NATIVE
AMERICAN
WOMEN
WRITERS
(345N)

                

Class NOTES /
Commentary
&
Immediate
ASSIGNMENTS

    Last Updated: 18 October 2019    


 


        
--To the Most RECENT "Class Notes" Updates--
   IMMEDIATE ASSIGNMENTS:
• For W, 10/23: ESSAY #1 (uploaded to Canvas by W, midnight); How We Became Human: "I Am a Dangerous Woman" (17), "Crossing the Border" (20-), "Anchorage" (31-); "The Woman Hanging From the Thirteenth Floor Window" (35-), "Remember" (42), "She Had Some Horses" (47-), "I Give You Back" (50-)

• For F, 10/25: HWBH: "My House Is the Red Earth" (55), "If You Look with the Mind of the Swirling Earth" (56); "For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash . . ." (70-), "Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On" (78), "Eagle Poem" (85); "A Postcolonial Tale" (104-), "The Myth of Blackbirds" (106-), "Perhaps the World Ends Here" (123-)

• Harjo's How We Became Human—entire list of poems to be assigned:
[from What Moon Drove Me to This? (1979):] "I Am a Dangerous Woman" (17), "Crossing the Border" (20-); [from She Had Some Horses (1983):] "Anchorage" (31-), "The Woman Hanging From the Thirteenth Floor Window" (35-), "Remember" (42), "She Had Some Horses" (47-), "I Give You Back" (50-); [from Secrets from the Center of the World (1989):] "My House Is the Red Earth" (55), "If You Look with the Mind of the Swirling Earth" (56); [from In Mad Love and War (1990):] "For Anna Mae Pictou Aquash . . ." (70-), "Song for the Deer and Myself to Return On" (78), "Eagle Poem" (85); [from The Woman Who Fell from the Sky (1994):] "A Postcolonial Tale" (104-), "The Myth of Blackbirds" (106-), "Perhaps the World Ends Here" (123-); [from A Map to the Next World (2000):] "A Map to the Next World" (129-), "Emergence" (136-), "Songs from the House of Death . . ." (138-), "The Path to the Milky Way Leads Through Los Angeles" (141-), "The Power of Never" (143-); [from New Poems:] "The Everlasting" (188-), "When the World as We Knew It Ended" (198-)

[Note also that many of the poems have clarifying (or not) notes by Harjo in the back of the book.]

 

•• My blog-post celebration of Harjo's recent appointment as U.S. Poet Laureate ••

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (from 2017, during the Confederate statues controversy):

 

 An impromptu Harjo "map" (or "cluster" of motifs):

 




NOTE: I am intentionally brief, even abbreviatory, 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 further 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—disallowed. . . .

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

 

= = = = TIOShPAYE (permanent small groups) = = = =
T. #3:
Brown, Katherine
Campbell, Allison
Massa, Brooke
McClure, Helen
Villamonte, Faith
T. #4:
Bergantzel, Katrina
Chitsazi, Mahtab
Gavle, Hannah
Lopez Herrera, Natalie
Peirce, Maya
T. #2:
Kegley, Abbey
Kobs, Brooke
Kollar, Tate
Li, Xincan
Morrison, Ashley
T. #5:
Figueroa, Jenn
Morrison, Hannah
Varilek, Hanna
Widvey, Kaitlyn
T. #1:
Krueger, Daniel
Quintero Martinez, Izchel
Tolan Keig, Riley
Valkr, Shannon
T. #6:
Ambs, Joseph
Conrad, Kelsey
Evans, Mitchell
Masters, Bri
Reno, ZitaAnne
Note: This list has been replicated in Canvas's "Groups"; from there you can email your fellow group members at any time (helpful for the group presentation).

 

 M, Aug. 26th:: Syllabus, etc.; excerpt from Peter Pan

"What Made the Red Man Red" (from Peter Pan [1953])

Why does he ask you, "How?"
Why does he ask you, "How?"
Once the Injun didn't know
All the things that he know now--
But the Injun, he sure learn a lot,
And it's all from asking, "How?"

Hana Mana Ganda--
Hana Mana Ganda--

We translate for you--
Hana means what mana means,
And ganda means that, too.

When did he first say, "Ugh!"
When did he first say, "Ugh!"
In the Injun book it say,
When the first brave married squaw,
He gave out with a big "ugh"
When he saw his mother-in-law--

What made the red man red?
What made the red man red?
Let's go back a million years
To the very first Injun prince--
He kissed a maid and start to blush,
And we've all been blushin' since--

You've got it from the headman--
The real true story of the red man,
No matter what's been written or said--
Now you know why the red man's red!



"What Made the Red Man Red?" —YouTube vid
 



 

SURE YOU CAN ASK ME A PERSONAL QUESTION

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.
Oh?
  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




To the Top

 W, Aug. 28th:: incl. my Outline of U.S./Native American History (PDF on Canvas) . . .

"Grandma's Photo"
        Regarding questions of Native identity and Western patriarchy, my grandmother's photo (from 1943; click photo for larger version) is instructive.It is ostensibly authentic, at first glance: this is my little Lakota ("Cheyenne River Sioux") Granny, after all. On second glance, however, the fact that Grandma is wearing a traditional male Lakota headdress is entirely inauthentic—and just totally culturally inappropriate; it can easily be read as an imposition of the (Western) patriarchy.Note that the image is very much situated in a moment of U.S. history and ideology; Grandma's 1943 public display was for a Lewis & Clark celebration largely spurred by World War II American patriotism: "Hey, let's get some local Injuns all dressed up in full regalia, too!"—as further "moral support" (and with perhaps the implicit understanding that these "defeated people" are fine reminders of the U.S. military's might). And again, the fact they had her "crossdress" (as it were) as a male chief is symptomatic of a patriarchal culture & worldview.

** Several of our readings (will) have already mentioned the Trail of Tears, the Little Bighorn, Wounded Knee, etc., and so--

MASSACRES & TEARS—(A Few) Dates that Live in Infamy
    —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, Chickasaw, and Cherokee; thus Oklahoma and environs was originally the "Indian Territory"
1838-1839: "Trail of Tears"forced march of the Cherokee from Georgia, etc., to Indian Territory (Oklahoma); plus, a similar fate for other southeastern tribes (the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek [Muscogee], & 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 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
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])
1883-1934: Federal ban on the Lakota Sun Dance—and comparable restrictions on other tribes' major ceremonies standard during this same period
1890: Wounded Knee Massacreslaughter of largely unarmed Lakota Ghost Dance adherents near Pine Ridge (South Dakota); Native dead: approx. >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)
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


To the Top

 F, Aug. 30th::
Paula Gunn Allen [Laguna Pueblo]: Introduction from The Sacred Hoop (1986; 1992) [pdf]
    * Origin of Sacred Hoop title/motif: via her mom, and Black Elk Speaks, Allen learns that "animals, insects, and plants" deserve the "respect" given to humans, that life is a "circle," a "sacred hoop" (1). . . . . later: "the complementary nature of all life forms" (3)
    * Allen's 7 "major themes" of Native American Lit.:
        1) "Indians and spirits are always[?!] found together" (2). [Later:] "the inevitable presence of meaningful concourse with supernatural beings" (3)
        2) SURVIVAL (cf. Harjo & Bird Intro): "Indians endure" (2).
        3) "Traditional tribal" cultures were "gynocratic," "never patriarchal"; moreover, such a "gynocratic" view—based "on ritual, spirit-centered, woman-focused"—is in line with, and fine support for, current "activist movements" (2). . . . . "the centrality of powerful women" (3) . . . . Definition of "gynocracies": "woman-centered tribal societies" (3)—including "female deities of the magnitude of the Christian God" (4)
        4) The genocide of Native Americans by Western colonization stems largely from the latter's patriarchal fear of the former's matriarchal basis: thus an attempt at cultural erasure "to ensure that no American and few Native Americans would remember that gynocracy was the primary social order of Indian America prior to 1800" (3). [Note: my—uh—reservations regarding Allen's anthropological theories were expressed in class. Allen herself later admits that various tribes are "as diverse as Paris and Peking" (6).]
        5) "There is such a thing as American Indian Lit"[!]—and a nice [Western academic!] breakdown thereof: a) traditional lit.: i) ceremonial [sacred] and ii) "popular" [non-sacred]; b) contemporary lit, incl. many Western genres, plus an emphasis on "autobiography, as-told-to narrative, and mixed genre works"—but still incorporating "elements from the oral tradition" (4). [Notes: Allen's "main"(?!) reason for studying NA lit—'cuz it helps us understand Anglo-American writers?! (4)—seems rather peripheral; 2ndly, her conception of "American Indian literature" as a unified "body," a "dynamic, vital whole" (4) smacks of a pan-Indian essentialism that this Lakota resents!]
        6) Western interpretations of NA culture inevitably "erroneous" (4), based as they are on the bipolar (+/-) stereotypes of the "noble savage"—that "guardian of the wilds and . . . . conscience of ecological responsibility"!—and the "howling" or "hostile savage"—the stereotypical image "most deeply embedded in the American unconscious" (4-5)
        7) Native American cultures based on "sacred, ritual ways" are similar to many (heck, most) other non-Western cultures of the world—partaking, indeed, in a "worldwide culture that predates western systems derived from the 'civilization' model" (5; what deep ecologists Devall & Sessions have dubbed the "perennial philosophy"); thus NA people have shared with those of the Third World the "outrages of patriarchal industrial conquest and genocide" (6).
    * Allen's personal-autobiographical finale: her ideas originate from a "Laguna Indian woman's perspective . . . . unfiltered[?!] through the minds of western patriarchal colonizers" (6; and yet several of her later notions derive specifically from the European psychology of Carl Jung!).
        —Like Leslie Silko, she identifies with the Laguna Pueblo goddess, Yellow Woman: she is "'Kochinnenako in Academe'" (6).
        —Native-identity assertion: Allen's "self who knows what is true of American Indians because it is one"; however, note that this turning inward towards an individual "inner self" is itself a quite Western-Civ. enterprise (6).
        —But she is both Native and Western-Civ., at last? ("somewhat western and somewhat Indian")—both reflective & observational (Western), but also "metaphysical," evidenced in her "guidance from the nonphysicals and the supernaturals"—including the "Grandmothers"; and so her "New Age-y" coda, in which she thanks the elements of nature, the "sticks and the stars" for the best "training" that she has garnered (7).

