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NATIVE AMERICANS IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE, John C. Stott, Oryx Press, 4041 North Central Indian School Road, Phoenix, AZ 85012; 800-279-4663. 1995 paperback, 239 pages, indexes. $24.95. 0-89774-782-8
The author, a professor of children's literature at University of Toronto, has written a book that is aimed at teachers from elementary picture-book-age readers through junior high school. His audience is non-Native teachers at schools -- Canadian and U.S. -- whose populations are entirely or mainly non-Native.
Short reviews summarizing themes and content of several hundred children's books, U.S. and Canadian are grouped at the end of each thematically-organized chapter. All but a handful of the books discussed are either works of fairly recent contemporary fiction or legends -- a few adult collections but mostly those retold as children's stories. The overwhelming majority of the books discussed and reviewed are by non-Native authors.
At the end of Stott's book is a long appendix setting out a program for incorporating Native stories into the Language Arts program. Stott gives no attention to Indian history or current affairs (because he says that's social studies). Similarly, the efforts of authors like Abenaki Joseph Bruchac (who writes an enthusiastic foreward to the book) to relate "nature stories and legends" to a kind of science instruction that is more holistic and presents a world view in which human beings are one part of a web of existence, are treated as if they were just more stories for the language arts program. In science, though, the stories are part of a proposed alternative to a powerful way -- western science and technology -- of knowing, altering, and being in the world.
Stott specifically warns of a "danger of realistic stories becoming thinly disguised social studies texts showing the way little Native boys or girls from specific cultures do or used to live." No danger of that here. Realism is actively avoided, denied, hidden.
The lesson plans are for grades 3 through 9, in order of an age- determined complexity of objectives or difficulty of the listed readings. (Elsewhere, picture books for younger children are extensively discussed and reviewed.) It's a pretty good program -- many teachers will be pleased with the neatly-outlined objectives and clear, specific lesson plans set forth in the Appendix. They will easily be able to adapt the forms to use with other books than the ones used there. Let's take a look at these units by the numbers. What's the proportion of Native authors studied? I express this as a ratio (any book by or retold by an Indian writer first, books by all writers second) for each unit, followed by overall percentages:
ARCTIC FOOD ON ICE (early elementary) -- 1 (native): 4
(total). Non-native authors: 75%.
Total books for these study units: 33. Total Indian authors: 3. Total non-Indian authors: 30. Percent Indian authors: 9.09%. Percent non-Indian authors: 90.91%.
Stott's inability -- unwillingness -- to see this is symbolized by his actual omission of the Inuit novel that caused him embarrassment because the main character kills himself at the end. This is a realistic novel with a realistic (not happy) ending, so Stott waffles off onto some mysterious Inuit cultural values he claims are incomprehensible to westerners and ignores this book except for its anecdotal use in his introduction. That's real life intruding into his comfortable professorate, and lecture circuit gig where the white man is once again explaining Indians to other whites. Hey, real life belongs in social studies, not language arts. It seems as little likely to creep in there as it has here.
From the viewpoint of Native peoples, protection of the remaining land base, which is constantly under attack in both the U.S. and Canada, is the paramount fact for cultural and physical survival. It is possible that a generation of schoolchildren who had a better understanding of this aspect of our history -- of the fact that attacks are still going on -- might form empathies or sym- pathies to provide more dependable, less romantic allies. Nothing in Stott's approach will promote this. It is a book by a white person, who examines books about Indians that are almost entirely by white authors and illustrators, in a vacuum of history and complete absence of current social context. See longer review. Also contrast with THROUGH INDIAN EYES: THE NATIVE EXPERIENCE IN CHILDREN'S BOOKS. Reviewed by Paula Giese
THROUGH DAKOTA EYES: NARRATIVE ACCOUNTS OF THE MINNESOTA INDIAN WAR OF 1862; Edited by Gary Anderson and Alan Woolworth; Minnesota Historical Society, 345 Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1988, 316 pages, index, appendix of narratives, maps, black and white photos. $11.95 paperback, $24.95 hardcover. 0-87351-216-2
This book contains 36 narratives by Dakota full-bloods and mixed bloods which tell their views of causes and actions of the so-called Graeat Sioux Uprising of 1862, which led to the largest mass execution in U.S. history and the exiling of all Dakota people from Minnesota to the Dakotas and Nebraska. These narratives have been chosen from a total of 63 which are available. Selection was made to try to represent all factions among the Dakotas, as well as to provide the narratives of those few women who told of their experiences, and one Black mixed-blood. Many of the narratives were edited from some 800 pages of testimony at early 19th-century U.S. Court of Claims hearings.
The narratives are divided into 10 chapters: Causes of the Dakota War; The War Begins; Attack on the Redwood Agency; The War Bcomes General; Attack on the Yellow Medicine Agency; Gathering at Little Crow's Village; The Battles; Flight North and Emergence of the Peace Party; Wood Lake and Camp Release; The Final Days. Many of the narratives ar divided among these chapters. The editors have followed a sensible schema of putting "continued on page ___" at the ends of all sectioned narratives. The reader has the choice of reading the book "vertically" chapter-by-chapter (in roughly chronological order of the happenings narrated) or of following a single person's narrated experiences from beginning to end. It is a good idea to do both.
An introduction summarizes the history of the war, but says rather little about the treaties and actions of white traders and agents that led to it -- that's left to more conventional histories. Each chapter has a very brief introduction giving an overview of events narrated there, and how those fit into the larger picture. The book can be recommended to anyone with an interest in Dakota or Lakota -- the Plains descendants of the Dakota peoples -- history, or with the idea that by collecting mqny contemporary Native narratives, white histories can -- or could have -- been corrected. Reviewed by Paula Giese
THE WAY TO INDEPENDENCE: MEMORIES OF A HIDATSA INDIAN FAMILY, 1840-1920; Carolyn Gilman, Mary Lane Schneider et al; Minnesota Historical Society Press, 345 Kellogg Boulevard West, St Paul, MN 55102; 800-647-7827. 1987, 371 pages, paperback oversize, illustrations, color plates, drawings, maps, index, bibliography, guide to Wilson collections and archives. $14.95. 0-87351-209-X
This is one of the greatest illustrated history bargains I've ever seen. For teachers looking to put together a Native studies unit, its value is increased by the existence of colloquial lifestories from two members of the family -- Buffalo Bird Woman (there's also her garden and food memoir) and Goodbird, her son. There are other aspects which favor this, which is much more than just the catalog of a travelling Hidatsa exhibit that the Historical Society put together as a kind of centenary of the dstructive Dawes Allottment Act. To see why, why the book is so much more than an exhibition of objcts, and so much more suitable for those multicult ed courses than almost any others, we look toward the end of the book, with an eye on its title, The Way to Independence. Independence, it is drowned now.
When they visited North Dakota and met with Hidatsa people at the start of the project in 1985, Hidatsa elder Anson Baker told the MHS exhibit assemblers and principal authors of this book: "We always had a saying in our language. You could translate it as 'People determine your destiny.' And what that there is saying to us is 'You treat people right, they'll treat you right, they'll take care of you, they're the ones who make or break you.' I have got a lot of faith in the human race." Amazingly bighearted in the cirumstances of what the white U.S. government part of the human race has done to the 3 tribes (Hidatsa, Mandan, Arikara, who have all intermarried a lot.)
"I believe we are in the process of healing," Catherine Fox Harmon testified in 1986. "My sons, both teenagers, are encouragd by myself to return to their land and people. My objective now is to plan for my children and grandchildren. They in return will continue to negotiate the return of our lands."
This book beautifully documents a long past and points toward an uncertain future. As Catherine Harmon notes, the struggle for both survival and justice is not over for the people. Due to the early 20th century activities of Gilbert Wilson, it contains a large amount of material -- writings, photos, objects -- that were not saved by anyone else in conjunction with the countless academic and historical studies of Indian people.
Thus the Hidatasa people have a uniquely complete and valuable historical foundation, much of the story told by themselves. And of course the consistent government attacks on them, whenever they reach some new survival balance, are not only well-documented here, they are continuing. This book mentions coal only in passing: the dam drowned small surface outcroppings the people could easily dig for fuel, as well as drowing all the bottomland timber used for fuel and construction, and all the farmlands. The book does not mention that almost the entire reservation is underlain by a huge seam of coal called lignite, for which there have been plans made in the early 1970's to set up 35 huge gassification plants to covert it to gas for the benefit of more populous states, like Minnesota. Minnegasco is a participant in the government-sponsored scheme. At one point in the early 1970's, the prestigious U.S. National scretly advisd that the whole region, including further wet through the Black Hills and Powder Rivr country -- should be declared "A National Sacrifice Area," since land, air and water will be entirely ruined by it.
So in reading this beautiful book, it is not ancient, dead history, but that of continued life and continued attacks on that life, you learn about, and you learn that very much from the perspective of the people themselves. This has wider application than the Hidatsa clan whose several generations furnished much of the info on the older periods. That history, by extension, must stand for th countless tribs for whom no such documentation exists. To read what Wolf Chief -- the rare traditional fullblood lader who, in the 19th-century could read and write -- was writing to Washington, to look at the1954 picture of tribal chairman Gilette involuntarily weeping sourounded by hostile modern bureaucrats, as he is forced to sign the document they prepared for him to authorize the dam (that was already being built) is to understand by extension entire world views and feelings of highly intelligent peoples, for and of whom nothing like that was recorded by anyone. It is one small group, one small place, and all that is said is specific to those people, and yet it can (and must) stand for all the others who are voiceless, save formisrepresentations without life or reality in the academic and anthropological records of the white society, with their distortions, omissions.
Books similar to this one, but focussed only on art or craft objects and usually lacking any real Indian participation are often put out by prestigious museums selling for $30 - $60. This MHS book at $15 -- the price of many ordinary unillustrated, small paperbacks today -- is therefore one of the greater bargains going in Indian history, culture, art, and current issues. Because it so well documents not only historical but continuing attacks on Indian people, land, and culture, it is a far better source for multicultural education for white youth than the typical text: " Long ago they used to live in tipis, they made some nice-looking artwork, they were in tune with Mother Earth, plus they gave us corn," This typical approach presents Indian history and culture as dead, ancient specimens. A live history can foster understanding of what's actually still going on, and perhaps win the coming generations of Indian people some political allies other than ducks. Very highly recommended. Consider it given a 4-thumbs-ups, my thumbs making a sign-language gesture indicating you should order it right now. Get Goodbird's Story and Goodbird's sketches coloring book, from MHS while you're at it. See longer, illustrated review. Reviewed by Paula Giese
NIGHT FLYING WOMAN: AN OJIBWAY NARRATIVE, Ignatia Broker, Illustratd by Stephen Premo; Minnesota Historical Society, Orders: Dept. 121, 345 Kellog Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1983, 135 pages, index, black and whit illustrations, paperback, $8.50, 0-87351-167-0
Ignatia Broker, member of Minnesota's White Earth Ojibwe tribe who died in 1987, was a storyteller and local teacher in both the Ojibway tradition and modern schools. She was the founder of the Minnesota Indian Historical Society. She found school materials for true history, feeling, and values lacking, In addition to this, her masterpiece, she wrote booklets and teacher guides for the Minneapolis public schools and the Indian education program at Cass Lake Ojibwe reservation (her ancestral home), as well as authoring a filmstrip.
In this partly-fictionalized book, she tells the true life story of Nibowissegwe (Nicknamed Oona in her childhood), a great-great-grandmother to many Minnesota Ojibwe, born during a lunar eclipse at a time when white influence in Northern Minnesota was just beginning to manifest. When she's 5, Some of the clan group decides to move away from their forest homeland to the Rainy Lake area, where fur traders and trappers are disturbing the land much less than farmers and loggers. Oona's family goes with part of the group to the Nett Lake area.
"The forests have never failed the Ojibwe," her grandfather says, as they choose a new spot to settle. Oona grows up, learning from all who teach the lifstyles, customs and visions shared by the Anishnaabeg peoples. "We sustain our (Ojibwe) beliefs, and the beliefs sustain us. That is a circle. From seed to harvest, the life of the Ojibway is full, and it is sufficient. This is what must not be lost, and this is what you must tell my great grandchildren," Oona's own grandma tells her.
All too soon, a white man shows up with a paper that must be obeyed, rquiring the people to move to the Whie Earth reservation. It was government policy at that time -- the 1840's -- to move all northern midwest U.S. Indians there in a kind of concentration camp. They resume thir traditional life until anothr white man shows up with an order that the kids must all go to a school located in the main rservation village. The people don't want to move, and the alternative will be that the kids are taken from them and boarded. People knew of the sicknesses and most did not want to live in the white way. If the band doesn't move and the children are taken to board, Oona's grandfather points out that "If the children live in the school longhouse, they will never know our ways. Our strength will be lost. If we move close to the big village, the children will stay home at night and we can still teach them the old ways." The people decide to move to the village and remain close to their children.
There is more adoption of white ways. The big logging efforts are underway. Oona grows up, marries, and, by 1879, involved in white-style work in the new village environment, has little time to observe and meditate. Her husband works as a logger. Her children and grandchildren increasingly become involved in the news lifeways, and seem to lose interest in the old. When she is 80, she wonders if the new generation will care at all about the old beliefs, since no child has asked to learn them for a long time. There's a knock on the door, and a child says she wants "to hear the stories of our people." The book ends with Oona, giving her formal name, and starting to tell -- the story of this book.
Through Indian Eyes reviewers said "This beautiful book is a blessing, a gift, an antidote to all the poisonous lies about our past we have had to endure. It is full of courage and love. This is how it was." Very highly recommended for grades 6+ through adult. Reviewed by Paula Giese
THANKSGIVING: A NATIVE PERSPECTIVE, Doris Seale; Oyate, 2702 Mathews St; Berkeley, CA 94702; 510-848-6700. 1996, about 100 pages (unpaginated), maps Black and white drawings. $8. No ISBN
This book is a must have for every elementary teacher (espcially those at non-Indian schools) and most Middle school teachers as well. In almost all schools, elementary classes make a big thing of holidays -- with artwork and writing by the children posted all over, and various lessons and readings about the history of the holiday. Thanksgiving is generally related to American history, in a sacharine and superficial way. This book collects a number of authentic Native ceremonies, stories, and poems of thanks, presenting them in their own cultural contexts.
Also included are historical documents -- and this history isn't only of the 17th century. In 1970, 350 years after the Pilgrim landing, there was a celebration held at Plymouth by white people "still clinging to the myth of friendly relations between their forefathers and the Wampanoag". Frank James, a Wampanoag, was asked to speak at this celebration. The planners asked to see his speech in advance, and rejected it, because his speech was based on actual facts of history, not the myth of warm-hearted mutual friendship the sponsors wished to present -- the same myth that gets trotted out in most schools every year. James was told he could not deliver his own speech, and refused to give one written for him by a white PR man. The surpressed speech is here, 26 years late.
Why the friendly Pilgrims buddying it up with friendly Indians is a myth is explained in detail in many documents, including a group of materials prepared by Nanepashemet, historian of the Wampanoag Indian Program of Plimoth Plantation. A number of short historical documents recording indigenous perspectives on the settlers' invasions are included. So is the infamousEnglish report on the situation in the Virginia colony (1622) where it's said right up front: the settlers want the "savages'" land, not forest land they were given, because those so-called savages had already cleared and farmed it, saving a lot of work. So they plan to (and of course did) carry out various massacres, which settler men were legally required to participate in -- this report contains that plan.
Several articles prepared (usually with some kind of Native paritcipation) appeared in various periodicals in the late 1970's, sparked by bicentennial fervor and surviving interest in Indians awakened by the 1973 AIM occupation of Wounded Knee (In 1970, AIM leader Russell Means had led -- as a consciousness-raising confrontational exercise -- an Indian takeover of a replica of the Mayflower landing at Plymouth.)
These articles include "Why I'm not Thanksful for Thanksgiving," (Michael Dorris, Modoc, 1978); "Thre are Many Thanksgiving Stories to Tell," (Chuck Larsen et al, Washington State Department of Education, 1986); "Beyond Ten Little Indians and Turkeys: Alternative Approaches to Thanksgiving," (Patricia Ramsey, 1979). All of these articles appeared in obscure sources and are hard to find today.
"Thanksgiving: A New Perspective (and its implications for the Classroom)," (Dorothy Davids et al, Stockbridge-Munsee, Madison Metropolitan School District, 1977) is followed by a number of student research and activity projects, some suitable for K-5, saome for older students (or adults). The book ends with an Oyate-prepared series of pictorially-based exercises on denigratory stereotypes from ads, children's books, and other sources.
