 21 U.S. 543 (1823). Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock. 187 U.S. 553 (1903). Major Crimes Act (1885). 18 U.S.C.A. § 1153. Morton v. Mancari. 417 U.S. 535 (1974). Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA). 25 U.S.C.A. §§ 3001–3013 (Supp. 1991). Opinions of the Attorney General of the United States. 7 U.S. Op. Atty. Gen. 746 (1856). Organized Village of Kake v. Egan. 369 U.S. 60 (1962). Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe v. Morton. 354 F. Supp. 252 (1972). Santa Clara Pueblo v. Marinez. 436 U.S. 49 (1978). Sixty-First Annual Report of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1892. U.S. Census Bureau, Population Division, Special Population Staff. www/socdemo/race/racefactcb.html. Maintained by Laura K. Yax (Population Division). Created: April 12, 2000. Last revised: April 12, 2000. U.S. v. Broncheau. 597 F. 2d 1260 (1979). U.S. v. Kagama. 118 U.S. 375 (1886). U.S. v. Lara. 124 S.Ct. 1628 (2004). U.S. v. Rogers. 45 U.S. 567 (1846). U.S v. Sandoval. 231 U.S. 28 (1913). U.S. Statutes at Large. 24:388–91. Williams v. Lee. 358 U.S. 217 (1959). Winters v. United States. 207 U.S. 564 (1908). Winton v. Amos. 255 U.S. 373 (1921). Worcester v. Georgia. 31 U.S. 515 (1832). Zarr v. Barlow. 800 F. 2d 1484 (1986).

Part II

1. American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance Arnold Krupat and Michael A. Elliott

Just as the usual dates (1620, 1776, 1865, 1914, etc.) and categories (Colonial Era, Age of Revolution, Transcendentalism, Age of Realism, etc.) conventionally used to periodize the literature of the United States are not particularly useful for framing Native American literature, so too 1945 is not a date especially important to Native American fiction—if taken as opening a period labeled “Fiction Since World War II.” Considered, however, as a benchmark for acts of resistance on the part of colonized peoples, particularly in Africa and South Asia, that would lead to national independence and an end to direct colonial oppression, 1945 may be a useful date to invoke for a body of Native American fiction that can be read in the context of the global history of resistance to European colonialism. The force of colonial histories and legacies has produced significant affinities between Native American literature and the postcolonial literatures of other parts of the globe. However, the similarities remain limited, for there is no “post-” as yet to the colonial situation of the indigenous peoples of the United States. Native nations continue to live in a condition that Thomas Biolsi and Larry Zimmerman have called the “late imperial” (4). They remain in the position enunciated by Chief Justice John Marshall when he described them, in Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), as “domestic dependent nations.” To undo this paradoxical or oxymoronic status as “dependent sovereigns”—to resist colonial limitations on their sovereign rights—is the foremost concern of Native nations today. Thus the editor of this volume properly notes that “the central theme of post–World War II Indian writing in the United States . . . is identity,” where “identity” must be “understood in relation to the agenda of sovereignty/land” (Cheyfitz, this volume). This “agenda,” as he has made clear, is played out against a specific body of federal Indian law. Native resistance to colonialism envisions as its farthest horizon nothing less than the full return of tribal lands and the right to administer tribal-national affairs within the boundaries of those lands. The urgency of this project is such that our history of Native American fiction since 1945 will be guided by an attention to and an emphasis on its literal or figurative, explicit or implicit resistance to colonialism.

128 Part II

This is not to claim that all Native fiction writers since 1945 are of one mind ideologically or politically, nor is it to suggest that each and every one of these writers foregrounds resistance. But if not literally by 1945, then by 1953, the period of Indian termination and relocation; by the 1960s and Red Power movements; by the 1970s and the emergence of AIM (American Indian Movement) activism (and its repression by the federal government); and today, in the face of deeply troubling statistics on life expectancy, joblessness, suicide, alcoholism, and diabetes among Native people1—statistics that can be matched only in colonial (or, indeed, in some “postcolonial”) settings around the world—resistance to colonialism of various kinds and in varying degrees marks a good deal of Native American fiction. Our privileging of thematics or ideological content is consistent with the editor’s claim that “Practical social power, not aesthetic originality or genius, is the category of understanding in Native art” (68). To be sure, we have no wish to reduce Native American fiction to a manifesto, ignoring form, technique, or, indeed, any relevant aesthetic issue, but we are in agreement that “for a Native community the beauty of expressive oral culture”—and the beauty in some measure of Native American fiction since 1945—is, if not “synonymous with its practical social power” (69), surely related to it. Thus, for example, it has often been noted that the texts of Native American writers have important relations to the oral tradition. So far as this can be shown for any particular text, the insistence on the traditional and the oral and the concomitant privileging of the voice and the face-to-face presence (literally or figuratively) of narrator and auditors may work to instantiate values different from those implied by the privileging of modern (and postmodern) written texts. Appeals to orality beyond an apparently obligatory and usually vague obeisance to a presumptive “Indianness”2 need not express nostalgia for the past and an imagined fullness of communication. Rather, the values implied by a commitment to orality may be seen as alternatives to textual and postliterate values acquiescing in the atomized, fragmented isolation of the so-called “global village” of anonymous intercommunicators. Invoking or, in Kimberly Blaeser’s phrase, “writing in the oral tradition” (our emphasis) is thus not just an aesthetic choice for the Native American novelist but perhaps also an attempt to assert the ability of fiction to effect social change in concrete and immediate ways. In similar fashion, representations of the boundary-crossing and convention-violating trickster figure of oral tradition, as found in a number of contemporary Native American novels,3 tend to work ironically toward subverting the limits imposed by colonialism and imagining a freedom beyond its constraints. Here, the “traditional” is marshaled for historically new (i.e., not strictly traditional) purposes. To tell stories with “plots” and “characters” different from those of Euro-America is, in Karl Kroeber’s phrase, to offer “unique insights into the sources of unfamiliar modes of human imagining” (248), thus instantiating an alter-Native, or, simply an other and different, knowledge that contests the knowledge on which the colonial order is founded. On one hand, it is certainly true that readers concerned to know more about, for example, Laguna religion or the traditional referents for the colors Leslie Marmon Silko mentions in Ceremony will find our perspective less than fully satisfactory. Unfortunately, we do not have the space for such detailed exegesis. Yet our approach could theoretically engage these topics fully. We would do so in the hope of showing how the persistence of traditional religious beliefs and ceremonies, or the ritual instantiation of traditional color symbolism, works in the interest of asserting the sovereign integrity of tribal peoples and their resistance to the ongoing colonial policies of the United States.

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


* * * We will try to understand resistance to colonialism in Native American fiction as being articulated through three overlapping and potentially complementary perspectives: nationalist, indigenist, and cosmopolitan. The call for nationalist resistance in the Native American novel has been most strongly articulated by Elizabeth Cook-Lynn,4 in a manner that, as Eric Cheyfitz writes, “is first of all political in the activist sense of the word” (2001:21). This requires, Cook-Lynn states, that Native fiction “take into account the specific kind of tribal/nation status of the original occupants of this continent” (1996:93). Cook-Lynn herself, moreover, has publicly lamented the absence of a fully articulated nationalist perspective in Native American contemporary fiction, to the point that she has criticized her own novel (From the River’s Edge [1991]) for its “appalling”“intellectual uncertainty” about matters of politics and sovereignty (1996:85). As she suggests, the reader of Native American fiction written thus far is more likely to find a nationalist perspective in conversation with other approaches to the questions of anticolonial resistance. From an indigenist perspective, it is not the nation but the “earth” that is the source of the knowledge and the values that constitute resistance to colonialism. In Linda Hogan’s novel, Power (1998), Omishto, the narrator, remembers a time when “The whole earth loved the human people” (229). Power concludes with Omishto dancing, while “someone sings the song that says the world will go on living” (235). The “world” here is obviously not the domain of nations and nationalisms but the animate and sentient earth. Indigenists look to a particular relationship with the earth as underlying knowledges and values that can be called “traditional” or “tribal” and that have been historically lived by indigenous people.5 Moreover, in some cases, e.g., Hogan, Silko in Almanac of the Dead, and Gerald Vizenor in The Heirs of Columbus, Native authors recognize that these values can also be embraced by people who are not indigenous. We should also note that Power, a text whose commitment to the values of earth is a virtual model of indigenism in Native American fiction, also contains a certain muted nationalism: Omishto is a Taiga person, and, although she is not given to specific reflection on legal or political issues, she has a decided sense of what could be called the necessity for Taiga sovereignty. Cosmopolitans understand the identity theme in relation to the “agenda of sovereignty/land” against the backdrop of similar and different worldly or global identities and agendas after and/or in opposition to colonialism. Recognizing the importance of nationalism as a force against colonialism, cosmopolitans also recognize the way in which—as African examples sometimes make clear—nationalism can itself become an oppressor.6 Cosmopolitans are concerned to explore commonalities that exceed national boundaries. But unlike an older, now-discredited universalism that saw difference as a problem to be solved and offered “Eurocentric hegemony posing as universalism” (Appiah in Lazarus et al. 78), contemporary cosmopolitanism takes difference as a fact of human existence, and thus a challenge to all conventions of “common sense.” Cosmopolitan criticism, to take terms from Paul Gilroy and James Clifford, understands “roots” as inevitably crossed by “routes.” Rooted and routed, the cosmopolitan critic rejects no position, a priori, because of its race, nation, gender, or sexual preference, and selectively supports nationalist and indigenist perspectives in opposition to internal colonialism. These positions, although sometimes construed as in opposition to one another, are often, as we have noted above, overlapping and interlocking, and they may (although they need not) be complementary.


Part II

* * * Although this Columbia Guide to American Indian Literatures does indeed begin in the year 1945, our consideration of Native American fiction takes 1968, the year in which N. Scott Momaday’s novel, House Made of Dawn, appeared, as its starting point. Momaday’s novel won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1969,7 inaugurating, it has plausibly been argued, a “Native American renaissance” in literature.8 Beginning, then, with Momaday, a Kiowa, we work forward in a more or less chronological manner. The reader should be aware that this is a guide to American Indian literature since 1945, not a comprehensive encyclopedia or history of that literature. We do not attempt to cover all of the many interesting Native novelists at work in the period of our concern—an impossible feat.9 Rather, we endeavor to introduce many important writers of Native American fiction since 1945, and, in particular, to offer a way of reading their work in terms of its resistance to colonialism. * * * Strictly speaking, Momaday’s fictional production has included only one other novel in addition to House Made of Dawn: The Ancient Child, published just over twenty years later, in 1989. Momaday has also published In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961–1991 (1992), which consists of many previously published texts, and In the Bear’s House (1999), also reproducing a good many previously published pieces, but adding eight “Bear-God Dialogues,” conversations between Urset, a kind of Ur-Bear, if not Bear God, and Yahweh. Momaday has also published two prose autobiographies, The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969) and The Names: A Memoir (1976), along with several volumes of poems and reproductions of his paintings. From the time of his inclusion in Alan Velie’s Four American Indian Literary Masters: N. Scott Momaday, James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Gerald Vizenor, published in 1982, to Lee Schweninger’s Literary Masters: N. Scott Momaday, published almost twenty years later in 2001, Momaday has been treated as the preeminent Native American novelist, virtually an iconic figure. We shall consider here only the two novels. House Made of Dawn opens with its protagonist, Abel, a mixed-blood10 veteran of World War II, running at dawn, “alone and . . . hard at first, heavily, but then easily and well,” in a gray and rainy valley, where “snow lay out upon the dunes” (7). In the fourth and final section of the novel (four is an important pattern number in most Native cultures), Abel runs again, some seven years later (seven is a Euro-American pattern number, but there seems no particular reason for it here), also at dawn, now “on the rise of the song, House made of pollen, house made of dawn. Qtsedaba” (191). That final word announces the end of a story in the oral tradition at Jemez Pueblo, or Walatowa, where Momaday spent most of his early life, and it echoes “Dypaloh,” the first word of the novel (in a prologue), the traditional marker of the onset of Jemez oral storytelling. The phrase, “House made of pollen, house made of dawn,” is from a translation of the Navajo Night Chant, and it precedes the words with which the Night Chant closes—“In beauty it is finished”—which signal the completion of the healing or cure that is the primary purpose of the ceremony. Traditionally, the Night Chant was performed for a specific patient in need of its restorative powers, but it involved all or a good many people in a traditional Navajo community whose ongoing health was also at issue. Much of the criticism of HMOD over a period of more than thirty years has examined the question of whether Abel is indeed cured or healed; the question of whether Abel’s fate does or does not bear on the health of a particular tribal community has been raised less often.

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


In an unfortunately neglected essay (Schweninger, who touches most bases, for example, does not mention it), Karl Kroeber notes that perhaps because it won the Pulitzer, “the novel’s strangeness as novel has never been adequately investigated” (17). Besides remarking a “bothersome . . . simple imitativeness” (18) in the writing—Kroeber cites a passage in which Abel’s Navajo friend, Benally, offers a thoroughly Faulknerian passage of recollection; and imitations of Lawrence (Evers notes a Lawrentian “sense of place” [1977]) and Conrad abound as well—Kroeber suggests that “Abel is inarticulate, as Momaday is without fluency in any native tongue. Without language there can be no imposition of a culture’s symbolic order on physical surroundings” (21). Abel’s killing of a mysterious albino whom he takes to be a witch is, no doubt, as Evers first suggested, in part an attempt to kill the “white” part of himself. But, Kroeber claims, “Abel’s assumption of a personal ‘duty’ to kill the ‘evil’ Albino violates the fashion in which the Jemez community would exorcize such a malignancy” (19; first emphasis added). Kroeber continues, “as with the rooster-pull ceremony drawn from [the ethnographer] Leslie White and indeed, just with the use of the novel form, Momaday is caught up in a hazardous contradiction between his theme and the means available to him for its artistic evocation” (19). One need not agree with every word of Kroeber’s account (e.g., although the majority of Native American novelists are not fluent in a tribal language, they may well have heard a good deal of it spoken around them, or in some other way managed to tribalize their English) to acknowledge its profound implications for the most celebrated of Native American fiction works and for a great many that have followed in its wake. Momaday’s “theme,” to put it in admittedly oversimplified form, is Abel’s identity problem and its possible resolution by other than Euro-American cultural and communal re-membering (Paula Gunn Allen may have been the first to hyphenate the verb, thereby doubling its significations). But the culture and the community—Pueblo or Navajo—are neither Momaday’s (he has identified himself as Kiowa) nor, therefore, really Abel’s. Looking back now more than thirty years, one can say that the impasse as well as the achievement of HMOD have been exemplary for the Native American novels that have come after. The reader should be aware, however, that this sense of Momaday’s first novel that we more or less share with Kroeber is a minority view. From Matthias Schubnell’s virtually hagiographic study of 1985 to Susan Scarberry-Garcia’s detailed reading of HMOD in a book of 1990 to Schweninger’s recent volume, already cited (2001), HMOD, however it has been interpreted, has been treated as something of a founding masterwork.11 Momaday’s long-awaited second novel, The Ancient Child, did not appear until 1989, some twenty years after the publication of HMOD. In TAC, a successful middle-aged painter named Locke Setman, or Set, with the help of a rather embarrassingly fantasized nineteenyear-old medicine woman-in-training, named Grey, not only leaves his life in the American metropolis but finds that his “true” or authentic identity was always already given in his name, Set, which means “Bear” in Kiowa. Set increasingly discovers and finally becomes the bear in himself, acknowledging that he is a type or figure of “the ancient child,” the protagonist in an important traditional Kiowa narrative about a boy who turns into a bear. The novel reaches its climactic moment in the light of a full moon, as Set, “an awful quiet . . . in his heart,” sees “the image of a great bear, rearing. . . . It was the vision he had sought” (312). In the same way the novel presents Set as the “ancient child,” it presents Grey as a type or figure of Changing Woman, an important personage in Navajo culture associated with reproduction and renewal, conceptualized in the key Navajo term hozho (variously: balance,


Part II

happiness, beauty, harmony). Set ultimately “becomes” the bear he always was; Grey fully emerges as herself as Changing Woman. Rather than continuing as fragmented and restless individuals, they achieve wholeness in a collectively imagined cultural “eternal return,” fulfilling the assertion of the epigraph for the novel that Momaday took from Jorge Luis Borges: “myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.” How may we then relate HMOD and TAC to our concern with resistance to colonialism in the Native American novel? Both novels offer critiques of the Euro-American world, which clearly has caused, in Abel’s case, a serious illness of the psyche or soul, and in Set’s case, an increasingly deepening discomfort and malaise. Nor can these conditions be remedied by anything the dominant culture has to offer. What is needed is action based upon a different, an Other sort of knowledge, an indigenous knowledge derived not directly from a particular landscape but indirectly, from the stories, traditions, and rituals that are inspired by the landscape that Navajo, Pueblo, and, to some extent, Kiowa people share, and that have elements in common. Native people who were raised among these geoscapes cannot be who they truly are if they cannot live the stories, and the stories are not available to be lived if they are separated or severed from the land. Momaday’s insistence on the importance of these stories, their relation to the land, and the absolute necessity of a current lived relation to them is surely one of his major and enduring contributions to Native American fiction in our period, and it is engaged again and again in a wide variety of ways by most, if not all of the authors we will examine. The political history of Indian country, then, is right below the surface of HMOD. Momaday sets his novel during the period of termination and relocation (see note 1). After Abel is released from prison, for example, he finds himself adrift in a Los Angeles peopled by Indians relocated from their reservation communities, among whom are the Kiowa man Tosamah and the Navajo man Benally, Abel’s closest friend. Momaday’s eclectic, indigenist position, as we have thus far sketched it, could be made consistent with the nationalist’s acute concern for tribal sovereignty, although neither of his novels explicitly addresses the particular claims to nationhood of the Kiowa, the Navajo, or the Jemez Pueblo people. For Momaday the relation of people to stories and of stories to land is a form of resistance to Western colonialism. * * * In 1974, just five years after Momaday’s Pulitzer, the late James Welch (d. 2003) published Winter in the Blood, his first novel.12 Unusually for Native American novels up to that point (but not, however, for other minority fiction, i.e., African American, Asian American, Latino/a, and women’s writing), the narrative is in the first person, and the narrator is unnamed. The latter feature is also unusual in Native American fiction.13 Momaday’s 1978 autobiographical text, for example, would be called The Names, and Momaday has famously quoted the “story-teller, Pohd-lok,” who gave him his own Kiowa name, Tsoai-Talee, as saying, “a man’s life proceeds from his name, in the way that a river proceeds from its source” (1976:n.p.). Some form of this belief seems to have been generally accepted among Native American writers—and Welch would himself affirm this in his own novel, Fools Crow (1986). The central concern of WITB is most certainly identity, and what identity the narrator can reconstruct for himself turns upon matters of family, nation, and history. The narrator has complex feelings about all the members of his family, living and dead. He blames himself for the accident that took the life of his brother, Mose. He misses his dead father, First Raise; has deeply ambivalent feelings about his not-so-motherly mother, Teresa;

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


and shows little feeling toward her aged mother, his grandmother, soon to die. In an important and positive development in the novel, he learns that the old, nearly blind man named Yellow Calf,14 whom his father had years ago taken him to meet, is his grandfather. Yellow Calf will incarnate for the narrator the national life of his Blackfeet people by means of the recall and recitation of tribal history. The narrator learns from Yellow Calf that his grandmother, also unnamed—a survivor of the Marias River massacre of 1870 (as was Welch’s own great grandmother)—was the youngest wife of Chief Standing Bear.15 After Standing Bear was killed in a raid on the Gros Ventres, it was decided that this woman had something to do with the bad times fallen upon the people (WITB 152–56). She was ostracized, and, when the soldiers drove the remaining Blackfeet onto the new reservation, she was left behind (157). She would probably have starved had not Yellow Calf, then perhaps fifteen years old and a few years younger than she, served as “her hunter” (158) through the difficult winter, providing her with meat. With “the laughter of one who understands a moment in his life” (158), the narrator concludes that his mother’s father “was you, Yellow Calf the hunter!” (159; italics in original). Yellow Calf, it appears, is his grandfather. Yellow Calf represents for the narrator not only the historically continuous nation but also an ongoing indigenous worldview. In an earlier visit to Yellow Calf, the first since his father’s introduction years ago, the narrator discovers, among other things, that the old man, unlike himself, has names in abundance. He is “still called Yellow Calf,” but he is also “called many things” (64).16 Deer come to feed near his cabin, Yellow Calf says, and converse with him; for the most part, Yellow Calf understands what they say, although “some of them are hard to understand” (68). For the most part, they seem to understand him. The deer “know what a bad time it is. They can tell by the moon when the world is cockeyed”; they “understand the signs. This earth is cockeyed” (68). The narrator, for whom that most certainly has been true, still finds this deer knowledge “impossible” to believe. He would like to believe it, but he can’t (69). Nonetheless, the visit to Yellow Calf seems at least tentatively transformative for the narrator. The final events of the novel involve the narrator, “a white horse and a cow” (171). He rides his old horse Bird—the horse he was riding at the time of the accident that took his brother’s life—to attempt to save a cow drowning in mud, and the last scene ends with a cleansing summer rain. An epilogue concludes the novel. It treats the burial of the narrator’s grandmother, and, consistent with the manner of the book thus far, presents a scene that is richly comic and entirely serious. The grave is not quite large enough for the coffin; Lame Bull, Teresa’s husband, offers a eulogy that might have come from Eugene Ionesco or Edward Albee (“Here lies a simple woman . . . who devoted herself to . . . rocking” [175], “who never gave anybody any crap” [176]). Yet the last line of the text is the narrator’s notation that he “threw the pouch into the grave.” The object in question is a tobacco pouch that belonged to his grandmother, and this seems to be as nearly traditional and ritualistic a gesture as one could imagine for him. It would be hard to make a case for WITB as a “political” novel in any overt, explicit, or immediate way. It doesn’t “feel” political, and certainly the narrator has nothing that might be called a “political consciousness,” though perhaps there is something of a political unconscious at work. At one point, the narrator, while his grandmother looks on, thumbs through a copy of the magazine Sports Afield, fixing on a stereotypical colonialist story set in Africa in which white hunters deliver a baby whose mother has been killed by “a man-


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eating lion” (12). This colonial tableau could serve to remind us that the narrator himself lives in a colonial situation, on the “Reservation” (56). The nearest to an explicit political statement in the novel is Yellow Calf ’s translation of the message from the deer that the world is cockeyed. The book does, as we have suggested, offer material for a nationalist, specifically, historically Blackfeet—and indigenist, the powerful, alternative knowledge of Yellow Calf—resistance to colonialism. The narrator’s way out of a life of violence, alcoholism, and self-hatred is connection with his Blackfeet nation’s past, and its usefulness, however tentative, for the present. At the close of the novel, the narrator feels that whoever he may have been, he is now the grandson of Yellow Calf the hunter. Although he still cannot “believe” the judgment on the world pronounced by the deer, he may yet come to acknowledge the communication between the deer and his grandfather. It is such communication that forms the basis of Native kinship with the land; and it is, perhaps, in some measure, such kinship that forms the substance of Indian resistance to U.S. colonialism. Jim Loney, the mixed-blood protagonist of James Welch’s second novel, is obviously not going to survive; the book’s title, after all, is The Death of Jim Loney. Loney cannot manage to achieve the laughter or the traditional connections of WITB’s narrator. His name broadcasts his obvious isolation; unable to connect with family, nation, place, or history, the best he can do is to choose the location and manner of his death.17 Loney kills a former high school basketball teammate named Myron Pretty Weasel in a hunting accident, which he does not accept as accidental. He then shoots up his father’s trailer, knowing that another former basketball teammate, the Indian policeman Quinton Doare, will track him. With Doare prepared to shoot, Loney makes himself visible and a target for the bullets that kill him. Welch has said that Loney’s orchestration of the time, place, and means of his death are in themselves something positive. But, again, it is difficult to take this very far. Meanwhile, William Bevis, whose essay of some fifteen years ago remains, we think, one of the most insightful and lucid accounts of this novel, does convincingly detail the ways in which Jim Loney is deeply marked by a tribal heritage, however tenuous and vague. These include: Loney’s attachment to the boy, Amos After Buffalo, who lives on the distant reservation; his recollection of “real” Indian elders he has encountered; and the fact that the violence he enacts and suffers specifically involves Indian men. Yet these are not enough to overcome Loney’s alienation or to save him from his fate. In this novel Welch does not develop a nationalist, an indigenous, or, least of all, a cosmopolitan resistance that could save Jim Loney from his inability to heal the culturally split personality that is his colonial legacy. With the benefit of hindsight, one can easily construct the narrative of Welch’s novelistic career so as to present his next two novels, Fools Crow (1986) and The Indian Lawyer (1990), as revisiting the two sides of Jim Loney. Fools Crow is an attempt to present a Blackfeet world and worldview that is intact, if threatened, while The Indian Lawyer is an attempt to present what Loney, had he followed the advice of the two women who love him (his sister, Kate, and his lover, Rhea), might have become, a success in the dominant society. Having shown the horrible cost entailed by the loss of tribal connection, perhaps Welch found it necessary imaginatively to re-create that connection in Fools Crow. To do this required leaving the contemporary world for a period more than a century earlier. Fools Crow deals with the Pikunis, the Piegan branch of the Blackfeet, in the 1870s, a time when traditional raiding and hunting were still practiced, although the advance of the whites threatened all aspects of Pikuni life. The Indian Lawyer, as the title announces, deals with Sylvester Yellow Calf, Esq., an Indian lawyer whose name and upbringing (he was

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


raised on the reservation by his now-traditional grandparents) link him to the Indian grandfather in WITB. The time is the present. We will look briefly at each of these fictions in turn. The title character of Fools Crow is, appropriately, rich in names. Sinopa was his baby name, White Man’s Dog his name through adolescence. He earns the name Fools Crow after a raid in which it appears that he tricked some Crow enemies. Son of Rides-at-the-Door, member of the Lone Eater band, warrior, husband, father, Fools Crow has a life seemingly representative of his Pikuni generation at its fullest. To convey the fullness of that life, Welch uses an English-in-translation for the natural world—animals mostly, and plants—of the Pikuni and for relational and conceptual matters as well. Thus, from the first chapter, we have White Man’s Dog watching “Seven Persons rise into the night sky” (4–5) as he lustfully thinks of his father’s youngest wife, who is forbidden to him as “his own near-mother,” and hears “the hoot of an ears-far-apart” (5). White people are called “Napikwans,” a compound that uses the word for the trickster-creator, Napi, in a form that roughly means “Old Man Person,” or someone with wonder-working powers of a sort attributed to Napi. Elsewhere, an American doctor is referred to as “heavy singer for the sick.” As several critics have noted, there are scenes in the novel, in particular Fools Crow’s late journey to the south where he encounters So-at-sa-ki, Feather Woman, an important mythic figure for his culture, that convey in entirely realistic fashion experiences that EuroAmericans assign to the realm of dream or fantasy. Fools Crow’s experiences are not presented in an as-if or purely imaginary way, and to take them as they are presented requires a substantial effort from the Euro-American reader that literally calls for what has all too often, in merely honorific or hortatory terms, been called an encounter with Otherness. In Fools Crow, as Louis Owens has written, “Welch has accomplished the most profound act of recovery in American literature” (1992:166), and without falsifying the facts of colonial disease, famine, and violence that have come close to destroying the Pikuni. There is no doubt, as the novel draws to a close, that the old ways will be no more. But the story nonetheless concludes with the end of winter, when “The blackhorns [buffalo] had returned and, all around, it was as it should be” (391). This is not sentimentalism or nostalgia on Welch’s part. The novel has made it clear that all is not as it should be, that the “cockeyed” world of the colonial conquest will soon be fully in place. Nonetheless—and without irony—it is important to keep this moment in mind, though it may have been the last time when, from the national and indigenous point of view of the Pikuni, all was indeed “as it should be.” Fools Crow offers specifically nationalist— Blackfeet—and indigenous—western tribes’—resistance to the “cockeyed” world that Euro-American conquest would impose. Although Sylvester Yellow Calf ’s grandmother returned to a traditional way of life; although Yellow Calf himself eventually takes with him a war bundle he had once not cared to touch, it is hard to find much in the way of indigenist epistemology in The Indian Lawyer. Nor is there much nationalism. When Yellow Calf agrees to run for Congress, it is with the desire to do what he can for Indian people generally, rather than with any specific agenda for the sovereignty of his particular Native nation. One could, perhaps, call his resistance “cosmopolitan,” but only by default. Sylvester Yellow Calf is a bright, decent Blackfeet man with a strong sense of responsibility to Indian people. William Bevis, in his discussion of The Death of Jim Loney, speaks of the “insufferability of individuality” (590) from a tribal perspective. How might such an observation influence


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our reading of the ending of The Indian Lawyer, whose last sentence has Sylvester Yellow Calf “going one on one against the only man who ever beat him,” himself (349)? Sly Yellow Calf is being observed by Lena Old Horn, a Crow woman who has lived and worked in Blackfeet territory and who now is leaving. It is April, not the cruelest month but “the coming on of spring” (347); it is sleeting, and there is a “freshening of the wind from the north” (349). But Yellow Calf does not notice the weather as he plays against himself alone. Leaving Browning, Montana, Lena may be going home; Sly certainly is staying home. That last sentence, with its freshening wind, seems hopeful. But it hardly seems “tribal,” “national,” transpersonal, relational. It is almost as if Welch in The Indian Lawyer took a brief respite from collective resistance. Certainly, Montana and America present obstacles to American Indians that the white population, for the most part, does not face, and the predicament in which Sylvester Yellow Calf finds himself is undoubtedly complicated by his Blackfeet background. But, all the same, this book is very much the story of Sylvester Yellow Calf, Indian lawyer, human, fallible individual agent, far more than the story of the Blackfeet nation or the Pikuni way. Welch’s last novel, The Heartsong of Charging Elk (2000), begins with a brief prologue introducing the title character through a moment in his boyhood. As an eleven-year-old in 1877 (a year after the defeat of Custer on the Little Bighorn), Charging Elk accompanies his family to Fort Robinson, where their old way of life will be over, and they will be virtual prisoners. The novel proper begins some twelve years later, in Marseilles, where Charging Elk, ill and injured in performance with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show in 1889, finds himself in a hospital. Confused and afraid, he escapes. Arrested for “vagabondage,” Charging Elk, as a consequence of bureaucratic errors, is unable to obtain the papers that will let him leave France, either for home or to rejoin the Wild West Show on its European travels. Speaking almost no English, and no French, he is taken in as a charitable act by a fishmonger, René Soulas, and his family. Dressing like a Frenchman of his class, he eats unfamiliar foods, works by the clock, and slowly begins to participate in the life of the family. In time, Charging Elk moves out, gets a job in a soap-making factory, and falls in love with a young prostitute in the ironically named Rue Sainte. A homosexual restauranteur who has become fascinated by Charging Elk forces her into drugging him. Charging Elk awakens to find the man performing oral sex upon him. He immediately kills the restauranteur, serves long years in prison for the deed, and is finally released on another technicality, the fact that he should not have been tried as a citizen of the United States because he is a member of the Oglala Lakota Nation—the French, in this instance, granting the Lakota a fuller sovereignty than any accorded by U.S. federal Indian law. Once more Charging Elk is taken in as an act of charity, this time by the orchardist and farmer, Vincent Gazier. Charging Elk falls in love with Gazier’s young daughter, Nathalie. The couple marry and move to Marseilles, and Nathalie becomes pregnant. Charging Elk then learns that Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show is to appear for a last time, and, alone, he attends. After the performance, he speaks with a Lakota family, one of whom, a young man named Joseph, urges him to return home. Charging Elk is moved by the encounter, although he knows he cannot accept the young man’s advice. The novel concludes with Charging Elk returning to his wife; she, Marseilles, and France have become his home. This rather bland summary gives little sense of the degree to which Welch, in Charging Elk, imagines nationalist, indigenist, and cosmopolitan perspectives on identity as complementary and overlapping. For one thing, simply to embark on this novel required that

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


Welch himself engage in a cosmopolitan project, learning two cultures not his own, Lakota (Welch is Blackfeet) and French,18 and engaging a time period not his own, 1877 and, in particular, the years 1889 to 1905. Charging Elk’s sense of himself, from his experience as a young man in the Dakotas at the Stronghold, an off-reservation area, and then as a young and not-so-young man in Marseilles can be described as both indigenist and nationalist. In the land of his birth, and in France, Charging Elk understands the world—familiar at the outset, and then radically unfamiliar—through the conceptual categories of the Lakota and their language.19 Welch, who probably had to make considerable use of dictionaries, includes many Lakota-language terms (mni sha is wine, nagi is soul, kola seems to mean “age-mate special friend,” and so on) and on occasion he does so without translating. Sometimes, as he had done for the Blackfeet language of Fools Crow, he translates the Lakota, but only into the most literal, and not strictly idiomatic, English equivalents; intentionally, that is to say, Welch doesn’t do a “good” translating job. And he conveys the fact that some Lakota terms, although they can be rendered roughly in English, are not really translatable. Charging Elk from early until late in the novel reckons the months in the Lakota way; the novel’s prologue is specifically set in the “Moon of the Shedding Ponies,” and its ending occurs many years later in “the Moon of the Falling Leaves.” Having left his country before the year was named in the usual way, by a Winter Count, Charging Elk does not know how to tell the Lakotas he visits in Marseilles in 1905 that he has been in France since 1889; he can say the French words for 1889, but believes that that does not convey the feel or meaning of the year to them. He wonders whether his nagi, his soul (but his Lakota sense of the soul is different from that of the Catholic French) will be able to take its proper road home from so far away. His is an indigenous worldview and identity, to the point where, although he does speak French, Charging Elk feels he has “no real language to share with these wasichus” (215), the term for the whites (a Lakota word that makes no reference to skin color, literally meaning “fat eaters,” or those who take the best part of everything). Charging Elk sees the world as many tribal people see it, but not merely with a general indigenist way of knowing and understanding. As in some measure already indicated, much of his worldview is distinctly, specifically, and, we may say, nationally Lakota. The Lakota people’s lands and history on them make him who he is. Charging Elk knows that he has been in the presence of Red Cloud and Crazy Horse; Sitting Bull and Black Elk are part of his acquaintance or conscious awareness. It is important to him that his father was a “shirt wearer,” and he hopes that his father was riding a fine horse as the time of his death approached. “We will go on,” Charging Elk tells the Lakotas he meets at the last Buffalo Bill show in Marseilles,“because we are strong people, we Lakotas” (435). As Charging Elk leaves, he says to them, “You have made a poor stranger feel as though part of him which had been missing for many years has come home” (435). Unsurprisingly, they respond, “You are not a stranger: You are Lakota, wherever you might go. You are one of us always” (435–36). But where Charging Elk has gone, and where he will remain, is France. Having experienced genuine kindness and fellowship from the Soulas family who first took him in; having married Nathalie Gazier, soon to bear their child (Welch writes some beautiful and moving scenes of the love between these two very different people, Charging Elk and Nathalie), Charging Elk, who will most certainly always be Lakota, nonetheless confirms that France is home. Although he once had no language with which to talk to them, he now tells young Joseph, “I speak the language of these people. My wife is one of them and my


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heart is her heart. She is my life now and soon we will have another life and the same heart will sing in all of us” (437). Here, Charging Elk’s identity is built upon what Kwame Anthony Appiah has called “cosmopolitan patriotism” (1997). Charging Elk can’t go back to the Dakotas because his home is now France, where his wife and child to come, his father-in-law, and some few dear friends reside. But this is not to say that Charging Elk’s identity is that of a French person, nor even that it is a hybrid identity. Appiah, to use something of a shorthand here, speaks of his own father’s view of cosmopolitan patriotism—a variant, Krupat has argued elsewhere, of nationalism, more nearly than of cosmopolitanism20—as based on the notion that one can take one’s roots along wherever one goes. In this sense, Joseph’s words to Charging Elk are accurate: “You are Lakota wherever you go” (435). Living elsewhere than the nation need not mean that he is less a “patriot,” or, in the terms we have used, a nationalist. Affirming that Charging Elk is not a stranger but still “one of us” (436), Joseph gives him a pouch with a stone from Paha Sapa, the sacred Black Hills. This is not just a memento or casual token, for the stone—called inyan in Lakota, though Welch uses only the English word—is extremely important to Lakota thought and belief (e.g., Stone Boy myths). Holding the sacred stone, Charging Elk returns to his wife, to their home. In the last words of the novel, he still reckons time in the Lakota way; he walks, knowing that the “Moon of the Falling Leaves would light his way” (438). * * * Leslie Marmon Silko’s career as a novelist began with the publication of Ceremony in 1977. Since then, Ceremony’s indebtedness or, at the least, its relation to Momaday’s House Made of Dawn has regularly been noted. Like Momaday’s Abel, Silko’s Tayo is a mixed-blood, World War II veteran, though Tayo’s father, absent and anonymous, is white, not an Indian from another tribe. Like Abel, Tayo is “sick” and/or dysfunctional, and desperately in need of healing.21 Abel does or does not begin to accommodate himself to his tribal community; Tayo seems to successfully reintegrate himself into his Pueblo community. Other parallels have also been drawn. In the context of resistance to colonialism, however, we may examine the ways in which both novels perform the sort of ideological work Anthony Appiah has identified for what he calls the first stage of postcolonial African novels.22 These novels, according to Appiah, are “anticolonial and nationalist,”“the imaginative recreation of a common cultural past that is crafted into a shared tradition by the writer. . . . The novels of this first stage are thus realist legitimations of nationalism: they authorize a ‘return to traditions’” (149–50). Ceremony performs this return by chronicling Tayo’s adventures in living out the (ceremonial) vision “seen” for him by an odd but unquestionably powerful Navajo chanter or singer named Betonie, someone more adept, it is hoped, at treating Tayo’s particular condition than old Ku’oosh, the Laguna specialist, has been. (Silko’s Betonie has been compared to and contrasted with Momaday’s Benally.) After a series of adventures and, in particular, after a refusal to act revengefully, Tayo returns to his people, apparently “cured.” The novel ends with a quasi-ceremonial invocation, “Sunrise,/accept this offering,/Sunrise” (275), testimony, it would seem, to the recuperability of a “common cultural past,” a “shared tradition,” and a “return to traditions.” The current availability (or at least, the availability around 1945) of the Laguna “way” is also reinforced by the novel’s ideologically functional claim that certain “mythic” figures (e.g., Ts’eh Montano and her husband, The Hunter) are not only mythic but “real.” You can go home again, Silko’s

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


novel seems to say, for the traditional world of the pueblos, however it may be threatened, is nonetheless still functionally available and vital. Silko’s second novel, Almanac of the Dead (1991), is markedly different from Ceremony. There is no intact culture here to which one may return. To the contrary, it is almost as though Silko had taken the advice given to Marlow in Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim: “In the destructive element immerse.” For Almanac, unlike Ceremony, is not set in the postwar 1940s but in the horrific 1990s, where drug deals, the pornographic representation of torture and death on video, traffic in weapons and in body parts, and cynical real estate scams define the Western “culture of death” in the Americas. Almanac devotes 763 pages to illustrating the statements Silko has placed in two boxes in the lower left-hand and lower right-hand corners of an annotated “Five Hundred Year Map” of northern Mexico and the southwestern United States; the map (in the paperback edition) is printed just after the table of contents. The left-hand box, labeled “Prophecy,” reads: “When Europeans arrived, the Maya, Azteca, and Inca cultures had already built great cities and vast networks of roads. Ancient prophecies foretold the arrival of Europeans in the Americas. The ancient prophecies also foretell the disappearance of all things European.” The right-hand box, called “The Indian Connection,” states: “Sixty million Native Americans died between 1500 and 1600. The defiance and resistance to things European continue unabated. The Indian Wars have never ended in the Americas. Native Americans acknowledge no borders; they seek nothing less than the return of all tribal lands.” Almanac offers a dramatization of the ongoing “Indian Wars” in our time. It tells of the movement of armies from north to south and south to north to rid the Americas of “all”— or at least the most destructive—“things European.” The north-south, south-north directionality (we shall see something similar at work in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms) in itself is important, as it contests the directionality of the dominant, colonial narrative of a “destined” (e.g., Manifest Destiny) progressive movement of “civilization” from east to west, from “sea to shining sea.” This change in direction is important because it underwrites a change in what is important. And we must note that not all of Silko’s “Indian” warriors are of Native American ancestry; her politics are not racialized. From the North, New Age pop spiritualists, guerrilla eco-warriors, homeless Vietnam vets, Lakota militants, a barefoot Hopi, and a Korean American computer genius, among others based in the United States, begin a march southward. At the same time, marching northward from Central America, comes a “People’s Army” of Indians led by nonviolent twin brothers and a Mayan woman strategically committed to handheld missile launchers and rockets. The groups will converge on Tucson, the eccentric center of the story (and the place where Silko wrote all or most of the novel), and the meeting of these two forces will signal the beginning of the end of invader/settler dominance of the Americas. Almanac elaborates a commitment to a transnational solidarity that is not based on blood, a pan-Americanism, as it might be called, in which all those who adhere to tribal values of life and healing may work together against the culture of death brought from Europe but not strictly European. This commitment, based on indigenist values, may be considered a type of cosmopolitan patriotism, and it is also consistent with nationalism. The indigenist perspective operates, as we have suggested (although there is not space to develop the suggestion) in terms of Silko’s insistence on the values of “life,” values indigenous to the peoples and cultures of the Americas, but available to others as well. The nationalism, as Eric Cheyfitz has demonstrated, has to do with Almanac’s clear awareness of the


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history that turned “the Pueblos into reservations, thus bringing them under the colonial regime of federal Indian law,” appropriating or putting constraints upon the land without which there can be no concept of the nation. As Cheyfitz further shows, Wilson Weasel Tail, a character who appears only toward the end of the novel and who may in part represent the author herself, offers a transnational “cry for all the dispossessed,” but he “necessarily grounds that cry . . . in nationalist terms, nationalist in both the Native and nation-state sense of the term,” implying that “revolutions can only take place in specific locales by overturning specific institutions.”23 The land must be returned to the people whose inalienable relation to it, whatever federal law may say, cannot be abrogated. Certainly a relation to their tribal land is central to the identity of Sister Salt and Indigo of the (invented) Salt Lizard people in Silko’s most recent novel, Gardens in the Dunes (1999). For all of their travels—Indigo’s include extended stays in England and Italy, as well as other parts of Europe—the two sisters remain focused on the necessity of a return home. Indeed, Shari Huhndorf has seen the book as a kind of reverse captivity narrative (190). After their mother and grandmother die, Indigo and Sister Salt are captured by police. Sister Salt is sent to a nearby reservation, and Indigo is sent to the Sherman Institute, in Riverside, California, one of the now-infamous government boarding schools. So far, there is nothing “reverse” about Indigo’s captivity, which parallels the unfortunate lot of a great many Native children forcibly removed from their homes from about 1875 until the end of the termination policy in 1970 and taken to schools for what David Adams has called an “education for extinction.”24 But Indigo runs away from school and is taken in by a curious Anglo couple, Edward and Hattie, then accompanies them (she travels with Hattie, for the most part) on a tour of Europe, exploring English and Italian gardens at some length. Huhndorf contends that “Instead of meeting her fate in the white world, Indigo,” as Silko tells her story, “will find the tools necessary for her own survival and, by implication, the survival of Native America” (191). Indigo’s “education” out of school among the whites will not, therefore, be an education “for extinction” but one for “survival.” Silko’s Gardens appeared only a year before Welch’s Charging Elk, and the points of intersection between the two novels are striking. First, both are set in roughly the same period (1880s to the early 1900s), when the federal government put a great deal of effort into the forced assimilation of Native peoples (or, perhaps more accurately, into the destruction of their Native polities and lifeways); second, the major characters in both novels are sent to “school,” as it were, in Europe. Although the endings differ considerably, with Charging Elk remaining in Europe and Indigo returning home to her Salt Lizard people, we suggest that these books, in their unofficial history of the period, provide not only reverse captivity narratives but also counternarratives of resistance to assimilation. Charging Elk’s “home” is France, yet he remains a Lakota through and through; Indigo’s home is in the desert with her sister and their people, so she is clearly a Salt Lizard person—with a difference. In constructing the histories of Charging Elk and Indigo, James Welch and Leslie Marmon Silko explore the complex, overlapping possibilities of indigenist, nationalist, and cosmopolitan (perhaps more exactly what we can call, following Anthony Appiah, “cosmopolitan patriot”) identities in resistance to colonialism.25 * * * Gerald Vizenor, born in 1934 and raised in part by relatives of mixed descent from the Anishinaabe White Earth Reservation in Minnesota, began his career as a published writer

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in the 1960s by working in two dramatically different forms: haiku and newspaper journalism. During the same decade, he began teaching in a variety of university settings—the start of an academic career that has taken him from Minnesota to California, Oklahoma, Tianjin University in China, and most recently the University of California at Berkeley. The poet, the journalist, and the peripatetic academic all lurk beneath the surface in Vizenor’s nine books of fiction (as of this writing), where characters often parody “real world” figures and are as likely to quote a historian, a legal theorist, or another of Vizenor’s own novels at any moment. “Fiction” can only be a label of convenience when discussing the work of someone like Vizenor, whose writing typically breaks down genre boundaries (novel, short story, autobiography) as well as the ontological boundaries between the imagined and the real. Vizenor’s playful erasure of the divide between the real and the fantastic, his penchant for creating self-referential fictional worlds, and his continuing engagement with poststructuralist philosophers such as Jean-François Lyotard and Jean Baudrillard have made his oeuvre one of the few examples of a sustained engagement with postmodernism by a Native American author. With a few exceptions—Gordon Henry’s Light People (1994) and, as we shall see below, Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water—Vizenor’s novels are unique in their refusal to document tribal experience in a neorealist manner. The result can be an imagined universe that seems possible only in textuality—a world of “fantastic historiography,” “fabulation,” and “mythomania,” to use Frederic Jameson’s terms for postmodernist writing (1991:368). For this reason, Vizenor’s narrative stance frequently seems to share postmodernism’s ambiguous ideological position, in which the world of the imagination is a kind of last resort rather than a blueprint for an improved social reality. However, as Jameson points out, postmodernist fiction may also “by its very invention and inventiveness endorse a creative freedom with respect to events it cannot control,” thereby stepping “out of the historical record itself into the process of devising it” (1991:369). In this way, the fantastic historiography of someone like Vizenor can “rattle the bars of the national tradition and the history manuals” through the withering indictment of parody (1991:369). Vizenor’s fiction rattles precisely the bars of traditions and histories that have attempted to contain the Native presence in North America—which he has called the “terminal creeds” or “manifest manners” of colonial dominance. In so doing, Vizenor aims to tear down the cage altogether. The prefix “post-” recurs throughout his writing, not only because of its currency in contemporary literary theory but also because he has focused his imagination on what might occur after the current conventions of identity have been radically altered. Vizenor, in other words, works toward narrative liberation in two senses: through new narratives of imagination and from narratives of historical and political identity. However, he has also implicitly suggested that in exchange for liberation, Native peoples may have to forego some narratives that have enabled national and tribal resistance. In his recent nonfiction, such as Fugitive Poses, he has stated the necessity of finding new ways of conceiving of and speaking about Native sovereignty—ways distinct from “treaty sovereignty” (188) or territorial sovereignty “in the sense of colonialism and nationalism” (183). In other words, Vizenor has called for a sovereignty of a less material and more cultural kind than that which has been pursued by the tribes themselves and by nationalist Native literary critics such as Elizabeth Cook-Lynn and Craig Womack. Throughout his fictional writing, the trickster figure links this kind of radical liberation to the imagination (see Cheyfitz essay on the trickster figure). Vizenor’s tricksters, reimagined from oral Anishinaabe traditions, are mythic comedians whose wild humor, as one of his characters states, “has political significance” (Heirs 166). Moreover, Vizenor has used