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week:


To the Top

 W, Sept. 4th::
Joy Harjo [Muscogee] & Gloria Bird [Spokane]: Introduction to Reinventing the Enemy's Language (19-31)
Main—er, "crucial"—threads (or weaves, or lines of beadwork, etc.!):
* Female (& Native) "kitchen-table" domesticity/conviviality: 19, 20, 21, 22 ("beadwork" metaphor)
        —Intimacy/personalism: 19, 21, 28
* Emphasis on collaboration, on the "collective," communal, dialogic: 19, 21, 23, 31
        —"This collection" = "the collective voice of nations" (31).
* Problem: Native oral tradition vs. Western written tradition: 20, 28
        —English as language of colonization/repression: 20, 22, 23, 24 . . . . incl. the publishing industry: 22 ("Often, the voice of tribal, land-based women writers with ties to community, history, and language has been marginalized and silenced by those who control what is published" [22].)
        —Solution: "reinventing the enemy's language"/"decolonization" via Native writing: 21-22, 23-24, 25-26 . . . . "Many of us [Native women] at the end of the century are using the 'enemy language' with which to tell our truths, to sing, to remember ourselves during these troubled times. . . . . [T]o speak, at whatever the cost, is to become empowered" (21) . . . . . "We've transformed these enemy languages. . . . . [We are] 'Reinventing' in the colonizer's tongue and turning those images around to mirror an image of the colonized to the colonizers as a process of decolonization" (22).
* Diversity (both tribes and genres): 23, 21 . . . . incl. Canadian Natives & Latinas: 27
* SURVIVAL: 24, 25-26, 30, 31 . . . . and the necessity to be political: "That we are still here as native women in itself is a political statement. . . . . The stories and songs are subversive" (30).
* Native worldview: "ways of perceiving" (24), "new paradigms" (29)
* "Borders": 26
* Identity (Native & female): 26-27
        —Problem of tribal identification: 26-27
* Structure of the anthology: "(1) genesis, (2) struggle, (3) transformation, and (4) the returning" (29) [Question: whose (Euro-)theory does this remind you of?! (Campbell's "hero's journey," etc.]
* [most explicit] feminist statements (and partial support for PGA's argument regarding the centrality of women in pre-contact Native America): 30
* Finally: "The literature of the aboriginal people of North America defines America. It is not exotic" (31).
* OOPS—a literary "typo": it's not "Henry Wordsworth Longfellow" (25); GB is confusing William Wordsworth with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. (But maybe this is a "reinvention"?! ;-})

Paula Gunn Allen: "Going Home, December 1992" (150-156) [essay (non-fiction)]
    * [My subtitle!:] "An aging & once-angry Native liberal 'hippie' woman returns home to her Laguna Pueblo home, after a New Age apostasy on the Left Coast."
    * New Age liberalism of her youth—anger at the Reagan years, a crystal ball she has named!, etc. (151-152). . . .
    * She returns home after her mother's death, "an aging and grieving woman"—looking for answers, even her mother's "spirit" (153); all she realizes is that she hadn't "known the woman at all" (153).
    * Allen's obsession with the "inner self" again (see her Intro to The Sacred Hoop)—but for a specific “Native” reason (154)? . . .
    * But her academic diction?: "soughing" (153); "sans" (154)!
    * Leaving behind her "California fantasy," she yearns for some Native reconnection, a "going home" (a theme in many a contemporary Native novel—e.g., House Made of Dawn and Ceremony), having exchanged her crystal ball for "eagle feathers"! . . . the "shaman sky" (155)!(?!)
    * Anecdote of the photograph—which "lies" at last, as an artifact that is "static and dead" (155-156). . . .
    * [Images/Tone:] But a sad end, at last—and tone of self-pity?!—yet, despite the (forced?) final sentence, the coda is replete with images of rebirth. (At last, how well does this essay fit into a section about "origins" & "beginnings"?) . . . [Later add/reconsideration:] But the New Critic would note the "painful" (tense & ironic) combination of recurring death & rebirth imagery (e.g., the simile of the "sweet, sweet spring" juxtaposed immediately with the "gloom-filled late October" [154], and the final sentence [156])—and find it all marvelous, in a "modernist" sense. . . .
    * "Name-dropper" note: "cousin" Lee Marmon, the Pueblo photographer mentioned on p. 156, is, by the way, Leslie Marmon Silko's father.


To the Top

 F, Sept. 6th::
Inez Petersen [Quinault (Washington state)]: "Missing You" (104-112) [essay (non-fiction)]
    * Problems: her mother's "stormy relations[hips]" = a jumble of half-brothers & sisters ("a flurry of children" [106])—"batch" (111, 112) is an especially odd word choice?!—and the tragedy of forced adoption. . . .
    * Mother's travails, incl. the punishments of boarding school, alcohol, racism ("No dogs, or Indians"!) (105-106). . . . By the way, this is hardly the first mention of "running away from Indian boarding school" in our readings (105; see also the Morrison essay, 93)—something my brother and I tried ourselves. . . .
    * Anecdotes regarding her "crazy-quilt family" (107) . . . including her homeless brother, Bobby—"seen on the streets for almost two decades" (107-108) . . . adoptions: "our sudden disappearances had begun" (109); painful episode of the social worker dropping off siblings at different houses (109-110); and her life with various white families (110-112): "now we lived with aliens" (110)!
    * Strange finale (last paragraph, 112) = the emotional roller-coaster of her whole narrative: "We used to care [for each other]" (108); but eventually, "we all grew up alone" (111); then her last "farewell" to Violet, who dies in a car crash, and her (weird?) statement that, of her many siblings, she loved three in particular "beyond death, beyond reason" (112).

Elizabeth Woody [Diné/Warm Springs Wasco]: "The Girlfriends" (102-104) [poem]
    * Two old women, the narrator and her more "fertile" friend, who are contrasted via a series of (at first quite vague) metaphors. . . .
    * But Woody's Diné background—corn!—helps clarify the poem's meaning: the narrator's "empty husks" are contrasted with the other's "pollen, fertility," until it becomes clear by poem's end that the latter has been blessed with children, the former (only) by oratory, the gift of language; both, the poem intimates, are means of survival?

Roberta Hill (Whiteman) [Oneida (Wisconsin)]: "To Rose" (309-310) [poem]
    —A poem to her "sister," now separated from her—why? (See 1st sentence and last sentence on p. 310.)
    —Nice image of rain turning to snow: "the rain . . . fell twinkling" (309)!
    —Effective "pathetic fallacy" poeticisms in the last stanza: "the land here / won't wake without you, Rose"—as all of nature's beings (& places) seem dead without her (310). [Pathetic fallacy: projecting human emotions upon the non-human (often non-human "Nature"); closely related to personification. BTW, Leslie Silko has pointed out that this definition assumes, of course, the Euro-/Western notion that inanimate (or "dumb animal") Nature is dead (or stupidly unconscious).]
    —Key questions: why does the narrator think that her sister should "Come home"? How is this related to her sister's "heart" (top of p. 310 and final line)?

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (regarding the racist-monument activism a year or so ago):


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


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 M, Sept. 9th::
Luci Tapahonso [Diné]: "What Danger We Court" (315-316) [poem]
    —autobiogr. intro: Tapahonso's notes on the Navajo (Diné) language worthy of note
    —Another "sister," this one "courting danger" at "the only stop sign for miles around" (315)!
    —As in the Tapahonso short story we'll read later, a great regard for family, especially children: "Your children cry and cry to see you . . . your voice gathers them in" (316).
    —Another refrain of survival, at last—"It is the thin border of a miracle, sister, that you live . . . [and finally:] sister, we have so much faith" (316)—but here that "faith" seems directed more generally—at all women? or all humankind?

Marla Big Boy [Lakota/Cheyenne (Northern ~: Montana]: "I Will Bring You Twin Grays" (317-319) [poem]
    —A poem, as she tells us in the intro, about "pre-contact time," when "[i]ntertribal war was common" (317); thus the digs at the "no-good Osages," who would "slit a Sioux's throat just / to show they are better than us" (318). Then there's the historical reality that the captives of such warfare were as good as slaves, fit for barter & trade.
    —The narrator's promise to her captive sister (and cool simile): "An orange sunrise recaptured the stars like / I'm going to recapture you, my sister" (318).
    —Great line?: "Gentle singing brings tears to his tired eyes" (318).
    —They learn of the sister's specific Osage captor (318); and so plans are made for lots of bartering(!), at last to trade(?!) two horses—"Twin Grays as fast as lightning"—"to bring you home / My sister" (319).

Grace Boyne [Diné]: "Invocation: Navajo Prayer" (32-34) [poem]
    * A recasting of the Diné oral/ceremonial tradition: note the incremental repetition (conducive to both memory & "entrancement"); the importance of corn (pollen) to Desert Southwest ceremonialism; the number FOUR (the "four Sacred Mountains"/directions, plus the 4-line repetitions).
    * Note the "odd" (to the Western mentality) emphasis on "beauty" as crucial to spirituality; "hozho" means both "beauty" & "good" (& "harmony," & "balance," & "healthiness"!) in Diné (that is, Navajo), and the last line in Diné (repeated 4 times!) has been variously translated as "we are now in good relations" and "beauty & harmony restored"; note the similarity to many contemporary Native poems (e.g., by Momaday & Harjo) that end in similar "formulaic" utterances, such as "Let it be done in beauty."

Janice Gould [Maidu (N. Calif.)]: "Coyotismo" (52-53) [poem]
    * Our first exposure to an incarnation of the native Trickster archetype, a "mythic" figure who fosters tribal survival via humor & cultural renewal (often via an apparently impulsive destruction of the "old"). . . .
    * "Coyote" is one of the most common incarnations of the Trickster; here the narrator is a literal "archaic" coyote in the first 2 stanzas (52); then she merges into the contemporary human, a "poor" and "hungry" Indian girl, who performs Trickster-esque manoeuvres in the present day (52-53).
    * Note, too, the specifically female associations with the moon, her "sex," and the final stanza that reads like a paragraph from Cixous' "Laugh of the Medusa," with its tone of uncontainability, its relish of "All things insatiable" (53).

Note on the TRICKSTER archetype/NatAmer deity-motif: In NatAmer folklore/myth in general, Coyote is the most common Trickster, a cosmic & natural force blessed with both sheer animal "stupidity" and uncanny animal cunning. In Lakota stories, for instance, he is forever losing his tail, getting chopped up into bits, and generally making a mess of the cosmic order. But he always comes back to life, and the world is better off for his shenanigans. (Also prominent as a Trickster in Lakota myth is Iktomi, the spider. In the Pacific Northwest, Raven [or Crow, or even Blue Jay] is Trickster.) The function of these tricksters has long been debated. My own reading relies on Jungian psychology, Bakhtinian dialogism, and ecology/ecocriticism. Jung reads the trickster as an aspect of the Shadow archetype—that "dark" complex of the unconscious psyche whose real role is to make the ego realize that it is out of balance, through its sheer repression of that "dark" side. The literary theorist Bakhtin claimed that the dominant social discourse towards order and reason necessarily entails a "polyphonic" (multi-voiced) reaction, in myth, literature, and society itself. Regarding this latter, he points to various cultural manifestations of "Carnival," wherein the common folk go "crazy" in an established ritual that is directed against the (repressive) social order. (Cf. Mardi Gras!) Finally, in a purely naturalist/ecological sense, the Trickster is "raw" instinctual animal, always erupting into "civilized" (and repressed) human consciousness as a magical & numinous force—again, as a corrective against an oh-so-blind ego-faith in order and rationalism: a reminder at last that WE are animals, that cosmic evolution needs entropy and chaos, that to remain in any blithe condition of stasis is a psychological and cultural death.