WILD RICE AND THE OJIBWAY PEOPLE, Thomas Vennum, Jr; Minnesota Historical Society Press, 345 Kellogg Boulevard West, St Paul, MN 55102; 800-647-7827. 1988, 358 pages, index, Ojibway glossary, bibliography, notes, photos, map. Hardbound,, $29.95; 0-87351-225-1;paper, $14.95 , 0-87351-226-X
Wild rice, mahnoomin in Ojibwe, or Zinzania aquatica in the scientific Latin of botanists, is a grain that grows in shallow lakes that have an outlet, so the water does not become stagnant, and along slow-flowing slough margins of some rivers in the Great Lakes region, and has been a tribal food staple -- the most important food -- for Anishinaabeg peoples in Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Canada. In the early fall, it bears plentiful grains which still are harvested from canoes poled through the standing reeds by -- traditionally -- a woman using two smooth, lightweight sticks called knockers. This method of harvest leaves enough reseeding grains to fall later, when the last of the head shatters. A few grains fall into the water when the stalks are pulled into the canoe with one stick, struck gently with the other. Traditionally, rice chiefs (now rice committees) observed the rice and declared when it was ready: ripe enough that the dying reeds would not be hurt by canoes crisscrossing the beds, but the stalks would spring back up to later deliver their remaining grains to the mud for the next year's crop. The rice officers traditionally oversaw the rice camps, making sure no one injured the rice. And the people gave thanks for it.
The rice was, and to traditional people still is, considered a gift of the spirits, woven into Ojibwe culture through legends, ceremonies and the fact that this grain was the staple food of life, the central fact of Anishinaabeg peoples' existence. Harvest was a time when families of a band who riced the same lake came together for work, hunting wildfowl who were gorging on the rice to fatten up for their journey south, fish, and for socializing beefore the long winter, when the group disbanded into smaller family units who could support themselves on the winter hunting of a particular woods range.
It is richer in nutrients than all cultivated grains, when prepared by drying, parching and husking. Caches of the grain can last for years, and the grain will rmain viable. Discovered by tourist-hunters, the wild rice became a favored gourmet food, so selling some the harvest also became a means of obtaining small amounts of cash, to buy the various white man's goods that have become necessary in the years since the 1700's, and as a cash crop, too, for relatives who meet their families at the ricing beds, up from the city for the annual fall ricing, to get some food for the city winter, and some cash for the winter hard times.
Vennum's book is divided into 8 sections: The plant (its environment and sensitivities not only to air and water pollution but to water level changes such as are caused by dams), rice as a food (nutritional values, preparation, cooking, and how the rice supported the intrusion of the fur traders); in legend and ceremony (how the rice is central to the culture and identity of the peoples who depended on it); methods and social life of the traditional harvest; the rice camps and the society they were part of. The last three chapters of the book -- the economics, the law, and the future -- take rice into the second half of the 20th century. World War II was the beginning of the end for these ancient traditions. The young men,were away at war, whose strength was so important in the traditional method of hulling, where the rice is "jigged" or danced-on very lightly with a turned foot and grinding motion, in a lined pit. Older men, clever mechanics, began to devise clever improvised machinery for threshing that used paddles in barrels, turned by power takeoffs from old cars or trucks. This change introduces a massive invasion, discussed in the final chapters on economics, law and the future.
Vennum's book is, in a way, a funeral oration , modern-style. He ends "While these signs of change and suggestions for improvement [in land and water governmental management] are promising, they do not address the immediate, fundamental economic problem: to what extent and by what mans can the Ojibway expect to reap financial reward from their wild rice crop?" Tribal spokespeople have suggested making the entirety of ricing (including paddy growing) an Indian-controlled industry. This sems unlikely, it has already gone out of control. In the preface to a book containing info about the scientific studies and agriculture, one writer says "To take the attitude of some sociologists and welfare agents that 'the rice should be left to the Indian' is to close one's eyes to facts....To curb th trend [to massive capitalist industrializing] by stubborn, lethargic do-nothingness will be to lose the business to another state with vision and will to prosper its agricultural community. If the Indian is to be raised to equality and respectability and become a self-supporting part of the Minnesota economy, it is criminal neglect to let him waste his heritage and make no effort to better the one economic heritage that is uniquely his."
With racist scientists, economists, and politicians whose views and actions are summarized in that statement, all firmly in the camp of multinational, hugely capitalized food industry, the economics of this unique heritage is gone already, betterment, so-called has once again come by theft. "For cultural reasona alone, the Ojibway pople will probably never give up ricing willingly," Vennum concludes, after having pointed out that the traditional beds are threatened by everything from dams to environmental pollution (fertilizer runoff, acid rain) to a huge mining enterprise near the Mole Lake, Wisconsin, Ojibwe rez.
"We have a deep feeling of satisfaction and gratitude as we sack up the rice again toward evening....I often wonder what my children will do whn the rice is gone forever. What will take its place when this last tradition is gone?" These words from Norma Smith of Mole Lake [ricebeds there are threatened by proposed mining effluents] end the book. For now, Ojibwe people living on reservations and in the cities might take their kids from school for a few days of traditional ricing. Hand-harvested rice is used in feasts and ceremonies. But this is an act of educational cultural preservation, it no longer a vital and delightful part of everyday life.
See longer review-essay. You can find out more about wild rice -- its traditions, its history, harvesting and processing traditionally, legends, and recipes, here at my web unit on Traditional Food, Health and Nutrition. See also review of The Sacred Harvest: Ojibwe Wild Rice Gathering, for Middle school reading level. Reviewed by Paula Giese
OJIBWE MUSIC FROM MINNESOTA: A CENTURY OF SONG FOR VOICE AND DRUM, Tape and 16-page booklet, Thomas Vennum, Jr. and various singers; Minnesota Historical Society, Orders: Dept. 121, 345 Kellog Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; 1989, 16 page booklet, oversize, 2-sided cassette tape; C-003, $9.95
Venum's booklet is a paperbound reprint of OJIBWE MUSIC FROM MINNESOTA: CONTINUITY AND CHANGE, sponsored by the Minnesota Historical Society and State Arts Board. The booklet provides a general intro to Indian music, focussing on Ojibwe. There's a brief discussion of the unique recordings and transcriptions of hundreds of songs collected in the early 20th century by ethnologist Frances Densmore, using early recording techniques. The tape contains some music over a century by various Minnesota Ojibwe singers, and a lot of music sung (and explained) at a 1988 competition powwow held in northern Minnesota. Vennum provides very brief translations (not transcriptions) of the meaningful words that form themes of the older songs, and points out that younger drum groups don't know thje language or the song meanings, often singing just "vocables". Most interesting is a comparison on a dream song by Kimiwun, recordd in 1910 by Densmore at Ponemah on the Red Lake rez, in contrast to its current version by the Ponemah singers. The booklet-tape combination makes a fine intro to Native music -- a must-have for any school with substantial Ojibwe population, but also suitable for non-Indian schools as providing something more for teachers and students than merely the sound of drums or flutes and incomprehensible words. Vennum's booklet places native music in two contexts: the earlier where it has many functions of Native people for themselves (Dream Songs, Mocassin Game Songs, Story Songs, Love Songs), and the later, where powwows have come to be commercial events highly influenced by competition dancing and the prize money. Not covered are medicine songs of the Midewiwin lodge, of which Densmore recorded hundreds in the primitive technology of the day, but also provided scored transcriptions, from which simple songs might be recovered when the wax cylinders are missing or unplayable. The tape-booklet combo is very highly recommended. Reviewed by Paula Giese
WHAT DOES THIS AWL MEAN? FEMINIST ARCHAEOLOGY AT A WAHPETON DAKOTA VILLAGE, Janet D. Spector; Minnesota Historical Society Press, 345 Kellogg Boulevard West, St Paul, MN 55102; 800-647-7827. 1993. 161 Pages, paperback, index, bibliography, tables of artifacts and plant/animal tables, maps, color and black and white illustrations. $15.95. 0-87351-278-2
One thing that awl means is that involving knowledgeable Indian people to work with archaeologists -- sharing power with them as Spector described it when I called her, after reading this book -- is a better way to learn a lot more about the actual lives of the people whose old village sites are being examined than any other, absent a time machine. Spector -- an archaeologist at the University of Minnesota, who is currently in New Mexico -- was inspired to seek such help because of her increasing dissatisfaction with the methods and results of her science. She'd been educated to think that "archaeologists apparently considered artifact classification more important than the people who had made the tools, about whom very little was said....Neither professors of archaeology nor texts suggsted that we might get closer to these [ancient] people by studying contemporary Indian languages, religions or philosophies." Spector found that the methods of study focused on men's roles in ancient societies, tending to ignore or minimize women's work and lives, When she came to Minnesota she became interested in the site of a 19th-century Wahpeton Dakota village, Little Rapids, not far from the Twin Cities. She was not itnerested in disturbing graves (there are some burial mounts south of the village site), but to discover lifestyles, and how they connect with history. She made efforts to involve knowledgeable local Dakota people in a dig at this site. Talking to Chris Cavender (Upper Sioux reservation Granite Falls), she mentioned that written records showed Manzomani (Iron Walker) had been one of the village leaders, who had lived there with his family.
Chris said nothing right then, until he had consulted with his family. He then asked to visit the site with Spector. Only then did he tell her that he was descended from Mazomani. Mazonmani and his wife Hazawin (Blueberry woman) had a daughter, Mazaokiyewin (Woman who Talks to Iron). Also known as Isabel Archer, she was exiled from Minnesota with all the Dakota people after the unsuccessful Dakota rebellion of 1862, but later returned to live at the Upper Sioux reservation near Granite Falls. Her grandaughters are Elsie Cavender (Chris's mother, who died in 1991) and Carrie Schommer, recently retired as a Dakota language instructor at the University of Minnesota, Chris's aunt. Through these relationships the project at Inyan Cheyaka Atonwan (Little Rapids Village on the Minnesota river) became very different, from a conventional dig. Supplemented by active involvement of thes Dakota people, the awl (and much lse of course) gave unexpected answers to that question of the book's title. The answers are a story. You may read a sketch of it, and how it grew, in my longer review.
I give this book a very high recommendation -- in my longer review, you'll see why it made me so thoughtful. It outlines a new and different way to reconstruct a past, which has been skewed in the service of an existing power structure, and deprived of all life, color, and interest by the character of the male academics who dominate it, who define what their science will and will not recognize. As a bonus, an interesting story reconstructs an entirely different picture of traditional Dakota life than you probably yourself hold. It helps to show why the common (false) picture is a kind of propaganda, a self-justifying history that self-justifies the land-taking.. An interesting supplement to this book is the Minnesota Historical Society's DAKOTA INDIANS COLORING BOOK. Its drawings -- much more elaborate than the usual children's coloring book outlines -- show the Dakota seasonal round, centering on food and and some recreation. This accurate portrayal preceded the discoveries outlined in Spector's book by almost a decade. It complements and illustrates many details. Advisors and authors of the Dakota captions were 4 women -- including elder Elsie Cavender -- of the Wahpeton Dakota family whose memories were so important in understanding the daily life of some 350 Wahpetonwan who lived in Little Rapids from about 1810 until in 1851,when they were removed, and the site was platted for a white town that never materialized. These Dakota women were concerned to preserve their memories in a form that might be used in spite of the very racist rural white schools to which their children had to be sent, The two books -- the little one, which is an accurate, detailed reconstruction pictorially of the life and the one which is by turns a story, a philosophy, a history, and an exposition of some methods of a science -- both of them so strongly influenced by peopl (especially older women) of the same Dakota family -- make an astonishingly good combination. Reviewed by Paula Giese
RESERVATION BLUES, Sherman Alexie, Atlantic Monthly Press, 841 Broadway,New York, NY 10003-4793, (800) 521-0178, (212) 614-7886 FAX.; 320 pp., $21.00 cloth. 0-87133-594-9
"Hello," the white men said. "We're Phil Sheridan and George Wright from Cavalry Records in New York City. We've come to talk to you about a recording contract."
Sherman Alexie's first novel opens on a note that's actually a chord: resonating with both humor and sadness. When resurrected blues guitarist Robert Johnson stumbles onto the Spokane Indian Reservation in eastern Washington, he tells Thomas-Builds-the-Fire he's been looking for (and dreaming about) a big woman who rides a horse, sings songs, can make his hands play the guitar again, and save him from "The Gentleman." The only person Thomas can think of is Big Mom, a mysterious and powerful woman who lives on the top of Wellpinit Mountain. Thomas gives Johnson a ride to the base of the mountain, lets him out, and watches him disappear up the mountain. It's then that he discovers that Johnson has left his guitar behind. Thomas picks it up and hits the strings, playing the first notes of the "Reservation Blues."
Those who have read Alexie's book of short stories, The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (1993), will be familiar with Thomas, snubbed tribal storyteller, and his two friends, arrogant Victor Joseph and his backward sidekick Junior Polatkin. In his new novel, Alexie continues his story of the three, who find that possessing the guitar endows them with sudden talent, which they put to immediate use by forming an all-Indian rock and blues band (accompanied by Chess and Checkers, sisters from the Flathead Reservation who sing backup) named Coyote Springs. Without being accused of providing a synopsis instead of a review, I can say that most of the book relates the band's quest for gigs and a recording contract.
Along the way, Alexie reflects on the many contradictions of Indian life, many related in dreams or drunken reveries: commodity food and 7-11 stores; Catholicism, Christianity and ancient wisdom; the Indian Health Service (on the Spokane Reservation, they only give out dental floss and condoms), traditional medicine and Spokane Hospitals; mysticism and New-Age wannabes, in a brilliant blend of heartbreak and comedy. These incongruities, despite the occasional crossing over into caricature (especially unstable Michael White Hawk who spends his days marching around the bases of the local softball field), express a poetic candor and are interpreted with a fresh awareness that is far beyond Alexie's twenty-eight years. Grade: A-
Also by Alexie: First Indian on the Moon (literary collection, 1993), The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven (short stories, 1993), Old Shirts and New Skins (poetry, 1993), The Business of Fancydancing (stories and poems, 1992) Reviewed by Steve Brock
See Long Reviews and some controversy about RezBlues from 3 Native people
Books by Sherman Alexie available from Amazon.com.
LOOK TO THE MOUNTAIN: AN ECOLOGY OF INDIGENOUS EDUCATION, Gregory Cajete, Kivaki Press, 585 E. 31st, Durango, CO 81301, 800-578-5904, 1994, 243 pp, paperback, $17, 1-882308-65-4
An Indian perspective on education, that emphasizes how environmental and ecological education might relate to students' lives (and thir lives to the world of nature), Cajete proposes extensions to a traditional model to make education more meaningful and useful for Indian youth, integrating education more fully into the lives of children, families, cultures. Cajete feels that storytelling is one of the most fundamental human activitie, providing a context of all sorts of info that makes it meanigful. Interesting proposals from a respected Native educator, who has ideas for putting them into effect in today's native schools or with Indians students in public schools. Cajete has little or nothing to say about Native education relevant to my #1 choice immediately below. Reviewed by Paula Giese
IN THE SPIRIT OF CRAZY HORSE, Peter Matthiessen, Viking Press, 40 West 23rd Street, New York, NY 10010; 1983 (supressed), 1992, 627 pages, index, chapter notes, 0-670-39702-4. Availabl in reissued paperback, 645 pages, $15 from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241
I'm reviewing the original hardcover edition, which was supressed for 10 years by lawsuits conducted by former S.D. governor William Janklow (who didn't like what Matthiessen quoted Indian people -- and legal proceedings -- as saying about him), and FBI agent David Price. Like most people (who are aware of legal fees for this sort of thing) I believe these legal surpressions were financed by the U.S. government.
Why this was done was expressed by Leonard Peltier, perhaps the best-known longtime U.S. political prisoner: Matthiessen is a very good writer, who can not only marshall the complex facts of history, Indian activism, and the Peltier case, but imbue them with the life and literary expertise of a fine professional writer. He is perhaps the only real pro to have tackled such a task from the viewpoint of Native people, sovereignty, injustice with such success. At the time the book was surpressed, it likely would have mustered a great deal of support for Peltier's release. In a review here, I really have nothing to say except: (1) Every Indian person should own a family copy of this book, as should any non-Indians who porofess any sort of interest in "Native Americans". (2) I was shocked to find that none of the academic, University "Native American Studies" profs listed it as one of the 10 books they would use to teach their courses if they had to pick their top 10. (4) Nor does AISES offer it. Hard to find in bookstores, too. So it appears as if there's still a sort of academic conspiracy of silence.
