Intro to Native American Literature (ENGL/ETHN 245N)




Last Updated: 30 March 2020

--To the Most RECENT "Class Notes" Updates--

• For TU, 3/31: MR#1: American Indian Stories (62-99) chpts 4-7 of Pt. 2 and all of Pt. 3; Linda Hogan: "The Voyagers" (Trout 762-67)

• For FR, 4/2: MR#2: Joy Harjo (all in Trout): "Metamorphosis" (679-83); poems: 350-52, 663-65, 684-87

• For TU, 4/7: MR#3: Sherman Alexie: The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven 1-36, 43-53, 59-75

• For FR, 4/10: MR#4: The Lone Ranger 76-82, 93-129

• For TU, 4/14: MR#5: The Lone Ranger 130-138, 149-190, 199-210

• For FR, 4/17: Response #3; James Welch: The Death of Jim Loney 1-22 (thru Ch. 9 of Pt. 1)

• For TU, 4/21: MR#6: The Death of Jim Loney 22-72 (Ch. 10 of Pt. 1 thru Ch. 10 of Pt. 2)

• For FR, 4/24: MR#7: The Death of Jim Loney 72-107 (rest of Pt. 2)

• For TU, 4/28: MR#8: The Death of Jim Loney 109-158 (Pt. 3)

• For SU, 5/3 (midnight): ESSAY #2

•• Vis-à-vis "The Voyagers":::: NASA's "Scenes from Earth" ••
a web version of NASA's "message in a bottle"—including the earth photos and the sounds, images, etc.

JOY HARJO (1951-)—Muscogee [Creek], Cherokee—and!—Irish, French, African-American . . .
LIFE (or rather,
her "Curriculum
Vitae," mostly!):
    1951: born, Tulsa, OK
    1976: B.A. in English, U of New Mexico
    1978: M.F.A. (Creative Writing), U of Iowa
    1978-79, 1983-84: Instructor, Institute of American Indian Arts (Santa Fe)
    1980-81: Instructor, Arizona State U
    1983-84: Instructor, Santa Fe Community College
    1985-90: Professor, U of Colorado
    1991-95: Professor, U of New Mexico
    199?-present(?): Professor, UCLA (American Indian Studies) and U of Hawaii (lives in Honolulu)
CHILDREN:—son Phil; daughter Rainy Dawn (whose father is Simon Ortiz)
    * The Last Song (1975; poetry chapbook)
    * What Moon Drove Me to This? (1979; poetry; incorp. poems from 1st collection)
    ** She Had Some Horses (1983; poetry)
    * Secrets from the Center of the World (1989; prose poems [w/ photography by Stephen Strom])
    ** In Mad Love and War (1990; poetry) [American Book Award]
    * The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (1994; poetry)
    ** The Spiral of Memory (1996; interviews [ed. Laura Coltelli])
    * Reinventing the Enemy's Language (1997; co-editor, w/ Gloria Bird)
    ** A Map to the Next World: Poems and Tales (2000)
    * The Good Luck Cat (2000; children's fiction)
    * How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975-2001 (2002)
MUSIC CD's:(—most "cuts" = recited versions, set to music, of poems from the collections above):
* Poetic Justice: Letter From the End of the Twentieth Century (1997)
* Joy Harjo: Native Joy for Real (2004)


* Sherman Alexie
—BIO note: "A Spokane/Coeur d'Alene [CorduhLANE] Indian" who "grew up on the Spokane Indian Reservation" in Washington state, Alexie planned to be a doctor until he "fainted three times in human anatomy class and needed a career change." Aside from several collections of well-received poetry, he has also published a good deal of fiction: his first collection of short stories was called The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), the title of which indicates Alexie's humorous take on pop culture and Indian-White relations. This was followed shortly by his first novel, Reservation Blues (1995). A big fan of mass media, Alexie jumped at the chance to co-write a movie screenplay, Smoke Signals (1998—based on TheLR&TFFinH), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival; it was "the first feature film to be written, produced, and directed by American Indians."His reputation is still on the rise: "In June 1999, The New Yorker acknowledged Alexie as one of the top writers for the 21st Century." [Such shoddy scholarship—from old notes of mine: as best as I can recall, most of the quots. above are from Alexie's own "official" bio at Sherman Alexie: the Official Site.]

For online research sources, click Alexie's name in blue above to go to his section on my "Links" page.

* Canvas Alert: Under Files=>"ALEXIE, Sherman" are several other fine stories by Alexie and a PDF of Alexie poems selected by yours truly, all useful as "outside" sources (e.g., for the "Major Author" option for Essay #2) and fascinating in themselves.

(Before the recent Johnny Depp film,) The best-known incarnation of the famous cowboy-and-Indian duo—
the 1950's television show, The Lone Ranger (1949-1957):


NOTE: the "QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION" in the back of the 2nd edition should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, #7 implies that "The Only Traffic Signal" story is about baseball, and #9 assumes that the end of "The Trial of Thomas Builds-the-Fire" alludes to the next story, "Distances." Neither of these is true.



NOTE: I am intentionally brief, usually, in the following "NOTES" because I mean them to function as reminders & sources of review rather than to serve in lieu of coming to class: they DON'T. However, this page has a greater usefulness: by "Commentary," I mean that some points in these class notes are expanded upon (and re-organized) in ways that our limited class time—and my rather manic teaching style—disallows. Above all, supplementary material will be provided here, includinghelpful background information in tabular form and links to other Native lit/history resources.

Note: Highlighted author names are linked to each respective author's entry on my Authors & Readings Links page, for further research on your part.



= = = = TIOShPAYE (permanent small groups) = = = =
T. #3:
Holloway, Talia
Klein, J. T.
Lavin, Lizzy
Neff, Alexandria
WolfLeader, Jamisen
T. #4:
Gardner, Andrea
Hlavacek, Kayla
Menard, Luta
Pichler, Ellie
T. #2:
Gill, Kaylee
Hixson, Haley
Nguyen, Anthony
Rang, Ashlin
Wattjes, Shae
T. #5:
Dunavin, Samantha
Johansen, Tabby
Kelly, Madeline
Meston, Taylor
Vermilyea, Kate
T. #1:
Dailey, Megan
Livers, Grant
Newburn, Molly
Pfeiffer, Logan
Staley, Layne
T. #6:
Armatys, Benjamin
Broderick, Sabrina
Christman, Bryan
Coonce, Michael
Morrison, Ashley
Note: This list has been/will be replicated in Canvas's "Groups"; from there you can email your fellow group members at any time (helpful for later group projects, perhaps).


 TU, Jan. 14th:: Course (online) syllabus, etc.

NOTE: Since the Trout anthology is now out of print, all Trout assignments are available as PDFs on Canvas, under "Files." Please print them out, mark them up as you read them, and bring them to class. Accessing them in class on a laptop, etc., is not an acceptable substitute.
Another NOTE on the TROUT readings: Given the cultural differences involved in ethnic literature, it's a really good idea not to skip Trout's intros to each reading. Often her specific comments regarding biography, history, and/or tribal folklore are very helpful in understanding the text at hand. (The questions & writing prompts afterwards are usually much less helpful—indeed, sometimes laughable in their rather high-school-level intent?? But they are certainly worth skimming for pointers as to how TROUT thinks the text should be read!)

     * Diane BURNS: "Sure you can ask me a personal question" (Trout 49-51): As a student of mine once learnedly pointed out, the poem presents the "universal theme" of the projection of bogus identities upon the unknown, the Other; from a specifically Native point of view, the poem parallels Deloria's point that non-Natives think they know, and "wanna be," Indians. E.g., "Your great grandmother, huh? / An Indian princess, huh? / Hair down to there? / Let me guess. Cherokee?"


How do you do?
  No, I am not Chinese.
No, not Spanish.
  No, I am American Indi—Native American.
No, not from India.
  No, not Apache.
No, not Navajo.
  No, not Sioux.
No, we are not extinct.
  Yes, Indin.
  So that's where you got those high cheekbones.
Your great grandmother, huh?
  An Indian Princess, huh?
Hair down to there?
  Let me guess. Cherokee?
Oh, so you've had an Indian friend?
  That close?
Oh, so you've had an Indian lover?
  That tight?
Oh, so you've had an Indian servant?
  That much?
Yeah, it was awful what you guys did to us.
  It's real decent of you to apologize.
No, I don't know where you can get peyote.
  No, I don't know where you can get Navajo rugs real cheap.
No, I didn't make this. I bought it at Bloomingdales.
  Thank you. I like your hair too.
I don't know if anyone knows whether or not Cher is really Indian.
  No, I didn't make it rain tonight.
Yeah. Uh-huh. Spirituality.
  Uh-huh. Yeah. Spirituality. Uh-huh. Mother
Earth. Yeah. Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Spirituality.
  No, I didn't major in archery.
Yeah, a lot of us drink too much.
  Some of us can't drink enough.
This ain't no stoic look.
  This is my face.

—Diane Burns, c. 1989


• My own Brief Outline of U.S./Native American History •

To the Top

 TH, Jan. 16th::
* Trout: "Historical Overview," "Images & Identities" (xvii-xxvii, 1-3); crucial terms/"themes"::::
    * dualistic Western projections re NatAmer: the "noble savage" vs. the "heathen redskin"
    * oral tradition / ORALITY: stories; trad. songs & chants (incl. "incantatory" repetition)
    —ergo 19th-c./early 20th-c. NatAmer emphasis on autobiography (as stories of the "people")?!
    —ergo contemp. NatAmer turn towards poetry?!
    * "SPIRITUALITY" (& "Nature")
    —incl. both assimilations of & reactions against Western theology
    * HYBRIDITY—both biological/racial & cultural/literary
        —incl. the vast majority of well-known "Native" authors
    * Literary evolution from PLAINS NatAmer lit. to SOUTHWESTERN NatAmer lit.
        —e.g., Black Elk, Standing Bear, Zitkala Sa, Eastman -> Momaday, Silko, et al.
        —note how Momaday recapitulates/epitomizes said "movement" (Kiowa->desert SW [Navajo, etc.])
    * Native American RENAISSANCE (c. 1969-)
        —e.g., Momaday, Deloria, Welch, Ortiz, [& Silko, Vizenor]
        —renowned novels: Momaday's House Made of Dawn, Silko's Ceremony
    * (Native) Ecofeminism—espec. Linda Hogan: "(native) women & the land & the animals"
    * TENSION/division between Native TRADITIONALISTS & (POST-)MODERNISTS::
        ** "Traditionalism"—what Alexie calls the "corn pollen school"—that includes novels/poems calling for/lauding a return to the "old ways," an emphasis on spirituality, etc. [usually essentialist] . . . versus->
        ** the (postmodern) "postindian" (Vizenor's term), which emphasizes that "Indian" itself is a necessary "pose" imposed by Western ideology—and whose literary manifestations often employ more sardonic humor and more "gutter" realism [usually constructivist]
    * "Native American" versus "(American) Indian"?! [discussed?]

* VINE DELORIA, JR.: "Indian Humor" (654-62)        
    * humor => a people's "collective psyche" (655)
        —NatAmer. the "opposite," really, of the "wooden Indian"/"Kawliga" stereotype (655); key reason for humor?: survival! (662)
    * JOKES: Columbus; Custer; Christian missionaries; nationalism, and . . .
        —"militancy" (656, 660-662): note date of essay (1969); indeed, Deloria's sometimes strident tone of protest approaches that of A.I.M. (the American Indian Movement) of the late 1960's & early 70's. . . .

À propos of Native "militancy,"
here is my version of the
popular bumper-sticker/t-shirt
slogan (replacing an armed
Geronimo & company with
Tatanka Iyotanka [Sitting Bull])

* Blackboard Alert: Under "Course Documents"=>"Deloria, Jr., Vine" are more PDF files by and about Vine Deloria, Jr.

Regarding Deloria's joke about Custer being a
"well-dressed" fellow at the Little Big Horn—
a photo of the neck tag of my ARROW shirt

• Vis-à-vis Vine Deloria, Jr. on Custer:
(painting by William Reusswig;
jokes stolen from Vine Deloria, Jr.)
(graphic "borrowed" from Google Images)

To the Top

 TU, Jan. 21st::
  * Vine Deloria, Jr.'s "Indians Today, The Real and Unreal" (7-15)
    * "Indians," above all, PROJECTIONS of a Western colonial MYTHOLOGY, "mythical Indians of stereotype-land" (7-8)
        —early colonial myths from Columbus, on—often of a (positive) "noble savage" (8-9, 10)
        —but also incl. negative conflation with other animals, as (a wild/non-human) "savage" and a "wild species" (9-11, 12)
    * Indeed, whites (often claim to) "understand Indians"—largely based on pop. stereotypes, however (10).
    * White Americans' NEED to IDENTIFY with/as Native American (8-9)—Why?:
        —"Indian-grandmother"/"descendent of Pocahontas" complex: female (less threatening), a New World "royalty" (9)
        —need for "some blood tie with the frontier," with the American soil? (9)
        —an avoidance of "facing the guilt" of white culture's abusive treatment of Native Americans? (9)
    * Legal/social status, contrasted with historical plight of African-Americans (11-13)
        —Natives not "recognized" as human until the colonizers' realization: "they got land!" (11)
        —African-Americans traditionally segregated [as the OTHER], NatAmer assimilated [as the SAME] (12)
    * NatAmer vs. Western WORLDVIEW [fairly essentialist] (13)
    —NatAmer "simplicity and mystery" vs. Western "knowledge"?! (13) (Elsewhere, Deloria says, "The white man . . . has ideas; Indians have visions." As for Western religion: "The Christian environment is always a ruined and destroyed, a totally exploited, environment.")
* My tabular version of Deloria's "Cultural Binaries."
        —NatAmer pre-Columbian political history also laudable in its democratic structure (13)
    * Final CALL TO ACTION: "What we need is a cultural leave-us-alone agreement" (14). (Any problems with this assertion?)

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"Deloria, Vine, Jr." are more PDF files by and about Vine Deloria, Jr.

• Vis-à-vis Vine Deloria, Jr. on Indian princesses:

* Philip J. Deloria's "I Am Not a Mascot" (45-48)
    * Thesis: NatAmer sports icons = "the most consistently popular [human!?] mascot in American athletic history" (45).
        —historical advent in early 20th century (45-46)
    * WHY?::
        —early "twentieth-century primitivist nostalgia" (cf. the visual and literary arts of the period) (46)
        —end of Manifest Destiny; ergo, need to DISPLACE the frontier enterprise/spirit into the sports arena, which thereby became a "metaphor" for the American identity (46)
    * NatAmer responses (47):
        —even some NatAmer claim such mascots as an "honoring"?!
        —protests against ~: e.g., AIM (Russell Means & Dennis Banks)
    * CALL TO ACTION: "Indians need to exert some control over . . . any and all ways they are represented in public discourse."
    **** FINALLY, note the following film, which deals largely with the Fighting Illini mascot (but sorry, not in UNL library—try around town?):
        In Whose Honor?: American Indian Mascots in Sports.  Dir. Jay Rosenstein.  New Day Films, 1997.    (And with flute music by Bill Miller [Mohican]).  [—available via Interlibrary Loan at the Love; or I could show it some evening if there's enough interest . . . 2010 Note: You can now "purchase" the vid as a digital download (90-day streaming) at New Day Digital for $4.99!]
** Local Schools:
    NOTE: if you're doin' the "Sports Mascots" option for Essay #1, researching old newspaper articles regarding the controversies surrounding these particular name changes might be very à propos.