June McGlashan [Aleut]: "The Island of Women" (67-71) [poem]
    * Biog. intro—NOTE: Mary TallMountain = well-known Athabascan (Alaskan tribal) poet. . . .
    * Example of PGAllen's "gynocracy"?!: in the Aleut tribe, "a woman can be a shaman" (68); story of the "ambitious young woman" who forms "a group of hunters" (69), and saves the tribe via a sea-cow [a sexist name, that!?] hunt (69-70). . . . (BTW, Steller's Sea-Cow, a manatee-like mammal, would be extinct by 1768, soon after its discovery by Arctic explorers.)
    * But the untoward & curious finale: marriages with Russians, even given the penultimate stanza in which marriage and "civilization" are equated to rape & murder (71)? . . .
    * But SURVIVAL again, in the final stanza—via "the children" (71). . . .


To the Top

 W, Sept. 11th::
Gail Tremblay [Onondaga/Micmac (New England/E. Canada)]: "Indian Singing in 20th-Century America" (169-171) [poem]
    * Title poem of her 1992 collection of poems
    * "Theme": the contemporary Native plight of living in "two worlds" (170):
        1) a Native world of naturism (the here-and-now as "spiritual")—of "light" and "breath," of everything "singing" & "dancing" (incl. stones and trees!) (170)—at last, a "singing round dance" of life "impossible to ignore" (171)
        2) an Anglo world of "patterns of wires invented by strangers" (170), which would "shut / out magic" (171)
    * In this two-world schism, Natives are "inevitable as seasons[!] in one, / exotic curiosities in the other"; and the language problem: "we wonder / whether anyone will ever hear / our own names for the things / we do" (170).

Janet Campbell Hale [Coeur d'Alene/Kootenay (Idaho/Washington)]: "The Only Good Indian" (123-148) [book chapter/essay (nonfiction)]
    * A chapter from her book Bloodlines (1993)
    * Ultimately the story—by way of her famous great-great-grandfather, John McLoughlin, the "father of Oregon"—of her mixed-blood grandmother, Gram Sullivan, whose life was—uh—more problematic. . . .
    * Initial epigraph, by the famous historian Bancroft, who notes that marrying Indian women is a "debasement" of the white race (123; also see quots. on 140)!
    * Opening "scene" (124-126)—Hale's childhood visit to the McLoughlin House, now a museum; her great-great grandfather's life/background
    * "Good Indian" interpolation: her mother's distinction between "good" and "bad" ones, and Hale's own joke via General Sheridan (see essay's title) (126-127; obviously, being a "good Indian" = assimilation)
    * David McLoughlin, John's son & Gram Sullivan's father, who just "rode away" and married a Kootenay woman (127)!
    * Gram Sullivan herself, old, grumpy, and paralyzed (127-130), with a mysterious grudge against the author, her granddaughter, because she reminded her "of someone she hates" (128—the central "riddle" that sets us up for the grand coda)
    * Maternal aunts' racism, incl. the remark about "an Indian shuffle" (128-129; early profiling!?)
    * Present-day Spokane (the city): also racist (130-131); insult word: Siwash—as in "'Stupid Siwash squaw'" (131)
    * Mother's self-identity: Irish (132-133) . . . but her pleasant memories of meeting her "exotic" traditional Kootenay relatives (133-134)
    * In contrast, Gram Sullivan, who looked Indian, was the outsider, and (perhaps) "felt inferior" (133).
    * Grandfather Sullivan's Irish background (134-135), of British "oppression," of later racism in New York City: "NO DOGS OR IRISH ALLOWED" (134; note similar sign in Petersen's essay, against dogs and Indians!)
    * Gram's death, and Hale's sudden re-interest in her (135-136): so—research!—especially interesting since the Kootenay were "the only tribe in the region that had been matrilineal, the only one that had had women warriors" (136). . . . First, (more) research regarding John McLoughlin (136-138); and Gram's grandfather, Chief Grizzly (139) . . . then the full pathetic story of Gram's father, David McLoughlin (139-140; 143-145), who "went native" (137): provided with clothes and travel money to attend a ceremony in honor of John M., he is portrayed quite condescendingly in the historical records as a "squaw"-lover (144), and as someone at last who failed to look "presentable"—which Hale realizes is a "euphemism for 'white-looking'" (145).
    * General Indian history background: Custer & the Little Bighorn (1876); Carlisle Indian School (140-141; "'Kill the Indian and Save the Man'"!)—and other Indian schools, "notorious hellholes" (141) [including the one I attended in SoDak, Holy Rosary Mission]; the Wounded Knee Massacre (141-142)
    * Then Gram's own trip to Spokane, another failure to "look presentable" (145-147)
    * CODA: well, then, did Gram "ever hate her Indianness" (147; aka internalized racism)?!—Ah, the rub, and solution to the initial mystery; Hale's own early memory of trying to bleach her skin white with Purex, to get rid of those "hateful brown hands" (147-148); the answer!—ah, this "Indian blood" and "Indian looks"—"Who did I remind Gram of if not herself?" (148).


Lois Red Elk [Dakota]: "For Thieves Only" (187-189) [poem]
    * Biog. intro: maka = earth; unche = grandmother (187); pronounced "MahKHAH oonCHAY" [Lakota: unci maka (oonCHEE...)] . . . Note also, in contrast to the Diné's close ritual connection to corn, the Dakota (& Lakota) are "horse people" (188).
    * The poem an alternating of positive/negative polarities, with the insipidly positive "Indian Princess" refrain offset by intentionally more "sinister" verses, in which the poet rehearses, and rhetorically embraces, such negative stereotypes as "redskin" (188) and "heathen soul" (189). Whatever the stereotypes, "I have survived" and am ready for the "thieves," whom she addresses in the final stanza. What does she mean, then, by the final declaration, "I'll show you what you never learned" (189)?
    * (In some ways, especially its tone, Red Elk's poem really seems to be an inferior imitation of Diane Burns' "Sure You Can Ask Me a Personal Question"?!)


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 F, Sept. 13th::

Alice Lee [Métis (Canadian mixed-blood)/Plains Cree]: "Confession" (186-187) [poem]
    * (This poem—serpent metaphors and all—is too starkly self-evident for me to add anything.)

Nora Marks Dauenhauer [Tlingit (pronounced KLINK-it) (Alaska)]: "How to Make Good Baked Salmon from the River"
(201-206) [poem]
    * Note: Dauenhauer is well-known as the foremost Tlingit linguist/translator, doing more than anyone to preserve her first language.
    * "How to Make . . ." is from her 1988 collection The Droning Shaman Poems.
    * (In terms of Western aesthetics, the best poem we've read so far?! Though Midge's "Written in Blood" [below] is right up there, too.)
    **** Poem = "recipe"!—note the main ironic/humorous tone, as each item of the traditional recipe is adapted to contemporary (and economic) needs, via the refrain "In this case." (Another common Native "theme": survival = adaptation!)
    * Retained is the traditional regard for other species as equals: the "seagulls" and ravens (203); mosquitoes & ravens (205); and the salmon (206). [Note: for many tribes of the Pacific Northwest & Alaska, Raven is the main Trickster figure, which clarifies the "crack" about the bird on 205.]

Tiffany Midge [Lakota]: "Written in Blood" (211-212) [poem]
    * From her 1996 collection Outlaws, Renegades, and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed
    **** A tour de force based on the tensions/ironies of the "two worlds": Midge claims/wants to be writing a poem of Native outrage about the slaughter at Wounded Knee (stanza 2), but she must use the "language of the enemy"—including "his" thesaurus! This reference work has "betrayed" her because she finds, as synonyms for "murder[er]"—"savage, Apache, redskin" (212). (Okay, it was a 1961 edition, to be sure!)

A recent article about T. Midge (Sept. 2019:
"Tiffany Midge thumbs her nose at America, with wit and wisdom"

 

  RESPONSE #1 (2 pages or more)—60 points—Due M, 9/16—CHOOSE ONE (and please specify which):

a) Write your own focused personal/autobiographical narrative that explores a "theme" (or themes) evident in our readings so far (identity ["race"/ethnicity and/or gender and/or . . .]/generations/"returning home," etc.), relating your life experience to "a goodly number" of our readings to date.

b) Compare/contrast the two intros (Allen vs. Harjo & Bird), considering especially Allen's notion of "gynocracy" vs. Harjo & Bird's calls for "reinvention" & "decolonization": which intro do you find more cogent, less inflammatory & "out there"? (You might also consider differences in tone & style.) . . . Finally, you should also point to "a goodly number" of our later readings as evidence that one or the other intro is more "right on" in terms of Native women's writing.

c) Of the various poems read to date (thru Million), rank your "Top 5," and explain the reasons (based, of course, on valid criteria!) for your ranking.

d) Champion/praise three, four, or five of the readings to date that you feel haven't got their due (or have been even relatively "slammed" by me) in class discussion. (E.g., Allen's "Going Home, December 1992"? Petersen's "Missing You"? Red Elk's "For Thieves Only"?!)

e) Respond to this class's general emphasis, so far, on "race" (ethnicity) & gender, via a discussion of "a goodly number" of the works assigned to date. . . .

f) Finally, 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 above; but again, be as "comprehensive" as possible, and avoid simple plot summaries or a simply rehashing of ideas brought up in class or on the course web notes. (Feel free to object to/expand upon these, of course.) [This last caveat applies to all response choices.]

Final Note: As indicated on the syllabus, ONE MAIN grading criterion is how well you demonstrate that you've been doing the readings. In this regard, option f may well be your best choice, especially if none of the previous options rings a bell for you. Note that you can still begin that "reader's journal" right now—just go back to the beginning of the syllabus, and offer your own analytical or creative commentary/responses to a good number of the readings to date (without simply repeating what was said in class). In sum, one option, then, is—"free response."

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (see Midge's "Iron Eyes Cody"):


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 M, Sept. 16th::
Tiffany Midge [Lakota]: "Mount Rushmore and the Arm of Crazy Horse [poem] {Canvas PDF}
    * From her 1996 collection Outlaws, Renegades, and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed
    * Juxtaposed to the "stone-white faces" of Mount Rushmore—and the "colonial freedom fighter" and the narrator's "amway-loving friends"—is the "simpler truth" (and irony) of the still-in-progress Crazy Horse Monument (also in the Black Hills): and that final stunning image of "just an arm . . . pointed toward / battle. Just an unfinished tribute to an unfinished war." (No further commentary necessary?!)


—my photo: Turkey Vulture at Crazy Horse Monument, 2011 (no symbolism there!?)

[OLDER] Photos from the Crazy Horse Memorial (and tourist-trap kitsch store), SD (TCG, 2006, 2009, 2013; select thumbnail for larger photo)::::

A recent article about the Crazy Horse Monument (New Yorker, Sept. 2019):
"Who Speaks for Crazy Horse?"

Tiffany Midge [Lakota]: "Iron Eyes Cody [poem] {Canvas PDF}
    * From her 1996 collection Outlaws, Renegades, and Saints: Diary of a Mixed-up Halfbreed
    * 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. (see video link 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 [see meme below]) wasn't revealed in full until 1996 (the year of this collection of poems), although there had been rumors for years.