The second edition, released in paperback as well as hardcover after the long-fought lawsuits -- financed (on the book's side) mainly by Viking -- had been won contains the original, plus some updates: the story of the lawsuits, and the famous Matthiessen interview of the masked Indian guy who says he was the actually killer of the 2 FBI men at Oglala (a confession which has had no effect on Peltier's status). You can also read here a long review essay which compares the info in this book to info in several others; it appeared anonymously in Akwesasne Notes in 1984. Then go out and buy that book for your family, your school, and yes, your students, all of them who are wannabe-interested in Native spirituality or whatever it is that makes them take your academic courses. This book is living history, and it is literature, too, due to the skills of its author. I find it astonishing that it is not carried by AISES Books (the reasons can only be political) and used in eevery Intro to NAtive American Studies. Get it, read it, keep it, give it as gifts to those who should have one. That's all I have to say about this essential book. Not-reviewed-by Paula Giese See longer review by Leonard Peltierfile: ad502
IF YOU POISON US: URAMIUM AND NATIVE AMERICANS, Peter H. Eichstaedt, Red Crane Books, 2008 Rosina Street, Suite B, Santa Fe, NM, 87505, 1994. 263 pages, source notes, index, bibliography, map, photos. $19.95 hardcover, 1-878610-40-6
It is astonishing and disheartening that AISES (American Indian Science and Engineering Soceity) does not carry this book, which should be read by every Native student, and certainly sponsored by such an organization as AISES. It is published by a small company, not easy to find. The book tells about what Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh calls " the story of a far greater massacre than Wounded Knee, albeit a technical, medical, and ultimately legal massacre afflicting the Navajo Nation and inflicted by the federal govrnment. It is another tragfedy of the nuclear age, crying to heaven for justice." Actually, it afflicts the Hopi and several pueblos as well, and since the uranium mine and mill tailings and other radioactive environmental disasters are timebombs active for tens of thousands of years, just who may be ultimately affected in the southwest is not presently clear. Basically all who depend on the acquifers and rivers that pass through the very large area -- with Indians in the front lines, and Navajos making up the majority of those already dead and dying. The uranium boom, and the deaths and long-lasting environmental hazards, were created entirely by the U.S. government, which wanted tyhe uranium for weapons of mass destruction, was the only customer, and was the sole guarantor of safety for the workers.Some 1200 uramium mines were dug on and around the Navajo reservation, using mainly Navajo miners for the most hazardous and low-paying work. In addition to miners who died or can expect to, the rservation is left with a variety of expensive and hazardous results of the now-abandoned mine projects, and since radioactive materials also can leach down to the water table, the possible affects can't really be foretold. See longer review. Reviewed by Paula Giese
THE LIFE AND DEATH OF ANNA MAE AQUASH, Johanna Brand, second ed. 1993 (original, 1978), James Lorimer and Company, Publishers, Egerton Ryerson Memorial Bldg, 35 Britain St., Toronto, Ont, Canada, M5A 1R7, paperback, $14.95 US, $19.95 Can. 172 pp, source notes, photos, forword by Warren Allemand MP, chronology, map. 1-55028-422-3
Here's another book -- long unavailable after supplies of the original were exhausted, and never well-distributed in the U.S. -- that not a single NA Studies academic mentioned on their top 10 essential books list. Anna Mae Pictou Acquash was a Canadian Micmac woman who became active in the cause of Indian rights and was murdered by the U.S. government in early 1976. For the short time I knew her I considered her a good friend and a brilliant person. Apparently others -- officials -- considered her from the point of view that she was a threat to entrenched interests. The FBI's entire file on her and on whatever they call investigation of her killing remains in Minneapolis, inaccessible to Freedom of Information attempts, because, the FBI says, they're still investigating. Of course they're not, they're preventing any clues which might slip through whatever purging they gave those old files from getting into the hands of someone who might use such info to identify the killers. There have ben some attempts to force a reopening of the investigation, but in my opinion, if the government arrested someone, thir case against such a person would most likely be a frameup of someone they still considered a threatening Indian leader today.
Brand (who was a researcher for CBC in the 1970's) is nowhere near the writer that Matthiessen is, so this book does not qualify as litrachoor, only history -- history of a woman who was assassinated by the U.S. government, which also covered it up afterwards. Many of the same events are coverd ( in less detail) as in Matthiessen's book as regards the "incident at Oglala" but Johanna (and Mohawk Shirley Hill Witt, who wrote an eulogy for her after her death) are the only ones to try to show Anna Mae alive, as a person, from her early life to what led her into the activism, and an intellectual leadership, which caused her to be targeted and killed. Anna Mae's sister, Becky Julian, writes in a 1993 afterword: "I believe that the knowledge Anna Mae accumulated did in fact lead to her execution-style killing...The courage and spirit that my sister Anna showed should be brought out in each of us.". So maybe even if the NA Studies profs don't think this is an important book and you can't find it in your campus bookstore, you'll get it anyway. It can be ordered through Native Book Centre. This is another one that should be read by every Indian person. Wouldn't hurt any white people, either, except those with blind faith in their governments. Reviewed by Paula Giese
I, RIGOBERTA MENCHU, AN INDIAN WOMAN IN GUATEMALA, by Rigoberta Menchu Tum, edited and translated by Elizabeth Burgos-Debray, Routledge, Chapman and Hall, 29 West 345th St. New York, NY 1009, 212-244-3336; 1983, 251 pp, reissued paperback $17.
This book, written when she was 23 and translated into more than 17 languages, probably is mainly what won Rigoberta the Nobel Peace Prize in 1992, the World Year of Indigenous peoples. It's another one no NA Studies professorial type thought to include among the 10 essential books they would expose their college students to. Here's a short reviewwritten a few years sometime before she received Nobel and the world spotlight that came with that:
In first-person narrative, 23-year-old Rigoberta Menchu describes her relationship with nature, life, death and her community (Mayan people), and rveals the cultural descrimination and genocide waged against Guatemalan Indian tribes today. In large part this is the story of all the indigenous peoples of the Americas. But it's also deeply personal, a gift of a human voice that whispers sacross the immense gap between the nature-based society of the Quiche Indians and our modern capitalistic societies. If you think you have time to read only one book about central America, read this one, because it will demand of you to read (and do) more. -- Jeanne Carstensen, writing in Whole Earth Review
Even if the Native American Studies profs didn't think so I think it should be on your top 10 list of Native books. Every person who wants to be considered educated should read it. It is written clearly and with strong emotion, so although it is an adult book, it can be read by grades 8+. It belongs in every school library.
You can read a bit more about and by Rigoberta -- including a trendy web tout service that disses her -- on MayaPages here. In addition to my links to all the websites that cover long-dead Mayan ruins, there's a speech by Rigoberta (which Point Communications considered "shrill and huffy"), and a very few websites that deal with the wars being conducted against Mayan people today in Guatemala and Mexico. Though NA Studies profs don't consider it literature (unlike the Nobel Prize committee), and not many bookstores carry it, you can get it through the AISES, at least. It's not clear who added the dumb subtitle "An Indian Woman in Guatemala". That's where she grew up, and where her family was tortured and murdered, but she made a lot of contacts and explored values, cultures (and genocides) among tribal peoples of Central American, and with some AIM people she met when she was a refugee, at 17 (when it was no longer safe -- as it's never been since -- for her to be in Guatemala). Although there have been governmental assassination attempts on her in many lands, she's the genociders' top target. Reviewed by Paula Giese
HOUSE MADE OF DAWN, by N. Scott Momaday, Harper and Row, NY, 1968, 191 pp.
Momaday, a Kiowa, was raised in the southwest. This novel, his first, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1969 -- the first by an Indian writer.
The story of Abel, a Pueblo youth raised traditionally in the self-contained world with its meaningful customs, sacred events -- and the boredom that leaves him envying eagles and longing to fly away himself -- is told by an interleaving of disconnected interior monologues from a variety of characters, full of flashacks, forwards, and side glances. To figure out plot and events, we have to fit these monologues together like a puzzle. In the end certain key pieces are left missing, a mystery that keeps the story always before the reader's own inner eye, turning in the circle which is its basic structure.
The book starts with a "now";which is sometime in the early winter of 1952. The distantly-seen figure of Abel, smeared with ash, is running a sacred endurance race. At the very end of the book, Abel's grandfather has just died -- running off in that same race, where he excelled as a young man, beyond his pain of illness and age, chasing the dark shadow-figure of death. After Abel has prepared his body for burial, he goes out in the snowy dawn to join the blackened runners, who may be metaphoric, imaginary. Abel's run to me meant survival of the people and their culture, despite the hard times of Termination and Relocation, which have just started. Yet there is also an implication Abel will run into the shadows beyond his own pain -- drink himself to death.
Literary reviewers described the book as the story of a post-war Indian man's "descent to hell" caused by his war years away from timeless beauties of his tribe and his exposure to a senseless and violent alien culture. In this view, Abel is modeled on Pima Ira Hayes, a war hero who was a drunk on his return and drowned in 2 inches of water. That's an oversimplification. But it is much more than that. The vividly conveyed (but ultimately impenetrable) human mysteries, and set-piece visual images, give the book most of its power.
None of its force has been lost over 30 years. House Made of Dawn is -- for its groundbreaking form and its enduring power -- the most important literary work by a Native writer to date. It is a classic. No person of any culture can claim to be educated who has not read and pondered it. See longer review.
Advanced high school students can follow it, the passages themselves are not difficult reading. For those not experienced with complex literary form, teacher help with the time scheme will be required. Reviewed by Paula Giese
Books by N. Scott Momaday available from Amazon.com.
BUFFALO BIRD WOMAN'S GARDEN: AGRICULTURE OF THE HIDATSA INDIANS, Gilbert L. Wilson, with a new introduction by Jeffrey R. Hanson, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul,1917, 1987. 129 pages, photos, maps, diagrams.paperback $8. 0-87351-219-7
Wilson was an anthropologist. This book is his University of Minnesota PhD thesis. Unlike most such it is absorbing reading. Representing years in the early 1900's spent with the Hidatsa people now living at Fort Berthold, and a particularly close relationship to the old lady identified at Buffalo Bird Woman, and in other works Waheenee and Owl Woman, this fascinating book reads like a combination gardener's and cook's How2, as the old lady speaks for herself. Tools and structures used in the planting, cultivation harvest, processing, storage, and cooking are shown in small, clear drawings. She tells of the entire year's round.
I couldn't put this book down, it completely fascinated me. I got a better picture of real, daily traditional community life here than from just about anything else I've read. It's more like a How2 book than an anthropology book. Wilson spent many years in the early 1900's with the Hidatsa people. I hope to see some of his other writings, too. Though this is reviewed in the adult book section, it's very easy to read; I think highschool Native youth will like it, especially girls. See longer review Reviewed by Paula Giese
BLACK ELK SPEAKS: BEING THE LIFE STORY OF A HOLY MAN OF THE OGLALA SIOUX, as told through John G. Neihardt, Bison Book, University of Nebraska Press, 800-755-1105. Available from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241. 1932, 1961. 281 pp., 0-8032-5141-6. $9.95
Neihardt was an epic poet whose turgid epics of the West and Indians are all but unreadable today. But in researching for his long poem Twilight of the Sioux he visited Pine Ridge reservation in 1930, wanting to meet a "Medicine Man" who had been active in the Ghost Dance movement of the 1880's. He was introduced to Black Elk. Sensing that a poet was a different kind of writer from reporters or anthros who had bothered him unsuccessfully before, Black Elk began to recount his life, and emphasized certain dreams and one great vision he had had as a young man. Later, he adopted Neihardt, and gave him the name Flaming Rainbow, which came from one of his major visions, the one he felt he had failed to fulfill in his life, but perhaps could pass on for the future, via Neihardt's book.
Neihardt corresponded with Black Elk through his son Ben, and returned in May of 1931, where he was graciously received. The resulting book describes Black Elk;s traditional boyhood, his great vision, several famous battles including Custer at Little Bighorn, ending with the massacre at Wounded Knee:
"I did not know then how much was ended. When I look back now from the high hill of my old age, I can still see the butchered women lying heaped and scattered all along th crooked gulch. And I can see that something else died there in the bloody mud in was buried in the blizzard. A people's dream died there. It was a beautiful dream." At the very end, Neihardt accompanies Black Elk to th top of sacrerd Harney Peak in the Black Hills, where the old man prays, crying that he has failed to fullfil his vision and make the white tree bloom. "Hear me in my sorrow, for I may never call again. O make my people live!"
Black Elk's prayer was heard and answered. This book, this record, this prayer, became the seed of a rebirth of Lakota spiritual life and ways, and was the strongest culture-bearing influence on a younger generation from many tribes.
This book is recommended to all native persons of any age who have not yet read it. It has played a most important role, sparking a cultural revival, in the history of all Native Nations, especially but not only of the Oglala Lakota Oyate. Though the ceremonies and rituals and some of the stories recounted are specific to Lakota history and traditions, it nevertheless speaks to the hearts of everyone. Its aftermath, after Black Elk's death, speaks to the spirit: Visions have practical survival value is what this book says, in its content, in its despairing ending prayer, and in its 2-generations-later history which I have sketched in the longer review here. Reviewed by Paula Giese
SIXTH GRANDFATHER: ORIGINAL TRANSCRIPTS OF BLACK ELK, edited by Raymond DeMaillie, John G. Neihardt, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 452 pp, $12.95. Available from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241
These are the transcripts of Neihardt's listening to Black Elk, in the 1930's. They became the basis for the books Black Elk Speaks ( see review) and When the White Tree Flowered a memoir of 19th century life of Plains Lakota at its height. Perhaps the transcripts are of most interest to research specialists, yet I feel that many native people to whom Black Elk's words are precious will want this relatively unfiltered version too. Reviewed by Paula Giese
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BLACK ELK: HOLY MAN OF THE OGLALA by Michael F. Steltenkamp. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Ave., Norman, OK 73019, (800) 627-7377, (405) 325-5000 FAX. Illustrated, index, notes,bibliography, maps. 235 pp., $19.95 cloth. 0-8061-2541-1
This book departs from those that primarily investigate Black Elk's early life. Instead, Steltenkamp, using information obtained from Black Elk's daughter Lucy Looks Twice, analyzes Black Elk's later years, his conversion to the Catholic religion, his attempts to minister to members of his tribe, and the use of the "Two Roads Map" as a catechist (good behavior is the "red road," evil acts are the "black road"). He concludes that Black Elk retained the "power to live" well into his later years, challenging his peers to act responsibly. Combined with "Black Elk Speaks," and "The Sacred Pipe," the entire life of Black Elk is now illuminated. Though this book will not be highly regarded by Lakota traditionals, it is recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
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Because of the great importance for Native cultural revival of Black Elk and his book it would be good if thre were a sensitively-done, beautifully-illustrated version for children. There is a children's book, but unfortunatly, Native reviewers have thought it is poorly done. See review of BLACK ELK: A MAN WITH A VISION
THE SEVEN VISIONS OF BULL LODGE AS TOLD BY HIS DAUGHTER GARTER SNAKE, gathered by Fred Gone, edited by George Horse Capture. Originally published by Bear Claw Press, Ann Arbor: 1980; paperback reprint University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1992. 125 pages, preface, map. $8.95. 0-8032-7256-1
The story of the recovery of this important book is in a way as fascinating as the story of A'aninin (Gros Ventre) spiritual leader Buffalo Bull Lodge (1802-1886) told by his daughter, the Pipe Child, Garter Snake (1868 - 1953). Trying to retrieve a destroyed history, Horse Capture found a reference to a 1930's WPA Writers project, in which tribal member Fred Gone had been supported as a writer to record the history of the last pipe keeper, Bull Lodge, as told by his daughter before her death at 86. Bull Lodge was a well-known healer, and the last sacred powers keeper of the feathered Pipe of the tribe. Although he was a noted warrior and political figure, this book is his story of a life devoted to the sacred. It is told, gathered, and edited by Native people of the tribe, an excellent model of what can be done by Native people working together, even when th work is done decades apart. The book is highly recommended; its purchase will help to rebuild the nearly-destroyed Gros Ventre or A'aninin culture, but it is also a well-assembled, unified story of a spiritually interesting life, authentically told by Native people for Native people. See long review Reviewed by Paula Giese
TO BE AN INDIAN: AN ORAL HISTORY, Edited by Josph H. Cash and Herbert T. Hoover; Minnesota Historical Society, 345 Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827; Minnesota Historical Society, 345 Kellogg Boulevard, St. Paul, MN 55102, 800-647-7827
This is a Borealis reprint -- some 25 years after its original publication -- of a collection made in the late 1960's of oral narratives from (mostly) elders who then were in their 70's and 80's. They are from reservations in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming -- but mostly in the Dakotas and Minnesota. The collectors were from the University of South Dakota, and the Native American oral history project was one of sevral financed by wealthy recluse Doris Duke.