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them as a way of voicing skepticism about nationalist narratives of tribal sovereignty—and indeed any narrative that he feels is complicit with the history of colonialism. The result is a program of resistance that is not political in any narrow sense; instead, the trickster is a figure of openness and possibility—of skepticism of “terminal creeds” and the articulation of “unusual manners and strategies” (Earthdivers xii). As we have suggested in the introduction to this section, the trickster can function in Native American fiction as a way of imagining a world free of colonialism, a decolonized or even tribal world, though perhaps in a way different from the past, a sort of posttribal tribalism. In Vizenor’s fiction, the trickster produces a critique of colonialism through games of satire, parody, and chance, and in this way never actually stands completely outside of the colonial scene. Vizenor has also insisted that the trickster is not a literal, representational figure, but rather a way of being and a shared language. “The tribal trickster is a liberator and healer in narrative, a comic sign, communal signification and a discourse with imagination,” he writes in his influential 1989 essay, “Trickster Discourse” (187). At the level of style, this trickster discourse produces what Kimberly Blaeser has described as an elliptical “rhetoric of gaps” that forces the reader to make often difficult judgments about the propriety of characters’ actions or even the basic connection between seemingly unrelated statements, a technique that Blaeser argues functions as “an invitation [to the reader] to imagine story” (169). Equally important, Vizenor’s episodic novels (and even his short stories) rarely produce narrative closure, which he associates with the narrative modes of romance and tragedy. Instead, Vizenor has frequently voiced a generic preference for comedy as the fundamental ground of trickster discourse. As Almost Browne puts it in Hotline Healers, “Tragic closures, essential last lines, and the cultural romance of a denouement, inevitably begets the invitation of traditions and ceremonious representations, as you know, and almost the subversion of chance, creation, and native survivance” (4). Vizenor coins this last term, “survivance,” from “survival” and “resistance,” and this sense of a resisting and resistant survival is crucial to his work. Instead of conventional plots, Vizenor’s fictional works offer complicated attempts to articulate the social spaces in which the trickster values named above—compassion, humor, and imagination—might be given free rein to transform the world. This streak of comic utopianism, of imagining a truly decolonized or postcolonial world, means that his novels rarely concern the recovery of tradition or a reconnection with a landscape, as do Momaday’s House Made of Dawn, Silko’s Ceremony, and Welch’s Winter in the Blood, though in Vizenor’s first novel, Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles (originally published in 1978 as Darkness in St. Louis Bearheart), the survivors of a journey away from home in a postapocalyptic America find what might be considered a new home in the ancient pueblo landscape of New Mexico. One of the mixed-blood tricksters states, “Going home is real punishment in a mobile world” (83). There is, indeed, little interest in Vizenor’s fiction in “going home,” even though his characters occasionally speak lovingly of the idea. Rather, Vizenor seems focused on articulating how sovereignty might function beyond the geographic limits of tribally occupied land. Such a stance, of course, necessarily opposes tribal nationalists, whom he often portrays as limited by their fixation on tribal roots instead of the posttribal routes preferred by his more cosmopolitan characters. In Bearheart, for instance, Proude Cedarfair and his wife, Rosina, are forced to leave their “sovereign cedar nation” through the collusion of the tribal council and the Bureau of Indian Affairs (15). Over the course of the novel, they traverse an apocalyptic landscape to

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


complete a pilgrimage to Chaco Canyon in New Mexico—the location of Pueblo Bonito, which Cedarfair has chosen as his new tribal home—in the company of a wild “circus” that includes, among others, a saint, a bishop, a transsexual, a dog lover (literally), mongrel dogs, and crow clowns. Few of these pilgrims actually complete the journey, and the novel leaves open the question of what kind of nationalism Cedarfair will be able to create in his newfound home, but it will undoubtedly be different than the political nationalism usually articulated by tribal structures of governance—or any nationalism that involves institutionalized tribalism, materially articulated in structures of law and governance, among its criteria. After reaching Pueblo Bonito, Cedarfair transforms himself into a bear—which symbolizes the kind of change that Vizenor seems to believe necessary for tribal peoples to survive in the world he has described. In his next novel, Griever: An American Monkey King in China (1987), Vizenor goes even farther (geographically speaking) to articulate how tricksterism might transform a specific social and political landscape. In Bearheart, Griever, and nearly every other work of his fiction, Vizenor identifies his trickster characters as being of mixed descent. As Sergeant Alex/Alexina Hobraiser puts it in The Trickster of Liberty (1988), “Mixedbloods are the best tricksters, the choice ticks on the tribal bloodline” (xii). On the one hand, this emphasis supports Vizenor’s debunking of the Western armatures of racial identity that have been imposed on Native peoples through the blood quantum requirements of tribal enrollment (both the Cheyfitz essay and the Johnson essay on autobiography in this volume discuss such requirements further). One of his recurring characters, Almost Browne, for instance, was “born in the back seat of a beatup reservation car, almost white, almost on the reservation, and almost a real person.”26 A character like Almost, though, shows that Vizenor’s investment in mixed-blood characters is as much an imaginative statement, an attempt to “loosen the seams in the shrouds of identities,” as a corrective to literal, racial politics (Vizenor, “Crows,” 101). This strategy and its stakes become more apparent when one considers the various mixed-blood institutions that Vizenor’s characters devise: a landfill meditation center declared a sovereign reservation; a bar named the Last Lecture, where penitents can declare their sins of identity and receive a new one; an academic debwe festival in which faculty wear masks and mock one another (debwe means “to speak the truth” in Anishinaabe). The list goes on, and in each case, Vizenor seeks to articulate how the full spectrum of Native narratives and identities can be released without perpetuating the idea of the “indian”—a word Vizenor has recently put into lowercase to signify its status as the product of “tragic parables of racialism and nationalism” and “theses of victimry” (Fugitive Poses 28–29). The Heirs of Columbus (1991) is the novel that most neatly combines Vizenor’s evisceration of tragic racialism with institutional invention, and it also offers his most sustained imagination of a kind of utopian nationalism—one that proceeds, as in Silko’s Almanac of the Dead, from a cosmopolitan patriotism open to all, even genetically, so far as their values are tribal. The novel begins with a mixed-blood group living near the headwaters of the Mississippi who claim, as the title suggests, to be the literal descendants of Christopher Columbus. In fact, by the end of the book, scientific evidence confirms that Stone Columbus, the leader, bears the “genetic signature of his namesake.” Columbus himself, according to the book, was a “crossblood” whose ancestors were, among other things, Mayan and Jewish; his voyage to the Americas, therefore, is one of return “to his homeland” as he brings “tribal genes back to the New World” (9). Published a year before the Columbus quincentenary, the same year as Silko’s Almanac, Vizenor’s book is not only a send-up of the familiar

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narratives of conquest but also a limning of notions of heritage and ancestry that circulate through identity discourse. The novel is not, though, a call to abandon tribal identification. The first half centers on the attempted recovery of human remains—first of Columbus and then of Pocahontas—by the heirs, so that they may be reburied near the headwaters. Vizenor’s interest in the misappropriation of Native remains has persisted throughout his career, and he designed this novel so as to stage in fiction one of his proposals for remedying this history: a bone court, in which the “common rules of evidence were set aside . . . ; the unusual judicial hearing would depend more on the imagination than on material representation.”27 In other words, the judge explains, the customs of the court have been altered to “favor tribal consciousness” (65). In the course of this hearing, testimony includes not only the usual verbal recitation of first-hand observation but also virtual reality projections and laser simulations. Chaine Riel Doumet, a private investigator hired by tribal officials jealous of the heirs, comments at the end of the hearing, “The trickster is discovered in shadow realities, the best witness with immortal evidence, but the trickster is never owned or consumed in tribal imagination” (87). Here, Vizenor poses the questions that animate the novel: How to assert evidence of tribal continuance, of sovereignty, without becoming trapped in nontribal notions of ownership and consumption?28 The trickster may originate in tribal oral traditions, but cannot, Vizenor insists, be “owned or consumed” by any group or structure of governance. Its imagination, in other words, can only lead to forms of sovereignty that are decidedly post-tribal. Stone Columbus, in fact, declares,“The notion of sovereignty is not tied to the earth, sovereignty is neither fence nor feathers” (67). And in the second half of the novel, Vizenor articulates what kind of national form such a sovereignty might take. The heirs leave their headwaters home for Point Assinika—located on the western border of North America, precisely on the boundary between the state of Washington and Victoria Island, Canada. There, they declare a “sovereign nation” “in the names of our genes and the wild tricksters of liberties” (119). This “nation,” however, bears absolutely none of the apparatus of the modern nation-state, and does not evince any of the premodern nostalgia that Vizenor risks with Cedarfair’s pilgrimage to Pueblo Bonito in Bearheart: The point was claimed by the heirs as a free state with no prisons, no passports, no public schools, no missionaries, no television, and no public taxation; genetic therapies, natural medicine, bingo cards, and entertainment were free to those who came to be healed and those who lived on the point. (124) The new nation in Heirs offers these privileges to all who come, and Stone and the rest of the heirs even develop the technology to implant tribal genetic signatures in those who are not, biologically speaking, of tribal descent. “Germans, at last, could be genetic Sioux, and thousands of coastal blondes bored with being white could become shadow tribes of Hopi, or Chippewa” (162). Vizenor’s phrasing points to the obvious ironies of whites wanting to become Indian, but Stone’s project is nonetheless serious. “His [Stone’s] point,” according to Chaine Riel, “is to make the world tribal, a universal identity, and return to other values as measures of human worth, such as the dedication to heal rather than steal tribal cultures” (162). This may be Vizenor’s clearest statement of the goals of a cosmopolitan, postnational sovereignty that manages to remain rooted in tribal values, including humor, healing, and the oral traditions of imagination, without defining membership through division, exclu-

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sion, or tragic narratives of victimization. Tellingly, Vizenor’s imagined nation exists outside the boundaries of the United States. The Heirs of Columbus makes clear why such a nation remains a fiction: not only do genetic therapies such as the ones Vizenor imagines there remain imaginary, but a host of forces—including federal and tribal governments—remain aligned against the Point Assinika nation and all for which it stands. Notably, in the three novels that followed Heirs— Dead Voices (1993), Hotline Healers (1997), and Chancers (2000)—Vizenor turned from the community attempting the reimagination of nationalism to an exploration of the cosmopolitan individual.29 Vizenor’s attention, in other words, has shifted from the post-tribal to the post-“indian.” Hotline Healers, more a series of interlocking stories than a novel, returns to Almost Browne and to the mixed-blood trickster family that Vizenor first described in The Trickster of Liberty. Chancers is an academic satire that lampoons the excesses of “indian” victimry. Dead Voices, on the other hand, marks something new in Vizenor’s fiction, for it neither centers on a mixed-blood trickster like those who populate his other works nor parodies the institutions (courts, nations, universities) that figure so prominently in them. Moreover, comprised of framing chapters and intervening episodes, Dead Voices is Vizenor’s most carefully designed novel in terms of narrative structure and form. The first and last chapters of Dead Voices are narrated by a lecturer at a California university, who has been nicknamed “Laundry” by the main character of the book, an Anishinaabe woman named Bagese who now resides in the city. Bagese tells seven stories as she turns the cards of the “wanaki” card game; each card pictures an animal, and in each of the stories she uses “the plural pronoun we to share in the stories and become the creatures on the cards” (17). Bagese’s insistence on the plural pronoun is related to her conviction that “tribal stories must be told not recorded . . . heard through the ear not the eye” (6). She calls printed books and written words “dead voices” and instructs Laundry, as he tells us in the first paragraph of the novel, “never to publish these stories” (5). Laundry, of course, has published her stories, for Bagese has turned into a bear and left him. It is to the absent Bagese that he addresses the final words in the book—“We must go on”—words that echo Samuel Beckett’s Unnameable, which Vizenor uses as one of three epigraphs: “you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.” Bagese herself uses the phrase “We must go on” (emphasis added) several times in the novel, including in the first sentence of her final story: We must go on, but there is nothing more to be done with our voices in the cities. The tribes are dead, our voices are traced, published, and buried, our voices are dead in the eye of the missionaries. Hold back the promises, hold me back with the bear, send me nothing but sound, sound, sound to be remembered. (135) The poignancy of Bagese’s voice in this paragraph is rarely matched in Vizenor’s prose. How can one project “sound to be remembered” when “the tribes” and “our voices” are dead? Laundry recognizes in Bagese, who once sought refuge in the city for herself and for her stories, a tradition of going on. Like her, Laundry believes active struggle in the cities is the only available form of resistance to colonialism; he “would rather be lost at war in the cities than at peace in a tame wilderness” (136), would opt for “the chance of tricksters” over “the drone of cultural pride on reservations” (136). But to choose publication as the means of engaging in this “war,” of pursuing this “chance,” runs counter to what he has learned from Bagese. For Laundry, therefore, as for Vizenor, writing will always be mired in contradiction, and will risk


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scorn, failure, and punishment. In a post-tribal world, though, narrative offers a chance of overcoming isolation without resorting to the “terminal creeds” of the past—and therefore offers the chance of slowly building a cosmopolitan community sharing dedication to the values expressed in those narratives. “I remembered her stories as our stories now,” Laundry says at the conclusion of the first chapter of Dead Voices, “and if she hears them told once more, even these published versions, she might return to pound me on the head as she promised” (21). Laundry and his readers live with this hope. We must go on. *** Like Gerald Vizenor’s, Louise Erdrich’s works of fiction rarely revolve around a single protagonist but rather place a community—a network of relationships and a set of individuals— at their center. Moreover, Erdrich, like Vizenor, has clearly been influenced by Anishinaabe oral traditions, though she is enrolled in the Turtle Mountain Band in North Dakota and his family comes from White Earth in Minnesota. However, while Vizenor is dedicated to postmodern self-referentiality, to language games, and to post-“indian” play, Erdrich has rooted her novels in the modernist strategies of temporal and narrative fragmentation. Vizenor’s communities are fantastic, even utopian; Erdrich’s feud over the quotidian in ways that seem all too real. And while Vizenor’s success has been largely among academic readers and critics, Erdrich has consistently enjoyed an enthusiastic reception from as wide an audience as almost any American writer of fiction in the United States.30 Erdrich’s most visible achievement thus far has been a quartet of novels—sometimes referred to as the Matchimanito tetralogy—that depict generations of Chippewa, white, and mixed-blood characters who inhabit land much like that which surrounds the Turtle Mountain Chippewa reservation in North Dakota. Love Medicine (1984), The Beet Queen (1986), Tracks (1988), and The Bingo Palace (1994) have also provided Erdrich with characters for subsequent works, including Tales of Burning Love (1996), The Last Report of the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001), Four Souls (2004), and, to a lesser extent, The Antelope Wife (1998). Yet the original quartet stands apart not only because of Erdrich’s conception of these books as a tetralogy (she even revised Love Medicine in 1993 to fit better into it) but also because collectively, they offer a more complicated statement about the continued survival of tribal peoples and their continuing resistance to colonialism than any single volume of Erdrich’s work. In the tetralogy, Erdrich gives a thick history of a community that does not seem predicated on a fixed form identified as either tribal or national; rather, this history functions as both a precondition of and an obstacle to a more fully articulated tribal nationalism, in which communities dispute their own legacies as well as their own futures, often simultaneously. The result is a communalism that can leave problems of sovereignty unresolved or even muted. Erdrich’s fictional communities offer a kind of staging ground for an articulation of meaning that resists the colonial histories of conquest and racial purity, but remains in debate over whether and how to make claims of sovereignty over its land. This form of tribalism is separatist enough that the community looks inward for its own history and its own shared values, yet not so separate from the world as to reject entirely individuals and institutions from the outside. To put this argument in the terms used at the beginning of this essay, many of Erdrich’s characters remain staunchly nationalist, committed to political and cultural sovereignty; however, this quartet of novels positions the reader as a cosmopolitan, someone forced to

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


recognize how members of a particular community articulate values and meanings that translate across cultural boundaries. Erdrich’s cosmopolitanism is most evident in The Beet Queen, in which white characters wrestle with problems of marginality and displacement similar to those faced by Indians in the other three novels.31 The Beet Queen features abandoned children, closeted homosexuals, and desperate parents, but few Indians, except for the war hero Russell Kashpaw, who figures primarily in the novel as a reminder of how white Americans have strategically displayed Native histories for their own advantage. The novel inspired a well-known, deeply critical review from Leslie Marmon Silko because of the absence of visible tribal politics, to which Susan Castillo responded by observing, “In The Beet Queen, we encounter the Reservation more as absence than presence, more as latency than as statement, in contrast to the arid reality of the small town of Argus, North Dakota” (290).32 To be able to measure, as Castillo does, the impact of this kind of “latency” requires knowledge from Erdrich’s other fiction, a knowledge of the history and “personal politics” that only the tetralogy as a whole can provide and that few of Erdrich’s characters actually possess themselves. In other words, while Erdrich’s fiction makes available the tribally centered, sometimes nationalistic characters of those looking out for the future of the community, it also makes available a set of cross-cultural values. As Louis Owens observes of Love Medicine, this combined treatment of “the racism and brutality of Euramerica’s dealings with Indian people” and “the universality of Indian lives and tragedies easily accessible to non-Indian readers” has surely played a role in the popularity of Erdrich’s fiction (Other Destinies 205). Erdrich’s novels might be the most visible fictional examples of what Jace Weaver has identified as “communitism”—a word coined by combining “community” and “activism”— in Native American writing. Communitism describes for Weaver a commitment to the community, and the function that writing plays in the active perpetuation of Native communities as such (Weaver 39–44). For Erdrich, fiction that enacts this relationship requires a manipulation of the novelistic form in order to depict communities fully. Most obviously, her novels usually employ multiple first-person narrators and are often comprised of chapters that can be read as complete works. When the tetralogy is taken as a whole, these chapters can convey even deeper levels of meaning for the reader who realizes that other characters have misunderstood or only partially understand the events being depicted. Thus, the actions of Nanapush and Fleur Pillager in Tracks, a novel set in the early twentieth century, become the stuff of rumor and legend in the other books. Or, to give a more dramatic example, the violent, bizarre relationship between Sister Leopolda and Marie Lazarre in the “Saint Marie” chapter of Love Medicine becomes even more complex if one has read (in Tracks) of Leopolda’s childhood as Pauline Puyat, a mixed-blood who opts to renounce her Indian heritage. In an influential, and early, essay on Love Medicine, Kathleen M. Sands identified the source of Erdrich’s storytelling technique as “the secular anecdotal narrative process of community gossip, the storytelling sanction toward proper behavior that works so effectively in Indian communities to identify membership in the group and insure survival of group values and its valued individuals” (1985:14). As gossip, moreover, the stories in Erdrich’s fiction echo, challenge, and even contradict one another. They also intricately connect individual fortunes—romantic, financial, political—with the fortunes of the larger community. The result is a sense that the communities of Erdrich’s fiction are kept in balance by forces that, like the genealogies of the characters themselves, are so complicated as

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to nearly be beyond comprehension. Lipsha Morrissey explains in The Bingo Palace: “us Indians, we’re so used to inner plot twists that we just laugh. We’re born heavier, but scales don’t weigh us. From day one, we’re loaded down. History, personal politics, tangled bloodlines. We’re too preoccupied with setting things right around us to get rich” (17). Because “setting things right” requires unraveling the “history,” “personal politics,” and “tangled bloodlines” that occupy the foreground in this fictional world, Erdrich’s novels argue for the importance of recognizing the intense difficulty Native communities have in organizing communal resistance or a sustained claim to sovereignty without dissolving into the kind of factionalism and rivalry that so frequently divides her characters. Erdrich’s fiction portrays a tribal community that is not yet able to articulate itself as a nation. What “history” means and what kind of historical knowledge is accorded authority both inside and outside an American Indian community are questions that come increasingly to the fore in The Bingo Palace. Gossip—particularly about the “tangled bloodlines” of genealogy—constitutes one kind of history, but so do the oral traditions of the Anishinaabe. From the latter, Erdrich features two figures prominently throughout these books: Misshepeshu, described in Tracks as a “love-hungry” water monster renowned for drowning enthralled young girls (11); and Nanabozho, or Nanapush, the trickster figure for whom a series of characters in Erdrich’s fiction are named. Misshepeshu, who in these novels lives in Lake Matchimanito, symbolizes the desperate and even lethal nature of desire as well as the investment that the more traditional characters, particularly the Pillagers, have in the landscape that they inhabit. The lineage of the Nanapush men, meanwhile, evokes the cunning and survival associated with traditional tricksters, whether through the buffoonery and sexual braggadocio of the original Nanapush, the exploits of his grandson Gerry Nanapush (“so good at getting out of the joint and so terrible at getting caught,” Love Medicine, 200), or the “healing touch” of Gerry’s son, Lipsha Morrissey. As in Vizenor’s fiction, the invocation of the trickster becomes a way of imagining how humor and resistance to the marginalization of Indians can be combined in a single figure that offers a way beyond the world of colonialism. But history of another kind also figures in Erdrich’s tetralogy—the history of the economic and political fortunes of the Turtle Mountain Band during the twentieth century. Erdrich has made it impossible to extricate the historical consciousness of the community she portrays from either the history of the United States or the history of U.S.–Native relations. Her characters, after all, fight in foreign wars, respond to the changing policies of the federal government, and even react to the shifting cultural attitudes of whites toward indigenous peoples. The persistent use of dates in the chapter headings, moreover, reminds readers of these historical contexts.33 At the same time, the action associated with such events is rarely portrayed directly. In Love Medicine, for instance, we learn that Nector Kashpaw has testified in Washington, but Erdrich does not describe that testimony; nor does the novel directly portray the service of Henry Lamartine Jr., in Vietnam, except through his own tortured memory. And in Tracks, the ringing of the Armistice bells marks the birth of Lulu Nanapush as much as the closing of the Great War (134). History of all kinds, in other words, is filtered in Erdrich’s novels through the consciousness of her Anishinaabe community, still reeling throughout the twentieth century from the extraordinary pressures of the forced alienations of tribal land, the spiritual dislocation in the wake of Catholic missionaries, and the physical suffering from epidemics and economic deprivation. While several critics have commented on Tracks as a historical novel, the dis-

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


cussion of Erdrich’s fiction has yet to consider what it means to take her entire Matchimanito tetralogy as a historical work, a fiction that begins with the devastation inflicted on the land base of Native peoples by the Dawes Act (see Cheyfitz essay) and influenza epidemics and ends with the reclamation of tribal land through casino gambling. From Georg Lukács to Benedict Anderson, Western literary criticism has treated the historical novel as a form that attempts to articulate national identity and that changes as different versions of nationalism become salient. Erdrich has used the form of the modernist novel to put forward an understanding of community that sometimes resembles nationalism but that does not have the political force of an exclusive national sovereignty. She herself has remarked that she believes her fiction to be “political” without being “polemical” (Schumacher in Chavkin and Chavkin 174). For some readers, Leslie Marmon Silko for example, this politics without polemics has been insufficient. In an influential essay on American Indian fiction first published in 1993, Elizabeth Cook-Lynn named Erdrich as a leading example of a Native writer who has “moved away from nationalistic concerns in order to gain the interest of mainstream readers” (1996:20). Erdrich will most likely continue to be vulnerable to this charge more than other Native writers because of her visibility as a writer popular with non-Native readers. To be fair, Cook-Lynn also names a number of other authors discussed here—Momaday, Welch, Vizenor, and even Silko—as inadequately speaking to the struggle for decolonization and tribal nationalism. Moreover, Erdrich herself has attempted to respond to such criticism. When read in the order of publication, the Matchimanito tetralogy does become more overtly political (though surely not to the extent desired by a critic like Cook-Lynn), in reaching back to the politics of allotment that shapes Tracks, in the 1993 additions to the second edition of Love Medicine, and in the tentative response to casino gambling in The Bingo Palace.34 In the latter, the fragmented form of Erdrich’s fiction serves her particularly well, for it allows her to include several responses to tribal gaming without necessarily endorsing a particular position—a practice that less sympathetic readers will interpret as equivocation. If there is a political sensibility in Erdrich’s fiction, it is a pragmatic one founded on the message that Lipsha Morrissey receives in his vision quest: “This ain’t real estate” (Bingo Palace 200). That is, the land on which Lipsha stands should be regarded not as a commodity that has market value because of the money it could generate through tourism or sale, but instead as constitutive of tribal identity and therefore a sacred trust. That Lipsha receives this message from a skunk—which proceeds to spray him—reinforces the seriousness of this sentiment as much as it serves to remind Lipsha (as well as the reader) that Erdrich shares Vizenor’s belief in the necessity of humor for Native American survival. The Matchimanito tetralogy ends, in terms of the novels’ collective chronology and in terms of the order of publication, with Fleur Pillager retreating to the island of her ancestors at the center of Matchimanito Lake. Fleur is the defiant arch-traditionalist of this series, a prototype for the strong women who populate the generations that follow her. Although, as The Bingo Palace tells us, she leaves her home on the lakeshore to make room for the new tribal casino, she returns to follow the fortunes of her ancestors “with underwater eyes” (274). In Erdrich’s fiction, contemporary tribal nationalism emerges from the sense that forebears like Fleur are both present and watching. Her novels suggest that this kind of awareness, what we have been calling a historical awareness, offers the community not only a foundation but also its best chance to mend the internal divisions that have resulted from


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U.S. colonialism’s abrogation of its sovereignty in the past—as well as its best chance to address the constraints upon tribal sovereignty in the present. * * * Linda Hogan’s three novels—Mean Spirit (1990), Solar Storms (1995), and Power (1998)— work together to demonstrate how an indigenist perspective can serve as both a lens for the interpretation of history and the basis for forms of opposition to colonial violence. Hogan, who has also written several volumes of poetry and nonfiction prose, has described her own writing in terms that situate it in relationship to colonial histories and that underscore its political aims. Extending Audre Lorde’s statement that “the Master’s tools will not dismantle his house,” she has said that her “own efforts have gone into new tools, the dismantling, the rebuilding. Writing is my primary crowbar, saw, and hammer” (“Two Lives” 244). Equally significant, she has insisted that “for me, the things that are very important, the spiritual and the political, are very united” (“To Take Care of Life” 131). In her fiction, this emphasis on the equal importance of the spiritual and the political emanates from a pantribal sensibility that aligns indigenousness—regardless of tribal affiliation—with a respect for and stewardship of the earth. Claims of sovereignty, therefore, are less the function of tribally specific nationalism and more closely tied to the recognition that the landscape itself enjoys a status superior to the more recent political claims of humans. Bush, who resembles Hogan as a Chickasaw woman who has left her family’s Oklahoma home, explains this principle in deceptively simple terms in Solar Storms. “What is the land,” she asks, “if not the earth’s?” (283). Bush’s question reverberates throughout Hogan’s fiction, in which she establishes a relationship between indigenous peoples and the land by showing them to be linked targets of Western colonial violence. Hogan’s first novel, Mean Spirit, is based on an actual series of events in the 1920s, when Osages and other Indians were systematically murdered by whites seeking to obtain their oil-rich land.35 For Hogan, the violence of these crimes parallels the equally systematic despoilment of the land. “It’s more than a race war,” one character observes in language similar to Bush’s. “They are waging a war with earth” (14). In Solar Storms, the main characters—three generations of Native women—travel from the boundary waters between Canada and the United States to join the protests of First Nations villages in northern Canada whose land was threatened by the massive James Bay Hydroelectric Project during the 1970s. And in Power, one of only thirty remaining Taiga Indians kills an aging, bedraggled panther on the Taigas’ Florida land. Because the Taigas revere the panther, this act becomes a means of demonstrating the degree to which the Taigas, the panthers, and the land that both inhabit are in danger of being destroyed. Hogan’s novels argue that a belief in the human and nonhuman as equivalently animate forms the cornerstone of an indigenous identity, and her characters’ realization of this identity plays a crucial role in the narrative action. Equally important, the novels question how this understanding could generate actions that would disrupt the dispossession of Native peoples and the violation of the land. In Mean Spirit, the Indians of the Oklahoma town Watona respond to the violence around them by gradually choosing to move away from behavior associated with assimilation into a Euro-American, capitalist society and toward religious beliefs—such as the peyote church—and other practices associated with pantribal indigenism. Moreover, several of the main characters choose to move away from EuroAmerican society in a more literal fashion by relocating to the settlement of the Hill People,

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


a group that has avoided direct contact with white Americans and has carefully maintained its traditional practices. On the one hand, this seems like a return to a specific tribe and location—something in line with a nationalist position; on the other, it also encompasses characters from several tribes (Osage, Creek, and Seminole) and even a few whites, such as a priest who gradually realizes that he has been mistaken in preaching that only the human is sacred. A long novel with a plot that takes several dramatic turns, Mean Spirit does not suggest that the adoption of an indigenist perspective will be easy. Among the characters Hogan uses to figure this struggle is Michael Horse, a water diviner whose predictions have become unreliable, but who carefully records the escalating violence suffered by his Osage community: If they [the white government clerks] knew he kept a journal of all the events in Watona, if they knew he had translated three languages back and forth during the Boxer Rebellion in China, they would have found a way to cut him down to the size they wanted him to be, and he knew it. (60) This passage not only identifies writing as a dangerous act but also links it to acts of travel and translation. At the beginning of the novel, Horse is identified as “one of the last proud holdouts from the new ways” (13), yet the skills that he will need to identify the deeper truths of what is happening at Watona will require him to speak in ways that can be understood by a large, diverse audience. By the end of the novel, he is living among the Hill People and composing his “Gospel According to Horse,” a work at once religious and political, supplying what he believes has been missing from the Christian Bible: “Honor father sky and mother earth,” it reads, “look after everything. Life resides in all things, even the motionless stones” (361). Hogan, moreover, connects what Horse writes to a history of Native indigenism by having one of his auditors note the resemblance between the Gospel and “what Peacemaker of the Iroquois Nations used to say.” Horse replies, “The creator probably spoke the same words to him. It wouldn’t surprise me at all” (362). Horse’s efforts to write down an indigenist consciousness in a manner accessible to Natives and non-Natives alike express a kind of optimism at the conclusion of Mean Spirit. His “Gospel,” in fact, predicts that “a time will come again when all the people return and revere the earth and sing its praises” (362)—a prophecy that resembles the predictions of Silko’s Almanac, though Horse’s work does not seem to share the Almanac’s violent overtones. The novel contrasts the optimistic results of Horse’s struggle for an adequate language with a failed search to find a legal way to safeguard either the land or the Indians who live on it. Hogan represents the failure of federal Indian law through the character of Stace Red Hawk, a Lakota who is an agent of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (called the “U.S. Bureau of Investigation” in the time of the novel). Red Hawk is initially eager to come to Watona and to investigate the killings. Even though they were not committed on Indian land and so are beyond federal jurisdiction (51, 85), Red Hawk believes that federal law enforcement offers the only possibility of solving them and protecting Native Americans (125). But as one of the Indian characters says to a BIA administrator: “‘Why is that so many crimes are backed up by your laws?’” (302). By the end of the book, Red Hawk has resigned his position and realized that the law will neither offer him the truth nor provide adequate protection for the Osages or their land. Like so many other characters in the book, he has traveled to the Hill People and resumed practices that he associates with his own tribal upbringing. Through Red Hawk and the problematic investigation in which he has partici-


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pated, Mean Spirit demonstrates Hogan’s position that federal Indian law and, indeed, any institutionalized system of law is unlikely to prove sufficient to preserve the earth or Native peoples.36 In fact, Hogan takes pains to dramatize how the competency hearings under federal laws during the allotment period were used by whites to disempower Indians and acquire control over their land (58–60). Mean Spirit does not present a strictly historical account of the Osage oil murders, nor does it present a single tribal perspective. (Charles Red Corn’s more recent novel, A Pipe for February [2002], does provide an Osage account of this period.) Rather, Hogan uses history to articulate the necessity of an indigenist position, a position also taken by her subsequent novel. Solar Storms, though, begins as a coming-of-age story in 1972, when seventeen-yearold Angela Jensen (usually called Angel in the book) returns to Adam’s Rib, the place of her birth, near the northern boundary of the United States. Having been raised in distant foster homes, Angel does not know her Indian mother, Hannah, but she does bear the scars of physical abuse inflicted by her.37 What she finds at Adam’s Rib is a pantribal community filled with female survivors: The first women at Adam’s Rib had called themselves the Abandoned Ones. Born of the fur trade, they were an ill-sorted group. Some had Cree ancestors, some were Anishnabe, a few came from the Fat-Eaters farther north. Bush, the woman who floated in the canoe near Fur Island on the day I returned, was a Chickasaw from Oklahoma. Others were from the white world; these, the white people, hadn’t cared enough for their own kind to stay on with them. (28) Bush, in fact, was the second wife of Angel’s father, and becomes a maternal figure for the girl upon her return. Equally important, Bush organizes a canoe expedition to the north that includes Angel as well as her grandmother and great-grandmother. Through this journey north and the return south, to home, Angel comes to understand her relationship to tribal histories and her relationship to the natural world. Like Silko’s Almanac, Solar Storms reorients the colonial, east-to-west narrative of Manifest Destiny in North America along a south-to-north axis. Hogan uses the journey of Angel and her foremothers to create an indigenous geography that reaches as far north as the villages of the Inuit and as far south as Oklahoma, Bush’s home. While the journey north has personal significance for Angel—who hopes to find her mother there—and for the other women, Bush’s goals are political, for she hopes to join the struggle of Cree and Inuit villages against the hydroelectric construction that threatens them. This resistance to the Canadian government forms the second half of the novel, and James Tarter has demonstrated Hogan’s accuracy in depicting the James Bay Hydroelectric Project and indigenous resistance to it during the 1970s, although the novel never actually uses the James Bay name. The struggle against the dams required an indigenous coalition that crossed tribal lines, like the novelistic community of Adam’s Rib—a common indigenous response rather than a tribally specific one—because of the size and scope of the James Bay project (Tarter 137–42). What distinguishes Solar Storms from Mean Spirit, in part, is the ultimate success of this pantribal resistance to the encroaching violence against the land and the indigenous presence on it. In the actual series of events, the Superior Court of Quebec temporarily halted construction by granting an injunction to the Cree Indians and Inuits who had sued the Province of Quebec and the corporations that had been formed for the James Bay project.

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


While this injunction was quickly overturned by the Quebec Court of Appeals, it led to the landmark James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement of 1975, which specified the rights and privileges of the Natives involved in the lawsuit and awarded them compensation for land cessions, much like the treaties of the nineteenth century (in both Canada and the United States). The agreement, moreover, was the first time that the Province of Quebec recognized the aboriginal rights—sovereign rights never ceded to the federal or provincial governments—of the Crees, Inuits, and other indigenous peoples living in the James Bay area (Diamond 265–85). Hogan’s novel reflects the significance that small shifts in opinion by the federal and provincial judiciary had for Canadian Indians during the 1970s.38 Near the conclusion of Solar Storms, one of the tribal elders who has spearheaded the resistance testifies in an urban courtroom, presumably the Quebec court that had original jurisdiction over the tribes’ lawsuit. While Angel realizes that the testimony is only partially effective—for the white listeners still regard Indians as “only a remnant of the past” (343) and are reluctant to accept indigenous perceptions of the truth—the legal action does finally lead to the cessation of construction on the dams (344), just as it did in Canadian history. Solar Storms is careful to note that legal institutions are not prepared to accept the stories of an indigenous consciousness as valid in their own terms—something painfully clear to anyone familiar with the history of Native litigation in either Canadian or U.S. courts.39 However, it also suggests that indigenous movements can force the law—again, with much struggle—to acknowledge the legitimacy of resistance to the continued colonization of the earth, even if only in small ways. Power resembles Solar Storms insofar as it links a coming-of-age story to questions of indigenous resistance to violence against the earth. In Power, Omishto, whose name means “the One Who Watches” (4), is a sixteen-year-old Taiga Indian who, in the aftermath of a hurricane, accompanies her aunt, Ama Eaton, as she pursues and kills an aging panther. Ama is subjected to two trials: one conducted under what Omishto calls “American law” (138) and the other by a council of traditional Taigas at what the novel names as “the place of old law” (149).40 In each case, Omishto is called upon (as her name suggests) to serve as a witness, and the book revolves around her struggle to understand her aunt’s actions. In the first case, the killing seems to violate federal law because the panther is a protected species; in the second, Ama appears to have ignored the tribal traditions that regard the panther as sacred and that prohibit its slaughter except in a ritually prescribed manner. Omishto is haunted by Ama’s actions and her own: “I wonder why did I take part in something so terrible that when dark night engulfs me and I wish for sleep there is none” (126). By making Omishto the narrator of the novel and placing her consciousness at its center, Hogan focuses on a protracted struggle to understand the extraordinary actions that might be necessary to “restore this world to balance” (189). Omishto comes to realize that Ama understood herself as a participant in an “old story that we must have followed” (93), a story that necessitated the killing of the panther and perhaps even Ama’s subsequent banishment from the tribe. Her understanding includes the recognition that such sacrifices can become catalysts for the restoration of the world. Power has neither the complexity of plot nor the number of characters nor the historical setting of Hogan’s earlier novels. Instead, it offers readers a more sustained meditation on questions of individual responsibility. The novel describes Omishto as the “smart daughter” who was thought capable of proving to others “that we are not at the bottom of the world”


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by succeeding in ways that would be visible to those outside the tribe. Instead, she comes to believe, like Silko’s Tayo and several other protagonists of Native American fiction, both in the necessity of stories—“Stories are for people what water is for plants,” she says near the end of the novel (227)—and in the stewardship of a “dying” earth (231). Rather than returning to high school to pursue her studies, Omishto decides at the conclusion of the novel to join the old Taiga people in the swamps. These Swamp People seem to be the low country equivalent of the Hill People in Mean Spirit, who are also named for the land. The book urges us to consider this conclusion as a method of engagement with the world rather than a retreat from it. In the last paragraph, which we have quoted in the introduction to this essay, Omishto dances “and as the wind stirs in the trees, someone sings the song that says the world will go on living.” After a long history of Western colonialism, the possibility that the world as Omishto knows it will continue stands as the kind of hope that guides all of Hogan’s fiction. * * * Since the 1990 publication of the short story collection Trigger Dance, Diane Glancy has emerged as one of most prolific and accomplished authors of short fiction in the United States. As of this writing, she has published nine novels and four collections of short stories, as well as nine volumes of poetry, three essay collections, and two collections of drama. Like Vizenor’s, Glancy’s writing has largely escaped the attention of mainstream reviewers and readers, though, unlike Vizenor’s, her work has thus far received limited academic attention. Only one of her books was published by a major trade house, and that novel, Pushing the Bear, is uncharacteristic of her work in two respects. First, it is a historical novel set in the 1830s rather than in the present or the recent past.41 Second, it is substantially longer than Glancy’s other published works, for while several of her texts are, indeed, presented as “novels,” they are in a strict, formal sense novellas, works of about 150 pages. Because Glancy so carefully manipulates and experiments with the form of her fiction (her early collections include pieces only a page or two in length, more traditional short stories, and novellalength works) her frequent selection of the novella suggests that she has found it the form most appropriate for her.42 Glancy’s fiction typically focuses on individuals (usually women and not always Native) in small, rural communities of the south central region (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Missouri) whose personal crises of identity have been intensified by the stifling atmosphere in which they live. Her lyrical, fragmented prose conveys the sense of lives nearly torn asunder by the everyday pressures of existence. Glancy’s mixed-blood protagonists frequently wrestle with the absence of any framework for comprehending what it means to possess a tribal heritage. Their difficulty—like the difficulties facing Welch’s Jim Loney or several of Louis Owens’s characters—stems not simply from racial mixture, but rather from a lack of any guiding force that would explain how that heritage might provide a foundation for thought and action. Glancy herself is of mixed Cherokee, German, and English ancestry, and she has described herself as speaking for those “Native Americans who have mixed blood and who know little of their culture and language” (West Pole 12). Her mixed-blood characters typically have only the barest trace of cultural or linguistic knowledge, such as the father in her novel Flutie, who builds a sweat lodge because “it was the only part of his heritage he had left” (25). Flutie’s father cannot, or will not, speak more about what it means for him to have descended from the Cherokees, and her mother will not talk about her German ancestors.

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


Flutie is therefore left to “feel uncovered, like a deer without its skin. Flutie had the skin of both worlds. She was half her father’s Indian culture, half her mother’s white culture, but she walked in none” (58). Throughout her fiction, Glancy asks what kind of resistance is both necessary and possible for an individual who walks in no culture because of what has been silenced, displaced, and abandoned. In the case of Flutie, resistance takes the form of a realization of indigenism reminiscent of the stances developed more completely by Linda Hogan’s characters. The narrator states: They continued to sweat and pray in the lodge. Flutie remembered the people from far away on the earth. Ireland. India. She remembered their voices she’d heard from time to time in the wind. Maybe she’d heard them in other sweat lodge ceremonies. Maybe they came up from the earth. Or from within her head. She felt connected to them all. She wiped her sweat and listened to the earth. To the rocks. (124) Feeling “connected” for Flutie does not proceed from a tribally specific nationalism, but rather from a sense that her tribal heritage at once cements her relationship to the land (the “earth” and “rocks”) and to “people from far away.” Flutie’s experience here at once emanates from her realization of indigenous identity and incorporates a global sense of kinship. More frequently, however, Glancy’s characters experience the land by traveling through it—and in fact, several possess a desire for travel so intense that it could be called a dependency on routes rather than roots. “She couldn’t stop traveling. She had to feel the land under her” (21), Glancy’s narrator tells us about the protagonist of “Road,” a story in the aptly named collection, The Voice That Was in Travel (1999). Yet Glancy describes travel as more than a kind of rootlessness and displacement; rather, it offers an opportunity to imagine oneself anew. As an “Indian hermit” in Trigger Dance tells a young woman who has come to learn from him, “There’s a place in travel—a sedentary sense of being in a real place. If I can make myself clear—travel in itself is a place” (69). Just as Gilroy and Clifford have suggested that the cosmopolitan crosses “roots” with “routes,” Glancy’s characters are frequently able to create a sense of home that is centered in the process of physical motion itself. Glancy strikes us as unique among Native writers in the way that she figures travel not as the absence of home, but as the possibility of realizing home in movement from one location to another—a cosmopolitan position that works to tie a localized sense of place to broader patterns. In particular, travel figures in Glancy’s fiction as a means of identity formation for characters who are geographically displaced from a tribal land base or have moved away from their Indian relatives. In “Firesticks,” for instance, a story told in six parts interspersed throughout the collection of the same name, Turle Heppner travels back and forth on the Oklahoma roads—first to see her dying father and then to attend his funeral—and in doing so comes to a new understanding of her Cherokee ancestry, particularly the memory of her paternal grandmother. At the beginning of the story, Turle dismisses the few Cherokee words she knows as the “left over bric-a-brac of language . . . what remains of words after the language is dead.” By the end of the story, she calls her words “firesticks” (126)—a reference to “the burning firesticks the men used to carry from the holy Keetowah fire to light the smaller fires in the cabins” (125). The story concludes with Turle on the “sacred ground” of Mount Scott, where she has traveled to bury her father’s pipe and belt buckle. The final lines read: “I see our words are firesticks finding a way through the dark. Strange warriors. In dreams I hear your talk” (47). Turle’s journey has been both literal and figurative; it has reconciled her to


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her own words and to those she hears in the dreams of her ancestors. Glancy’s story does not portray dramatic, outward changes that this new understanding will bring to Turle’s life. (She seems likely to continue both her job as a waitress and her affair with a drifter.) Instead, it emphasizes the process by which Turle begins to reimagine herself as a Cherokee woman— a process that is likely to be slow, incremental, and perhaps even not visible to others, unlike the dramatic changes that we see in Momaday’s Abel or Silko’s Tayo. Glancy, though, remains cognizant that forced travel was one of the most devastating effects of the United States’ colonization of indigenous peoples, and her fiction often deliberately references the most infamous migration of all, the forced march of Cherokees from Georgia, North Carolina, and Tennessee to what was then the Indian Territory. Their path became known as the Trail of Tears, and according to most estimates, of the approximately 13,000 Cherokees who marched from the summer of 1838 to the spring of 1839 under the supervision of federal troops, over one third—about 4,000 people—died along the way.43 Many of the travels in Glancy’s fiction are haunted by this traumatic journey and its legacy, for the dispossession of the Cherokees from their lands in the Southeast played a major role in the processes of displacement, dislocation, and cultural isolation that affect Glancy’s more contemporary characters. In Pushing the Bear (1996), Glancy returns to the experience of the Trail of Tears to suggest how the Cherokees might have managed to survive this experience both psychically and physically. Pushing the Bear includes a brief, but detailed, conversation among its characters about the foundational Marshall Trilogy of U.S. Supreme Court decisions so crucial to the events of the Cherokee removal (20–22; see Cheyfitz essay). Yet these legal and political machinations form the implicit background rather than the dramatic foreground of the novel. The primary action of Pushing the Bear illustrates the pressures and suffering of the trail through the story of a young Cherokee woman, Maritole, and her troubled marriage to Knowbowtee. The violence and hardship of the westward march, unsurprisingly, exposes the tensions of their relationship, which intensify when Maritole becomes the object of attention from a compassionate, white soldier. The novel tells this story by breaking each chapter into sections representing different first-person voices—usually those of Maritole and her immediate circle of friends and family, but not always. In fact, more than forty different characters speak during the course of the novel, even though some sections are identified with only a general term, as in “Voices as They Walked” or “The Soldiers.” A few sections even represent written documents, such as “A Government Teamster’s Journal” (191–93), a Nashville newspaper (110–11), lists of personal property lost by individual Cherokees (including the controversial leader John Ross), as well as references to federal Indian law. Other historical characters appear in the book, which mixes documentary with fiction. The result is a polyphonic novel that nonetheless maintains its narrative center in the character of Maritole. Glancy’s novel notably suggests that Christianity will be a component of survival, at least for some Cherokees. While it portrays factional divisions among the Cherokees on the trail, the Reverend Jesse Bushyhead, the Cherokee minister (and actual historical figure) who leads Maritole’s detachment, is clearly a sympathetic character. Though often conflicted, he contends that the coexistence of traditional Cherokee and Christian thought and belief is necessary—a necessity that the novel seems to validate. Bushyhead says,“I would not be one of those ministers who tried to rid the Cherokee of their stories. It would take everything we could muster to start again” (186). Bushyhead here echoes what Maritole herself had concluded, that the minister who “preached Christ as the corn god, the giver of life along with

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


Selu” was right because “if any one of us made it to the new land, then it must be true. Both Christ and myth. It would take both” (112). Later, Maritole says, “I heard the conjurers. I heard the Christians. I believed them both” (215). Selu and Christianity, in other words, both offer stories that enable the Cherokees to endure, an attitude of inclusion in line with a kind of cosmopolitan cross-culturalism. Equally important, the role of stories in the survival of the Cherokees—both as individuals and as a tribe—is a major topic of Glancy’s novel. Maritole, for instance, describes the value of personal testimony: “I would have the tongue of a leaf. I would tell our story I thought” (172–73). Her mother goes further in connecting the power of traditional stories to the ability of the Cherokees to endure the trail: “Tell stories. . . . Riding on your stories you can walk” (72). Maritole’s husband, Knowbowtee, echoes this statement: “The stories fueled my walk” (144). In other words, while Glancy connects her novel to a legacy of testimony that began with the walk itself, she also uses it to explore how imaginative narrative has enabled tribal peoples to persevere in the face of intense suffering. The very title of the novel references one such narrative. From early on until its last page, Maritole refers to “the bear” as a way of imaging the violence and pain of the journey as well as the threat that these experiences will devour or annihilate the travelers. Maritole feels the bear and imagines herself pushing it, being nearly destroyed by it, and finally overcoming it. However, only late in the novel does Glancy actually give us her version of “The Story of the Bear”: A long time ago the Cherokee forgot we were a tribe. We thought only of ourselves apart from the others. Without any connections. Our hair grew long on our bodies. We crawled on our hands and knees. We forgot we had a language. We forgot how to speak. That’s how the bear was formed. From a part of ourselves when we were in trouble. All we had was fur and meat to give. (176; italics in original) This story and its role in the novel deserve more commentary than we can offer here.44 Maritole has been telling herself a tale about the dangers of forgetting, including the forgetting of language, and about how it can transform a tribe into something wholly different. Language, story, testimony all offer components of the antidote to such a process. Yet Pushing the Bear also shows that the role of narrative and language in offering resistance to modern forces of oppression must be a complicated one. Throughout the text, Glancy incorporates words and phrases from the Cherokee syllabary famously devised by Sequoyah in 1821. She sometimes translates the Cherokee phrases and sometimes does not. She does include the syllabary itself as an appendix to the novel, where she also retranslates a traditional narrative that appears in the main text, but the reader unfamiliar with written Cherokee is still unlikely to know the precise meaning of several of the words in the text. In a note that precedes the appendix, Glancy states that the words written in Cherokee “can be viewed as holes in the text so the original can show through” (n.p.). In other words, the Cherokee words serve to remind the reader that Pushing the Bear is not the “original”—and that it can only be an incomplete approximation of the actual experience of the Trail of Tears. As important as imaginative language may be for Cherokees’ continued sense of themselves as Cherokees, that language may still contain “holes.” This cautionary note—reminiscent of Vizenor’s skepticism about written language in Dead Voices and elsewhere—may be part of Glancy’s effort to explain what separates her own work from the historical figures she represents in Pushing the Bear. The “holes” in the text, in fact, might be the missing pieces of an “original” position of Cherokee tribal nation-