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"02 MISCellaneous" is another essay on Indian stereotypes by Susan Shown Harjo, plus the original 1992 lawsuit against the Washington Redskins.


—my critique of NFL hypocrisy (graphic "borrowed" from Google Images)
(To clarify, the NFL recently made calling a fellow player the N- word a 15-yard penalty.)
{click graphic for full-sized version}

• Recent tweet by Sherman Alexie:


** Students' SHARING of Native representations . . .

"What Made the Red Man Red?" —from Disney's Peter Pan (1953)

The famous Keep America Beautiful PSA (the "Crying Indian") PSA (Earth Day, 1971)


* For my own set of pages on Native (mis)representations, check out Great Indian Moments in Pop Culture.


      * Maurice KENNY: "Reading Poems in Public" (4-6): The poet speaks of real(?!) Native life and the "old stories," while his non-Native audience focuses on the superficial; their "Indian," at last, is still "Geronimo on the late show."

To the Top

 TH, Jan. 23rd::
      * Sherman ALEXIE: "13/16" (20-22): The reservation Native protests an identity of fractions, & numbers, & inane labels; his father finally removes all the labels (literally), finding "stories" instead.
      * Louise ERDRICH: "Dear John Wayne" (42-44): Natives at a drive-in "whoop it up" sarcastically at a John Wayne movie; more seriously, the colonialist, Manifest-Destiny urges that John Wayne epitomizes are indicted: "Everything we see belongs to us." (Note: the final two lines refer to the disease that killed John Wayne—cancer: itself a metaphor here for "take it all" colonialism.)
      * James WELCH: "Plea to Those Who Matter" (52-53): Perhaps the most bitter poem we've encountered to date, in which the narrator ostensibly gives his white "friends" what they want, as he pretends to want to look, and "be," white—smashing his nose "straight for you," and scrubbing his "teeth / away with stones." But note the heavily ironic tone.
      * Linda HOGAN: "The Truth Is" (23-25): the poet expresses the pain of her dual racial heritage via a series of metaphors—hands, a bipartite tree, shoes & feet. She is a "woman of two countries," and most painful is her consciousness that one half of her is the "enemy": she remembers "who killed who." ("Who" is "who" here?)

* LINDA HOGAN  1947- (Chickasaw1)
—champion of a triumvirate of "Others"—gender, race, and species (see Dedication, first sentence of Preface of Dwellings)
—some "labels": ecofeminism (land/animals ≈ women, as comparable victims of Western patriarchal oppression); "spiritual" ecology (i.e., an emphasis on intuition and "feeling," and a New-Age-esque "inner growth" via an expansion of ecological consciousness; here "spiritual" includes an near-mystical relationship to the land and other species [see her later essay in Trout, "All My Relations"]); "deep" ecology (which claims, for one thing—and to put it simplistically—that all life forms are "equal," of intrinsic worth [related terms: biocentrism, ecocentrism, bio-egalitarianism; vs. anthropocentrism, homocentrism])
Selected Bibliography::::
** Calling Myself Home (1978; poems)
* Eclipse (1983; poems)
* Seeing Through the Sun (1985; poems)
** "The Two Lives" (1987; in I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers, ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat)
* Mean Spirit (1990; novel)
* Red Clay: Poems & Stories (1991)
** The Book of Medicines (1993; poems)
** Solar Storms (1995; novel)
** Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World (1995; essays)
** Intimate Nature: The Bond Between Women and Animals (1997; ecofeminist essays, edited by Hogan, Brenda Peterson, and Deena Metzger)
* Power (1998; novel)
* The Sweet Breathing of Plants: Women and the Green World (2000; more ecofeminist essays, edited by Hogan and Brenda Peterson)
* The Woman Who Watches Over the World: A Native Memoir (2001)
1 "The name Chickasaw is a bird sound. It whistles when you say it" (Hausman).

  * Linda Hogan: "The Two Lives" (26-41)
* Intro: current planetary socio-political problems: related to H.'s own tribal/family plight
    —"colonization" not just 3rd-world, but 1st-world indigenous, women, environment (26-27)
* H.'s "two lives," historically speaking—
    —white pioneers: "destruction of the land and animal life"; genocide (NatAmer)
        —But defends?!: they acted "out of desperation" (27).
    —Chickasaw tribe: "Trail of Tears" (forced removal from Mississippi) (27-29)
        —[TERM:] métis—"halfbreed," mixed-blood (29)
    —[source NOTE:] The quot. from Harjo (29) was actually originally adapted from Audre Lorde's "A Litany for Survival"—whose refrain is "We were never meant to survive."
        —Now: "landless," poor, and—"We often dislike ourselves" (30)
        —H. refers again to this plight as that of the colonized—connecting, again, 1st- and 3rd-world concerns (and aligning NatAmer protest with that of postcolonial [3rd-world] scholars) (30).
        —tribal peoples' lack of privilege, language difficulties, in "the dominant and dominating world" (30)
* H.'s autobiographical musings (30-)—"when I was a child, two lives lived me" (30). . . . (Later, she calls herself "a person of betweens" [35; & see her poem, above]).
    —impoverished childhood (30-33)
    —[TERM:] the "Other(s)" (32)
    —H.'s protest includes both "classism and racism"; rather than "self-hatred," she has chosen to be "politicized rather than paralyzed" (33).
    —working-class existence before college; then college, and her intriguing perception that "higher education perpetuates racism and classism" (34-35)—(what does she mean by this?!)
    —women-writer mentors: incl. an African-American (Audre Lorde), a Russian-Jewish-American (Tillie Olsen), and a Native American (Zitkala-Sha [Dakota]) (36)!
        —but: critique of ([white] bourgeois) feminism (à la bell hooks) (36)
        —seminal Audre Lorde quot.: "The Master's tools will not dismantle his house" (36). (cf. Alexie's quot. on "the language of the enemy")
    —"spiritual" journey (incl. "spiritual ecology"):
        —Note, in both poetry and prose, her characteristic metaphor of the reptile/amphibian (turtles, frogs, etc.), in accord with the "amphibious" & "ancient woman" that she is . . . (37) (& see final paragraph [40])
        —the spiritual often equated, in Western society, with "crazy" (38)
        —the "spiritual" includes poetry, stories, and her role as "mother and a caretaker[?!] of animals and trees" (39).
        —The "spiritual" includes a political commitment, "a vision of equality and freedom"; an activism on behalf of "human and civil rights, animal rights," and the environment; and the 3rd World . . . incl. "civil disobedience" (39).
        —Deep Ecology: "inner [spiritual] growth" requires a reverence for "every living thing" (39).
    FINAL PARAGRAPH: the experiential details/images of her "many" lives; incl. the "first frogs in springtime," "trees and waters," and the "songs of night" (40) . . . (NOTE: Trout awkwardly & untowardly edits out the essay's finale; here H. segues to one last quot. from another of her short stories.)
Original source of "The Two Lives"—and great secondary source for yr essays! (on reserve at Love):
Swann, Brian, and Arnold Krupat, eds.  I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers.  Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1987.

     * Trout: "The Spirit World" (75-78)
—recall my reservations (no pun intended) in class . . .

[moi:] Some Key Terms in the Discussion of Comparative Religion:
(ethical) DUALISM (good vs. evil/God vs. Satan)(ethical) MONISM/HOLISM (contrast the role of the trickster)
(theological) MONOTHEISM ("I believe in one God")(theological) pluralism/POLYTHEISM (often 4 deities, directions, winds, etc.)
(metaphysical) TRANSCENDENTALISM ("a higher/other world")(physical) IMMANENCE (whatever "spirit world" there is—it's right HERE, in this world)

** Further clarification: Vine Deloria, Jr.'s many writings on Native and Western religions led me to make the following chart, which, I think, is more clarifying (in its admittedly over-generalizing essentialism) than Trout's commentary:

Western Civ./Euro-American/Christian WorldviewNative American Worldview
analysis, divisionholism, synthesis
"history": linear time, progress"geography": space, place, & land (timeless "eternal present"1)
"end-of-the-world" eschatology/apocalypticismcyclic "return"
evolutionpurposiveness (teleology)
cause & effect. . . [synchronicity?]
reason & logicemotion & intuition
dogmatism (deductive & inductive)immediate lived experience (& ergo religious adaptability)
the "other world""this world"
hierarchy of living beings, "dominion" over nature & other speciesegalitarianism of life forms, interrelatedness
property/ownership"sharing," incl. with other species
specialists in charge of social/religious esoteriacommunal knowledge/access of cultural truths
messiah/savior- - - -
"guilt" culture"shame" culture
religious dogmatism & proselytismreligious tolerance
[----my interpretive additions----]
Left BrainRight Brain
monism/monotheism (but really: dualism)monism (but really/and/or "polytheism")
1 Cf. the colloquialism "Indian time," the apparently casual regard for being "on time" (and related to the racist epithet "lazy Indians").
[—and see my own web outline of Western Cultural Binaries made independently of Deloria's influence, and in fact aimed at the deep ideological divide ("Classical" vs. Romantic) within Western civilization itself—]

• EXTRA CREDIT Opportunity:—1-or-more-page summary/response: +5 pts. (possible)
** TH, Jan. 23rd, 7:30- p.m.—Lied Center: Kimball Hall—Martha Redbone Presents "Bone Hill: The Concert"

• "The continuation of the MOSAIC Series into the new year kicks off with a radical exploration of race and heritage with Martha Redbone's Bone Hill. Utilizing Redbone's rich family history and eclectic genre range, Bone Hill tells the story of four generations of Cherokee women overcoming adversity and becoming one with the land in the Appalachian Hills of Kentucky. One of today's most vital voices in American Roots music, Redbone masterfully tells her story through an expansive collection of songs, including Cherokee chants, lullabies, blues, gospel, jazz, R&B, and funk. Audience members will be taken on a journey of honesty, self-exploration, and difficult yet crucial subject matter."

• Finally, student-priced tickets are $17.50; but I can get you in FREE; just email me your name and NUID.

• Hard copy DUE TH, Jan. 30th, 9:30.

• EXTRA CREDIT Opportunity:—1-or-more-page summary/response: +5 pts. (possible)
** FR, Jan. 24th, 2:00-3:00 p.m.—Lied Commons—A Public Conversation with Martha Redbone

—facilitated by our own UNL History & Native American Studies professor Margaret Huettl

• Hard copy DUE TH, Jan. 30th, 9:30.

To the Top

 TU, Jan. 28th::
     * "A Prayer from the [Navajo (Diné)] Night Chant" (122-24): a seminal source & "template" for much contemporary Native writing, from Momaday's House Made of Dawn (in which this passage is quoted) to the incremental repetition and nature imagery of recent Native poetry. The "hypnotic" repetition has been said (by Paula Gunn Allen, among others) to foster a transcendence of ego consciousness, an avenue into Native (timeless) "sacred time," or Jung's collective unconscious, or Kristeva's pre-lingual "semiotic."
—vocab. note: "beauty"—the original Diné is hozho (pronounced hoh-ZHOH[n]), which means much more than aesthetic beauty; it is a beauty of the "spirit," of psychological and ecological (& cosmic) health; indeed, "balance" or "harmony" might be a better translation.

* N. SCOTT MOMADAY  1934- (Kiowa)
Major Works::::
    House Made of Dawn (1968)
    The Ancient Child (1989)
    [[Angle of Geese and Other Poems (1974)]] (incorporated in->)
    [The Gourd Dancer (1976)] (both incorporated in->)
    In the Presence of the Sun: Stories and Poems, 1961-1991 (1992)
    In the Bear's House (1999)
    Nonfiction/Autobiographical Prose:
    The Way to Rainy Mountain (1969)  [mixed-genre]
    The Names: A Memoir (1976)
    The Man Made of Words (1997)
Lit-Bio Observations::::
    —NSM epitomizes the general shift in Native American Lit from the Great Plains (Black Elk, Standing Bear, Zitkala-Sha, etc.) to the Desert Southwest (Silko, Ortiz, etc.). (Momaday: Kiowa heritage->Navajo/Pueblo culture[s])
    —"He is a bear"!
    —(but in contrast:) "He is a" Formalist/Modernist "disciple," too, of one of the last New Criticism hold-outs, Yvor Winters; ergo much of his poetry tense, restrained, & ironic [see especially his poem on Wounded Knee]; lots of epigrammatic iambic quatrains, too).

      N. Scott Momaday Poem(s):
* "December 29, 1890" (264-65): Actually, I find Trout's background info on Wounded Knee more interesting, even moving, than M.'s poem per se; again, note the formalism: couplets, 7 syllables per line; note "light" imagery, as in "The Delight Song": "shine," "shone," "ancient[!] light"; but the overall effect strikes me as a verbal "photograph" or "monument" as cold as those media themselves. (Or—is this Momaday's point/intent?) [PLEASE feel free to disagree!—and share with me your rationale.]


[For Momaday's "December 29, 1890":]

<=Famous photo of the slain Mnikonjou Lakota chief

Big Foot (Si Tanka) after the Wounded Knee massacre

(more) Images of Wounded Knee

Below: my meme to another famous photo, of the Wounded Knee mass grave::::

(photo "borrowed" from Google Images [Wounded Knee mass burial])
{click graphic for full-sized version}

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"02 MISCellaneous" is a PDF file of a contemporary essay (by venables) on the historical background of Wounded Knee.