 

        —Iron Eyes Cody's claim to fame:

"Keep America Beautiful - Crying Indian Earth Day Commercial 1971." Performance by Iron Eyes Cody [Espera Oscar de Corti], Keep America Beautiful Inc. [1971], YouTube, 22 April 2012.
 

Nora Marks Dauenhauer [Tlingit (pronounced KLINK-it) (Alaska)]: "How to Make Good Baked Salmon from the River"
(201-206) [poem]
    * Note: Dauenhauer is well-known as the foremost Tlingit linguist/translator, doing more than anyone to preserve her first language.
    * "How to Make . . ." is from her 1988 collection The Droning Shaman Poems.
    * (In terms of Western aesthetics, the best poem we've read so far?! Though Midge's "Written in Blood" [below] is right up there, too.)
    **** Poem = "recipe"!—note the main ironic/humorous tone, as each item of the traditional recipe is adapted to contemporary (and economic) needs, via the refrain "In this case." (Another common Native "theme": survival = adaptation!)
    * Retained is the traditional regard for other species as equals: the "seagulls" and ravens (203); mosquitoes & ravens (205); and the salmon (206). [Note: for many tribes of the Pacific Northwest & Alaska, Raven is the main Trickster figure, which clarifies the "crack" about the bird on 205.]

Chrystos [Menominee (Wisconsin)]: "The Old Indian Granny" (231-233) [poem]
    * From her 1995 collection Fugitive Colors
    * Biog. intro: interesting stuff—fan of the Beat poets, & existentialism (231-232) . . . at one time, "on the streets and in and out of nuthouses" . . . now a "political" activist for "First Nation people."
    * Plath-like confessionalism: "on my way to therapy" (and the humor[?!] of "how much I owe my therapist / who is saving my life") (232)
    * Or is it the "Indian Granny" who is her real therapist?—who "travels with me her sweet round brown face / appears in my dreams" (232)?
    * But the old woman has succumbed to drink, perhaps "to kill the pain of this graveyard they've made / this new world where her only place / is crouched on cement" (232).
    * The narrator was once into drugs, too—"to tie off the ache" (233).
    * Then she addresses her therapist, who's told her "about all the Indian women you counsel"—victims of sexual abuse, violence, and self-loathing—"who say they don't want to be Indian anymore" (233) . . . and her?—"Sometimes I don't want to be an Indian either"—but she must suppress such thoughts now because she's "so proud & political."
    * Still, she has "no home to offer a Granny" . . . and the final dire thought "that if you don't make something pretty / they can hang on their walls or wear around their necks / you might as well be dead" (233).


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 W, Sept. 18th::
Rita Joe [Micmac (pronounced MEEK-maw) (E. Canada)]: "Expect Nothing Else from Me" (220-221) [bilingual poem]
    * From her 1979 collection Poems of Rita Joe
    * Biog. intro: "status Indian" = federally registered ~ (Canada) (that is, enrolled, in U.S. terms)Ć
    * 1st strophe: the difficulty of Native articulation/expression via (the "English"?!) language—"Words" with "No clear meanings," "Hidden things," and "lost legacy"; "No tale . . . bares our desire, hunger," and former "freedom"
    * 2nd strophe: a (re-)assertion of the "lost legacy"—"heritage," "honor," "hope" . . . now "writing" is a metaphor, as she speaks of "the meaning / Written in my life"; a resolve to "stand" once "again / Tall and mighty."
    * 3rd strophe, a (re-)affirmation of her Micmac identity
    * Note the "version" of the poem in Micmac that follows: such bilingual poems are not that uncommon in Nat. Amer. Lit (e.g., Lance Henson [Cheyenne]). What effect does this bilingualism have on you, the reader? (For one thing: "Words no longer need / Clear meanings"!? Above all, it certainly reminds the reader of the author's dual heritage, and that English is not her first/only language. One might even read at least the English version as involving the failure of writing in the "enemy's language"?!)

Arlene Fire [Dakota]: "Hard-to-Kill-Woman" (300-308) [essay]
** Note on the Lakota/Dakota hanblecia [hahn-BLAY-chee-uh] ("vision quest"): having read this autobiographical narrative with some consternation, I should tell you that the traditional Vision Quest was actually for four days & nights, and was performed by young men only, as I far as I know (not to be sexist), with much less "casualness" than is evident in this essay. It was/is an initiation ritual, at last, into mystical/"spiritual" knowledge that should be for the ultimate benefit of the whole tribe. In sum, "successful" visions were usually a call for the individual to become a wicas[h]a wakan [wee-CHAH-shah wahKAH(n)], or "medicine man." Instead of me just listing book titles, do a web search for the well-known vision quests of Crazy Horse and Lame Deer. (A PDF of "Alone on a Hilltop," the 1st-person narrative of Lame Deer's hanblecia, is now on Canvas, under "Miscellanea.")
    —Two years of preparation for the ritual, to be led by a medicine-man relative, Titus; a "group" hanblecia of sorts, with "two other women" (301)!
    —Elaborate ceremonial preparation (302)—incl. the "seven rocks" ritual, in which others have visions related to the initiate; note that Titus' animal "spirit helper" is the badger, probably derived from his own hanblecia (302-303). (Along this line, Black Elk's & Lame Deer's spirit-animals were eagles.)
    —TONE of initiation narrative!?: "You go up on the top of the hill . . ." (303-).
    —Note that the initiation/vision is largely based upon starvation & sensory deprivation, a common practice of mystics the world over; but just ONE night and day!? . . . Moreover, her "crying for a vision" ("good health," etc.) (303) seems quite self-centered, compared to the tribal/communal emphases of Black Elk, etc.
    —The Four Directions (or six, counting the Sky & Earth) (303-304); however, the colors aren't the traditional ones of the Lakota, of Black Elk (West = black [for the thunder clouds, death], North = white [snow, white geese, etc.]; East = red [the sun/rebirth/enlightenment/the eagle]; South = yellow [spring, fertility])—maybe it's a Dakota difference (though she attended the _Lakota_ college, Sinte Gleska? and she now sun dances at Pine Ridge [intro]). . . .
    —Then, FOUR visions (& directions): 1) her dead aunt (north); 2) the "real old man" whom she assumes is, and fears as, the trickster "Iktomi" (east) (304-305); 3) the apparently disembodied song & singers (south?!) (305-306); 4) the "huge eagle" (west), who "circled four times" (306)
    —Rather untoward(?!) fear of coyotes (306-307)—and the odd(?) confession that, if she'd'a heard/seen one during her ordeal, "I probably would have got up and ran" (307)
    —Throwing up (307-308): a purgation to further foster the visionary mode—and her subsequent euphoric feeling of "lightness" (308)
    —Final paragraph? (308)—wherein we learn nothing of what her vision quest "taught" her, but rather are provided with some background info, on the ritual in general, and on her own reasons for attempting it. (Why?) . . . It's a "co-ed" ritual (now?), for both "a woman and a man"; she was spurred on by "voices" as if from "dreams"—who always spoke "in Indian," and gave her spontaneous visions ("little pictures, like a filmstrip"). And so "I could see myself doing different things, and the Vision Quest was one of them."


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 F, Sept. 20th::
Mary Brave Bird [Lakota]: "We AIM Not to Please" (336-352) [essay/chapter excerpt]
    —from Lakota Woman (1990; as Mary Crow Dog [wife of Leonard ~!]; with Richard Erdoes)
[PART I: A.I.M. in general, & its origins:]    (see next "table" for timeline)
    —B.B.'s several comparisons of the excitement of A.I.M. with the 1890 "Ghost Dance fever" (337, 345, 346, 350) . . . The Lakota song (337) is translated immediately below ("Maka" = earth, or here, world; "Oyate" = the people, translated here as nation; etc.)
    —B.B.'s several acknowledgements of A.I.M.'s limitations & failures (337-338; 339; 343 [and defense!]: "Aside from ripping off a few trading posts, we were not really bad" (344)!?
    —A.I.M.'s sheer controversial novelty (don't I remember!—as a high school student in SoDak at the time): "Some people loved AIM, some hated it, but nobody ignored it" (338).
    —Leonard Crow Dog (338, etc.): young & charismatic Lakota medicine man, one of the 1st Lakota (& "holy men") to give A.I.M. some legitimacy in Pine Ridge (SD). (What Brave Bird downplays is how many of the "apples" on the Rez (see note on the "lost generation," below) were against A.I.M. My mother, for instance, commuted to Pine Ridge from Rapid City for her job at this time—c. 1973—and told me that she felt terrified.)
    —A.I.M.'s origins among urban "ghetto Indians" in Minneapolis/St. Paul—who discover on the Pine Ridge Rez some sense of tradition & ceremony (339; a gesture that other Native scholars have viewed more critically, as a "wanna-be" mentality/motive of questionable authenticity) . . . ergo the re-emphasis on the traditional Sun Dance ceremony (342) . . . Many "came from tribes which had never practiced this ritual. I felt it was their way of saying, 'I am an Indian again'" (345).
    —Radical-protest rhetoric borrowed in part from the black Civil Rights movement; but note B.B.'s distinction between what each minority race wants (340), a point already made by Vine Deloria in Custer Died for Your Sins.
    —Government-forced sterilization of Native women (341-342; cf. Harjo's essay); why?: "there were already too many little red bastards for the taxpayers to take care of" (341).
    —Protests: against anthropological digs; "Indian political trials"; "NO INDIANS ALLOWED" signs (342)!
    —Interesting commentary on the coalition of the young AIMsters and the traditional elders, while those in the middle were a "lost generation" of despair & govt. handouts (342)
    —B.B.'s pride in the Lakotas' seminal role in A.I.M. (342-343, 345); yet a concomitant knowledge that this is rather against the pan-Indian emphasis of A.I.M., its call for "tribal unity" (345; see also 352).
    —WOMEN's role in A.I.M. (343, etc.): "'A nation is not dead until the hearts of its women are on the ground'" (343—something Custer, et al., nearly managed!?).
    —Local white reaction to A.I.M. in Pine Ridge (343-344; again, I remember): Black Hills tourist traps—you're "scaring the tourists away" (343)! minority-rights lawyer Kunstler: "'You hate those most whom you have injured most'" (343-344).
    —B.B.'s retrospective evaluation of the movement: "I don't know whether it will live or die"—but "one can't take away from AIM that it fulfilled its function and did what had to be done at a time which was decisive in the development of Indian America" (344-345).
[PART II: the Trail of Broken Treaties:]    
    —the Trail of Broken Treaties = "the greatest action taken by the Indians since the battle of the Little Bighorn [1876]." Fittingly, the Cherokee followed the Trail of Tears; the Lakota started out from Wounded Knee (346).
    —Initial poor living conditions (another "broken promise") (347)—so the "unplanned" occupation of the B.I.A. building (347-); peaceful protest had not worked: "We were not wanted" (by the Nixon administration, et al.); Dennis Banks: will it take "another Watts" to be heard?; the drawing up of "twenty Indian demands"—"all rejected" (349); the chaotic (& semi-humorous) state of "siege" (350-) . . . Oh, but the TOURISTS once again!: taking "snapshots," and "hoping for some sort of Buffalo Bill Wild West show" (351).
    —Women encore (besides B.B.'s own foray "downstairs" [350]): Martha Grass, the "simple[?!] middle-aged Cherokee woman" who stands up to the Interior Secretary, talking "about everyday things, women's things, children's problems"—and them flips him the bird (351-352).
    —Coda/retrospective: "Of course, our twenty points were never gone into afterward . . . . But morally it had been a great victory. We had faced America collectively, not as individual tribes" (352).