The book is divided into sections (often splitting on person's narratived to several sections) titled Things that Guide the People; Reservation Life; Depression, War and Revival of Self-Government; Today and Tomorrow. The first chapter is fairly pedestrian, often a repeat of legends or bits of history much-recorded elsewhere, such as was remembered in the late 1960's, i.e. there are earlier records by Indian people closer to the events and the older culture. Much mor interesting -- to someone familiar with a literature of earlier collections -- are the recollections of the politics of the 1930's and 1940's, often seen through the eyes of representatives of different factions and of tribal people employed by the BIA. Thw collected narratives of this book end with a few speeches by younger activists such as Lehman Brightman. These don't really predict the decade of turmoil and occupations of buildings, Alcatraz, Wounded Knee and many other sites, that eventually led to a recognition of a dilute form of sovereignty. Leadership of those struggles came almost entirely from younger Indians who were living in cities, though they were attempting to return to reservation roots.
The collection is unique and gives an interesting perspective -- particularly about Native feelings concerning the New Deal, the Indian Re-organization Act, and the politics of the Depression and post-world War II period. Several interesting photo-essays have been added by Minnesota Historical Society editors in this paperback reprint. The collection is descvribed as focussing on "individual concerns of Indian identity" but it does not actually seem to me to do that. The recollections of the people interviewed provide more a portrait of a way of life on reservations, as it was just before a serious struggle for sovereignty and better lives was undertaken. The sampling is fairly broad, and a diversity of opinions and memories ar presented. The MHS presents it as a valuable source for college Native American Studies courses, and so it contiues to be. It may also be a source of teacher background material on recent history for many central reservations -- all of largr, more isolated ones, outside the southwest. Reviewed by Paula Giese
FIRESTICKS: A COLLECTION OF STORIES by Diane Glancy. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Avenue, Norman, OK 73019. 142 pp., $19.95 cloth. 0-8061-2490-3
Volume five in the American Indian Literature and Cultural Studies series, this small book is big on drama. Woven into various narrative styles are stories of the difficulties of being a mixed-blood - an outcast from both cultures searching for an identity, dreams of traveling easily as the U.S. mail, training a cat not to scratch the furniture, and the title story of Turle and Navaron, seeking comfort with words that are "firesticks finding their way through the dark." A bittersweet account, grounded in reality. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock. See Long evaluative review by Marianna Wright
Books by Diane Glancy available from Amazon.com.
INDIAN GIVERS: HOW INDIANS TRANSFORMED THE WORLD (VOL 1 OF A 2-BOOK SET), Crown Publishers, 1989, 260 pp, paperback, $9
Contributions of indigenous peoples of the western hemisphere to the world: agriculture, medicine, architecture, science. Most importantly. Weatherford shows the large amounts of (gold) extracted by several European countries at the start of their exploitations provided the substantial excesses monies -- surplus wealth -- that financed the transformation of European societies from craft-and-fief oriented to capitalistic, large enterprises, bank financing, the growth of a bourgeois middle class economy. Slave labor -- Indians were among the slaves -- financed the growth of America (treated in Vol 2) but monetary metals extracted from Mexico, central and South America financied the growth of Europe. This analysis is probably the more important contribution of this volume; however, the contributions of Western hemisphere vegetables to the growth of substantial European mass agriculture, which in turn supported both population and urban growth, and other effects on history, are also examined. In England, for example, the Enclosure Act, which forced huge numbers of small farmers off their traditional small-farm lands, poastures and villages (a commons) to enclose huge farmlands for th noblemen led to mass emigration to America, as well as settlement in London and the industrial north as disdpossed workingmen in the new factories. Ironically, these were corn laws, it was corn from America that could readily be farmed on these huge enclosures. Review Note by Paula Giese, see combined review vols 1, 2
NATIVE ROOTS: HOW INDIANS ENRICHED AMERICA, Jack Weatherford, Crown Publishers, 1990, 285 pp paperback, $10.
This is volume 2 of Weatherford's compilation and analysis of Native America's contributions to both the growth of modern European economioes and the formation of America (mostly the U.S., though there is some Canadian material). As vol. 1 focussed outward, to what Europe gained, vol. 2 focusses inward. Perhaps the most important aspect of what was gained is philosophical, political: the concept of "United states" and later of "United Nations" which came from the Haudenosee (Iroquois) League. The very idea was foreign to Europe and the orient: a stat3 or nation assimilated others by conquest. There were empires, and pacts (for musutal defense) among indpendent states, but not confederated governments, that left local concerns to the component states and governned by federation for overarching concerns of all. As with Vol 1, this book contains much else, ranging from Native medicines and physical survival helps by early settlers to the role that Indian slavery played in launching and financing colonial penetrations. Review note: Paula Giese
See Long Review of both books.
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WALLEYE WARRIORS: AN EFFECTIVE ALLIANCE AGAINST RACISM AND FOR TH EARTH, Rick Whaley and Walter Bresette, New Society Publishers, 4527 Springfield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143; 800-333-9093, 288 pages, maps, charts, tables, bibliographies, resource (info and support groups) lists, foreword by Winona LaDuke. paperback: $18 (U.S.), $23 (Can). 0-86571-257-3 . Hardbound $45, 0-86571-256-5
Bresette is a Wisconsin Red Cliff Reservation Ojibwe, and Whaley is one of the main organizers of what grew to be a large non-Indian support network for the treaty-based land, wildlife, and environmental issues whose struggles over the years are recounted here. This book is of renormous importance from many different angles. I would like to see it be the basic text for all introductory Native American Studies colleg courses; if those college students are introduced to nothing else about Indian people but this, they will have a good grounding in historical, cultural, environmental and economic realities of Native Nations today -- and something else as well
This book recounts how a grass-roots-level alliance between Native people and non-Indian supporters has successfully worked in non-violent ways (one of the main ones described is the fishing Witness project) to overcome redneck racism, and more importantly the covert interest and support of those redneck racists (against Native land rights) by large corporations who are or plan to undertake major mining efforts on or near Native lands. Though this book covers a tribal struggle that is particular to the upper Midwest Great Lakes region, it is a paradigm or model with applications to Native nations all over the U.S. and Canada, where similar overt racism and covert economic and governmental backing threaten Native lands and environments -- and existing or establishable Native rights.
What is most politically significant about this book is that it recounts a history that is in opposition both to self-defeating racism (i.e. Native people dumping on whites) and white wannabes who mosey around ripping off bits and pieces of what they regard as Native spirituality, which they want to consume like a commodity or product. Here the alliance supported specific Native rights, accepted Native leadership to define its (the support group's) tasks, and was actually a very effective political force. Without this support, the Wisconsin struggle would be less well known than it is (not that it is too well known anywhere). Without the support there would have undoubtedly been more violence, deaths (one of the racist slogans was "Spear a pregnant squaw, save 2 walleyes"). As it is, two known deaths (in 1989, by burning a home in the early morning hours) were most likely murders of 2 important white supporters, rather than killings of Indians.
The struggle is not over. A 1992 injunction brought against the racists who mob the fish areas to "protest the Indians" has led to the state saying they couldn't enforce nonviolence against "potential riots" by the racists against the Native fishing families. The traditional fish spearing, the off-reservation hunting, fishing, and gathering treaty-rights, isn't the real struggle, it is just the turf where the real struggle began. Why the state supported and has made all efforts to inflame the redneck racist opposition to treaty rights is that the real struggle is about mining and other environmentally damaging large corporate and major industrial exploitation of northern Wisconsin.
In lieu of a summary, here's a listing of the major sections of the book: 1. A brief history of the Anishinabe (with spiritual and cultural teachings as relevant, and an analysis of the treaties). 2. Fallout of the Voigt (hunting and fishing treaty rights): Anti-Indian backlash in Wisconsin. 3. Witness in our own backyard: the first year the (non-Indian) Witness joins the spearfishers (1988) 4. Mentors and Allies: Coming to leadership as Native American Activists. 5. Powerful Enemies and Steady Friends: Why are you (non-Indians) Involved? 6. The River Opens to the Righteous -- Civil Rights Legacy and White Backlash Today. 7. Small Miracles and Heavy Hitters: Year 3 of spearing and witnessing. 8. Interwoven Issues: Indian treaty rights and the mining threat. 9. A Solidarity Success Story: Healing, not Winning. 10. The "New People" Lessons and projctions. 11. Epilog: Recent Developments in Wisconsin politics (how the state develops strategizes and tactics to use against Indian land and treaty rights).
Everything comes together in this book. Real working multiracial alliances, cross-cultural friendships built out of sharing common struggles, the importance of the cultural values, teachings, and spiritual ceremonies in strengthening everyone to endure, and the activism. I don't believe a book like this has much chance of being adopted as a NA Studies text, because so far as I can see most of NA studies is a kind of University multicultural boondoggle, designed to decoy potential allies into quietism or meaningless arguments about Indian, oops, Native American like they say in PC circles, culture, values, etc.
This is Indian culture at work here; these are Indian values, survival motivates it, beauty and spiritual wholeness against the gigantic, powerful, rich, power-controlling opponents are all that keeps this struggle going. I don't think they want impressionable college kids reading books like that in their "multicultural studies" trivial little exposures to "Native American" this 'n' that. For students of either ethnicity, Native or non-Native, it's about building real working alliances that do work, or can work. This is the last thing the men of power in U.S. society want anyone at all to learn. So get this book on your own, keep it, read it carefully. Think about it. Learn from it.When time permits, I intend to write a longer review essay, and to seek other review-essays from Native people more closely involved in the Wisconsin struggles than I have been. Reviewed by Paula Giese.
LAME DEER, SEEKER OF VISIONS: THE LIFE OF A SIOUX MEDICINE MAN, John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes. 1972, Simon and Schuster Touchstone Book. Available from The Mail Order Catalog, 800-695-2241. 288 pages, Lakota glossary, Pine Ridge photo inset. $5.50
Hey, what a bargain this book is! Only 50 cents more than I paid for it in 1973, seems it didn't sell too well, and hasn't been reprinted, so it costs about its original price. It's an excellent story, too. Lame Deer is funny, profound, wise, and honest. He tells of his wild young-man's life, running around, drinking, getting into and running away from trouble. His story is quite different from the kind of wooden portentious solemnity that non-Indians seems to want from spiritual people:
"I had a thirst for women. Their soft moaning had something to teach me. It could also get me killed. At a dance on one reservation, I met a girl and took her to my hideout nearby. Then I noticed I'd forgotten my coat, and went back to the powwow to get it. When I got there, I ran into her husband, pawing the ground, looking ean. Of all things, he turned out to be one hell of a big policeman and he had seen me sneaking off with his wife. He had his gun out in a flash and started banging away at me, calling me some bad names at the same time. I didn't stop to listen, but jumped on the nearest horse and away I went. He didn't hit me, but one of his bullets hit the horse in the rump. Poor horse, he hadn't done a thing. In 1930, I got what I deserved. I was married by force...."
"I believe that being a medicine man [wichasha wakan, holy man] is a stat of mind, a way of looking at and understanding this earth, a sense of what it's all about. Am I a wichasha wakan? I guess so. Seeing me in my patched-up, faded shirt, my down-at-heels cowboy boots, the hearing aid whistling in my ear, looking at the flimsy shack with its bad-smelling outhouse--it all doesn't add up to a white man's idea of a holy man. You've seen me drunk and broke. You've heard me curse and tell a sexy joke. You know I'm no better or wiser than other men. But I've been up on the hilltop, got my vision and my power, the rest is just trimmings. That vision never leaves me."
John (accompanied by Erdoes and rdoes's family) also take part in several then-current political struggles involving the Black Hills and the gunnery lands, 200,000 acres taken from Pine Ridge during World War II for a test bombing range, promised only temporary, not returned. And in this context -- sitting on a stone president's head -- he tells Erdoes about treaties, land, and dollar-value comparisons. Near the beginning of the book -- but for me it's most important passage -- he says:
"You, Richard are an artist. That is one reason we get along well. Artists are the Indians of the white world. They are called dreamers who live in the clouds, improvident people who can't hang onto their money, peopl who don't want to face 'reality'. They say the same things about Indians. How the hell do these frog-skin people know what reality is? The world in which you paint a picture in your mind, a picture which shows things different from what your eye sees, that is the world from which I get my visions. I tell you, that is the real world."
Yes, I think so, yes it is. Yet had I never thought of it that way until he said it, and I read it there, it was like seeing a very big colored light all at once, lighting up dark corners. I met Lame Deer only once, during the 1974 First International Indian Treaty Conference, organized by AIM in South Dakota. I was wearily slaving on press releases (though there was essentially no press coverages), getting slapped around by FBI-CIA-Army Intelligence infiltrator Doug Durham, and feeling sorry for myself. Lame Deer, who was then around 70, came into the windowless press room and talked to me for a while. I never forgot him or what he said then, but later, this particular passage in his book was of far more importance to my personal life. (See longer review, and longer review of autobiography of John's son, Archie Fire Lame Deer. Reviewed by Paula Giese
GIFT OF POWER: THE LIFE AND TEACHINGS OF A LAKOTA MEDICINE MAN, Archie Fire Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes. Bear and Company Publishing, Santa Fe, NM, 87504., 505-988-5090. Available from the Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241; $14.95. Paperback, 1992. 280 pages, foreword by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr.
Archie is John fire Lame Deer's son, he was born in 1935, and did not inherit that name or call himself Lame Deer until his father gave him that name on his deathbed. Archie's life story is sadder and narrower than his father's, though there are many parallels. (See Lame Deer's Autobiography.) Lame Deer had not married his mother, and the men did not really become aquainted until Archie was married with kids, fully grown. He was raised traditionally -- by his Rosebud reservation mother's father, until that grandfather died when he was 11, but it seems to have been a lonelier life. He was put into the St. Francis Boarding school, beaten for speaking Lakota and for anything that displeased the priests or nuns. He ran away and cried for loneliness, he knew thy would catch him and bring him back.
The first time he saw or knew about his fathr (who had abandoned his mother before he was born) was when he was 14. John was dressed as a woman, clowning at at a rodeo. "He had chosen to do his act disguised as a woman because he was a heyoka, a Thunder Dreamer -- a forward-backward man who had to act in accordanc with his sacred clown nature." He doesn't rcognize the gangling, good-looking man who gives him some cookies and pop later. At another time, some old guys are making fun of Archie's dad laughing about how they would tell him to stop the rain at a powwow. John stops the rain, calling up a strong wind that parts the clouds (and blows down all the camp tents). "At that moment, I was proud to be his son."
They didn't become close. Archie drinks with buddies, gets in some fights, and goes to (the Korean war), lying about his age to get away from his troubles on the rez and see something of the world. (John had lied about his age before World War II -- he was in his 40's -- to get in and fight at Normandy.) When Archie gets out in 1955 he begins almost 20 years of drinking -- during which time he goes to Hollywood and supports himself as a movie Injun and stunt man, drinking heavily and getting into various forms of trouble. He tells his Hollywood stories, and I have to say it: it's not up to his Dad's bad wild youth.
Famous, honored historian Alvin M. Josephy says in his foreward that "Old John's horizon was that of the reservation; Archie's encompasses the whole world." Archie does tell of his involvement with Native struggles that took him to Europe, first for what eventually led to U.N. recognition of indigenous peoples, and secondly to travel and meet many supportive and spiritually yearning people there. However, mileage traveled, numbers, do not measure vision. John's is the greater vision, John sees more deeply -- into himself, into other people, into philosophical and ethical foundations of reality. Because of this depth of perception, John shows us the wider world, to my view, seeing it through the two sets of literary eyes, father and son, 20 years apart.
Archie does say he has not reached the stage his father described as wichasha wakan but I think he will. He feels differently about it than John's idea of it, he emphasizes being humble, living close to the earth, and never to stop learning. He is too modest to say "and never stop helping" although the rest of his life from 1970 to the 1990's when he wrote this with Erdoes shows that part, too. I think he probably also does not share John's dangerous "experience all, everything, be both god and the devil" philosophy, which has so much potential to just be an excuse for a bad life.