      Momaday Poems (continued):
* "Earth and I Gave You Turquoise" (580-82) [rereading this poem, I cried!]: First of all, note the ("ceremonial" and yet Modernist-New-Critical!) formalism: sestets in syllabic verse (7-5-7-5-7-7); while a poem about the "afterlife," note how all the images thereof are natural: "corn," "fire," "Children," etc.; favorite—"beautiful"!—line: "There your loom whispered beauty"!!; again, a very effective final two lines, as the rhythm captures/echoes the trochaic beat of a galloping horse: "I will RIDE the SWIFTest HORSE / YOU will HEAR the DRUMming HOOVES."
* "The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee" (60-62) [from 1st collection: Angle of Geese (1974)->The Gourd Dancer (1976)]: note incremental repetition (à la NatAmer oral tradition; but see also the style of Walt Whitman, etc.!?); main images of identification: nature, and light, until the grand monistic gesture: "I am the whole dream of these things"; note allusions to Navajo tradition and Night Chants: "dawn," "beautiful"; finally, note the circularity of the final strophe, beginning and ending as it does with the line "You see, I am alive, I am alive."
        * For Walt Whitman's own 19th-century Anglo-American "incremental repetition" style (that may well have influenced Momaday), see his "Song of Myself"—for example, sections 21 and 26.
* "Carriers of the Dream Wheel" (79-80) [also the title (poem) of a famous NatAmer poetry anthology (ed. Niatum, 1975)]: —Momaday carries on the Native oral tradition in his invocation of the Dream Wheel, and the "aboriginal names"; note the copious circular imagery (vs. "linear" Western worldview) and the marvelous rhythm (and meaning, of course) of the climactic two lines: "Let us TELL the OLD STORies, / Let us SING the SACred SONGS." (Finally, be aware of the thematic importance of "names"—especially oral naming—in the corpus of Momaday [Or should I say, Tsoai-Talee ("Rock-tree Boy")?] . . . . HOWEVER: Trout's intro misleadingly at least implies that the Dream Wheel is/was a real, physical sacred item. No, there are/were actual Kiowa dream shields (aka medicine shields)—see the drawings in In The Presence of the Sun—but "dream wheel" is Momaday's original metaphor—for, at last, the oral tradition at work.

  *MOMADAY: "Introduction" from The Way to Rainy Mountain (367-373)—
    *—par. 1: amazing imagery/natural descriptions!
    *—story of Kiowa history & journey in general (Montana->Black Hills->Oklahoma) (368-371)
    *—his grandmother Aho, "who knew "from birth the affliction of defeat, the dark brooding of old warriors" (369)
    *—Tai-me, "the sacred Sun Dance doll" (369; origin of "sun worship"?—geography/climate/"place": "The sun is at home on the plains"; "there" it has the "character of a god" [Don' we KNOW it!]) (370)
    *—Devil's Tower and the legend of the seven sisters and their brother—er, bear (370)
    *—last (consummated) Kiowa Sun Dance: 1887 (grandmother 7 yrs. old); stopped by U.S. soldiers in 1890: "deicide" (371)
    *—par. 10: amazing personal description of his grandmother before her death (371)
    *—last few paragraphs: understated yet moving elegy to a culture! . . . ends up at his grandmother's grave, and—in true Momaday fashion—a place with "dark stones and ancestral names" (372-373)

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"MOMADAY, N. Scott" is a PDF file/handout that includes more poems by Momaday (especially useful if you're doing on essay concentrating on his work).

"If you can't beat 'em, join 'em": my 1st earnest attempt at a schmaltzy college-dorm-room-poster graphic (my photo: Branched Oak Lake).
{click graphic for full-sized version}


  RESPONSE #1 (2 pages or more)—80 points—Due TH, 1/30 (Canvas upload, by the beginning of class)—CHOOSE ONE:
a) As announced on the syllabus and in class, a do-your-own-thing/anything-you-want "reader's journal" that addresses a goodly number of our assigned readings is an alternate to the specific prompts below; but avoid simple plot summaries or a simply rehashing of ideas brought up in class or on the course web notes. [This last caveat applies to all response choices.]
b) Write a poem or brief autobiographical narrative essay on your own cultural and/or ethnic "hybridity." (Refer, at least obliquely, to several readings assigned so far to demonstrate that your own creative/narrative impulse has been informed by our class readings.)
c) The "Three Deloria" essays: explore a theme/develop an argument that somehow deals with the two assigned essays by Vine Deloria, Jr. and the "Mascot" essay by his son Philip.
d) Rank SIX of the contemporary Native poems we've read to date (through Momaday) from "best" to "worst," evaluating them in terms of such matters as form (verse type, figures of speech, imagery, diction, etc.) ; "theme"—and (perhaps) their relative power in expressing a Native/hybrid voice.
e) [to be graded w/ rose-colored glasses:] Compare/contrast two of the autobiographical/cultural-ritual essays by Standing Bear, Lame Deer, and Hogan ("All My Relations"). For example, which gives you the clearest notion of Native (in this case, Kiowa or Lakota or Chickasaw[?!]) history and "religion"?; which is most conducive to cross-cultural understanding?; etc.
f) Develop your own focused thesis/argument regarding at least three of the readings assigned so far.

To the Top

 TH, Jan. 30th::
      * Luther STANDING BEAR(from My People the Sioux [1928]:) "The Sun Dance" (125-33)—
    *—SB attended the "last great Sun Dance of the Sioux" in 1879; a "sacrificial dance" (126)
    *—"Wakan Tanka" (126) [see Lakota vocab. below]
    *—Note eagle-bone whistles (126): the "Spotted Eagle" (wanbli gleshka) is closely assoc. with the sun . . . NOTE the significance, then, that SB's other most famous book is not called Land of the Lakota, but rather, Land of the Spotted Eagle!
    *—Note the many "quaternal" motifs in the ceremonial prep. & dance: four men, four times, etc. (127, 128, etc.)
    *—the cottonwood pole, when finished, "looked not unlike a huge cross" (129)!
    *—graphic details of no doubt an incredibly painful suffering of the sacrificial "victim," as he tries "to tear out the wooden pin fastened through his breasts" (131)
    *—N.B. especially the last five paragraphs (131-132): SB's close comparison of Lakota ceremonialism & Christianity, and the inflammatory statement, "We were then [the] true Christians." (What does he MEAN by this? Ultimate question: WHY does SB feel it important to even refer to Christianity?)

—My response to a (previous semester's) student paper
that misspelled "Standing Bear" throughout
{click graphic for full-sized version}

      * John Fire (LAME DEER)/Richard Erdoes—(from Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions [1972]:) "Alone on a Hilltop" (134-39)—
    *—VISION QUEST (initiation into manhood; cf. Black Elk, Crazy Horse): "four days and nights" (135)!; fasting, sensory deprivation (135-137) => ego transcendence, and visions, à la repetitive chanting . . . till at last he hears "voices within me," and has his great bird vision (137-138)
    *—importance of peace pipe (also in Standing Bear): "like an open Bible"! (& slam on Christianity in same paragraph) (135-136)
    *—spiritual IMMANENCE/"pantheism": "The spirit is everywhere," manifest "through an animal, a bird, or some trees or hills"! (136)
    *—heyoka (137); "All my relatives" (137); wicasha wakan (138): see Lakota terms, below
    *—ultimate BIRD vision: the "overwhelming presence" of "a big bird" . . . LD begins to "understand it"! . . . . then he "was way up there with the birds," who speak: "We are . . . the winged ones . . . . We are a nation [Lakota: oyate—see below]. . . . You will never kill or harm any of us" (137-138). . . . FOLLOW-UP NOTE: later, as a wicasha wakan, Lame Deer's special "spirit" helper is therefore the eagle. When he prepares for a "big ceremony," an observer need only "look up at the sky and watch. Most of the time you'll see an eagle circling up there, just a tiny black spot going round and round. The eagle power is always there" (Lame Deer 166-167).
    *—Finale: acquires his "man's" name, upon seeing vision of his great-grandfather, Lame Deer (Tahca Hushte) (138-139)

—If you're doin' the "Spirituality/Naturism" option for Essay #1, you might consider these other crucialessays by Standing Bear and Lame Deer as secondary sources:
* Fire, John [Lame Deer], and Richard Erdoes. "Talking to the Owls and Butterflies."
        Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1972. 119-138. Print.
* Standing Bear, Luther.  "Indian Wisdom." Land of the Spotted Eagle.
        Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1978 [1933]. 192-225. Print.

* hanblechia [hahn-BLAY-chee-uh]: "vision quest"
* wakan [wah-KAH(n)]: powerful, sacred, "holy"
* nagi [nah-GHEE]: soul, spirit, shadow
* Wakan tanka [wah-KAH(n) TAH(n)-kuh]: literally, "powerful big" (usually translated as the "Great Spirit" [Black Elk, Lame Deer]—hmmm; or: the "Big Holy" or "Great Mystery" [Standing Bear])
        —also, sometimes one word: Wakantanka [wah-KAH(n)-tah(n)-kuh]
* wichasha wakan [wee-CHAH-shah wah-KAH(n)]: "holy man," medicine man (more literally, "man of power")
* tunkashila [too(n)-KAH-shee-lah]: grandfather (often used metaphorically, spiritually)
* heyoka [hay-OH-kha]: "holy fool," who does everything "backwards" (including cross-dressing)
* wachipi [wah-CHEE-pee]: (ceremonial) dance
* mitakuye oyasin [mee-TAH-koo-yay oh-YAW-see(n); or said quickly/elided: mee-TAH-kway-YAH-see(n)]: "we are all related"; "all my relations/relatives"
        —note also the related term: tioshpaye [tee-OHSH-pah-yay]: band, or clan; extended family, community
        —note also the related term: oyate [oh-YAW-tay]: the people, the nation (BUT note: "nations" include the buffalo, eagles, etc.!)
Spotted Eagle (immature Golden Eagle)
* wanbli [wah(n)-BLEE]: eagle; wanbli gleshka [GLESH-kah]: Spotted Eagle (messenger to Wakan tanka, as the bird "closest to the sun")
* washicu[n] [wah-SHEE-choo]: white person/people (origin probably = people of "mystery," "power")
* Mato Najin [mah-TOH NAH-jee(n)]: "bear standing" (Standing Bear)
* Tah'ca Hushte [TAHKH-cha hoo-SHTAY]: "deer lame" (Lame Deer)

PRONUNCIATION NOTE—as a general rule, for most Native languages/words, think "romance" vowels (i.e., French, Italian): AH - AY - EE - OH - OO . . . As for Lakota specifically, you probably noticed that "c" is always pronounced /ch/; also, I have notated the /sh/ sound as "sh," but on the board, etc., I simply use an "s" with a dot over it, following one common Lakota orthographical system. (Actually, I've lately adopted the more recent orthography that places a caron over the "S," as in "Š" or "š.")

• Another EXTRA CREDIT Opportunity:—1-or-more-page summary/response: +10 pts. (possible)
** SA, Feb. 1st, 11:00-1:00 a.m.—Lincoln Indian Center—1100 Military Rd
—GAMES / ROUND DANCE / PIZZA—facilitated by the Lincoln CLC (Community Learning Centers)

• Hard copy DUE TH, Feb. 6th, 9:30.

To the Top

 TU, Feb. 4th::
    * Hogan (from Dwellings): "All My Relations" (140-43)—
—NB: title from "mitakuye oyasin" (see table above on Lakota vocabulary)
—Intro: NatAmer "extended family" and hospitality—food and "frequent guests" (140-141)
—"story"—conversation with old man: "story is at the very crux of healing, at the heart of every ceremony and ritual in the older America" (141).
—ceremony per se: a (re-)connection with "our families, nations, and all other creatures" (141)
—old man—"moving between the worlds . . . over the boundaries of what we think"; a "'good sign'" is an eagle "overhead" (cf. Lame Deer; and note sweat lodge itself: "Birds are on it") (141).
—sweat lodge: becomes a microcosm of the universe—"animals," "Water," "Wind . . . from the four directions," etc.; and "willow branches" remembering "their brief, slender lives" (142)!
—"Spiritual Ecology" theme, as now it is "a place grown intense and holy . . . of immense community"; the "humbled silence" is really "our deepest language, and now "all things are connected." . . . emphasis on "inner," psychic growth: the "healing" = "the mending of a broken connect between us and the rest," including "animals" and the "land"; a "restructuring" of the "inner map," through which "we make whole our broken-off pieces of self and world" . . . then that mystical leap that sounds like Hogan's best poetry: "it is as if skin contains land and animals"; "the animals and ancestors move into the human body, into skin and blood. The land merges with us" (142).
—But the "real ceremony" involves praxis, action, to "take up a new way" (142).
—Coda: finally, even after the return to "ordinary use," to the mundane, the new (and old!?) consciousness remains: "Crows sit inside the framework [of the sweat lodge]. It's evening. The crickets are singing. All my relations" (143).

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"HOGAN, Linda" is a later essay (PDF file) by Hogan called "First People" (especially useful if you're doing an essay concentrating on her work).

     * Trout: "Crisis in the Homeland" (185-88)—background on the Trail of Tears, the Wounded Knee Massacre, etc.; ergo contemporary NatAmer lit. includes "the lingering impact and trauma of conquest" (185)—ergo Momaday's poem on Wounded Knee that we've read already . . . (My own chronology follows::::)

MASSACRES & TEARS—(A Few) Dates that Live in Infamy (and Some Subsequent Attempts of Redress)
    —with an emphasis on events that have become "rallying points" in contemporary NatAmer lit.—
1830: Indian Removal Actfederal policy to (forcibly) move southeastern tribes west of the Mississippi—incl. Choctaw, Seminole, Creek [Muskogee], Chickasaw, and Cherokee; thus Oklahoma and environs were originally the "Indian Territory"
1838-1839: "Trail of Tears"forced march of the Cherokee from Georgia, etc., to the Indian Territory; plus, a similar fate for the other southeastern tribes mentioned above, & the Seminole (although some of the latter got to stay in Florida to root for FSU football!)
1864: Navajo "Long Walk"forced march of the Navajo to Fort Sumner in New Mexico; more than 2,500 perish; returned to homeland in 1868
1864: Sand Creek Massacreslaughter of approx. 140 Cheyenne & Arapaho (incl. women & children) at Sand Creek (Colorado); the Southern Cheyenne chief Black Kettle survived, until->
1868: Washita RiverCuster's Seventh Cavalry's massacre of Cheyennes led by Black Kettle in Indian Territory (Oklahoma); approx. 100 Native dead, incl. women & children
     —"Garry Owen," the rousing Irish-drinking-song-turned-7th-Cavalry-anthem that Custer's band played as his men went into massacre—er, battle—

    —An old Western-movie version of the song (YouTube vid excerpt of They Died with Their Boots On [1942])