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alism. The Cherokee Nation of the Southeast, with its own written language and government, offers one of the best examples of political sovereignty and American Indian nationalism in the history of U.S.–Native relations, though it is important to note that its nationalism adapts elements from the U.S. Constitution and met resistance from traditional Cherokees (see in particular James Mooney’s 1902 discussion of Cherokee factionalism). The dismantling of that nation by the U.S. government did not end the existence of the Cherokees either as a people or as a federally recognized tribe. In fact, they are currently comprised of three nations—two in Oklahoma (the Cherokee Nation and the United Keetoowah Band) and one in North Carolina (the Eastern Band). However, the forced removal of the Cherokees in the nineteenth century made the history of Cherokee nationalism a violent one, as the conflicts that Glancy describes in Pushing the Bear between what Daniel Richter labels “nativists and accommodationists”—or what Daniel Heath Justice, using terms developed from Cherokee history, refers to in Our Fire Survives the Storm as the “Chickamauga consciousness” of armed resistance and the “Beloved Path” of peace and adaptation.45 Glancy suggests that these legacies of dispersal and violence have made it difficult for some Cherokees, like her, to place themselves under the banner of nationalism. Instead, they can attempt to recognize the articulation of that nationalism, understand the forces that have left them outside of those claims of sovereignty, and question how artistic production can forge connections with such traditions. But Glancy’s insistence on recognizing that there will be “holes” in this effort means that her position will remain a cosmopolitan one, achieving resistance by attending to histories of power but refusing exclusive identification with either the victim or the agent of colonialism. In Pushing the Bear, the cosmopolitan position remains outside of tribal nationalism even as it seeks some connection with tribal, Cherokee history; it seeks universal values, but wants to acknowledge the history of cultural and political difference. Finally, Glancy’s invocation of the “holes” in her text suggests a cosmopolitanism that understands its own marginality in the contemporary world and, for Glancy at least, regularly confronts its doubts about its own efficacy and legitimacy, not least of all in terms of its own Cherokee identity. This situation characterizes Edith Lewis, the protagonist of The Mask Maker (2002), the novel in which Glancy overtly and intensely inquires into the nature and purpose of artistic production. Edith is a mask maker and a divorced mother of two living in Pawnee, Oklahoma. She claims some Pawnee heritage, and keeps a Pawnee leather mask among her most prized possessions. She at once claims inspiration from her indigenous heritage—“It’s the creative imagination that’s Indian,” she says (90)—and worries that she is only a “faded, part-time Indian” (98) who does not know “the Indian in myself ” (90). She works as a visiting artist for the state arts program, a position that requires her to travel constantly and teach at various rural high schools. Edith embraces travel, calling it an “in-between place . . . a place between worlds” (72)—phrases that echo Edith’s own characterization of herself: “I’m a mixed-blood. I don’t belong anywhere” (90). Edith constantly meditates on the meaning of her mask making and its possibilities.While the sheer amount of reflection along these lines shows that she has not yet come to a definitive understanding of her own art, it is clear from the first paragraph that Edith sees her masks as offering something distinct from verbal language: “It was masks that held Edith on the road. She had a car full of them. The masks told a story. But Edith hated words. Wobblers” (3). She objects to words so much that she becomes furious when she finds a fellow teacher instructing the students to write stories to accompany the masks Edith is teaching them to

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


make. “I am a mask maker, not a maker of masks for which words are written,” she explains. Though Edith eventually agrees, with reluctance, to “work with words” (128), the novel emphasizes that the power of masks emanates from their ability to render abstract ideas in a concrete, physical form. While one cannot be certain whether Glancy intends this to be a statement about her own artistic goals, it would make sense that the consideration of masks in the novel reflects in some way her thinking about the possibilities of her own work. It matters, therefore, that Edith’s masks simultaneously conceal and reveal the person who makes and wears them.“What part of yourself do you want to hide?”Edith asks her students.“That’s where you start with a mask. . . . In the energy that gets trapped between the face and the mask it wears” (63). Glancy’s fiction tries to release this energy, and in doing so to show how the dislocated and displaced mixed-bloods who populate her work can imagine themselves in relationship to tribal histories and peoples—and can begin to understand the forces of colonization that have left them displaced and fragmented. For Glancy, the energy of the imagination becomes a way of overcoming the physical and psychic isolation that is one of colonialism’s most powerful legacies. Therefore, struggles against that isolation have consequences that go beyond individual lives—consequences that may seem negligible in the face of the centuries-long history of colonialism, but that connect women like Edith and Turle and Flutie to the terrible violence that Maritole endures in Pushing the Bear. * * * The fiction of Thomas King articulates a cosmopolitan position of global consciousness yet simultaneously describes and elaborates a nationalist resistance to colonialism. On the biographical level, the complexity of King’s stance may result from his unusual relationship to his fictional subjects. King’s own tribal ancestry, through his father, is Cherokee, yet he consistently writes about the Blackfoot among whom he lived for ten years.46 Equally important, though King was born and raised in the United States, the towns and reserves where his characters most often live are in Canada. King himself now has Canadian citizenship and describes himself as Canadian, but he also argues that the political division of the United States and Canada is a product of Western colonialism that has been harmful for indigenous peoples.47 Even though Native peoples have rights of free passage across the U.S.–Canada border, circumscribed by blood quantum when crossing into the United States and still under adjudication in Canada,48 this international boundary remains troubling in King’s fiction. The narrator of the short story “Borders” becomes trapped between the border crossing stations because his mother declares her citizenship to be Blackfoot rather than American or Canadian (One Good Story, That One 129–45). In Green Grass, Running Water, traditional dance costumes are confiscated by American customs agents eager to seize eagle feathers.49 And, most darkly, the U.S.–Canadian national boundary creates the financial incentive for smugglers dumping human waste from American hospitals onto the Blackfoot reserve in King’s most recent novel, Truth and Bright Water (1999). King’s demonstration of the consequences of non-Native political boundaries for Native peoples is accompanied by a largely sympathetic treatment of tribal attempts to articulate a nationalist response as a means of resistance to the Canadian and U.S. legacies of colonialism. King’s three novels—Medicine River (1989), Green Grass, Running Water (1993), and Truth and Bright Water (1999)—map an intensely local geography in and around the Blackfoot reserve in Canada, including towns populated by Natives and whites, and suggest that an understanding of this human and natural geography can be a precondition of tribal


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resistance. While the narratives of the novels do not overlap in the same way as Erdrich’s (the latter two do occasionally mention characters from the previous books), King also emphasizes the dynamics of community, and how notions of community make possible various forms of Indian identity. While a tribal nationalism with claims of political sovereignty may be one product of strong communal ties in King’s fiction, he is more interested in the nuances of community itself rather than this political result. Moreover, like Erdrich’s, King’s fiction reveals a deep concern with finding the proper narrative form for expressing an understanding of a tribal community ready to continue into the twenty-first century. King’s first book-length work of fiction, Medicine River, for instance, is less a novel than a cycle of short stories about the efforts of photographer Will Horse Capture to establish himself in the Blackfoot community that lives in the Canadian town named in the book’s title.50 Throughout, Will recalls his own upbringing away from Medicine River and the reserve, and is repeatedly challenged by the obligations that community affiliation entail. In one of the climactic scenes of the book, Will takes photographs of an enormous, boisterous, extended family, and, at the invitation of his subjects, includes himself in each shot by using the shutter-delay device on his camera. The exertion of both managing the group and running back and forth to the camera leaves Will “red-faced and aglow with sweat” (215), so that the photography session symbolizes both the necessity and the difficulty of using representative art to “know the people”—as one grandmother urges Will to do (208)—and include oneself among them. The finished product, after all, is both for “the people” who have been photographed and one of Will’s efforts to promote his photography business. Will’s is a “communitist” art, to use Jace Weaver’s term once again, for it conjoins the needs of the artist to the needs of the Native community to know itself as a Native community. Will’s intense labors during the photography session remind us that such a goal may be nearly impossible to achieve, though it remains worth striving for. Representation and community are also at the heart of Green Grass, Running Water, King’s most widely read and discussed novel. In Green Grass, resistance to colonialism is at once narrative and political: the narrative structure of the novel disrupts, parodies, and confronts received narratives of colonial settlement, conquest, and domination, and the novel’s Blackfoot characters fight the abrogation of their sovereignty over Native land. The latter is epitomized by the character of Eli Stands Alone, a retired university professor who occupies a family home in the spillway of the newly constructed Grand Baleen Dam and persists in a protracted legal battle against this public project. Eli’s efforts recall Native resistance to the James Bay hydroelectric project (also the subject of Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms), which included the Grande Baleine or Great Whale River project, as well as D’Arcy McNickle’s Wind from an Enemy Sky (1978, but composed at an earlier date), which opens with the opposition of the fictional Little Elk people to a dam on their land. Moreover, Eli’s occupation of the house and his fight against the dam have been his means of reintegrating himself into the Blackfoot community after a period of absence and estrangement. He has stood alone, as his name suggests, but does so no longer. Eli’s stand is one of several plots that intersect in Blossom, Alberta, and the nearby Blackfoot reserve. However, the realism of these plots is only part of the book. At the beginning, we learn that four old Indians (their gender remains a matter of some puzzlement), have escaped from a mental hospital in the United States. The four Indians—who bear the names Lone Ranger, Hawkeye, Ishmael, and Robinson Crusoe—travel to Blossom, where they hope to “fix up” some small part of the world. These same figures are, in King’s novel, simul-

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


taneously the protagonists of four versions of traditional earth-diver stories, in which each of them starts as a female figure central to a tribal narrative tradition (First Woman, Changing Woman, Thought Woman, Old Woman) and later assumes the name of a white, male character. The first-person narrator tells these four earth-diver stories to Coyote (who is able to travel between this self-referential, storytelling frame and the mimetic world of Blossom, Alberta) in a style that resembles the oral delivery of a traditional storyteller but that frequently involves leading figures of Western history, myth, and religion: a literary cosmopolitanism that incorporates the world of Western literature through narrative models belonging to oral, tribal traditions.51 In the narrator’s version, for instance, Changing Woman falls out of the sky world only to land in a canoe filled with animals, poop, and a filthy, lusty Noah. She later ends up aboard the Pequod, where Ahab renames her Queequeg. Finally, after Moby Jane destroys the ship, Changing Woman is captured by soldiers in Florida.“Call me Ishmael, says Changing Woman” (249), and the soldiers imprison her at Fort Marion, a Florida installation used by the U.S. government in the late nineteenth century to hold Southwestern and Plains Indian leaders deemed particularly dangerous, including the famous Apache leader, Geronimo. Each of the earth-diver stories follows this pattern: descent to earth, travel through a mythical landscape, renaming, and imprisonment in Fort Marion. Green Grass, Running Water works to make the reader aware of how foundational narratives of European colonialism—Cooper’s Leatherstocking Tales, DeFoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Columbus’s “discovery” of the Americas—presume the colonial subjugation of indigenous peoples. Not only do the earth-diver stories index and satirize such narratives, but many characters in the novel bear the names of historical figures important to the history and imagination of colonialism. Some of these names are puns: Joe Hovaugh (Jehovah) runs the mental hospital from which the Indians have escaped; C. B. Cologne (Cristóbal Colón, or Christopher Columbus) is an Italian actor who plays Indians in Hollywood movies. Others are more historical: George Morningstar, a white character who romanticizes Indians but abuses his Blackfoot wife, bears one of the Native nicknames for George Armstrong Custer. And many of the names contain more obscure references: Clifford Sifton, the dam engineer, references an aggressive proponent of the settlement of the Canadian West, for instance. Combined with the retelling of Western stories in the earth-diver narratives, these names maintain a “contestatory intertextuality”—to use Laura Donaldson’s phrase—offering pleasure to those readers well-informed enough to understand at least some of the references as well as a form of resistance that appropriates, satirizes, and alters the histories that these names represent (Donaldson 40).52 Green Grass offers an image of how colonial narratives are intertwined with claims to domination over the landscape when Bill Bursum53 arranges a wall of televisions to resemble the contours of Canada and the United States—a display he unimaginatively refers to as “The Map” and that, for him, conflates technological, cultural, and political power. “It was like having the universe there on the wall,” he muses, “being able to see everything, being in control” (140). Later, Bursum decides to show off The Map by playing on its many screens a videotape of “the best Western ever made”—a John Wayne movie entitled The Sand Creek Massacre that King has devised as a reference to an extraordinary episode of white violence against Indians54 and as a composite of Hollywood depictions of Indians. As Bursum plays the videotape, though, the four old Indians—the Lone Ranger, Hawkeye, Ishmael, and Robinson Crusoe—actually alter the ending of the film through an act of ceremonial


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singing. Instead of a triumphant cavalry slaughtering the Indians, the movie concludes with John Wayne staring “stupidly at the arrow in his thigh, shaking his head in amazement and disbelief as two bullets ripped through his chest” (358). King’s novel implies that this kind of reimagination of popular narrative must be considered a necessary complement to the kind of political resistance practiced by Eli Stands Alone in his defense of Blackfoot treaty rights over the land and river. The title of the novel, in fact, refers to the temporal frame of such treaties, the promise that they would be valid as long “as long as the grass is green and the waters run.” Bursum thinks the phrase is a meaningless metaphor (296), but King renders it literal in the final pages of the book as an earthquake—probably induced by Coyote’s dancing—destroys the dam and restores the river. In this episode, King links the local resistance of Eli Stands Alone to the global history of colonialism, for three cars that have gone missing during the novel— a Nissan, a Pinto, and a Kharman-Ghia—reappear on the lake behind the dam as an echo of the ships on Columbus’s voyage—the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. In Green Grass, Running Water, successful opposition to colonialism requires local and global forms of knowledge, as well as a willingness to endure chaotic vacillations of history. Coyote’s erratic and misinformed actions are the most obvious manifestation of such chaos in the novel, but it is important to note that King’s novel does not offer a narrative of liberation. The book is deeply cyclical, with each section ending in a story of imprisonment and the entire book ending with Coyote asking the same question [“Where did all the water come from?” (469)] that began the book (3). In an easily missed exchange, Joe Hovaugh tells a police officer that the four old Indians first arrived at his hospital in January 1891 (102), a date suggesting that they have been participants in the Ghost Dance—or perhaps are even survivors of the Wounded Knee Massacre of December 1890, the horrific episode that punctuated the U.S. military’s attempt to suppress the Ghost Dance movement.55 If King’s novel asks to be understood as a contemporary analogue of that pan-Indian, syncretic attempt to restore Native political and cultural sovereignty, then it refuses to allow readers to think that such efforts can undo the lasting effects of colonialism easily and finally. The hope of the Ghost Dance is part of the imaginative world of Green Grass, but so is the violence of Wounded Knee. In his most recent novel, Truth and Bright Water, King addresses the kind of rebirth and revitalization promised by the Ghost Dance through the character of Monroe Swimmer, a postmodern artist who has returned to an American town (Truth) across the river from a Canadian reserve (Bright Water). Monroe’s surname is the same as that of a famous Cherokee healer, known for preserving healing formulas in a manuscript that he showed to the anthropologist James Mooney in 1887 (see Mooney 1902).56 In a way, Monroe Swimmer’s activities suggest that art can perform a kind of healing by trying to correct (and necessarily call attention to) the legacies of violence against tribal peoples. He has “restored” landscape paintings by reinserting into them figures of Indians that have been erased; he does the reverse to a mission church—painting it the color of the surrounding land so that its presence can no longer be detected by the eye (43, 130). He tries to repopulate the prairie with buffalo (albeit buffalo sculptures), and in the final pages of the novel we learn that he “rescued” the human remains of Indian children from museums so that he could bring them back to the same land (132, 251).57 King’s novel, though, also forces the reader to confront the possibility that the artistic project of tribal revitalization and restoration has its limits. The focus of the novel is not Monroe Swimmer but his sometime apprentice Tecumseh, a fifteen-year-old boy who is strug-

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


gling to come of age in a social and political landscape of limited opportunity—and who bears the name of the Shawnee organizer of a failed early nineteenth-century pan-Indian rebellion against the United States. While the novel portrays moments of comedy and community that recall King’s earlier fiction, the tone of Truth and Bright Water is, overall, darker and even edgier than that of Medicine River or Green Grass. When King introduces Lucy Rabbit, a Blackfoot woman trying to turn blonde so as to demonstrate her kinship with Marilyn Monroe, we are not sure whether to laugh or cry (18). And when we find out that Tecumseh’s cousin, Lum, has been the victim of physical abuse from his father, we know which to do. In fact, Lum’s descent into despair and suicide over the course of the novel completes a characterization more tragic and nuanced than any other in King’s fiction. Truth and Bright Water is not, however, a tragic novel, for King shares Gerald Vizenor’s rejection of tragedy. Rather, it emphasizes ongoing cycles of comedy and tragedy, violence and healing, death and rebirth. Moreover, it explicitly links such cycles to histories of colonial oppression and resistance by literally embodying the victims of Cherokee removal in the novel. The Cherokees, traveling in trailers that look “as if they’ve been on the road forever” (100), come to stay at the Happy Trails RV park during the Bright Water Indian Days. Tecumseh is befriended by a girl named Rebecca Neugin (103), the name of a real woman who walked the Trail of Tears as a young girl and nearly a century later, in 1932, told a part of her story.58 Rebecca is not integral to the plot, to what becomes of Tecumseh and Lum and their families; rather, she represents a counterpoint to Monroe Swimmer, a reminder that the history he is trying to undo cannot be easily left behind. At the end of the novel, the Cherokees have left Bright Water to resume the migration trail, and Monroe has tried to reconstitute the Blackfoot community by staging a giveaway of all his possessions. The novel implies that Tecumseh’s survival will depend on both the pantribal, diasporic, and even global forms of knowledge that the Cherokee migration represents and the kind of intensely local relationships cemented by Monroe’s actions. He will need that brand of cosmopolitanism that understands and is sympathetic to a local nationalism. * * * Each of Louis Owens’s five novels centers on a mixed-blood character who faces the problem of how to identify with his or her tribal heritage—or even multiple tribal heritages. For the late Owens (d. 2002), who was of Choctaw, Cherokee, and Irish descent, mixed-bloods occupy the precarious position of trying to claim such identities without overstating their claims or constructing an attachment to a tribal past they never knew or experienced. His fiction explains how this set of demands can be nearly paralyzing. Thus, Cole McCurtain, raised in California by his Choctaw father, muses near the beginning of The Sharpest Sight (1992) about the mathematics of his descent, calling himself “a three-eighths breed, since my mother is a quarter Cherokee like just about everybody who ever lived in Oklahoma.” He continues, “Well, you see, the fact is she’s really three-eighths Cherokee, since her mother was three-quarters and born in the Nation and had my mother when she was thirteen and not even five feet tall. So I guess that makes me a seven-sixteenths-breed—almost a halfbreed like my father. Let’s say I’m nearly a half-breed, whatever that means” (10). Cole is also the protagonist of Owens’s next novel, Bone Game (1994), and both books elaborate the difficulty of his struggle to understand “whatever that”—being of mixed descent—“means” for someone living in the late-twentieth-century United States. The challenges of identity are further complicated in nearly all of Owens’s novels by the fact that his protagonists, like Cole, grow up far from the tribal land base with which they identify.59


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Therefore, their processes of self-identification require them both to develop a tribal consciousness and to understand its relationship to broader formations of identity. When this kind of cosmopolitan recovery is successful, it becomes a means for Owens’s characters to oppose the colonization of tribal peoples that has left them marginalized. In fact, Owens has stated in Mixedblood Messages, a collection of essays, that the figure of the mixed-blood offers a unique opportunity to lay bare the mechanisms of colonialism: “In the narratives of the dominant, colonial culture—and after half a millennium indigenous American tribal cultures, as we near the twenty-first century, remain colonized—the mixedblood is a mirror that gives back a self-image with disturbing implications” (25). In The Sharpest Sight, Cole’s gradual understanding of what it means to be a mixedblood is played out through the grief he suffers over the mysterious death of his brother, Attis. Attis had been institutionalized after murdering his white girlfriend, and much of the novel relates the attempts of Cole, his father, and the deputy sheriff, Mundo Morales, to discover who killed Attis and to recover the body. The novel ends with Cole’s return to the Mississippi swamps where he was born, bringing his brother’s bones to the Choctaw relatives there; this recovery will allow Attis’s bones to be cleaned by those who continue the Choctaw tradition of human bone pickers (54), and will allow his shilup or “outside shadow”—“similar to what white people call a ghost”—to rest (111). Cole receives guidance in this act of recovery by a pair of Choctaws—his great uncle, Luther Cole, and Onatima Blue Wood— who embody a traditionalism that carefully, and selectively, engages with modernity. Onatima, for instance, insists on the importance of reading Western literature—including Moby-Dick (90), The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (113), and Hamlet (224)—and tells Luther to follow her lead. For Onatima, knowing these stories, “the ones they [nonChoctaws] use to change the world,” is a necessity for Choctaw survival (109). Owens’s choice of title for his novel—from Jonathan Edwards’s “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” (cited but not attributed in the novel’s epigraph)—suggests that Onatima’s reading resembles his own efforts to maintain links to tribal forms of understanding while still relying on more global forms of knowledge, an attitude that we have been calling cosmopolitanism. From this position comes the suggestion that specific texts like Moby-Dick and Huckleberry Finn offer their own lessons in resistance to certain forms of dominance exerted by the societies they inhabit. In Bone Game, set twenty years later, Luther and Onatima reverse the journey made earlier by Cole, traveling west from the swamps of Mississippi to Santa Cruz, California, to help Cole cope with a series of violent dreams and his growing confusion. Both books enmesh Cole in dramatic action that is intensely local—and Owens takes pains to create detailed descriptions of the California locales—but that require him to articulate his affiliation with tribal forms of knowledge located elsewhere. This pattern continues with the protagonists of Owens’s later novels: in Nightland (1996), the Cherokees Will Striker and Billy Keene live in New Mexico; and Jake Nashoba of Dark River (1999) is a Choctaw who lives near the Apaches of eastern Arizona. In each case, Owens puts his protagonists at significant bodily and spiritual risk to dramatize the precariousness of the ambiguous positions they occupy. Obtaining the knowledge necessary to be a cosmopolitan Indian—a nearly oxymoronic term—away from one’s tribal land base is a difficult, even delicate task, for it requires being informed by tribal traditions as well as the distinct struggles and histories of the landscape, all while identifying with anticolonial resistances being pursued elsewhere. Owens’s novels also frequently address the kinds of knowledge necessary for such an identity by emphasizing the relationships among scenes of violence that at first seem his-

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


torically or geographically unrelated. Bone Game hinges on such a connection; Cole McCurtain is simultaneously haunted by the colonial oppression enacted at the Santa Cruz mission in the early nineteenth century and the serial killing of young women in his contemporary moment. As Christopher LaLonde has argued, the novel places the reader in the same position as Cole, trying to understand the relationship between the historical violence suffered by the Ohlone Indians at the hands of Spanish missionaries and that suffered by the young women who have been murdered (101–3). The novel implies a historical linkage from the moment that it cites two dates as a kind of epigraph: one, 1812, marks the murder and torture of a mission priest; the other, 1993, marks the time when a “dismembered young woman begins washing ashore on the beaches of Santa Cruz” (n.p.). And this link continues to the novel’s conclusion, when it is revealed that at least one of the serial killers has been painting himself to resemble the Ohlone gambler—a member of the tribe that suffered at the Santa Cruz mission—who led the uprising against the mission priest (240). In other novels, Owens suggests connections between the colonial subjugation of Native Americans and recent wars fought by the United States on foreign soil. For instance, in Dark River, Jake Nashoba, a veteran, recalls that U.S. soldiers in Vietnam and the “so-called Gulf War” both referred to enemy-controlled areas as “Indian Territory,” and compares the images he has seen of Iraqi casualties to “the gray photos of Bigfoot’s band massacred and frozen at Wounded Knee. Sure, it was all different . . . but what the pictures showed him were the rigid remains of dark-skinned human beings left from a massacre by the U.S. military once again” (106–7). These kinds of historical relationships—in which history is not the events of the past but a kind of tangible force in the present—resemble Silko’s effort in Almanac of the Dead to connect local resistance to colonial violence with a global history of oppression. In The Sharpest Sight, Mundo Morales even comes close to sounding like Silko as he understands a connection between the dispossession of his family following the U.S. acquisition of California and the dispossession of Choctaws like Cole McCurtain and his family: Somehow it all seemed related, tangled up together like a ball of used baling wire. . . . Indians, Mexicans, gringos, and mixed-bloods. He, Mundo, was part Indian, though no one in the family had ever liked to admit it. . . . And the McCurtains were white and Indian both. Tangled, mixed, interrelated. (196–97) As in Almanac of the Dead, moments like this one suggest the possibility of an indigenist consciousness, based on a kind of pantribal solidarity. However, also like Almanac, Owens’s fiction articulates a position in which common indigenous worldviews do not necessarily generate a common indigenous identity. Rather, Owens insists that resistance will remain intensely local—bound up in histories that are specifically Choctaw, Ohlone, and so forth— even as it recognizes the ways that “Indians, Mexicans, gringos, and mixed-bloods” are “tangled up together” by histories of colonialism that continue to put all of them in peril. By asserting that both local and global perspectives are necessary for responding to the legacies of colonialism, Owens’s novels suggest that a cosmopolitan position—through what Appiah would call a “cosmopolitan patriotism”—can complement and even support nationalist and indigenist modes of resistance. *** Born in 1966, the youthful Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d’Alene) already has more than four books of poetry, three short story collections, two films, and two novels to his credit.


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Newspaper and magazine reviews have most frequently used the adjectives “angry” and “funny” to describe him—he is a formidable performer, and he has given many interviews—and his work. That is unusual. American media tend either to steer clear of or to belittle people or work they find genuinely angry; if someone is funny, anger would appear to be precluded. But in a way, the reviewers are right; Alexie’s personal and textual stance is both angry and funny, and this might place him in the select company of figures such as Lenny Bruce and Dick Gregory, who were an older generation and were not, primarily, writers. Alexie’s anger is directed at what whites have done and continue to do to Indians. It should be noted that Alexie has insisted on calling Native people “Indians,” directing considerable vituperative scorn against those who would use the term “Native Americans.” Meanwhile, although his Indians are a varied lot, they are almost never defined by what Elizabeth Cook-Lynn and others have called “tribal nation status.” Tribalism and nationalism— the concept of “the people” as a “nation”—does not appear in Alexie’s work. Although his Indians may identify themselves as Spokane or Coeur d’Alene, displaced Navajos, Lummi, or perhaps Lakota, none of them has a strong sense of traditional tribal culture or language. Nonetheless, Alexie’s Indians seem to have no doubts about their identities as Indians, for all that they sometimes wonder about what it means to be Indian in their individual cases and situations. In Alexie’s work, those who are Indians know they are Indians, and they know as well that they are decidedly not “Native Americans” or wannabes. Thus, of Low Man Smith, in Alexie’s “Indian Country,” from the recent collection, The Toughest Indian in the World (2000), the narrator says, “He was a Coeur d’Alene Indian, even though his mother was white” (121). To Dr. Lawrence Crowell—a crude, parodic thrust at the late Louis Owens—in another story in the same collection, called “One Good Man,” the narrator’s father says,“You might be a Native American, but you sure as hell ain’t Indian” (228). This story regularly asks the key question, What is an Indian? What makes Indians Indian in Alexie’s work is the experience of a particular form of colonial oppression. Its consequences are unemployment, poverty, alcoholism, and violence, and the feelings it produces are worthlessness, despair, and intense anger or rage. Only Indians have had this particular experience, and so only Indians know, perfectly, painfully well, what being an Indian is, and they also know who is not an Indian. It must be said in fairness, however, that Alexie also dramatizes more positive Indian experiences, many of which are directly related to overcoming the feelings noted above (worthlessness, despair, etc.). Indians overcome these feelings most commonly through imagination and laughter. In an early story, “Imagining the Reservation,” from the collection The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), the formula “Survival = Anger x Imagination” is offered, although finally not anger but “Imagination,” we are told, “is the only weapon on the reservation” (150). But anger is never easily put aside; a later story in the same collection advises Indians that “the most valuable lesson about living in the white world [is]: Always throw the first punch” (176). In the story “The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire,” also from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, Thomas is put on trial in federal court in the late twentieth century and convicted of “murder[ing] two soldiers in cold blood and with premeditation” (101) in 1858 during a battle with federal troops under a Colonel Steptoe. Thomas’s defense, which the court ignores, places his “crime” in a colonial context of U.S. oppression. The irony, of

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


course, involves the fact that Thomas is being convicted of a crime he could not have committed because he would not be born for another hundred years. But this points to the ongoing force of the colonial past in the present. Thomas’s experience has a certain cosmopolitan dimension, for at the end of the story he is sent off to prison with “four African men, one Chicano, and a white man from the smallest town in the state . . . five men who shared his skin color” (103). U.S. internal colonialism is not, then, confined to Indians but extends to other colonized peoples, in the barrio, the ghetto, and the logging-town tin shack. The essentialized dimension of Alexie’s identity politics—if you’re an Indian, you know it; if you have to ask what Indians know that makes them Indians, then you’re not an Indian—can be troubling, a matter we will discuss further in regard to Alexie’s most recent novel, Indian Killer (1996). But the identity theme so common in Native American fiction, we repeat, is not actually present in Sherman Alexie’s work. Thus if it is indeed the case, as Eric Cheyfitz has written, that questions of Indian identity have been tied to issues of sovereignty and land, then it might be said that just as there is little concern for identity as a theme in Sherman Alexie’s work, so, too, there is little concern for specific questions of sovereignty, that is, of the return of the land in any real sense. There are lots of jokes about whites getting out and giving it all back to the Indians, but little of the nationalist or indigenist feel for the land and the nation-people that we have noted in other Native fiction writers. For all their animus against those non-Indians, Alexie’s Indians do not always keep themselves separate from whites. Some are married or otherwise attached to white partners, and this is variously approved of or violently castigated. An early story in The Lone Ranger and Tonto, “The First Annual All-Indian Horseshoe Pitch and Barbecue,” for example, ends with the words, “she held the child born of a white mother and a red father and said, ‘Both sides of this baby are beautiful’” (148). But in Alexie’s first novel, Reservation Blues, Chess Warm Water, Thomas Builds-the-Fire’s lover, is strongly opposed to mixed marriages. The child of such a marriage, a “halfbreed,” as Chess says, using an older, derogatory term, is doomed because “Half of him [sic] will always want to tear the other half apart. It’s war” (284). Thomas understands her concern, “but he also knew about the shortage of love in the world” (82). Nonetheless, Thomas agrees to marry Chess and to “have kids . . . lots of brown babies” (284). In Alexie’s volume of stories, The Toughest Indian in the World, a story called—ironically, it would seem—“Assimilation,” the Coeur d’Alene wife of a white man seduced the darkest Indian man she can find, only, at the end of the story, to return passionately to her white husband. Once, we are told, Mary Lynn and Jeremiah had explained their relation by saying, “Love is love” (14), knowing that that did not really explain anything much. But at the story’s end, the narrator, this time apparently without irony, tells us that “They loved each other across the distance” (20). In “Class,” from the same recent volume, an Indian lawyer who has never slept with an Indian woman (in addition to his white wife, he has “slept with seventeen prostitutes, all of them blond and blue-eyed” [43]), has a violent adventure in an Indian bar. Then he returns to his wife, and says—again, we think, without irony—“I was gone. . . . But now I’m back” (56). The powerful figure, Big Mom, in Reservation Blues recommends “forgiveness” (203) rather than confrontation (e.g., the story discussed above, “Indian Education,” in The Lone Ranger: “Always throw the first punch” [176]), noting that “the white man has always been better at violence anyway” (208). But Alexie’s second novel, Indian Killer, seems determined


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to show, to the contrary, that Indian violence directed against whites is the order of the day. Indian Killer chronicles the troubled history of John Smith, an Indian adopted at birth by white parents. As we follow Smith’s painful journey to his eventual suicide, we learn that random white men are being murdered—apparently by an Indian (owl feathers, for example, are left beside the bodies), indeed, perhaps by John Smith. His suicide and the novel’s conclusion (the final chapter presents “the Killer” dancing with Indians who arrive to learn the dance), make it certain that Smith is not the killer. The identity of the killer is never revealed, but it seems likely that further murders will ensue—a prospect potentially as fascinating to Indians as it is frightening. For, as Marie Polatkin, a Spokane Indian college student who has befriended John Smith, says, “if some Indian is killing white guys, then it’s a credit to us that it took over five hundred years for it to happen” (418). As for why “some Indian” would be killing white guys, Marie’s cousin, Reggie Polatkin, explains that, Maybe the question should be something different. Maybe you should be wondering which Indian wouldn’t do it. Lots of real Indian men out there have plenty enough reasons to kill a white man. (184) Or, as a homeless Indian man offers, Killer’s got himself two white guys? And that little white boy, enit? That makes the score about ten million to three, in favor of the white guys, enit? This killer’s got a long ways to go. (220) This would seem to be consistent with Leslie Marmon Silko’s statement in Almanac of the Dead that “The Indian Wars have never ended in the Americas” (n.p.). But there is a difference. Almanac, as we have seen, is powerfully committed to the return of the land and a return to indigenous values of “life.” But Silko’s “Indian Wars” are not literally battles between “Indians” and “whites.” They are not racialized, nor do they consist of random acts of violence by “Indians” against “whites,” as seems to be the case in Indian Killer. Almanac manages to show the complementarity of nationalist (sovereign control over the land base), indigenist (implementation of an Other knowledge derived from the land), and cosmopolitan (participation on the part of all those committed to the nationalist and indigenist agenda in the name of justice) positions in the resistance to colonialism. Its politics are fully imagined. This could not be said for the politics of Indian Killer, which amount very nearly to a kind of anarchic racist terrorism. We do not want to be misunderstood here: we are not calling Sherman Alexie a racist, a charge that would not only be most unfair, but would also ignore the complex and even contradictory ways that Alexie is engaging the legacy of racism in the United States. Rather, we are saying that Indian Killer seems to exhibit the attitude that Anthony Appiah has called “intrinsic racism,” the belief “that the bare fact of being of the same race [here, even if one doesn’t actually believe in ‘race’] is a reason for preferring one person over another” (1989:45). This is, in the phrase of Jean-Paul Sartre, an “anti-racist racism” (1969:n.p.), but its mobilization in Indian Killer, pitting Indians against whites, although surely a kind of resistance to colonialism, is vague and ominous. The absence of some form of nationalist, indigenist, or cosmopolitan foundation makes it difficult to accept the violence of the novel as imaginatively or politically productive. Nonetheless, the anger in Indian Killer is power-

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


ful—powerful enough to have caught short those reviewers who also want Alexie to be funny. Indian Killer is not funny. Roughly to sum up: the most powerful force of Alexie’s resistance to colonialism may finally be in his adamant refusal to represent Native people, Indians, in ways that fit prevailing Euro-American stereotypes. Yet few of Alexie’s Indians could be enlisted for the cause of cosmopolitanism; they don’t want to be citizens of the world or champions of a generalized or, indeed, universalized freedom, nor do they want to be cosmopolitan patriots committed to tribal values (e.g., Vizenor in Heirs) in which all may share. To the contrary, a great many of them are exclusivists, even antiracist racists who pit Indians against whites. Yet they are not nationalists, for there is no specific concern for a given nation-people or for the “return of the land.” Nor, as we have already suggested, are they indigenists. The knowledge Alexie’s Indians have in common is not land- or culture-based. Rather, it is whatever oppression has taught, an experience, a pain, something that Indians just have; having it makes them Indians. Like many others, we are looking forward to seeing where the young and talented Sherman Alexie takes all this next. * * * The most recent edition of Greg Sarris’s Grand Avenue (originally published in 1994) calls the book a “novel in stories,” but it might more properly be considered a short story cycle about Pomo Indians of mixed descent living in the South Park neighborhood of Santa Rosa, California. Like the chapters of Erdrich’s Love Medicine, each story in Grand Avenue can be read as a separate unit, yet the reader who proceeds through all of the stories gradually expands a knowledge of the histories that bind these characters together as well as drive them apart. Sarris, who was raised in both white and Indian families, uses the form of the short story collection to create a heterogeneous portrait of a community. A variety of voices and characters—connected to larger histories without being incorporated into the unified narrative of a conventional novel—command center stage, so that Grand Avenue implicitly presents a vision of community that, like Erdrich’s fiction, stresses the plurality of ways in which individuals understand their own places within it. The reader meets characters wellversed in their families’ jealousies and grudges, as well as those new to them. “Joy Ride” is narrated by a Portuguese man who recalls his youthful affair with a desperate Indian girl; “Secret Letters” is narrated by a Pomo who is from a different branch of the tribe but moves near Grand Avenue so that he can be closer to his unacknowledged son; and several stories revolve around the power of songs and singers, both to heal and to poison. Throughout Grand Avenue, Sarris alludes to the events that have both dispersed this community and reconstituted it in Santa Rosa: the forced attempts at assimilation by Indian boarding schools (163), the government termination of tribal reservations in the middle of the twentieth century (197), and the subsequent forced relocation of Indians to urban areas. Resistance to this history of colonialism does not come in the form of political organization, but rather through the equally difficult process of cultural transmission, epitomized by the basket making of Nellie Copaz.60 In the final story of the book,“The Water Place,” Nellie has found a young Indian student, Alice, to whom she will teach basket making. Although they are producing what might be referred to as “material culture,” Nellie stresses the importance of storytelling to Alice: “Talk. It’s important to talk. Us Indians are all family. That’s the trouble, no one talks. Stories, the true stories, that’s what we need to hear” (219). For Sarris, whose subsequent novel, Watermelon Nights (1998), takes place in the same setting, fiction


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apparently can contribute to the “talk” necessary for Native survival, what Gerald Vizenor calls “survivance.” At the end of “The Water Place,” Nellie realizes Alice may be able not only to make baskets but also to sing the powerful healing songs that Nellie has heard for years from the green frog. “The frog winks at me and I smile like never before,” Nellie says. “I’m not too old for miracles” (229). This kind of relatively unqualified optimism seems difficult to imagine in the reservation world that Adrian Louis presents in his novel, Skins (1995). Louis, the author of several wellreceived books of poetry and the short-fiction collection Wild Indians and Other Creatures (1996), is a member of the Lovelock Paiute Indian Tribe, but sets his fiction in and around the Lakota reservations where he lives and teaches. In Skins, Louis continues his attempts to present the near impossibility of simple survival on a reservation like Pine Ridge. Throughout the novel, Louis’s protagonist, the tribal policeman Rudy Yellow Shirt, wonders at the violence he witnesses on the reservation and refers to his fellow Lakotas as refusing to acknowledge either their own problems or their own complicity in them. “Deep inside he dreamed that he’d see his Indian people healed or at least awakened to a consciousness where they could admit they were in a deep state of denial about their myriad problems,” Louis writes (116). The novel traces Rudy’s attempts both to stem the cycle of violence through vigilante actions—which ironically take the form of even more violence—and to help his alcoholic brother, Mogie. Neither effort succeeds, and the book ends with Mogie’s death, as well as a final act of vigilante vandalism—this time directed at Mount Rushmore, a physical reminder of the history of U.S. colonialism. Louis is too subtle to suggest that marring George Washington’s granite face could actually solve any of the problems that Rudy and his community must confront, but he is careful to conclude this novel about the internal violence of the reservation community by pointing to a symbol of the external forces that have shaped contemporary Indian life. Skins suggests that the first step of resistance will be to recognize that both forms of violence are to blame for the state of affairs that it depicts on this Lakota reservation. In a way similar to Alexie’s fiction, Louis’s novel tries to show the intense, confused, emotional outpouring that necessarily accompanies such recognition. The violence and emotional confusion of Skins also dominate Louis’s Wild Indians and Other Creatures, which, like Sarris’s Grand Avenue, is a set of linked stories centering on a tribal community. What distinguishes Wild Indians from most other Native American fiction, including his own novel, Skins, is that the animal characters—Coyote, Bear, and Raven—appear to be living near the Pine Ridge Reservation and pursuing their everyday lives just as their human counterparts are. Coyote tries to curb his sexual desire; Bear endeavors to satiate his appetite; and Raven tries to rebound from his (human) wife’s rejection by taking a job as a teaching aide in a tribal elementary school. Unlike, for instance, Thomas King’s incorporation of Coyote into the world of Green Grass, Running Water, Louis’s human and animal characters become equally real over the course of the book, for they all inhabit a universe in which violence and despair have become too much the norm. Wild Indians begins with wild comedy, as Coyote’s lust for human dogcatchers leads to his being killed—at least temporarily, for he is Coyote. But the book becomes tragic as Louis includes several stories about the decline of Marianna Two Knives, whose alcoholism eventually leads to her death. As in Sherman Alexie’s fiction, resistance to colonialism would seem to be possible only if one could somehow balance rage and humor as modes of responding to the violence of the world. The Pine Ridge Reservation is frequently cited as one of the poorest communities in the United States; Louis himself mentions the relevant

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


statistics in Skins (162). In that book as well as in Wild Indians, he describes a world in which it takes all of the emotional, cultural, and psychic resources one can muster simply to survive. The last story of Wild Indians depicts Bear waking from his winter hibernation fresh from “horrible,” “apocalyptic” dreams. He re-dreams the dream of his grandfather, “The Dream of the Comet of Despair,” which had foretold the horrors of destruction of the Holocaust and World War II (177–78). Instead of mass destruction, though, Bear finds the body of Teddy Two Bears, a gay Gulf War veteran who has committed suicide out of fear that he will fall victim to reservation violence. Bear resurrects Teddy and offers to help him recover. This event might seem to parallel the “miracle” of cultural continuance at the end of Grand Avenue, but the tone of Wild Indians has much more in common with the ambiguity and frustration of Skins than with Sarris’s conclusion. In fact, Indian survivance is hardly a certain matter in either Sarris’s or Louis’s fiction; their works depict communities as likely to splinter into irreconcilable fragments as they are to hold together. * * * “Perma Red” is a derogatory epithet—“Slut. . . . a label that said she was Indian and nothing more” (229)—for sixteen-year-old Louise White Elk, who is at the center of Debra Magpie Earling’s Perma Red (2002). The book jacket says that the story is set “In the 1940s on the Flathead Indian Reservation,” but except for the mention of Lana Turner (141), references to LaSalle automobiles61 (86, 88), and the fact that an expensive meal costs two dollars (225), there is nothing in the book that suggests a time other than the present. Louise has been the object of Baptiste Yellow Knife’s attention at least since she was nine, when, the first page of the novel informs the reader, Yellow Knife “blew a fine powder in her face and told her she would disappear” (3). Baptiste, “the darkest Indian Louise had ever seen” (6), is “from the old ways,” knowing “stories no one but the eldest elder knew . . . without being told” (4). Baptiste is also a heavy drinker and a violent man. He and Louise marry, but do not live together as husband and wife for long. Also intensely focused on Louise are Harvey Stoner, Jules Bart, and Charlie Kicking Woman. Stoner is a rich white man who takes Louise to places where she more or less passes as white, and he buys her gifts and meals. Bart, also a white man, is a former “champion rodeo roper” (39), whom Louise notices at a time when Baptiste Yellow Knife’s “interest in her repelled her,” so that “Jules Bart’s disinterest attracted her” (39). Charlie Kicking Woman, nine years older than Yellow Knife and related to him, is a Flathead tribal policeman married to a Yakima woman. Charlie is also fascinated with Louise to the point of near obsession. He is the only character who narrates in the first person, and some of his reflections on the life of his community may be taken as implying an indigenist and nationalist opposition to colonialism. Based on Earling’s Aunt Louise, who died in the ’40s, Louise White Elk, Earling has noted, is one “of those young men and woman . . . on the Reservation who are so brilliant and talented and beautiful and somehow you can’t get through to them” (2). Something similar might be said of Baptiste Yellow Knife, except that rather than brilliance, and talent, and beauty, Baptiste has power. As Louise’s grandmother affirms, “He is the last of our old ones, and he is dangerous” (5). Earling intended the novel to conclude with the deaths of Baptiste and Louise, and much has been made of the fact that she changed her ending because prospective publishers found at least “Louise’s death . . . just more than they could handle” (Earling 4). Some have taken this as an instance of the unfortunate necessity of


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Native writers having to accommodate the demands of the publishing industry. But Earling herself does not see it that way. Noting that “Louise was only sixteen when she died,” Earling says that it seemed valuable to imagine “what would have happened if she lived,” adding, “Giving that chance of hope in fiction is a really good thing” (4). Although, near the end of the novel, Baptiste has been beaten almost to death by Bart and Stoner and Louise nearly killed in a car wreck with them, the book’s last paragraph is, indeed, hopeful. Louise sees Baptiste riding toward her “straight-backed and proud . . . wearing his finest silks. Silver bells trembled around the chest of his horse”—who had also just recently been very seriously hurt. Louise let the blanket drop from her shoulders. She stepped from the porch and had to catch herself. She didn’t care if her hair was matted and dirty; her husband was beautiful. She wanted to run to him. She stepped forward. (296) The hopeful ending may be taken either as romantic or realistic; Louise and Baptiste, survivors of an extraordinary amount of violence, may or may not live out their lives among their people. Baptiste has thrown away the bottle (290) and prayed, “Give my life back to me . . . knowing he was asking for the life of Louise” (290). As for Louise, at the least we are told that “she was no longer restless” (295), and that in thinking about Baptiste, whom she believes to be dead, she remembers her grandmother teaching her “to forgive” (295). It is Charlie Kicking Woman who brings Baptiste, badly beaten, back to his mother’s house (although Charlie is also the one who left him in the hands of Stoner and Bart) and saves Louise from the wreck. It is also Charlie who sets fire to Harvey Stoner, soaked with gasoline, blowing up the wrecked car beside which he lies. Immediately before snapping a lighter, Charlie, curiously, says to himself, “I can save the whole Flathead Nation” (277), a comment that may have to do only with ridding the nation of Stoner’s economic incursions, but one that seems to mean more. As he lies on a stretcher in an ambulance next to Louise, the last word Charlie speaks in his own first-person voice is, “Safe.” This refers to his physical condition and also to that of Louise (he sees “her chest expand gathering air” [279]) and realizes she is alive), yet it, too, seems to mean something more. As we have noted in regard to the novels of Louise Erdrich,62 the community she describes does not identify itself as either tribal or national, although it does generally identify with a history of resistance to the colonial power that would disperse or disintegrate it. The (much smaller) community of Earling’s novel also is not particularly conscious of itself in national terms, or even, it seems, in historical terms beyond a generation or two. But if, as Earling has remarked in an interview, Charlie Kicking Woman speaks not only for himself but also for other Flathead people, it might be that the force resisting colonialism in this novel is the indigenist’s identification of the community—the tribe or nation—with the land. Charlie articulates this identification early in the novel when he says, “I compare Louise to the land” (28). “I can’t stop looking at this land,” he continues, and I guess that’s what Louise is like to me. She’s always changing. I can’t get a fix on her. But because we have shared close to the same plot of land, because we are from the same tribe, we are alike. Something about Louise and something about all Indians here is something about me, a blood kinship, a personal history shared. (26) This “personal history” is also more than personal, as Charlie’s own words convey; it is “a blood kinship,” and about sharing “the same plot of land.” This connection, as Charlie’s meditation continues, is something lacking between him and his Yakima wife, Aida, some-

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


thing that the Flathead and Yakima nations each feel internally although not in common with other Native nations. Meanwhile, it is certainly the case, as in Erdrich’s work, that all Native people in the novel identify with a common history of oppression. We choose to end this survey of Native American fiction with Perma Red because these matters—the relationship between personal and communal history, the violence that often explodes because of conflicts over land, and the complexities of kinship in communities under the stress of colonialism—will likely be significant in the new fiction published by Indian authors in the decades to come. Indeed, these same themes drive many of the fine works—Devon Mihesuah’s The Roads of My Relations (2000) and Lee Anne Howe’s Shell Shaker (2001), novels about the Choctaw past and present, Charles H. Red Corn’s depiction of the violence precipitated by Osage oil wealth in A Pipe for February (2002), and Richard van Camp’s stories about the Dogrib Nation of Canada in Angel Splash Wing (2002), for instance—that constraints of space have prevented us from discussing. These works, and many others, provide evidence that Native American fiction will continue to play a vibrant and vital role in the twenty-first century indigenous response to the legacies of colonialism present in Indian country. In spite of the growing number of films written and directed by Native Americans, fiction remains the primary means by which Native artists articulate narrative alternatives to the dominant imagination. While we would not wish to conclude with undue optimism, we suggest that the ultimate work of this body of fiction may be nothing less than the reimagination of Native identities and communities to the point where they become truly postcolonial. Notes 1. Termination formally began in the Eisenhower administration with the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 108 in 1953. The Nixon administration marked the end of termination with a policy speech in 1970. For the speech and the resolution, see Prucha, Documents of United States Indian Policy, 3rd ed. 2. See Robert Dale Parker’s multifaceted critique of the conflation of “the Indian, the oral and the poetical” (6). 3. See the discussions of Erdrich, King, and Vizenor, below. 4. And more recently by Craig Womack. 5. See the Cheyfitz essay in this volume, 3. 6. See for example, Cheyfitz, “The Colonial Double Bind: Sovereignty and Civil Rights in Indian Country,” 223–40. 7. While we begin in 1968, we would be remiss not to mention that important Native American novels appeared in the 1920s and 1930s, including Mourning Dove’s Cogewea, the Half-Blood (1927), John Joseph Mathews’s Sundown (1934), and D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded (1936). Moreover, Dallas Chief Eagle’s 1967 novel, Winter Count, has recently been republished. 8. See Kenneth Lincoln’s Native American Renaissance. Although there are many more differences between the Renaissance and the “Native American Renaissance,” the term has been generally accepted. 9. For what use it may have, let us at least name some of the post–Momaday Native American fiction writers we will not be able to discuss (although some few of them will receive mention along the way): Paula Gunn Allen, Betty Louise Bell, D. L. Birchfield, Robert Conley, Gordon Henry, Michael Dorris, Devon Mihesuah, LeAnne Howe, W. S. Penn, Susan Power, Ron Querry, Charles Red Corn, David Treuer, Richard Van Camp, Anna Lee Walters, Craig Womack. There are also short story collections by Jack Forbes, an important Native American scholar, and by the poets Simon Ortiz and Maurice Kenny. 10. Typically,“mixed-blood” refers to a person of Indian and European parentage, but in Abel’s case Momaday makes it clear that while his mother was Jemez, “he did not know who his father was” (11).