I most strongly recommend both these books, especially to native young men, on the edge of becoming adult. Of the two, father and son, the father's sits forever in my mind like a live thing, often laughing. It crackles with the perhaps electrical life of the Wakinyan thunder-strength that made John Fire Lame Deer heyoka. Archie's lifestory is told strong, vivid, sad, funny -- but his father's book is more like some kind of live animal or a bird that just happens to look like a book. I am glad to have found and read Archie's book, but John Fire Lame Deer's book has been and always will be something important to my own life, like a very few other special books. See long review of Archie's book. Reviewed by Paula Giese
SPIDER WOMAN'S GRANDDAUGHTERS: TRADITIONAL TALES AND CONTEMPORARY WRITING BY NATIVE AMERICAN WOMEN, ed. Paula Gunn Allen, Fawcett Columbine, New York, 1989. Paper, 280 Pages, glossary, bibliography. $12.50, from AISES Books. Also available from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241 0-449-90508-X
This is an anthology of writings by Native women, with a few traditional stories that tell of women's roles in myth and legendry -- a theme Allen (Laguna Pueblo) has explored at more length elsewhere. In her introduction, she analyzes the problem that all Indian writers face, in being recognized by western aesthetics, and in beiung told (by anthros) what is and is not Indian, i.e. what they should confine themselves to writing for the anthros' ideas of authenticity. She discusses some characteristics she feels define a Native aesthetic, but says that Nativ women face a further problem: Indian women are nonexistent in history and art to the mainstream society, and to a considerable extent to the Native men who define culture today. Her book is divided into 3 major thematic sections:
The Warriors explores situations -- from the viewpoint of Native women, mostly of the 19th century, both traditional (talking to anthro who is willing to record it, as Pretty Shield does) and educated (like Gertrude Bonin, Zitkala-Sa, Ella Deloria, and E. Pauline Johnson). The women warriors whose widely different stories are recounted here are fighting to save what may be saved against the white invasion and racism. Several traditional stories show the ancient values that are going down under this onslaught.
In The Casualties, the onslaught is heavier, things are altogether worse. Stories here tend to be those of daily life: Mary Joe's children are taken from her (with the collaboration of her village elders); Green Blanket Feet tells how she made the mistake of loving a white man and hopes her grandaughter won't make the same mistake; a young girl who is being shunted around orphanges and foster homes almost achieves a happy family with an old Indian couple -- but is then removed by caseworkers, just as she has found love (for me the most powerful and sad story in this book).
In The Resistance, there is a beginning of Native women's explorations of ways to survive physically, personally, and culturally in the white world that has rolled over and crushed their nations and continues to crush (especially) the men. This is sometimes by trickery, sometimes by a stolid-seeming survival-resistance that focuses on something very small in which a tiny spark of hope can be invested. Allen herself contributes a story where a native woman is exploited for her "color" as a token in a women's movement struggle, where white women are actually seeking power and are seen as thoroughly oppressive of other women of color.
There's a broad range of themes and styles here, and the several oral tradition tales included give a necessary background and perspective on continuing values. Allen's initial long analysis, is also a valuable introduction for those not familiar with native literature. Some of the stories can be enjoyed by high-school students. Won an American Book Award in 1990. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Paula Giese
GRANDMOTHERS OF THE LIGHT: A MEDICINE WOMAN'S SOURCE BOOK, Paula Gunn Allen, Beacon Press: 25 Beacon Street, Boston 02108. Available from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241. 1991 paperback, 246 pages, bibliography, glossary, postscript of vry short summary-descriptions of many tribes. $14. 0-8070-8103-5
This starts with a long essay by Allen, a Laguna Pueblo writer of some Lakota ancestry and (at the time she wrote this) a professor of English at University of California, Los Angeles, on the living reality of the medicine world. The rest of the book consists of legends, traditional stories, and knowledg that Allen herself has rewritten. Most of these have ben collected by anthros and others, some quite long ago. Allen rformulates the prose so it is graceful and smooth reading. However, she has an ideological agenda: Cosmogyny, the Goddes (rather new age-y) that causes me to distrust what she may have done to the stories she knows (in traditions I do not). Because I can see what she's done to one -- Anishinaabe -- that I have learned quite a bit about.
This is the story-section called "The Adeventurers", which links together a number of different stories about Matchikwewis and Oshkikwe. Allen calls them heroines in stories women tell, demigoddesses, etc. But these two female figures are not at all what she says. "Matchi" means "bad", with a context range from really evil, demonic, devilish, to just rotten like spoiled food. The other parts of the older sister's name (kwe, wis) mean she is older sister and she's a grown woman. Oshkikwe, the younger sister, has a name (oshki) that means both "young" with connotations of new and original, since there's a kwe identifying her as a grown woman,
Far from being stories about woman's powers or medicine or that sort of thing, stories of these sisters are cautionary tales about what's proper and what's not for women's behavior and personalities. Matchikwewis is BAD. That's what her name means in Anishinaabemowin: Bad Woman. She is pushy, egotistical, slatternly, lazy, mouthy, greedy, rash, sexually deviant. (She is after her younger sister sexually. While some Native soceties had social roles-- winkte, berdache -- for a very small number of male homosexuals, the concept of lesbianism scarcely existed, and there was no such tolerated niche. Too, this is violative of the incest taboo, which was necessarily very strong in small, close communities.)
The story-models that Allen rewrote were told by Delia Ogoshay (Lac Courte Oreilles) and Julia Badger (Lac du Flambeau) Wisconsin in 1942-44. These were published by the University of Wisconsin Press in 1977 (Victor Barnow editor), and have remained in print in paperback since. This source is among the many in her bibliography, but neither for these or any other stories-as-rewritten is there a link to published sources. I found this one because I recognized them from Barnow's collection and happen to have the book, and have heard the stories told (and explained) by a generation by others, too.
Matchikwewis is pretty much wholly BAD. She's the cautionary model of all that Ojibwe women are not supposed to be. Oshkikwe isn't wholly GOOD, but she tends to be modest, persistent, is not rash to jump in blind, and is more often in trouble that her BAD sister has caused. These stories do not "instruct in spiritual development." These stories tell young women to be good, be quiet, don't push yourself forward, don't be mouthy, don't be greedy or lazy. More than anything else, they remind me of European fairy-type stories about little girls who get in trouble because they are too active, too pushy, not sweet, clean, nice. And the purpose of those stories is the same as of the Ojibwe ones: NOT sacred powers or spiritual development or anything like it, but teaching girls to be the right kind of women (that male dominated societies want, and men if they can get away with it prefer). You can even tell this from their names, if you know a little Anishinaabemowin. Also although the two particular versions Allen found in Barnow's collection were in fact told by women, Oshkikwe and Matchikwewis stories as joke or sexual humor (cautionary) tales are or were within my own lifetime told by men, similarly to seixst jokes that put down women, keep us in what is thought to be our proper place, are told by white men.
Most of Allen's rewritten stories are from the southwest, where I know the cultures only from spotty reading, the languages not at all, or from Meso American sources. Without a great deal of trouble, since she does not identify sources she rewrote, I would not be able to determine if a similar ideological agenda: women's power, women's rituals, women's medicine, goddesses, women's thology -- has been applied to stories which in their original and their actual cultural context cannot support such an interpretation.
The stories are still good ones, and Allen's rewritings of the ones I do have original source materials for are not drastic. I think you have to pretty much ignore all she says about female power and spirituality lessons from most of them though, or at least I must do so. When I find one I know about that has been wrenched about to fit an idological theory, I won't trust the contexts given others whose originals I don't know.I've always been attracted to the idea of the Keresan Thought Woman creatrix, the Hopi Spider grandmother, but I've also always been aware that men control Pueblo religion, and these are men's stories. Feminism can probably do no more with those ideologically than it can do with Catholic Mariolatry (Tonantzin -- made over by the Catholics into Mary, shows up here incidentally.) . I think if Native American women want a feminist theology, goddesses, etc., they are going to have to invent the religion for it, not claim they have found it, that it was there in the religious traditions. Yes, there are some female deities (generally of agriculture) but the Boss God Guys seem to be male. More important, for non-southwest religions, at least, there is a mysterious spirit or spirits that animates everything, the entire cosmos is alive and it's not a person (god, goddess) at all. This doesn't mean the book is non-recommended. I disagree with most of the theory/interpretation, but it's an interesting idea of re-interpretation. Much of it on a par, though, I'm afraid, with claims that Jesus was really a woman. Reviewed by Paula Giese
Books by Paula Gunn Allen available from Amazon.com.
WISCONSIN CHIPPEWA MYTHS AND TALES: AND THEIR RELATION TO CHIPPEWA LIFE, Victor Barnouw (ed), University of Wisconsin Press, 114 North Murray Street, Madison, WI, 53715. Paperback, 295 pages, index, index of motifs, bibliography. $14.95
These stories were collected mostly from 5 old people at Lac du Flambeau and Lac Court Oreilles, the two largest Ojibwe reservations in Wisconsin, in the early 1940's by several anthropologists, often through an interpreter. Th stories themselves are quite intersting, and in general narration is fairly smooth, without the archaic wording and incongruous entitis ("fairies") often found in 19th century legend collections.
The anthro use of them, though, is something else again. A very trivial and inaccurate description of Midewewin rites is set forth for Chippewa religion, , and all th tales are analyzed by the fad-of-the-year, then, which was Freudian psychology. "It must be significant that there is no mention of clans in any of the myths or tales," Barnouw says, and concluds from this that Chippewa society was atomistic (fragmented). Barnouw does much psychologizing about "personality patterns" on stories which ae (among other things) extended slightly dirty jokes. I had a hard time plowing through this stuff and suggest all the analysis be ignored by those who want to enjoy the tales. The tales include Wenebojo (cultur hero/trickster) origin myths from Lac du Flambeau and Lac Courte Oreilles; Matchikwewis and Oshkikwe (bad girl and good girl) stories; Windigo (cannibal) stories; stories about evil uses of spiritual powers; tales that originated as European stories that Indian storytellers put the Indian sign on -- a sort of Cinderella story with a real difference (Bear Girl). Anthros tend to despise these; I love them. And stories told as true that the anthros considered "individual fantasies." which seem to be fragmentary dreams told the anthros. I found most of the commentary and analysis obtuse and annoying, but I liked the stories a lot. Reviewed by Paula Giese
PORTAGE LAKE: MEMORIES OF AN OJIBWE CHILDHOOD, Maude Kegg, ed. John D. Mitchell, University of Minnesota Press, 2037 University Ave., SE, Minneapolis 55414. First published in Canada, 1991, University of Alberta Press, Athabasca Hall, Edmonton, Alberta, Can T6G 2E8. 1991, 1993, 272 pages. Ojibwe glossary, text notes, lists of word endings. Paperback, $16.95. 0-8166-2415-1
Maude Kegg is an elder of Mille Lacs reservation in Minnesota. A well known beadwork artist, she's also known as a cultural preserver. In 1970, she became Ojibwe language teacher to Nichols, then a linguistics graduate student at the University of Minnesota (who has recently completed editing an Ojibwe dictionary -- the first since that of Bishop Baraga in 1898). In this book, Maude tells many stories of her girlhood in th late 19th century. She grew up among traditional people who had almost no contact with white people. Though there are a few myths and legends here, these are stories she was told, and they are part of some daily event of her life. The stories are on facing pages in English and Ojibwe. Since the aggultinative languag is very complex and has nothing structurally in common with European languages, a large, elaborate glossary, and verb rules make up aslmost 1/4 of the book. Maude's stories are good and cast a new light on Ojibwe history, bvut in many respects this is a book for linguists and serious students of the Ojibew language. It is to be hoped that for those who just want the storis, a slimmer, less expensive, volume will be published. The stories without the linguistic apparatus would be very good for Middle school and YA readers. Still, this is mainly a technical language book, for which the stories are a tool to analyze and learn Ojibwe. Reviewed by Paula Giese
COLONIALISM ON TRIAL: INDIGENOUS LAND RIGHTS AND THE GITKSAN AND WT'SUWET'EN SOVEREIGNTY CASE, Don Monet and Skanu'u (Ardythe Wilson), New Society Publishers, 4527 Springfield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA 19143. 800-333-9093, 1992, 212 Pages, paperback oversize, photo essay, many drawings, cartoons, maps, chronology of Canadian native history. $10.
This is a last chance purchase, at a reduced price, the remaining copeis of this beautiful and important book. New Society says they do not plan to reprint it. It is to be hoped that another publisher can be interestd in an updatd reprint, hopefully under the same terms of contributing 50% of the sales to the trust fund supporting continued tribal actions to gain acknowledghement from Canada and the British Crown of their traditional rights and land.
Most books about a court struggle involving Indian land rights are academic hiustories or lawbooks -- necessary tools for lawyers or historians but rather dull reading. Not so this book, which is a work of art. Artist Don Monet's sketches and cartoons -- several on every page -- are an integral part of the exposition. Often he catches subtle or ironic lgal points in a way that thousands of words couldn't do. Character sketches of traditional Native witnesses, younger supporters, the dramatis personae of lawyers, judges, other functionaries are much more telling than photo essays. Skanu'u (Gitskan researcher-writer, who covered it for Northrn Native Broadcasting) and Monet were a good team, and have produced a book of lasting value which, in the way of many good Native books, is about to go out of print. It is highly recommended especially for Canadians. See long illustrated review. Reviewed by Paula Giese
record 522, file colonial
THE SACRED: WAYS OF KNOWLEDGE, SOURCES OF LIFE, Anna Lee Walters, Peggy Beck, Nia Francisco, (look up current publisher, ISBN). 250 pages, oversize paperback, $19.95. Available from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241
Readings (with some explanatory materials) compiled in 1977 as a Native American Studies text (it was one of the very few to exist then), by 3 Native women from different tribal-cultural heritages. The historical excerpts and explanatory material comprise a story of the meanings, roles, and functions of sacred traditional practices and observations in Native lives of the pre-contact past. Theough there are now quite a few books on this subject, they tend to be singl-tribe or single-culture-area. These women were concerned to show the sacred center's commonalities in culture and religion -- all tribes had (have) different practices, but there is a saacred center that unites them, a common world-view quite different from anything in the Western religious traditions, as the editors show mostly by juxtapositions. Though it was compiled and puboished more than 20 years ago, it is still useful. One NA Studies prof cites it as an essential, or top-10 book he'd need teaching a NA studies intro course. Reviewed by Paula Giese
Books by Anna Lee Walters available from Amazon.com.
GRANDFATHER by Tom Brown, Jr. Berkeley Publishing Group, 200 Madison Ave., N.Y., NY 10016. 208 pp., $8.95 paper. 0-425-13804-6
Tom Brown Jr., who runs a tracking and wilderness survival school in New Jersey, is the author of several field and survival guides, books on his mystical experiences and philosophy of nature, and his autobiographical "The Vision." His latest book details the stories his grandfather, Stalking Wolf, told him as a child.
Stalking Wolf, a Lipan Apache and "coyote teacher" (one who makes a student find out answers for himself), traveled through the United States, Mexico, and Central America trying to impart his wisdom and keep from getting put on a reservation. He tried to stay away from whites and sought only "the wilderness and the spirits."
Brown relates several experiences that Stalking Wolf revealed to him: his visions in which spirits give him symbolic gifts, his encouragement to pay attention to spirit voices, his ability to find perfect fossil specimens, his trek to a snowy mountain pass to escape loneliness, and his brush with death in "Death Valley."
In these stories, there is a message for all - the truth will only be revealed to those who search for it, and truth is the only possession worth having. The book is recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
SAANII DAHATAAL: THE WOMEN ARE SINGING, poems and stories by Luci Tapahonso. University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719. 94 pp., $19.95 cloth, $9.95 paper. 0-8165-1361-9
Shiprock, New Mexico is where Tapahonso, a Navajo, grew up, and it is here where she returns in these thirty-one vignettes. Memories of a pile of rocks where a baby girl was buried, learning to receive morning blessings from fireflys, Navajo cowboys with raisin eyes, or sitting alone and lonely while the rest of the family sleeps, all contain flecks of uncertainty within a mantle of strength. When the emotions rise too far to the surface, Tapahonso escapes to her native tongue. The words will escape those who don't speak Navajo, but they will still understand, as Tapahonso's spellbinding vision turns language barriers into bridges. Highly recommended. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
Tapahonso is also the author of 3 other books of poetry: ONE MORE SHIPROCK NIGHT (1981); SEASONAL WOMAN (1982) and A BREEZE SWEPT THROUGH, 1987. She has co-authored a children's Navajo ABC's book for non-Navajo children.
Books by Luci Tapahonso available from Amazon.com.