1868: Fort Laramie TreatyTHE "broken treaty": prelude to the Little Bighorn, the Black Hills land controversy, and the American Indian Movement (AIM)
1876: Battle of the Little BighornCuster's Seventh Cavalry versus the Lakota & Cheyenne, led by Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iotanka [Hunkpapa Lakota]) & Crazy Horse (Tashunka Witko [Oglala Lakota]); also, the leader of the Lakota Mniconjou band was Tah'ca Hushte, Lame Deer's great-grandfather/namesake . . . "Hey, at least Custer was well dressed!" [reference to one of Deloria's Custer jokes]
1883-1934: Federal ban on the Lakota Sun Dance. . . and comparable restrictions on other tribes' major ceremonies standard during this same period (cf. Momaday's passage on "deicide")
1887: Dawes Actfirst of a series of laws that divided reservation lands into individual allotments (a pro-assimilationalist strike, ultimately, at Natives' traditional communalism)
1890: Wounded Knee Massacreslaughter of largely unarmed Lakota Ghost Dance adherents near Pine Ridge (South Dakota); Native dead: >300, incl. many women & children
A decent, semi-brief history of The Ghost Dance Movement
Wovoka's "Messiah Letter" (—by the Paiute founder of the Ghost Dance movement)
1934: Indian Reorganization Act (I.R.A.)Ostensibly a positive reorganization of reservations to allow for greater self-government/tribal sovereignty, this law actually promoted assimilation by forcibly transferring power from traditional Native leadership to U.S.-style constitutional/elective governmental forms (i.e., tribal councils w/ tribal chairpersons)—creating internal tensions between traditional (aka "blanket") Indians and "I.R.A." (more assimilated) Indians.
1952-: Indian Relocation ProgramFederal government initiative to move Natives off the rez, to the cities, with job-employment offers; (closet) rationale: more assimilation/Native-culture erasure; one unintended effect: rise of pan-Indian (cross-tribal) consciousness.
1973: Wounded Knee Occupation71-day stand-off between federal authorities and A.I.M. (the American Indian Movement), led by Dennis Banks & Russell Means; demands: recognition of treaties, etc. (failed); death of two FBI agents led to arrest of Leonard Peltier—deemed by Amnesty International as a "political prisoner."
A full series of articles on the AIM's 1973 Wounded Knee Occupation (and background on the original massacre), from the Sioux Falls Argus Leader:The Legacy of Wounded Knee
1978: AIFRAAmerican Indian Freedom of Religion Act
1990: NAGPRANative American Graves Protection & Repatriation Act

Extermination ("Indian Wars" (1600's-1890 [Wounded Knee])
Removal (1830's: the Trail of Tears)
Reservations (1851-)
    1887: Dawes Act (land allotment -> individualism; agragrianism)
    1934: Indian Reorganization Act (tribal govt. -> U.S.-style "self-rule")
    Boarding Schools (1879 [Carlisle]-1960's[-present!])
    Relocation (from reservations->cities, 1950's & 60's)

      * Sarah WINNEMUCCA(from Life Among the Piutes:) "Buried Alive" (236-41)—
—1st published autobiography by a Native American woman (1883)
—Note style: so Victorian (e.g., par. 2, 4, 9-10); or, as one student has said, so "assimilated"
—But child's-eye point of view very effective, even endearing?
—Main "plot" tension between Paiutes and white settlers mirrored in SW's great and real fear of the whites' coming and her grandfather's never-ending positive regard for his "white brothers"  [Why?!]

      * Charles A. EASTMAN(from From the Deep Woods to Civilization:) "The Ghost Dance War" (266-76)—
tone/attitude/word choices—"whose side is he on?!" (par. 3: "wild Indians"; par. 8: "wilder element"; par. 12: "ghost dance craze"; par. 22: "wilder Sioux"); par. 13: "malcontents" [incl. Big Foot, Kicking Bear (who had, by the way, travelled out West to meet with Wovoka), and the son of Red Cloud]—vs. par. 13, par. 15: "Friendly"'s [incl. American Horse; Red Cloud?!] . . . [BUT—par. 12: "poor natives" vs. white "politicians"; par. 25, 35: "so-called" hostiles; after massacre: par. 29: "poor creatures" (a change in tone/attitude after massacre?)] . . . You might also the ponder the perhaps greater import, in terms of Eastman's assimilation, of the following words of a white woman back East: "'I know one Sioux who has not been conquered, and I shall not rest till I hear of his capture!'" (par. 21)—the irony of which escaped Eastman himself!?
    —Consider statement towards end (par. 34): "All this [the slaughter] was a severe ordeal for one [Eastman] who had so lately put all his faith in the Christian love and lofty ideals of the white man." HOWEVER, he immediately continues: "Yet I passed no hasty judgment. . . ."!?
ironic contrasts: "Christmas season"! (par. 20); E.'s white intended, who's half "Puritan," half Tory! . . . betrothal: "Christmas day of 1890" (par. 22) (massacre: Dec. 29th—the morning of which was "sunny and pleasant"! [par. 25])
—à la today?: note the deleterious role of the press (par. 17, par. 30)
—results/description of massacre per se: par. 31-32 (no comment); incl. survival of 1-yr.-old baby . . . cavalry: 25 dead, too—but mostly from friendly fire!

*—Black Elk, in Black Elk Speaks, also describes a pathetic scene, of "Dead and women and children and little babies"; "I saw a little baby trying to suck its mother, but she was bloody and dead."

—telling final two words of essay: "superior force"
—Finally, note the Christian ground springs of the (therefore syncretic) Ghost Dance religion: Wovoka not only called himself a "messiah" and the "Indian Jesus," but referred to Christ frequently; the GD movement therefore both thoroughly messianistic and millennialist (that 1,000 or 2,000-year thing, in which "a new day will dawn" [Led Zep!])—two notions fairly alien to traditional Native thought. (Indeed, the 1st paragraph of Eastman's chapter—omitted by Trout—begins: "A religious craze such as that of 1890-1891 was a thing foreign to the Indian philosophy" [From the Deep Woods 92].)

• As background to Eastman & other readings . . . South Dakota reservations (Wounded Knee is near Pine Ridge, on the Pine Ridge rez, southwest corner of state; Big Foot (Si Tanka) & his "malcontents" came down from the Cheyenne River rez, in north-west-central SoDak):

To the Top

 TH, Feb. 6th::
      * Luci TAPAHONSO: "In 1864" (214-18)—
—effective framing device: present—then story #1 (nearer present/electrician: "cries and moans" [18]; "spirits / lingered on the plains" [23-4]; espec. "relatives" [30])—back to present ("great-grandmother"'s story [34])—story #2 ("Long Walk": loss of sheep!; 65-67 [ouch: "Some army men . . . ."]; "We must not ever forget . . . ." [74-75])—back to present: "daughter is crying" (81); cultural hybridity (as adaptation/survival!?): 83-88

     * Diane GLANCY: "Black Kettle National Grasslands, Western Oklahoma" (232-35)—
—title! . . . (irony?)
—imagery/figures of speech: "Chief Black Kettle and his tribe, / frozen white as clouds in the sun" (5-6); "Gullies gouge the red soil like war- / paint" (7-8); "a soldier's / mess kettle, dented as old maps / of attack plans" (15-17)!; "They speak with sign language like trees" (59)!
—"point of view" switches—stanzas 1-2: burial grounds; st. 3-5: museum; st. 4, 7: personal dream
—anti-technology sub-theme: st. 6
—dreamer's cat and werewolf images (st. 4, 7) vs. Black Kettle's dream of wolves: espec. st. 8, 11, 12(!)
—??—final line: "once through this country is enough"—meaning what??

Rather than drag Custer's My Life on the Plains to class, here are the relevant passages I was going to share wrapped into a draft of the first chapter ("Getting Over Custer") of my next book project (Sins of the Mission: A Memoir of Hybridentity):

The horses screamed.

    Speaking of "wild beasts" takes me to the tenth chapter of Custer's autobiography, which he calls the "Battle of the Washita," although Custer's troops' massacre of Chief Black Kettle's band of Southern Cheyenne at the Washita River in 1868 was hardly a "battle," however commonly it is still referred to as such. As a tribal leader, Black Kettle seemed especially cursed, since he was involved in two of the most infamous massacres in the history of the West, of the Indian Wars. First, he and his people were the objects of the Sand Creek Massacre, in 1864, perpetrated by the U.S. Cavalry under Colonel Chivington; four years later, as I've indicated, Custer had them in his sights. And at this dawn ambush, Custer had his band play his signature piece, an Irish-jig of a tune called "Garry Owen." (The inanity of such an upbeat and up-tempo tune in such a context still strikes my warped funny bone to this day.) I'm especially interested in one immediate outcome of said encounter; the fact was, well, Custer and his men now found themselves with a whole lot of horses:

By actual count we had in our possession eight hundred and seventy-five captured ponies, so wild and unused to white men that it was difficult to herd them. What we were to do with them was puzzling as they could not have been led had we been possessed of the means of doing this; neither could we drive them as the Indians were accustomed to do. And even if we could take them with us [. . .] it was anything but wise or desirable on our part to do so as such a large herd of ponies, constituting so much wealth in the eyes of the Indians, would have been too tempting a prize to the warriors who had been fighting us all the afternoon, and to effect their recapture they would have followed and waylaid us day and night with every prospect of success until we should have arrived at a place of safety. [. . .] We had achieved a great and important success over the hostile tribes [. . . .] The Indians had suffered a telling defeat involving great losses in life and valuable property. Could they succeed, however, in depriving us of the train and supplies and in doing this accomplish the killing or capture of the escort it would go far to offset the damage we had been able to inflict upon them and render our victory an empty one. (350-351)

    So there Custer is, "burdened" with "nearly nine hundred [Indian] ponies," and his decision is cold and calculating: "We did not need the ponies, while the Indians did. If we retained them they might conclude that one object of our expedition against them was to secure plunder, an object thoroughly consistent with the red man's idea of war. Instead, it was our desire to impress upon his uncultured mind that our every act and purpose had been simply to inflict deserved punishment upon him for the many murders and other depredations committed by him in and around the homes of the defenseless settlers on the frontier" (355-356). (Many of these "settlers" were actually there illegally, given the provisions of the signed treaties of the time.) Custer's rationalizations for his eventual decision are long and tortuous here, as if he were semi-conscious of how reprehensible that decision would be. And so—he finally concludes—"[i]mpelled by these motives, I decided neither to attempt to take the ponies with us nor to abandon them to the Indians, but to adopt the only measure left—to kill them. To accomplish this seemingly[!]—like most measures of war—cruel but necessary act, four companies of cavalrymen were detailed [. . .] as a firing party" (356-357). Almost ten pages later, after some of the horses were culled from the herd to "transport" the "prisoners,"

[T]he work of destruction began on the remainder and was continued until nearly eight hundred ponies were thus disposed of[!]. All this time the Indians who had been fighting us from the outside covered the hills in the distance, deeply interested spectators of this to them strange proceeding. The loss of so many animals of value was a severe blow to the tribe, as nothing so completely impairs the war-making facilities for the Indians of the Plains as the deprivation or disabling of their ponies. (365-366)

What strikes me here is how Custer can only understand these horses and their loss in terms of their use-value; he is incapable of comprehending that the Native observers may well have been "deeply interested" in this mass murder for other—dare I use the word humane or even familial?—reasons—in sum, that they might have deemed all this a very "strange proceeding" for reasons other than mere utility.

The horses screamed.

("The horses screamed" is a refrain from Alexie's novel Reservation Blues, and it's related there to a similar event in Spokane tribal history, the Indian-horses-slaughter by a certain Colonel Wright.)

     * Wendy ROSE: "Three Thousand Dollar Death Song" (277-80)—
—ll. 6-9: allusion to treaties: "paper promises . . . dammed rivers of history"
—ll. 21-24 [skulls/bones]: "numbered with black ink / on newly-white foreheads. / As we were formed to the white soldier's voice, / so we explode under white students' hands."
—ll. 31-32 ["theme"]: "You who have priced us . . . at what cost?"; ll. 33-39
—imaginative leap (of "revenge"), from l. 40 on—the artifacts "shaking off their labels like bears suddenly awake"!—and marching "out the museum door!" (42, 45) [N.B.: a "Ghost Dance" revivalism of sorts] . . . [theme:] "The cost then will be paid" for/via "a universe / of stolen things" (49, 54-55).

ESSAY #1 NOTE: Both the Glancy and Rose poems would be excellent sources for the "museum-analysis" option. . . .

To the Top

 TU, Feb. 11th::
     * Trout: "The Remembered Earth" (283-84): importance of land, "place"; of the "birds and animals". . . my mentor's distinction between British Romanticism and Native powwow: "Wordsworth could only imagine himself as a bird; the dancing Indian thinks he is one!"

      * Paula Gunn ALLEN: "We Are the Land" (314-17)—
—[P.G. Allen's groundbreaking Native (eco-)feminist work: The Sacred Hoop (1986)]
—"We are the land" (not just "think" "we" are!); "It is ourself": deconstruction of mind/matter, Self/Other dualism . . . "The Earth is . . . the same as our self (or selves)" [ergo, allows for an eco-centric, rather than egocentric, point of view!?] (315).
—but NOT just pure Native philosophy; PGA knows C.G. Jung, and quotes him often elsewhere: thus she speaks freely of "our collective . . . being" (315——Jung’s main term for this is the collective unconscious); the "unity" with Nature involves "levels of awareness that go beyond consciousness," "that extend long roots deep into the primary levels of mind" (316; straight Jung); PGA even quotes a Native poem that itself quotes Jung's phrase, "racial memory" (316).
—NEGATIVE side of coin: necessity of many contemporary Native writers to "mourn the loss of that unity" (316)
—but that unity NOT a Romantic/nostalgic "self-conscious 'appreciation' of the land" (316)
—conclusion: "ancient metaphysical truths"?! (317; why the need, at last—after all she's said—to go beyond the physical, the earth—the "rain," and the "dance," and the "hunt"—and to reinstate a Western dualism [& idealism], at last?)

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"ALLEN, Paula Gunn" is the introduction (PDF file) to her most famous (and notorious) book, The Sacred Hoop.

*Leslie Marmon SILKO  1948- (Laguna Pueblo)
Selected Bibliography::::
* "The Man to Send Rain Clouds" (1969; short story)
* "Lullaby" (1974; short story)
** "Yellow Woman" (1974; short story)
 —and subsequent "casebook": Yellow Woman, ed. Graulich, 1993
* Laguna Woman (1974 [2nd ed.: 1994]; poetry)
** Ceremony (1977; novel)
* Storyteller (1981; poetry [incl. some from Laguna Woman], short stories [incl. "Lullaby" and "The Man to Send Rain Clouds"], autobiographical & oral-trad. prose; photos)
** Almanac of the Dead (1991; novel)
* Sacred Water: Narratives and Pictures (1993; autobiography)
* Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit (1996; essays, including "The Border Patrol State")
* Gardens in the Dunes (1999; novel)
**—from an unpublished interview (U of Arizona, 1992): partially in response to the highly charged reactions to the "politics" of Almanac, Silko thinks aloud, "Maybe I quit writing." Or instead, "I want to write about macaws and parrots and things. So I'll probably write about animals and rocks and rain, and I'll probably purposely try to—ahm—put the political [out of the picture]. . . ." But that's not possible, for "how can you write about macaws and not be political since where they live is being destroyed. But I'll try"!