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11. This is true in Europe as well as the United States. Maria Moss’s We’ve Been Here Before: Women in Creation Myths and Contemporary Literature of the Native American Southwest (1993) offers a strong sense of Abel’s—and Momaday’s—success in HMOD. Moss writes of Abel’s running at the end of the novel, “The race becomes a tie with his ancestral and cultural past and helps him achieve full psychic and physical integration” (100; our emphasis), surely an unequivocal estimate. 12. He had earlier published a volume of poems, Riding the Earthboy 40. WIB was published by Harper and Row. All of Welch’s novels, like Momaday’s and Silko’s, have been published by major, eastern, commercial presses. 13. But not for African American fiction, e.g., Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man. The African diaspora and the slave experience stripped their names from the people, or substituted “slave names” for their “real” names. In WIB, although the narrator’s dead brother has a name, Mose, his grave, “barely visible in the weeds,” has “no headstone, no name, no dates” (143). 14. Welch named the title character of his 1990 novel, The Indian Lawyer, Sylvester Yellow Calf. In Fools Crow, a character named Yellow Kidney is impressed by the strength and apparent fearlessness of a yellow buffalo calf and decides to “take his name away for his grandson. Yellow Calf. A strong name, one that would someday be spoken with fear in the camps of the enemies” (245). 15. It is not possible to specify exactly the dates of Yellow Calf ’s narrative of the winter Standing Bear died. But the reference to its being “the cruelest winter,” in which these Blackfeet “were running from the soldiers” (152), seems to indicate the winter of 1870, when Colonel Baker’s troops massacred Heavy Runner’s encampment, made up predominantly of women, children, and elders. Welch has written at length of this massacre in his documentary book Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians. 16. This is partly a joke, but, like much else in the book, only partly. 17. This has been taken as a “positive” ending by some critics who emphasize Loney’s choice of time and place as warriorlike. This conclusion would seem to require a considerable stretch of the imagination. 18. It has been noted that Welch’s mastery of French culture of this earlier time is less than perfect. 19. David Murray has pointed out a certain unlikelihood that Charging Elk, after more than twenty years in France, during which time he has become fairly fluent in the French language, would still continue to think in terms of “two sleeps ago,” and the like (personal communication). Perhaps—but perhaps not. 20. See chapter 1 of Krupat, Red Matters: Native American Studies. 21. Robert Dale Parker makes the important point that Tayo and Abel are both “restless young men with nothing to do,” in this regard replicating the situations of the characters “in two Indian novels published during the depression, John Joseph Mathews’ Sundown (1934) and D’Arcy McNickle’s The Surrounded (1936).” Preoccupation with characters of this sort, Parker notes, “continues with remarkable consistency through later Indian writing, including writing by women” (5). 22. See chapter 2 of Krupat, The Turn to the Native. 23. Cheyfitz, “The (Post)Colonial Predicament of Native American Studies,” 421, 423. 24. Tribal control over Indian children was finally acknowledged by federal law in 1978 with the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act, which had the primary purpose of establishing guidelines for the adoption of Native children. 25. For a detailed and admiring account of Gardens, see Brewster Fitz. 26. We quote here from “Almost Browne,” the short story included in the 1991 collection Landfill Meditations: Crossblood Stories (6). Almost Browne is also the protagonist of Vizenor’s later novel, Hotline Healers: An Almost Browne Novel (1997). 27. On this topic, see especially Vizenor’s essay, “Bone Courts: The Natural Rights of Tribal Bones,” in Crossbloods: Bone Courts, Bingo, and Other Reports, 62–82. Vizenor’s advocacy of bone courts seems to presage the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA), which became law in 1990, presumably while Heirs of Columbus was in press. NAGPRA directs federally funded agencies and museums to return human remains and artifacts to the appropriate Native American tribes. It also makes provisions for future remains and items found on federal or tribal lands, and enables tribes to request that objects housed in museums be returned to them, provided that the objects are

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


deemed crucial to the tribe’s “cultural patrimony.” The best-known controversy arising from NAGPRA has been over the disposition of the so-called “Kennewick Man,” human remains found near the Columbia River in Washington State and claimed as an ancestor by several tribes residing in the area. 28. This question is also a leading subject of Vizenor’s essay on “Native Transmotion” in Fugitive Poses, 167–99. 29. Even more recently, the prolific Vizenor has published Hiroshima Bugi: Atomu 57 (2003), a novel that takes his trickster characters to Japan and that appeared too late to be included in this discussion. 30. We do not address the role of Erdrich’s late husband Michael Dorris in her fiction. In published interviews, Erdrich and Dorris both emphasized the substantial contributions that each made to the work published under the name of the other. Dorris, who was of partial Modoc descent, committed suicide in 1997 following a year-long estrangement from Erdrich. For several interviews in which they discuss their collaboration, see Chavkin and Chavkin, Conversations with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris. 31. Erdrich has more recently published another novel that focuses on non-Indian characters, The Master Butcher’s Singing Club (2003), which appeared while this essay was in press. 32. Silko’s review, “Here’s an Odd Artifact for the Fairy-Tale Shelf,” was reprinted in Studies in American Indian Literatures 10 (1986): 177–84. 33. Nancy J. Peterson discusses this point in “History, Postmodernism, and Louise Erdrich’s Tracks.” 34. Alan Chavkin discusses the more overt politics of the additions to Love Medicine in “Vision and Revision in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine,” in Chavkin 1999. 35. For a brief, nonfictional account of the “Osage Reign of Terror” in the 1920s, see Fixico 39–47. Moreover, as we mention below, Charles Red Corn’s recent A Pipe for February (2002) offers another fictional account of the period, this one from an Osage perspective. 36. Jennifer Gillan more completely discusses the limitations of federal law in Mean Spirit in her article, “The Hazards of Osage Fortunes,” 1–25. 37. A reader of Hogan’s memoir, The Woman Who Watches Over the World, will notice some similarities between the violence suffered by Angel and the abuse suffered by Hogan’s own adopted children from their Indian mother. See, in particular, the memoir chapter, “Silence Is My Mother,” 68–112. 38. Equally important was a 1973 judgment by the Canadian Supreme Court in the case of Calder v. British Columbia, which involved the claim of aboriginal title by the Nishga Indians of British Columbia. The court dismissed the suit on a technicality, but publicly divided on the question of claims to land through aboriginal title.“The Court’s indecision spurred the federal government to develop a policy of negotiating land claims based on historical claims to aboriginal title” (Boldt and Long 10). In its more recent decision in Delgamuuk v. British Columbia, the Canadian Supreme Court has both recognized legally enforceable claims of aboriginal title and identified the specific criteria that claimants must meet to establish its existence (Imai 66–69). 39. One accessible discussion of such testimony occurs in James Clifford’s well-known chapter on the efforts of the Mashpee Indians to win recognition of their tribal status; see The Predicament of Culture 277–346. 40. The novel does not explicitly say whether Ama Eaton is being prosecuted under Florida or U.S. law, presumably because the distinction would make little difference to Omishto. However, since the location of the killing seems to be one reason the case is dismissed—“And the place, the reserve, is not their jurisdiction” (143)—it seems likely that Ama Eaton is being tried by a Florida court. 41. Glancy’s recent Stone Heart: A Novel of Sacajawea (Woodstock, NY: Overlook Press, 2003), is also a work of historical fiction. Unfortunately, it appeared too late for inclusion in this essay. 42. Glancy discusses the various fictional forms she has chosen in her essay,“The Cold-and-Hunger Dance,” which appears in the book of the same name (6–9). 43. Glancy herself gives slightly different figures in Pushing the Bear: “From October 1838 through February 1839 some eleven to thirteen thousand Cherokee walked nine hundred miles in bitter cold from the southeast to Indian Territory. One fourth died or disappeared along the way” (n.p.). See Krupat’s “Répresenter la Dépossession des Cherokee” for a further account of her use of the historical and cultural record.


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44. For instance, one might note that Glancy’s version of this story differs substantially from other published versions, such as the one included in James Mooney’s Myths of the Cherokee (1902), 325–29. Since Glancy’s novel quotes from this volume (34), it seems likely that she would be aware of the version of the story there recorded. 45. Richter, Facing East from Indian Country, 230. Mooney uses the terms “conservative and progressive” (1902:113) to describe the two Cherokee factions. It should be emphasized that these, like Richter’s “nativist” and “accommodationist,” are Western terms used to describe factionalism within Indian communities due to colonial pressures. “Progressive” and “conservative” here are only meaningful in relation to Western ideas of progress. (Justice’s more recently articulated terms of “Chicamauga consciousness” and the “Beloved Path,” on the other hand, are specific to Cherokee tribal history of the late eighteenth century.) Within the “progressive” Cherokee faction there were also two factions: those who opposed removal (the John Ross faction or National Party) and those who promoted it as what they felt was the only way for the Cherokees to survive (the Ridge/Boudinot faction or Treaty Party). This latter group, which represented a very small minority of the tribe, signed the removal treaty, the Treaty of New Echota, in 1835 against the wishes of the large majority of the Cherokees and their elected principal chief, Ross. Among the laws that the Cherokees passed was one forbidding the sale of land by individuals on pain of death. Shortly after the Cherokees reached Oklahoma territory, the leaders of the Ridge/Boudinot faction were assassinated for their betrayal of the tribe. The Cherokee Nation re-formed after removal, and then its governmental institutions were dismantled once again during allotment. Today, it is the largest (in terms of population) Indian nation precisely because its enrollment requirements are very flexible: if a person can trace his or her line back to the Dawes rolls, he or she can enroll as a Cherokee, though the federal goverment will only recognize those who have at least one quarter Cherokee blood; the others come under recognition by Oklahoma. There is also the federally recognized Eastern Band of Cherokee, the descendants of those Cherokees who were able to escape the removals. 46. King states, “I’m Cherokee from Oklahoma, but I don’t think of Oklahoma as home. If I think of any place as home it’s the Alberta prairies, where I spent ten years with the Blackfoot people. I’m not Blackfoot, but that feels like the place I want to get back to” (Canton 92). 47. See, for instance, Constance Rooke, “Interview with Tom King,” 72. 48. These rights are circumscribed in specific ways. See .htm for a detailed description of the legal parameters of this issue going back to the Jay Treaty of 1794, which granted free passage and duty-free transport of personal goods to Indians living on both sides of the U.S.–Canadian border. 49. See the Great Falls Tribune online, Wednesday, June 19, 2002, for a story by Jennifer Perez with the following headline: blackfoot confederacy gathers, u.s. won’t allow canadian headdress in; tribes see it as part of cross-border inequality. The story reports: On his way to a Blackfoot Confederacy meeting in Great Falls, Canadian Blood Chief Chris Shade called Canadian authorities to ensure his sacred eagle feather warbonnet could come with him. But when he got to the Sweet Grass port, the U.S. Border Patrol enforced a U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulation forbidding Canada’s first nation people to transport eagle feathers into the United States. Shade, leader of the Blood or Kainaiwa Nation, had even provided the U.S. Customs Service documentation identifying him as a chief and saying that the headdress would be used for ceremony. But, unlike the United States, Canada doesn’t have a mechanism allowing Canadian Indians to bring eagle feathers across its border for religious purposes. 50. King himself calls Medicine River a “cycle of stories” in Rooke, “Interview with Thomas King,” 63. See also King’s discussion of his attempt to create “a fiction that de-values heroes and villains in favour of the members of a community” in “Godzilla vs. Post-colonial” 14. For a fine recent discussion of Medicine River, see Parker 145–67. Parker convincingly places King in an Indian tradition of depicting “restless young men” and explains how King revises that tradition. 51. King has said that his attempts to write in such a style were influenced by his reading the stories of the Okanagon storyteller Harry Robinson, edited by Wendy Wickwire in Write It on Your Heart: The

American Indian Fiction and Anticolonial Resistance


Epic World of an Okanagon Storyteller. Several stories in One Good Story, That One also show Robinson’s influence. For some of King’s comments on Robinson, see “Peter Gzowski Interviews Thomas King on Green Grass, Running Water,” 72. 52. For a guide to references like these in Green Grass, Running Water, see Flick (1999)—a must for every first-time teacher of the novel. 53. The name “Bill Bursum” is a reference to the infamous “Bursum Bill”—legislation introduced in 1922 by Senator Holm Bursum that would have settled land disputes between whites and the Pueblos of New Mexico in favor of the whites. 54. The reference here is to the November 29, 1864 slaughter by Colonel John Chivington and his Colorado Volunteers of 105 Arapaho and Cheyenne women and children, along with 28 men from these tribes. For a beautiful and disturbing meditation on this event and its meaning for America, see Simon Ortiz’s book of poetry, From Sand Creek. 55. The Ghost Dance was a pantribal religious movement that spread throughout the western United States in 1889 and 1890. A syncretic movement, the Ghost Dance took slightly different forms among the various tribes, and sometimes included elements of Christianity. Its adherents (at least, many of them) believed that widespread ceremonial dancing could return the buffalo to the Plains, resurrect Indian dead, and restore Indian lands to the tribes. The U.S. government considered the Ghost Dance to be a dangerous activity and attempted to prohibit its practice. Frequently, historians of the United States treat the Ghost Dance as the final overt resistance of tribal peoples to the federal government; Native American intellectuals, on the other hand, often mention the Ghost Dance when speaking about the possibility of widespread, dramatic cultural revitalization. Published in 1896, James Mooney’s The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890 remains one of the most complete accounts of the Ghost Dance. For an excellent account of the prophet of the Ghost Dance, Wovoka, and his teachings, see Michael Hittman, Wovoka and the Ghost Dance (expanded edition). In The Culture Concept: Writing and Difference in the Age of Realism, Elliott discusses the limitations of Mooney’s account and the difficulty that non-Indians had in facing the political demands of the Ghost Dance (104–23). 56. Monroe Swimmer also shares the surname of Ross Swimmer, a former principal chief of the Cherokee Nation who later served as the Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs from 1985 to 1989. 57. Monroe Swimmer’s actions clearly reference NAGPRA (see note 27, above), particularly since the novel suggests that he is primarily visiting museums in the United States. 58. Neugin was interviewed by Grant Foreman, who included the testimony relevant to King’s novel in his The Five Civilized Tribes, 283 note 4. 59. Owens’s first novel, Wolfsong (1991), is the sole exception to this rule. Wolfsong begins with Tom Joseph returning to his birthplace, Forks, Washington, after his first year of college in Santa Barbara, California. 60. In a limited way—particularly in her basket making—Nellie Copaz resembles Mabel McKay, the Pomo basket maker and storyteller about whom Sarris has written extensively, both in Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holisitic Approach to American Indian Texts (1993) and Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream (1994). 61. There is a reference to a “ ’42 custom LaSalle” (88), although the last LaSalle was produced in 1940. 62. Earling, who began her novel in 1984, just before the publication of Love Medicine, had planned to have the story told by a number of first-person narrators. As she reworked it over the years, the only one first-person narrative retained was that of Charlie Kicking Woman.

Works Cited Adams, David Wallace. Education for Extinction: American Indians and the Boarding-School Experience, 1875–1928. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1995. Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. ——. Reservation Blues. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1995.


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——. Indian Killer. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 1996. ——. The Toughest Indian in the World. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2000. Allen, Paula Gunn. The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Tradition. Boston: Beacon, 1986. Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. New York: Verso, 1991. Appiah, K. Anthony. “The Conservation of ‘Race.’” Black American Literature Forum 23 (1989): 37–60. ——. “Cosmopolitan Patriots.” Critical Inquiry 23 (1997): 617–39. Bevis, William. “Native American Novels: Homing In.” In Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature, ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 580–620. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. Biolsi, Thomas, and Larry J. Zimmerman, eds. In My Father’s House: Africa in the Philosophy of Culture. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. ——. Indians and Anthropologists: Vine Deloria, Jr., and the Critique of Anthropology. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997. Blaeser, Kimberly M. Gerald Vizenor: Writing in the Oral Tradition. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996. Boldt, Menno, and J. Anthony Long. Introduction to The Quest for Justice: Aboriginal Rights and Aboriginal Peoples, ed. Menno Boldt and J. Anthony Long, in association with Leroy Little Bear, 3–14. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985. Canton, Jeffrey.“Coyote Lives” (interview with Thomas King). In The Power to Bend Spoons: Interviews with Canadian Novelists, ed. Beverley Daurio, 90–97. Toronto: Mercury Press, 1998. Castillo, Susan Perez. “Postmodernism, Native American Literature and the Real: The Silko-Erdrich Controversy.” Massachusetts Review 32 (1991): 285–94. Chavkin, Allan. “Vision and Revision in Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine.” In The Chippewa Landscape of Louise Erdrich, ed. Allan Chavkin, 84–116. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999. Chavkin, Allan, and Nancy Feyl Chavkin, eds. Conversations with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1994. Cheyfitz, Eric. “The (Post)Colonial Predicament of Native American Studies.” Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 4 (2002): 405–27. ——. “The Colonial Double Bind: Sovereignty and Civil Rights in Indian Country.” University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law 5, no. 2 (January 2003): 223–40. ——. “The (Post)colonial Construction of Indian Country: U.S. American Indian Literatures and Federal Indian Law.” This volume. Clifford, James. The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. ——. Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1997. Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. Why I Can’t Read Wallace Stegner and Other Essays: A Tribal Voice. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1996. Diamond, Billy. “Aboriginal Rights: The James Bay Experience.” In The Quest for Justice: Aboriginal Rights and Aboriginal Peoples, ed. Menno Boldt and J. Anthony Long, in association with Leroy Little Bear, 265–85. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985. Donaldson, Laura. “Noah Meets Old Coyote, or Singing in the Rain: Intertextuality in Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 7, no. 2 (1995): 35–51. Earling, Debra Magpie. Perma Red. New York: BlueHen Books, 2002. Elliott, Michael A. The Culture Concept: Writing and Difference in the Age of Realism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002. Erdrich, Louise. The Beet Queen. New York: Holt, 1986. ——. Tracks. New York: Holt, 1988. ——. Love Medicine. New and expanded ed. New York: HarperPerennial, 1993. ——. The Bingo Palace. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. ——. Tales of Burning Love. New York: HarperCollins, 1996.

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——. The Antelope Wife. New York: HarperFlamingo, 1998. ——. The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. New York: HarperCollins, 2001. ——. The Master Butcher’s Singing Club. New York: HarperCollins, 2003. Evers, Larry J. “Words and Place: A Reading of House Made of Dawn.” Western American Literature 11, no. 4 (1977): 297–320. Fitz, Brewster. Silko: Writing Storyteller and Medicine Woman. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2004. Fixico, Donald Lee. The Invasion of Indian Country in the Twentieth Century: American Capitalism and Tribal Natural Resources. Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1998. Flick, Jane. “Reading Notes for Thomas King’s Green Grass, Running Water.” Canadian Literature 161/162 (1999): 140–71. Foreman, Grant. The Five Civilized Tribes. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1934. Gillan, Jennifer. “The Hazards of Osage Fortunes: Gender and the Rhetoric of Compensation in Federal Policy and American Indian Fiction.” Arizona Quarterly 54, no. 3 (1998): 1–25. Gilroy, Paul. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993. Glancy, Diane. Trigger Dance. Boulder, CO: Fiction Collective Two, 1990. ——. Firesticks. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993. ——. Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996. ——. The West Pole. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997. ——. Flutie. Wakefield, R.I.: Moyer Bell, 1998. ——. The Voice That Was in Travel. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999. ——. The Mask Maker. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Gzowski, Peter. “Peter Gzowski Interviews Thomas King on Green Grass, Running Water.” Canadian Literature 161/162 (1999): 65–76. Henry, Gordon. The Light People. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. Hittman, Michael. Wovoka and the Ghost Dance. Expanded ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997). Hogan, Linda. Solar Storms. New York: Scribner, 1985. ——.“The Two Lives.” In I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers, ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat, 231–49. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987. ——. “To Take Care of Life: An Interview with Linda Hogan.” In Survival This Way: Interviews with Native American Poets, ed. Joseph Bruchac, 119–33. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987. ——. Mean Spirit. 1990; reprint, New York: Ballantine, 1992. ——. Power. New York: Norton, 1998. ——. The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir. New York: Norton, 2001. Howe, LeAnne. Shell Shaker. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 2001. Huhndorf, Shari M. Going Native: Indians in the American Cultural Imagination. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001. Imai, Shin. Aboriginal Law Handbook. 2nd ed. Scarborough, Ontario: Carswell, 1999. Jameson, Fredric. Postmodernism, or The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. Durham: Duke University Press, 1991. Justice, Daniel Heath. Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee Literary History. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, forthcoming). King, Thomas. “Godzilla vs. Post-colonial.” World Literature Written in English 30, no. 2 (1990): 10–16. ——. Medicine River. 1989; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1991. ——. One Good Story, That One. Toronto: HarperCollins, 1993. ——. Green Grass, Running Water. 1993; reprint, New York: Bantam, 1994. ——. Truth and Bright Water. New York: Grove Press, 1999. Kroeber, Karl. “Technology and Tribal Narrative.” In Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourses on Native American Indian Literatures, ed. Gerald Vizenor, 17–37. 1989; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1993. ——. Artistry in Native American Myths. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.


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Krupat, Arnold. Red Matters: Native American Studies. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2002. ——. “Répresenter la Dépossession des Cherokee.” Recherches amerindienne au Quebec 33 (2003): 11–21. LaLonde, Christopher. Grave Concerns, Trickster Turns: The Novels of Louis Owens. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Lazarus, Neil, S. Evans, A. Arnove, and A. Menke. “The Necessity of Universalism.” Differences 7 (1995): 75–145. Lincoln, Kenneth. Native American Renaissance. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1983. Louis, Adrian C. Skins. New York: Crown, 1995. ——. Wild Indians and Other Creatures. Reno: University of Nevada Press, 1996. Lukács, Georg. The Historical Novel. Trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell. London: Merlin Press, 1962. Mathews, John Joseph. Sundown. 1934; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1988. McNickle, D’Arcy. The Surrounded. 1936; reprint, Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1978. ——. Wind from an Enemy Sky. New York: Harper and Row, 1978. Momaday, N. Scott. House Made of Dawn. New York: Signet/New American Library, 1969. ——. The Way to Rainy Mountain. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1969. ——. The Names: A Memoir. New York: Harper and Row, 1976. ——. The Ancient Child. New York: Doubleday, 1989. ——. In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961–1991. New York: St. Martin’s, 1992. ——. In the Bear’s House. New York: St. Martin’s, 1999. Mooney, James. Myths of the Cherokee. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1902. ——. The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890. 1896; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991. Moss, Maria. We’ve Been Here Before: Women in Creation Myths and Contemporary Literature of the Native American Southwest. Hamburg, Germany: Lit. Munster, 1993. Mourning Dove (Hum-shu-ma). Cogewea, the Half-Blood: A Depiction of the Great Montana Cattle Range. 1927; reprint, Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981. Owens, Louis. Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. ——. The Sharpest Sight. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. ——. Bone Game. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994. ——. Wolfsong. 1991; reprint, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995. ——. Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998. Parker, Robert Dale. The Invention of Native American Literature. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2003. Peterson, Nancy J. “History, Postmodernism, and Louise Erdrich’s Tracks.” PMLA 109 (1994): 982–94. Philp, Kenneth R. Termination Revisited: American Indians on the Trail to Self-Determination, 1933–1953. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1999. Prucha, Francis Paul. The Great Father: The United States Government and the American Indians. 2 vols. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. Red Corn, Charles H. A Pipe for February. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2002. Richter, Daniel K. Facing East from Indian Country: A Native History of Early America. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001. Robinson, Harry. Write It on Your Heart: The Epic World of an Okanagan Storyteller. Comp. and ed. Wendy Wickwire. Vancouver, B.C.: Talonbooks/Theytus, 1989. Rooke, Constance. “Interview with Tom King.” World Literature Written in English 30, no. 2 (1990): 62–76. Sands, Kathleen M. “Love Medicine: Voices and Margins.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 9, no. 1 (Winter 1985): 12–24.

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Sarris, Greg. Keeping Slug Woman Alive: A Holistic Approach to American Indian Texts. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1993. ——. Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1994. ——. Grand Avenue. 1994; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1995. ——. Watermelon Nights. New York: Hyperion, 1998. Sartre, Jean-Paul. “Orpheée Noir.” Introduction to Anthologie de la nouvelle poésie nègre et malgache de langue française, ed. Léopold Senghor. 1948; reprint, Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1969. Scarberry-Garcia, Susan. Landmarks of Healing: A Study of House Made of Dawn. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1990. Schubnell, Matthias. N. Scott Momaday: The Cultural and Literary Background. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985. Schumacher, Michael. “Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris: A Marriage of Minds.” In Conversations with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris, ed. Allan Chavkin and Nancy Feyl Chavkin, 173–83. Jackson: University of Mississippi Press, 1994. Schweninger, Lee. Literary Masters: N. Scott Momaday. Farmington Hills, MI: Gale Group, 2001. Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: Viking, 1977. ——. “Here’s an Odd Artifact for the Fairy-Tale Shelf.” Studies in American Indian Literatures 10 (1986): 177–84. ——. Almanac of the Dead. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1991. ——. Garden in the Dunes. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999. Smith, Paul Chaat, and Robert Warrior. Like a Hurricane: The Indian Movement from Alcatraz to Wounded Knee. New York: New Press, 1996. Tarter, Jim. “‘Dreams of Earth’: Place, Multiethnicity, and Environmental Justice in Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms.” In Reading Under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Ecocriticism, ed. John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington, 128–47. Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 2000. Van Camp, Richard. Angel Splash Wing. Wiarton, Ontario: Kegedonce Press, 2002. Velie, Alan R. Four American Indian Literary Masters: N. Scott Momaday, James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko, and Gerald Vizenor. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1982. Vizenor, Gerald. Earthdivers: Tribal Narratives of Mixed Descent. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1981. ——. “Crows Written on the Poplars: Autocritical Autobiographies.” In I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers, ed. Arnold Krupat and Brian Swann, 99–110. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987. ——. Griever: An American Monkey King in China. Normal: Illinois State University/Fiction Collective, 1987. ——. The Trickster of Liberty. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1988. ——. Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. 1978; reprint, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. (Original title: Darkness in St. Louis Bearheart.) ——. Crossbloods: Bone Courts, Bingo, and Other Reports. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1990. ——. The Heirs of Columbus. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1991. ——. Landfill Meditation: Crossblood Stories. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1991. ——. Dead Voices. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992. ——. Hotline Healers: An Almost Browne Novel. Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1997. ——. Fugitive Poses: Native American Indian Scenes of Presence and Absence. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1998. ——. Chancers. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2000. Weaver, Jace. That the People Might Live: Native American Literatures and Native American Community. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Welch, James. Riding the Earthboy 40. 1975; reprint, New York: Harper and Row, 1976. ——. The Death of Jim Loney. New York: Harper and Row, 1979.

182 Part II ——. Fools Crow. New York: Viking, 1986. ——. Winter in the Blood. 1974; reprint, New York: Penguin, 1986. ——. The Indian Lawyer. New York: Norton, 1990. ——. The Heartsong of Charging Elk. New York: Doubleday, 2000. Womack, Craig S. Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.

2. Cannons and Canonization American Indian Poetries Through Autonomy, Colonization, Nationalism, and Decolonization Kimberly M. Blaeser

The term “research” is inextricably linked to European imperialism and colonialism. . . . It is so powerful that indigenous people even write poetry about research. —Linda Tuhiwai Smith

As this quote from Maori educator Linda Tuhiwai Smith implies, the political reality of a people cannot but inform their art. It attests to the way any colonized people’s experience of imperialism and colonialism ultimately bleeds into the literature until the literature embodies each infected wound of truth. In the twentieth- and twenty-first-century “word wars” that Anishinaabe writer and scholar Gerald Vizenor claims have replaced military conflicts, Smith sees how the awareness of the colonial intention enacted in “research” inevitably gives rise to poetry.1 The poetry of Native America has long been linked to the history of this continent, and the works created during the period under examination strongly illustrate both reflective and resistance functions. At the Returning the Gift festival held in Norman, Oklahoma in October 2001, John A. (Rocky) Barrett, then Chairman of the Citizen Band Potawatomi in Oklahoma, presented his rationale for centering economic development for the tribe on diversifying development beyond casinos, saying, “The government has never allowed Indian people to be prosperous for more than fifteen years.” Indeed, the political history of indigenous peoples on this continent has involved cycles of relative prosperity and recovery interrupted by new policies of encroachment, genocide, or colonization. First contact, for example—which found American indigenous peoples living in reasonable comfort in clan systems within tribal nations with intact cultural and economic systems—was followed by epidemic diseases, enslavement, and warfare. That first onslaught was followed by a period of modest prosperity for some tribes during the fur trade era; then came the policies of removal and the most intense period of military conflict. After this new devastation was a period of modest recovery for some and short-lived prosperity for a small number among the Oklahoma tribes during the

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oil boom. This, of course, was followed by enforcement of the Dawes Allotment Act, blatant land swindling, and a bleak reservation era. And the cycles have continued through the decades, encompassing many terms and policies—Indian reorganization, selfdetermination, termination, until the current era of relative prosperity for many tribal nations via the gaming industry, and yet new threats to Native sovereignty. Riding this seesaw of genocide and survival, Native poetries have likewise experienced face-off after newly refashioned face-off in a literary fight for survival and recognition. The theoretical and ideological threats understandably come entangled in the military and political histories of this continent, as do the contemporary literary responses. Tracing the poetries or reading them, then, inevitably means tracing and reading not only the symbolic, embedded awareness of contested histories but also the very real struggle for national and inter-Indian-national survival.2 The colonization of literature cannot be extracted from the history of colonization of land or people, nor can the ongoing attempts at literary decolonization among indigenous American writers be viewed in any amber-encased “pure” academic discipline. The poetry of indigenous America has both literary and supraliterary intentions. Any examination of this canon must then entwine itself in the same system of relationships from which the art arises. The history of Native poetics involves hundreds of years of vital existence about which we know relatively little. Available materials from the earliest periods of the more than 500 tribes varies greatly, and access to certain ceremonial oral performances or particular kinds of written or inscribed words or images may still be limited to a small number of people within any particular tribal nation. Yet the importance of the earliest literary traditions to contemporary writers cannot be overstated. Whether their acquaintance with those traditions is first- or third-hand, tribal or pantribal; whether the Native authors claim linguistic, stylistic, or philosophical connection, their development of twentieth- and twenty-firstcentury indigenous poetics remains braided with or influenced by those early literary works, performances, and practices. Contemporary poetry arises from the long traditions within the larger cultures of the various Native nations of the Americas, bound to and supporting the spiritual and communal structures of tribal life. The history of Native poetry then begins with rich autonomous literatures of the Americas. The recognition of the contemporary connection with early, primarily oral, indigenous literary traditions has generally been the focus in any discussion of Native poetry in academic circles and has been the primary marketing ploy in the literary marketplace. Indeed, various volumes of translations of Native American songs and chants comprised the greatest percentage of works published in this genre until the late 1960s and early 1970s. These “exotic” works were sometimes highly romanticized in their presentation. With labels like “rain songs,” “war songs,” or “love songs,” the poems enjoyed—and continue to enjoy—a steady audience, and early volumes, such as those edited by Margot Astrov and George Cronyn, have been released in new editions.3 Yet, as the Native literary arts began to be transcribed, translated, annotated, abridged, and interpreted, these previously autonomous literary traditions underwent a colonization that involved convenient amalgamation. In many instances, the translation required to fully render the meaning and significance was never complete. By this I mean that many early works were sifted from their cultural context, displayed in a textual and secular nakedness that ignored the performed quality or distorted the sacred layers of ceremonial poetry. Few versions of traditional songs or poems suggested the language, music, ritual, and history of the original. As scholars made selections, editors edited, anthologizers anthologized, mar-

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keting managers packaged, non-native writers imitated, consumers bought, and popular cultural images flourished, Native poetry was invented as an exotic, romanticized genre of a vanished or vanishing people. Despite the fact that individual songs and poems might be attributed to specific tribes, the works were perceived as a unit and together used to build the composite image of Columbus’s “Indian” and the romantic ideal of the poetry as the remains of a lost culture. The idea of Indian literature, the single entity, was born. The immense popularity of the older, romantically packaged poetry at times has been a barrier to the acceptance of new works by contemporary authors, particularly if those Native authors fail to fulfill the static invented images of “Indian.” While New Age and Native-inspired works have attracted great interest and gained acclaim for their authors, indigenous writers themselves often struggle to gain entrance into the inner literary circles and find their works in competition with the more marketable faux Indian authors and publications. Creek poet and musician Joy Harjo, for example, recalls a story Acoma poet and scholar Simon Ortiz told her about a time he and Blackfeet writer James Welch were performing in Buffalo, New York with a non-Native author who was known for “translating” indigenous songs although, writes Harjo,“he didn’t know tribal languages.”4 The translator performed with rattles and drum, sang and chanted, and after the event, the faux Indian, says Harjo, “was inundated by attention from audience members who loved the performance of real Indian poetry, while Jim and Simon, the real Indians, stood virtually ignored.” Harjo’s report about her appearance with Welch in Amsterdam at the One World Poetry Festival in 1980 likewise illustrates the predicament of contemporary Native writers who fail to fulfill romantic stereotypes: “We knew that they didn’t really see us as exemplary Indians. We didn’t appear or speak Hollywood or AIMster style. . . . Neither of us wore buckskin and feathers.” Mesquakie poet Ray Young Bear voices awareness of the same phenomenon in his collection winter of the salamander, and succinctly makes his case in the title of one of his poems: “in disgust and in response to Indian-type poetry written by whites published in a mag which keeps rejecting me.”5 Canadian scholar Helen Hoy has also noted how the expectations placed on Native authors can be both “inappropriately broad,” requiring them to “illuminate” the whole of Native culture instead of just their own writing, as well as “inappropriately narrow,” with their work inevitably classified as “Native” regardless of the subject matter, thus implicitly requiring them to “restrict their insights only to their own race” (How Shall I Read These 6). The commercial audience for Native literature (singular) desires knowledge of the exotic Other, and to succeed as “ethnic writers,” the primary literary niche to which they are allowed access, indigenous authors must adequately “perform” their Indianness. Clearly, indigenous literatures (plural) have become aware of the expectations placed upon Indian literature (the single entity) and have responded, so that what has evolved is what Choctaw writer and scholar Louis Owens calls “metanarratives.” There is a certain inevitable self-consciousness, a constant need to respond to or interrogate the desire for commodification of Native traditions, both literary and nonliterary. Cherokee/Chickasaw author Geary Hobson, for example, explores this strange dynamic in which the simulations become more desirable than the real. In his essay “The Rise of the White Shaman as a New Version of Cultural Imperialism,” he explains: Since the American public has already become accustomed to seeing the Jerome Rothenberg “translations,” the poetry of the “white shamans” such as Gary Snyder,


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Gene Fowler, Norman Moser, Barry Gifford, David Cloutier, to name a few, and other neo-romantic writers posing as Indians and/or Indian experts/spokesmen, such as Carlos Casteneda, Hyemeyohsts Storm, Tony Shearer, Dough Boyd, the Baha’i influenced “Indian” works of Naturegraph Publications, contemporary Indian writers are often discounted or ignored since they are not following or conforming to the molds created by these “experts.” (103) In 1981, when Acoma poet Simon Ortiz published “Towards a National Indian Literature: Cultural Authenticity in Nationalism,” he too noted how contemporary poets and poetry have sometimes found themselves in competition with an invented ideal of what “authentic” Indian literature should be. For example, he explores what happened when Indian peoples acquired and began to use English in creative expression. “Some would argue that this means that Indian people have succumbed or become educated into a different linguistic system and have forgotten or have been forced to forsake their native selves” (122). This, Ortiz argues, is “simply not true.” Native peoples, he says, have “taken the languages of the colonizers and used them for their own purposes . . . on their own terms.” Others have also defended the “authenticity” of Native literature written in new languages. Gloria Bird (Spokane) and Joy Harjo, for example, edited a massive collection of works by contemporary Native women entitled Reinventing the Enemy’s Language. The other defense necessitated by the relegation of literary authenticity to some past, supposedly more “pure” state of the poetic art involves the incorporation of new styles of expression, the acknowledgment of the possibility of cross-pollination. Native poets are inevitably influenced not only by their own tribal or pantribal background but also by the canon of American and world poets, just as are poets from other backgrounds. The incorporation of new language, forms, or styles does not deauthenticate tribal poetries. In fact, Ortiz argued in his 1981 essay that, because of the common experience of colonization, there has developed “a particularly nationalistic character to the Native American voice,” a voice of “resistance” (122): It is not the oral tradition as transmitted from ages past alone which is the inspiration and source for contemporary Indian literature. It is also because of the acknowledgement by Indian writers of a responsibility to advocate for their people’s selfgovernment, sovereignty, and control of land and natural resources; and to look also at racism, political and economic oppression, sexism, supremacism, and the needless and wasteful exploitation of land and people, especially in the U.S., that Indian literature is developing a character of nationalism. (124) There was then, by the 1980s, the recognition of the possibility of a Native poetics, an Indian literary nationalism that disassociates itself from that attributed to the “vanished” tribes of the Americas. In the 1980s and 1990s, works in Native literature continued to multiply across the genres and a handful of American Indian writers gained significant recognition on the American and world literary scenes. Contemporary authors such as Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna), N. Scott Momaday (Kiowa), James Welch (Blackfeet), and Louise Erdrich (Anishinaabe) began to appear in major anthologies from Heath, Norton, and other prominent publishers, together with the older anonymous translated texts that had been included for years. The 1994 version of The Heath Anthology of American Literature, for example, includes as poets Wendy Rose (Hopi/Miwok), Roberta Hill Whiteman (Oneida), Joy Harjo (Creek), and

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Simon Ortiz, as well as excerpts in other genres from Louise Erdrich, N. Scott Momaday, Leslie Marmon Silko, and James Welch. Also during these decades, as various Indian nations continued to work toward selfdetermination and recognition of their tribal sovereignty, a kind of literary and intellectual self-determination and sovereignty became a goal for an expanding circle of Indian scholars and writers. Among the groundbreakers in these movements were Gerald Vizenor (Anishinaabe) and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn (Crow Creek Sioux), whose works, though divergent in many ways, awakened a new generation of younger Native intellectuals.6 Vizenor, described by Louis Owens as “the most radically intellectual” of those working in Native literature, continues to operate on the cutting edge of most theoretical movements, challenging or rewriting critical approaches and formulations and, responding to the lapses he finds there, by developing his own critical and interpretive language. Cook-Lynn’s founding of the Native studies journal Wicazo Sa Review provides an important outlet for frequent discussions of the idea of Native American studies. Over the years, she herself has offered many challenges to individuals and to institutionalized practices that seem to undermine the sovereignty of Native scholars working in a field previously dominated by non-Natives. Other front-line movers in the bid for literary and intellectual sovereignty include Lenape author Jack Forbes, whose writing often works within the realm of criticism; Osage Carter Revard and Lakota Vine Deloria Jr., whose powerful irony performs the reflective, critical task; and creative writers including the aforementioned Simon Ortiz as well as Owens and Leslie Marmon Silko, whose various essays on their own or other Native creative writers’ works offer important insights about the idea of literature and the process of interpretation as it is practiced in Native communities.7 Emerging writers and scholars quickly built upon the groundwork laid by the vanguard. Many young scholars began questioning literary theory as it has been applied to Native texts in the past and searching for alternatives. A 1993 article by Anishinaabe writer and scholar Kimberly Blaeser, “Native Literature: Seeking a Critical Center,” questions both the process and the philosophical basis for some of the earlier critical attempts and issues a call for “a way to approach Native Literature from an indigenous cultural context, a way to frame and enact a tribal-centered criticism” without losing sight of the inevitable “bi-cultural” reality of many of the literary works (53, 56). In Tribal Secrets: Recovering American Indian Intellectual Traditions, Osage scholar Robert Warrior frames one important approach as he points to traditions of Native thought he feels have been neglected or devalued and makes a specific case for understanding the kind of work done by Deloria and Osage writer John Joseph Mathews as part of the intellectual traditions of Native peoples. As Warrior and many others voice the need to turn to the work of Native scholars in reading and interpreting texts by Native writers, finally there is momentum for full-fledged efforts at decolonization. In his innovative study, Red on Red: Native American Literary Separatism, Creek writer and scholar Craig Womack pointedly describes the colonized state of Native literature, identifying various ways it is subsumed into another dominant mass like ethnic literature or allotted a marginal position within the master canon of American literature. In a multivoiced work that both examines and performs interrelationships within the Creek literary tradition, Womack takes a strong stand: I say tribal literatures are not some branch waiting to be grafted onto the main trunk. Tribal literatures are the tree, the oldest literatures in the Americas, the most American of American literatures. We are the canon. . . . Without Native American literature,

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there is no American canon. . . . (Understand this is not an argument for inclusion—I am saying with all the bias I can muster that our American canon, the Native literary canon of the Americas, predates their canon. I see them as two separate canons.) (7) But Womack’s argument is not simply about the body of tribal literatures themselves but about the works purporting to translate, explicate, criticize, or deconstruct the texts. Like Warrior, he speaks of the need for a stronger Native-based criticism, but he goes farther, calling for tribally centered readings of tribal texts. The debates surrounding theoretical and interpretive issues and Native literatures continue in the academy across the disciplines and are increasingly linked with notions of community and sovereignty. First Nations scholar Cheryl Suzack (Ojibway), for example, speaks of “the turn to literature as an imaginative site of social reconstruction” in her recent discussion of Anishinaabe activist Winona LaDuke’s political fiction Last Standing Woman (“Land Claims, Identity Claims: Mobilizing Indigenous Feminism in Literary Criticism in Winona LaDuke’s Last Standing Woman” 5); and Cherokee scholar Jace Weaver calls for an activist ideal in which the literatures support Native communities (That the People May Live: Native Literatures and Native American Community).8 While such ideas may not be new (Vizenor, Cook-Lynn, and others earlier voiced the political role of tribal literatures), what is new is the self-consciousness and bold assertion of autonomy with which Native literary scholars are engaging in the debate about the functions of and proper approaches to the study of indigenous literatures. Since many of the Native scholars working in the field are also publishing creative writers, arguments like those of Womack and Warrior naturally have counterparts in the poetic works themselves. Chickasaw Linda Hogan’s “Workaday,” for example, overtly challenges those who would “tell me all they have read/about Indians/and how to analyze this poem” (Savings 43). But in Native poetry the move into decolonization has manifested itself in several important ways beyond the rhetorical or mere thematic focus of published works. For one thing, the number of tribally specific publications has multiplied along with the number of bilingual or Native-language publications. Native-administered literary prizes like those awarded by the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas; artistic and academic programs like those at the En’owkin Center in Penticton, British Columbia and the more politically troubled Institute for American Indian Art (see Cheyfitz essay); and finally, the birth of more tribal colleges all herald a new era in the intellectual life of Indian people. Somewhere along the line the understanding of the reality of Native literature has undergone a subtle shift, continuing to include the Indian literary nationalism identified by Ortiz, but now also recognizing a true inter-Indian-nationalism and an interindigenous globalism. Authors align themselves tribally as well as pantribally and across government national boundaries as they recognize both the individuality of Native nations and the commonalities of their struggles against colonialism. The interindigenous globalism that links far-flung leaders and activists also brings poets and other writers from many parts of the world together at conferences, for tours, and in publications. Anishinaabe Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm and Josie Douglas, for example, coedited a book that not only features indigenous writers from four different countries but was simultaneously published on two different continents. Native poetry both reports the political movements within the inter-Indian nations and itself attempts to further the decolonization. Moving into the twenty-first century, the spoken and performed poetries of Native nations continue and extend literary traditions and enact supraliterary intentions, attempting to teach and to foster survival, healing, decolonization.