** A.I.M/"Red Power" Timeline:
* 1968: founding of A.I.M. (the American Indian Movement) (in MN); original leaders included Dennis Banks, the Bellecourt brothers (all Anishinaabe ["Ojibway" or "Chippewa," as Brave Bird calls them]) and Russell Means (Lakota); but, according to Brave Bird, "it was an Indian woman who gave it its name" (339)!
* 1969: occupation of Alcatraz (CA)
* 1972: Trail of Broken Treaties march (to Washington, D.C.); the main treaty they had in mind was the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, which guaranteed the "Sioux" the Black Hills, a promise soon broken by Custer & gold-lust. . . . Here is the TRAIL OF BROKEN TREATIES 20-POINT POSITION PAPER.
* 1973: Wounded Knee Occupation—The Legacy of Wounded Knee (thorough set of articles on AIM's 1973 insurrection [Sioux Falls Argus Leader]).


        —Works Cited entry for today's video:

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

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (my Turkey Vulture photo, 2007):


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 M, Sept. 23rd::
Lee Maracle [Salish (Pacific Northwest)/Métis (Canadian mixed-blood)]: "Who's Political Here?" (246-258) [short story (fiction)]
    * From her 1990 collection Sojourner's Truth and Other Stories
    * Very humorous fiction about a narrator deftly handling the overwhelming chores of motherhood, versus her "political" (and whining) husband & friends (cf. the title) . . .
    * Husband Tom (247-249): helpless as a child without any clean underwear!—but going downtown to "poster" (i.e., with radical political pamphlets/flyers)
    * Arduous trip, with buggy + 2 kids, to Safeway, where she meets Tom's friend, Frankie—a womanizer (249-251) . . . great slam at the sexism & machismo of John Wayne movies (251)
    * Then, back home, the narrator, who has never made a close connection between "Sex, love, and morals," has a roll in the hay with Frankie (251); in contrast to the narrator, Frankie is riddled with guilt throughout the rest of the story.
    * News from friends: Tom's in jail (251-252)—bail him out!? The narrator: look at MY travails; look at the politics of everyday human life that I have to juggle: "Who is in prison here?"
    * Frankie attacks her mothering skills regarding her daughters: "'they're wild'" (254); "'This is a gawdamn zoo'" (255).
    * "More of Tom's friends" show up, whose grandiose political pretensions are laughable (256). One is Patti, with whom Tom is having an affair. The narrator cares little about that (256-257); what bothers her is that Patty is respected by the men for "her brain": "I'm jealous of Patti, not sexually, but because my husband and her friends accord her her mind" (257).
    * After the strange "politics" of her day, the narrator gives free rein to "Rolling, changing emotions" (257)—including "Panic," until she imagines her "old granny's face" grinning "through the wall." This vision is a calming influence, since the old woman seems to have been saying, "Let it roll, let it rage," this "storm" of emotions. Now they become "exhilarating," and lead to the story's epiphany (and rebuttal to Frankie's crack about her kids): "yes, they are wild. Wild, untamed, unconquerable, and I was going to go on making sure they stayed that way" (258).

Winona LaDuke [Anishinaabe (i.e., Ojibwe) (Minn./Wisc./Mich.)]: "Ogitchida Ikwewag: The Women's Warrior Society, Fall 1993" (263-269) [short story (fiction)]
    * Biog. intro: note, of course, LaDuke's emphasis on "social activism."
    * Opening Native/New-Age cleansing ritual, in a "Circle," under the "full moon" (264-265)
    * The problem: sexual abuse, of 11-yr.-old Frances Graves, by her father Fred Graves, powerful tribal councilman (265-266) . . . the sad fact that this is hardly an isolated case in the community (266) . . .
    * Righteous retribution: the "Circle" of "Warrior Society Women" wait outside Grave's house—with "ricing sticks" (266; any ironies/metaphors here?)—catch him in the act, cane him unmercifully, lead him outside "naked to the waist down," to public shame and spectacle (266-269).
    * [Later ADD:] LaDuke would soon revise this short story into a chapter in her novel Last Standing Woman (1997).


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 W, Sept. 25th::
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)
* LIFE:
    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)!
* WORKS:
    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).
* HER TWO WORLDS:
    —"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).
SOURCES:
    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 Canvas, 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)


To the Top

 F, Sept. 27th::
* "Impressions of an Indian Childhood" [1900] (AIS 7-38)
    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-dimestore-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 eastern 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 [oddly assimilationist and culturally hybrid] word choices).
        —Chasing her shadow (23-24): a rather predictable & mundane 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)!?

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (BTW, in Lakota directionality, the West is represented not only by the color black, but by the Barn ["fork-tailed"] Swallow):


To the Top

 M, Sept. 30th::
* "Impressions of an Indian Childhood" (continued; AIS 39-45)
    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—anymore!"]
        —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)
        —1st 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" (47-61)
    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/colonizer'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 "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 forbidden (why?!); 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?!]


To the Top

 W, Oct. 2nd::
* "The School Days of an Indian Girl" (continued) (AIS 62-80)
    IV. "The Devil" (62-64)
        —The novelty of Christian dualism (God vs. Satan): "I never knew there was an insolent chieftain among the bad spirits"—the picture of which she is shown ("the white man's devil") (62).
        —And the threat: "this terrible creature roamed loose in the world" to torture "little girls who disobeyed school regulations" (67-68)!
        —DREAM of the devil and her mother (63-64): (humorous aside?:) "he did not know the Indian langauge [sic: typo]" (63) . . . . How do you "interpret" the dream's ending?: just as the devil was about to attack her, "my mother awoke from her quiet indifference, and lifted me on her lap. Whereupon the devil vanished, and I was awake" (64).
        —Another revenge—now, on the devil: in a book called The Stories of the Bible, "I began by scratching out his wicked eyes" (64). [Hmmm: remember other "eyes" in this narrative?]
    V. "Iron Routine" (65-68) [aka Pink Floyd's "Welcome to the Machine"!?]
        —The title establishes an imagistic motif that "clangs" its way through this chapter of a "paleface day" of machine-like regimentation: the "loud-clamoring bell" (65; see also the "loud metallic voice" of the bell on p. 52); the pencil ticks of roll call: "It was next to impossible to leave the iron routine after the civilizing machine had once begun its day's buzzing" (66).
        —"Tamed ANIMAL": And so "I have many times trudged in the day's harness heavy-footed, like a dumb sick brute" (66).
        —Critique of medical care (another "mechanical" activity) (66-67): "Once I lost a dear classmate"; crying at the deathbed, seeing the open Bible: "I grew bitter. . . . I despised the pencils that moved automatically, and the one teaspoon . . . dealt out . . . to a row of various ailing Indian children" (67; see Levchuk's essay on Indian boarding schools).
        —Her anger strikes out even against Christian indoctrination, "inculcating in our hearts . . . superstitious ideas" (67; woh!).
        —The "machine" continues: "I was again actively testing the chains which tightly bound my individuality like a mummy for burial" (67; see narrative's end [p. 99], where she wonders if such an education is really "life" or "death").
        —Concluding retrospective on this trauma—and the (curious) final figure of speech: "The melancholy of those black days has left so long a shadow that it darkens the path of the years that have since gone by. . . . Perhaps my Indian nature is the moaning wind which stirs them now for their present record. But, however tempestuous this is within me, it comes out as the low voice of a curiously colored seashell, which is only for those ears that are bent with compassion to hear it" (67-68). Why does her angry "tempest" become the "low voice" of a "seashell"? Enforced suppression? Conscious audience consideration? A fondness for "purple-prose" images of nature & the exotic?
    VI. "Four Strange Summers" (69-74)
        —Return home after three years back East—not many details for "four strange summers" back in SoDak/among her people?!—to the "heart of chaos," and an "uneducated" mother who cannot understand her. . . . (69)
        —In sum, ALIENATION, from her mother, her tribal heritage, and "Nature" itself: "Even nature seemed to have no place for me. I was neither a wee girl nor a tall one; neither a wild Indian nor a tame one" (69).
        —Buckboard joyride episode (70-72), and her re-appreciation of the vastness & beauty of the Great Plains: "Within this vast wigwam[!?] of blue and green I rode reckless and insignificant" (70-71); impulsively chases coyote (71). . . .
        —Dawée won't take her to the party, of "jolly young people"—Dakotas, all, who "had become civilized"; and Z-Ša, too, as she complains about not being "properly[!] dressed" (72-73)?
        —Mother consoles her—with "the white man's papers" (Bible)!; but she greets even this, now, with "rejection" (73; not TOO spoiled, eh?).
        —Then perhaps the most pathetic part of the narrative: her "mother's voice wailing" outside, and—"I realized . . . she was grieving for me" (74). WHY?
        —Now, "schemes of running away" from the Rez—oh, the irony!; the "turmoil" felt at home "drove me away to the eastern school" (74)!
    VII. "Incurring My Mother's Displeasure" (75-80)
        —But some traditionalism still evident: from a medicine man, she brings "a tiny bunch of magic roots" with her, a charm to get friends; "Then, before I lost my faith in the dead roots, I lost" them (the roots) (75).
        —High school diploma earned, she moves on to Earlham College (Indiana) "against my mother's will" (75). . . . Versus her mother's hints that "I had better give up my slow attempt to learn the white man's ways, and be content to roam over the prairies and find my living upon wild roots" (75-76). [Not good enough for yu', now!?]
        —So, "homeless and heavy-hearted," back to school to—(more) racism: "among a cold race whose hearts were frozen hard with prejudice" (76).
        —Remember the Chrystos poem in which survival = making "pretty things"? Z-Ša, too, tries spinning "reeds and thistles," "the magic design of which promised me the white man's respect" (76).
        —ORATORY (76-80): 1st place at Earlham, to the overt praise of her fellow students (77-78); then the state (of Indiana) contest (78-80), where she experiences "a strong prejudice against my people" (78), evidenced in shouted "slurs against the Indian" and the flag "with a drawing of a most forlorn Indian girl"—and the word "'squaw'" (79).
        —Oh, the "barbarian rudeness" (79): note how Z-Ša, the author, reinscribes ("reinvents"!?) the word's original intent, as denotative of those who are not part of (Western) "civilization." Here the "civilized" are the barbarians, at last.
        —(Oh—she wins 2nd place.)
        —Another fit of vengeful thoughts upon winning her prize ("the evil spirit . . . within me") (79-80) . . . but back alone in her room, thoughts of home—and guilt: "In my mind I saw my mother far away on the Western plains, and she was holding a charge against me" (80).