BORN A CHIEF: THE NINETEENTH CENTURY HOPI BOYHOOD OF EDMUND NEQUATEWA (as told to Alfred F. Whiting), edited by P. David Seaman. University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719. Illustrated, index, bibliography, map. 193 pp., $29.95 cloth (0-8165-3142-2), $13.95 paper (0-8165-1356-2).
Nequatewa, born in the early 1880s at about the same time as the Hopi reservation was established, tells Alfred F. Whiting about the first twenty-two years of his life in an account that was only recently uncovered among Whiting's papers. Recorded in the 1940s in the traditional Hopi narrative style, Nequatewa describes the katchinas and their dances, early days on Second Mesa, Spanish reprisals for the killing of their missionaries, being initiated into the One Horned Fraternity, and his experiences at the Keams Canyon and Phoenix Indian schools.
There are amusing incidents, such as Nequatewa being told to go and give a Katchina a blanket. He follows the Katchina down a sacred trail, causing an uproar among those gathered to witness the dance. Most reminiscences, though, are tinged with sadness, as when the Hopis are ravaged by a smallpox epidemic.
While the dates that Nequatewa recalls aren't to be relied upon, "Born a Chief" is an insightful narrative, giving glimpses into Hopi efforts to adapt to reservation life and forced education. Recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
MASSACRE ON THE GILA: AN ACCOUNT OF THE LAST MAJOR BATTLE BETWEEN AMERICAN INDIANS, WITH REFLECTIONS ON THE ORIGINS OF WAR by Clifton B. Kroeber and Bernard L. Fontana. University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719. Index, references, notes,map. 232 pp., $15.95 paper. 0-8165-1359-7
The "last major battle" was at Maricopa Wells, near Phoenix, in September, 1857, when tribal members of the Maricopas and Pimas were attacked by a large group of Quechans (Yuma), Apaches, and Mojaves. Evidently, the Quechans had gotten a new chief, and he wanted to assert his authority. The attackers, however, were virtually annihilated.
In this new edition of the 1987 original, Kroeber and Fontana outline both white and Indian versions of the battle, and then go on to reflect on the ritualized aggressive activities of the tribes: raiding each others camps, going on the warpath, the actions of those in different positions of authority, drawing battle plans, the arms employed, and reactions to victory and defeat.
The authors then analyze settlement patterns of the tribes; they outline a history of aggressive acts, the different alliances that were formed, and the changing motives, finally concluding that the Gila massacre was "a purely traditional event." In the concluding chapters, Kroeber and Fontana attempt to differentiate between raiding and warfare, and analyze several theories of aggression. Ultimately, they conclude that Indian wars were largely the result of the domestication of plants and animals which created a place to guard, and the need for males to assert themselves in other ways (becoming a warrior) to make up for their ot being needed for hunting.
There are a few leaps of faith in drawing this conclusion, but the analysis is beyond reproach and convincing. This is an important work. Recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
CHRONICLE OF THE INDIAN WARS: FROM COLONIAL TIMES TO WOUNDED KNEE by Alan Axelrod. Prentice Hall General Reference, 15 Columbus Circle, N.Y., NY 10023. Illustrated, index, bibliography, chronology, maps. 280 pp., $25.00 cloth. 0-671-84650-7
War is never a conflict of righteousness over evil, as it is frequently portrayed. It is always a last frustrated and shameful attempt to enforce one's will over another. While there may be acts of heroism, there is no humanity in causing death.
This is a generally balanced narrative of conflicts over land between whites and Native Americans, from the landing of Christopher Columbus in 1492 (whose garrison, when he went back to Spain, raped and pillaged Indian settlements near La Navidad) to the Great Sioux Council of 1891, which "formally ended the Indian Wars."
This detailed history of subjugation and broken treaties is outlined in chronological order with historical photographs, maps, and special essays devoted to specific people or events. The chronicle suffers, though, from its Anglo perspective, from using nomenclature developed by the U.S. Army for purposes of awarding campaign badges, to the author's use of references by principally white writers. Recommended only for very general research. Reviewed by Steve Brock
BEING COMMANCHE: A SOCIAL HISTORY OF AN AMERICAN INDIAN COMMUNITY by Morris W. Foster. University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719. Index, bibliography, notes, maps. 230 pp., $14.95 paper. 0-8165-1367-8
A friend and fellow classmate of mine is a mixture of white, Hispanic, and Commanche. He calls himself a "blanched Commanche."
Originally published in 1991, this reissue is a complex investigation of how Commanche social identity has changed in the face of Anglo encroachment. Foster uses interviews, ethnohistories, archival materials, and observances of social gatherings in his assessment that the Commanche have retained their identity through the development of a supportive and cooperative "moral community."
He outlines the social identity of the Commanche, concentrat- ing on the public gathering, during several periods: the nomadic community (where consensus was easier to achieve because there was little change in economic conditions), the reservation community (where the religious use of peyote helped maintain social cohesion), the postallotment community (characterized by a need to regulate tribal leaders through greater public involvement), and the postwar community (where the powwow has increased social significance).
The key to the preservation of Commanche social identity, Foster says, is the religious significance of the public gather- ings, where the interactions are regarded as sacred rituals and whose edicts have moral force. This thoroughly-researched and intelligently presented work is a significant contribution to Commanche history as well as to Native American social analysis. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
EARTHMAKER: TRIBAL STORIES FROM NATIVE NORTH AMERICA by Jay Miller, Perigee Books, 200 Madison Ave., N.Y., NY 10016. Index, bibliography, notes, map. 175 pp., $10.95 paper. 0-399-51779-0
These twenty-four stories capture one of the many aspects of Native American life that make it fulfilling. To many, though, these stories are all that are left of their traditions, and these, too, are fading as tribes loose the last elders who know the native language.>
After an introduction which describes and classifies the tribes by region, the book is divided into four parts and each story is named after an animal: making the world (crayfish, turtle, hare, etc.), adjusting the world (frog, dog, swans, etc), shaping animals (salmon, antelope, spider, etc.), and awaiting humans (buffalo, snake, etc.).>
Miller tries to impart the subtleties of the original language into each story, and some are more successful than others. What comes through is a rich diversity and a deep spirituality not lacking in humor. Recommended. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
WRITING THE CIRCLE: NATIVE WOMEN OF WESTERN CANADA, edited by Jeanne Perreault and Sylvia Vance. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Avenue, Norman, OK 73019. 287 pp., $12.95 paper. 0-8061-2437-7
Some of the most moving and lyrical passages I've read have come from anthologies and literary journals, and "Writing the Circle" is a significant contribution to a genre that is hard to crack.>
Perreault (an English professor at the University of Calgary) and Vance (a Canadian free-lance writer) have assembled a startlingly powerful set of stories, poems, and essays that stir the senses and warm the heart with sometimes painful honesty, at a time when the Canadian government is at a crossroads with respect to its native population.
Here, with a short biography of each writer, are essays on modern versus traditional healthcare and the modern powwow, stories of a child's reaction to her mother's drinking fire-water and memories of picking cherries on a summer day, and poems of being resolute while going through change.
At the center of this circle is a call for the Canadian intellectual elite to begin to pay attention to native writers. To this invitation, I heartily add my voice. Let the attention to native literary talent begin here. Reviewed by: Steve Brock
UTE TALES collected by Anne M. Smith. University of Utah Press, 101 University Services Building, Salt Lake City, UT 84112. Illustrated. 175 pp., $24.95 cloth. 0-87480-404-3
Anne Smith an ethnographer and Ute advocate in the 1930s, was interested in Ute culture prior to their contact with Europeans.These 102 tales (from Volume II of her dissertation) are divided into three groups, according to how the bands were named by Indian agencies: Unita (eastern Utah), Uncompahgre (central Colorado), and White River (Wyoming and Northwestern Colorado).
The Ute tales are mainly concerned with animal activities before humans were created and many are moral stories explaining why an animal has (or is missing) certain traits, such as "Why Dog Can't Talk," or why eagle never laughs. The coyote as trickster figures prominently, as do rabbit, buffalo, bear, skunk, and water babies.
The myths are related without elaboration or introduction. My favorite is called "The Anthropologist Who Went Back In Time." This story can be found on the verso of the title page (the page that has the copyright date), where it says that Smith lived from 1990-1981. Recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
SHOSHONE TALES, collected by Anne M. Smith, assisted by Alden Hayes. University of Utah Press, 101 University Services Building, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, (800) 444-8638 ext 6771, (801) 581-3365. Illustrated, references, map. 188 pp., $24.95 cloth. 0-87480-405-1
Anne Smith (1900-1981), an ethnographer who extensively visited the Shoshone bands in western Utah (Gosiute) and eastern Nevada in 1939, relates the stories that she collected on subse- quent trips after her graduation from Yale as the first female to receive a doctorate. In 1939, there was only one large Shoshone reservation.
To the Western Shoshone, storytelling ability was a highly regarded talent, as the stories were a primary method of educating the young about their culture and desired conduct within it. These 113 short tales contain elements of creation and origin, etiology (diseases or abnormalities), the trickster, competition and conquest, cannibalism, and many others. Most common (and most amusing) are the trickster tales.
Smith went to great pains to attribute each story to its teller, the translator, and the place where the story was recorded. One of Smith's favorite storytellers was Anna Premo, of Owyhee, Nevada. Her daughter, Beverly Crum, adds an appropriate afterword. Recommended.
Anne M. Smith wrote last year's "Ute Tales," also recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
TURTLE ISLAND ALPHABET: A LEXICON OF NATIVE AMERICAN SYMBOLS AND CULTURE by Gerald Hausman. St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., N.Y., NY 10010, (800) 221-7945, (212) 420-9314 FAX. Illustrated, bibliography, map. 204 pp., $19.95 cloth, $13.95 paper. 0-312- 07103-5 cloth, 0-312-09406-X paper.
Newly released in paperback, "Turtle Island Alphabet" is a selective dictionary of Native culture, from the "arrow" of a prayer flying toward the sun to the "zigzag" lightning bolt that the gods heave back as a warning, these words have many unusual manifestations. Some letters have multiple entries ("bear," "buffalo," "basket," "bead," and "blanket"), while others must, by necessity, be reached for ("Xaymaca" - now called Jamaica, one of the places where Columbus landed). This is a small, but significant, glimpse at Hausman's large collection of Native American cultural anecdotes about "Turtle Island," the earth which rides on the turtle's back. Recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
NARRATIVE CHANCE: POSTMODERN DISCOURSE ON NATIVE AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURES, edited by Gerald Vizenor. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Ave., Norman, OK 73019, (800) 627-7377, (405) 325-5000 FAX. Index, notes. 234 pp., $14.95 paper. 0-8061-2561-6
Vizenor, professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California at Berkeley, has gathered an impressive and lively collection of essays that investigate several postmodern themes in Native American literature. Among the subjects analyzed are representation and translation, the interrelatedness of comic and tragic worldviews, and of course, the image of the trickster. Examined, among others, are the works of Leslie Marmon Silko ("Ceremony," "Storyteller"), Louise Erdrich ("Love Medicine"), N. Scott Momaday ("The Way to Rainy Mountain"), D'Arcy McNickle ("The Surrounded"), and Gerald Vizenor ("Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart"). "Narrative Chance" is essential to understanding how each author has contributed to the changing landscape of postmodern Native American fiction, and is highly recommended as a textbook for classes in Native American literature. Reviewed by Steve Brock
CROSSBLOODS: BONE COURTS, BINGO AND OTHER REPORTS, Gerald Vizenor, University of Minnesota Press: Minneapolis, 1976 and 1990, paperback, 323 pages, bibliography, pre-publication notes, 0-8166-1854-2, $14.95.
The bulk of the material in this book -- everything about Thomas White Hawk, the American Indian Movment, essays about Indians in Rapid City and Pine Ridge, was published in 1974 in Word Arrows a University of Minnesota paperback long out of print, and beefore that gnerally in Vizenor's newspaper columns or periodicals of the early '70's. The book has been added to with a 1989 essay "Crossbloods (and bingo), republished from 1989, and with "Bone Courts ", the reprint of a 1986 essay regarding returns and reburials of skeletons from native graves, and leaving old graveyards undisturbed. "Socioacupuncture: Mythic Reversals and the Striptease in Four Scenes" (1987) is an essay in which the metaphors of striptease are used to examine euphemisms in white writings about Native America. The stylistic pyrotechnics and ironic literary flights for which Vizenor's work is literarily noted are for the most part not found here. These are good-quality journalistic opinion short pieces with a few longer, analytic essays. It is good to have the former in print again, and the latter collected in an accessible book. Reviewed by Paula Giese
Books by Gerald Vizenor available from Amazon.com.
A HISTORY OF THE INDIANS OF THE UNITED STATES, Angie Debo, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1970, paperback reprint 1983, $18. 450 pages, photos, maps, bibliography, index. 0-8061-1888-1
Angie Debo (died 1988) was a well-known historian of Indian people, mainly concentrating on Indian histories of the "5 civilized tribes" before and after the forcible resettlements in Oklahoma. This book, first publishd in 1970, began as a textbook for teachers. In 1968, Debo conducted a 7-week intensive course for teachers of Indian students at BIA schools, mission schools and a few public schools (mostly in areas with large Indian populations). There was no suitable overall background survey textbook at the time and her students urged her to publish her course materials. Debo did so. This is the result, a survey from a Native viewpoint that was updated (just a little) in the late 1970's. The survey remains a good one for the 16th - 19th centuries.
With the 20th century, Debo's academic objectivity -- or her BIA employer -- causes her to lean over backwards to be fair to thieves and political lackeys, and to fail to portray the continuing land thefts -- the policies of termination and relocation -- for what they were: genocide attempts. In fact the nearer to her own time, the more the juices of life and tragedies of death and suffering shrink to a very academic and non-Native objectivity.
Events she had to have known about, involving people she worked closely with, are skated over, sketched. For example, the death of LaVerne Madigan, an activist in the defense of Alaska Native land claims, is simply passed over as "an accident." Most people familiar with the issues of these claims and her involvement believe Madigan was murdered by agents of the U.S. government or of major development companies interested in Alaska oil, timber, or the Atomic Energy Commission's plants to blow up a lot of the Arctic in Project Plowshare.
Debo was intimately involved with Madigan and the AIAA at the time, and knew (and had records of) many details that would have made an enlightening -- if never conclusive -- history of these events once it was safe for her to write about them. It wouldn't have been safe in 1970, but should have been in the 1980's when this book was reissued. It remains a good survey-overview, with the proviso that after World War II, coverage is shallow and biased in favor of the BIA. Even with updating, the issue of revived Native sovereignty, which began to gather steam in the 1970's, never surfaces.
On issues like the Northern Cheyenne tribe's suffering from the fact that mineral rights to their rez were due for just about 100% coal strip mining of the entire small rez, , she displays a falsely naive optimism that by the time of her reprint's update she should surely have kown was false. That is, the coal fight which is probably never really going to be over, was beginning to receive some fairly widespread public attention. The Cheyenne land-loss rollback she describes did not include mineral rights under the Cheyenne reservation. Many of us see that land-loss rollback as a phoney deal: The Cheyenne were given back some taken land -- which they already had solid legal right to -- in exchange for not making a fuss about digging up everything else.
It was proposed to stripmine about 88% of the entire remaining Northern Cheyenne land for coal. A variety of propaganda about post-stripping restorations, including faked examples of supposedly restored areas which the mining companies strewed with hay to make it look -- from the air -- as if plants had begun to grow again was done by the energy majors who wanted that coal.
This plan became known (and was being fought) in the early 1970's, when the entirety of the Powder River Country (and much of the Black Hills and Great Plains) was declared a "National Sacrifice area" slated for coal stripmining and lignite gassification electrical power plants. Debo had to have known all this. The BIA participated in the planning or rubber-stamped the planning reports (which I still have from this period. Indian BIA employees liberated them for me). But there's nothing of this in Debo's history.
From the 1940's onward, Debo omits or softpedals what lay behind the massive, pitiless drive to force Indians off the reservations -- originally selected as unwanted badlands, to gain corporate access to the natural resources, energy, minerals and especially in the southwest, uranium. Throughout the book she shows little consciousness of energy and mineral resource issues in relation to Native lands.
Though she herself had been a researcher for AAIA, hers is very much a U.S. establishment history, BIA brand, marked by a wholly unwarranted kindness to the corrupt and compliant BIA of the of the 1940's - 1970's. Little can be found about the revival of Native culture and native sovereignty movements that the revived white depredations spurred to begin in this period. The few places where she mentions indications such a movement was afoot -- such as the Menominee Tribe's DRUMS -- are described as " bitter factionalism" as if this were some sort of tribal irrationality, rather than panicky disagreements on how to deal with the disaster of termination. For the period through the 1930's her history remains a good objective survey. After that, it is very much U.S. establishment-oriented.