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Indigenous American tribal poetries of 1945 and beyond—the era on which this volume centers—arise, as do other genres, from an intermingled set of traditions and influences, tribal and nontribal. Early works on traditional oral song poems include Nellie Barnes’s 1921 American Indian Verse: Characteristics of Style and Mary Austin’s The American Rhythm, built around a romantic fascination with the “Indian consciousness” and, as scholar Michael Castro points out, reading the oral works as a “literary model” for the developing American poetry (“American Indian Influences on Modern Poetry” 103). More recent studies such as Yaqui Deer Songs/Maso Bwikam: A Native American Poetry and Spirit Mountain: An Anthology of Yuman Story and Song have looked at ceremonial oral and performative song poems as intact traditions in their own rights. Many of the poets examined here have had exposure to these kind of studies and translations of tribal oral traditions, as well as to the more generic anthologies featuring a range of individual song poems from across tribal groups (usually published in English translation). Among the popular early collections of this sort is George W. Cronyn’s The Path on the Rainbow: An Anthology of Songs and Chants from the Indians of North America, first released in 1918 and reissued as American Indian Poetry: An Anthology of Songs and Chants. Another influential volume, The Winged Serpent: American Indian Prose and Poetry, edited by Margot Astrov and first published in 1946 (see Cheyfitz essay), has also been reissued in new editions and has thus remained almost continuously available. In addition to encountering the variety of published materials, a significant percentage of the post–1945 Native poets have also been influenced by the ongoing performative traditions among the tribal nations, and some likely have had exposure to various kinds of aural records. Then, of course, by 1945, some boarding school– and mission school–era Indians, under greater or lesser degrees of duress, acquired English as a first or second language (and some simultaneously lost or partially lost proficiency in their own tribal languages). They have been exposed to the Western literary traditions and likely made to memorize many of the popular poems, such as ballads, sonnets, and narrative poems, of the Western canon. Most have had, in other words, an “American” education as well as some degree of tribal education. Although the balance of these educations and influences varies with the individual and the era, it remains important to realize that the authors work within the context of multiple cultural and literary traditions. After 1945, the writers also had the example of several nineteenth- and early twentieth-century poets, most notably Cherokee author John Rollin Ridge (1827–1867), Creek writer Alexander Posey (1873–1907), Cherokee Lynn Riggs (1899–1954), Lakota Gertrude Bonnin/Zitkala-Sa (1876–1938), and Mohawk E. Pauline Johnson (1861–1913).9 These early poets generally wrote in the popular forms of their day, but certain of their works demonstrate strong individual lyricism and introduce Native issues or political themes. Among the sparse poetic works of Zitkala-Sa, for example, is a satiric poem, “The Red Man’s America,” which offers alternative lyrics to the patriotic “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” claiming “My native country, thee,/Thy Red man is not free” and pleading, “Grant us just human right” (Dreams and Thunder 119–20). The emergence of Native poetry as a movement in American literature was preceded by several pseudo-Indian trends, efforts to imitate or appropriate one or more aspects of the Native traditions as they were understood in the mainstream. Publications ranged from translations like those Jerome Rothenberg collected in his 1972 Shaking the Pumpkin: Traditional Poetry of the Indian North Americas (see Cheyfitz essay) to efforts by individual poets to perform as Indian. Hobson labeled the latter movement “White Shamanism” and identified as its practitioners well-known poet Gary Snyder of Turtle Island fame as well as lesserknown poets including Gene Fowler and Barry Gifford. Although some Native authors


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might owe their first publications to the public’s fascination with the stereotyped primitive, spiritual, exotic, nature-centered Other, when the first small revolution in indigenous poetry arose, the first challenge to these trends followed quickly on its heels. In 1976, an essay by Leslie Marmon Silko, “An Old-Time Indian Attack Conducted in Two Parts,” appeared in the publication Yardbird (edited by Ishmael Reed and Al Young), and Hobson’s essay, “The Rise of the White Shaman as a New Version of Cultural Imperialism,” followed in the renamed Y’Bird in 1977. Both essays caused a stir, particularly in the San Francisco Bay area, where many of the “shaman poets” performed. During the end of the 1960s and throughout the 1970s, poetry by a growing number of Native writers, many of whom had already published fiction, began to appear in journals like Akwesasne Notes and The Greenfield Review and in chapbooks from small presses like The Blue Cloud Quarterly and Strawberry Press. A special issue of the South Dakota Review from 1969 (later reissued as the anthology The American Indian Speaks) featured the work of twenty-four tribal poets. Soon small press anthologies like Come to Power (The Crossing Press, 1974) began to appear, followed by anthologies from the larger presses, like Voices of the Rainbow (Viking/Seaver Books, 1975) and Carriers of the Dream Wheel (Harper, 1975). Among the authors included are many still associated with Native poetry today, such as Duane Niatum (Klallam), Joseph Bruchac (Abenaki), Leslie Marmon Silko, James Welch, Simon Ortiz, Roberta Hill Whiteman, Ray Young Bear, Gerald Vizenor, Wendy Rose, N. Scott Momaday, Lance Henson (Cheyenne), Anita Endrezze (Yaqui), Diane Glancy (Cherokee), and Carter Revard (Osage). By the time Bruchac edited Songs from This Earth on Turtle’s Back in 1983, the number of Native poets represented had grown to fifty-two. Although containing a smaller number of poets (thirty-six), Harper’s Anthology of 20th-Century Native American Poetry, edited by Duane Niatum and published in 1988, began to solidify the reputations of a group of “major” Native poets, which now included younger poets like Joy Harjo and Louise Erdrich, who missed the first wave of publishing. I have compiled a list of nearly 100 Native American poets of U.S. origins who have published one or more collections of poetry since 1945.10 No doubt this list will have grown before this essay goes to press. In addition to these ninety-plus authors of poetry books, there are at least an equal number who have published poems in various journals or collections or who have performed rather than printed their poetry. And then, of course, there are the Native authors with tribal ties to Canadian First Nations, the separation of whose work from this volume on Native literature I sincerely regret.11 Many of the tribal nations themselves cross international borders, and the cross-publication and cross-pollination of indigenous literary traditions has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years through organizations like the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas, Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers, and Native Women in the Arts, as well as through small press efforts like those of Theytus Books, Loonfeather Press, and Kegedonce Press. This essay also cannot give the attention I would like to the work of any single author, much less make comments about the works of all Native poets publishing in the United States. I will discuss in some detail several of the major poets whose work seems to exemplify different strengths or styles and will identify individual authors or the emergence of various groups of new poets and the political or literary circumstances that may have predicated their arrival on the scene in a particular era. Many of the first generation of contemporary Native poets had earned or were in the process of earning undergraduate degrees, pursing M.F.A.s, or working toward advanced degrees at the time they began publishing poetry. Although writers like James Welch and

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Roberta Hill Whiteman earned their M.F.A. degrees at the University of Montana, where they worked with Richard Hugo, and N. Scott Momaday earned his Ph.D. from Stanford, where Yvor Winters was an important influence, a significant number of these first published poets from various tribes found themselves working or studying among other Indian writers, some at the University of New Mexico and others at the Institute of American Indian Arts. Those associated with UNM in the 1970s, for example, include Geary Hobson, Joy Harjo, Luci Tapahonso (Navajo), Simon Ortiz, Leslie Marmon Silko, Laura Tohe (Navajo), Paula Gunn Allen (Laguna), Evelina Lucero (Isleta), and Nora Naranjo-Morse (Santa Clara Pueblo), as well as other Native Americans who would eventually establish themselves in other fields or as writers in other genres, such as Robert Gish, Alfonso Ortiz (San Juan Pueblo), Ron Querry (Choctaw), and Aaron Carr (Laguna Pueblo/Navajo). Other poets from this era, including Joseph Bruchac and Maurice Kenny (Mohawk), established connections through editing projects and reading circuits. It would be quite accurate to describe these early years as a movement in poetry; some might go so far as to see many of the poets as forming a particular “school” of writing. This does not suggest that they were not also aware of or engaged in the larger American or world poetry movements. Simon Ortiz, for example, was the first of several Native poets who matriculated through the Iowa Writer’s Program, and several of the Native writers counted among their mentors major American poets from Yvor Winters to Richard Hugo to Theodore Roethke. Still, as we read the writing of indigenous poets from the 1960s, ’70s, and early ’80s, we should be aware of the literary, political, and personal interconnections in their work. As Native poets often performed together and appeared together on academic panels, opportunities existed for rich interaction. Likewise, the influence of the early Native poets was felt by those who followed. Read together, the works of American Indian poets attest to the possibility of a Native poetics infused with echoes of the song poems and ceremonial literatures of the tribes, born out of the indigenous revolution, filled with the dialogues of intertextuality, sometimes linked to the cadences and constructions of “an-Other” language, frequently self-conscious, and often resistant to genre distinctions and formal structures. And, perhaps in response to the early wresting of tribal literatures from their cultural contexts, many contemporary poets exhibit a certain literary sovereignty in their attempts to produce a community-based poetry. Until very recently, aside from reviews, there has been little in-depth interpretation or criticism of Native American poetry. Although essays have been devoted to the work of one or another poet and individual writers have garnered attention for their canon of work (which often includes several genres), to date I know of no book-length study devoted entirely to the poetic work of an individual Native writer, and only a handful of book-length analytical discussions of American Indian poetry exists. Among those recently appearing are Robin Riley Fast’s The Heart as a Drum: Continuance and Resistance in American Indian Poetry (2000), Norma Wilson’s The Nature of Native American Poetry (2001), and a collection of essays by different authors, Speak to Me Words (2003), edited by Dean Rader and Janice Gould (Maidu). Other works, like the 1983 book by Michael Castro, Interpreting the Indian: Twentieth-Century Poets and the Native American, give major attention to the influence of the idea of Indianness on the work of non-Native poets, and the 2000 Sing with the Heart of a Bear: Fusions of Native and American Poetry, 1890–1999, by Kenneth Lincoln, focuses on the complicated relationships between American native poets/poetry and Native American poets/poetry. Yet despite the apparent dearth of critical analysis, attention is


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beginning to be paid to this rich movement in American poetry, as the inclusion of an essay on “Native American Poetry” in the 1993 edition of The Columbia History of American Poetry demonstrates in a small degree. Although individual poems and individual poets display multiple variations, certain similarities of theme or focus among works of poetry by Native Americans have been frequently acknowledged. Most notably, the poems have been seen to demonstrate a historical awareness, invest themselves in a political struggle, have a significant spiritual and/or physical landscape, search for or attempt to articulate connections with the tribal or pan-Indian reality or legacy, and retain connections to the oral traditions or linguistic system of a particular tribal group. Contemporary poems are also often engaged in framing a response to stereotypes, misrepresentations, historical inaccuracies, and the perceived expectations for the idea of Native American literature. Finally, as much as the poetry is concerned with continuity with older traditions, it is also concerned with survival and the inevitable transformations involved in continuance. Neither single poems nor single poets reflect all of these preoccupations, and yet across the broad movement of Native poetry, commonalities in theme or stance emerge. Reading Native poetry, then, requires a recognition of its complexity: the poems, though not solely wedded to what might be called a Native literary aesthetic, share similarities; the poets, though individual and distinguished by their own voices, craft, methods, and style, frequently gesture toward or align themselves with Native cultural and literary history and traditions. Still, despite any and all continuities, the writers represented below emerge from a wide range of physical and psychic places on the map of Indian America; the poetry they publish or perform admits of deep and significant variations. * * * Among the post–1945 Native poets, Mohawk writer Maurice Kenny was the first to make inroads into the publishing world. During years of study and correspondence with poets and scholars including John Crowe Ransom and Werner Beyer, Kenny struggled to find his voice as a writer. Early on he was encouraged to abandon poetry for fiction. Only later did he realize that what was perceived as his lack of aptitude for poetry was actually the result of stylistic incompatibility. “European classical poetry,” writes Kenny, was “not my forte” (“Waiting at the Edge: Words Toward a Life” 52). Eventually, under the tutelage of Louise Bogan at New York University, Kenny returned to poetry and in 1958 published his first book, Dead Letters Sent, and Other Poems. This early collection began to explore issues that would become important themes in Kenny’s more mature work—the idea of home and the search for a sense of connection to place. Two other chapbooks, With Love to Lesbia: A Sheaf of Poems and And Grieve, Lesbia, were also published in 1958. After these three early works, for nearly two decades Kenny published mainly single poems, including the influential “I Am the Sun,” which first appeared in Akwesasne Notes in 1973 and was written in support of the AIM occupation at Wounded Knee. Kenny’s next collection, North: Poems of Home, appeared in 1977. During these years his poetry moved strongly in theme toward Native American issues and in style began more and more to incorporate elements of the oral and ceremonial literature. “I Am the Sun,” for example— which was issued in several pamphlet and chapbook publications, including one by White Pine Press in 1979—displays a chantlike structure based (according to a note accompanying it) “upon a Lakota-Sioux Ghost Dance Song.” It incorporates the Lakota phrase “Chankepe Opi Wahpala” (Wounded Knee) as a refrain throughout the poem.

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It is important to keep in mind that, during this emergence era, the kind of pan-Indian or cross-tribal representation apparent in poems like “I Am the Sun” (and multiple works by other early poets) was not likely to draw criticism for either a misleading appearance of intertribal homogeneity or for territorial infringement, as it might among twenty-first-century Native writers and scholars, for whom identity or authenticity issues as well as the push for individual tribal autonomy have become an important focus. “I Am the Sun,” of course, was written in support of an undeniably pan-Indian political movement. Still, if a similar work were to appear in 2005, the use of the Lakota language by a Mohawk writer might not receive the same acceptance it did in 1973. Indeed, the political, and therefore rhetorical, issues at stake among Native communities continue to shift, and we do well to understand the significance of the works and writers in a particular historical moment. Hence, when we turn again to North: Poems of Home and Kenny’s later collections and we note the “American Indian” concern with place and identification with nature or the concern with ceremonial language and orality, we must remember Kenny is breaking new ground for Native writers by winning a certain acceptance among the larger group of American writers and the reading public of this era. And, whether or not the awakening ecological concern in the nation or the “back-to-the-Earth” movement made his nature-inspired poems more timely, Kenny’s stance in regard to nature distinguishes itself from any casual or popular revival of interest in nature, and the literary afterlife of the poems certainly attests to their innate poetic efficacy. Kenny’s early works do build themselves strongly around images of the north country of his childhood home, around the sounds, plants, animals, and seasonal movements of the Adirondack country of New York State. His poems begin to catalogue the features and inhabitants of place in an almost aggregative way, and to build a dynamic of transformation wherein the identity of the speaker gradually overlaps or merges with the other elements of nature. In “Black River,” from North: Poems of Home, for example, Kenny characterizes place as an active element in life as he experiences it. He uses the only capital letters in the poem to name the river. This is not personification as it is classically understood—a literary device in which the river is imagined to have human qualities—but instead an acknowledgment of the aliveness of a body of water with its own essential being. Kenny also claims for the speaker a long-standing investment in place when he writes, “black river, Black River, I hear the groans/of your throat . . . these many years” (n.p.). In the poem “mulleins are my arms,” from this same collection, the first stanza provides an early example of the narrator’s selfidentification with elements of nature: mulleins are my arms and chicory the sinew of my flesh; May strawberries are the blood of my legs and the sun of summer; maples are my head and the sugar the sap of my tongue that runs in the warm wind; crocus are my eyes; turtle the feet of my winter. (n.p.)


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This metaphoric description of the self through nature reflects a larger understanding of the interrelationships among human and other aspects of the natural world. The notion of a kind of reciprocity and mutual response-ability becomes more clear, for example, in a poem like “Legacy,” from Kenny’s 1979 collection, Dancing Back Strong the Nation.12 The poem opens with metaphors similar to those in “mulleins”: my face is grass color of April rain; arms, legs are the limbs of birch, cedar; my thoughts are winds which blow; (n.p.) But the poet advances beyond mere metaphor to speak of the “legacy” of voice both received and passed on as well as of “obligation” and the intricate entanglements of survival, the layers of interdependence as one action causes another, as one voice can contribute to endurance, as each must contribute, together with all others. He writes: my wind is the breath of a fawn the cry of the cub the trot of the wolf whose print covers the tracks of my feet; my word, my word, loaned legacy, the obligation I hand to the blood of my flesh the sinew of the loins to hold to the sun and the moon which direct the river that carries my song and the beat of the drum to the fires of the village which endures. (n.p.) Kenny’s poetry from this period also exhibits his influential experiments with voice and sound. He claims in the autobiographical essay “Waiting at the Edge,” “I have attempted to lyric all the sounds of the earth” (I Tell You Now 40). In the poem “Moccasin,” for example, the poet moves to make his place experience speak. He opens with the command to “Listen,” and then follows with a catalogue of sounds the reader must imagine, such as “moccasin moccasin . . . drums drum/pound pound/rattles rattle/sing sing/wind howls like a wolf on the hill/thunder thunders” (Dancing Back n.p.). In “They Tell Me I Am Lost” from The Smell of Slaughter, the narrator not only identifies his physical being with elements of nature—“my feet are elms . . . my heart is the hawk,” but also aligns the origin of his voice with the natural, creating a lengthy litany that includes, “my chant is the wind/my chant is the muskrat/my chant is the seed/my chant is the tadpole” (Between Two Rivers 93).

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In later collections, Kenny extends this personal grounding in environment to include the mythology, the history, and the ceremony of place, and he continues his experiments in voice. In Blackrobe: Isaac Jogues, the 1982 collection that won him a Pulitzer Prize nomination, the poet draws on Iroquois oral tradition as well as historical sources to create a multilayered montage of voices. The portrayal of the life and eventual death of the Jesuit priest dramatizes Jogues’s attempts to convert the Mohawk people and offers various perspectives on events, including several critiques of the priest’s actions and his arrogance. This complex poetic dramatization broke new ground, and its influence can be seen in works of several later Native poets who likewise reinvestigate and dramatize various historical figures, eras, or events.13 A prolific writer, Kenny has published many small chapbooks as well as several larger collections of poems. Among his later collections are The Mama Poems (1984), which won an American Book Award; Tekonwatonti/Molly Brant (1992), which, like Blackrobe, presents a historical figure through a montage of conflicting voices; Between Two Rivers (1987), which includes selected poems from 1956 to 1984 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize; On Second Thought (1995), which gathers selected poems written since 1985 together with several works of short fiction and a group of essays and reviews; In the Time of the Present (2000), a collection of new or reworked poems; and Carving Hawk (2002), which contains selections from all his previous volumes. Kenny’s influence on younger poets comes not only through his published work but also through many years of informal mentoring; editing; association with various journals, most notably Contact II; and formal teaching at colleges and universities such as the University of Oklahoma, the En’owkwin Center in British Columbia, and most recently, St. Lawrence University. Kenny’s achievements in the field of Native literature earned him an “Elder of the Year” award from Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers in 2000 and the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas in 2002. * * * Another of the Native poets who began publishing slightly before the burst of small press and journal publications in Native poetry in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Kiowa author N. Scott Momaday was in fact largely responsible for the heightened interest in works by American Indian writers. The Pulitzer Prize awarded his 1968 novel House Made of Dawn helped create an audience for works by Native authors and certainly influenced the reception of these works at publishing houses. But prior to his success in fiction, Momaday had begun to build a reputation for himself as a poet. Already in 1959, he had three poems published—“Eve My Mother, No” in Sequoia and “Los Alamos” and “Earth and I Gave You Turquoise” in the New Mexico Quarterly—and over the next few years, he continued to publish in these journals. In 1962, his poem “The Bear” was awarded the Academy of American Poets prize. His first collection of poetry, the chapbook Angle of Geese and Other Poems, appeared in 1974, followed in 1976 by The Gourd Dancer (which included the poems from Angle of Geese along with new ones). His next major poetic publication was In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961–1991, which includes selected poems from earlier publications, a section of prose and poetry on Billy the Kid, the contents of an earlier collection of short prose pieces and illustrations called In the Presence of the Sun: A Gathering of Shields, as well as a group of twenty-seven new poems. His 1999 mixed-genre publication In the Bear’s House contains various works related to the bear and its image, including a group of poems on the subject, some previously unpublished.


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The volume of Momaday’s poetic works has not been large compared to the output of certain other Native poets, but its impact has been great. The adaptation of formal poetics to his own Native subjects points to his larger enacted assumption that Native culture, traditions, and forms serve as well for any literary production. His work unashamedly models the rich blending of multiple influences that has become standard in Native poetry. He preserves or privileges a Native perspective while working in or reworking several literary traditions. Scholars of his work and Momaday himself acknowledge several important influences on his poetry: the formal English verse tradition and his graduate work on Frederick Goddard Tuckerman; his studies at Stanford under Yvor Winters, especially his work in syllabic verse and postsymbolist poetry; and the Native oral traditions and song poem structures. Mathias Schubnell, for example, traces the poetry as “developing from a reflection of oral poetry to the strict formal tradition of English verse, and then to syllabics and a kind of free verse” (189). Momaday’s writing in his well-known 1969 autobiographical work The Way to Rainy Mountain includes what might be described as prose poetry, and in many of his later poems he continues to work in this form. Indeed, Momaday has expressed a preference for what he characterizes as “a lyrical prose in which I’m not concerned with meter, but with rhythms and fluencies of sound, primarily” (“The Magic of Words” 178). In his short introduction to the important 1975 anthology of Native poetry, Carriers of the Dream Wheel, Momaday offers his own characterization of “contemporary Native American poetry” and notably, his comments center on the significance of the oral tradition. “Contemporary Native American poetry,” he claims, “proceeds from an older tradition than that which we think of as literature in the strict sense. Its roots run down into the very origins of language.” He sees the written English quality of Native poetry he professes as “only one aspect” of its character. “In order to understand the true impetus of contemporary Native American poetry,” he writes, “it is necessary to understand the nature of the oral tradition,” for it “in some real measure informs the character of contemporary Native American poetry” (xix–xx). Native oral tradition certainly informs Momaday’s own work, but the other influences on his poetry can be seen as well; together, these forces result in a rich blending of impulses. Throughout his career, he has had strong, successful poems in a variety of forms: “The Bear,” an example of postsymbolist syllabic verse; “Plainview I,” a sonnet written in iambic pentameter and composed of heroic couplets; “The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee,” which employs a chantlike repetition and parallel structure; and the more recent “The Print of the Paw,” a prose poem. All stand as fine examples of poetic craft in their very different forms. They also each engage in their own way the themes of the natural world and Native life philosophies of or relationships with nature that play a central role in much of Momaday’s work. His strong representations of Native understandings of place, reciprocity with nature, and the morality involved in language use offer a challenge to many commonly held Western views. It is through these philosophical ideals that the politics of Momaday’s poetry come most into play. Momaday’s statements in regard to understanding the broadly generalized Native American relationship with the natural world have appeared throughout his career in various forms. Two of the most notable discussions directly addressing the subject include “An American Land Ethic” (1970) and “Native American Attitudes to the Environment” (1976), both of which discuss what Momaday often terms a Native American “worldview.”“Very old in the Native American worldview,” he writes, “is the conviction that the earth is vital, that there is a spiritual dimension to it, a dimension in which man rightly exists. It follows logi-

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cally that there are ethical imperatives in this matter” (The Man Made of Words 39). Momaday ironically contrasts the Native idea of an ethical spiritual relationship with a living earth to the contemporary Western view: “The Indian has assumed a deep ethical regard for the earth and sky, a reverence for the natural world that is antipodal to the strange tenet of modern civilization which seemingly has it that man must destroy his environment” (The Man Made of Words 40). Naturally, his ideas on these issues are more complex then these two quotations can convey; several of the intricacies of his position are borne out in his poetry. Nature in his poetry is sometimes presented as in a kind of grand separation from modern humanity, or perhaps more accurately, humanity is presented at times as isolated from the natural. In the well-known “Angle of Geese,” for example, the poet takes the measure of death first in human and then in natural terms. In the first three stanzas that describe the loss of a child, there is an impotence in the human attempt to respond through language or “custom.” In the last three stanzas that describe the flight of geese and the death of one member of the flock, the poet alludes to a timeless natural reality beyond the limited logical means of comprehension. In the “angle of geese” he sees “so much symmetry!—/Like the pale angle of time/And eternity.” In describing the death of the “huge ancestral goose,” he characterizes it as “quit of hope and hurt,” as holding “a motionless gaze/Wide of time” (21). Its gaze is fixed on the flock that continues its flight, “the dark distant flurry.” A largeness is implied in this continuance and the essence of that grandness finds further elaboration in other of Momaday’s poems. The modern breach with nature that Momaday characterizes in some of the poetry seems to require as remedy the understanding of a traditional perspective. A poem like “The Delight Song of Tsoai-talee” and many of the passages from The Way to Rainy Mountain embody the kind of Native American “land ethic” about which Momaday has written and spoken over the years. “Tsoai-talee,” for example, involves a repetition of phrases showing the way that “man invests himself in the landscape, and at the same time incorporates the landscape into his own most fundamental experience” (“Native American Attitudes to the Environment” 80). In a litany that recalls some of Kenny’s work, Momaday writes: I am the feather on the bright sky I am the blue horse that runs in the plain I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water I am the shadow that follows a child I am the evening light, the luster of meadows. (In the Presence of the Sun 16) As Schubnell suggests, Momaday’s poem seems to have a formal basis in the Navajo chant, and he concludes the long accretive section with a separate movement “placing” the singer/poet in a relationship of harmony with the natural world, “in the center of the universe” (N. Scott Momaday: The Cultural and Literary Background 220): You see, I am alive, I am alive I stand in good relation to the earth I stand in good relation to the gods I stand in good relation to all that is beautiful I stand in good relation to Tsen-tainte You see, I am alive, I am alive. (16)14


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The “psychic dislocation of ourselves in time and space” that Momaday decries requires that we “imagine who and what we are with respect to the earth and sky,” as does the singer in “Tsoai-talee” (“The Man Made of Words” 54, 53). The poem can yet more dramatically be seen to reflect such an imaginative investment when we consider that the “Tsoai-talee” or “Rock Tree Boy” of the poem is Momaday himself and that the name, given to him by an elder Kiowa, links him to both a specific place— Devil’s Tower (Tsoai) in Wyoming—and an important Kiowa myth created at the base of that tower along the historic Kiowa migration. Momaday’s poem, then, both voices and symbolically enacts a reciprocal relationship to place. Another part of the land ethic, Momaday’s key idea of “appropriate” behavior in relationship to nature, appears in pieces like that in the “personal voice”in section XII in The Way to Rainy Mountain. Here, the poet describes a late afternoon scene at Rainy Mountain Cemetery: “The shadows were very long, there was a deep blush on the sky, and the dark red earth seemed to glow with the setting sun” (45). Then he describes the sense of place and its effect: “For a few moments, at that particular time of day, there is a deep silence. Nothing moves, and it does not occur to you to make any sound.” The person attentive to the land, the one who “concentrates his mind upon the remembered earth,” as a later passage has it, responds by holding silence, by entering into the deep silence of the “everything” that has “slowed so that the sun might take leave of the land” (83, 45). In many of Momaday’s poems we can discover this kind of subtle sense of the “appropriate” in humankind’s relationship to the earth. Another of the central understandings in Momaday’s vision of humankind’s relationship to the larger world involves not only attentiveness to it but also imaginative engagement with it. We can see the natural world, Momaday explains, with “the physical eye,” but that is only “one dimension of reality”; we can see it as well with “the eye of the mind.” Ideally, we align the two “planes of vision” (“Native American Attitudes to the Environment” 81). “Plainview I” illustrates this dual vision with stunning detail. It opens with a couplet describing a vision of magpies in the distance: There in the hollow of the hills I see, Eleven magpies stand away from me. (In the Presence of the Sun 8) In the next five stanzas, the poem vividly describes the situation of the sighting: a storm of wind and rain, shifting light, and an eerie, “lowing” wind. Finally, it concludes with the recognition of the actual physical unreality of the magpies: They are illusion—wind and rain revolve— And they recede in darkness, and dissolve. Still, the reader and the poet are left with the intense imaginative visual experience of the magpies’ presence. The physical and the imaginative have come together to create a transformational moment when vision wavers in the balance between the ways of seeing. A similar moment is captured in section five of “The Colors of Night” as the poem reflects the fluctuations of seeing and knowing: A young girl awoke one night and looked out into the moonlit meadow. There appeared to be a tree;

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but it was only an appearance; there was a shape made of smoke; but it was only an appearance; there was a tree. (In the Presence of the Sun 29) Momaday’s poetry often explores these subtle nuances of vision and understanding, the possibilities of multiple ways of seeing or knowing. Although some of his poems allude to historical injustices like the mass slaughter of the buffalo or to technological dangers such as the misuse of atomic power, a great deal of his work revolves around “a land ethic” and “the morality of a verbal dimension,” or is concerned with the enactment of story. Many of his poems, for example, are accounts of the drama in individual lives, particularly in the lives and histories of Native people, and they suggest a significance, a mystery, or a strange holiness. In poems like “The Gourd Dancer,” which tells of his Grandfather Mammedaty’s relationship to and participation in the Gourd Dance Society as well as of his own connection to his grandfather, Momaday presents the story in a legendary fashion, draws connections through several realms of time, and thus invites expansion to a universal understanding and a timelessness. The short poem “Rings of Bone” illustrates a similar movement, and the precision of the details contributes to the expansion of their significance beyond themselves. Here, Momaday places the image of the “rings of bone on the bandoliers of old men dancing” within “the afternoon stippled with leaves and the shadows of leaves” (In the Presence of the Sun 132). In the third stanza he writes of the passage of time and decay, of leaves “now . . . dead,” and of the coming of “rime” and “mould.” But despite this apparent decay, the final stanza claims, “the leaves have more or less to do with time”; by implication, the statement encompasses not only the leaves but also the old men and even the bones on their bandoliers. The last lines bring the three visual images—the leaves, the bones, the old men dancing—into a single image and builds with them an understanding of an ancientness that is somehow both of and beyond time: The leaves clatter like the rings of bone on the bandoliers of old men dancing. Into this legendary timelessness that consists partly of an understanding of the natural, “the long turn of seasons and of years” (“Land Ethic” 47), Momaday places many of his subjects. An incomparable orator, an author whose range of works includes memoir, fiction, essays, travel literature, drawing and paintings, and even a play, Momaday has a reputation firmly established in the canons of American, Native American, and world literatures, and his influences in each have been significant. In 1992, he became the first recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. * * * A third among the Native poets whose publishing career began just before the so-called Native literary “renaissance,” Anishinaabe author Gerald Vizenor is, like Momaday, better known for his publications in other genres. However, his work in haiku poetry has gained him enough national and international recognition that he was invited to present a keynote address at the Haiku North American Conference in 1999, and examples of his haiku have been included in publications such as The Pursuit of Poetry and The Haiku Anthology.


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Vizenor’s poetry, including his haiku, was included in several of the volumes of Native literature published in the early 1970s, but his own first haiku collection, Two Wings the Butterfly, was released in 1962, followed by four more collections over the next five years: Raising the Moon Vines (1962); Seventeen Chirps (1964); Slight Abrasions: A Dialogue with Jerome Downes (1966); and Empty Swings (1967). Vizenor’s haiku philosophy is related to his understanding of Ojibway dream songs, and during these years he also worked on several editions of “re-expressions” of Anishinaabe lyric poems and tribal stories. The first of these, Summer in the Spring: Lyric Poems of the Ojibway, was published in 1965. Although Vizenor’s publishing interests shifted in the ’70s and since, he has continued his interest in the haiku form, publishing Matsushima: Pine Islands in 1984 and, more recently, expanding older haiku, first with prose “envoys” in a 1993 journal piece for the Chicago Review and then with the addition of place names in the recent book Cranes Arise (1999). Many of the themes Vizenor introduced in his early haiku and free verse poetry continue to inform his theory, essays, and fiction, and the form and philosophy of haiku can also be seen in elements of his prose style. Perhaps more important, like Momaday, Vizenor accommodates or adapts a classic poetic form to Native (here, specifically Ojibway) literary tradition. Indeed, he identified in this Eastern poetic practice a philosophy similar to that of the traditional Ojibway singer. Vizenor’s interest in the haiku form arose during his military service in Japan, and he was particularly taken by the work of one of the foremost haiku masters, Matsuo Basho, a seventeenth-century Japanese poet. Vizenor went so far as to visit Matsushima, the group of islets that was the inspiration for Basho’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North, and he readily acknowledges the influence of Basho on his own haiku. In “Envoy,” for example, Vizenor describes the connection: “Basho visited Matsushima and wrote in his haibun diaries about the moon over the pine islands, the treasures of the nation. I was there three hundred years later, touched by the same moon and the master haiku poet” (“The Envoy to Haiku” 59). Over the years, Vizenor has frequently and eloquently written about the form of haiku, Anishinaabe dream songs, and the similarities he sees between the two. Both, he notes, are tightly constructed poetic units with vivid images and little commentary, meant to transport he reader beyond the words to what he calls a “visual dreamscape” (“Envoy” 58). He also recognizes the stark, imagistic quality of certain tribal song poems. “Many modern imagist poets,” he says, “have sought models of concise poetic expressions in Oriental literature. They could have found these qualities in the lyrical poetry and songs of the American Indians” (interview). In the introduction to Matsushima, Vizenor also discusses the degree to which haiku works to escape the very language of the poem, to (he quotes Roland Barthes’s characterization) “halt language” and return to experience (n.p.). Vizenor’s own haiku generally works toward this self-effacement through a kind of transformation or a moment of surprise that pushes the reader beyond the poem. He often builds his haiku through images of the natural world, unusual juxtapositions, and what he calls an “unresolved tension” (Matsushima 4). In Cranes Arise, Vizenor describes his haiku method as often involving the suggestion of a season in the first line, the presentation of the “action, the sense of motion, the natural reason and tension of the image” in the second line, and a “teasing” out of a sense of “presence” or a tracing of “coincidence, consciousness, or contingency” in the last line. Taken together, the first two lines frequently set up a natural scene or create certain expectations, while the last line undercuts the expectations or alludes to an unexpected irony, as is clear in this poem from Cranes Arise:

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white earth, Minnesota redwing blackbird rides the cattails at the slough curtain calls (n.p.) But Vizenor’s haiku might as readily render a pure imagistic moment, as in the following poem, hauntingly reminiscent in effect of Ezra Pound’s “In a Station of the Metro”: plum blossoms burst in a sudden storm faces in a pool (Matsushima n.p.) In one of his comments on haiku,Vizenor writes of the “four interior dancers”of his haiku dreamscape and identifies the “street dancer” or “trickster” as among the voices in the poems (Matshushima 6). Much of Vizenor’s theory for the performance of Native literatures involves his understanding of this cultural hero, and a major portion of his prose involves the figure or the dynamics of the trickster tradition. Among the various oral trickster stories and cycles that have survived among tribes and in the now numerous written versions, noted similarities include: the peripatetic trickster’s apparent ability to overcome common boundaries such as time, place, and physical form; the wild, improbable, sometimes immoral action involved in the stories; the ambiguity of the trickster figure who is, for example, both tribal benefactor and bungler; the important teaching role enacted through the stories; the often satiric representation of issues in society; the comic play, including role reversals and twists in perspective, which serves to liberate the thinking of the listener/reader and also to destabilize rigid structures of society; and the apparent immortality of the trickster, who survives horrors from drowning to dismemberment. Vitality is key in understanding Vizenor’s engagement with the figure whom he describes in The Trickster of Liberty as “a warrior on a coin that never lands twice on the same side” (xviii).15 This trickster voice, which sounds most strongly in Vizenor’s later work, appears in poems that incite a change in perspective, that subtly critique the status quo or offer an ironic twist of vision. In haiku like those below, a simple but starting revelation is wrought by the trickster twist. The old man Admired the scarecrow’s clothes Autumn morning (Seventeen Chirps 4) Against the zoo fence Zebras and Sunday school children Hearing about Africa (Empty Swings 36) The first, of course, alludes to the economic imbalance of our society; the second registers the irony of a commercialized zoo system that breeds creatures unfamiliar with their own “natural habitats.” Although Vizenor’s cultural critique becomes more pointed in his prose works, the seeds of his comic satire can be seen here first in a subtle haiku form, in the voice of this trickster “street dancer.” The mode, voice, and theory Vizenor constructs around “trickster literature” have earned him numerous accolades. And as in much of his later work, in his early haiku Vizenor deftly combines commentary with literary performance.


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The influence of both his haiku theory and its enactment can be seen in the current experiments in the same form by fellow Anishinaabe writers Gordon Henry and Kimberly Blaeser.16 * * * The imagistic qualities Vizenor identifies in early tribal song poems inform the work of various other Native poets, perhaps most significantly the well-published expatriate Cheyenne writer Lance Henson. That Henson acknowledges a link between imagism and the Native poetic tradition can be seen in his comments at a 1991 Native American Writers’ Forum in Telluride, Colorado: “Indians are linked to metaphysical reality, live lives of heightened imagery, tell stories in images” (The Nature of Native Poetry 67). Henson, whose book jackets over the years identify him as a member of the Cheyenne Dog Soldier Warrior Society, a Marine veteran, a Native American activist, a holder of a black belt in karate, a member of AIM, and a member of the Native American Church, also holds an M.F.A. from the University of Tulsa and has been a poet-in-residence in more than 800 schools in the United States and Europe. His poetry has been included in most of the major Native American anthologies since the 1970s, and he has published more than 20 chapbooks and collections of poetry since his first book of poems, Keeper of Arms, in 1971. Volumes of his collected works include Selected Poems, 1970–1983 (1985), Another Distance (1991), and A Cheyenne Sketchbook: Selected Poems 1970–1991 (1992). Henson has traveled throughout Europe, and his works have been translated into more than 15 languages, including Russian, French, and Italian. Henson presents his sparse, uninflected poems all in lower case, without punctuation or capitalization. Thematically, his poetry strings together reflections on the porous interconnections between the visible and the nonvisible realities, offering commentary on both historical and contemporary failings of America and weaving together images of external landscapes with spiritual terrain. Certain comments Henson has made about the role of poetry shed light on his own work and purpose in writing. He claims, for example, “All poems are prayers when they work,” and “Poetry is revolutionary. It must be to survive” (“The Whirlwind Is a Mirror” 112, 109). When asked about his preference for short poems, he notes: “I think brevity is one way to acknowledge strength and one way to acknowledge and pay homage to the Great Silence we came out of.” And he likens the spareness of his own words on a page of white space to “drops of rain on a lake” (“The Whirlwind” 114). Indeed, Henson’s poetry may be crafted to a large extent from prayer, revolution, and great silences. The slight poem “strong heart song,” which gives the title to his 1997 collection Strong Heart Song: Lines from a Revolutionary Text, does seem to contain all three elements: nadors do mi uts e mghon bach ni tseheskotseo ehmin i will walk on the ashes of the earth singing (iii) By opening the poem in Cheyenne, the bilingual Henson enacts a revolutionary response to the colonization of language. Then, with the phrase “the ashes of earth,” he implies something about the transience of physical reality and perhaps offers a warning about the inevitable destructive effects of contemporary human actions. Still, the poet will proceed “singing,” which in the larger context of Native ceremonial tradition is often the equivalent

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of prayer. Both verbally and visually the poem is small—much is left unspoken, much is contained in the implied silence. The verbal restraint of Henson’s poetry in many pieces carries the sense of saying only that little which can or should be said.“Woodpecker song,” the poem that gives the title to the collection this small sound/dieser kleine klang, for example, seems to offer a comparison between the performance of the poet and the woodpecker, who, scholar Norma Wilson notes, as “a sacred power entity of the Sun Dance ceremony, uses the small gift of his sound perfectly” (this small sound 28; “Lance Henson” 121). The poem opens with the statement “i am making this sound upon the earth” and closes only five lines later with “i make this small sound.” The poet’s emphasis on this claim about his emulation of the woodpecker is heightened by the single image in the poem, an image of reflection—“the curled leaf filled with water/holds a looking glass of sky.” The small reflection within the leaf holds the largeness of the whole sky, just as the “small sound”of the poet gestures to a largeness beyond the few words of the poem. The impact belies size or volume. And the poet’s making the small sound of the final line “in a quiet place” again recalls the drop of rain on the surface of a lake. The effect in both cases is simultaneously a movement, change, or disruption of the scene as the sound breaks the quiet or the drop marks the lake’s surface, and a reconnection, absorption, or return as the small sound is absorbed into the quiet or the drop of water joins the largeness of the body of water. Some of Henson’s poems seem to arise out of a mystery or an experience so intense that language ultimately seems inadequate and the only avenue open to the poet is gesture or image. In “january song” Henson first presents two scenes, the flight and sound of a hawk and that certain moment when dawn arrives; against the feelings aroused by these moments he places another instant, one of great loneliness and loss as he remembers the death of Cheyenne warrior and artist Ski Oh Hiv/Little Fingernail. Unable to write baldly of the killing of Little Fingernail, in the last stanza Henson instead invokes the sound of wind and aligns it with the imagined song of the lost warrior: who remembers you little fingernail perhaps the tiny wind is your voice singing in terrified joy over buffalo blood and ash that were your colors. (another song for america 11) Henson is a poet who decries the inadequacy of words both verbally and by what he enacts in his poetry—simultaneously, as he must employ language to speak its failures and move beyond them. Perhaps the finest image of the fleeting power of words comes in the poem “celebration,” which opens with the acknowledgment of the “cold light/at the edge/of words” and closes with this word picture: in a portrait a woman is holding her apron catching the snow. (Selected Poems 10)


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The poem at once accumulates meaning from the idea of an artist’s attempt at making a picture (portrait), from the vision of the woman “catching” snow or the manna of meaning, and from the idea of her making of herself a vessel, attempting to gather or hold that which will only melt like snow or dissipate like fleeting knowledge. Such, of course, is the poet’s futile quest. Although he may struggle with twin poetic impulses—to speak and to hold to true silence—in Henson’s work the very precision of language and image allows each line to have a stronger impact, even in the rare instances when he breaks his restraint. When the subtle irony of his political poems or his powerful understatement in dealing with emotional issues like love or grief is combined with frank angry exclamations or statements, the emphatic quality is heightened. Henson’s poem “another song for America,” for example, first places us “just off the kent state turnoff ” and in a “soft rain.” When it presents, in the third stanza, a blatant condemnation—“god damn you america/what have you done to your children”—the two lines reverberate strongly in the reader’s mind even after the poem returns to a quieter note of remembrance as “the wind speaks their names/any way you breathe it” (31). “Another song” characterizes the focus of much of Henson’s poetry, which is, as he subtitles one of the collections, filled with “lines from a revolutionary text.” Throughout his career, he has championed the causes of Native activism: recalling historical events like the Sand Creek Massacre, speaking out against the closing of Indian schools, recalling Native historical figures, rejecting much of the prevelant American consumerism, and decrying the ecological indifference that endangers our planet. In “lines from a revolutionary text III,” he first verbalizes a warning that he sees as reflecting on many of the actions of colonization: the veho world is crumbling nothing made from ignorance will remain (Strong Heart Song 73) Then he ends the poem and the collection with another gesture—a return to the Cheyenne language in these untranslated lines: mahago do miutz ehi who. Henson opens in Cheyenne and closes in Cheyenne, placing the poems in that cultural context and implying by this act that what “will remain” or endure is Native tradition. * * * Another bilingual Native poet whose work engages in political activism as well as literary performance, Acoma poet Simon Ortiz was the second Native American writer (after Momaday) to receive, by vote of his peers, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Although, like Momaday and the majority of Indian writers, Ortiz publishes in several genres, his reputation rests largely on his poetic works and his writings about the purpose and performative functions of Native literatures. Ortiz is the author of three chapbooks and six individual collections of poetry, including his groundbreaking

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Going for the Rain, published in 1976, and From Sand Creek, published in 1981, which won the Pushcart Prize for poetry. His poetry incorporates elements of historic witness and political activism with the mythic and with a powerful use of the spoken voice—not necessarily dialogue, but often remembered speech or a narrative voice directed to another person or group. His work often includes the trickster, by account or allusion, and as frequently incorporates particulars of the physical and spiritual landscapes of his experience. Ortiz traces in poetry small moments or everyday occurrences and records struggles with alcohol, poverty, disillusionment, and racism. In addition to receiving various kinds of recognition for the texts of his work, Ortiz competed two years in the World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bout as a part of the annual Taos Poetry Festival, winning the title in 1993. Ortiz’s early collection Going for the Rain introduces many of the themes that recur in his later works and showcases aspects of the Acoma writer’s voice and style that, more than twenty-five years later, continue to affect his readers and to influence new generations of Native poets. The book traces a literal journey Ortiz made in the southern and eastern United States and entwines that pilgrimage to “look for Indians” with a ritual going “for the shiwana” or rain spirits (37).17 The volume is structured in a cyclical pattern that includes a prologue and four sections entitled “The Preparation,” “Leaving,” “Returning,” and “The Rain Falls.” The poems range in subject, but many concern themselves with the small motions of existence: a woman at a loom, planting corn, giving birth, travel by Greyhound bus, everyday conversations. And yet, we come to understand them, as Ortiz does, as the very center of the spiritual. When, in his prologue, he characterizes the physical, spiritual, and literary journey represented in the following pages, he claims an exalted purpose in the sometimes commonplace encounters: “His traveling is a prayer as well, and he must keep on” (37). Ortiz begins to create this spiritual context in the prologue by linking his own journey to that of the ritual “going for the rain,” invoking a traditional song: Let us go again, brother; let us go for the shiwana. Let us make our prayer songs. We will go now. Now we are going. We will bring back the shiwana. They are coming now. Now, they are coming. It is flowing. The plants are growing. Let us go again, brother; let us go for the shiwana. (37) In the prose passages, he at once refers to the ceremonial journey to bring rain, to the specific travels his narrator recounts in the collection, and to the universal journey of “man.” He offers this reflective summary: A man leaves, he encounters all manner of things. He has adventures, meets people, acquires knowledge, goes different places, he is always looking. Sometimes the traveling is hazardous; sometimes he finds meaning and sometimes he is destitute. But he continues; he must. His traveling is prayer as well, and he must keep on. (37) Thus the poet aligns his journey with the older one, shows it emerging from and merging with the ritualized, ceremonial going for the rain.


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Then, in the opening poem of the volume, in the “Preparation” section of the book, Ortiz adds the mythical context to the ceremonial. “The Creation, According to Coyote,” offers a short telling of the Keresan Pueblo creation myth and the story of the War Twins, who lead the people “upwards through successive worlds until they emerge through a single sipapu (hole in the ground) onto the earth’s surface” (Scarberry-Garcia 210). Ortiz gives these important accounts in the voice of Coyote, a trickster/storyteller who is also a tribal mythic figure. But with this mythic telling, Ortiz intermingles the colloquial voice of the narrator, who thinks Coyote was probably “b.s.-ing” (41), and he recalls the same story being told by his uncle. He thus prepares his own role as poet/storyteller as it overlaps in places with that of the trickster and alludes to the multiple ways of story and journey. He characterizes the journey of the twins as containing “many exciting and colorful and tragic things of adventure,” and says of them, “and this is the life, all these, all these.” He thus invites us into his own poetic tellings of the varied terrain of America in the era of 1970 (42). Also part of the “preparation” for the journey are several poems in this first section that might be understood as the kind of “prayer songs” alluded to in the “departure” of the traditional song. Recalled with prayerfulness are the birth of Ortiz’s daughter, Rainy Dawn, in “To Insure Survival,” and a remembered conversation and encounter Ortiz shared with his father, appropriately entitled “My Father’s Song” (48–49). The latter describes with precision and delicacy a pause in the planting of corn when father and son discover “the burrow nest of a mouse/in the soft moist sand”; the father scoops “the tiny pink animals/into the palm of his hand,” and together they carry them to safety beyond the planting field (57–58). The “song” of Ortiz’s father is never spoken within the range of the poem, and the “song” of the poem itself we understand as the power of longing for and remembrance of a prayer of being in a certain way. This is an example of the instructive quality that openly or more subtly informs much of Ortiz’s poetry. The journey of Going for the Rain literally and figuratively covers much ground. The “Leaving” and “Returning” sections of the book find Ortiz or his persona “Passing Through Little Rock,” “Crossing the Colorado River Into Yuma,” “West of Ocotillo Wells,” “Crossing the Georgia Border Into Florida,” and going “All the Way to New York City” (98, 103, 69, 74, 87). Filled with the poetry of place, some poems offer lyrical descriptions of landscape, some a litany of names: Casa Grande, Dateland, El Centro, Tuba City, Gallup, Amarillo, Tucumcari.18 Filled as well with casual meetings, small incidents, the poet’s everyday life, the poems ground the reader in a sense of common reality. In “Small Things Today,” we find “a tortilla with some honey” and the “smell of apples, wet fields”; we also find the kind of transformation that comes with a haiku moment: “Wind blows, shakes the tarp,/water falls to the ground./The sound of water splashing” (71–72). As the prologue suggests, the poet is “always looking” and “finds meaning” (37). In these sections, much pleasure comes with simply following the poetic glance. But together with these common images, Ortiz interweaves the unsettling: racist incidents, political unrest, personal struggle. Repeatedly asked if he is Indian and encountering various manifestations of racism, he writes sometimes with righteous anger, sometimes with humor of his encounters with injustice. In “Travels in the South” he confesses, “I worried about my hair, kept my car locked./They’d look at me, lean, white, nervous,/their lips moving, making wordless gestures” (74). In “I Told You I Like Indians,” he writes playfully of an encounter with Native stereotypes in Flagler Beach, Florida. The narrator, asked once

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again if he is Indian, replies, “‘Yes, ma’am.’ I’m Indian alright./Wild, ignorant, savage!/And she wants me to dance” (107). Many of the poems are slight, informal pieces, presented as if they were simply lifted from the author’s travel journal. Others contain crafted political commentary, like that in “The Significance of a Veteran’s Day” (108). Here the narrator identifies himself as a veteran “calling for significance” when “no one answered.” But, although Ortiz did actually serve in the military, the poem reaches for a context beyond individual experience. He writes, “I am a veteran of at least 30,000 years” and talks of wars against “foreign disease, missionaries,/ canned food, Dick and Jane textbooks, IBM cards,/Western philosophies, General Electric.” In the poem, as the poet searches for an understanding of our longer, larger journey as “the people,” he explores some of the central questions of this literary pilgrimage toward meaning: And then later on in the ancient and deep story of all our nights, we contemplated, contemplated not the completion of our age, but the continuance of the universe, the traveling, not the progress, but the humility of our being here. Thus in the literal, and in the literary journey that recounts it, the passage finds meaning in continuance, simply going on, the process of the journey, the process of being. The final line in “Veteran’s Day” declares, “I am talking about how we have been able/to survive insignificance” (108). This line reverberates, adding and subtracting meaning on several levels. Alluding to the 30,000 years of indigenous history and its erasure in the “Dick and Jane textbooks,” it might ask how anyone can survive without a sense of worth or, as Norma Wilson suggests,“How Native people can feel significant in American society” (The Nature of Native American Poetry 53). Alluding to “the humility of our being here,” the relative unimportance of a singular person in “the ancient and deep story of all our nights,” the passage may point beyond the self toward the mythical, the historical, and the ceremonial, as does the larger text of the book. Ortiz offers his ironic observations of America in many poems in these middle sections, and in some he traces his own failings and despair. “Blues Song for the Phoenix Bus Depot Derelict”—who could be the narrator himself “Waiting to leave./Waiting to come”—pleads for protection or peace from “Phoenix streets/cold gray and hard,” and concludes,“I’m waiting for everything/to arrive/just this one time for me” (64–65). Bus depots, bars, harsh city scenes in Gallup, Denver, New York City, or the generic “Somewhere Else City, USA” become the settings for encounters with lost Indian people, symbols of personal or national disintegration. This pervading sense of disintegration Ortiz embodies in specific incidents and political references throughout the collection. “Travels in the South,” for example, incorporates allusions to Alabama governor George Wallace and to the protest and killings at Kent State (74). “East of San Diego” offers a warning—“Keep to the hills/and avoid America/if you can”—that gives voice to the schism Ortiz sees between the homelands of Native peoples and the larger “other country” of America (111). Writing in the first person in “Relocation,” a title that alludes to the U.S. government policy of the 1950s that placed reservation peoples from across the nation in alien city settings, Ortiz laments its effects:


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So I agreed to move. I see me walking in sleep down streets, down streets with gray cement and glaring glass and oily wind, armed with a pint of wine, I cheated my children to buy. I am ashamed. I am tired. I am hungry. I speak words. I am lonely for hills. I am lonely for myself. (76–77) These desperate city images he often pairs with longing for or images of the land or of home, and frequently with chantlike prayers for recovery. In “For Those Sisters and Brothers in Gallup,” the litany of prayer recalls the object of the poet’s quest, the cleansing rains of tradition: Be kind, sister, be kind; it shall come cleansing again. It shall rain and your eyes will shine and look so deeply into me into me into me into me. (89) The sense of this pilgrimage is strong as well in the lines of “Passing Through Little Rock,” in which Ortiz voices his search, his longing for the symbolic rebirth inherent in the ceremonial reenactment: I just want to cross the next hill, go through that clump of trees and come out the other side and see a clean river, the whole earth new and hear the noise it makes at birth. (98) Finally, in “East of Tucumcari,” the narrator arrives home to see “the brown water/falling from a rock” where “it felt so good/to touch the green moss” and “smell/the northern mountains/in the water” (116). The “homing in” of the narrator in the poem involves the cyclical return to place and the symbolic return to remembered ceremony.19 The last section of the collection, “The Rain Falls,” is filled with the thirst-quenching waters of Ortiz’s poetic vision, several of the richest poems of the book. “The Story of How a Wall Stands” and “Dry Root in a Wash” have been selected for reprint in anthologies numerous times. Among the other strong poems in this section is “Curly Mustache, 101-Year-Old Navajo Man” (140–42). Minimalistic, more tightly constructed than many of the narrative, more colloquial poems of the book, “Curly Mustache” depicts, as the title sug-

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gests, an elderly Navajo man. Ortiz characterizes his ancient quality by aligning the description of the Navajo with elements of the ageless natural world: Motions with long hand, brown fingers shape the mountain ridge of his knuckles. Meadow wind flows in channels of his skin. (141) As the references of the lines move back and forth between the man’s hand and the mountain, the wind and his skin, the two become linked in a timelessness heightened by the Zenlike questions of the next stanza: “How many times/the mountain tops?/How many times/the roots?” The last stanza of the poem suggests that, just as the old man has learned “the life flow/of earth places/of his mind,” so too can the traveler who continues in his journey, past the notion of that kind of “progress” denigrated in the “Veteran’s Day” poem toward a kind of ceremonial wholeness. And in the final poem of the volume, “It Doesn’t End, Of Course,” Ortiz’s text gestures back to the words of the prologue: “The cycle has been traveled; life has beauty and meaning, and it will continue because life has no end” (38). In words and gesture, the text thus respeaks itself, as does life. The various layers of myth and meaning, the multiple movements enacted in Going for the Rain continue to appear in Ortiz’s later works. His poetry has developed in different directions during his career but has never lost the basic sense of mythical reality, the strong engagement with place, the influence of orality, and the intercessions for historical truth, resistance, and justice. From Sand Creek, for example, recalls the massacre of 133 peaceful Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne by the troops of Colonel John Chivington at Sand Creek, Colorado in 1864 and links this atrocity to the more generalized domination of Native peoples in America and to specific narratives of loss. Ortiz wrote these poems from the Veterans Administration Hospital in Colorado in 1974 and 1975. Undergoing treatment there for alcoholism, he reads in the faces and histories of his fellow patients the legacy of personal and cultural loss, yet he still expresses a hope for survival: This America has been a burden of steel and mad death, but, look now, there are flowers and new grass and a spring wind rising from Sand Creek. (9)


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The most overtly political of his books, Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land was published in 1980, in commemoration of the Pueblo Revolt 300 years earlier in which, Ortiz explains, the people rebelled against “theft of land and resources, slave labor, religious persecution, and unjust tribute demands” (Woven Stone 31). One of several of his collections that combine poetry and narrative prose, the book relates the history of the region, offering a strongly critical view of the various colonial interventions in the Southwest, ranging from before first contact with the Spanish through the passing of “ownership” with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo right up to the 1980 publication of the book. Ortiz provides clear indictments of many of these historical actions as well as of the colonial and later capitalist philosophies behind the exploitation of land and people. Among his specific targets are the uranium mining in the Laguna-Acoma-Grants region, the fallout from atomic bomb detonation at White Sands, the navy takeover of the Coso Hot Springs, and the callous display of Native remains as tourist attractions. Although the circumstances of exploitation differ from instance to instance, Ortiz succinctly summarizes the greed involved in “Returning It Back, You Will Go On”: Power companies and corporations railroads, agribusiness, electronics, states, cities, towns, the men and women who work in them, all of them—all of America— take and takes from the land and People. (Woven Stone 330–31) He exposes the self-interest of the U.S. government in its dealings with the Native peoples of the region, its collusion with first railroad interests and later the mining industry; and he exposes the false justifications for these actions: “It would be in the national interest, of course, with the U.S. economy at stake that Indian lands and people, whose affairs were ruled by the BIA, would be exploited” (354). Throughout the collection, Ortiz links the various generations who experience injustice, and ultimately he calls on the People to “fight back,” just as the Pueblo Indians did in 1680. His poems also call for this new revolution in voices from several generations. He recalls, for example,“Mama’s and Daddy’s Words”—“You have to fight/by working for the land and the People”—as well as the words of an “elder Paiute man”—“It will come,/the moving power of the voice,/the moving power of the earth,/the moving power of the People” (329, 324). Ortiz himself states plainly the need for the struggle to continue; his poetry becomes a part of that struggle as it works to educate and to incite action. What he calls the “national sacrifice area” in the Southwest can exist as long as Americans remain indifferent to the dynamics of exploitation.“The American poor and the workers and the white middleclass, who are probably the most ignorant of all U.S. citizens, must understand how they, like Indian people, are forced to serve a national interest, controlled by capitalist vested interests in collusion with U.S. policy makers, which does not serve them” (361). This understanding is what Ortiz tries to bring about through his work. Just as in Going for the Rain Ortiz draws a connection with the ritual “going for the shiwana” and employs a traditional song to open the collection, in Fight Back some of the poems continue to work in a structure similar to traditional song, employing a chantlike repetition and reflecting or enacting the ceremonial use of the spoken to bring something

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about. In his most recent collection, Out There Somewhere (2002), he strengthens this connection with the oral tradition, including several “Acoma Poems,” first in his Native Acoma and then in English translations. They too build incrementally, as these few lines from “KUUTRA TSAH-TSEH-MA SRUTAI-KYUIYAH” (“Your Life You Are Carrying”) illustrate: Ya-aie sru-taie-kqui-yah. Haatse sru-taie-kqui-yah. Kuutra tsah-tseh-mah sru-taikyuiyah. (Dirt you are holding. Land you are carrying. Your life you are carrying.) (90–91) Just as Ortiz was among the first Native poets to publish widely in English, he is among those now moving toward decolonization through publication in a Native language. * * * A Native writer whose work has consistently employed her Native language and attempted in various ways to embody her tribal worldview is Tlingit poet and translator Nora Marks Dauenhauer. Born in Juneau, Alaska, and raised there as well as on her family’s fishing boat and at subsistence living sites, Dauenhauer spoke Tlingit exclusively until the age of eight, when she started school. She is widely known as a translator and anthologizer of Tlingit oral literature, and is the author of two collections of poetry, The Droning Shaman (1988) and Life Woven with Song (2000).20 Much of her own writing, like that of Vizenor and Henson, has an imagistic quality, and, like that of Vizenor, Henson, and Ortiz, demonstrates awareness of the colonialism within which it exists. Embedded within her poetry, even that devoted to political critique, an almost tangible presence of the natural world of Alaska and the fisherman’s physical reality combine with her portrayal of Tlingit traditional life. The poem “Seal Rookery,” for example, offers a concise, vivid image, recognizably native to the Northwest Coastal region—“Under its brown fur/the beach twitches to life”—as does the imagistic “Kelp”: “Ribbons of iodine/unrolled by fingers/of waves” (Droning Shaman 6, 7). One of Dauenhauer’s most popular poems,“How to Make Good Baked Salmon from the River,” is also filled with the place language and the imagery of her native Alaska, but Dauenhauer playfully undercuts the status of “tradition” by including modern substitutions for the traditional foods and methods. As the poem details the process involved in enjoying baked salmon, from butchering all the way to the postfeast activities, important cultural lessons emerge, such as remembering to toss the guts to “your kin,” the “seagulls and the ravens,” and taking care not to insult the mosquitoes as you shoo them away since they “are known to be the ashes of the cannibal giant” (The Droning Shaman 11–16). Not least among these lessons is adaptability: the poet’s instructions to the reader are followed by her delightful suggestions of adjustments. For instance: Push stake through flesh and skin like pushing a needle through cloth, so that it hangs on stakes while cooking over fire made from adder wood.