To the Top

 F, Oct. 4th::
"An Indian Teacher Among Indians" [1900] (AIS 81-99)
    I. "My First Day" (81-84)
        —Though ill, Z-Ša refuses to go home, out of "pride," and the knowledge/guilt that her mother would say that "the white man's papers were not worth the freedom and health I had lost by them" (81).
        —So further East ("toward the morning horizon" [81])—to Carlisle. . . .
        —Meets her "boss" (Richard Henry Pratt), who has heard of her oratory skills, but seems disappointed in her person ("a subtle note of disappointment" [83])—Why?
        —Ah: besides her physical illness, she's not a happy camper, with the "lines of pain on" her face, and a "leaden weakness" from "years of weariness" (84).
    II. "A Trip Westward" (85-92)
        —Again, having ignored "nature's warnings," she's stuck in an "unhappy silence" (85). [This detachment from Nature will become a "theme."]
        —So(?) her employer's plan to turn her "loose to pasture," to send her back West—for more recruits (85)!
        —the home ENVIRONMENT again: the "vast prairie" whose clouds and grass "thrilled me like the meeting of old friends" (86) . . .
        —the white DRIVER, and Z-Ša's classist/elitist attitude towards him!?: his "unkempt flaxen hair," "weather-stained clothes," and "warped shoulders" (87)
        —Her mother's initial reluctance to run to greet Z-Ša issues from a mistaken assumption about the white fellow (88-89)—what is it? . . . Z-Ša clears things up: "'He is [just] a driver!" (89).
        —Z-Ša's mother's own assimilationist "compromises": e.g., her log cabin now has curtains (89)!
        —But to Z-Ša's suggestions that she make improvements(!), she tells of her extreme poverty, due to Dawée's loss of his job (90); we learn, in fact, that Dawée's been replaced by a white employee, and—irony—can no longer "'make use of the education the Eastern school has given him'" (90-91); and the reason for being fired?—speaking out, making trouble, trying "to secure justice for our tribe in a small matter"—oh, the "'folly'" (91)!
        —Z-Ša grows bitter at the news: to her mother's praying, she says, "'don't pray again! The Great Spirit does not care if we live or die! Let us not look for good or justice: then we shall not be disappointed!'" (92). [On one level, the Lakota/Dakota wakan tanka really doesn't "care"! But on another level, I suspect, Z-Ša is rebelling, at the moment, against some Christian/Native hybrid deity she has recently come to believe in, arriving here at a version of Stoic philosophy.]
        —"Taku Iyotan Wasaka" (92): taku (TAHkhoo) = something; iyotan (eeYOHtah[n]) = very, most; was[h]'aka (wash'AHkah) = strong
    III. "My Mother's Curse Upon White Settlers" (93-94)
        —Z-Ša's mother complains of the "shrinking limits" of Yankton lands, because of a "whole tribe of broad-footed white beggars" whose lights she points out to her daughter (93); and so another warning: "'beware of the paleface,'" who "'offers in one palm the holy papers, and with the other gives a holy baptism of firewater'" (93-94)—[Vine Deloria never expressed it better!?]—who is "'the hypocrite who reads with one eye, "Thou shalt not kill," and with the other gloats upon the sufferings of the Indian race'" (94). [See the fate of the "The Soft-Hearted Sioux" for a similar irony.]
        —The mother's final gesture of a "curse," with "doubled fist" (94): rather too melodramatic, en'uh?
    IV. "Retrospection" (95-99)
        —Z-Ša's final, earnest critique of Indian boarding schools; incl. her "indignation" about unqualified teachers—the "opium-eater," and the "inebriate" doctor who "sat stupid" while Indian students "carried their ailments to untimely graves" (95); the government inspection procedure, too, is inept; so at last, she concludes, "I was ready to curse men of small capacity for being the dwarfs their God had made them" (96)—what does she mean by this?!
        Alienation/detachment from "Nature" encore—and traditional religion (and mother): "For the white man's papers I had given up my faith in the Great Spirit. For these same papers I had forgotten the healing in trees and brooks. On account of my mother's simple[?!] view of life, and my lack of any, I gave her up, also" (97).
        —Alienation continued—via remarkable TREE metaphor: "Like a slender tree, I had been uprooted from my mother, nature, and God. I was shorn of my branches. . . . Now a cold bare pole I seemed to be, planted in a strange earth. Still, I seemed to hope a day would come when . . . [I] would flash a zigzag lightning across the heavens" (97). Did this hope come true?
        —So—a "new idea": retirement from teaching (97-98); and the retrospective in earnest, thinking back on the "many specimens of civilized peoples," of "Christian palefaces" who were pleasantly surprised to see "the children of savage warriors so docile and industrious" (98; note, too, the emphasis on their "gazing").
        —But finally, is this assimilationist education a good thing?—a question, she laments in the final sentence, that too few have pondered: "few there are who have paused to question whether real life or long-lasting death lies beneath this semblance of civilization" (99).

 

  RESPONSE #2 (2+ pages)—60 points—Due M, 10/7, at/by the beginning of class—CHOOSE ONE (and specify which):

a) As indicated on the syllabus, a do-your-own-thing/anything-you-want "reader's journal" that addresses a goodly number of our assigned readings since Response #1 (from Fire's "Hard-to-Kill Woman" thru the most recent readings [see full list below]) is an alternate to the specific prompts below; however, please avoid simple plot summaries or a simply rehashing of ideas brought up in class or on the course web notes. (Feel free to object to/expand upon these, of course.) [This last caveat against bare plot summaries applies to all response choices.]

b) [À la Response #1,] Respond to the "Top 5" readings these last few weeks (from the Fire essay thru the most recent readings, including Zitkala-Ša's autobiography [count as 1 text!], short story, and essay). (This seemed to work well for many of you last time, as a focusing device.) Or—how about the "Worst 5"?!

c) Using Zitkala-Ša's autobiography as your foundational text, trace themes—or "motifs"—in her life story that recur in our other recent readings (again, see full list below).

d) Write a "play," a creative dialogue, in which at least two of our contemporary authors (from the range of readings already noted) have a conversation with the ghost of Zitkala-Ša. Of course, each author will refer a lot to her own writing(s). (You can go a lot directions here, but one way to think of it is as a creative version of prompt "c.")

    Final Note: As indicated on the syllabus, ONE MAIN grading criterion is how well you demonstrate that you've been doing the readings. In this regard, option "a" may well be your best choice, especially if none of the subsequent options rings a bell for you. (However, responding to only one or two texts, as some of you did for Response #1, is thus not a fulfillment of the spirit of this assignment.) Also, you don't have to waste paper on a separate formal Works Cited page for these informal responses.

• To be as clear & helpful as possible, here are the eligible readings: Fire: "Hard-to-Kill Woman" (300-); Brave Bird: "We AIM Not to Please" (336-); Maracle: "Who's Political Here?" (246-); LaDuke: "Ogitchida Ikwewag" (263-); Zitkala-Ša's American Indian Stories (complete assigned readings: 7-99, 109-125, 185-195); Levchuk: "Leaving Home for Carlisle Indian School" (175-); Jacobs: "One-Hundred-Dollar Boots" (271-)

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (Wounded Knee mass burial site):


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 M, Oct. 7th::
"The Soft-Hearted Sioux" [1901; short story] (AIS 109-125)
    —Initial note on the story's "literary quality": not to be a highbrow, but this ain't Henry James, or even Edgar Allen Poe; rather it's very much akin to the popular melodramatic fiction of the day.
    I. (109-111)
        —Protagonist: 16 years old, in his parents' "tepee"—or "wigwam" (109)! . . .
        —And the universal question from his folks—here his grandmother—"when yu' gonna get a girlfriend, boy?" (I paraphrase) (110). But our hero is reluctant: "'Hoh! [ho>, in this context, = the phatic time-server "well . . ."] . . . . Not yet!'"
        —Now his mother's entreaty to "be always active" in hunting and other male "warrior" activities (111)—all the more pressure, given the "fame" of his "warrior father": he is "sorely troubled with a fear lest I should disappoint them" (111). [Question: is he "soft-hearted" by nature, then, before his Christian training?]
    II. (112-115)
        —Ten years later (after "Nine winters' snows"!—and now the tenth), he's now a grown man who has been to the "mission school," where "he learned it was wrong to kill," where he had "hunted[!] for the soft heart of Christ" instead; so he returns to the tribe, to "preach Christianity," as a "stranger" (112).
        —But lo!—his father's "been sick many moons[!]," and is in the care of a Dakota medicine man, whom our hero now deems "the sorcerer of the plains" (112-113).
        —To his father: "'How, Ate?'" (113)—"How" = hau; ate (ahTAY) = father
        —And (he finally recognizes!) his mother; but in his home tipi now, he "did not feel at home" (114). [Any autobiographical import here?!]
        —The clash of religions: "Useless was my attempt to change the faith in the medicine-man to that abstract power named God." And so he feels "great anger that the medicine-man should thus ensnare" his "father's soul"—and he kicks his rival out of the tipi (114).
        —However, his father's plaintive lament: "'my son, I can not live without the medicine-man!'" (115).
    III. (116-118)
        —His efforts at spreading the Word to an assembly of Dakota, trying "to tell them of the soft heart of Christ" (116)
        —The medicine-man shows up, that "cunning magician," and turns the people against him: "'What loyal son is he who . . . wears a foreigner's dress? . . . He is a traitor to his people!'" (117). [Again, any autobiographical import here?!]
        —The clash of religions continued: notice how both religious men use snake/serpent imagery against the other (117, 118).
        —Finally, the medicine man wins "the hearts of the people" with the following appeal, which lies at the heart the story's plot & theme: "Why do you sit here giving ear to a foolish man who could not defend his people because he fears to kill, who could not bring venison to renew the life of his sick father?" (118).
    IV. (119-123)
        —Sole caretaker for his father now (both health-wise & spiritually), but his father's health wanes, nor will he listen to his son's proselytizing. And his words—oh—"'your soft heart has unfitted you for everything!'" (119-120).
        —His mother begs him to try hunting again; he replies, "'How, Ina'" ("Yes, mother"; ina [ee-NAH] = mother) (120).
        —More pathos, and pressure to perform: his father "gnawing off the edges" of a "buffalo-robe"! And his accusation, "'My son, your soft heart will let me starve before you bring me meat'" (121). [Hmmm, do I anticipate your objection in noting that to read Christianity as against killing other species is a bit strange? OR—is this, then, some hybrid philosophy of Christian kindness & love + a Native regard for other species?? I'm confused.]
        —CHARACTER CHANGE/a (sudden) new resolve: to the hunt!—with a "strange warmth" and "swiftness" (the old "blood" is back?!)—"to the white man's cattle," and a kill (121)
        —But, apprehended in the act, he kills the white man (122) and heads home with the meat: to find his father "dead!" (123). [Geez. Bad timing.]
    V. (124-125)
        —Our hero turns himself in and is sentenced to be to hanged (123).
        ****—The clash of religions continues, in his final troubled ruminations: "I do not fear death. Yet I wonder who shall come to welcome me in the realm of strange sight. Will the loving Jesus grant me pardon and give my soul a soothing sleep? or will my warrior father greet me and receive me as his son? Will my spirit fly upward to a happy heaven?"—etc. (124).
        ****—What do you make of his final, nearly blithe, acceptance?: "My heart is strong. My face is calm. My eyes are dry and eager for new scenes. . . . Serene and brave[!] my soul awaits the men to perch me on the gallows for another flight. I go" (125). (Part of me has always wondered whether Z-Sha failed in effectively imparting “what she really meant” this ending to do.)
        Final discussion question: might this story be also read as a commentary on the death penalty, given the "soft-hearted"/forgiveness/"turn-the-other-cheek" theology of at least some major branches of Christianity? And isn't the story's ultimate irony that he is killed by those who preach against killing?