In 1972, hundreds of Indian people who went to Washington on the Trail of Broken Treaties occupied the BIA (as essentially an enemy agency) and Floyd Westerman then composed the popular song, "BIA, I'm not your Indian any more, you belong to the white man." A history composed to suit BIA teachers at BIA schools from this period should be regarded generally with some suspicion, not accepted as automatically a good thing. The suspicion in this instance -- as soon as the history gets a bit contemporary, starting from the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (glorifying how the BIA handled it) -- is warranted, What's really amazing is AISES's adoption of this history to carry in its recommended books catalog as "still one of the best". If that is so, we're in bad shape for Indian history texts. What this one has going for it, in comparison to many history texts used in schools in 1950-70 is none of the "murderous bloodthirsty savages" stuff, good going for the time it was first written no doubt. Today, that's just not enough to recommend it. Reviewed by Paula Giese
Books by Angie Debo available from Amazon.com.
BLOOD OF THE LAND: THE GOVERNMENT AND CORPORATE WAR AGAINST FIRST NATIONS, Rex Weyler, New Society Publishing, 4527 Springfield Avenue, Philadelphia, PA, 19143; 800-333-9093. 0-8657-1241-7, paper,$16.95
The ongoing campaign by the US government and corporationsto destroy the native American peoples and their lands and way of life. Also focuses on the Canadian First Nations and their hope for justice.
SINGING FOR POWER: THE SONG OF THE PAPAGO INDIANS OF SOUTHERN ARIZONA by Ruth Murray Underhill. University of Arizona Press,1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719, (800) 426-3797, (602) 882-3065 in Arizona, (602) 621-8899 FAX. Illustrated. 174 pp., $9.95 paper. 0-8165-1401-1
In this new edition of the 1938 original, Underhill relates the songs that the Papago (the Spanish name for the Tohono O'odham) sing as magic and therapy to cope with the harsh desert environment in which they reside. In their songs, Underhill says, the Papago "called upon the powers of Nature and constrained them to man's will." In the early 1900s, the song was their most precious possession. The most reverent songs are sung to the bring the most sacred substance - rain. Over 50 songs are reproduced, along with commentary on their context. As the Tohono O'odham are becoming less dependent on the natural world for their existence, their songs become increasingly important as a source of wisdom. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Books by Ruth Underhill available from Amazon.com.
ALGONQUIAN LEGENDS, Charles G. Leland; Dept. 23, Dover Publications, 31 East 2nd Street, Mineola, NY, 11501; in Canada General Publishing Co Ltd, Toronto: 1992 reprint of 1884 publication. 379 pages, line drawings, list of Indian sources. $8.95 paperback, 0-486-26944-2
Leland (and a few others) collected these legends at the end of the 19th century from several Penobscot, Micmac, and Passamaquoddy elders, some of whom still spoke their language at that point. The tales are somewhat less antique in language than other 19th-century collections, but do contain mention of "fairies" and "elves" -- often, though, the Indian word is given for whatver these beings actually meant to Native people at the time. Some of the tales do seem to be as given by their identifid informants. Unfortunately, for others, Leland combined bits and pieces of different tales from different -- sometimes tribally-different -- tellers to make up what seemed to him to be the oldest, complete version. Leland had an axe to grind; he hopes to show that the structure of supernatural beliefs is similar to Scandinavian tales. He is also convinced that in the highly acculturated people he and others interviewed near the end of the 19th-century he is getting nearer the originals than for tales collected much further west among Algonquian people who had migrated there (mostly Ojibwe or Chippewa as he called it). Nevertheless, he does record some of the Indian words, tough it's really too bad there are not more in-Indian renditions of songs and verse. Tales in the book are divided into those about Glooscap (heroic creator-figure of the Micmacs, who is somewhat similar to Nanabozho further wst, but has no trickster element), Tales of Lox or Wolverine (evil trickster), Ice-Canibal tales, and tal4s of magic (M'teoulin, seemingly a verbal variant of Midewewin). Mysteriously, the book ends with 2 songs which are given both in Indian and English, but are not identified or related to anything else. The tales are actually quite interesting. Stringing together fragments makes for elaborate mini-novellas (but I wonder if the actual fragments really do go together like that?). You can check on the stories that do seem to have come directly from a storyteller source, and you can ignore his gonzo theories explained at some length between major sections and btween some stories. Reviewed by Paula Giese
THE SURROUNDED, D'Arcy McNickle, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. 1978 reprint of 1935 publication. 297 pages, introduction. 0-8263-0469-9, $8.95
McNickle, a Salish-Kutenai (Flathead), 1904-1977, writes a story of a half-blood youth, Arshile, who returns briefly (as he thinks) to his reservation after being away for a few years at an Indian school, then having some success in the white world as a violinist (which he learned via a teacher who loved music at the boarding school and created a music class secretly from the BIA). On the reservation, he comes to respect both the old people (learning his Indian mother is respected by traditional old people) and with his white heritage (he reconciles with his aging, successful-farmer father). But he sees th poverty and hopelessness of Indian people of several generations, the drinking, the fighting, the refusals of his own brothers to educate themselves or to work, and resolves to leave for good. All the good land is being farmed by whites. and all that remains of Indian life shows itself only briefly at a set-piece powwow. When he takes his mother for one last hunting trip in the mountains, she kills a game warden, who has shot his brother, bashing his head with a frypan as he is harassing them. He hides both bodies, and successfully covers up the crimes. He becomes involved with a hard-partying Indian girl, but is going to leave her and study art in Europe, with his late father's money. When his mother dies, the priest to whom she confesses tells Arshile he must turn himself in. Instead he flees to the jmountains with Elise. When they ar confronted there by the sherrff, Elise shoots him. But the Indian Agent and others have been hiding and watching, and Arshile is taken in. Instead of an artist and musician, he will be a prisoner or be executed. The surround, like the old buffalo hunt, is ofall the Indians by all the whites who moved in and made a success of farming, which the Indians are unable to do. McNickle seems in a way to have writtren a nightmare version of his own life, which didn't in fact happen to him. McNickle was a gifted youth, who when to a BIA boarding school against his traditional mother's wishes. After completing inferior education at an Oregon he completed 4 years at the University of Montana, then sold his allottment and attended Oxford and thee University of Grenoble, France. After graduating ther, he wrote this book, of a self who haed not "excaped" t become an intellectual in th white world. The book was very well received upon its publication, uniquely the literary product of an educated Indian. McNickle spent the rest of his life working for Indian people, often in employ of the BIA. He wrote several non-fiction books of Indian history: They Came Here First (1949, 1975); the influential and still-in-print Indians and Other Americans (with Harold Fey, 1959, 1970); Indian Tribes of the United States (1962); Native American Tribalism (1973), and a young people's book, Runner in the Sun, 1954, a fictional historical novel set before the coming of the white man. The Surrounded still reads well today, and gives a clear portrayal of reservation life of its period. Reviewed by Paula Giese
Books by D'Arcy McNickle available from Amazon.com.
OTHER DESTINIES: UNDERSTANDING THE AMERICAN INDIAN NOVEL by Louis Owens. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Avenue, Norman, OK 73019. 1992, Index, bibliography, references, notes. 291 pp., $24.95 cloth. 0-8061-2423-7
Using English to describe Native American experiences is a long stretch, but many have been up to the task. Owens, of Choctaw-Cherokee-Irish descent and a Professor of Literature at the University of California at Santa Cruz, introduces, profiles, and critiques the works of these successful writers in one of the most gratifying books of literary criticism I've read in several years.
Owens begins with an introduction in which he charts the relationship between the novel and the Native American oral tradition, specifies the development of archetypes (notably cultural survival), and dismisses charges that those writing in English are severing the bonds of their native languages. From there, "Other Destinies" contains analyses of the writings of Mourning Dove, D'Arcy McNickle, Natchee Scott Momaday, James Welch, Leslie Marmon Silko (regretfully, he leaves out "Almanac of the Dead"), Louise Erdrich, Michael Dorris, and many others.
Insightful and uncompromising, Owens has penned an excellent textbook for classes on American Indian Literature. Highly recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Books by Louis Owens available from Amazon.com.
THE CROW AND THE EAGLE: A TRIBAL HISTORY FROM LEWIS AND CLARK TO CUSTER by Keith Algier. Caxton Printers, 312 Main Street, Caldwell, Idaho, 83605-3299, (800) 657-6405, (208) 459-7450 FAX. Illustrated, index, notes, bibliography, maps. 415 pp., $14.95 paper. 0-87004-357-9
Algier, a retired professor from Eastern Kentucky University, chronicles the history of the Crow Indian Nation, who had to contend with other tribes, as well as whites, to retain their picturesque homeland. The Eagle, in this case, is the U.S. government, who used subtle, then increasingly obvious means, to make the Crow dependent on them for their livelihood. A satisfactory representation, written for general readers as well as history buffs. Reviewed by Steve Brock
THE LANCE AND THE SHIELD: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF SITTING BULL by Robert M. Utley. Henry Holt and Company, Inc., 115 W. 18th St., N.Y., NY 10011, (800) 488-5233, (212) 633-0748. Illustrated, index, notes, list of sources, maps. 429 pp., $25.00 cloth, 414 pages paper, $14.95. Paperback available from The Mail Order Book Catalog, 800-695-2241, 0-8050-1274-5
Medicine man, warrior, Lakota Chief, victor (with Crazy Horse) at Little Bighorn, and eventually a member of Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show, Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotanka), is a lasting reminder of bravery, wisdom, and kindness. Utley's portrayal of Sitting Bull is packed with memorable events: receiving a white eagle feather for his first coup, his differences of opinion with Crazy Horse and Red Cloud about how to react to white encroachment, his escape to Canada, and his return to live on a reservation and tour with Cody. Sitting Bull foretold his death (he dreamed that one of his own would kill him), and he was shot (some say accidently) by an Indian policeman in 1890. A revealing and inspirational story, highly recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Custer's Fall: The Native American Side of the Story, David Humphreys Miller.
This book is written from accounts from the survivors of the battle with Custer (mainly Custer's Scouts and the various "hostile" Indians). Writes from the perspective of what the "hostile" Indians were doing that day. Perhaps the best and only true account of the events that day. Reviewed by: Jim Waya Gola Shupe
Keep the Last Bullet For Yourself , Thomas B Marquis .
This book primarily examines the standing order many cavalry (and especially the 7th) had to retain one cartridge for suicide instead of being captured. This is then tied into the physical evidence of many of Custer's command having been shot in the head from apparently close range. A few people have argued that Custer was not shot in the middle of their approach through the Little Big Horn. However, from the evidence contained in (primarily) the first book, it appears that either Custer (or as JC thought one of Custer's brothers) were shot in the river which caused the advance to be halted. At the time of the halt (according to Custer's Indian Scouts), Custer was only facing 10 "hostiles" it wasn't until after the troops pulled back out of the river that other Indians came from up stream. Reviewed by: Jim Waya Gola Shupe
SOLAR STORMS by Linda Hogan. Scribner, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, N.Y., NY 10020, (800) 223-2336, (212) 698-7007 FAX. 351 pp., $22.00 cloth. 0-684-81227-4>
"If you listen at the walls of one human being, even if that one is yourself, you will hear the drumming. Older creatures are remembered in the blood. Inside ourselves we are not yet upright walkers. We are tree. We are frog in amber. Maybe earth itself is just now starting to form."
"Solar Storms" is a novel with two parallel stories that take place in the early 1970s. The first is the story of 17-year-old Angel Wing, an Indian girl who runs away from Oklahoma and returns to her birthplace, the boundary waters area of Canada and Minnesota, seeking the mother who had abandoned her after physically and psychologically scarring her when she was a baby. In a parallel story, the Indian people Angel meets in her search confront the white builders of a massive hydroelectric project that is diverting rivers and draining the nearby lakes.
Agnes Iron, Angel's great-grandmother, meets her at the ferry dock on the island of Adam's Rib, and she is given a cot in the dilapidated, yet tidy, house that is also inhabited by Dora-Rouge, Angel's great-great-grandmother and the oldest person she has ever seen. Most of the time, Dora-Rouge is lucid, but increasingly she is seen communicating with the other side: the spirit-world that she knows she will soon join.
After relating to her as much of her past as they can remember, the two elders decide to send Angel to a small island nearby to live with Bush, the woman who had adopted and raised Angel's mother and briefly cared for Angel (and tried to protect her from her mother) when she was born. Bush, who has lived alone for many years, is so used to the surrounding silence that she can barely communicate with Angel, but she also slowly relates the stories of Angel's childhood and the demons that periodically pushed her mother past the edge of reason.
Living alone, Bush is in tune with the natural world and acutely feels the spirit of the region and its people being transformed by the project, which daily exposes more of her island. When she can tolerate no more, Bush proposes a trip to the north to protest the project. In two canoes, Bush and Angel, accompanied by Agnes and Dora-Rouge (Dora-Rouge has dreamed of this event, travelling north to die in the land of her ancestors) head out to join the Inuit and Cree in their battle with the developers that are raping their land.
Hogan, a Chickasaw poet, essayist, and novelist, has written a courageous, mesmerizing, and reverberant saga that powerfully (and painfully) depicts the connectedness of the souls of Indians and the soul of the earth, viewed through the eyes of four vigorous women.
The message of "Solar Storms" is captured in the words of Dora-Rouge, when, near the end of the book, she says, "For my people, the problem has always been this: that the only possibility of survival has been resistance. Not to strike back has meant certain loss and death. To strike back has also meant loss and death, only with a fighting chance." Hogan should prepare for the arrival of numerous award nominations, and she gets my nomination as the Ed Abbey of the North. "Solar Storms" is destined to be a paragon of native literature reading lists, though Susan Power's "The Grass Dancer" still stands at the apex. Grade: A. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Also by Hogan: Novels: "Mean Spirit" (1990), Essays: "Dwell- ings: A Spiritual History of the Living World" (1995), "The Stories We Hold Secret: Tales of Women's Spiritual Development" (1986), Poetry: "The Book of Medicines" (1993), "Savings" (1988), "Seeing Through the Sun" (1985), "Eclipse" (1983), "Calling Myself Home" (1978).
Books by Linda Hogan available from Amazon.com.
ANCIENT LAND: SACRED WHALE: THE INUIT HUNT AND ITS RITUALS by Tom Lowenstein. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 19 Union Square West, New York, NY 10003, (800) 631-8571, (212) 633-9385 FAX. Illustrated, maps, notes, bibliography, glossary, sources. 192 pp., $20.00 cloth. 0-374-10497-2
Lowenstein, a longtime Inuit ethnographer and poet from England, accompanied the tribe on their whale hunts in skin boats for three years in the 1970s. "Ancient Land" combines seasonal stories of the hunts with Lowenstein's original poems, and myths told by Asatchaq, a storyteller and Inuit elder. Each hunt is the culmination of a cycle of legends, and Lowenstein successfully summons the hope that with a good harvest, "the ice will float north again." This is a masterful work of beauty and respect, in a tightly woven liturgy, of interest to both poets and anthropologists. Grade: A Reviewed by Steve Brock
THE ROAD ON WHICH WE CAME: A HISTORY OF THE WESTERN SHOSHONE by Steven J. Crum. University of Utah Press, 101 University Services Bldg., Salt Lake City, Ut 84112, (800) 444-8638 (Ext. 6771), (801) 581-3365 FAX. Illustrated, index, notes, maps, bibliography. 252 pp., $29.95 cloth. 0-87480-434-5
Those following the Dann plight on alt.native or soc.culture.native will be interested in reading a comprehensive history of the Western Shoshone, from ancient times to 1990, but focusing on the events of the twentieth century. Crum paints a picture of a resolute people, "an active force in shaping their own history," forcing the U.S. government, in several cases, to modify its policies to accommodate Shoshone demands.