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"SILKO, Leslie Marmon" is a PDF file/handout that includes more poems from Silko's Storyteller (especially useful if you're doing on essay concentrating on her work).

* Leslie Marmon Silko: "I Still Trust the Land" (291-96)
    –from her collection of essays, Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit (1996); NOTE: paragraphs 1-11 are from the book's "Introduction"; paragraphs 12-14, from the oft-anthologized essay therein, "Language & Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective."
    –as a child: "alone" with nature, "in the hills with the birds and animals and my horse," preferring "to be without human companions" (292, 293) . . . "I have always felt safer alone in the hills than I feel when I am around people. Humans are the most dangerous of animals, that's what my mother said." (293) . . . and now, "I still trust the land . . . far more than I trust human beings"; for, "in the hills," she is "surrounded with living beings, with these sandstone ridges . . . full of life" (294; cf. Silko's poems, below)
    –racial hybridity: "such a mixture of [Laguna Pueblo] Indian, Mexican, and white" (293)
    –religion: "from the start, I had no use for Christianity because the Christians made up such terrible lies about Indian people that it was clear to me that they would lie about other matters also"!? . . . vs. her own naturism: "The mesas and the hills loved me; the Bible meant punishment." (293)
    –legal matters: lawsuit against New Mexico, for stolen land (6 mill. acres) [cf. Black Hills of SoDak for a similar controversy], at which "the old folks testified with stories"!–and cried, since, for them, "the land was as dear as a child" . . . ergo, she plans on going to law school (294) . . . lawsuit: only money, not land; and at 25 cents an acre, the "lawyer's fees" were more than the settlement! (294-295)
    –conclusion: Pueblo at least got to "stay with the land"–versus the Trail of Tears tribes, etc.; and so the ancestral spirits are there: "'They're out there,'" and "'here with us within the stories'" (presence of ancestral spirits a crucial theme in her fiction, especially Almanac of the Dead) . . . personal coda: Aunt Susie's final "journey" (cf. Momaday's grandmother) (295)

      * Silko: "The Time We Climbed Snake Mountain" (300-301) [from Laguna Woman (1974)/Storyteller (1981)]—
—Re Trout's note on importance of reptiles for Silko & the Pueblo: indeed, a dominant image/symbol in her novel Almanac of the Dead is the re-appearance of a Great Stone Snake. . . . [See "ON SNAKES," below.]
—a "simple"(!?) nature/ecological poem, a reverent tribute to the "spotted yellow snake" who "lives here. / The mountain is his" (6, 12-13). (Indeed, Trout's emphasis on the snake's human cultural "symbolism" really denigrates this central fact.)
—Trout's question afterwards is interesting: how DO Silko's indentations fit the poem's subject matter? [Students have commonly responded well here: both the "shape & sound," as one has said, mimic a snake—via the "serpentine" stanza form and the alliteration of the s's. I prefer to see the indentations as the nooks & crannies of the cliff?!]
On SNAKES: As for snakes and the Natives of the desert Southwest, anthropologist Frank Waters surmises that the Hopi Snake Dance was the earliest religious ceremony in North America; also consider Carl Jung's perception that the snake as a positive symbol of the unconscious is common to many cultures, Western Civilization (cf. Genesis) being the notable exception; consider, too, recent studies in brain physiology regarding the human "reptilian brain," the center of instinct & emotion. (And note, finally, Silko's own contrast of the Native "serpent" and Christianity's "war" against its indigenous & chthonic power [Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit 147].)

      * Silko: "Indian Song: Survival" (304-307) [from Laguna Woman (1974)/Storyteller (1981)]—
—versus the other assigned Silko poem, a much more mythical (almost surreal) treatment of "Nature"; for a much better understanding of the poem, read her short story "Yellow Woman" (also in Storyteller), in which the main character, both real woman and mythic goddess, is abducted by the kachina-spirit Cliff Dweller (who is also a real man named Silva): in some ways, this poem can be read as a vaguer, more suggestive, more symboliste recasting of the myth. Here the male protagonist is "mountain lion man," both real animal and supernatural male deity.
—excellent sensory images of 1st 3 stanzas; then the great lines: "I have slept with the river and / he is warmer than any man"!
—"Nature" identification (interspecies "osmosis")—through which, at times, the narrator becomes a part of elementary nature, merging with the rest of ecosystem—e.g., lines 21-24 & 47-50: "I am hunted for my feathers / I hide in spider's web"; "I am the wind . . . I am the lean gray deer / running on the edge of the rainbow."
—FINALLY: Contrast this poem's surrealist (dream-like) feel with Glancy's poem, above. Glancy's is, I think, more (obviously) surréaliste, in the Western-lit. sense & tradition, while Silko's poem seems more particularly Native in the reasons for its "surreal"—and ultimately mythic—transformations of identity. . . .
[Later clarifying add:] The mythic "plot" of the poem (vague as it is) can most easily be read as Yellow Woman (as fertility goddess) travelling between the gods of Summer (here, "mountain lion man," who is also a symbol of male potency) and Winter. (Compare the story of the Greek fertility goddess Persephone, who spends half of the year [i.e., winter] with Hades, god of the underworld.)

* Running on the Edge of the Rainbow: Laguna Stories and Poems [now online!—w/ transcripts] becomes the title of a later documentary film on Silko, a charming presentation of her as a young "storyteller" (Words & Place series--Larry Evers/U of Arizona, 1978).

    * Peter Blue Cloud: "Hawk Nailed to a Barn Door" (308-310)—
—line 1: "Hawk nailed to a barn door"—like a sacrificial, Christ-like victim? (cf. line 16: "crucified")
—"loaded" simile in l. 4!: "dog barks sharp as cracking rifles"
—"LIVE" image of other Rough-Legged Hawks in motion: 6-9
—graphic details of the dead: "hollow eaten eyes and tight closed / talons in last grasping, nailed through wing muscles, / head down to side, crucified" (14-16)
—narrator's dilemma: to "fashion a scene" of forgetting—or understanding—as someone "who has lost another particle of faith" (18; why?)
—the meaning of "your feathers / will be passed on to sky lovers" (21-22)—which means?
—hawk humanized (and living?): "breast down, / so warm looking" (25-26)
—ceremonial burial, including some Mohawk language (27-29)
—poet's reconciliation with "your senseless murder," perceiving "no messages of hate" from a creature still "alive," as he looks at the wings and still "sense[s] your flight" (30, 33, 35)
[—My South Dakota anecdote: "If it flies, it dies."]

Rough-legged Hawk (my photo: Quivira NWR, 8 March 2018)

To the Top

 TH, Feb. 13th::
my "brother" [photo: TCG; click to enlarge]

 * Geary Hobson—"Buffalo Poem #1" (311)—
—subtitle: contemporary-news-item context (Albuquerque, 1975) [cf. Kenny's "drunk turkey" poem, below]
—THREE WORD ("text" of) poem!:—analyze EACH WORD of the poem: "roam"—any song-lyric contexts here (& ergo irony)?; "on": how applies to past-present-future time frame?; "brothers"—how applies to NatAmer relationship with other species? . . .

--reminded me immediately of Kenny's turkey poem--

      * Louise Erdrich: "The Strange People" (318-320)—
—epigraph: "antelope" as "people" (and Siren-like temptresses)
—initial identification/merger of species: "I am the doe"
        —and eerie (cross-species?!) sensuality: "burning / to meet him"—the "hunt" as sexual attraction!? . . .
—then hunted, killed, and "slung like a sack / in the back of his pickup"—but also still alive, and "laughing"!
—the hunter prepares to clean her, "thinks to have me" (as both hunter's slain possession & sexually?! [note his "knife"])—but she is now a "lean gray witch," a female spirit, who escapes, helps herself to his coffee(!), and then crawls back in her animal "shadowy body" . . . .
—alive, then, again, and the fascinating final line—who is the one she still seeks, this "one who could really wound me"!?
—Finally, consider again my previous comments on how, as ecofeminists tell us, women and animals (and Natives) have been similarly othered through the centuries. . . .
—AND/OR can the whole poem, the "hunt," best be read as a metaphor/allegory of the human male/female relationship, including the hunter's sharp(ened) "knife"!?

* Erdrich later revised "The Strange People," for her collected poems (Original Fire, 2003), by adding the following ending lines:

        Not with weapons, not with a kiss, not with a look.
        Not even with his goodness.

        If a man was never to lie to me. Never lie me.
        I swear I would never leave him.

[full version online]

      * Erdrich: "Skunk Dreams" (321-24)—
—The anecdotal recounting of her untoward "slumber party" with another species is dramatic, powerful, as a MEETING, even merger, of SPECIES (see espec. paragraph 4)? . . . incl. a new appreciation, positive re-inscription, of the OTHER's "vile perfume" (par. 8)?
—then the thematic shifts, from dreams (incl. a skunk's ~!), to thoughts of individual immortality, her need for a "self" that survives death (par. 4-7) . . . (Does this shift work, for you? That answer depends, probably, on what you make of the next point:)
—What, IS, then, the connection between the "sordid" & real skunk and her ruminations on a human afterlife? Why have all her lofty (& adolescent!?) thoughts become "mere wisps," at essay's end, in the pungent wake of "skunk" (par. 9)?
      * Erdrich: "Morning Glories & Eastern Phoebes" (325-27)—
—Note: "Eastern Phoebes" are small (sparrow-sized but slimmer) flycatchers; maybe you know/have seen—the larger, robin-sized—(Eastern) Kingbirds in "these parts," catching bugs on the wing? (But as for the flower, I couldn't tell a Morning Glory from a dandelion.)
—Again, the act of cross-species identification/empathy, as in the "Skunk" essay: "I learn what they can see, in their line of vision" (par. 3).
—"Phoebe" finale of (re)birth and maternal concern—and life, and survival!: "four heads shoot out the nest, beaks open, raving for food" (par. 5).
Morning Glories
Argiope (Garden) Spider
young Eastern Phoebes

in nest

To the Top

 TU, Feb. 18th::
      * Hogan: "Crow Law" (PDF on Canvas)—
—Note initial religious connotations—"temple," "grace"—and yet what a strange, "natural" religion this is. . . .
—indeed, a "religion" of ecology, of real life, after all, in which "moose" becomes "crow," as the latter walks out "the sacred temple of ribs"! (what a marvelous image, and note how all this fits in with Hogan as a "spiritual ecologist.") . . . Cf. "The Strange People," above, for the moose here is rather like the "antelope" there, in that being "hunted" and/or "eaten" seems a necessary, almost happy, sacrifice?
—At last, this eat-and-be-eaten circle is the "oldest war," an "old forest / where crow is calling"—and where, unfortunately (and to explain the last line), humans are not (are no longer?) comfortable, in a "place" where "we are still afraid."
—Finally, to really understand the lines "where the road ceases / to become the old forest," read them with a comma after "road": what, then, does the "road" signify? versus the "old forest"?

"John and Martha 2" —or: VULTURE LAW? (TCG; photo taken at Canyon Lake, Rapid City, SD)

      * Simon Ortiz(from Going For the Rain [1976]:) "My Father's Song" (347-49)—
—time "frames": present/flashback, and circular framing via 1st & last lines: "say things"; "saying things"
—father's "saying" to his son is a "song"
—fertility/rebirth imagery: "corn," "Spring," repeated "soft," "warm," and "moist"
—until at last the birth in the "nest of a mouse," and the babies, so humanized: "tiny pink animals"; their "softness"; so "tiny [and] alive"
—father's lesson: to have his son "touch them" and then take them to safety
= = = Robert Burns' famous "To a Mouse"—for a Western-canon literary comparison/contrast = = =
      * Luci Tapahonso: "They Were Alone in Winter" (387-88)—
—Trout's intro quot. of LT: "my writing has a circular form"; note carefully, then, all the verb tenses in the poem: e.g., the framing here, from a "present habitual" tense ("Each night I braid") to a rather "timeless past" in "an old story" in which the same moon/horse story is told; and the present-tense story also includes that past as an envelope ("'In the old stories, they say the moon comes as a beautiful horse,' / I tell her.")
—ll. 9-14: "chant" repetition of "It" subject, reinforcing the "timelessness"?! (And what is this "It"? Is "it," too, a "fusing," like the poem's various time frames are? And/or is it a slippery, floating signifier that keeps changin' on us?)
—Finally, what do you make of the moon-female/sun-male ("he"?!) binary in this poem? And why, at last, are both identified with horses?
      * Joseph Bruchac—"Ellis Island" (408-409)—
—ll. 1-17: about his "Slovak" grandparents leaving the "sickness[!], / the old Empires of Europe" for a new land, epitomized by that "tall woman, green / as dreams of forests and meadows" . . . (What is this "sickness"? Who/what is the "woman"?)
—ll. 18-27: the CONTRAST (cf. Hogan's poem "The Truth Is"): "Another voice speaks / of native lands"—"Lands invaded / when the earth became owned, "Lands of those with . . . knowledge of the seasons / in their veins." (What cultural contrasts are implied here?)

     * Maria Campbell: from Halfbreed [1973] (361-66)—
        —French Canadian for mixed blood: métis [Fr.-Canadian: may-TEE; Parisian Fr.: may-TEES]
—birth (1940-): Dad: disappointed in her gender; Mom: lessons of "lady"; great-grandma Cheechum: lessons of "living" (362)
—description of house/household activities: snug fit! . . . Cheechum: on the floor!; MC's attraction to Cheechum's "smell" & "wonderful things"—incl. her "clay pipe" . . . Father's occupation evident in the "drying skins" around the place (362-363)
—notable: the ongoing availability of grown-ups to the children: music, games, walks, & stories (363)
—Cheechum's story of/faith in the "little people"—in "leaf boats"!; C. leaves gifts for ~ (363) . . . C.'s clairvoyance ("second sight")—but knowing when loved ones'll die a painful gift (364)
—summers: father around, and—Halfbreed "caravans" on root-&-berry-picking/recreational trips; evenings of (again) music, games, stories (364-365)
—(semi-)humorous bear episode: tent knocked over; "chopped up with axes," for "bear burgers" (365)!?
—"bad times" on trips: men'd get drunk in town; townspeople racially insulting; MC's parents, et al., walked with "their heads down and never looked up." . . . Climax of excerpt: with C.'s encouragement, MC resolves henceforth to walk "tall and straight" (365).
Excerpts NOTE (Trout's selections): paragraphs 1-14 are the first part of Chapter 3; par. 15-18 = part of Chapter 4; par. 19-22 = another, later part of Chapter 4.