"America's Indian Problem" [p. 1921, in The Edict] (AIS 185-195)
    —Z-Ša's well-chosen introductory examples:
        1. The Jamestown Colony, and Captain Newport's erection of a "'cross as a sign of English dominion'"; and then his lie to Powhatan that the cross's "arms . . . represented Powhatan and himself, and the middle [of the cross] their united league" (185)!
        2. DeSoto's forces stealing pearls from ancestral Native tombs [S. Carolina]—DeSoto says, "'to make rosaries of'"!; Z-Ša's source's hilarious commentary: "'We imagine if their prayers were in proportion to their sins they must have spent the most of their time at their devotions'" (186)!
    —Z-Ša's conclusion (& complaint): "It was in this fashion that the old world snatched away the fee in the land of the new" (185). . . . Again she re-defines/inverts "barbarism" in the colonizers' "barbaric rule of might" (186).
    —Appeal for Indian CITIZENSHIP/the VOTE: Natives, in contrast, are now but "legal victims," and "wards" instead of "citizens." . . . A CALL to ACTION—with the aid, you should note, of early-20th-c. feminist activism: "Now the time is at hand when the American Indian shall have his day in court through the help of the women of America" (186). . . . "Wardship is no substitute for American citizenship, therefore we seek his enfranchisement" (187).
    Point of View!?—who is the We in the bottom paragraph of 186?: "We serve both our government and a voiceless people . . . . We would open the door of American opportunity to the red man . . . " (186). . . . Then another PofV switch: "Do you know what your Bureau of Indian Affairs . . . really is?" (187)—NOW who's the you?
    —The concluding lengthy quot., then, from the Bureau of Municipal Research report (1915): [This "story of the mismanagement of Indian Affairs" (193) reads like a nightmare from Kafka!]
        —"Prefatory Note" (188): while we spent a lot o' time on this report, it "is not available for distribution"!
        —"Unpublished Digest . . ." (188-): there has been no official govt. "digest of the provisions of statutes and treaties with Indian tribes governing Indian funds"—so we made one; but "it found its way into the pigeon-holes" of bureaucracy and remains "unpublished" (188-189).
        —"Unpublished Outline . . . (189-)": likewise, this "also found repose in a dark closet" (190)!
        —"Too Voluminous . . .[!]" (190): well, we coulda put a copy in the Library of Congress, "but the only official action taken was to order the materials be placed under lock and key in the Civil Service Commission"!
        —"Need for Special Care . . ." (190-)—because "in theory of law the Indian has not the rights of a citizen. He has not even the rights of a foreign resident. The Indian individually does not have access to the courts"; as a "ward" of the federal government, his "property and funds are held in trust" (191). [Note: besides Indian citizenship (1924), such government misgovernment led to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934.]
        —"Conditions Adverse to Good Administration" (191-)!: translation—conditions are BAD!; lots of administrative misdeeds (192 ["fraud, corruption" (193)]).
        —"Government Machinery . . ." (192-): and lots of misappropriation of funds out of greed (192)
        —"Ample Precedents" (194-): Conclusion—"All the machinery of the government has been set to work to repress rather than to provide adequate means for justly dealing with a large population which has no political rights" (195).


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 W, Oct. 9th::
Bernice Levchuk [Diné]: "Leaving Home for Carlisle Indian School" (175-186) [non-fiction essay]
    * Exposition/narrative framed by her imaginative description of a 19th-c. painting of a boy leaving for Carlisle (176). . . .
    * The School itself (Pennsylvania): 1879-1918 (176-177)—reminds her of her own boarding school experience in Arizona (177; me, too! [SoDak]). . . .
    * Her present-day visit to the place (177-178): she's directed to the cemetery (178)!
    * The "callous" & "brutal" policy & actions of the govt.'s rounding up of Indian students (178-179) . . .
    * Carlisle's founding philosophy (Richard Pratt): "The way to civilize an Indian is to get him into civilization" (180; cf. Hale's quot. of more famous version of the motto, "Kill the Indian and Save the Man" [141]); via Christianity and learning a trade. . . .
    * Several documentary examples from the National Archives in Washington, D.C. (180-181)—including "Ran 11/25/13" (180)! (Running away is a ubiquitous refrain in Indian boarding school narratives; I did it myself!)
    * Learning a trade (181-182)—including tinsmithing: elsewhere, Standing Bear recounts that his tinsmith occupation eventually was useless because, as a student, he had sent so many of his pieces home that no one needed his wares when he finally returned back to his South Dakota rez!
    * Levchuk's own (much later, of course) experiences of cruelty in boarding school (182-184)—including rape & molestation (184) . . .
    **** Her call to action/awareness: "We must especially remember those who died at Carlisle and never returned home. . . . Cruel and unconscionable policy and practices forever robbed the students of their natural childhood and youth. . . . There must be a healing of all generations of Native Americans who . . . have become stunted and crippled . . . by the boarding school system. The boarding-school experience must be remembered and told in its true reality. . . . Those of us who are scarred . . . should unashamedly tell the whole story of this phase of our Native American holocaust" (185).
    * Finale—framing of intro via a return to the painting (185-186): now she adds/imagines the father's words to his departing son, to follow the "good path" (186; note: ts'aa is a Diné ceremonial basket, used here in reference to the boy's bandana "bundle"?).

Jeane Jacobs [Cherokee/Choctaw]: One Hundred Dollar Boots" (271-279) [short story (fiction)]
    —her autobiog. note: began "telling stories . . . at the age of four"—to cats!—"about animals and creatures from other worlds" (271)!
    —story: the death of the 17-yr.-old narrator's "Uncle Franke" and, above all, her elders' reaction to it, and her own final "ceremonial" gesture
        —C/C the others' reactions to Franke's death: "Granpa" Tookah Daylight; "Gramma" Nona D.; great-grandmother Haloka D.; (aunt) JoDee (compare her background to Z-Ša's!? [274]); Aunt Lela; the narrator herself, Montee (what do you make of her retreat to the "woods" and the "river" and the "soil" and the "spotted hawk" [275-76]?); the sons Jeffrey & Marcus; (F.'s mistress?) Armagettin; Montee's alcoholic father—w/ his traditional clothing and his crying "like a lonely coyote" (278)?
        —"[S]omebody up and shot him last night" (274): any certain indication in the story why? his "whoring around" (272)? his $100 boots (278-279)!? At last, why do you think these boots were anonymously returned (by "a white hand") at story's end?
    —[What the hell?!:] Franke's joke about Indian wakes ("'Them gawddamn Indians'") (276)? & the narrator's (Montee's) internalization of this attitude (277)?

Anita Endrezze [Yaqui (Mexico/Arizona)]: "The Constellation of Angels" (281-288) [short story (fiction)]
    —intro biog.: note her love for painting (281)—and then the many colors and "paintings" in the story that follows. (Similarly, I told you that I knew her better as a poet—also evident in her poetic prose tour-de-force here.)
    —"Poetic" opening, with such phrases as "aching like an orchid" (282) . . .
    —Narrator: some ethereal being, from "the temple of the dream-walkers"—and the reader goes, "huh?"; until we learn of Mary—"my Other: my special human" (282), and we realize (eventually) that the speaker is some Native/New Age "guardian angel" . . .
    —Mary, in contrast, "lives in the dark cracks of the city," is pregnant "with a new human hungry for wholeness" (note the alliteration)—and "her man" beats her (282). . . A bad relationship: he "has big heavy boots that do not always care about what they step on," while she is too passive, in her "self-effacing camouflage"—an enabler, at last (282). Furthermore, he is cheating on her, in part because the other woman "is different from Mary, whose belly was baglike" (more alliteration) (283).
    —"His" further (& poetic) characterization: "His thoughts are like an onion made of ash: no center"; and "his soul: it has a rind on it, thick and knotted." . . . For the other "young men" of the urban neighborhood, too, "Something is broken. It is Life" (284). . . . Versus the "marvelous" tree imagery associated with Mary (see next)—"his ears feel like there's a big tree growing in each of them, the roots digging into his brain" (285)!
    —In contrast, Mary "sings her thoughts," thinking sometimes: "'I should only love a tree, with its owl eyes, its blue feathers, its crow voice"! . . . She also doesn't drink, smoke, or use drugs; her only fault: "But she does need him" (284). . . . Ergo the "contradiction" in her character: "a vast difference between the Mary of the trees with the wooden hearts [and owl eyes] and the Mary of apologies" (285). . . .
    —Return to the initial other-worldly setting & atmosphere, "the temple," where "music has eyelids and breasts are made of sunlight[!]" (in these sections, her "poetry" makes abundant use of surrealism and synaesthesia). . . . "we dance further than trees can see" (285).
    —The PLOT: our narrator meets "another dream-walker," in charge of Mary's unborn, who knows the baby's untimely fate; Mary has a "terrible pain"—a miscarriage—and a resulting change of style, a rather James-Joycean poetics, to represent pre- (or post-?) human consciousness. . . .
    —The baby's death = trip (return?) to "a constellation of angels" (286-287). Why is the baby referred to as "O White Shell clan woman!"? . . . Death, oh—"when the jar falls it breaks / and her soul falls out" (286); "little baby-woman: her soul has burned a spirit hole / into the temple of the sky"; alliteration!: "here is the altar of innocent eyes"; and a God-the-Mother, apparently, "the starry mother who is strong enough / to keep you whole" (287). . . . At last in "the temple, the Flower World"; note how the four directions are implicit in the descriptions of the third-to-last paragraph (288).
    —But then, "this" world, and Mary's plight; worst, perhaps, the clerk's words, "'Don't they know they shouldn't drink when they're pregnant?'" Or worse yet, the reality: "'Looks like she was all beat up'" (287). . . . Out-of-body experience, in which the "baby floated up and looked down at her mother" (287-288); last paragraph: "In the other world," Mary is loaded "into the ambulance." What do you make of the last phrase, "the sweet smell of blood flowering between her thighs" (288)?