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Then sit around and watch the slime on the salmon begin to dry out. Notice how red the flesh is, and how silvery the skin looks. Watch and listen how the grease crackles, and smell its delicious aroma drifting around on a breeze. adapted by necessity, become: In this case, put the poached salmon in a fry pan. Smell how good it smells while it is cooking, because this is soooooooooooo important. (12) The physical and cultural placement within Dauenhauer’s poetry includes everything from the kind of landscape lines evident in the poems above to her address to the “Guardians— Shageinyaa” to her explication of her grandchildren’s Tlingit names. It is from within this concrete cultural context that Dauenhauer issues her critiques on colonialism. One of Dauenhauer’s short poems, “Genocide,” presents a vivid picture of colonialism in action and deftly offers poetic commentary on it. Dauenhauer first presents and then challenges the “English” perspective, which apparently values the life of the whales over the life of the Eskimo: Picketing the Eskimo Whaling Commission, an over-fed English girl stands with a sign, “Let the Whales Live.” (Droning Shaman 26) The poet’s decision to break the first line after the word “Eskimo,” thus calling for a slight vocal pause, allows the opening phrase to stand alone—suggesting the action of “Picketing the Eskimo”—and then to represent the literal object of the picket line—“the Eskimo Whaling Commission.”Also inviting a double reading, Dauenhauer’s title,“Genocide,” undergoes a shift in reference in the poem, from the perspective of the “over-fed English girl” to the killing of the whales, from the perspective of the poet or the Eskimo Whaling Commission to the cultural genocide that devalues the Eskimo livelihood. One of Dauenhauer’s longer poems from the same collection, “Village Tour, Nome Airport,” again shows the poet’s keen awareness of the imperial racism (or what Edward Said has termed “Orientalism”) at play in many everyday encounters (27).21 Here, a “tour guide” objectifies first a Native woman and then a young, nameless, handcuffed male. In the first encounter, the guide “slides her glossy smile/toward the native seamstress,” asks “‘May I touch your coat?’” and then proceeds to do so without waiting for a reply as she continues: “‘They make them by hand.’” Of the youth she explains,“‘They all go to jail.’” Dauenhauer’s selection of detail and careful presentation show her very conscious critique of the mentality exposed in the poem. Natives, of course, become “they,” in a demonstration of the kind of “Othering” Said has so eloquently described. The guide’s possessive display of “her”

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Natives and her ready violation of the seamstress’s person stand symbolic of the larger colonial possession—the professed “ownership” of the land; the dehumanization of the Native peoples through various, sometimes subtle, kinds of disenfranchisement, including the casual disregard for their right to privacy; and finally, the objectification of their ongoing participation in a living culture as well as the commodification of the linked material accoutrements of that culture. The guide’s pseudo-request for permission also might be understood in terms of what Vizenor calls the “manifest manners” of contemporary colonialism, in which the theory and the machinery of Manifest Destiny are transposed to other, more subtle levels of enactment. Vizenor sees manifest manners at work, for example, in our legal system, popular media, universities, and various branches of the government. The guide’s address to the Native woman might be a part of those “racial salutations and other public relations snobberies (which) serve those who dominate” (“Manifest Manners: The Long Gaze of Christopher Columbus” 232).22 Read against a history in which the colonizers professed their “God-given right to conquer,” the “polite” gestures of society merely mask the relentless advance of the goals of conquest. Dauenhauer’s poem “Cross Talk” exposes another of these acts of possession—a kind of labeling that is symbolic of the wholesale renaming undertaken throughout North America: When asked by the census taker how old she was Gramma replied, “Tleil dutoow, tleil dutoow.” The census taker says, “Fifty two.” (The Droning Shaman 32) A note with the poem translates the Tlingit phrase “Tleil dutoow” as “It’s not counted.” Clearly Dauenhauer means to underscore the census taker’s disregard of the grandmother’s statement. Whether or not we read the grandmother’s reply as one of resistance to the cultural practice of naming age or as a simple reluctance to share this information, the government representative blatantly ignores it. She thus symbolically erases the woman’s history by literally re-figuring it in the arbitrary assignment of a mathematical sign, recalling the similar arbitrary renaming of people, tribes, geographical places, features of the landscape, weather patterns, animals, etc. that has been part and parcel of the history of colonization. Throughout her poetry, Dauenhauer displays her awareness of the “colonization of language” inherent in these acts. And, as she speaks out against it, she combines her revolutionary statements with the revolutionary performance of her work. We can see her own “acts of resistance” in her translations, for example, when she occasionally identifies a Tlingit word as “untranslatable,” thus refusing to violate the integrity of cultural meaning by an approximation.23 In a similar vein, the poem “Listening for Native Voices” refuses the dictate to speak “in English” and the cultural idea that “voicing” or written language is somehow necessary or superior to either the nonverbal reality or the act of attentiveness to the world. Apparently alluding to students involved in a “Native Writers’ Workshop” in Nome, Alaska, Dauenhauer writes:

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Trapped voices, frozen under sea ice of English, buckle, surging to be heard. (The Droning Shaman 28) In addition to clearly depicting the troubled position of the students, through their imagery, these lines themselves construct alternative ground for communication, a minor Zeitgeist or a landscape language, either of which can then become a means of liberation from the dominating cultural influences. The imagery clearly comes from a coastal culture familiar with the frozen, with “sea ice,” its buckling and breaking, and the surging of trapped water from underneath the frozen surface. When the second half of the poem continues: “We say/‘Listen for sounds./They are as important/as voices’” and emphatically commands: “Listen./Listen./Listen./Listen,” the place of this attentive engagement has already symbolically been secured by the poet. Indeed, Dauenhauer undertakes multiple revolutionary acts in her roles as poet, teacher, and translator. Working as a translator and compiler of Tlingit-language materials and an employee of the Sealaska Heritage Foundation, she has devoted herself to preservation and decolonization. In one of Dauenhauer’s innovative moves, she not only translates Tlingit oral literature into English but also, in The Droning Shaman, translates poems from the likes of the American e. e. cummings and the Japanese haiku master Matsuo Basho into Tlingit, thus privileging the Native language (90–91). In her translation of cummings’s “The Grasshopper,” Dauenhauer replaces the grasshopper with a “jumping jack” or sand flea, which is “geared . . . to the place I come from” (interview, “Poetics and Politics” Web site). These kind of subtle political reversals are among Dauenhauer’s successful poetic acts of resistance and recovery. * * * Among the other influential poets of the first wave is Chickasaw author Linda Hogan, whose consciousness of working for justice and decolonization has likewise informed her writing throughout her career. Her six collections of poetry, from Calling Myself Home through Book of Medicines, span the years from 1978 to 1993. Hogan, like Ortiz, has published in several genres, and the works that have gained her the most attention in the literary world have been primarily in fiction and creative nonfiction. Still, her poetry first established her importance among Native authors; the 1985 Seeing Through the Sun won an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and the 1993 Book of Medicines was a National Book Critics Circle finalist. Hogan’s poetry draws upon her experiences of city dwelling and motherhood, her fascination with the natural world, her connections to her homeland of Oklahoma, and her dedication to the working-class poor. Hogan’s debut with Calling Myself Home set a precedent for much of the other work to follow. In this collection she began to shape an understanding of human origin and existence that upholds a sense of relatedness to the larger, ageless natural world and to articulate the role she sees for herself and other Native writers in working for justice and survival. In her essay, “The Two Lives,” Hogan writes, “I have learned that to be spiritually conscious means to undertake a journey that is often a political one, a vision of equality and freedom. It is often to resist. . . . It is to pray as well as to fight for the animals, the waters, against all

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wars, violence, and division” (I Tell You Now 247). In this first volume of poetry, we see the author’s journey and her attempt to balance these various “callings.” Specifically, Hogan calls herself and her readers to understand a different sense of home and belonging, and to speak for those literally or figuratively voiceless. In Hogan’s work, the two avenues of action are inevitably linked: from the new vision of self—the spiritual undertaking—comes the power to resist and to fight—the political undertakings. Within Calling Myself Home, Hogan introduces various notions of home and homelessness. She recollects, for example, the voluntary migrations of her Chickasaw ancestors, who followed the leadings of a sacred pole to guide their journeys. “Chickasaw/chikkih asachi,” she writes in “Blessing,” means “they left as a tribe not a very great while ago.” And Hogan recalls this migratory spirit in a voice of mild lament: “They were always leaving, those people” (27). The cultural legacy of this volume also includes the forced migration the Chickasaw endured as a result of the U.S. government’s policies of removal under Andrew Jackson. Finally, the movement of Hogan’s own family into and out of Chickasaw territory in Oklahoma during her childhood also informs the collection. The pilgrimage implied in the poems of Calling Myself Home involves a coming home to the physical landscape of Oklahoma as well as the poet’s overcoming of the sense of perpetual homelessness—“From my family I have learned the secrets/of never having a home” (17)—by learning to feel at home in herself. In the title poem of the collection, Hogan writes of returning to “our land” and of the “dry river . . . bed . . . the road I walked to return” (6). But here and elsewhere, she characterizes return in terms of memory and history as much as of actual place. She uses various images to convey a sense of incalculable age: old bones, something buried or residing in another element, an arrowhead, the dried-up land. She writes of “the old turtle,” with “small yellow bones of animals inside” (3), “the dry pond/old bowl of earth” (4), “trees” that “have been in this place so long” (4), and “turtle, old as earth” (5). The title poem offers this characterization of our condition: We are plodding creatures like the turtle born of an old people. We are nearly stone turning slow as the earth. Our mountains are underground they are so old. (6) The movement in Calling Myself Home is toward this awareness of long-standing history as much as toward the land itself. The journey is toward an idea of kinship, of being invested in a community and an ancient cycle of being. The individual identity of the narrator is again and again subsumed in the vast age of the earth, in the larger “we” and “our” of the poems. In “Leaving,” for example, Hogan says “good-bye” to one way of thinking about the world, to a certain kind of engagement or attachment, as she accepts a new vision: . . . I step out of my old skin like a locust singing good-bye, feet still clinging


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to the black walnut tree. They say I’ve burned all my brown sticks for telling time and still it passes away. (23) The poems waver between a kind of homesickness, a longing that is partly answered by the recognition of Hogan’s “heritage,” and the sense of arrival through memory at a place beyond the spent “brown sticks/for telling time.” That place, as Hogan begins to portray it in this early collection, stands distinct from any kind of biblical “promised land.” Indeed, throughout her poetry and prose Hogan invokes the Christian Bible in order to challenge its statements or claims. “Blessing,” for example, opens with a verbal recollection of “The Beatitudes,” which the poet undercuts throughout the poem with a powerful sense of irony. “Blessed/are the injured animals,” she writes, “for they live in cages,” and “Blessed are the rich/for they eat meat every night./They have already inherited the earth” (26). What is left “for the rest of us,” Hogan suggests, with an ironic gesture toward Psalm 23, is to go live in places a rich man can’t inhabit, in the sunfish and jackrabbits, in the cinnamon colored soil, the land of red grass and red people in the valley of the shadow of Elk who aren’t there. Hogan’s later poetry continues her re-visions of biblical accounts and passages as she aligns the effects of religious dominations and historical dominations of Native peoples with the historical dominations. The survival sites Hogan seeks and identifies in poems like “Blessing” are places of nature, memory, history, imagination, and spirit. The male voice in “Man in the Moon” tells the narrator, “we’re like the spider/we weave new beds around us/when old ones are swept away” (19). Hogan’s poems convey an understanding of our role as builders and rebuilders of our own homes, our sense of belonging. Ultimately, the home to which Hogan calls her persona and her readers is not a specific structure or place on the globe; rather, it is an understanding of home as our own ongoing journey, the relationships we nurture within and without. In poems throughout the book she uses the image of the turtle, that mythic “home” of Indian people who reside “on turtle’s back,” which recalls the Chickasaw use of turtle-shell rattles in ceremonial healing. In Hogan’s hands, the metaphor opens to revelations of how “we” who are all searching for the place of belonging can learn to carry home with us, can learn how to live at home with the planet. “Wake up,” she writes, “we are women./The shells are on our backs” (3). Hogan’s understanding of how to achieve a sense of belonging, of the journey home, also includes a recognition of our long investment in the land, our tenure on the very earth. She

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writes of “land that will always own us” (13),“the red earth” that “passes like light into us/and stays,” and finally, she pictures homecoming as involving a responsibility of continuance: “The land is the house/we have always lived in./The women,/their bones are holding up the earth” (6). Thus we gain a sense of identity and belonging from locating our self in the earth and history, but somehow we must also “make return,” assume our role in ensuring future survival. Note the similarity here between Hogan’s expression of the idea of response-ability and Maurice Kenny’s—speaking of both “legacy” and “obligation” in his poem “Legacy”— and N. Scott Momaday’s—speaking of a “land ethic” and of our need to “invest” ourselves in the landscape in “Native American Attitudes to the Environment.” Hogan’s poems simultaneously offer examples of how we might live out our responseability and engage in “holding up the earth” or ensuring various kinds of survival. In Calling Myself Home, the return is made partly through gaining voice and through literary retelling. The importance of voice becomes clear in several of the poems, including “Going to Town,” in which the narrator asks, “What do we have left/except the mirage of sound?” (9). Loss of voice, the poems imply, results from various colonial acts of repression. Note, for example, the ominous allusions in the story told in “Going to Town” (8–9) and enlarged in “Stolen Trees” (10) about “walnut trees . . . stolen during the night/and transformed/into the handles of guns.” The poem “Left Hand Canyon”—which refers to the historical Chief Left Hand and thus alludes to the massacre at Sand Creek and the trials of the allotment process—makes a straightforward reference to the literal taking of Indian land and the symbolic taking of his voice: You can’t take a man’s words. They are his even as the land is taken away where another man builds his house. (28) The poem also announces Hogan’s literary response to these historical losses, her making of “return” through the retelling: If his words were taken from him, I’m giving them back. These words, if you listen they are real. These words, a hand has written them. The dehumanization of Native peoples as professed within the philosophies and enacted through the policies of Manifest Destiny is here rhetorically challenged, the predicted and desired “vanishment” of America’s Indians reversed, and their voice restored through Hogan’s insistence upon physical and verbal presence in the poem. Taking up the responsibility of re-speaking or retelling is one way that Hogan completes her personal journey cycle. As she writes in her autobiographical essay, “The Two Lives,” “Telling our lives is important, for those who come after us, for those who will see our expe-

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rience as part of their own historical struggle. I think of my work as part of the history of our tribe and as part of the history of colonization everywhere” (I Tell You Now 233). By tracing her personal search against a backdrop of ancestral stories and historical migrations, Calling Myself Home weaves a textured journey of loss, return, recovery, and literary retelling, and, like many Native texts that reach beyond the literary, it returns to the Indian people a vision of survival. In her 1991 introduction to the republication of Calling Myself Home within the volume Red Clay: Poems and Stories, Hogan recalls “the desperate need to articulate that went into these early poems, the need to say what hadn’t been spoken” (1). In Calling Myself Home, Hogan says, she writes of “how some of us fell through history alive” (Red Clay 1); and since she recognizes that continued survival depends upon the recovery of voice, the pathway she envisions culminates in a re-speaking: That song, if you sing for it and pray it to come, in the distance it grows nearer. (9) The book both identifies the necessity of speaking and itself enacts the process. Voice, particularly Hogan’s awareness of it in the political arena, informs much of the poetry that follows her 1979 collection. The 1983 volume, Eclipse, includes a section entitled “Who Will Speak,” in which Hogan writes of “this searching for words/to say again what has been said/and not heard” (“Houses” 38). Other lines in the poem allude to the injustices that have not been acknowledged, including Indian removal. In the poem that gives title to the section, she asks: “the animals/who will speak for them?” (42), and in another section, “Daughters, I Love You” (a reprint of an earlier chapbook), Hogan deals with other unacknowledged truths, specifically, the ignored dangers of nuclear weapons, including a specific reactor accident. The voiceless or underrepresented in Hogan’s poems are many, but she gives particular attention to working poor and to women. Savings, her 1988 collection, contains many strong “poems of witness,” including one of her frequently anthologized works, “The New Apartment: Minneapolis” (9–11). This poem offers a specific account of “one of The People” (Indians) describing “how last spring white merchants hung an elder/on a meathook and beat him.” But she gestures broadly beyond this single instance of injustice with the claim, “I remember this war/and all the wars.” Other poems in the collection speak of “children without food” and “how my sisters are chained to prison beds” (“Workaday” 43) and of “two men [who] have shot themselves” (“Neighbors” 65). As Hogan names these individual injustices, she insists upon both their political realism and their metaphorical purpose. She writes in Savings: “This is the truth, not just a poem” and “This is a poem, not just the truth” (65). Hogan’s works also identify “speaking” as a political act and call the reader to join the forces of resistance. In “Folksong,” from her 1985 collection, Seeing Through the Sun, for example, she writes: The men are in assembly. They speak, yes or no and change the living to the dead. Such is the power of words. (8)

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And she self-consciously demonstrates taking up the “power of words”: This poem is written in the languages the presidents speak. That is another reason to learn a new tongue. (8) Finally, in poems like “Those Who Thunder,”“Get Up, Go AWOL!” and “Morning with Broken Window” from Savings, she claims a voice for the oppressed—“we are thundering and beating on the floors/and this is how walls have fallen in other cities” (72)—and, with a certain urgency, invites the reader’s participation: . . . just imagine the broken lives and wars of others. So rip your gray dress at the seams, tear things apart. Frisk the ruins and let the wicks of candles burning inside you shine a light in dark corners. Hurry up now, hurry. (“Morning with Broken Window” 18) In many ways Hogan’s most recent collection of poetry, The Book of Medicines, follows her own directive as it attempts to “shine a light in dark corners.” The collection, like “The Gospel of Horse” from her novel Mean Spirit, seems to set itself up as a corrective to the Christian Bible.24 The Book of Medicines offers an-Other account and an-Other interpretation of everything from creation to the fall, from the flood to a new kind of redemption. The healing imagined in these evocative poems is attained in ways similar to that outlined in Calling Myself Home—in going to live among the “sunfish and jackrabbits,” by returning to “the cinnamon colored soil” and recognizing our place in and our possession by “the red earth” that “passes like light into us/and stays”—but the imagery in the poems from The Book of Medicines is denser, richer, and the power of the natural world is depicted as a stronger force. Within the elemental female forces like those in “Other, Sister, Twin”—the earth, the glacier, the ocean—we begin to find “the bundles of healing,” “the cure” (84). By remembering our relatedness to the natural world, “remembering our lives/from before the time of science/before we fell from history” (85), we begin to return to our true place, to true knowledge of our origin and our response-abilities to the “direction of life” (80). As her reputation broadens through her work in fiction, creative nonfiction, and the editing of several anthologies, Hogan’s poetic messages continue to challenge new audiences to action. * * * The first wave of publishing in Native poetry included the work of well more than a dozen other fine writers whose poems continue to be anthologized and/or who themselves continue to have an impact on the field. Many are still publishing new poetic works, although some have branched into other genres and a few have died. These writers include: Wendy Rose, Paula Gunn Allen, Mary Tall Mountain (Koyukon/Athabaskan), Louis Littlecoon Oliver (Muskogee), Gogisi/Carroll Arnett (Cherokee), Joseph Bruchac, Duane Niatum,


Part II

Geary Hobson, Jim Barnes (Choctaw), Barney Bush (Shawnee), Ray Young Bear, James Welch, Roberta Hill Whiteman, Leslie Marmon Silko, Diane Glancy, Ralph Salisbury (Cherokee), Carol Lee Sanchez (Laguna), and Peter Blue Cloud (Mohawk). A good number of these early authors also worked more or less formally to advance the Native poetic movement. Bruchac, Hobson, Kenny, and Niatum in particular contributed to the development of the idea of a Native poetics, both through their own poetry and through important work as anthologizers and editors. Hobson edited the extensive early anthology The Remembered Earth (1981) that included poetry; and Niatum, Carriers of the Dream Wheel: Contemporary Native American Poetry (1975) and the still influential Harper’s Anthology of 20th-Century Native American Poetry (1988). Bruchac and Kenny contributed their energies and financial backing to various projects: Kenny by editing Contact II and publishing Native poets under the Strawberry Press imprint; Bruchac by editing a number of important volumes such as Songs from This Earth on Turtle’s Back and Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets, running the Greenfield Review and the Greenfield Review Press, and distributing for many years the North American Native Author’s Catalogue. The impact of these publishing projects on the creation of popular and academic audiences for Native poetry cannot be overestimated. Also advancing the flourishing new field in American literature were a handful of nonNative scholars who supported the authors by providing reading and publishing venues, writing reviews, and introducing the poetry into their own academic publishing and into the established scholarly associations. Although some of the work, approaches, and motives of these non-Native scholars sparked controversy, the serious attention they gave to the emerging movement in contemporary Native poetry helped establish this field in the larger canon of American literature. Among those whose work was influential was Brian Swann, who wrote the introduction to the Niatum-edited Harper’s Anthology and, together with Arnold Krupat, also edited the still popular I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers and the recent (2000) follow-up volume Here First: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers. Swann, Krupat, Jerome Rothenberg, Dennis Tedlock, Elaine Jahner, and Karl Kroeber have worked to understand the interface between the oral and the written in Native literature, a subject that, of course, influenced the reading and interpretation of contemporary poetry. Other important scholarship from this era evolved from the first Modern Language Association/National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar on American Indian Literature held in 1977. A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff, who would eventually help gain recognition for Native literature as a division within the Modern Language Association, was one of the participants, together with a key organizer, Laguna writer and scholar Paula Gunn Allen. Other participants included Larry Evers, Kathleen Sands, Gretchen Bataille, Patricia Clark Smith, Kenneth Roemer, and James Ruppert, all of whom would go on to make major contributions in the field. The 1983 Studies in American Indian Literature, edited by Allen, came out of this seminar, and in 1990 Ruoff published the invaluable American Indian Literatures: An Introduction, Bibliographic Review, and Selected Bibliography. I name only a handful of the scholars and works that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but this nascent scholarship inevitably affected the poetic genre as it drew positive public acknowledgment for the authors. At the same time, the sudden popularity of “Indian” literature subjected the writing itself to a kind of stereotypic simplification at the hands of less astute scholars and publicity personnel. Caught up in a minor ethnographic frenzy, authors were called upon to explicate

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and interpret their own oral and written performances, defining the genre as it was yet unfolding and inadvertently creating a narrow standard for Native poetry despite the broad range of indigenous literary and cultural experiences. The effort to discredit this early simplification continues, often within the poetry itself. The various endeavors in scholarship and publishing during this era also inadvertently contributed to the creation of a separate category for “Native American” writings, to the marginalization of works by indigenous authors. The Harper & Row Native American publishing program, which brought to the public works by Duane Niatum, James Welch, and Nasnaga as well as the controversial Hyemeyohsts Storm and included among its releases Carriers of the Dream Wheel: Contemporary Native American Poetry, gave Native authors a broader audience, but the creation of a designated space for Native literary performance had the undesired effect of limiting access to other publishing spaces. Jarold Ramsey notes in a 1982 review of one of Niatum’s books that the Harper & Row program “may now in fact be perpetuating a set of double standards, whereby Indian writers get published within the Program—or not at all, at least not by Harper and Row” (Studies in American Indian Literatures 8). Today, various university presses, including Nebraska, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Michigan State, sponsor special Native publishing series, the editorial boards for which all include prominent Native writers and scholars. Some presses seem to funnel all their Native authors into these publishing avenues; others continue to publish Native authors under other more general rubrics. Once published, Native works are often similarly pigeonholed by marketers and reviewers. Indeed, the problems of marginalization and oversimplification are two among the many “-ations,” “-isms,” and “-ings”—commodification, museumization, consumerism, voyeurism, exoticizing, racializing, essentializing, Othering—that problematize the publication and reception of literature by indigenous authors. * * * Among the poets from this era who has remained extremely conscious of the often bogus expectations for Indian poetry is Mesquakie writer Ray Young Bear. His poetry, which includes Waiting to Be Fed (1975), Winter of the Salamander: The Keeper of Importance (1980), The Invisible Musician (1990), and The Rock Island Hiking Club (2001), is distinguished in subjects and style, and the author’s experiments with language and form have attracted significant attention. Young Bear’s 1992 autobiographical work Black Eagle Child wavers between narrative and poetry, just as much of his poetry wavers in the surrealistic spaces between memory and dream. Scholar David Moore writes of Young Bear’s efforts to “reshape the English language” (Dictionary of Literary Biography 322); Robert Gish points out his startling poetic movements, calling one “a mystical non sequitur” (“Memory and Dream in the Poetry of Ray A. Young Bear” 24); and various scholars have noted the multivocal reality of this poet’s work (alluding to everything from the actual inclusion of voices like those of his grandfather or the fictional Bumblebee, to bilingual passages, to the incorporation of multiple personae and various kinds of diction). Indeed, there is a multiplicity in Young Bear that goes beyond mere voice. N. Scott Momaday, for example, describes Young Bear’s poems as coming from “a native intelligence that is at once ancient and contemporary, straightforward and ironic, provocative and insightful” (Invisible Musician book jacket); Young Bear himself has offered various comments on his methods and purpose, calls the “word-collecting process” an “admixture of time present and past, of direction found and then lost, of actuality and dream” (“After-

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word” 260). The process of bringing together these various perspectives results in poetry that depicts the motion of search as much as it depicts any arrivals at specific kinds of understanding. Young Bear acknowledges the tentative nature of his assertions and, in a 1992 interview, describes his “jigsaw” technique with dreams, in which he collects “ten or twelve dreams” and pieces them together to “try to form some sort of statement” (“Staying Afloat in a Chaotic World”). He describes Black Eagle Child as “equivalent to a collage done over a lifetime via the tedious layering upon layering of images by an artist who didn’t believe in endings, for the sweeping visions he wanted to capture were constant and forever changing” (“Afterword” 255). Naturally, then, Young Bear’s poetry moves between balance and disruption. “The Language of Weather,” for example, contains both a moment in which “everything/is aligned: part-land, part-cloud,/part-sky, part-sun and part-self,” and the image of a “Whirlwind,” which, Young Bear tells us, “represent(s) the eternally trapped shadows or ‘souls’ of the deceased” (The Invisible Musician 6, 95). After epiphany, revelation (or what he calls in this poem “renascence”), disruption, confusion, or complication inevitably follows. In Young Bear’s poetry this condition of reality is not lamented but accepted. Mystery is by nature ever elusive. As he writes in “The Reason I Am Afraid Even Though I Am a Fisherman”: I respect the river for not knowing its secret, for answers have nothing to do with cause and occurrence. (The Invisible Musician 9) Young Bear is aware that the sometimes complex perspectives of his poetry do not fulfill the expectations for Indian literature held by many publishers. He interrogates these publishing preferences both in his poems and in his comments on the literary scene in America. In an interview with Joseph Bruchac from the 1987 Survival This Way, Young Bear relates a story of his frequent rejections by Another Chicago Magazine, his decision to write several imitative or derivative poems, and his subsequent success in placing them with the journal. In the previously mentioned poem, “in disgust and in response to Indian-type poetry written by whites published in a mag which keeps rejecting me,” he implies a comparison between “witchcraft” and the attempt to possess another culture. The accusation of cultural appropriation is stated more baldly in the lines describing those who “come here and write this poem/about something no one/knows about/no authority to anything” (winter of the salamander 120). Even in Young Bear’s attempt to create what he calls an “artistic interlacing of ethereality,” he remains vigilant, avoiding the easy stereotype of the Indian mystic (“Afterword” 254). The “ethereal,” introduced in poems like “The Language of Weather,”“Wa ta se Na ka moni, Viet Nam Memorial,” and “Nothing Could Take Away the Bear-King’s Image,” involves a visual and visionary sensibility. Moore suggests that Young Bear employs the term “ethereal” rather than “spiritual” for what he describes as these “intuitive associations” because it carries “less New Age baggage” (325). The word itself seems to waver in intention beyond easy definition. In “Viet Nam Memorial,” Young Bear describes a song as “the ethereal kind which did not stop” (The Invisible Musician 41). In “The Bear-King’s Image,” he writes of a powerful winter breeze “which makes the brittle/oak leaves whisper in unison of this/ethereal confidence” (The Invisible Musician 52), and, in “The Language of Weather,” of “a spirit” and its “ethereal

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loneliness”(The Invisible Musician 7). Ethereality, it seems, may be otherworldly, but not necessarily inaccessible. If, as one poem suggests, “His Breath” is like “Shadows of clouds/over other clouds,” then the poet, in his careful dissection or layering of poetic images, may cause readers to see, hear, or somehow experience a momentary understanding of that elusive reality, may place them within the range of its shadow.Yet, as Moore also points out,Young Bear’s poems employ humor and “earthy” images to undercut and balance the more “reverential” elements. “This technique” is, he claims, “like that of sacred clowns” and “brings the reverential atmosphere of ceremonies ‘down to earth’ where, in fact, it is strongest because spirit and matter are not separated” (325). We see this technique at work in a poem like “Fox Guides From La Crosse On,” in which Young Bear undercuts the idea of “Fox-allies” or “Fox Guides” with a question from one speaker who asks, “Why did you not run them over./For the hide; perhaps it’s expensive” (The Invisible Musician 90). Once again, the poetry provides its own disruption and avoids the falseness of a static reality. Young Bear’s acts of resistance in poetry have parallels in his life.Although he has attended various colleges, including Grinnell and the University of Iowa, and has teaching experience, he has resisted the fate of many Indian writers who become a part of academia (often in order to further their opportunities in writing and publishing). This association with the academy frequently puts them at a physical distance from their tribe or home community. Young Bear has chosen to remain on the Mesquakie Tribal Settlement (ancestral land along the Iowa River acquired for his community in 1856 by his great-grandfather, Maminwanike). In The Facepaint Narratives, Young Bear’s fictional creation, Edgar Bearchild, writes in a telling fellowship application letter: “Because no other voice should ever/can ever replace the original voice of the American Indian poet, especially one who resides at the place of his birth and not in city or academia, I merely seek to compose meaningful narratives as experienced within the Black Eagle Child Nation” (139–40). To some degree, this statement can be read as a reflection of Young Bear’s own position and intentions. * * * The position of Klallam writer and anthologizer Duane Niatum offers an important counterpoint to Young Bear’s. Niatum—of mixed Klallam, French, and Irish ancestry; a city dweller but a frequent visitor among tribal relatives and lands; educator; editor; navy traveler who confesses to finding himself very much “between” several cultural and racial categories—also positioned himself early on as strongly against being identified as a “Native American” writer, in fact contested the idea that there could be such an aesthetic identification at all. His strongest statement on this matter is in “On Stereotypes,” an essay first published in Parnassus and later included in a slightly revised form in the 1987 volume edited by Swann and Krupat, Recovering the Word: Essays on Native American Literature: It is my opinion that there is not a Native American aesthetic that we can recognize as having separate principles from the standards of artists from Western European and American cultures. And anyone who claims there is encourages a conventional and prescriptive response from both Native Americans and those from other cultures. (554) Niatum illustrates his claim with excerpts from the works of “Richard Blessing, an AngloAmerican; Simon J. Ortiz, an Acoma Pueblo; and Ted Hughes, an Englishman” and finds in all three “elements that are often associated with Native American cultures” (556). Niatum

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goes on to declare that the “Native American’s standards of art are no different from anyone else’s,” although he admits “there will be different results as there is between an artist from Moscow and, say, Chicago” (555). He suggests that Native poets “might introduce into the work ancestral myths and legends, stories, and jokes,” but that these should be accessible to any reader “if the artist has accomplished his job” (555–56). Those who might debate Niatum’s position would likely note that his analysis of the excerpts and his comments on the use of myth and other elements deal with subjects more than aesthetics. Within discussions of literary aesthetic, a key distinction in regard to Native literature involves an understanding of art as process rather than product, and this ideal in turn affects many qualities and intentions of the poetry, which may then be marked by a retained tension between the stasis of the written and the dynamism of the oral, the dialogic quality of exchange or implied exchange, a complex circularity, an open-endedness, and the use of language for invocation as well as evocation. My intention here is not to engage in the debate, but merely to acknowledge the complicated stances evolving at this era in history and to note their spillover into poetry. Indeed, if we place Niatum’s statement in the context of his later comments on the subject, his own work as anthologizer of volumes devoted exclusively to Native poetry, and his own poetry and his discussion of it, his stance seems more a distaste for the restrictions and expectations implied in the creation of a separate category for Native poets or poetry than a disputing of the existence of a genre or even something like an aesthetic of Native poetry. In an interview with Joseph Bruchac, for example, he speaks about the “stereotype of being a Native American poet” and says “it put shackles on the reader and sets up preconceived notions of what to expect in the poem” (Survival This Way 207). In the same interview, Niatum states, “My resistance has failed on that. . . . I don’t think it is as big a problem as I thought at the beginning of my career” (204). Indeed, in his essay in the 1984 Coyote Was Here: Essays on Native American Literary and Political Mobilization, “History in the Colors of Song: A Few Words on Contemporary Native American Poetry,” Niatum identifies by description and example several characteristics of Native poetry, and in the 1993 Looking at the Words of Our People: First Nations Analysis of Literature, he makes a case for Native poetry as “a legitimate part of the literature being produced by Americans today” (65).25 Although his position may have shifted a bit on the idea of Native poetry, in “On Stereotypes,” Niatum identifies what is perhaps a more crucial, less controversial, and more defensible point: the necessity of seeing how Native writers are “cross-culturally fertilized” (557). Niatum himself has been viewed primarily as a Native American poet and formally changed his name in 1973 from McGinnis to Niatum (the Indian name given to him by his maternal great-aunt, a name once carried by her father) to reflect his connection and commitment to his tribal heritage. Indeed, both Niatum’s own poetry and his discussion of it trace a strong link to his native Klallam ancestry, but this connection is always tempered by the duality or multiplicity of his heritage and influences. He speaks of walking “a tightrope between two cultures” (Bruchac 204) and, in “Autobiographical Sketch,” he says, “My literary and social roots are in the earth and sky philosophy and art of my Native American ancestors on one night, in the world’s art and literature on others” (I Tell You Now 134). In fact, throughout the twelve collections and chapbooks of poetry Niatum published between 1970 and 2000, several important emphases and a range of subjects are displayed. That Niatum’s cultural and personal experiences inform much of his work is apparent from his earliest publication, After the Death of an Elder Klallam, in which he builds many of the poems from details of his Salish heritage, including names of various relatives and elders,

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incorporating mythic figures like Raven and the Changer, alluding to various cultural and subsistence patterns such as the potlatch and whaling, and situating the reader clearly in the regions of the Northwest Coast through the mass of natural detail and regional place names—some, like the mountain Memp-ch-ton, given their Native name rather than the European replacement (here, Mount Olympus). The poems themselves reflect Niatum’s attempts to position himself in relation to his Native cultural heritage or to understand that position and how it relates to his role as writer, cultural keeper, transmitter, or intermediary. In some poems, he employs words, phrases, and scenes that depict the decline or loss of culture: picturing “old ones” who are “talking to the remnants” (“Valley of the Spirits” 17); alluding to the “last canoe to skim the waves” as “a relic dangling in obtuse space” (“Raven” 21); imagining his own son might “dig for the heartbeat in the ashes” (“Visiting My Son Marc at Port Angeles” 25). But in other pieces, the persona seems deeply affected by the strength of what remains and envisions for himself a role in its preservation. In “To My Salish Ancestors,” for example, he writes of “a Swinomish chorus” who “toss legends I must find in the dark” and closes with the claim: “I am of this coast and its keeper” (19). The poetic acts Niatum performs throughout his career, of course, can be read as fulfilling this very role. But ultimately, in exploring his own quandaries with respect to inheritance in beautifully rendered detail drawn from Northwest tribal cultures, Niatum’s poetry expands beyond that cultural milieu, raising, as Jarold Ramsey suggests, issues of “deracination” for a “general modern” audience. Indeed, Niatum has had other cultural and familial influences. Born in 1938 of a Klallam mother and an Italian American merchant seaman, he had little or no contact with his biological father. Before assuming Niatum as a surname, he bore the name of his mother’s second husband, McGinnis, with whom she had a short-lived relationship. Much of Niatum’s grounding in Native culture came through time spent with his maternal grandfather and aunts and uncles. He confesses to having been a troubled youth who several times ended up in reform school. At the young age of seventeen he enlisted in the navy, and his service landed him in Japan. Niatum later earned a B.A. in English at the University of Washington, studying under and crossing paths with influential literary figures like Theodore Roethke, Louise Bogan, Elizabeth Bishop, Tess Gallagher, and David Wagoner. These experiences also enrich the terrain of Niatum’s poetry. The poem “Portrait,” in After the Death of an Elder Klallam, offers a visual and metaphoric picture of a young man with “oval cranium,/cheeks thin and Salish high” who will “skip school” or steal “the sheriff ’s crepe-blue/station wagon with silver-sequined daughter/giggling beside him at the wheel” (13). The boy, who watches a “heron scan the shallows at Chimacum Creek,” is himself, we are told, “Grandson to hawk and cedar,” and will stop “to collect the scattered songs” before in life or dream he becomes that heron “counting the steps across the water” (13–14). Other poems, such as “Street Kid” and “Song of the Road” from Digging Out the Roots, reflect on his urban experiences and difficult youth. Later poems draw upon the Oriental influences in which he reveled in Japan, especially haiku, as Niatum creates many concise lyrical poems of nature. And his teachers become both subjects of poems and stylistic influences. Niatum’s poetry, then, as he suggests, incorporates multiple social and cultural realities, but his work has, perhaps despite his own early objections, earned him a place in the canon of Native writers. The complexity of Niatum’s cultural and literary position perhaps more nearly characterizes the position of many contemporary poets of the Americas than does that of Young Bear’s fictional Edgar Bearchild (or even that of Young Bear himself). Few, if any, Native poets


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would fit the idealized, romanticized, stereotype of the signifier “Indian”; Niatum’s point is that they shouldn’t be expected to. But in many literary arenas they clearly are evaluated as much on their “Indianness” as on their literary output, and they continue to be expected to perform as Indian both on and off the page. But more significant to the discussion here, many of these writers are aware of and find themselves embroiled in the identity politics that plague the broad field of Native studies. And, for better or worse, as is true of all political circumstances, these too change the face of the poetry. Many of the writers internalized these expectations and debates, and much of their work that followed the literary, if not national awareness of the Native American renaissance and the related construction of “Indian literature” “talks back” to these expectations. Although I do not suggest that this is the single focus running through the poetry of those whose work I now examine briefly (and whose oeuvre I will try to characterize more broadly), I believe they illustrate several of the varying responses to the debates surrounding the placement and character of Native poetry. * * * Laguna Pueblo writer Paula Gunn Allen, who published eight collections of poetry between 1974 and 1997, also established herself as a significant contributor to the discussions surrounding Native literature. Most notably, she edited the 1983 Studies in American Indian Literature, which contained her influential essay “The Sacred Hoop: A Contemporary Perspective,” and she published the 1986 The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions. The latter book devotes an entire section to discussions of Native identity, myth, and spirituality in Native literature; specifically discusses five female Native poets; raises important issues of gender and establishes the idea of women-centered traditions and “gynocracies” in Native culture; and opens up discussion on sexual orientation in traditional and contemporary communities. This volume made Allen’s one of the most recognizable voices of the era. In her discussions, unlike Niatum, Allen upholds the idea of a Native literary aesthetic. She writes pointedly about the subject: Most important, traditional American Indian literature is not similar to Western literature, because basic assumptions about the universe and therefore, the basic reality experienced by tribal peoples and by Western peoples are not the same. (Studies in American Indian Literature 3–4) Allen identifies several characteristics of Native philosophy and culture, including aspects of the spiritual systems and elements of the ceremonial oral traditions, and attempts to illustrate how they are embedded and embodied in the literature. Her work in this area influenced an entire generation’s understanding of the canon of Native writing. However, not all of Allen’s claims for Native reality, especially the more “New Age” pronouncements in the 1991 Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman’s Sourcebook, were received favorably by fellow Native writers and scholars. Gerald Vizenor, for example, compared her account of “channeling” to the fictitious accounts of Agnes Whistling Elk created by Lynn Andrews.26 In her discussions of gender and sexual orientation, Allen introduced the idea that, although “the roles themselves were fixed in most archaic American cultures, with divisions of ‘women’s work’ and ‘men’s work,’ the individuals fit into these roles on the basis of proclivity, inclination and temperament,” and thus were allowed a certain amount of choice in role performance. She also reported that adjustments were made in which gay males were

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often “gender-designated” as “women” and gay women as “men” (196). Allen goes on to quote from Judy Grahn’s Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds a discussion of the acceptance—even positive view—of homosexuality among a group of almost ninety named tribes.27 And, finally, she makes a case for the important shamanistic and leadership roles women played in Native societies. Although Allen’s ideas have sparked debates over the years, with some Native scholars suggesting she offers an exaggerated notion of Native feminism and an overly idealistic view of the actual position of gays and lesbians in tribal cultures, her leadership in opening these important discussions has generally been applauded. Indeed, in The Sacred Hoop Allen herself lamented the silence then surrounding sexual orientation: “The lesbian is to the American Indian what the Indian is to the American—invisible” (245). Thanks partly to her work, homosexuality is less invisible among contemporary Native writers and scholars. For example, a 1988 publication, Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology, included the work of twenty-four gay writers and supporters of gay rights, among them Allen and Maurice Kenny, as well as younger Native gay poets like Chrystos (Menominee) and Janice Gould (Maidu). Today, employing terms like “berdache”and “two-spirited,”some poets, like Cherokee Qwo-Li Driskill, include sexual orientation among a growing catalogue of selfidentification markers. Driskill’s author bio for a recent publication, for example, identifies him as “a Cherokee Two-Spirit/Queer, also of African, Irish, Lenape, Lumbee, and Osage ascent” (emphasis Driskill’s) (Speak to Me Words 284). Paula Gunn Allen, meanwhile, has continued to advance the causes she sees as interwoven: Native literatures, feminism, and gay rights. Indeed, one of her contributions to Living the Spirit, the poem “Some Like Indians Endure,” links “dykes” and “indians” throughout, citing everything from “caringsharing” to various persecutions and, finally, the unprecedented survival of both groups (9–13). Within the larger body of Allen’s oeuvre, although the poems vary in subject and approach, taken together they might be seen to illustrate many of the claims she makes in The Sacred Hoop for Native literature, emphasizing, as scholar Anne Rueman has noted, “liminality and ritual transformation, land connection, sacred continuities and balance, the road and four directions, sisterhood, resilience, storytelling, and shadows” (Dictionary of Literary Biography 15). Among Allen’s frequently anthologized poems, for example, several from the 1981 A Cannon Between My Knees center on women, mythic and real, survivors and “suicid/ing(ed)” (n.p.). “The Beautiful Woman Who Sings” catalogues the qualities of “a beautiful woman at Laguna,” identifying characteristics not always associated with conventional beauty: the strength of her hands. not gentle, though, of course gentle, but power. those women were large. big. round. smiling. serious. selfcontained. private. kept right on. with what they were. doing. beautiful. (n.p.) Later lines in the poem allude to the mythic Corn Mother, and the attributes and actions described at once encompass human and mythic realities, suggesting that the two overlap:

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beautiful women. beautiful corn woman. woman like corn: ripe and full. sweet. self generating. tasseled. blowing in the wind. meeting. juicy. feeding. coming back every time. coming home. filling the fields with green making the people dance. gathering. (n.p.) In “Womanwork,” too, the female deities are remembered in the everyday of spinning, weaving, and pottery making. The only two capitalized words in the poem—“Woman” and “She”— might be understood as referring to the female spirits: “remember/the Woman” and “She/brought/light/we remember this” (n.p.). In the more somber poems in this collection, such as “Suicid/ing(ed) Indian Woman,” Allen continues to connect tribal stories with women’s contemporary experiences, linking in the first section, for example, the story of “Mary” with that of “Iyetiko,” who is Corn Woman. Within “Suicid/ing(ed) Indian Woman,” Allen also pictures the disruption of tradition and the troubled balance Native women seek in contemporary society. She writes of the “shaken voice,” asks,“is it a small wind/we carry in our genes?/A fear of disappearance?” and depicts the difficult choices women face as they “perch uneasily/on the edge of the reservation” (n.p.). Her images of women in this poem offer examples of what she calls in The Sacred Hoop the “bicultural bind” (48). Similarly, in “Dear World,” from the 1988 Skins and Bones, beginning with reference to her mother’s illness, she broadens her comments, recognizing how the “disease of self attack” stems from the “halfbreed” condition, and claims, “There are historical reasons for this” (56). In The Sacred Hoop she calls these historical realities “ravages of colonization” and describes their ongoing effects on tribal cultures (50). Allen also gives dramatic voice to the realities of history through first-person poems in which she presents characters such as Malinal, Pocahontas, Molly Brant, and Sacagawea. In “white history,” she claims, indigenous peoples are largely “absent” except when they are “calmly, rationally, succinctly, and systematically dehumanized” or represented as “exotic curios” (The Sacred Hoop 49). Allen’s purpose in her dramatic poems is something like Kenny’s in his longer historical montages: to show the complicated reality behind the popular, simplified version of any single story. Her point in the closing stanza of the poem devoted to Sacagawea, “The One Who Skins Cats,” is one we might apply to all narrow depictions of history: Anyway, what it all comes down to is this: The story of Sacagawea, Indian maid, can be told a lot of different ways. I can be the guide, the chief. I can be the traitor, the Snake. I can be the feathers on the wind. It’s not easy skinning cats when you’re a dead woman. A small brown bird. (Skins and Bones 19)

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This broad standard of multiplicity might also apply to any attempt to define the diverse and complicated Allen herself. She claims in her 1987 autobiographical essay to be “a confluence,” and enumerates only a few of the elements that come together in her life and work when she playfully writes: “My life was more chaos than order in any ordinary American, Native American, Mexican-American, Lebanese-American, German-American, any heathen, Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, atheistic sense. Fences would have been hard to place without leaving something out” (I Tell You Now 144). Allen’s works throughout her life demonstrate her varied interests. In addition to the eight volumes of poetry, which include the 1997 retrospective Life is a Fatal Disease, Allen published one of the first Native novels to feature a strong female protagonist, The Woman Who Owned the Shadows. She has edited several collections of Native writing, and in 1998 released a volume of creative nonfiction, Off the Reservation, which ranges widely, if not wildly, and includes literary and political commentary together with personal recollections intermixed with poetry.28 The subtitle aptly characterizes both the contents and Allen’s characteristic approach, as it alludes to “Boundary-Busting, Border-Crossing Loose Cannons.” Most recently, Allen has explored the complicated reality of one of the figures from her early poem in Pocahontas: Medicine Woman, Spy, Entrepreneur, Diplomat. Over the years, Allen’s wide-ranging personal and literary explorations have won her numerous awards, including a 1990 American Book Award and a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas. Allen was among the first Native scholars to publish extensively about tribal literatures, and in her early characterization of “contemporary prose and poetry of American Indian writers” as “a major part of Indian resistance to cultural and spiritual genocide” we can recognize the role of her own work too (The Sacred Hoop 42). * * * Allen has recognized this same kind of resistance in the work of fellow feminist Wendy Rose, describing her poetry as “illuminating . . . the position of all who are dispossessed” (The Sacred Hoop 175). Rose, who identifies as a mixed-blood with Hopi and Miwok ancestry (although the identity of her father is uncertain), is known for both her poetry and her artwork. She has long been involved in American Indian justice issues, including the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz Island, and this involvement gives rise to political poetry and social criticism: Rose’s poetry has been widely anthologized and translated into several languages, and her 1980 collection, Lost Copper, was nominated for both an American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Born in 1948, Rose has revealed through her poetry, interviews, and autobiographical writing various details of a tortured childhood and young adolescence. Most important to her poetry is the alienation she felt and her literal disconnection from her ancestral Native community. Through much of her poetry and her life she forges links to her indigenous heritage and claims and builds an identity for herself in that context. This literary and personal dynamic has counterparts in the work of other well-published poets of the era, including Koyukon/Athabaskan writer Mary Tall Mountain and Cherokee writer Diane Glancy. Tall Mountain published seven books before her death in 1994, including the 1982 There Is No Word for Good-bye, which won a Pushcart Prize. Her work incorporates memories of her early life among her family in the village of Nulato near the Yukon and Koyukuk rivers in what was then the Alaskan territory, a deep sense of loss at having been torn from that early community by adoption, and her struggle to reconnect, to rebuild


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a sense of self, and to embody the rich landscapes of her experience.29 Glancy’s work in other genres has perhaps gained her more attention than her sixteen collections of poetry, which range from the 1982 Traveling On to her most recent books, The Shadow’s Horse (2003) and Primer of the Obsolete (2004), but particularly since the 1992 release of her mixed-genre work Claiming Breath, she has become one of the most prolific contemporary Native writers and has carved a niche for herself as a writer who focuses on the history of Native peoples and explores the imaginative, if not the cultural imprint of Indianness in her own life. Glancy has always been candid about her mixed heritage and what she calls in a recent interview her “broken past,” in which she was “raised at a distance from that (Cherokee) background” (Hix, “The Many Places We Are,” 4). The tribal heritage she figures in her writing is largely a space of absence, the identity she searches for largely a process of imaginative connection. So, with a history both like and unlike that of Rose and Tall Mountain and a host of other Native writers for whom identity plays an important role in their poetry, Glancy “claims a space” within the large body of tribal or world literatures for the particular kind of work she undertakes, which she describes as “bringing together the fragments and trying to make some cohesive wholeness out of them” (4).30 Tall Mountain, Glancy, and Rose stand as examples of the various Native poets who strive to understand their “Indianness” as they simultaneously write out of that imaginary space. Often they struggle against the romanticized ideal of the signifier Indian as much as they sift through their personal historical constructions. In looking back on her own process of writing in the introduction to the 1994 Bone Dance: New and Selected Poems, Rose writes: In exploring what it means to be a “halfbreed,” I learned that this is not a condition of genetics and has nothing to do with ancestry or race. Instead,“halfbreedness” is a condition of history. . . . I began to study the lives of individuals who, for reasons I didn’t know, profoundly affected me. All were victims of their place in history in some way. All were colonized souls. (xvi) Throughout the eleven collections Rose published between 1973 and 2002 are many poems that explore or recount her personal journey toward understanding her identity, as well as various strong poems offering views of other “colonized souls,” historical or cultural figures to whom Rose gives voice, often in dramatic monologues. In her first collection, Hopi Roadrunner Dancing, Rose asks in several poems the questions that would haunt her poetry for years to come. In “Newborn Woman, May 7, 1948,” she writes, “where is the hand to rock me? i howled”; in “Oh Father,” she raises the overriding question—“oh father, who am i?” (9, 11). Likewise, in “Naming Power,” Rose laments the absence in her experience of a traditional tribal naming ceremony, voicing in a refrain throughout the poem: “There has to be someone to name you” (That’s What She Said 218–20). The naming ceremony, of course, symbolizes the larger “belonging” that Rose craves, something that might ward off the “amnesia . . . of being a fragment” (219). In her own life, Rose undertook a literal quest for a name. Named Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards at birth, the poet first used a name she created for herself—Chiron Khanshendel—and then assumed the shortened version of her first name together with the last name of a man with whom she had a short relationship. The cover of her first book lists her as “Wendy Rose,” with “Chiron Khanshendel” in parenthesis. When she later married Arthur Murata, she retained Rose as her surname. The 1985 Halfbreed Chronicles and Other Poems includes another well-known poem reflecting Rose’s personal struggle with her mixed identity—“If

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I Am Too Brown or Too White for You” (52–53). Here, we begin to see the hard-won selfacceptance Rose’s later work expresses: the “you” of the poem is “selecting” the “me/from among polished stones/more definitely red or white.” Though the “you” at first wants “the curl in your palm/to be perfect/and the image less clouded,/less mixed,” she or he at last sees in the me stone of the poem “a small light/in the smoke, a tiny sun/in the blood, so deep/it is there and not there,/so pure/it is singing.” The mixed at last has its own beauty. Also among Rose’s poetry that traces her own reclamation of her identity is an important series, Builder Kachina: A Home-Going Cycle (1979), which commemorates Rose’s second journey to see the man she identifies as her biological father, artist Charles Loloma, from the Hopi village of Hotevilla in Arizona. The poem “Builder Kachina” offers the antidote to Rose’s alienation—the replanting and slow growth of new roots: “Carefully/the way we plant the corn . . . We’ll build your roots/that way . . . slowly/slowly” (n.p.). Here, and in the powerful recent collection Itch Like Crazy (2002), Rose explores not only her tribal and European connections but also the reasons her genealogy has taken on such immense proportions in her life. In “The Itch: First Notice,” she writes with a kind of analytical distance of the process of gathering what amounts to pieces of herself, and expresses with a certain awe or perhaps horror her realization of the emotional effects the information can have: I am looking for my People. As I find the names I write them down, encasing the letters between the pale blue lines of my ledger, then draw them in the margins, give them wings or hooves or horns, make bloodlines snake from one to another and wonder if the green eyes on paper know they can climb the pen and pierce my veins. (Itch Like Crazy 7) Here again, we can see connections to Glancy’s similar questioning of the impact of ancestry, and both writers find their answers partly in what is referred to on the cover of Itch Like Crazy as “ethnic chauvinism.” Rose and Glancy seem keenly aware that the “ethnic” in this particular chauvinism, the preference for one or another strain of ancestry, wavers oddly in contemporary America, with its origins arising partly from the historical conquest and colonization and partly from a Native militancy as well as from the New Age image of “America’s” Indian. Poetry involving identity by Native poets almost inevitably extends beyond the individual or the personal, encompassing a host of historical, linguistic, and philosophical complications. Rose’s poem “Women Like Me” asks in regard to “each invading burr and thistle,” “where do I cut first?” and lists as potential answers the “Russian thistle,” the “African senecio,” or “the middle finger of my right hand” (Itch Like Crazy 81). It is reminiscent of Linda Hogan’s poem “The Truth Is,” in which she identifies in her pockets both “a Chickasaw hand” and “a white hand” and ponders “which pocket the enemy lives in,” ultimately reminding the reader “it is dangerous to be a woman of two countries”


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(Seeing Through the Sun 4). Poetry of this sort is not merely autobiographical but invests itself in historical and often political conversations and acts. Over the years, in her search to understand her own ethnic or historical position, Rose, for example, has looked at the stories of many others with whom she can identify in some way or for whom she feels great empathy, and has traced the cultural implications inherent in those stories. The Halfbreed Chronicles contains a group of first-person poems dramatizing various historical women who are, in Rose’s words, “victims of their place in history” (Bone Dance xvi). Among them are Julia Pastrana, who, because of a condition that caused her to grow hair all over her body, lived her life as a circus exhibit; Yuriko, who was born severely retarded as a result of her mother’s exposure to radiation from the bombing of Hiroshima; and Truganinny, “the last of the Tasmanians,” who, after her death, was, like her husband before her, stuffed and placed on display. In dramatizing their stories, Rose humanizes these women, thus offering an implicit critique of the voyeurism that makes them objects to be viewed or studied and of the commodification inherent in their public display. Similarily, Rose’s poetry has addressed not only her grappling with uncertain ancestry and a kind of cultural displacement but also the struggle to reconcile her own academic training in anthropology with her Native identity. After studying at Cabrillo and Contra Costa junior colleges and the University of California at Berkeley, Rose earned her Ph.D. in anthropology; she has worked at various academic jobs throughout the state of California, including at Berkeley, California State University, and Fresno City College, where she was head of the American Indian Studies program. Rose also served a term as editor of the Native studies journal American Indian Quarterly. Playfully recognizing the irony of her multiple allegiances, Rose writes, “I am that most schizophrenic of creatures, an American Indian who is both poet and anthropologist” (“Just What’s All This Fuss About Whiteshamanism Anyway?” 13). In her poetry, Rose frequently critiques the exploitative, sometimes almost cannibalistic relationship anthropology has had with indigenous “subject” cultures. Among the most well-known poems in this vein are “I expected my skin and bones to ripen” and “Three Thousand Dollar Death Song.” Both open with epigraphs, the first with a long excerpt from an Indian art auction catalogue describing how the pictured items were taken from bodies massacred at Wounded Knee, the second a museum invoice listing “Nineteen American Indian Skeletons from Nevada” as “valued at $3000” (Bone Dance 20). In “I expected my skin and blood to ripen,” Rose again uses the dramatic monologue form, here employing the imagined voice of one of the Lakota women murdered in the massacre. The poem depicts the horrors the woman endures as the children are “strung on bayonets . . . like rosary stones,” her own child taken while she longed to “put her into my mouth like a snake” to protect her (Bone Dance 18–19). She recounts how her own clothing and jewelry are ripped off her dead, frozen body, taking with them bits of her flesh. And in the Ghost Dance ceremony, for which the people had gathered at Wounded Knee, there is “not enough magic” to “stop the bullets . . . the scientists . . . the money” (19). The poem is haunting with its vividly rendered detail and unflinching description of the vulturelike thefts from the bodies of the dead. “Three Thousand Dollar Death Song” is also framed as a dramatic monologue, but it offers a more straightforward critique of the barter and display of Indian remains, commenting on “how one century has turned/our dead into specimens,” noting how the “bones are valued . . . removed and tossed about/catalogued, numbered with black ink,” and alluding to “a universe of stolen things” (Bone Dance 20–21). Another of the powerful poems

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addressing these issues is “Excavation at Santa Barbara Mission,” whose epigraph states, “When archeologists excavated the Santa Barbara Mission in California, they discovered human bones in the adobe walls” (Going to War with All My Relations 6). In this poem, Rose might be exploring the complicity she feels as an anthropologist, as well as the complicity of our imperial museum culture: Beneath the flags of three invaders, I am a hungry scientist sustaining myself with bones of men and women asleep in the wall (7–8) The poem closes with the dramatic repetition of a single line four times— They built the mission with dead Indians. They built the mission with dead Indians. They built the mission with dead Indians. They built the mission with dead Indians. (8) —as if the horror requires the respeaking in order for us to comprehend its reality or its implications. A third important thematic quality of Rose’s poetry, related to her criticism of the anthropological exploitation of physical culture, involves what she sees as a kind of commodification or possessive relationship that has developed in popular culture and academic scholarship dealing with Native literatures. Rose draws this comparison in her essay on white shamanism: “Native American literature is ‘owned’ by anthropology, as Native Americans themselves are ‘owned’ by anthropologists. Our literature is merely ethnographic, along with our material culture and kinship systems” (17). Like Geary Hobson and Leslie Marmon Silko, Rose specifically critiques the “whiteshamanism” in her prose and interviews as well as in her poetry. She makes clear that her critique targets the “delusion of having been appointed as a ‘bridge’ between the cultures,” the delusion of non-Native writers who imagine themselves and perform as if in a shamanistic state, not the attempt to write about Indian subjects (“Just What’s All This Fuss About Whiteshamanism Anyway?” 22). Rose clearly draws her distinction: “We acknowledge the many non-Indian people who have written honestly and beautifully about any number of Indian topics, including those we hold sacred—from the perspective of the non-Native viewing Native culture” (21). The problem with “‘whiteshamans,’” she says, “is one of integrity and intent, not of topic, style, interest, or experimentation” (21). In poems such as “For White Poets Who Would Be Indian,” she critiques what she calls this “temporary tourism” (Bone Dance 23). In “Comment on Ethnopoetics and Literacy,” written specifically for Jerome Rothenberg, who creatively reworks translations of tribal texts, Rose graphically compares the process to taxidermy, in which the ethnopoetic practitioner will “pick the words/from the evening rain” and: . . . drain them all side by side,


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guts on the ground, paws in a small pile, everything severed and stripped down to bone. Re-make the bodies in different positions. (Going to War with All My Relations 44) The poem continues the comparison, imagining the reconstructed words arranged in dioramalike exhibits. Filled with ironic humor and keen observations, Rose’s poetry has been widely anthologized. Her powerful dramatic monologues and unflinching personal accounts have won her recognition both among fellow Native writers and in mainstream poetry circles. In his essay on Rose in Contemporary Women Poets, scholar John Roche describes her poems as “scars that talk and songs that heal.” * * * In the work of another early Native feminist poet, Marilou Awiakta, we can see both interesting parallels to the poetry and politics of Rose and important contrasts involving audience. Awiakta, who published her first book of poetry (Abiding Appalachia: Where Mountain and Atom Meet) under the name Marilou Bonham Thompson, also undertook a search to balance the strains of her heritage and her education. Of Cherokee and Appalachian heritage, Awiakta juggles yet a third influence—the technological culture of atomic energy. At the age of nine, Awiakta moved with her family as they followed her scientist father to the then closely guarded atomic city of Oak Ridge, Tennessee. The imprints of these several backgrounds inform Awiakta’s poetry as she links the secrecy of nuclear experimentation and her later realization of the danger inherent in the misuse of that technology with the Cherokee teachings of Selu, the Corn Mother, and Awi Usdi, Little Deer, both of whom “signify balance and harmony in nature” (Selu 26). The story of Awiakta’s melding of her multicultural inheritance is told partly in the mixed-genre work Selu: Seeking the Corn-Mother’s Wisdom, which includes thirty-five poems. Arising from these various strains of experience, the ultimate focus of much of Awiakta’s poetry is the kind of ecofeminism that later propels activist Winona LaDuke’s work and writing. Throughout her life, Awiakta has been involved in various public issues involving the environment and community, perhaps the most high-profile being the Tellico Dam controversy, in which the historic heartland of the Cherokee in Tennessee was jeopardized and ultimately flooded by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s damming of the Little Tennessee River. But her poetry attends her activism rather than becoming the primary focus of her energies, and her work seeks an audience of common readers first, not the literary elite. In the case of the Cherokee versus the Tellico Dam, for example, she published a poem in an underground newspaper in Memphis, The Dixie Flyer, summarized events in the political battle for the Tennessee Conservationist, and criticized imbalanced reporting of the controversy in an article for the Houston Chronicle. But in this grassroots writing we find many of the same cultural and historic connections that appear in the works of other Native authors whose poetry is more likely to be found in literary anthologies. In her writing about the dam, for example, Awiakta voices the feelings of many of the Cherokee directly affected, retelling the story of the historic Tsali, who surrendered his life and those of his brother and

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his sons to prevent the forced removal of the leader Utsala and a remnant Cherokee band. Thus she links the contemporary controversy—the proposed destruction of Cherokee lands and the forced removal of inhabitants of the valley—to the historic Cherokee removal that has come to be remembered as the Trail of Tears. Her poem, “The Covenant,” is presented in a somewhat archaic first-person voice of Tsali, who claims: Our blood shall seal the exile’s pass and make fast our mountain home. And the Trail of Tears shall be made dry as by a mighty wind. (Selu 46) But instead, Awiakta laments, the Cherokee heartland becomes another colonial casualty, a “Lake of Tears” (Selu 61). Marilou Awiakta’s appeal to the general reader can be appreciated in a playful yet heartfelt poem like “Mother Nature Sends a Pink Slip,” which the author constructs as a memo to “Homo Sapiens” in regard to “Termination” (Selu 88). In the imagined voice of “Mother Nature,” Awiakta enumerates the ways that Homo Sapiens as workers undermine Mother Nature’s business, which is “producing life.” From poems like “Old Students of the New Physics,” which alludes to the new physics’ notion of the “butterfly effect,” to “The Real Thing,” which critiques the commodification of Native art and culture, the poetry of Awiakta ranges broadly among ecological, cultural, and feminist issues (Selu 84, 159). The short poem “On Being a Female Phoenix” illustrates the satiric humor often at play in her work, as here she claims to present “what I learned about being a woman and a poet”: Not only do I rise from my own ashes, I have to carry them out! (Selu 135) In her engagement with politics and literature, Marilou Awiakta has forged friendships with figures as diverse as Wilma Mankiller and Alice Walker, but her poetry has largely gone unnoticed in academic and literary circles. She is one of a handful of contemporary Native writers whose focus or appeal locates their work in another grassroots arena. Others who might fit this category include Anishinaabe E. Donald Two Rivers, who considers himself largely an activist and a “street poet” but who, in addition to earning a reputation for himself as a performer, has published in several genres including poetry (and in fact won an American Book Award in 1999 for his collection of short fiction, Survivor’s Medicine).31 The relationships between writing and activism and between writing and performance also inform the work of a poet/musician like John Trudell, former chairman of AIM (American Indian Movement), whose CDs include spoken-word poetry and political lyrics like those in “Blue Indians,” which tell of : blue indians being pulled into melting pots grueling class rules the haves and have nots


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industrial reservation tyranny stakes its claim blue Indians emotional siege in civilized stains.32 Although the work of poets such as these may not appear in major literary anthologies, it is important to understand how readily roles are combined in Native communities, and how diversified the field of poets truly is. * * * Jim Barnes, another of the well-published poets of this era, is another case in point. Though well respected in the world of poetry, he has never gained the popularity of other Native writers, and he may at first seem to voice or embody political or literary approaches widely divergent from those held by such authors as Rose, Allen, or Young Bear. He has written, for example, on the “problem of the personal” and “relativism” in poetry (On Native Ground 191, 237). But Barnes, whose academic and literary work has frequently carried him far away from his native Oklahoma, and who, like Niatum, has sometimes lamented his classification as a “Native” writer, nevertheless works against the stereotyping of Native Americans and their literature. Stating, “I have wanted to be called a writer or a poet because of my work, not because of my blood,” he voices resistance to the insidious “Othering” of ethnic writers and their work (139). His oeuvre and his stance illustrate another segment of the complicated and diverse canon of contemporary Native poetry. The author of eight collections of poems and a memoir that incorporates his poetry, Barnes is a mixed-blood writer of Choctaw, Welsh, and English ancestry and a Distinguished Visiting Professor of English at Brigham Young University in Utah. He is a formalist as well as a free-verse poet, and much of his work explores a sense of place, of “native ground,” even when it arises out of an expatriate experience. He taps both personal and cultural histories, embodies an understanding of the complicated nature of loss, and writes of the imaginative connections we construct across the expanse of our experiences. Among the many Barnes poems that display these varied characteristics is “Rodin’s Garden,” from the 1997 collection Paris. When Barnes introduces the poem in the autobiographical On Native Ground, he links the feeling he experiences in this inner-city Paris garden with “that same kind of contentment” he feelson his “native ground, at the upper ford of the Holson Creek, in Holson Valley” (220). The link he makes between Paris and the remembered Oklahoma has much to do with what drives him as a writer. Barnes identifies these kinds of connections as “transmigrations of the spirit” and explains, “There are moments that never end, that repeat themselves in mind or art, and for this I am grateful, and for this I am a poet” (220). The poem itself offers the word “eternal” and alludes to the ache and loss inherent in the experience of beauty. Rodin’s “two lovers” are “as fixed as stone, eternal/in this kiss that knows no end/no more than Rodin’s does,” and the poet depicts these and other works of art as “ledgers of light” that “send messages we cannot begin to understand” because “something is vanishing from our world” (220–21). And, just as we simultaneously experience present places in terms of those past or remembered, we experience the fullness of beauty within the context of its absence, as in “the finishing touch we trace in the diminishing window frost” (221). Much of Barnes’s poetry also traces the historical and cultural casualties of Native peoples, often with a signature specificity of place, event, person, and historic details. Poems

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from his 1985 A Season of Loss, for example, include “In Memory of a Day Nobody Remembers: September 26, 1874,” which laments the attack by Colonel Mackenzie on “the last freedom loving Kiowas” (11). In this poem, Barnes invokes the names of places—Tule Creek and Palo Duro Canyon—as well as of people—Isatai and Maman-ti. By this naming, he forces his reader to acknowledge the solidity of history, its connection to real people and real places. A Season of Loss also contains examples of poems very different in voice from some of the formal pieces in Paris and La Plata Cantata. “Song of I-See-O,” for example, resembles, as the title suggests, a Native song poem, depends partly on a chantlike repetition, and builds character and history in an aggregative fashion, as this opening stanza demonstrates: I have watched the changeless mountains receive the sun. I have seen the prairies black with the trampling buffalo. I have heard the wild, dark cries in winter’s hungry wind. I have tasted the sweet and flowing water of the Quohada plains. These things I have done, and I am glad to be a man. (10) Jim Barnes’s varied work has drawn readers across cultural and geographic divisions. He has been the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship, and one of his 1980 poems, “The Chicago Odyssey,” was included in The Pushcart Prize V: Best of the Small Presses. Barnes is also the longtime editor of The Chariton Review, having served in that capacity for more than thirty years. Although he “doesn’t like reform poetry” or “propagandistic poetry,” his work, by its wide-ranging style and subject matter, eludes easy stereotyping and thus implicitly enacts resistance to the simplistic definitions of Native poetry (“A MELUS Interview” 60). * * * In stark contrast to the style and voice of Jim Barnes is Adrian C. Louis, Lovelock Paiute poet and fiction writer. Self-described in “Degrees of Hydrophobia” from Among the Dog Eaters as “the untrainable dog that bites/all he sees and stains all the rugs of the world,” Louis fills his poetry with images of the tawdry and inane and undercuts the scenes with dark humor and penetrating irony (64). In “Sunset at Pine Ridge Agency,” for example, Louis casts his unfaltering gaze on “an old man with a brown face/and swollen red nose” and “drunks” who “stab and rape/(Is there a difference?)/other drunkards” (24). Coming at the end of a poem that contains allusions to the history of the Black Hills and the murder of Lakota visionary Crazy Horse, as well as to the colonial American presence and the epidemics of alcoholism and violence among Indian people, the closing stanza offers a classic summary of his perspective: This Indian nation is in anarchy dancing awkwardly toward the day when it will fall off the edge of the bed of the world and awake to its own suicide. (24) Louis’s thirteen books and chapbooks of poetry have appeared in rapid succession since the 1974 publication of The Indian Cheap Wine Séance by Gray Flannel Press. He has roots


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in journalism, having edited several Native newspapers, including the Lakota Times and Indian Country Today, and he is also a founder of the Native American Press Association. Louis has both a B.A. and an M.A. from Brown University and has taught at several colleges and universities, including Oglala Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation and currently, Southwest State University in Minnesota.33 In addition to his books of poetry, Louis has published Wild Indians and Other Creatures, a collection of short fiction, and Skins, a novel that has been made into a film. Louis’s work, much of which draws on his experience among the Lakota people, is often described as harsh and starkly realistic; it was characterized by one reviewer as embodying “the gender of grief ” (Waniek 405). Various Native critics, including Elizabeth Cook-Lynn and Louis Owens, fault Adrian Louis for the extremely negative picture of Native life he presents, suggesting he perpetuates stereotypes like “the drunken Indian.” Others see in Louis’s work a vision dark enough and a sarcasm cutting enough to force the romantic consumers of all things Indian to confront historical reality and its contemporary consequences. Louis himself has described the Native American literary renaissance as “a grab bag of the real and the surreal, abounding with outright fakes, romantic academics, and liberal anthropologist types” (“Foreword” viii). He acknowledges that many of his own readers are probably “liberals who harbor romantic notions about Indians,” and frequently gestures with irony toward America’s construction of the idea of “Indian” (“Speaking the Unspoken” 62). In “Epiphany: Oxymoron” from his collection Fire Water World, for example, he writes: “I am trapped in this oxymoron/encased in concrete: An Indian college/run by white people in the name/of our bankable plight” (57). In “After Long Silence Marilyn Returns,” Louis places himself (as he does in several poems) in a college staff meeting, where he struggles to suppress a string of emotions evoked by what he describes as “polysyllabic lunacy:/this perverse perpetuation/of the white man’s paternalism” (Among the Dog Eaters 6). In the context of the poem, this description seems to indict not only the empty rhetoric of academic administrators but also Louis’s own engagement in literary and academic fakery. He even performs a kind of self-mockery of his writing within the poem, where he self-consciously abuts colloquial language like “squawmen” and “ennut” against phrases like “plumbed the gossamer” and “semi-succubus/minus the histrionics of our history” (5). The persona in Louis’s poems carries on an inner monologue of near-constant sarcastic commentary on what he experiences and observes, forcing readers to see the details and accounts as he does, in all their laughable, tragic, and sometimes maddening doubleness. In the “fire water world” Louis inhabits and embodies in his poetry, the heavy load of details— the bars, cigarettes, hopeless sex, and angry fights, the gas stations, convenience stores, trashed cars, and littered highways of America, even the “porcupine-quilled and skunkstinking dogs” (Blood Thirsty Savages 78)—add up to something, and then to something else. As he writes in “At a Grave in an Eastern City”: Elegy is such personal business. I don’t want to say what I mean and I don’t mean to say what I want. (Among the Dog Eaters 30) The sum he gestures toward is likewise tangled in complicated doubleness. At worst, it might be the “invisible stalag” our “minds have devised”; at best, the “keys to the secret of

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this spinning dirt clod” or maybe “black, dreamless sleep” (Blood Thirsty Savages 40). In the canon of Native poetry, Adrian Louis’s work occupies the darkest places of personal and cultural experience. With an unblinking candor, he challenges Indians and colonial America alike to “Wake up, you damn people wake up!” and take responsibility for the creation of the horrors of those places (Among the Dog Eaters 20). In a book-jacket endorsement of the Fire Water collection, Abenaki writer and scholar Joseph Bruchac points to the “hard-edged” quality of Louis’s poetry and, with his own sarcastic gesture toward popular expectations, writes, “His realism may be hard for some to swallow in comparison to the romantic lyricism of certain contemporary ‘Indian books.’” * * * Bruchac’s own work has frequently taken aim at these popular “Indian books,” offering critiques of writers like W. P. Kinsella, whose series of novels, Bruchac believes, trivializes Native beliefs and caters to popular Indian stereotypes.34 Like Louis, Bruchac often employs irony to make his point. His humor, however, is of a more playful, gentle variety, though equally effective. “Bad Vision” from Translator’s Son offers an example of his use of humor to undercut romantic stereotypes (30). The poem recounts the “vision quest” of a man following what “the old men in the books told him,” positioning himself “on a rock/two miles from the highway/where he’d left his Thunderbird” and “singing the songs/he’d learned from a tape/bought from the museum.” Bruchac closes the poem by telling us succinctly, “when the dream came/on the morning/of the fourth day/it ate him.” Known primarily for his publishing projects and his work in other genres, Bruchac also has an impressive collection of nineteen books or chapbooks of poetry to his credit, beginning with Indian Mountain (Ithaca House Press, 1971) and continuing through Ndakinna (Our Land: New and Selected Poems) (2004). Bruchac, whose experience includes three years of teaching in Ghana, West Africa, often incorporates an interindigenous-national approach in his work, drawing not only upon the traditions and stories of his Abenaki ancestors but also, more broadly, incorporating the history and culture, especially the traditional stories, of many tribal nations. His 1989 collection Translator’s Son, for example, includes “Tsalagi Song for Going to the Stream” and the poem “Tuscarora.” No Borders—which contains the dedication, “For all those who see this earth without maps”—includes poems from places as far-flung as southern France, Ghana, and Barrow, Alaska. The collection includes poems like “The Paperbark Tree,” written “in response to an Australian Aboriginal story told by Kath Walker,” and “The Jaguar Farmer,” which laments the brutality leveled against Indian peasant farmers of the Yucatan and the violence in Chiapas, but also places these events in a larger context through the use of myth. The story in this poem is the “tale . . . of a Lacandon farmer” told by “old Chan K’in/his eyes dark with a century of stories” (64). It tells of a people whose milpa is constantly ravaged by hungry forest creatures. One member of the village prays to be changed into a jaguar so that he might guard the farm field. When his wish is granted, he sees his hungry relatives and invites them in, guarding the food supply from all intruding humans. This kind of playful challenge to parochial perspectives often characterizes Bruchac’s work. Other characteristic approaches and themes include frequent allusions to the ecological realities of our relationship with the planet and our spiritual investment in place. Bruchac sometimes invokes these ideas through the narrative presentation of an event or scene, but more often, especially in the mature examples of his work, they emerge subtly from his


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detailed and affecting poetic description, as if the path of the poet’s engagement becomes the reader’s. The opening stanza of “For Pua Kanahele of Hawaii” offers an example of this kind of poetic placement; the language both presents a vivid physical image of a live volcano and enwraps the visual with the mythical: The mists were thick at the edge of the caldera, that miles-wide-crater where the red-haired goddess rests but does not sleep, for on these islands the fires of creation never cease burning and earth is always birthing into ocean. (No Borders 40) The path of the poet’s engagement, as in this poem’s allusion to “the red-haired goddess,” often demonstrates how a long-standing investment in place is embodied in tribal story. Indeed, within any single poem, we may find several layers of story: the poet’s experience couched within the understanding of an older story; present experience linked to the remembrance of another time and then, of course, to the storyteller or story from that older center. Each layer of story or reference gently moves the meaning of the poem into another realm of knowing, thus deepening the poetic moment, just as the layers of tribal story enrich and enlighten contemporary experience or present-day tellings. “Picking Brussels Sprouts in December” demonstrates this kind of mythical movement, enacting the imaginative connections of the everyday act of picking brussels sprouts. The poem opens with three descriptive stanzas, each of which, through sensuous image, simile, or narrative, takes the reader beyond the garden while simultaneously enriching the experience of the scene: Walking into the garden, frost breaks under my feet, like the crumble of ash from a burned-out fire. The Brussels sprouts stand with their thin white coats, each wide leaf holding a tight green package like a man coming home from a store clutching gifts beneath his arms. The long stem of each plant where it thrusts up from earth is like the mottled neck of an okapi, that rarest of African antelopes, once thought to only be a myth, old as the oldest mammals with hooves, surviving after the others have gone. (No Borders 87) In the final stanza of the poem, Bruchac also subtly acknowledges the effect of the imaginative storying of the everyday when he first likens the sound of the falling brussels sprouts

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heads into the pail to “the beat of a stick on a drum,” then visualizes the scene as “a social dance which circles my feet/into the round house of the seasons,/reminding me at the edge of winter/of the harvests still to come.” The singleness of the winter experience described in the poem opens up to include not only the yearly cycle of seasons but also the ongoing ceremony of living within the continuum of time. As it does in this example, the imaginative act of intertwining the layers of story can create a sense of continuance and response-ability to the longer, larger story of which we are a part. It can also turn our focus away from the narrowest of human preoccupations, immersing us in what Bruchac calls in “The Carmarque”“the lasting face of the holy earth,” where, as he writes in “Waterfall Near North River,” “The sounds of our passing/will not outlast /either heavy rain/or the rise of water” (No Borders 39, 84). A poem like “Louis Oliver and Carroll Arnett at the Grave of John Ross” is a particularly important example of Bruchac’s use of embedded allusion or instructive story (No Borders 82). Here he narrates an apparently autobiographical excursion, but through the gesture of story, he widens both the narrative and the mythical implications. Louis Littlecoon Oliver (Muskogee Creek, 1904–1991) and Gogisgi/Carroll Arnett (Cherokee, 1927–1997) were both important poets and mentors to younger poets in the Native literary movement, including Bruchac.35 John Ross was an important historic figure in the Cherokee Nation who served as principal chief from 1828 through 1866 as the Cherokee attempted unsuccessfully to fend off U.S. encroachments and demands for removal in the 1830s. Bruchac first places the poem in the context of the Cherokee removal by mentioning the “Trail of Tears” and then locates it in the landscape by including place details and natural creatures. Then, throughout the poem, he depicts the words and gestures of Oliver and Arnett at Ross’s grave site. When he closes with the lines: “and the old man gestures,/see how those trees/always bow to each otherhe implies that, like these old men, we should take our cue from the land around us; for as the poem has shown, they “always bow to each other.” The lessons in this poem about respect and remembering have many sources—Ross, Oliver, Arnett, the natural world, story—and many applications, not the least of which is the way the reader is meant to remember and apply the lessons of the poet Bruchac. * * * Another teaching poet from this era, Osage Carter Revard, is the author of six collections of poetry as well as the 2001 mixed-genre work Winning the Dust Bowl, which combines autobiographical vignettes with both new and selected poems. Revard, a Rhodes Scholar with degrees from Oxford and Yale, was a professor of medieval literature and American literature at Amherst College and then Washington University at St. Louis until he retired in 1997. He is known for his prose as well as his poetry, including the influential essay on Native literature, “History, Myth, and Identity among Osages and Other Peoples” (Nothing But the Truth 126–40). This essay, which explores the various elements involved in understanding Native identity, suggests a descending order of importance among the following realms: “cosmic,”“geologic,”“tribal,”“subtribal,” familial, and lastly,“individual” (127). The focus on identity within Revard’s own poetry likewise encompasses these many elements, presenting the complex connections in tribal life. We can see the recognition of these interwoven connections in the title poem from his collection An Eagle Nation. The narrative of an extended family outing, a picnic and visit to the Oklahoma City zoo and then attendance at the Red Earth powwow, the poem centers on

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one of Revard’s Ponca relatives, Aunt Jewell. In his leisurely style, what Creek poet and scholar Janet McAdams calls his “Oklahoma voice that sounds like talk,” Revard sketches the events of the day, lacing them with his gentlemanly—though sometimes pointed—commentary and tracing “all the circles that had brought us into this Oklahoma time” (“Carter Revard’s Angled Mirrors” 200; An Eagle Nation 34). Revard constructs his microcosm with allusions to tribal and family histories, with stories of Aunt Jewell and her uncountable grandchildren, with the “twelve drums,” “fourteen hundred dancers” and “thousands of Indians” looking on at the powwow, with images of “Osage country” and “Ponca lands,” and finally, with reference to the central symbol of the poem, the eagle. Whether in his past free “long migration flight” or now in his “iron cage” at the zoo, the eagle is still (as Aunt Jewell addresses him) “Kahgay: Brother,” and symbolizes for Revard “we the people,” who, as he states emphatically at the end of the poem, “are an EAGLE NATION, now” (31–34). Much as it does in N. Scott Momaday’s work, time here becomes a continuum, including the historical and contemporary communities in a single vision of being. Here and elsewhere, Revard also emphasizes the vitality of the “now” culture; he does not picture it as frail, ancient, and to be revered as it acts out its long-predicted “vanishment.”36 Just as the placard on the eagle’s cage in the zoo prophesies “it will never fly again,” so, too, has the tribal “Eagle Nation” been caged, labeled, and exhibited as a dying people. Against this stereotypical image, Revard’s poem rebels with vivid sounds and images of “the songs and prayers from long before cars and wagons” and with “the voices still singing, the drum-heart still beating here” (my emphasis), thus declaring the contemporary survival of the Osage and Ponca and all Indian Nations. Revard’s poems also gesture beyond the present to the future survival of Native people, who, he writes in “Close Encounters,” “find power to live, to go on,/to move as the sun rises and never fails/. . . to rise again” (An Eagle Nation 25). This strong vision of survival can only exist within the cosmic, geologic, tribal, subtribal, and familial contexts of identity, and from all these “circles that brought us here,” the poet finds his individual power to speak and the faith to see his words, or what he as often calls his “song,” as a part of the ongoing survival of the “Eagle Nation.” In “Communing Before Supermarkets,” for example, Revard contemplates how his experiences and memories “will be turned into words, and maybe sometime it would all grow again a long way off, a long way into the future” (An Eagle Nation 45). In addition to elucidating the tribal vision of identity as a multiplex of relationships, Revard employs or displays multiplicity in several other ways in his poetry, specifically through perspective and in formal considerations. As McAdams shows in her reading of “Coyote Tells Why He Sings,” Revard often brings divergent perspectives and poetic forms into dialogue with one another, thus “destabilizing” the constructed binaries.37 Here, as he works in the form of the Petrarchan sonnet, in the second movement (the sestet), Revard loosens the form as he turns toward what he calls “the Oklahoma voice,” thus both employing and adapting a formal structure (“Something That Stays Alive” 242). Here and in other poems, such as those making use of an Old English riddle form, Revard’s work can be compared to that of Gerald Vizenor, Momaday, and Jim Barnes, accommodating formal structures to Native subjects or altering those structures according to Native formal considerations. In the larger narrative of the “Coyote Tells Why He Sings,” Revard brings together his own experience of hearing and then “singing” in his poetry, imagining how the coyote also

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transforms what he hears (while in a cave during a storm) into his song. The poem, though given in the first person, does not speak from an “individual” I. On the simplest level, it is Revard’s imaginative rendering of the coyote finding his voice, a story then employed as a metaphor (and a vehicle) for the poet’s own coming to voice. But as McAdams explains, the domino effect of voice transformations involved—the storm’s sounds of rain, wind, and thunder; the coyote’s song; the poet’s; even the Thunder clan voice—actually reflect existing interdependencies. The perceptual change here, then, requires overcoming the notion of separateness, coming to an understanding of “the continuous and intertwined nature of the landscape, the coyote, and the poet as another being, as an Osage person and member of the Thunder Clan” (“Carter Revard’s Angled Mirrors” 199). Revard considers this piece as his ars poetica, and in introducing it in Winning the Dust Bowl, he characterizes the poem’s story as telling “how I found a voice to speak” in “Imperial America,” and how he locates that voice “in Oklahoma, Land of the Red People” (3).38 Like his vision of survival, Revard’s understanding of voice also involves the complex reality of interconnection. In other places, Revard’s poetry offers more playful challenges to staid views of the world. An early poem, “Discovery of the New World,” from the 1980 Ponca War Dancers, offers a twist in perspective similar to that of Revard’s well-known short story “Report to the Nation: Claiming Europe” (43–44).39 In this poem, “discovery” is presented from a different perspective, as are the ideas of what is “legend” and what “truth,” and of what is the correct “use” of the earth. Much of the history of the Indian–white encounter is satirically revisited through allusion as Revard writes in the voice of creatures of “green skin and scarlet eyes” who come to conquer or “asterize” the planet Earth. The rhetoric and the policies of Manifest Destiny echo throughout the poem as the alien colonizers blithely put aside “agreements” made with the people of Earth and conduct space age versions of scorched-earth campaigns. By these poetic transpositions of the historical realities, Revard prompts a reconsideration of the colonization of the Americas. Revard’s poetry, then, works to disrupt various easy understandings—of history, of identity, of voice, and ultimately, even of literature—for what he asks of his own work and that of other Native writers involves both affect and effect. In his essay,“Herbs of Healing: American Values in American Indian Literature,” he suggests that the work of Native poets is “good for this America” (192). He points specifically to poems by Wendy Rose, Simon Ortiz, and Louise Erdrich. In Rose’s poem “I Expected My Skin and Blood to Ripen,” for example, he sees an important lesson about how “the sufferings of women and children at Wounded Knee are related” to ideas of “art,” held by “the Collectors, the Museums, the Archaeologists and Scientists” (181). Revard’s poems too have lessons to teach, both in the ideas they present and through their innovative engagements with voice, perspective, and poetic form. * * * The work of two other Native poets who published in the first wave also shows the range of voices and styles evident even in the early years of contemporary Native poetry. James Welch (1940–2003) and Roberta Hill Whiteman both studied at Montana with Richard Hugo and, like Ray Young Bear, have sometimes been classified as surrealists. More specifically, scholars such as Ken McCullough have noted the strong use of detail, the “compression” and the infusion of variations on the theme of a poem, which manifest themselves differently in the three poets (“Star Quilt as Mandala” 195–96). But even given these similarities, the authors’ works vary greatly in key areas like subject and image.