  RESPONSE #2—2 pages or more—Due TH, 2/20—CHOOSE ONE option:
a) First of all, as usual, a do-your-own-thing/anything-you-want "reader's journal" that addresses a good number of our assigned readings from this span of assignments** is always a good choice, especially if you've been responding to (selected) readings right after you've read them. (Also "as usual," avoid straight plot summaries or mere rehashes of class discussions.)
b) Do the "Rank SIX poems" thing again (see Response #1), but for our more recent poems (from the Tapahonso, Glancy, & Rose poems through Million's "The Housing Poem"). Valid criteria might include aesthetic excellence; naturist (pro-"Nature") depth or "message"; etc. (Uh, make sure your six text choices are POEMS!)
c) Complex as many of our readings are, it seems rather lamentable, then, that our text's "Reading Questions" at the end of each often seem aimed at a junior-high(?!) level. Write your own sets of (at least) THREE questions each for (at least) THREE of our readings for this span of assignments.** (Feel free to make each question two or three parts—i.e., a series of related questions. Open-ended, thought-provoking questions, moreover, are much preferable to those that ask for a specific "closed" response.) Finally, provide "possible/suggested" ANSWERS, in brackets, after each question. (These may likely be longer than the questions?!)
d) Leslie Marmon SILKO specialization: React to/evaluate the three Silko readings (beyond our class discussions); above all, consider how the two poems may be said to support Silko's expository-prose assertions in "I Still Trust the Land." For "bonus points," include her short story "The Man to Send Rainclouds" in your discussion. (Erdrich's 2 essays and 1 poem are also doable, as an alternative "how are these related?" response.)
    ** Response #2 assignment span: from Winnemucca's "Buried Alive" thru Silko's "The Man to Send Rain Clouds" (see SYLLabus schedule for complete list)

To the Top

 TH, Feb. 20th::
Dian Million [Athabascan (Alaska)]: "The Housing Poem" (PDF on Canvas)
    * Biog. intro another lament about forced adoptions, the "whole history of the attempt to destroy our families" (Harjo & Bird 163-164)
    * Semi-humorous, semi-poignant, poem of an extended family (Lakota: tios[h]paye) that gets larger and larger, and happier—until the landlord wants to evict them, with the final play on the meaning of "single-family occupancy" (Harjo & Bird 166) as revelatory of cultural differences/misunderstandings . . .

      * Silko: "The Man to Send Rainclouds" (1st publ. 1969 [from Storyteller (1981)]) (674-78)—
[#'s = paragraph #'s]
—1: the discovery . . . jeans: "light blue"?! (cf. "blue mountains" in same paragraph, and the various "symbolic" colors that follow) . . . Note also the season of the year, another symbolic motif. . . .
—2: "small gray feather" . . . body painted in the four "directional" colors of traditional Pueblo ceremonialism? ? (Though I see, more commonly, these four: white [east], red [south], blue [west], & yellow [north].)
—3: "rain clouds"—N.B. archetypal rebirth invocation (and explicit reference to the story's title)
—5: note dead man's name: "Teofilo" (—grab your Greek dictionary, and note the irony)
—6: deception of priest regarding death—WHY?
—8-9: dramatic irony ("'he won't do that any more now'")!
—11: ceremonial dressing in new clothes (cf. rebirth angle, further developed by the story's/ceremony's WATER)
—15: symbolism—it's dusk! ("sky . . . west . . . pale yellow light")
—19: CRUX of the (ambiguity of) "The Man to Send Rainclouds": Louise thinking "'About the priest sprinkling holy water for Grandpa. So he won't be thirsty.'"
—21: Leon at priest's door: sees the bells "from the king of Spain with the last sunlight pouring around them in the tower"—significance?!
—24: reason for his calling on priest: "'if you would bring your holy water to the graveyard'"
—25-27: priest: Last Rites?!; Leon: "'It wasn't necessary. . . .'"; priest: it WAS, for "a Christian burial. . . .'"
—29: Leon's ultimate reason: "'we just want him to have plenty of water'"!
—30: priest: in "green chair," with a "glossy missionary magazine"!—turning "pages full of lepers and pagans without looking at them"! (Ouch.)
—31-33: priest initially refuses, then decides to go
—33: setting (encore): setting sun
—34: body so small, the priest thinks: it might be "some perverse Indian trick—something they did in March to ensure a good harvest"! (another rebirth reference; but note the cultural misunderstandings thruout) . . . another ref. to the sunset: "the last warmth of the sun" (dominant archetypal motif: symbolic tension of death & rebirth thruout)
—35: sprinkling of the WATER: awkward fumbling, and "the water disappeared almost before it touched the dim, cold sand"—ooh, symbolism?
—35 encore: priest's strange thought—the water (its disappearance?) "reminded him of something—he tried to remember what it was, because he thought if he could remember he might understand this"; what WAS "it"!?
—36: ref. to Native rebirth symbols of the "corn meal" and "pollen" . . . lowering of body into grave: "the sun was gone" . . . like his "evaporating" water, the priest, walking away, "disappeared"!
—36 encore: Leon feelin' good about the whole deal, "happy about the sprinkling of the holy water; now the old man could send them big thunderclouds for sure."

To the Top

 TU, Feb. 25th::
      * Silko: "Lullaby" (1st publ. 1974 [later, in Storyteller (1981)]) (389-397)—
-*-imagistic MOTIFS:
        *—snow: par. 1, 3; 13-15; 19-22 (cf. end of James Joyce's "The Dead," Frost's "Stopping by Woods")
        *—weaving & the web: par. 1-2, 16 (cf. Silko's Ceremony, in which one of the main mythic characters is "Spider-Woman," a "spinner"/"weaver" of stories)
        *—Jimmy's green Army blanket: par. 2; 4; 11; 17; 22 [her connection with her children -> ergo maternalism/female generations? green "life" itself, vs. "snow"!?]
-*-contrasts between Native and white cultures, especially the latter's connection with the loss of her children (and husband, who also becomes a "child" at story's end [see next]): par. 2-3; 5-12; 16
-*-husband Chato's own "complicity" in—and ruination by—the dominant system: par. 5-6; 12; 13; 15-19
-*-final "lullaby" (par. 20-22): return of all the motifs: the snow, the blanket, and her (re-)"weaving" a traditional chant that merges genders & generations, nature & time, with the plaintive call to "Sleep, / sleep" " . . . (BTW, this is a metaphor; compare to Robert Frost's "And miles to go before I sleep"!)
-*-(old) STUDENTS' written responses, regarding TONE: yes, very "matter-of-fact" & understated, à la Hemingway—even "ritualistic" (in support of plot/theme) in its subdued formalism!?

     * Trout: "Growing Up" (411-13)—"For these authors, growing up Native American means having a sense of thousands of years of ancestors, yet looking for your place in that chain of generations. It means hearing echoes of a tribal language, but not knowing words in that language for your own voice." . . . From Standing Bear and the buffalo, there is also the contemporary evolution, as seen in Vizenor and Alexie, of "venturing off reservations to big cities."

• (Another) EXTRA CREDIT Opportunity:—2-or-more-page summary/response: +10 pts. (possible)
—TU, Feb. 25th, 4:00- p.m.—Love Library South—Peterson Room (LS 221)—
** A screening of the film Ohiyesa: The Soul of an Indian (i.e., Charles Eastman)

• Hard copy DUE TU, March 3rd, 9:30 a.m.

To the Top

 TH, Feb. 27th::

      * Standing Bear: "At Last I Kill a Buffalo" (from My Indian Boyhood [1931]) (423-29)—
-*-eight years old; Ota K'te (Plenty Kill [better: Many Kills])
-*-Preparation the day & night before: par. 1-9; the weapons prep., the orderly quiet, the anticipation (and quiet) of even the horses! ("It is . . . natural that the Indian and his animals understand each other very well both with words and without words" [par. 3; see also 12].) . . . SB's worry about such a "character" test: "Would I be brave . . . . ?"
-*-the Hunt: par. 10-24
        —the BUFFALO (& animal Other!): "When they saw us, they all ran close together as if at the command of a leader"! (14)
                —N.B.: animals-rights vs. hunting-culture controversy
        —the initial charge—and fear: "I was in the midst of the buffalo, their dark bodies rushing all about me and their great heads moving up and down to the sound of their hoofs beating upon the earth" (16).
        —the Calf: "about my size": the kill, subsequent pride; but it took him "five arrows" (18)!?
        —the Temptation (& morality tale): take out two arrows, and lie? . . . but father arrives, Ota K'te "could never lie" to him, and Dad finishes skinning the calf (19). . . . "thesis"/gist: "I am more proud now that I told the truth than I am of killing the buffalo" (21).
-*-Elegiac finale: "It lives only in my memory, for the days of the buffalo are over" (24).

      * Tiffany Midge: "Beets" (442-49)—
-*-"Theme": satire on white eco-ag./Indian-"wanna-be" idealism, vs. historical reality (incl. reality of [hunting Plains] Indians) [see especially pars. 1-2, 5, 13, 22, 31, 36]
-*-(a few) satire/humor hilites, related to "theme":
        —par. 5: "I spent the rest of the day raking manure, thinking the Plains Indians opted not to farm because they knew enough not to."
        —par. 13: "My father liked large things . . . . [T]hey represented progress, ambition, trust. Try as he might to be a true renegade, adopt Indian beliefs and philosophies, even go so far as to marry an Indian woman, he . . . . was [still] a white man. He liked to build large things."
        —par. 22: "Everyone was left with the assumption that it was the Sioux Indians who were farmers and who had guided and helped the Pilgrims in their time of need. Mrs. Morton . . . rattled on about how noble, how Christian, of the Indians to assist the poor colonists in the unsettling and overwhelming wilderness they'd arrived at."
        —par. 29: "My sister was encouraged to invent a recipe for beet bread . . . but it kept coming out of the oven soggy and oozing red juice, as if it were hunks of animal flesh trickling trails of blood. . . ."
        —par. 31: regarding Dad's "newest scheme: of bartering our surplus beets door to door": but "we were the ones doing the soliciting, he was going to stay home and watch the World Series[!]. He furthered his cause by explaining to us that the Indians traded long ago and this would be our own personal tribute to an old way of life."
        —par. 36: "We set out. Our own personal tribute to Indians of long ago. We weren't very conspicuous, just a couple of brown-skinned kids in braids walking grocery sacks [of beets!] down the suburban street."
-*-final beet-rolling incident: "symbolically," a re-affirmation of Plains hunting tradition?—note the narrator's aggressive impulse, even the beets rolling down the hill like a herd of buffalo??! . . . Note, too, the several metaphorical images of the beets' "blood" (par. 29, 49), as if from a slain animal. . . .
-*-vocabulary note: "apple" (par. 15)—slang for an assimilated Indian (as in "red on the outside and white on the inside")

  ** Tiffany Midge: Poems (PDF; from Outlaws, Renegades and Saints [1996)]—
* "Mt. Rushmore & The Arm of Crazy Horse"
    —thematic contrasts: "sacred hills," "god," "warrior's / arm," "simpler / truth"—vs. "stone white faces," "white colonial freedom fighter," "amway-loving friends"
    —"without stepping on a soapbox" (11)?—doesn't she still do so, rather a touch too didactically (espec. ll. 8-10)? Or is the finale (still) actually quite effective?: "Just an unfinished tribute to an unfinished war."

My photo of a Turkey Vulture at the Crazy Horse Monument (June 2011; any "symbol"-hunters!?):

Crazy Horse Monument: more pictures/further commentary

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"MIDGE, Tiffany" is a recent (Feb. 2016) online satire by Tiffany called "Manifest Destiny's Child and Native Mash-up Groups That Should've Won Grammys."

Tiffany Midge's FB post a while back [2/27/14]: she was at the biggest writer's conference of the year (the AWP) in Seattle—

To the Top

 TU, March 3rd::
  ** Tiffany Midge: Poems (PDF; from Outlaws, Renegades and Saints [1996)]—
* "Written in Blood"
    —strophe 1: what does she mean in confessing a "crime" of "meta-innuendo"?
    —st. 2-4: the "why" of her thesaurus/poetry efforts ("three-hundred" dead—guess what event she's referring to!)
    —st. 3: "language of the enemy" = a buzz-phrase, now, of course, from Alexie, Harjo, et al.
    —st. 5-7: but she admits to having "failed"—"betrayed" by a language itself that includes such "synonyms for murder" as "savage, Apache, redskin."
* "Iron Eyes Cody"
    —The key dates here are 1971, when faux-Indian Iron Eyes Cody became famous as the "Crying Indian" in an Earth Day P.S.A. (below), and 1975, the year that Iron Eyes was an invited celebrity at the Wolf Point (MT) Wild Horse Stampede. (I googled it.) BTW, Iron Eyes' fake-Indian ruse (he was really Italian) wasn't revealed in full until 1996 (the year of this collection of poems), although there had been rumors for years.
Earth Day PSA (1971): Iron Eyes Cody's claim to fame

—pun based on a former Native American lit class discussion

      * Gerald Vizenor: from Interior Landscapes [1990] (450-62)—
-*-"March 1938: Crossing the Wires": [is title (also) metaphorical?]
        —main contrasting theme/motif: urban poverty vs. "nature"/tribal heritage: tribal "warmth" (par. 3); (lack of) nature: "no trees or animals" (4); UNnatural urban setting = "the scent of oil," a "landscape of ruin" (5); he imagines himself "back in the woodlands" (7); mother's hot-wiring of electric meter at Christmas a pathetic(?!) "symbolic triumph over poverty, loneliness, and depression" (9)
-*-"December 1946: Saturnalia at Dayton's":
        —shoplifting episode almost Kafkaesque, the "invisible shoplifter" (20) vs. the security "numbers" (e.g., "another zero" [32]) w/ their imagined dialogue (10-40); self-description as "a mixedblood on the margins" (10); par. 11's rather non sequitur turn to French theory (Foucault) characteristic of Vizenor's style . . . also characteristic (of both Vizenor and Alexie): the frequent references to movies (40, 54; 77; 114), often used by Vizenor to intimate the postmodern question of what is "real" and what is simulation (borrowing from his favorite French theorist, Baudrillard)
        —step-father Elmer's child abuse: par. 34, 42-48
        —Juvenile Court (52-59) & great character sketch of the parole officer (61-76)!
-*-"June 1951: One More Good Home":
        —mother's rather callous(!?) departure "for good" (77-99): "I became a mixedblood fosterling overnight" (99)
        —Elmer's reaction: incl. child abuse (101)
        —GV speaks of his "survival language" (102) [elsewhere, of "trickster survivance"]
        —Elmer's "wooing back," as it were, of stepson (104-end), and rather pat moral close: "My trust in him, and his courage to trust me, a mixedblood adolescent son left over from a bum marriage, made me a better person" (122); but, the night before going back, he sleeps under a bridge, and returns, for a moment, to his Ojibwe/crane-totem heritage?: "The trickster soared in a magical flight over the woodland, and the crane must have sounded in my dream that night" (119)!
        —Trout strikes again!: note that the final sentence of the section is omitted here. It reads "We had a great time together for about five months and then he died in an accident." Why do you think Trout left it out?!