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 F, Oct. 11th::
Luci Tapahonso [Diné]: "All the Colors of Sunset" (319-325) [short story (fiction); 1994]
    —1st published in the journal Blue Mesa Review, 1994
    —A wonderfully plaintive story worthy of (& reminiscent of) Leslie Silko's famous short story "Lullaby"
    —1st 2 paragraphs: note how well the Desert Southwest setting is given to us, via the 1st-person-grandmother's point of view (319-320).
    —Her 5-month-old granddaughter dies: "My first and only grandchild was gone" (320). . . . the deep grief for the dead body, via songs & words & caresses (e.g., the pathos of "'This is called your leg, my baby'"!) (320); though she remembers little, "[t]hey said that I kept the baby for four hours that morning" (321).
    —Characteristically, the whole "tribe" shows up to help out (321-322).
    —But her subsequent lingering lack of "focus," her feeling "far away from everything"; she's even stopped talking to the animals (322)! . . . Indeed, she prefers to sleep, and to dream, often, of the child, who still seems so near & alive (323).
    [—Anything sinister about how/why the baby died?—silence surrounds the cause (323).]
    —Her mourning has become inordinate & unhealthy: others see the baby "alive," beside her (323 [including, later, the medicine woman, who tells her "'The baby hasn't left'" (324)]); her sisters beg her to seek help (323-324); so she finally undergoes a near-forgotten healing ceremony: "I could finally let my grandbaby go" (324).
    —Finale (& story's "moral"): "I understand now that all of life has ceremonies connected with it" (325).

Susan Power [Yanktonai (Nakota)]: "Beaded Souls" (Reinventing 374-392) [short story (fiction)]
    —Autobiog. note: the author is FROM Chicago, i.e., a "relocated" urban Indian (cf. Harjo's "The Woman Hanging" poem).
    —Plot & characters, the Cliff Notes version: The Standing Rock "Sioux" narrator, Maxine Bullhead, seems to carry on the family curse by losing her stillborn child and then killing her husband, Marshall Azure, whom she discovers cheating on her with a white woman in the Indian Center in Chicago. The story is framed by her needlework—she's "beading [ceremonial burial] moccasins" for him—in the present tense of the narration (375, 392); however, by story's end, the reader fears for her state of mind, which seems to be approaching that of one of Poe's famous mentally disturbed narrators (e.g., "The Telltale Heart," "The Black Cat").
    —"Anglo heaven" (375): actually, the "Indian heaven" described on the next page (376) is pretty "Anglo" itself!?
    —As for the family curse per se, a lieutenant named Henry Bull Head was actually one of the Indian policemen involved in the killing of Sitting Bull, and as in this story, he also died in the skirmish (376-377). . . .

Agent McLaughlin's (pro-Anglo) account of Sitting Bull's death

        . . . Of course, the long history of this family curse makes the middle of the story more comedy than tragedy!?
    heyoka {hayOHkha} (377) refers to spirits or medicine men who do things "backwards," in true trickster spirit.
    —Sad deal, how the Native valuing of robust & physically strong women—like Maxine—has been corrupted by the fact that "Dakota men had [now] seen too many movies in Bismark [sic]" (379)!
    Yuwipi man {yooWEEpee} (380) is a wicasa wakan (medicine man) who specializes in the yuwipi ceremony, a healing ritual involving sacred stones.
    —The wedding, of course, is a veritable hoot, as is the white J.P. himself (380-383).
    —In abrupt contrast, the stillborn child is the dramatic low point, or high point of pathos (384-386).
    —And so her wish to go to Chicago, to willingly be "relocated" (387-388)—and hopefully renewed, psychologically. But with this wish, the couple immediately begins to have "bedroom trouble" (388; ah, foreshadowing). . . . Once in Chicago, the reality of Relocation sets in, as the Natives are "caught in slum areas," not in the houses on the promising brochures (389).
    —Marshall's caught in the act, with a white woman; worse yet/most pathetically: she's "fertile," having had kids who'd "lived" (390)!
    —Marshall's final words an almost too obvious thematic protest?: "'We should never have left'" (391).
    wasna {wahSNAH} (390) usually refers to a ball of tallow (beef fat) with other ingredients rolled in—here, chokecherries.
    —Besides "Harjo's "Woman Hanging" (also about Relocation in Chicago), this story can be fruitfully compared with Beth Brant's "Stillborn Night," including Maxine's final "vision" of her husband playing w/ her stillborn son (392).

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (reminds me of Z-Sha's "reinscription" of "barbarism"):


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 M, Oct. 14th::

Beth Brant [Mohawk (Northeast U.S., eastern Canada)]: "Stillborn Night" (352-358) [poem/prose poem]
    —Autobiog. intro: Brant incredibly inclusive in her membership in "many communities—Indian, working class, gay and lesbian, feminist, recovering, human, mammal, living entity among other living entities" (353)
    —"Stillborn Night" from the journal Native Women in the Arts, 1995
    —"Wind" image/motif (another "pathetic fallacy")—which changes with the narrator's emotions, from "screams," to uprooting "trees" (353), to "moans," to a "steady keening" [a mourning wailing] (356), to the soothing "croon" and "murmur" of a mother's voice, and a "song-like murmur" (357)—to "no wind" at all, and a "blue and clear" sky (358) . . .
    —"Plot": "My fourth grandson is dead" (353)—and the grandmother's precognition thereof (354-355), her attempts to comfort her daughter (353-357), her own grief and eventual resignation & healing acceptance (358)
    —Most poignant episode?: in stores, she "would go to the baby clothes"—oh!—and shake baby rattles; "I looked down at tiny shirts and diapers" (355). . . . Or is it Benjamin's blithe faith that "Grandpa is changing Brant Montour's diaper right now" (356)?!
    —That "theme" again, of family "dysfunction," and the 4-yr.-old Benjamin's "fears of abandonment" (355) . . . she herself raised her daughter in a bad marriage, a "daily ritual of violent acts and words"—and is thus inordinately conscious "what it takes to grow up in native homes" (357).
    —Her daughter's need/desire to tell the story of her miscarriage "for months after. Each telling confirms the reality" that "Brant Montour was a life" (357).

      * 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")


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 W, Oct. 16th::
Linda Noel [Maidu (N. Calif.)]: "Understanding Each Other" (233-234) [poem]
    * Title ironic, since the man, at least, fails to understand his partner, calling her "'too wild'" (i.e., too Indian?)—for she has a "pagan" high regard for the moon, and the salmon; when these fish are running, she stands by the river "'humming, / all the time believing / fish understand / why you are there'" (234).
    * So he leaves her for a bourgeois, presumably Anglo, complacency & propriety, for someone "whose dreams / are laced in perfume / and dishwater suds" (234).

Marcie Rendon [Anishinaabe]: "You See This Body" (279-281) [poem]
    —Read the poem aloud, and note how strophe 1 recurs as strophe 9 (280): by its second appearance, has its tone and syllable emphases changed? (Or better: do we finally know how to "read" it?!)
    —The identity of the female speaking "I" seems to shift throughout the poem. Who is "she" in ll. 7-8? l. 16? ll. 28, 29?
    —How do you reconcile the poem's ostensible "come-on" tone (2nd-person audience includes "leg man"/"ass man") versus the more overtly feminist theme of an eternally surviving (& strong & independent) "Everywoman" (refs. to the "Trail of Tears," "Wounded Knee," Nazi Germany, the Cold War, and Vietnam)?
    —Finally, what do you make of the last lines, the "smile" & "eyes" that "turned your head / just long enough"? ("Long enough" for what?)

Rendon's "You See This Body" always makes me recall an earlier (1987) and
more well-known poem, by African-American poet Lucille Clifton:

        homage to my hips

these hips are big hips.
they need space to
move around in.
they don't fit into little
petty places. these hips
are free hips.
they don't like to be held back.
these hips have never been enslaved,
they go where they want to go
they do what they want to do.
these hips are mighty hips.
these hips are magic hips.
i have known them
to put a spell on a man and
spin him like a top!

nila northsun [Fallon Shoshone [Nevada]/Anishinaabe]: "99 things to do before you die" (394-397) [poem]
    —Poem a response to Cosmo's list "of 99 things to do before you die," many of which are "things only rich people could do"; but "what's a poor indian to do," with "no maza-ska"? (395)
    —Vocabulary: mazaska (395) [MAH-zah-skah] = Lakota for money (maza = metal; ska = white; ergo, "white metal" = silver); "crow fair" (Crow Fair): famous annual powwow in Montana; "ta-nee-ga" (396) = taniga [tah-NEE-ghah] = Lakota for buffalo stomach/tripe; "skinwalker" (396) = a shape-changing spirit (Diné); "stick game" (396; aka "hand game" or "bone game") = a team guessing game of chance played at powwows, etc.
    —And so "a list that's more / culturally relevant" (395): including "20 ways to prepare / commodity canned pork" (396) . . . (Hey, when I was a kid, we only got commodity beef!)
    —Including curling "up in bed with a good indian novel / better yet . . . with a good indian novelist" (396) . . .
    —Her final "punch line" (and a winking acquiescence to assimilation?!): "not much left undone / though cosmo's / have an affair in paris while / discoing in red leather and sipping champagne / could find a place on my list" (397)

Excerpt from a former student's Response #2, which is, in a part, an imitation of northsun's "99 things" poem:

[. . . . . . . .]
so what is a poor student-athlete to do?
come up with a list that is
actually relevant
so my list includes
stay in school
overcome adversity

learn about people who are still overcoming adversity
        that started 300 years ago
read about how hard it is to be a native american
        no a woman native american
build a house out of stone
convince others that not all of the Indians
        were killed by john wayne
trigger my mind's own clicking gun
have more heart than anyone else
curl up in bed with a good joy harjo anthology
better yet
curl up in bed with joy harjo
burn the orchards in the land of big red apples
help the woman on the thirteenth floor
be the yellow horse
        who still has faith
[. . . . . . . .]


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 F, Oct. 18th::
      * 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 into 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]

  * Joy Harjo:
 
"Metamorphosis" (PDF [Trout 679-83]) [1993] (essay)
    -*-My note: this is a brief autobiog. essay of Harjo's experience at the Institute of American Indian Arts, at an exciting time of change in U.S. culture (late 1960's); note how her adolescent cutting (= pain, and blood) is tranformed/sublimated into art/writing; and then the final self-analogue to a tree (see Hogan, above!), her new pride as a poet, standing "like a tall cedar pole," now ready to tell "stories of our anger and great love" (par. 16, 17; compare to image in Z-Sha!).

 

 TCG's Native Meme-of-the-Week (from an actual Essay #1; so proofread, please!):


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 W, Oct. 23rd::

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)
TEXTS:    
    * 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)
    * 2015 update: Joy Harjo just became the first Native American poet to win the most prestigious award for a poet (of any ethnicity!), the Wallace Stevens Award from the Academy of American Poets.
 
    * 2019 update: Hey, now she's U.S. Poet Laureate!
 

LINKS from my Native "Authors & Readings Links" Page: my most recent version of Harjo web resources, if you're considering an essay on her.

  Nearly Unbearable Grace: The Poetry of Joy Harjo

"Native American poet and performance artist Joy Harjo reads a selection of her work, and discusses the variety of influences (including music) on her artistic development. Series: "'Artists on the Cutting Edge'" [UCSD, 1997]

 

•• My blog-post celebration of Harjo's recent appointment as U.S. Poet Laureate ••

Harjo's signature (on a draft of my PhD dissertation title page ["For justice / To love": typical Harjo!]):


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 F, Oct. 25th::


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ENGL/WMNS/ETHN 345N Class NOTES/Commentary Page--Fall 2019

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