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Welch’s only collection of poetry, Riding the Earth Boy 40, first published in 1971, was reissued in 1976 as a part of the influential Native American publishing project at Harper & Row. The Earthboy collection is grounded in the place of Blackfeet country in Montana, and the title refers to the historical allotment of tribal land, the “Earthboy 40” being the 40 acres along Milk River assigned to an individual named “Earthboy.” The history of the colonization is thus embedded in the language of the poetry. Likewise, another poem in the volume, “Range 18,” refers to another parcel of allotted land, part of those divided into larger sections for use in raising cattle. These colloquial references belie the complicated history behind the common labels. Everyday life is dense with history. Elements of the landscape—plains, buttes, ranges, reservoirs—inhabit Welch’s poetry together with wildlife from the region—hawks, antelope, horses, trout, coyotes. Names of the human inhabitants—Lester Lame Bull, Charlie Blackbird, Bear Child, Doris Horseman, Albert Heavy Runner—accumulate together with Montana place names—Moccasin Flat, Harlem, Mount Chief. Regional features and images of Montana Indian country, from tumbleweeds to bars to cabins to blizzards, populate the poems until the sheer mass of detail constructs a sensual reality of place. Writing about Welch, scholar Sidner Larson notes that “Place is the steady, walking base to which events of life are syncopated” (Dictionary of Literary Biography 308). In Riding the Earthboy 40, the base beat of place is clearly established. Against this backdrop of Blackfeet Indian country, Montana, Welch creates memorable natural scenes, images of desperate poverty, and a tribal inheritance both pitiful and quietly enduring. In “Christmas Comes to Moccasin Flat,” for example, he particularizes poverty with images of people who “sit in chinked cabins, stare out/plastic windows and wait for commodities” and of “candles bought on credit” because of the “poor price for calves” (26). He communicates despair and desperation with references to “warriors face down in wine sleep” and “drunks” who “drain radiators for love or need.” Meanwhile, he writes, “Charlie Blackbird, twenty miles from church/and bar, stabs his fire with flint” and “Medicine Woman, clay pipe and twist tobacco,/calls each blizzard by name.” The children “lean into her breath to beg a story,” and the last stanza in the poem offers this ambiguous summary of what she might offer: Something about honor and passion, warriors back with meat and song, a peculiar evening star, quick vision of birth. (26) Across the mean, hard life Welch sketches are flashes of something else—if not beauty, perhaps the promise of endurance. In many poems, Welch depicts the negative effects of religious and secular colonization on the Blackfeet; in some he strongly indicts those colonial endeavors. “The Man from Washington” offers this stark summary: He promised that life would go on as usual, that treaties would be signed, and everyone— man, woman, and child—would be inoculated against a world in which we had no part, a world of money, promise and disease. (35)

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The last word of the poem alludes to both losses suffered by Native people from epidemic diseases and the more intrusive and persistent diseases wrought by racism and capitalism. Welch’s poems often do not name but image the effects of these and other “-isms.” In his ability to bring together starkly different images, Welch has been compared to Cesar Vallejo; in his range of subject matter, to James Wright. He is widely known and celebrated for his fiction, but his early poetry introduces many of the themes that inform his novels. Roberta Hill Whiteman, though similar to Welch and Young Bear in her incorporation of dream in her poetry and her joining of disparate images, brings to her poems a range of different subjects, from her Oneida heritage to her experiences of motherhood to her observations of homelessness. Hill is the author of two collections, Star Quilt (1984) and Philadelphia Flowers (1996). Star Quilt received greater acclaim and was reissued in a fifteenth-anniversary edition in 1999. As Norma Wilson suggests, the metaphor of the star quilt, the variations and patterned joining involved in its construction, might supply an apt metaphor for Hill’s writing as well (The Nature of Native American Poetry 77–78). Hill brings together lush natural images, sometimes dense cultural associations, and common everyday or domestic details. She is concerned with vision and illumination and invites both with layers of language that waver in their placement, as when, in the title poem, the star of the quilt moves from bed to sky, or when the language of earth enters the room. The poem opens with a promise: “There are notes to lightning in my bedroom” (1). And, though it begins with a star “forged from linen thread and patches,” it moves via story or “legend” into the “Wisconsin marshes,” “flies nightly among geraniums,” becomes a quilt “sewn from dawn light by fingers/of flint” (1). In the glossary to this volume of poetry, Hill explains that “a young man seeking a vision” may take a star quilt along. Thus, she offers her poem to her readers as they begin the poetic journey toward vision. Among the four movements of the book, patterned after the four seasons, the bleak winter poems of life in the Dakotas draw on Hill’s experience while teaching at Sinte Gleska University.“Beginning the Year at Rosebud, S.D.” collects eclectic scenes and images that rub one another raw: “someone’s brain cries in the basket,”“a dead dog/seemed to leap from an iced shore, barks swelling her belly,” and “a renegade/name frozen at birth, entrails layered with scorpions” (30). In “Midwinter Stars,” she writes of “that namesake of despair”: There are places I have never felt at ease, where something taps against the glass, the blackjack of a cop and bitter lives. Who the hunter? Who the hunted? Who survives? The cold circuit wobbles without rest. (33) Just as Hill builds the individual poems with disparate images, she builds the vision of the book through alteration. In the third section of Star Quilt, the spring section, the poet turns to love as “the final healer.” The opening poem, “Recognition,” is filled with images of light and as close as Hill gets to narrative. Here the story of the coyote “old as breath” who wanders into the beam of the car’s headlights becomes an imaginative encounter between the poet and the animal, “a shadow of the mineral earth, pine air in his fur” (43). When the two make eye contact, they are “light thanking light.” The poem is the narrator’s quest to get close to “this tumble wild and tangled miracle.” When the speaker first sees the coyote, the poem employs this descriptive phrase: “Night, the first skin around him.” The poem


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closes with the narrator’s fulfillment of the imaginative connection: “Night is the first skin around me.” The range of Hill’s second book is broader, the intention more political, and the language of the poems sometimes more straightforward. In Philadelphia Flowers, as she tackles issues from homelessness to pollution, her use of her tribal heritage is also more overt. She invokes the laws and wisdom of the Haudenausaunee people, challenges the Bering Strait migration theory, and remembers her home state of Wisconsin as that place where “there is a bounty/for brown women like me” (89). In “Being Indian,” Hill’s persona worries about what might befall her children in the cities of colonized America, dreams of a return to “a house inside the hills/on her reservation,” a return for her children to “the earth that nourished them” (66), and ends with the incongruity of this surrealistic image: Being Indian she lit a smudge and waited for the dawn, quieting her thoughts, her fears, peering through the buildings for the sun. (67) We understand the persona’s metaphoric search, see her physical placement beneath the urban skyscape, her ritual engagement in a cleansing ceremony as she longs for the symbolic dawn, the light, and finally, picture her struggle to find it, obstructed as it is between the also symbolic obstacles of the tall buildings. The poems of Roberta Hill Whiteman often picture the dark and the frightful, but they pulse with lush images, and yearn, always, for the light. * * * If Barnes as formalist and Young Bear, Welch, and Whiteman as surrealists help illustrate the range of Native poetry among the early contemporary writers, several other poets illustrate important variations in style or make key contributions in regard to subject, language use, or supraliterary focus. Of particular importance are four female poets who appeared on the scene slightly after the first early rush of publishing: Luci Tapahonso (Navajo), Louise Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Anishinaabe), Ofelia Zepeda (Tohono O’odam), and Joy Harjo (Muskogee/Creek). Each contributes her unique voice and varied and powerful poetic representations of Native history, feminine reality, and the supposedly postcolonial world. Erdrich, who has earned an international reputation for her fiction, also made lasting contributions to the Native poetic tradition with her first two books of poetry, Jacklight (1984) and Baptism of Desire (1989). She is particularly noted for the use of Christian (especially Catholic) religious imagery, her trickster narratives in prose poetry, and her dramatic depictions of characters who represent the various figures and points of view in the colonial conflict and European settlement of the continent. Several of her poems have been widely anthologized, and with the 2003 release of Original Fire, which includes some new poems, Erdrich is again adding her rich voice to the field. Among the early strong poems are two that introduce weighty subjects later pursued in greater depth by other Native poets. The three-stanza, single-page “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways” traces the escape and return of boarding school runaways in haunting metaphors (Jacklight 11). The imagery of railways that mark the land, described as “old lacerations,” readily overlaps with the descriptions of “worn-down welts of ancient punishments” inflicted on runaways, which (like the railways) “lead back and forth.” In the poem,

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Erdrich reveals the hopelessness of the escape attempts through the narrator’s words—“We know the sheriff ’s waiting at midrun/to take us back”—even as she implies the children’s longing and the recurrent nature of their attempts—“Home’s the place we head for in our sleep./Boxcar’s stumbling north in dreams.” The “shamed” children of Erdrich’s poem have many counterparts in the works of other Native writers who published later on the subject of religious and government boarding schools. The autobiographical poetry of Jim Northrup (Anishinaabe) and Laura Tohe (Navajo) and the family-based poems of Linda LeGarde Grover (Anishinaabe) all depict and/or comment on the assimilationist policies in Indian education, basing their accounts on personal or familial experiences at institutions from Hot Springs, South Dakota to Pipestone, Minnesota to Albuquerque, New Mexico.40 It is important to note that certain events in Indian history have so indelibly marked the lives of Native peoples that their presence is often assumed even when not acknowledged outright in the contemporary accounts of Native authors. Such is the case with the boarding school experience. The legacy of that indoctrination remains so toxic in Native communities, having broken—as it was intended to do—the intergenerational chain of cultural teachings and the structure of communal lifestyles, that its dark shadow lingers in the background of writing on many subjects. Single words like “Carlisle” or “Pratt” reference and become symbols of that dense history, just as in other contexts words, names, acronyms, phrases— “relocation,”“Custer,”“BIA,”“as long as the rivers flow”—call up other historical realities.41 Erdrich’s poem “Dear John Wayne” likewise builds on a dense history, this one the “Hollywooden” stereotype of the Indian made popular in John Ford’s motion pictures of the 1930s through 1960s.42 John Wayne, who played the Indian killer in so many of those films, becomes a symbol in Erdrich’s poem (as later in works by Northrup and Spokane/Coeur d’Alene writer Sherman Alexie). In her satiric poem, Erdrich gives voice to the sublimated meaning she reads in these films: “It is not over, this fight, not as long as you resist. Everything we see belongs to us” (Jacklight 12). The effect of filmic characterizations of Indians, she suggests, is ongoing. Even as the drive-in moviegoers of the poem laugh and reassemble in their cars, she asks: “How can we help but keep hearing his voice . . . Come on, boys, we got them/where we want them, drunk, running” (13). The implied intent of Erdrich’s poem, then, is to expose the stereotypical racism of the films and to counter it in some way, since actual erasure of the stereotypes is all but impossible. In addition to offering several important counters to colonial indoctrinations, Erdrich’s poetry breaks for freedom in other important ways. Her subjects range widely, from playful accounts of the trickster Old Man Potchikoo that expound on his sexual misadventures to the historical dramatization of characters from Catholic saints to the Englishwoman Mary Rowlandson, who was captured by the Wampanaog in 1676, to a series of poems on the immigrant Mary Kröger and the community she inhabits. Each character’s eccentric humanity releases them from a formulaic existence in literature, allowing readers to imagine more fully the reality of the many points of view in “the history that brought us all here together” (Jacklight 12). In her personal poems as well as her imaginative and historical characterizations, Erdrich offers a vision of our complex humanity. No one, from drunk Uncle Ray to Christ’s twin to the Grandma who “is nuts,” is pictured in a single dimension of their reality; and their reality contains, as scholar Peter Beidler has noted, “virtually all the issues important to an understanding of the human condition: accidents of birth and parentage, falling in love, generosity, greed, psychological damage, joy, alienation, vulnerability, differentness, parenting, aging, and dying” (Dictionary of Literary Biography 85).

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This all-encompassing vision, a strength in itself, also contributes to the free-wheeling mixed imagery upon which Erdrich builds so many of her poems. “Rez Litany,” from Original Fire, exemplifies this multiplicity of reference. In a form imitative of Christian prayer, Erdrich invokes both history and humor as she takes up her own renaming of events and institutions, as in these opening lines: Let us now pray to those beatified within the Holy Colonial church beginning with Saint Assimilus, patron of residential and government boarding schools, whose skin was dark but who miraculously bled white milk for all to drink. (123) As the Holy Catholic Church becomes the “Holy Colonial church” and the policy of assimilation is facetiously sainted, throughout the poem, Erdrich taps an assumed understanding on the part of her reader. If knowledge saves or humor heals, when Erdrich invokes the likes of “Saint Quantum, Martyr of Blood and Holy Protector of Tribal Rolls,” she employs both in her smart and funny satire. All of the Erdrich collections also include personal poems on her children, love, motherhood, and loss. These rich poems help build Erdrich’s feminist view of women connected to a spiritual “original fire” (Original Fire 133, 151, etc.). But the feminine as constructed in her poetry extends as well to the strength and decisive actions of characters as varied as Saint Claire and Mary Kröger. In her portrayal of their day-to-day reality and intense emotional existences, Erdrich uncovers, if not a unity, at least a similar kind of vital endurance, just as Mary Kröger does in her imagined reflections on the Carmelite nuns. Erdrich presents “The Carmelites” in Mary’s voice, opening with her statement: “They’re women, not like me but like the sun/burning cold on a winter afternoon,/audacious brilliance from a severe height” (Baptism of Desire 37). But despite the distance Mary identifies between herself and the nuns, later in the poem, she links their lives through her own preoccupation with their reality as it overlaps with hers: I’ve thought of her, so ordinary, rising each night, scarred like the moon in her observance, shaved and bound and bandaged in rough blankets like a poor mare’s carcass, muttering for courage at the very hour cups crack in the cupboards downstairs, and Otto turns to me with urgency and power. Erdrich often delves into these territories of deep connection among women, picturing the places where “for two hundred years a woman has risen in the iron clad of the deepest hour” (Baptism of Desire 77). *** For poet Luci Tapahonso too, the intergenerational and the mythic contribute to her literary vision. Tapahonso, a poet and professor of Native literature who grew up near Shiprock,

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New Mexico, draws heavily on her upbringing in the matrilineal, kinship-based system of the Diné people. Beginning with One More Shiprock Night (1981), Tapahonso has published four books of poetry as well as two children’s books and a mixed-genre collection of stories and poems, Blue Horses Rush In. Her poems, which comfortably intermix her first language, Navajo, with the acquired English, are also recognized for their gentle use of humor. Many revolve around birth or mothering, including the title poems of Blue Horses and A Breeze Swept Through. Others retell or incorporate elements of Navajo mythology or family stories, often with reference to place names or elements of the landscape—Niist’áá, Shiprock, Tsé bit’a’í, Blanca Peak, arroyos, mesas, sage, and rabbitbrush—or to female figures—Folding Darkness Girl, White Bead Girl, Corn Pollen, Changing Woman, or Kinłchíi”nii Bitsí, the maternal grandmother Tapahonso never knew. The poetry pictures women in their various roles or, more playfully, implies their sexual power. Often the syntax and the patterned repetition reflect the Diné language and the songs or chants that inform Tapahonso’s writing. Indeed, Tapahonso has explained that many of her poems “have a song that accompanies the work” and when she reads in public, she likewise performs the song. “This is very much a consideration as I am translating and writing—the fact that the written version must stand on its own, even though I know that it is the song which makes it complete” (Sáanii Dahataał xi). A poem like “It Has Always Been This Way” illustrates Tapahonso’s incorporation of Navajo teaching into her writing and the deep sense of history out of which she works. It emphasizes the importance of motherhood and child rearing, and contains the echoes of Navajo chants (Sáanii Dahataał: The Woman Are Singing 17–18). The poem traces the cultural formation of a child from the womb through the departure for school: identifying taboos the mother adheres to during pregnancy, like not cutting meat or taking part in the killing of food, and enumerating the many small rituals performed after the birth and during childhood, including the placing of pollen on the baby’s tongue and the passing of the child from relative to relative. At the close of each stanza, the poem alludes to the longstanding nature of these traditions: “It has been this way for centuries among us.” The poem performs both as declaration and, in its ritual respeaking, as invocation. That it has an immediate spoken reality is emphasized as the poet directly addresses the child: “You are here./Your parents are here./Your relatives are here./We are all here together.” A similar oral quality informs the popular poem “Raisin Eyes,” which playfully laments the attraction of women to “those Navajo cowboys with raisin eyes” (Sáanii Dahataał 41–42). The poem contains the narrator’s direct address to the reader, her story of her encounter with a friend, and the voice of the friend speaking to the “Luci” of the poem. Similarly, “Hills Brothers Coffee” offers in simple language the persona’s account of a remembered visit from her uncle and relays the uncle’s words. Here the poet almost imperceptibly creates a cultural context when she identifies her uncle by the Diné term—“In Navajo, we call him, ‘shidá’í,’/my mother’s brother” and shows an awareness of the part of her readership that is separate from that culture—“He doesn’t know English,/but his name in the white way is Tom Jim” (27).43 As she relates the uncle’s speech, the word order she employs maintains that created distance from English. In fact, Tapahonso has said the poem was a “direct translation from Navajo” and “a lot of the words are probably different than if I had written it only in English” (“For What It Is: An Interview with Luci Tapahonso” 284). We can see this particularly in the speech of the uncle when he says, “the store is where I’m going to” or “Ah-h, that’s the one that does it for me” (27). The poem closes with a gesture on the


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part of the narrator that shows rather than states her fondness for the uncle and for all that this memory symbolizes: “So I usually buy Hills Brothers coffee/once or sometimes twice a day/I drink a hot coffee and/it sure does it for me” (9). Such simple, telling encounters characterize much of Tapahonso’s work. Her publications also often include prose comments on the importance of her tribal inheritance to her writing, including her understanding of the nature of storytelling among the Navajo and her relationship with writing in English and the use of the Diné language. Tapahonso relates how both of her parents were renamed and were forced to learn English as a part of their boarding school experiences. Because of their “negative experiences in school,” writes Tapahonso, “they taught us basic English concepts like the alphabet, our American names (which we didn’t use at home), our birth dates, and census numbers before we entered public school” (“They Moved Over the Mountain” 342). Tapahonso herself attended the Navajo Methodist Mission boarding school and later the Shiprock High School. A gifted student, she was encouraged in her writing early on, but, she says, “I was writing only in English and it didn’t occur to me that it was possible to also write in Diné, maybe because it appeared that it did not belong in academic learning. Thus I learned to associate the physical act of writing with English, and Diné occupied an entirely different sphere in my life” (347). Tapahonso’s creative work was later championed by Laguna writer Leslie Marmon Silko in the 1980s, when Tapahonso was a student at the University of New Mexico and Silko was teaching there. This was a turning point for Tapahonso: “The experience was one of exhilaration and, more important, of confirmation. I was genuinely surprised that ordinary Diné life and experiences could be considered ‘literature’” (348). The colonial indoctrination exposed in this comment includes the frequently made distinction between the “folk literature” of “primitive” people and the “authentic” literature of the dominant culture as well as the implication about whose experiences are a proper subject for literature. With confirmation of the validity of her subject, Tapahonso began incorporating more of her Native experience into her writing, notably beginning with her move to write in Diné. Because her ideas on Native language use reflect the preoccupations of many contemporary Native poets, I quote her at length: The writing process begins as thoughts or feelings in the Diné language, which are then translated. As I think of, or remember, incidents to write about, the initial idea or “telling” is in Diné, then it is literally translated in the physical act of writing or typing. The idea of writing means writing in English, but the Diné language is the language of basic emotions. Over the last few years, I have begun to learn to write in Diné though I am not literate yet. I have also realized that there are many expressions and phrases that are best left in Diné—that the English translation falls short of conveying the true meaning. In those cases, I leave lines in Diné and allow the context of the poem or story to convey the connotative meaning. Because Diné seems to be a more sensual and emotional language, this does not appear to weaken the work. It’s important to allow the opportunity for my family, relatives, and other Diné people to hear in college auditoriums or hotel ballrooms (and wherever else I read) the kind of stories and humor in the language that defines us, our families and our very existence. If an audience is confused by the use of Diné, it is only a fraction of what my parents and other family members remember as their educational experi-

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ences. Unless our children (biological, extended, and clan) hear written literature as being relevant to their lives, they have little reason to write their own stories. (348–90) As these comments show, Tapahonso’s effort to incorporate the language and methods of Diné symbolizes a certain liberation and becomes an act of cultural autonomy and decolonization. The decisions made about Native language use in literary works reflect complex and conflicting ideas among contemporary writers and scholars. Many early publications placed Native language in italics and offered translations in accompanying notes or in a glossary. Some poets rely on context alone to transmit meaning to nonspeakers of their Native language; others supply a translation within contiguous lines. Others, who write whole poems in Native language, offer a literal or poetic translation as an accompanying poem. Still others, as Tapahonso describes, incorporate their own language within their poetry in English and let it stand untranslated. These political decisions are frequently arrived at in negotiation with the publisher of a work. Recently authors seem to be allowed more freedom, as dual-language works have become more common. * * * Another among the influential poets working in this vein is Tohono O’odam Ofelia Zepeda, whose publications appear in the current third wave of Native poetry. Zepeda’s language work, however, slightly preceded this, and, as in the case of Dauenhauer, the two are intertwined. Zepeda has been involved in preservation of the Tohono O’odam language in various ways: authoring the first grammar, developing a dictionary project, and editing various publications, including the 1982 When It Rains: Papago and Pima Poetry.44 Her own poetry publications include Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert (1995) and Jewed’I-Hoi/Earth Movements (1997). Zepeda’s achievements were recognized in 1999 when she received a MacArthur Fellowship for her work in literature, language preservation, and community revitalization. Indeed, we can read in Zepeda’s poems several of what I have called the supraliterary intentions of contemporary Native poetry. Her collection Ocean Power stands as a case in point. In acts of decolonization, Zepeda, like Tapahonso, incorporates Native language and also invokes and symbolically reenacts traditional rituals. The book gathers part of its context from the recollection of the tribe’s ritual journey to the ocean for salt, and even from its relationship to the account of that journey in Ruth Underhill’s book, Singing for Power.45 It sets itself a task of “remembering” and learning from those older ones who kept the rituals and language alive, who went on the actual physical pilgrimages in the past. From retellings of those who did it so well, it seeks—in Zepeda’s words—to learn “how to live toward the direction of the ocean” (5). Although the context is time-honored tribal pilgrimage, the narrator’s journey is largely of memory and the spirit. Indeed, when the title poem of the volume, “Ocean Power,” recounts a narrative involving men who have come to the ocean without the ritual preparations so carefully described in Underhill’s account, the reader may detect a lament for the loss of that older ceremonial movement. The final stanza reads: We are not ready to be here. We are not prepared in the old way. We have no medicine.


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We have not sat and had our minds walk through the image of coming to this ocean. We are not ready. We have not put our minds to what it is we want to give the ocean. We do not have cornmeal, feathers, nor do we have songs and prayers ready. We have not thought what gift we will ask from the ocean. Should we ask to be song chasers Should we ask to be rainmakers Should we ask to be good runners or should we ask to be heartbreakers. No, we are not ready to be here at this ocean. (84) Here the author acknowledges a falling away from ceremony, a lack of readiness for the sacred encounter. And yet, Zepeda believes “Rituals and ceremonies must be continued . . . in order that everything be right. Should the ceremonies end, we believe that the world as we know it would not be the same” (“Foreword” vii). And so the text itself begins a kind of recovery, undertakes a re-membering or putting back together of the old ways and beliefs, and perhaps itself offers a ritualistic preparation for sacred encounter or continuance.46 The poem and the larger collection may make the readers ready to view “the ocean” that is the sacred, help them make their minds ready to “walk through the image,” ritualistically recalling the older people and traditions, the way those people lived that was a journey into readiness. Zepeda’s text achieves this symbolic movement partly through the inclusion of the Tohono O’odham language, the repetitive chantlike style of many of her own poems, and the retelling of older songs and ways. It achieves it partly through Zepeda’s own demonstrated overlapping of the two languages and her inclusion of multiple realms of experience. For example, poems like “Pulling Down the Clouds” and “Ju:ki N˘e’I” use the O’odham language as well as the quality of repetitive chant while the poet deals with subjects of ritual (9, 14). But an English-only poem, “The Flood of 1993 and Others,” which addresses practical problems like natural disasters, destruction of resources, and administrative indifference, is also braided into the “traditional” voice through similar repetitive chant patterns. In this poem, however, those repetitions may have ironic intentions, such as the repeated line, “Emergencies after 5 P.M. call” (25). Oral retellings of old teachings on things such as “long hair,” poems constructed as dialogues of teaching through the presentation of questions and answers—the means of Zepeda’s pilgrimage represented may indeed be more verbal than physical, but the collection sets itself in the context of the older pilgrimages and thus attains the quality of a sacred journey of return, of decolonization. * * * While many like Zepeda and Tapahonso regard the employment of Native languages and sensibilities as part of the “acts of recovery” being undertaken in Native communities, other writers and scholars see the popularity of these kind of works among non-Native readers as part of an ongoing cultural voyeurism.47 Language and other “signs” of culture have inadvertently become proof of authenticity in the contemporary act of romanticizing the “primitive” as a consumable object. In a 2002 essay in Studies in American Indian Literatures, for example, Anishinaabe writer David Treuer offers a critique of what he regards as the use of Native language as “stage props” (“Reading Culture” 30).

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Although Treuer’s argument more broadly addresses what he sees as a problematic emphasis in the reading and writing of Native literature on ideas of culture, to the exclusion of considering the works as literature, he discusses Native language use as a part of the “display” of culture involved. Using Louise Erdrich’s novel The Antelope Wife as an example, Treuer (who is himself fluent in the Ojibway language, having acquired it through conscientious study with Native speakers as a young man) specifically criticizes Erdrich’s piecemeal use of Ojibway, the incorporation of nouns or simple phrases that, he claims, do not reflect “the incredibly beautiful, primarily ‘active’ language” (which relies heavily on verbs) (28). The result of this kind of writing, according to Treuer, is not the inclusion of “Native American languages,” which are “systems of words and their representations used to construct relationships based on communication and non-communication, between peoples and communities,” only “Native American words,” which “at best . . . function as a ‘gang sign,’ and at worst, as static, dioramic museum pieces.” Although Treuer’s comments help illuminate the complex issues at stake in decisions about Native language use, in the work of Zepeda, Tapahonso, and many other Native writers, the decision to use a mixture of Native language and English can as readily be seen to privilege the Native audience, who themselves intermix these languages. In Tapahonso’s preface to Blue Horses Rush In, for example, when she talks about the storytelling that informs much of the poetry in the volume, she explains: “The conversation switched easily between Diné and English and, at times, a rhythmic blending of the two” (ix). The key, Treuer might suggest, is the fluency with which the language is employed. However, within Native communities themselves the combined use of Native language and English varies greatly. Sometimes the inheritance does involve only the retention of single words; sometimes, especially for a poet, it might involve the migrations of sound as speakers switch between languages; sometimes it involves a kind of cultural play and self-conscious “codeswitching” that purposely disrupts fluency.48 In the exaggerated misspeaking of a word in English or the deeply inflected use of a Native word or phrase, for example, these speech acts become gestures, clues to understanding the ironic intention of the speaker. Each of these representations in the literary work communicates something between members of a community and perhaps, more broadly, to a Native audience. They often have political or historical significance. Yet, despite this embedded context, the language re-presentations may, as Treuer suggests, be reduced to mere symbols of difference for an-Other audience. They may function or mean differently for different audiences. The question of audience figures largely in decisions made about tribal language inclusion. Another third-wave poet notably engaged in language experiments in publication, Diné Rex Lee Jim (Mazii Dinełtsoi), has clearly fulfilled Treuer’s fluency standard. In 1989 and 1995 Jim published monolingual poetry collections, solely in the Diné language. More recently, in 1998, he also published two trilingual collections of poetry, with works presented in Diné, Irish, and English.49 He is one of a growing number of Native authors juggling language choice, knowing each decision is political as well as literary. * * * These debates about language use reflect more basic conflicts regarding the purposes and possibilities of written literature. Joy Harjo, for example, challenges the boundaries between the oral and written as well as the affective and effective functions of literature. In her attempts to effect change, Harjo has published in various genres, but has won the most acclaim for her poetry and spoken-word performances. She is the author of nine books or


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chapbooks of poetry, including the recent How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems. Her two CDs feature Harjo on jazz saxophone as well as in spoken or sung performances of her poetry. Like Erdrich, Harjo has a group of particularly well-known poems that appear in most anthologies of Native poetry, but over the years she has experimented with various voices and methods of presentation, and her work has helped bring the Native poetic movement into the twenty-first century as a vibrant form with an enduring oral reality. Just as Tapahonso’s poetry performances include the Navajo songs that are a part of the poems, because of Harjo’s performance as a part of the group Poetic Justice, many of her poems have double or triple existences: on the page, spoken, or spoken or sung within a musical composition. Harjo has also explored the idea that poetry can cause change or initiate a process of change. This has been both a thematic focus and a larger goal of her work as an artist and musician. In the prose commentary that follows “A Postcolonial Tale,” from The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, Harjo writes of the historical violence against Indian people and of specific instances of contemporary violence. She closes with a question that gives rise to much of her work: “If I am a poet who is charged with speaking the truth (and I believe the word poet is synonymous with truth-teller), what do I have to say about all of this?” (19). A large portion of Harjo’s oeuvre has always been the “poetry of witness,” the tireless portrayal of the various faces of injustice. But her attempts have gone beyond that of the village crier; she has in her writing and various collaborations worked to incite change. In this way, Harjo’s dual vision of poetry resembles that of Seamus Heaney, who claims that “it’s joy in being a process for language,” and an “agent for proclaiming and correcting injustices” (The Redress of Poetry 6).50 Another of Heaney’s comments, yet more pertinent for what Harjo undertakes, is that “the vision of reality which poetry offers should be transformative, more than just a printout of the given circumstances of its time and place” (159). Harjo makes a similar claim in the prose poem “Transformations.” Not only does she write, “I know you can turn a poem into something else,” but she also claims, “What I mean is hatred can be turned into something else, if you have the right words, the right meanings” (In Mad Love and War 59). In the narrative of this poem the “dark woman” undertakes just such a change, and Harjo closes with a symbolic transformation: “This is your hatred back. She loves you.” Scholar Kathleen Donovan recognizes in Harjo’s transformational movements a particularly feminist attempt to “change fear and hatred . . . into forgiveness and healing by questioning and ultimately rejecting polarities implicit in phallocentric culture and its discourse” (“Dark Continent/Dark Woman” 52). There is perhaps no more emphatic rejection of polarity than that expressed in Harjo’s well-known poem, “She Had Some Horses.” Through an accumulation of vivid images and unusual juxtapositions, Harjo essentially creates a litany of difference: She had horses who were bodies of sand. She had horses who were maps drawn of blood. She had horses who were skins of ocean water. She had horses who were the blue air of sky. and even a litany of opposites: She had horses who called themselves, “horse.” She had horses who called themselves, “spirit,” and kept

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Their voices secret and to themselves. She had horses who had no names. She had horses who had books of names. (63–64) But, ultimately, she undercuts the vocabulary of difference, transforming polarities through her recognition of sameness: She had some horses she loved. She had some horses she hated. These were the same horses. (64) The energy in “She Had Some Horses” is largely incantatory as the verbal momentum builds toward a final disruption of the pattern, which signals change. The nine stanzas enumerating the various and often violently contradictory images find unexpected resolution in the single stark declaration of the last line. Another poem from the same collection, “The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window,” tells the story of a women on the brink of suicide, her thoughts and memories as her life passes before her. It also uses repetition to engage the reader in the performance of the poem. Harjo compares it to the quality of repetition in “a song or a chant” and explains: “Repetition has always been used, ceremonially, in telling stories, in effective speaking, so that what is said becomes a litany, and gives you a way to enter into what is being said, and a way to emerge whole, but changed” (“The Creative Process” 17). Several repetitive phrases link the described scenes or imagery, suggesting likeness even as the images diverge. Seven of the eleven stanzas open with some version of the long appellation that effectively replaces naming in the poem—“the woman hanging from the 13th floor window.” Other phrases enact other rhythms of repetition: “She sees Lake Michigan . . . She sees other buildings . . . She sees other women,” or “She thinks of Carlos . . . She thinks of her father . . . She thinks of all the women” (22–23). The repetition engages readers in the construction of place and identity through the many details Harjo vividly supplies. As she characterizes the “woman hanging from the thirteenth floor window/on the east side of Chicago,” she itemizes physical realities—“Her belly is soft from her children’s births, her worn levis swing down below her waist”; relationships—“She is a woman of children, of the baby, Carlos,/and of Margaret, and of Jimmy who is the oldest./She is her mother’s daughter and her father’s son./She is several pieces between the two husbands she has had”; and the woman’s memories—“When she was young she ate wild rice on scraped down/plates in warm wood rooms. It was in the farther/north and she was the baby then. They rocked her” (22–23). Together the concrete details construct a recognizable reality that, in its raw truth, might characterize another or many other realities; “the woman hanging from the thirteenth floor window” then becomes “all of the women of the apartment building who stand watching her, watching themselves.” The poet thus forges a connection of sisterhood between the reader and the woman who may be on the verge of suicide. In her fully rendered humanity, she cannot remain a statistic, a story for the six o’clock news, one of “them.” As Harjo destroys the distance between her subject and the reader, “the woman hanging” becomes one of us. In these two early poems Harjo works through the movement of the text itself to alter perspective. “The Woman Hanging from the Thirteenth Floor Window” also highlights her frequent focus on female experiences and psyches. She says she wrote this poem thinking of


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“women, mostly Indian women, those who survived and those who weren’t strong enough (whose words we’ll always have to carry), the ones who speak through me, and even those who hate me for speaking” (“The Creative Process” 18). Although the story in the poem is of Harjo’s making, at readings it often elicits questions or stories from audience members who feel they know the woman or might have read about her in the newspaper. Harjo understands how the poetic figure is a stand-in for someone we might know, for an all too common experience of women in our society: “I know there is a woman; perhaps many women are this woman. And you know her, or thought you did, or will. Because it’s a story that has happened; perhaps is happening now” (19). Another figure who fulfills this everywoman role is Noni Daylight, who has reappeared in Harjo’s works throughout her career. Critics have understood her variously as an “otherself,” the poet’s imaginary doppelganger, or as a metaphor for the tired, frightened woman who, as Harjo writes in “Heartbeat,” is “at the edge of skin” (She Had Some Horses 37).51 Although Noni Daylight is sometimes pictured as bedraggled and desperate, frequently driving at high speeds late at night, she also seems to find hope and strength to continue. Sometimes her survival is achieved, as in “Heartbeat,” through “a fierce anger.” The complex female characters in Harjo’s work often waver between ordinary spaces of definition. They are, for example, as Harjo said in a 1982 interview, women who “reach an androgynous kind of spirit where they are very strong people” (“The Story of All Our Survival” 97). These characters not only collapse the male/female boundaries; some, like those in the poems “The Woman Who Fell from the Sky” and “Deer Dancer,” likewise dissolve the distinctions between spirit and flesh, myth and reality (In Mad Love and War 5–6; The Woman Who Fell from the Sky 5–10). In Harjo’s imaginative presentation, they may be “the myth slipped down through dreamtime” or “one who has experienced freedom from earth’s gravity,” but their presence in the poems often becomes a gesture to what is beyond the easily seen. In “Deer Dancer,” for example, which recalls the story of the mythic Deer Woman, Harjo writes: “The woman inside the woman who was to dance naked in the bar of misfits blew deer magic” (my emphasis).52 In a similar attempt to invoke a deep essence, in “The Woman Who Fell,” the poet describes the woman’s experience of God as “the unnameable thing of beauty” who is “neither male nor female and made of absolutely everything of beauty, of wordlessness.” So, despite the obvious differences between “a dishrag wrung out over bones,” which is one of Harjo’s descriptions of Noni Daylight, and “the strange beauty in heels” in “The Woman Who Fell” or the woman who is “the end of beauty” in “Deer Dancer,” Harjo’s many representations of women all seem to have or embody hope, despite their circumstances. The women may live physically desperate lives, but, perhaps because of that desperation, they possess a small, flickering light. For some, that light is an almost visionary reality; for others it is the simple hope of survival. Harjo’s poems also recall, invoke, bless, or speak in memory of contemporary and historical women from Audre Lorde to Jacqueline Peters to Meridel LeSueur. In the long title of her poem for Anna Mae Pictou Aquash (a Micmac activist and AIM member who was found murdered), the parenthetical statement “for we remember the story and must tell it again so we may all live” clearly explains Harjo’s motive for concentrating on these figures.53 Their example and their stories illustrate ways or become the inspiration for contemporary women to continue. Once again the poetry seeks to be effective. In an interview with Bill Moyers, Harjo says plainly, “I want to have some effect in the world: I want my poetry to be useful in a native context as it traditionally has been. In a native context art was not just

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something beautiful to put up on the wall and look at; it was created in the context of its usefulness for the people” (“Ancestral Voices” 43). The fluid, musical quality of Harjo’s lyric has remained constant throughout her career, as has her call for justice. In later works, her insistence upon effect becomes yet more emphatic. As she strives to reveal the embedded history of colonization in this country, she continues to use the lives of ordinary people to illustrate the afterlife of historical violence. While her poetry still employs effective juxtaposition of startling images and unusual metaphors, in her push for social change in The Woman Who Fell from the Sky and A Map to the Next World, she adds instructive, partly autobiographical, prose commentaries on the poems and their origins. “Witness,” from The Woman Who Fell from the Sky, shows these several elements working together. Harjo interweaves images from the “streets of a town in Italy” with memories of “the back roads around Albuquerque” and the poet’s imagination of “the revolution” or her retelling of a story of “a woman on the run” (41–43). The poet and the reader become like the “puppet maker” of the poem, who “laughs and cries” to herself, “remembering everything,” and they become like “the stars,” who are witnesses to all that has happened. Harjo shares some of that “everything” she has seen. In trademark imagery that combines the possible real with the truth of the figurative, she writes of the woman whose “decomposed body” was discovered “in the fields near her husband’s pueblo”: “She put her ear to the ground and ran shoulder first into the earth. Turquoise was stripped from her ears.” Similarly, she writes of how “Someone else we loved lost hope and smashed their car into a wall that wasn’t there.” The catalogue of scenes for which the poet speaks as witness here and elsewhere can be understood in the historical context Harjo provides both within the poetry and in her commentaries. Following “Witness,” she writes: The Indian wars never ended in this country. We could date them as beginning with contact by Columbus, an Italian hired by the Spanish court to find the land of spice and gold. Of course we fought intertribally and among ourselves, but a religious fervor large enough to nearly destroy a continent was imported across the Atlantic. We were hated for our difference by our enemies. (43) In addition to depicting individual moments like the “stabbings outside the door” or the symbolic stars “behind an eclipsed moon searching the alleys for scraps of food” and tracing the historical causes of current conditions, Harjo also bears witness to efforts to resist and to recover, to the “civil rights movement” and to the “reawakening” in which the poet finds herself “in the thick of plans for the new world: in coffeehouses, in the pine smell of mountain retreats, on the road.” In a hopeful gesture toward the future that could as well be read as a call to action, Harjo writes of the plans for the new world: “We are still working on them” (43). For Harjo’s part, she carries out this work in her poetry and her performances; as she claims in another prose commentary, “I believe in the power of words to create the world” (47). Harjo’s ongoing attempt to engage with the world outside of the literary construct and her emphatic effort to employ language effectively is reflected in her postings to the “blog” that has become a part of her Web site ( Here she offers frequent journal-like entries, reporting on her activities and her thoughts and commenting on issues affecting indigenous peoples throughout the world. As the entries work to create a poetry community, they also challenge our ideas of what is possible and incite restorative action, as this excerpt demonstrates:


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REPORT from my contact in Durango, Colorado: Her sister who’s had heart trouble grew herself a new pathway to her heart. Her doctor has never seen anything like it. We know it’s possible. We can grow ourself a peaceful nation. Heart by heart. What does this have to do with poetry, music, and writing? It’s all part of the process. What we think, so, do and are becomes the stuff of our poetry, music and writing. (October 7, 2004) As Harjo has gained more visibility through her poetry and music, her vision too has grown. She now understands her work not only as a part of a literary or artistic movement but also as part of a worldwide search for peace and justice. * * * To the various and powerful voices associated with the emergence of Native poetry and those of the second wave, a large group of new voices has been added. Many in this third wave of writers arrived on the scene in the early to late 1990s, their publishing efforts encouraged and enhanced by the networking developed in conjunction with a pivotal 1992 gathering, an indigenous literary festival called Returning the Gift. With the field of Native American poetry already a vibrant, developing genre, 1992 and America’s Columbus quincentennial celebration brought the opportunity not only for reflection on the historical experiences of indigenous peoples in the Americas but also for an examination of contemporary conditions in Native literatures. Held on the University of Oklahoma campus in Norman, Oklahoma, in the heart of Indian country, the five-day festival in July brought together more than 350 indigenous writers from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Panama, Cuba, and other South American countries. It attracted scholars of Native literatures, booksellers, translators, and even a smattering of media representatives. Returning the Gift proved seminal in launching the current third wave of writing and publishing within and between Native communities. It was also the origin of two organizations that have continued to advance the field and expand the opportunities for indigenous writers: Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas and Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers. NWCA holds annual events, bestows literary prizes and the Lifetime Achievement Award, and serves as a database for information on Native writers. Wordcraft Circle operates as a mentoring organization, pairing younger writers with mentors, holding regional and national workshops and conferences, and maintaining some kind of communication vehicle for writers to share information about opportunities and achievements. Its expressed goal is to “ensure that the voices of Native Writers, past, present, and future, are heard throughout the world.” The now historic Returning the Gift gathering revitalized the connections and expanded the networks available among the community of Native writers. Together with the establishment of organizations like the Association of American Indian Professors and the move by Native scholars to become a more active and visible presence in other organizations, including ASAIL (Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures) and the MLA (Modern Language Association) Native Literature division, NWCA and Wordcraft Circle have had wide-ranging effects on the field. Among the tangible results in the realm of poetry has been the introduction of younger poets through the Diane Decorah First Book Award, which includes publication of a booklength manuscript. The first award, in 1992, was given to Gloria Bird for her manuscript Full Moon on the Reservation, published in 1993 by Greenfield Review Press.54 Bird has since published The River of History, collaborated with Joy Harjo in editing the extensive collection

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Reinventing the Enemy’s Language, and worked with younger writers at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe. When Bird speaks in the introduction to Reinventing the Enemy’s Language of the effort to “mirror an image of the colonized to the colonizers as a process of decolonization,” she could as well be speaking of the effort in her own poetry to lucidly render the beauty and losses of “a surrounded voice” (Reinventing 22; Full Moon 18). The second award winner in poetry, Kimberly Blaeser, whose first volume of poetry, Trailing You, published in 1994, was followed byAbsentee Indians and Other Poems in 2003, continues to publish in several genres and has edited two tribally specific anthologies, of prose and poetry by contemporary Anishinaabe authors.55 Indeed, one of the movements central to this third wave of Native writing has been the development of regional or nation-specific focuses and the subsequent publication of more specialized collections of work, which implicitly combat the homogenization of Native literatures.56 Blaeser’s own poetry draws heavily from its connection to her White Earth Reservation homeland in northwestern Minnesota, particularly its landscape. Reviewer Kevin Ducey notes in her work the important “negotiation of place and language” and describes the poetry as “writing that remains cognizant of the continued colonization of the continent” and turns to “the rhythms of nature as language” as a possible “strategy to circumvent the evasions of English” (“Three Poets Ride Into Language City” 187). Hers, says Ducey, “is a poetry that points to those moments that linger stubbornly outside the sometimes acquisitive power of language.”“Rituals, Yours—and Mine,” for example, displays what Ducey calls her “half-suspicious” relationship with English and with “the veneer of American usage” when the poet writes disparagingly of “all the new words/i’ve ever read learned/or shelved so neatly,” which “can’t explain myself to me/like yours always do” (Trailing You 14).57 This self-conscious relationship to language in Blaeser and the awareness of her “surrounded voice” in Bird both reflect growing concerns among contemporary poets with breaking through the shroud of colonial language. Other new poets of this era are Elizabeth Woody (Yakima/Warm Springs/Wasco/ Navajo), Denise Sweet (Anishinaabe), and Laura Tohe (Navajo), all of whom had poems included in early anthologies but only began to publish individual volumes in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Woody’s poetry from her three collections—Hand Into Stone; Seven Hands, Seven Hearts; and Luminaries of the Humble—collects images from the land and people of the Pacific Northwest and often concerns itself with environmental threats to cultural continuance. She links the historical treatment of Native peoples to the apparent contemporary indifference to their fate, as when she writes of the “downwinders of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation” and refers to the “radiation of the dispossessed” (Luminaries 114). Sweet was named as Wisconsin’s poet laureate in 2004, and her publications include a 1992 chapbook, Know by Heart, and the 1997 Songs for Discharming; her work has also been included in two well-received regional press collections: Days of Obsidian, Days of Grace and Nitaawichige. Sweet’s poetry often arises out of her travels as teacher and activist; it describes scenes and encounters before confronting the reader with strong lines of protest against inequities. But the poetry as frequently speaks with a gentle irony about women’s experience. “Prayer for Women Filled With Grace” brings these two threads together, as can be seen in the haunting imagery of the opening stanza: Women who go hungry delicately drink their tears tipping hands like


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lacy teacups to their mouths whisper “All gone” to themselves and to their orphaned bodies. (Songs for Discharming 38) In this poem, Sweet claims the “rich ooze of anger/will twirl around the tongue.” In the lushness of her language, her most fierce statements find graceful embodiment. Tohe’s 1999 collection No Parole Today centers on the poet’s experiences at Indian boarding school. Tohe draws on family history and places her autobiographical work in the larger context of the assimilation policies of Indian education in America. Living in boarding schools, she claims, “was similar to serving a sentence,” and as “a survivor” of that system, she writes poignantly of the day-to-day struggles. Other strong voices from the recent wave of publishing include Janet McAdams, James Stevens (Mohawk), Mark Turcotte (Anishinaabe), Allison Hedge Coke (Huron/Tsalgi), Heid Erdrich (Anishinaabe), Cheryl Savageau (Abenaki), Haunani-Kay Trask (Hawaiian), Janice Gould (Maidu/Konkow), and Esther Belin (Navajo). Although the “Native” experience has never been homogenous, the appearance of indigenous writers like Belin, who writes from a strongly “U.R.I.” (Urban Raised Indian) perspective; Gould, whose poetry includes the sensuality of a gay woman; and Trask, who expresses a strong Hawaiian nationalist voice, indicates that a greater range of the voices in the widely divergent field of Native poetry are beginning to receive notice. Also among the newer writers are “slam” poets like Luke Warm Water (Oglala), whose publications are generally CDs rather than books, performances rather than texts.58 *** Among the most successful of the new wave of contemporary Native poets is Spokane/Coeur d’Alene Sherman Alexie, whose works in poetry, fiction, film, and his own brand of stand-up comedy have won him an enthusiastic national and international audience. Alexie has to his credit nine collections of poetry (or collections containing a significant selection of poetry), the first of which, The Business of Fancydancing, was published in 1992, the same year as the first Returning the Gift festival. The rest of his books followed in rapid succession. Called the “Indian du jour” by scholar Susan Brill, as an author Alexie has alternately won the accolades and the ire of fellow Native writers. His work—smart, funny, and often brash—demystifies the image of the Indian; exposes with brutal honesty, matched only by compatriot Adrian Louis, the conditions of contemporary reservation life; challenges with biting irony all “study” of Native peoples; and still, somehow, chants for survival. Although the range of subjects and styles in his works is broad, I examine here the important efforts in his poetry to decode the languages of Manifest Destiny and to expose the elements of racism he sees inherent in the idea of Native American literature (the single entity). Alexie actually entitles one of his poems in the collection Old Shirts and New Skins and one of the chapters in his novel Indian Killer ”Introduction to Native American Literature.” He entitles another poem in The Summer of the Black Widows “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel.” Nearly all of Alexie’s works, even his love poems, are filled with awareness of and allusions to the philosophies of colonization, the historical conditions they wrought, and their contemporary embodiments. Through humor, he attempts to expose and to explode these false faces of imperialism.

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“How to Write the Great American Indian Novel” playfully catalogues the “necessary” elements: half-breed heroes from horse cultures; tragic-featured Indians; slender, beautiful Indian women. Alexie presents with ironic humor the stereotypical elements of Native literature: “Alcohol should be consumed. Cars must be driven at high speeds/Indians must see visions.” The list culminates in a telling reversal: “In the Great American Indian Novel, when it is finally written,/all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts” (The Summer of Black Widows 94–95). The poem alludes, of course, to the ultimate conquest—the romantic appropriation of Indian identity after the elimination of the “savages” themselves. But Alexie’s satire is aimed at the literary scene as well, at what it insinuates about the measurements of greatness and by whom those assessments are made. When Alexie approaches the convoluted subjects of race, literature, stereotypes, and the market in a section of the long poem “The Unauthorized Biography of Me,” he again does so in list form, allowing the details of the bland statements to accumulate in the mind of the reader/listener. The critique then arises from and amid the humor as the ludicrous reality is presented in a string of observations: A book written by a person who identifies as mixed-blood will sell more copies than a book written by a person who identifies as strictly Indian. A book written by a non-Indian will sell more copies than a book written by either a mixed-blood or an Indian writer. Reservation Indian writers are rarely published in any form. A book about Indian life in the past, whether written by a non-Indian, mixed-blood, or Indian, will sell more copies than a book about Indian life in the twentieth century. (One Stick Song 21) In these and other poems, Alexie works to show American literature’s preoccupation with the Indian, to characterize the kind of Indian desired in literary representations, and to expose the falseness of this “invented Indian” image, of the negative and positive stereotypes that effectively nullify the real and varied experiences and beliefs of Native peoples. The real experiences of reservation Indians preoccupied Alexie in much of his early writing. Recurring in different configurations throughout his poetry and fiction are images of basketball, violence, powwows, drums, dancing, HUD housing, commodity food, television, alcohol consumption, car crashes, Crazy Horse, treaties, hair, horses, and bars. But the invocations of these concrete markers of reality are not simple or one-dimensional, as are the stereotypes Alexie so abhors. In “Reservation Mathematics,” his persona asks: “How can I tell her/that the reservation is more/than pain?/It’s double happiness, too/when I watch the fancydancers/or/the basketball players/or/the comic book collectors/all dreaming/of a life larger than this one” (First Indian on the Moon 43). The reality is somewhere “in the inbetween/between tipi and HUD house/between magic and loss.” “Defending Walt Whitman,” in its details of “young Indian boys, all arms and legs/and serious stomach muscles,” captures some of the “magic” Alexie often attributes to basketball: God, there is nothing so beautiful as a jump shot on a reservation summer basketball court where the ball is moist with sweat


Part II

and makes a sound when it swishes through the net that causes Walt Whitman to weep because it is so perfect. (The Summer of Black Widows 14) In contrast, this prose stanza from “A Reservation Table of the Elements” vividly pictures the “losses” of reservation life: “An Indian man drowned here on my reservation when he passed out and fell face down in a mud puddle. There is no other way to say this” (First Indian on the Moon 40). Alexie writes frequently, painfully, of the deeply felt ambiguity that is so much a part of Native experience. Alexie’s poetry also addresses through satiric humor the frustration he feels at what he calls in “Reservation Mathematics” “every little war, every/little hurricane” (First Indian on the Moon 44). Indeed, in several places he offers the following formula, which could readily serve as the description of his writing method: “Poetry = Anger x Imagination” (Old Shirts and New Shoes 1; One Stick Song 20). Scholar Ron McFarland claims, “there is a combativeness about Alexie . . . he is, in a way, at war,” and “In most of his writing, sooner or later, Alexie is a ‘polemicist,’ which is to say, a ‘warrior,’ and there is nearly always controversy and argument, implied or direct, in his poems and stories” (“Sherman Alexie’s Polemical Stories” 24). Within Alexie’s “formula” for poetry, the element not named but included in the factor of “imagination” is humor; it is Alexie’s humor that makes his anger palatable, that creates the space in the minds of his readers that allows them to be persuaded by his ideas. Alexie clearly recognizes the power of humor, including the role it can play in tribal survival. In the prose piece “Imagining the Reservation” from The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, the narrator muses, “Do you believe laughter can save us? All I know is that I count coyotes to help me sleep”; and in “The Approximate Size of My Favorite Tumor,” Jimmy Many Horses claims: “Laughter saved Norma and me from pain, too. Humor was an antiseptic that cleaned the deepest of personal wounds” (The Lone Ranger 164). Unlike Harjo, who works to transform anger, Alexie seems intent on diffusing or sometimes merely just containing it. His anger is submerged within the poetry, visible, sometimes palpable. It is one of the tools he uses to arouse his audience. The other tools—the power of poetry and the power of humor—enable the anger to hit its mark. The “mixed-up and mixed-blood” circumstances that give rise to the anger are enumerated in poems throughout Alexie’s work (First Indian on the Moon 43). In “Billy Jack,” he narrates a scene in a restaurant reminiscent of many encounters with racism. When a waiter spills water into his lap, the narrator says, “I rise up/hungry, angry, lonely, tired/as I’ve had to rise up so many times/over the years . . . I look to you/because you understand and know/why I was so quick to rage, remember/why my hand closes easily to fist./We have been in other places/like this” (First Indian on the Moon 113). In remembering the movie and the character Billy Jack, who reacted to racist incidents with rage and physical rebuttal, Alexie acknowledges one choice for handling anger. Although the narrator in his poem confesses, “Oh, Billy Jack, I cheered then/just like all the other Indians/who ever saw your movies,” he also admits, “But all these years later, we need more” (114). Like the narrator, Alexie makes a different choice: through humor and imagination, he makes of his anger—poetry. Alexie’s poetry often seems to yearn toward the spoken, toward performance. It is frequently narrative, often conversational, and many poems incorporate repetition and subtle variation. But the repetition is seldom built upon the patterns of traditional song poems or chants, as in the work of some of his contemporaries. The music in his poetry is as often

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folk, rock, or blues, and his writing entails a repetition that belongs to contemporary performance poets.59 Indeed, Alexie was the winner of the Taos World Heavyweight Championship of Poetry for four years running, from 1998 to 2001 (after which he resigned from further competition to serve on the board for the poetry bouts). In Alexie’s several crossovers—into music, film, stand-up comedy—he has broadened his appeal. His popularity with younger audiences and with those outside the literary elite also owes much to his embrace of pop culture and incorporation of its recognizable images into his writing. In interviews, Alexie has spoken about his desire to reach the “twelve-yearolds on the reservation,” and part of that effort is his use of pop culture figures and media.60 Among his current projects, Alexie has begun collecting the work of Native writers born after 1960 (his own birth year is 1966). His tentative title for the collection, Relocation, is meant to represent not those who themselves participated in the government relocation program but instead, their children. Implicit in this designation is the recognition of the intergenerational and ongoing influences of colonial poli