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"VIZENOR, Gerald" are more PDF files by and about Vizenor, including an interview, a selection of his haiku, and a book review by yours truly.

To the Top

 TH, March 5th::
      * Joseph Bruchac: "Notes of a Translator's Son" [from I Tell You Now] (482-87)—
-*-par. 1 finale: "I spent many years walking about . . . listening to voices that came not just from the people but from animals and trees and stones"!
-*-Style! & tone!?
        —par. 2: "Who am I?"—given/surnames Catholic/Slovak, but "other names, as well"
        —par. 3: "What do I look like?"—uh, like a bird!?—"beaked nose," and "eyebrows that lift one at a time like the wings of a bird" [see later love of "flight"]
        —par. 4: "The rest of me?" (not too full of himself! . . .)
-*-introversion as a child: "I was different—raised by old people who babied me, bookish, writing poetry in grade school, talking about animals as if they were people" (5)!
-*-"I always dreamed of flight," and "still love high places" (7) [why?]
-*-grandfather's characterization, and identity—via poem: "I got in a fight with a boy who called me an Indian" (7); however, "he would never speak of the Indian blood which showed so strongly in him"; why is he so dark, then?—"Cause I'm French. Us French is always dark" (10)! . . . Bruchac then laments that "There are many people who could claim and learn from their Indian ancestry, but because of . . . fear" and "prejudice . . . that part of their heritage is clouded or denied" (12).
-*-and Bruchac himself?: "I've avoided calling myself 'Indian' most of my life"; not that he sees it as an "insult, but there is another term I like to use," from the Lakota (that is, ieska, literally, "translator," then later, by extension, "mixed-blood," or "half-breed"). (However, B.'s claim that, unlike "half-breed," it isn't an insult goes rather against my own experience with the word.) But notice the benefits of his self-positioning: "It means that you are able to understand the language of both sides, to help them understand each other" (13). (Note that Vizenor has also written about the actual—especially "trickster"—advantages of being a "crossblood.")

     * Trout: "Affairs of the Heart" (493-94)—of interest: references to "genuine matriarch," and "matrilineal society"—a controversial topic in Native American studies, most eloquently defended by P.G. Allen in her Native-feminist manifesto, The Sacred Hoop

      * Nicholas Black Elk/John G. Neihardt: "High Horse's Courting" [Ch.6 of Black Elk Speaks] (520-26)—
-*-N.B.: Trout's intro = essential background reading. . . . Still controversial are the "extent" of BE's conversion to Catholicism and the synergistic (indeed, "hybrid") nature of the collaboration and resulting text.
-*-"Universal" human touch?!: young men's love "sickness" (par. 1-3; = BE's general comments on Lakota [er, Cheyenne!—see final note] tradition/introduction to High Horse's story)
-*-From a Western point of view, the courtship is inordinately sexist, of course; e.g., the father's control, and the incredible statement, "'Probably she wants you to steal her anyway'" (13)?!?! (Also, at least some of the sexism is no doubt Neihardt's!)
-*-Note oral-tradition framework—Red Deer's series of three plans (the 3rd [successful] one rather accidental, if you will); this schema lives on in today's "dirty" jokes?!—and the standard comedy formula, of two serious replies/statements and a third, humorous punch-line.
-*-Finally, the downright humor:
        —1st plan's execution: "his knife slipped and stuck the girl" (17)!?
        —2nd plan, High Horse's "paint job": he falls asleep!—and his beloved awakes to see "a terrible animal, all white with black stripes on it, lying asleep beside her bed" (29). [Note: the main meaning of "terrible," in Neihardt's day, was "terrifying."]
        —3rd plan: the 100 horses stolen from the Crows: HH asks "if maybe[!] that would be enough horses for his girl" (37).
[-**-Final Note: Neihardt claims, at the end of the preceding chapter of BES (Ch. 5), that High Horse was Lakota, and that the story was told to Black Elk by an older Lakota (Watanye). However, the complete transcripts later revealed that Black Elk actually claimed to have heard the story straight from High Horse himself, who was a—Northern Cheyenne. WHY did Neihardt make this editorial change?!]

  Recent video version of High Horse's story (from Dreamkeeper [2003]):
"Blue Bird Woman and High Horse"---- Part 1 ---- Part 2

* Canvas Alert: Under "Files"=>"BLACK ELK & Neihardt" are some background materials (PDF files) on Black Elk & Neihardt and the entire Black Elk Speaks.

      * Erdrich: "The Bingo Van" [1990, in The New Yorker; later incorporated into the novel The Bingo Palace (1994)] (504-515)—
-*-*-N.B.: a quite "modern" story, in a literary sense; what elements, then, make it "Native"? culturally "hybrid"?—
-*-"Oral trad."!?/"2nd-person"-ish point of view/style/tone?—"Now look at me" (par. 1); "Here's how it is" (2); "But it's not like you think with Serena" (21) . . . (But admittedly, also a style—the "chatty vernacular"—common among Anglo modernists like John Updike [and evident even in such 19th-c. classics as Huck Finn])
-*-Settings?—Bingo parlor! (2); drinking party, called—ironically?—a "Hairy Buffalo" (48) . . . also: bar, laundromat ("Coin-Op": 22); tattoo parlor
-*-Characterization?—of Lipsha: "Chippewa" mystic/intuitive healer, with a "richness in his dreams and waking thoughts" (14); his various psychic feats; his "connection" to the tatoo artist Lewey as if "by a small electric wire" (95) . . . but—note "hybridity" of last names: Morrissey, (Lulu) Lamartine
        —character description of Grandma Lulu playing bingo (5)!
        —Serena's last name: "American Horse"! (cf. Eastman's account of Wounded Knee [p. 268])
-*-Plot?—"synchronistic" plot events!? (Note: C.G. Jung defines synchronicity as an "acausal meaningful coincidence.") . . . E.g., humor of first bingo win via vision of—the van's imaginary plates (20-21)!; Serena's "outfit" matching the design on the van (27); most uncanny of all, LM's vision of the "little black pony" (30) showing up in Lewey's tattoo book (102)
        —plot denouement(?): its relative lack of closure? (modernist—from Chekhov and Joyce on—and postmodernist stylistic trait, really) . . . OR is there an obvious "closed"/pat reading here (as students have suggested), that his tingling hand and blank mind signal a return of his powers, of a lesson learned regarding his dalliance with materialism & egoism?
-*-Thematic conflict: Native "powers" vs. drive towards materialism (the van) (10-17)
-*-Native worldview as a "circle": "everything you see is round, everything in nature. . . . Only human-made things tend towards cubes and squares" (83)
There are more famous expositions of this theme in Black Elk Speaksand in Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions. In the former, Black Elk speaks (in Chapter 17) of the Anglos' square "gray houses" ("a bad way to live, for there can be no power in a square") versus the Lakota circle: "Everything an Indian does is in a circle," for "everything [in nature] tries to be round." (Note the natural/animal origin of such a privileging: "Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours." Indeed, Black Elk pursues this avian analogue: "Our tepees were round like the nests of birds, and these were always set in a circle, the nation's hoop, a nest of many nests," where we "hatch[!] our children.") But now the Lakota are stuck into "these square boxes," where Black Elk feels alienated from his own "powers."
-*-"Vocabulary" note: "I.H.S." (47): Indian Health Services

• (Another) EXTRA CREDIT Opportunity:—2-or-more-page summary/response: +10 pts. (possible)
—Monday, March 9th, 4:00 p.m.—Love Library South—Peterson Room (LS 221)—
** A lecture on "Historical Trauma"—by Misty Frazier, Executive Director of the Nebraska Indian Child Welfare Coalition

• Hard copy DUE TH, March 12th, 9:30 a.m.

To the Top

 TU, March 10th::

     * Trout: "Language & Learning in Two Worlds" (587-91)—
—fascinating background info—About 300 N. Amer. indigenous languages in 1492 . . . 1990 census: 170 "different Native American languages." Of "more than three hundred thousand" Native-language speakers, about a third are Navajo. (However, 136 of these languages "had less than two thousand speakers in 1960.")

•—• •—• From Healey's Diversity & Society:

* Albert White Hat, Sr.: "Lakota Language" (592-97)
–new attempt at a Lakota orthography/dictionary underscored by a philosophy of language, a Lakota worldview (cf. wakan)–despite, and acknowledging, various contemporary "versions" thereof: traditional, Catholic, Episcopalian, and the "reservation subculture"; revival of the traditional meanings, et al., at last "a process of deconditioning and liberation"

  * Standing Bear: "First Days at Carlisle"
(from My People, the Sioux [1928]) (598-610)
    ** Crucial (and usually sadly hilarious) passages:
        -*-Inception of the School: par. 7-9
        -*-NAMING (cf. Momaday, below): 18-22
        -*-Writing: 23-25
        -*-Clothes/Hair: 33-53
        -*-Religion/Church: 55, 62-63
        -*-Plate-painting: 60 (worth some $ now!?)
        -*-"Occupational therapy"—(and irony of trade as) tinsmith: 65-66
        -*-(hilarious) Brass band episode: 68-71
        Another "Editor's Decision": between par. 11-12, Trout chooses to omit a troubling paragraph in which an Indian student teases a "negro in the crowd," to the delight of the visiting whites: "How the people laughed at this!" (My People the Sioux 135).

        —Works Cited entry for today's video excerpt on Indian boarding schools, if want to use for an essay:

Wounded Knee. Dir. Stanley Nelson. Part 5 of We Shall Remain. American Experience/WGBH International, 2009. DVD.

To the Top

 TH, March 12th::
Zi[n]tkala-Ša [zee(n)t-KAH-lah SHAH] = "bird-red" (Red Bird)
* TRIBE: "Yankton Sioux" (the Yankton & Yanktonais bands of SE SoDak) = Nakota tribe ([see Dominguez xix (the intro in our edition)], though usually called Dakota, even by Zitkala-Ša herself); blood quantum!: "one half Sioux" (Fisher xix)
    1876: born Gertrude Simmons (her step-father's last name), on the Yankton Reservation (SE SoDak)—the same year, by the way, as the Battle of the Little Bighorn
    1884: missionaries show up; and so to an Indian boarding school—White's Manual Institute—in Indiana (which she attended, with some intervening years at home, to 1895)
    [1890: the Massacre of Wounded Knee, about which Zitkala-Ša is oddly "reticent": "Nowhere in these stories is there a reference to this historical act of genocide" (D&N xxxiii).]
    1895-1897: to Earlham's College (Indiana), and to poetry writing & oratory contests
    1897-1899: teaching at Carlisle Indian Industrial School!
    1899-1902?: study at the New England Conservatory of Music (violin)
    1900-1902: composes bulk of her literary output [see next list]
    1902: married to Raymond Bonnin, which some claim signaled the "decline" of her literary career (Fisher xiii)
    1903-1916: living with husband, now a B.I.A. employee, on a Utah reservation. where she further develops her bent for Indian activism—including her . . .
    1913-1918: activist denunciation of Native peyote use, for which the "liberal ethnologist James Mooney . . . denounced" her "as a fraud," for wearing an Indian outfit that was a hodge-podge from different tribes (D&N xxi-xxiii)!
    1916: Bonnins move to Washington, D.C., upon Zitkala-Ša's election as secretary & treasurer of the Society of the American Indian—"the first national pan-Indian political organization run entirely by Native people" (D&N xxix-xv; founded 1911, "dissolved" in 1919); and a new, more public life of activism on behalf of Native Americans, including calling for Indian citizenship (granted 1924) and the removal of the Sun Dance ban (legalized 1934, via the Indian Reorganization Act)
    1926: founds the National Council of American Indians, for which she was president until her death in . . .
    1938: died; "In perhaps the greatest misrepresentation of a life often misrepresented, she was described in the hospital's postmortem report as "'Gertrude Bonnin from South Dakota—Housewife'" (D&N xxviii)!
    1900: Atlantic Monthly: "Impressions of an Indian Childhood"; "The School Days of an Indian Girl"; "An Indian Teacher among Indians" [all later included in American Indian Stories]
            —Praise(?!) of Zitkala-Ša in an issue of Harper's Bazaar in 1900: "Zitkala-Ša is of the Sioux tribe of Dakota and until her ninth year was a veritable little savage" (qtd. in Fisher vii; see also Helen Keller's letter in the old advertisement in the back of our text).
    1901: book: Old Indian Legends; Harper's Magazine: "The Soft-Hearted Sioux" [later included in American Indian Stories]
    1902: Atlantic Monthly: "Why I Am a Pagan"
            —Carlisle founder Richard Pratt's review of this essay: "its author was 'worse than a pagan'" (D&N xix).
    1913: collaborated with William Hanson on the "Indian opera" Sun Dance (revived on Broadway in 1937 [Fisher]—or 1938? [the year of her death: D&N])
    1921: book: American Indian Stories
            —"[S]he calls her new book the 'blanket book' (the cover image was an image of a Navajo blanket)" (D&N xxvii; note: traditional Indians were often referred to as "blanket Indians").
            —". . . one of the first attempts of a Native American woman to write her own story without the aid of an editor, an interpreter, or an ethnographer" (Fisher vi)
    —Her work "lay in some obscurity after her death in 1938 before being rediscovered and reassessed in the 1970s and 1980s" (D&N xiii).
    —"Zitkala-Ša had every right to feel nervous about her mission to become the literary counterpart of the oral storytellers of her tribe because she felt compelled to live up to the critical expectations of her white audience" (Fisher vii).
    "To her mother and the traditional Sioux on the reservation . . . she was highly suspect because, in their minds, she had abandoned, even betrayed, the Indian way of life by getting an education in the white man's world. To those at the Carlisle Indian School . . . on the other hand, she was an anathema because she insisted on remaining 'Indian,' writing embarrassing articles such as 'Why I Am a Pagan' that flew in the face of the assimilationist thrust of their education" (Fisher viii). . . . "Zitkala-Ša has been accused of 'selling out' largely because of the difficult balancing act she attempted as a mediator between tribal, bureaucratic, and activist concerns" (D&N xxiv).
    Name change—after quarrel with sister-in-law: "I bore it [the name Simmons] a long time till my brother's wife—angry with me because I insisted upon getting an education—said I had deserted home and I might [as well] give up my brother's name 'Simmons' too. Well, you can guess how queer I felt—away from my own people—homeless—penniless—and even without a name! Then I chose to make a name for myself—and I guess I have made 'Zitkala-Ša' known . . . " (qtd. in Fisher x). . . . Also noteworthy: her brother's (only) given name was actually David; "Zitkala-Ša fictionalized him as Dawée" (D&N xv)!
    —Religion: "We can do little more than attempt to keep up with her rapid moves between Catholicism, paganism, Mormonism, and Christian Science" (D&N xv).
    —"Though she would spend her life working for the rights of Indians and would become one of the most vocal spokespersons of the Pan-Indian movement in the 1920's and 1930's, Zitkala-Ša was never reconciled with her mother. She spent her life in balance between two worlds, using the language of one to translate the needs of another. She was in a truly liminal ['border'] position, always on the threshold of two worlds but never fully entering either" (Fisher xiii).
    —"Controversial to the end, Gertrude Bonnin remained an enigma—a curious blend of civilized romanticism and aggressive individualism. Her own image of herself eventually evolved into an admixture of myth and fact, so that by the time of her death in 1938, she believed, and it was erroneously stated in three obituaries [in major Eastern newspapers], that she was the granddaughter of Sitting Bull . . . though her own mother was older than Sitting Bull [and they weren't even from the same tribe!]" (Fisher xvii). . . . "Zitkala-Ša herself was implicated in propagating this myth. It became one of her favorite autobiographical stories. . ." (D&N xiv).
    —"Her career also exemplifies the tremendous difficulty confronting minority people who would become writers but who are constantly under pressure from their own groups to use literature toward socio-political ends. . . . The wonder is that she wrote at all and in so doing became one of the first Indians to bring to the attention of a white audience the traditions of a tribe as well as the personal sensibilities of one of its members" (Fisher xvii-xviii).
    —Subversion/"Reinvention"?: [regarding "School Days":] "Resisting the pressures of assimilation in small ways, employing trickster strategies such as vandalizing the school's Bible, she was able to maintain a sense of herself" (D&N xvi).
    Fisher = Dexter Fisher's Foreword to the previous U of Nebraska P edition of American Indian Stories
    D & N = Davidson & Norris's Introduction to American Indian Stories, Legends, and Other Writings (Penguin Classics)
(A more legible/printable version of this handout/outline is on Blackboard, in the "ZITKALA-S[h]A" folder.)

** Z-SHA PRE-READING NOTE: I tend to approach longer literary texts—like Z-Sha's three-part autobiography—as a structuralist of sorts, identifying its building blocks, which I like to call "MOTIFS" (as in musical motifs: snippets of melody or chord progressions that get repeated throughout the "symphony" that is the text). In Z-Sha, for instance, it's interesting to follow her DICTION (word choices: e.g., "wigwam," "paleface," "iron horse": WHY? who is her AUDIENCE?); her common FIGURES OF SPEECH (e.g., the recurring comparisons, implicit or explicit, to "wild animals"); her use of literary conventions (e.g., those Victorian over-dramatic, emotional moments?!; the Biblical plot motif of temptation & disobedience?). Also, speaking of her audience, how might that have effected her TONE and POINT OF VIEW? How would you characterize her tone (attitude)? How does her tone & PofV change thru the three sections?

TIPI (many Great Plains tribes)WIGWAM (many Eastern Woodlands tribes)

* "Impressions of an Indian Childhood" [1900] (AIS 7-45)
    I: "My Mother" (7-11)
        —intro setting "exotic" (for her Eastern white audience), a "wigwam" by the "Missouri" (7) [Why "wigwam" [7, 9, 12, etc.] (an Abenaki dwelling/word [northeastern Algonquian tribe]) instead of the Dakota word "tipi" (which she will use later)?!]
        —Mother's characterization (any stereotypes for her audience?): "sad and silent [stoic!]" (yet tearful) (7)—why?
        —Z-Ša's characterization (any stereotypes for her audience?!): a "wild little girl of seven," "light-footed," "free as the wind" and as "spirited" as "a bounding deer"; full of "wild freedom and overflowing spirits" (8)
        —Cousin "Warca-Ziwin (Sunflower)" [Lakota: wahcazizi (wahkCHAHzeezee)], "yellow flower"; or wahcazi tanka (wahkCHAHzee TAHNka), "big flower"]
        —Reason for mother's sorrow: the actions of the "paleface" [again note the Western-dime-novel word choice (9, 39, etc.)]; Z-Ša's reaction: "'I hate the paleface that makes my mother cry!'" (9) . . . "the paleface has stolen our lands and driven us hither[!—word choice!]"—"like a herd of buffalo" [Native = animal, an eventual motif] . . . and the death of Z-Ša's sister and uncle, upon the tribe's reaching "this western country" (10). [Note: the Dakota were previously inhabitants of Minnesota, mostly, until forced to various reservations in SoDak & NoDak.]
    II: "The Legends" (12-17)
        —Indian Ed. 101: Z-Ša hears the "old legends" (13).
        —Emphasis on Dakota "hospitality" towards relatives & friends, especially "old men and women"—and the young's respect, "proper silence" (12-13)
        —"Iktomi story" (15) note: Iktomi is the Dakota/Lakota Trickster figure in the guise of a spider (or "spider-man"); he is the "anti-hero" of many of the stories in Z-Ša's Old Indian Legends.
        —Z-Ša's fearful reaction to the "secret" sign of the "tatooed" "blue star" (16-17; Z-Ša's apparent obsession with this story/image continues in her short story about the "Blue-Star Woman" [159-]). . . .
    III. "The Beadwork" (18-24)
        —Indian Ed. 102: bead-making with her mother, whose pedagogical methods seem more Rousseauian than authoritarian—encouraging Z-Ša's own "original designs" (19) and—most of the time—treating her "as a dignified little individual" (20)
        —2nd episode: the girls on their own, "impersonating" their "own mothers" (modeling!) (21-22); but then they give way to their "impulses," shouting and "whooping"—cavorting "like little sportive nymphs on that Dakota sea of rolling green" (22-23; again note Z-Ša's word choices).
        —Chasing her shadow (23-24): a rather predictable narrative, unless it has further metaphorical resonances? . . .
    IV. "The Coffee-Making" (25-29)
        —two separate tales again, of the poor "haunted" fellow (25-26) and Za-S's untoward attempt at hospitality (27-29)
        —Z-Ša's fear of the "crazy man," Wiyaka-Napbina [Lakota: wiyaka (WEE-yah-khah) = feather(s); wanap'in (wah-NAH-p'ee[n]) = necklace)], whom her mother says really should be pitied, having been "overtaken by a malicious spirit" (25-26)
        —Z-Ša's coffee-making = "muddy warm water" for the visiting old man (27-29)—and the others' polite respect for her efforts, nonetheless: "But neither she [her mother] nor the warrior, whom the law of our custom had compelled to partake of my insipid hospitality, said anything to embarrass me" (28).
        —NOTE: "How!" (28) now more commonly (and less confusingly) spelled "Hau!"—Lakota/Dakota word of both greeting ("hello") and assent ("you betcha").
    V. "The Dead Man's Plum Bush" (30-33)
        —Name note: "Wambdi" (30) = Lakota wanbli (wah[n]BLEE): eagle
        —"Chaperon" custom for young women (31)
        —Z-Ša & mother on their way to a communal feast—characteristically stopping on their way to give food to a sick old woman (31-32); her mother's story of the plum bush whose "roots are wrapped around an Indian's skeleton, and Z-Ša's attempts to hear the "strange whistle of departed spirits" (32-33). [Hmmm: but later, Z-Ša will NOT listen to her mother's warnings about ANOTHER "forbidden fruit" (32)!]
    VI. "The Ground Squirrel" (34-38)
        —Character description of aunt, who's more jovial than her mother (34-35)
        —Z-Ša's daily "sharing" of corn with the ground squirrel, that "little stranger": "I wanted very much to catch him and rub his pretty fur back" (36)!
        —Strange(?) comment that she has "few memories of winter days" from her SoDak childhood; recounts her confusion of river ice with the missionaries' marbles (37). . . .
        —word choice again: "many a moon" (38; see also 74)!?
    VII. "The Big Red Apples" (39-45)
        Apples as the (Biblical) "forbidden fruit"—the "temptation of assimilation" (D&N xxx) (Also, "apple" = Indian slang for someone red on the outside but white on the inside.)
        —The "paleface missionaries": "come to take away Indian boys and girls to the East"—mother agin' it! . . . Z-Ša hears promises of "a more beautiful country," a "Wonderland" (39, 40). [= Oz!?—"You won't be in Kansas—er, SoDak—any more!"]
        —Dawée having already studied there, even Z-Ša's mother has become a bit assimilated, now living like "a foreigner, in a home of clumsy logs" (40).
        —But mother's WARNINGs: beware the "'white man's lies. Don't believe a word they say. Their words are sweet, but . . . their deeds are bitter. . . . Stay with me, my little one!'" (41).
        —Notice Z-Ša's "retrospective" statement: "Alas! They came, they saw, they conquered" (41)—which not only is pregnant with the pain of her future experiences back East, but expresses her later assimilation in her very use of a quot. from Western Civ. (Julius Caesar's veni, vidi, vici).
        —word choice: "iron horse" (42; etc.)
        —Judéwin's details regarding the "red, red apples" (41-42)
        —First inkling of the eventual "theme" of disobedience (cf. Genesis!): "so unwilling to give up my desire that I refused to hearken to my mother's voice" (43).
        —Finally, her mother's grudging assent—and her pessimistic reason: "'She will need an education when she is grown, for then there will be fewer real Dakotas, and many more palefaces.'" Her hope for justice?: "'The palefaces, who owe us a large debt for stolen lands, have begun to pay a tardy justice in offering some education to our children.'" BUT: "'I know my daughter must suffer keenly in this experiment'" (44).
        —Oh!—any symbolism here, as Z-Ša leaves for the East?!: "I saw the lonely figure of my mother vanish in the distance" (44).
        —Z-Ša's immediate (and premonitory?) "regret": "I felt suddenly weak. . . . I was in the hands of strangers whom my mother did not fully trust. I no longer felt free to be myself, or to voice my own feelings." And a final "animal" simile (and the "wild"): "I was as frightened and bewildered as the captured young of a wild creature" (45).

* "The School Days of an Indian Girl" [1900] (47-80)
    I: "The Land of the Big Red Apples" (47-51)
        —The "journey to the Red Apple Country"—on the "iron horse" (47)—it all sounds so "mythic"!
        —The white man's gaze ("glassy blue eyes" [47])—& the women's, and children's—upon our young Dakotas, to Z-Ša's embarrassment, even humiliation (47-48)
        —Humorous crack about the "low moaning" of the telegraph pole: "I used to wonder what the paleface had done to hurt it" (48; an innocuous aside that may have deeper resonances, given the later motif of the "machines" of Western Civ.).
        —Arrival at the school per se (White's Manual Institute, in Indiana)—to (the image/motif of) LIGHTS & whiteness: "lights"; "brightness"; "strong glaring light"; (even the) "whitewashed room" (49) and "white table" (50)
        —Caught and tossed in the air by the "rosy-cheeked paleface woman," Z-Ša is "frightened and insulted": "My mother had never made a plaything of her wee daughter" (50). [Word choice: note "wee" as synonym for "little," another common self-reference motif.]
        —And so, like Babe the movie pig: "I want my mom!" [er, "mother!"]—and sobbing herself to sleep, with the phrase "wonderful land of rosy skies" sounding a little less glorious now. . . .
    II. "The Cutting of My Long Hair" (52-56)
        —Initial setting = mood: "bitter-cold," "bare" trees, the "constant clash of harsh noises" (52; say that last phrase aloud!)
        —morning breakfast & prayer (52-54) = "eating by formula" (54)
        —Judéwin warns her of the hair-cutting to come; and "when Judéwin said, 'We have to submit, because they are strong,' I rebelled" (54). . . . so runs and hides, under a bed, in a "dark corner" (55)
        —Note the cultural differences, here ignored by the educators: shorn hair, among the Dakota, "only [for] unskilled warriors who were captured" and for "mourners" (54). [Ironically, she is in mourning, isn't she!?]
        —Found and "dragged out . . . kicking and scratching" (55)—and her hair finally cut: "Then I lost my spirit" (like Samson?!); oh, the indignity: "now I was only one of many little animals driven by a herder" (56; see buffalo comparison [10]; see also 45).
    III. "The Snow Episode" (57-61)
        —Making body patterns in the snow is forbidden; but the three Dakotas forget, and disobey (57).
        —Judéwin's ill-fated language lesson: just say "No"—which they practice on their way to questioning (57). . . . Oops, bad idea, for Thowin, anyway, who unknowingly answers "no" to the wrong questions—and a spanking (58-59).
        —Language/cultural barrier: "[M]isunderstandings as ridiculous as this . . . frequently took place, bringing unjustifiable frights and punishments into our little lives" (59).
        —Z-Ša's (first act of) REVENGE: the turnip (over-)mashing episode (59-61): "I felt triumphant in my revenge . . . . I whooped in my heart for having once asserted the rebellion within me" (60, 61). [Word choice: not the first time whoop has appeared; why use such a racially loaded term?!]

• (Another) EXTRA CREDIT Opportunity:—2-or-more-page summary/response: +10 pts. (possible)
—TH, March 12th, 4:00 p.m.—Love Library South—Peterson Room (LS 221)—
** A screening of the film Medicine Woman (on Susan La Flesche Picotte), followed by a discussion in collaboration with University Housing's MADE committee

• EMAIL it to me as a WORD attachment! by TU, March 17th, 9:30 a.m.

To the Top

 TU, March 31st::

To the Top

 TH, April 2nd::

To the Top


  RESPONSE #3 (2 pages or more)—Due Friday, 4/17, uploaded to Canvas by 9:30 a.m.—CHOOSE ONE:
a) First of all, as usual, a do-your-own-thing/anything-you-want "reader's journal" that addresses a good number of our assigned readings is always a good choice. (The assignment range this time is a vast one, of course, from Silko's "Lullaby" through the Alexie short stories, so feel free to be much more selective and brief [regarding each text] than usual).

b) You're sending a Voyagers-style "message in a bottle" to ALIENS in outer space, who just happen to be interested (you're sure) in "Indian Lit": WHICH FIVE (or more) pieces from this set of readings (see range, above) would you give to them as representative of "contemporary Native American literature," and why?! (For the five texts, you can include up to TWO Alexie stories.)

c) "Dear Lawana": Select ANY TWO assigned readings in Trout as the all-time most wonderful and TWO MORE as the all-time poorest choices for inclusion in our course anthology and write a letter to Trout, of praise and complaint, offering her (of course) specific reasons for your positive & negative judgments.

d) "Dang Mini-Responses": Develop one or SEVERAL of your points in your Mini-Responses so far that you wanted to say a lot more about, but didn't have the space. (These points don't have to be related.)

 Course Syllabus/Schedule

 TCG's Nat. Amer. Authors & Readings Links

 TCG's Native American Lit Courses: VIDEO Resources

 TCG's Great "Indian" Moments in Pop Culture

  TCG''s Native American Reading List


ENGL/ETHN 245N Class NOTES/Commentary--Spring 2020

< >