The value of this history is enlarged by noting that Crum is a Shoshone, and he presents the chronicle from a tribal perspective. When one reads about the Dann sisters asserting their grazing rights, with this book they will be able to understand that the conflict is over thirty years old and has its roots in a 1962 Indian Claims Commission ruling. "The Road On Which We Came" is destined to become the definitive history of the Western Shoshone. Grade: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
NORTH AMERICAN INDIAN ANTHROPOLOGY: ESSAYS ON SOCIETY AND CULTURE, edited by Raymond J. DeMallie and Alfonso Ortiz. University of New Mexico Press, 1720 Lomas Blvd. N.E., Albuquerque, NM 87131-1591, (505) 277-2346, (505) 277-9270 FAX. Illustrated, index, references. 442 pp., $32.95 cloth. 0-8263-2614-0
The fifteen essays on kinship, social organization, and culture history in this new text provide current interpretations while combining structural and historical approaches. The volume is dedicated to anthropologist Fred Eggen (1906-1991), and all of the contributors are former students. Highly recommended as a textbook in introductory classes on American Indian Anthropology. Grade: A-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Books by Alfonso Ortiz available from Amazon.com.
WORDS OF POWER: VOICES FROM INDIAN AMERICA, edited by Norbert S. Hill, Jr. (Oneida). Fulcrum Publishing, 350 Indiana St., Suite 350, Golden, CO 80401, (800) 992-2908, (303) 279-7111 FAX. Index of speakers, list of sources. 68 pp., $9.95 cloth. 1-55591-189-7
Native Americans from the past and present voice their thoughts on subjects such as educating children, preserving natural resources, traditional values, friendship, and leadership. Inspirational and insightful, "Words of Power" is an appropriate gift for any occasion. Hill is the executive director of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Grade: B. Rweviewed by Steve Brock
THE AMERICAN WEST by Dee Brown. Charles Scribner's Sons, 866 Third Ave., N.Y., NY 10022, (800) 223-2336, (800) 445-6991 FAX. Illustrated, index, bibliography, maps, selected chronology. 460 pp., $25.00 cloth. 0-02-517421-5
The publicity material says this is the "best single-volume history of the Old West," but it forgot to insert one word: it's the best- promoted single-volume history of the Old West. Brown, unfortu nately, sits on his laurels and plunders his other works for material on the Native Americans, settlers, and ranchers and cowboys who battled over who got to live where. The book, with its solid collection of archival photographs, is well-written and readable. Most of us, however, have read it before. Grade: C+. Reviewed by Steve Brock
CHIEF: THE LIFE HISTORY OF EUGENE DELORME, IMPRISONED SANTEE SIOUX, edited by Inez Cardozo-Freeman. University of Nebraska Press 901 N. 17th St., Lincoln, NE 68588-0520, (800) 755-1105, (402) 472-6214 FAX. Illustrated, chronology, selected bibliography. 250 pp., $26.00 cloth. 0-8032- 1469-3
Delorme, who collaborated with Cardozo-Freeman in writing "The Joint," is now the subject of her new biography, which relates Delorme's youth in Aberdeen, Washington as part of a "dissolving family," spending most of his fifty-five years in reformatories, detention centers, and penitentiaries, and now residing in a psychiatric hospital, suffering from alcoholism and depression. Delorme has experienced several lifetimes of adversity, and his story should be required reading by Indian healthcare administra- tors and practitioners. Grade: B. Reviewed by Steve Brock
INDIANS, FRANCISCANS, AND SPANISH COLONIZATION: THE IMPACT OF THE MISSION SYSTEM ON CALIFORNIA INDIANS by Robert H. Jackson and Edward Castillo. University of New Mexico Press, 1720 Lomas Blvd. N.E., Albuquerque, NM 87131-1591, (505) 277-2346, (505) 277-9270 FAX. Illustrated, index, bibliography, notes, three appendices. 214 pp., $32.50 cloth. 0-8263-1570-4
When Spanish colonists erected 21 missions along the coast of California, they persuaded (and on several occasions, forced) the members of many California Indian tribes to provide labor, as well as being ripe for conversion to Catholicism. Jackson and Castillo document attempts to modify the social and religious lives of the tribes, and tribal efforts to maintain a separate identity. Grade: B. Reviewed by Steve Brock
DREAMKEEPERS: A SPIRIT-JOURNEY INTO ABORIGINAL AUSTRALIA by Harvey Arden. HarperPerennial, a division of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 10 E. 53rd St., N.Y., NY 10022-5299, (800) 242-7737, (800) 822-4090 FAX. Illustrated, maps. 219 pp., $14.00 paper. 0-06- 092580-9
Arden, a writer for National Geographic magazine, toured the Australian outback and recorded recollections, contemplations, and speculations of Aboriginal holymen, tribal healers, and lawmen, who constantly directed him to "get his own Dreamtime," i.e., do not co-opt their religion. Overly sentimental in places, "Dreamtime" is better used as a travel guide than a spiritual primer. Grade: B-. Also by Arden: "Wisdomkeepers" (1991). Reviewed by Steve Brock
SKINS by Adrian C. Louis. Crown Publishers, Inc., 201 E. 50th St., N.Y., NY 10022, (800) 733-3000, (800) 659-2436 FAX. 296 pp. $23.00 cloth. 0-517-79958-8
"Rudy knew he was being weak and yes, he knew his people were descended from warrior societies, but in the bow-and-arrow days their lives had meaning, they had direction. They were part of the whole. Today they went crazy because it was so hard for them to focus on beauty, on live's goodness, when the mean winds swirled. And then there was always the ghost-pain of history."
A book of present-day life on the Pine Ridge Reservation, told by an insider. Adrian Louis (Lovelock Paiute), ex-newspaper editor, acclaimed poet, and debut novelist, relates the story of two brothers who switch roles as they grow up in a society fraught with substance abuse and violence. When they were children, Rudy Yellow Shirt looked up to his year- older brother Mogie, who had rescued him from a deadly spider bite by carrying him to the highway and flagging down a car to take him to the hospital. The two spent their high school years as celebrated football players, though their parents seldom show up to watch the games. They were more often at the local saloon, drinking and feeling sorry for themselves.
But that was over twenty-five years ago. Both men are now in their forties and it's Rudy, a police officer with the Pine Ridge Public Safety Department, who must now look after Mogie, a man who lives to drink, and this frequently involves Rudy arresting him for public drunkenness and violence. The bond between the two has become clouded, although Mogie occasionally stops by his brother's house for dinner, more frequently since Rudy's wife has left him and Rudy seems to want someone with which to share a few bottles.
The years of alcohol abuse have caught up with Mogie, and it's only a matter of time before his drinking puts him in the grave-yard. The brothers share many deeply personal secrets: their experiences in Vietnam, Mogie's fantasies about his mother's red panties, and Rudy's violent acts as the "Avenging Warrior" (encouraged by dreams of Iktomi, a giant spider), but Mogie, feeling death's nearness, wants the two to perform one last act that will shock the whites who visit Mt. Rushmore by the millions each year.
Though the story at times annoyingly jumps from past to present without clear warning, the characters deep feelings of pain and alienation, the difficulties they face with ferocity and occasional humor, and Louis's position as an insider (he teaches English at Oglalla Lakota College on the Pine Ridge Reservation), make this first novel not only an exceptional work of fiction but a perceptive sociological treatise. Highly recommended for college-level classes in Indian Literature, where there will be intense debates on Louis's use of "ennut" versus Sherman Alexie's "enit." Grade: B+.
Also by Louis: Poetry: "Fire Water World" (1989), "Among the Dog Eaters" (1992), "Blood Thirsty Savages" (1994), "Days of Obsidian, Days of Grace" (1994), and "Vortex of Indian Fevers" (1995). Reviewed by Steve Brock
Books by Adrian C. Louis available from Amazon.com.
MEDIATION IN CONTEMPORARY NATIVE AMERICAN FICTION by James Ruppert. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Ave., Norman, OK 73019, (800) 627-7377, (405) 325-5000 FAX. Index, notes, list of works cited. 188 pp., $29.95 cloth. 0-8061-2749-X
According to Ruppert, many Native American novelists serve as mediators between cultures. In their books, he says, they draw upon unique bicultural experiences that provide new insights into each. Using "House Made of Dawn" (N. Scott Momaday), "Winter in the Blood" (James Welch), "Ceremony" (Leslie Marmon Silko), "Bearheart" (Gerald Vizenor), "Wind from an Enemy Sky" (D'Arcy McNickle), and "Love Medicine" (Louise Erdrich) as examples, Ruppert expertly guides the reader into new worlds of comprehen- sion. Grade: A- Reviewed by Steve Brock
WOMEN AND POWER IN NATIVE NORTH AMERICA, edited by Laura F. Klein and Lillian A. Ackerman. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Ave., Norman, OK 73019, (800) 627-7377, (405) 325-5000 FAX. Index, references, notes, map. 304 pp., $24.95 cloth. 0-8061- 2752-X
The status of women in eleven tribes in the United States and Canada is examined in this first academic presentation to look at the power of tribal women (an expression of the amount of autonomy they possess) in a structured manner. In virtually every instance, the chapter authors find that women (as clan mothers, war and medicine women, etc.) have more power than previously thought, though there is concern about its erosion from contact with the paternalistic Anglo culture. A rich and thoughtful presentation (don't miss Vine Deloria's tips on how to spot an anthropologist on a reservation); perfect for classes in anthropology and gender studies. Grade: A-. Rviewed by Steve Brock
HOME PLACES: CONTEMPORARY NATIVE AMERICAN WRITING FROM SUN TRACKS edited by Larry Evers and Ofelia Zepeda. University of Arizona Press, 1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719, (800) 426-3797, (602) 882-3065 in Arizona, FAX: (602) 621-8899. 109 pp., $19.95 cloth (0-8165-1521- 2), $9.95 paper (0-8165-1522-0).
To commemorate 25 years of publishing contemporary writing and art by both established and emerging Native Americans, "Sun Tracks" has published a collection of stories, poetry, songs, and speeches by N. Scott Momaday, Joy Harjo, Linda Hogan, Simon Ortiz, Dan Hanna, Carter Revard and others, that reflect each author's representation of home: a place where all the other authors are welcome. Included is a history of "Sun Tracks" by series editor Larry Evers. Listen to these words. Grade: A. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Books by Ofelia Zepeda available from Amazon.com.
FACES IN THE MOON by Betty Louise Bell. University of Oklahoma Press, 1005 Asp Ave., Norman, OK 73019, (800) 627-7377, (405) 325-5000 FAX. 192 pp., $10.95 paper. 0-8061-2774-0
Three generations of women, each attaching a different meaning to their Cherokee heritage, struggle with their interpretations in this emotional and spellbinding debut. When Lucie is called back to Oklahoma after her mother suffers a stroke, she must again confront her past as a pawn in the battle of the lifestyles of her grandmother, Hellen, who supports Cherokee traditional ways, and her mother, Gracie, who yearns to escape her Indian trappings and make it in the less confining white world. As the plot unfolds amid flashbacks and Gracie's worsening condition, Lucie finds comfort in the "women's stories" that the Cherokee have told through the ages. With sincerely-spoken dialogue and a lean and evocative prose, Bell resonantly illustrates that culture and kinship can never be fully separated. Bell, a Cherokee herself, is a professor at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Grade: B+. Reviewed by Steve Brock
RED EARTH WHITE LIES: NATIVE AMERICANS AND THE MYTH OF SCIENTIFIC FACT by Vine Deloria. Scribner, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, N.Y., NY 10020, (800) 223-2336, (212) 698-7007 FAX. Index, bibliography, notes. 286 pp., $23.00 cloth. 0-684-80700-9
At one time, Vine Deloria, professor of history, law, religious studies, and political science at the University of Colorado, Boulder, placed great importance on the ability of science to explain history and the natural world. The more science he learned, however, the more it came in conflict with his common sense and the oral traditions taught by his Sioux elders.
In Red Earth, White Lies, Deloria argues that these differences in perspective, especially the Bering migration theory and allegations that Indians have been responsible for the extinction of the mammoth and other mega-herbivores (called the "Pleistocene overkill" hypothesis), stem from the institutionalization of knowledge in an academic setting<./p>
This framework of interpretation, he says, fails to give credence to facts that challenge prevailing paradigms. Science celebrates the ability of meteorologists to seed clouds to make rain, for example, but discounts the ability of a Sioux medicine man to alter all aspects of the weather.
The book, the first of a three-volume series comparing science and traditional beliefs, makes several good points, but Deloria's shotgun, all-or-nothing approach and strident advocacy leave him open to charges of fundamentalism, indiscriminate indictment, and, worst of all, not being taken seriously, at a time when the need for an examination of the truths expressed by Indian elders has never been greater. One of the great thinkers of our time, Deloria never fails to provoke us as he ponders. Grade: B. Reviewed by Steve Brock
Books by Vine Deloria available from Amazon.com.
THE WIND WON'T KNOW ME: A HISTORY OF THE NAVAJO-HOPI LAND DISPUTE. Emily Benedek. New York: Vintage Books, 1992. 439 Pp. Map, photographs, chronology, endnotes, index. $14.00.
Reviewed by Sandra Mathews-Lamb, University of New Mexico, for H-Local, Published by (June, 1995)
The Wind won't know me there. The Holy People won't know me. And I won't know the Holy People. And there's no one left who can tell me."
--An Old Navajo Woman
his woman's statement explains the Navajo perspective of this 113-year old disagreement between the Navajo and Hopi. The issue, however, is much more complex. Emily Benedek tells a convincing story about how the United States government became involved in Hopi and Navajo internal affairs, causing this dispute to take on a more desperate form.
THE WIND WON'T KNOW ME, as Benedek writes, "grew out of a story I reported for NEWSWEEK 'Two Tribes, One Land', in 1985" (np). A journalist by trade, Benedek has a knack for organizing interviews, oral histories, and primary research together in a coherent and interesting narrative.
Organized chronologically from interviews and research she did between the summer of 1985 and the spring of 1986, Benedek consolidates these disparate sources into a story of persistence, discouragement, and power. She introduces the reader to Navajo families that are being forced to move (Hatathlies and Tsos), Hopi traditionalists that oppose the forced migrations, the Hopi Tribal Council who support Navajo removal, and a myriad of government officials and lawyers who played a significant role in the dispute. She uses individual and personal stories to illustrate how various court cases, public laws, and Hopi/Navajo enforcement affected the many people involved. The story is a tangled web of relationships, power, and religious ties to land and life ways.
Benedek illustrates this complexity with the help of a brief but comprehensive background of the migration and establishment of the Hopi and Navajo into northeastern Arizona, correctly adding that the Hopi inhabited the area long before the Navajo. Expansion of the successful Navajo sheep raising industry made movement into uninhabited areas of Hopi traditional land necessary in the nineteenth century. As the Hopi tried to assert their ownership of the disputed area, they discovered that since they had never fought against or made treaties with the United States, the US government did not recognize their title to the land. The 1882 Executive Order officially established the Hopi Reservation. But many problems would be associated with this decree. Benedek's extensive survey of federal documentation and litigation adds a much needed dimension to her work.
The Navajo story is one of suffering and poverty, brought on by forced reduction in sheep and other livestock, as ordered by the federal government to alleviate the environmental strain on the Hopi Partition Lands (HPL). Unable to rebuild or maintain their homes due to restrictive federal regulations, they found themselves living in dilapidated homes. According to Benedek's interviews, the Navajo chose to remain because this was their home and had been for generations. Their gods told them to live there.
Benedek's comprehensive narrative illustrates beautifully the Navajos close ties to the land, but also reminds the reader that the Hopi as well have the same religious connection to the land. This discrepancy caused tensions to rise between two tribes which, according to Benedek's interviews with both Hopi and Navajo, had lived side by side harmoniously for generations but were prodded into disagreement by US involvement in internal affairs.
"We call them foxes" (167), one Hopi woman describes her dealings with a Navajo who sold her bad meat. But there is more to the story of distrust than rotten meat. Benedek carefully documents the resentment that the Navajo (and traditional Hopi) have toward the Hopi Tribal Council--a government that was set up by the US. Through her meticulous use of interviews, Benedek helps the reader understand the complexities of relationships between Hopi and Navajo, and between the Hopi Tribal Council and the traditionalists.
Benedek argues that the strained relationship between the Council and traditionalists is a consequence of US government interference in Hopi internal affairs. As is typical of US-Tribal relations, she asserts, the federal government often chose to negotiate with those most willing to placate the federal government. Benedek certainly does not heed John McCain's advice (then an Arizona Representative, now a US Senator) when he said, "No one should know how their laws or sausages are made" (241). Instead, she offers a personal look at the complicated decision-making process, as well as the individuals involved.
One of Benedek's strengths is tying oral tradition and federal policies to form her narrative. Most convincingly, however, Benedek tells the story of two peoples who lived in relative harmony before the instigation of the 1882 Executive Order. Although the author focuses mostly on Navajo attempts to remain on the land, as well as the hardships they face daily, Benedek does treat this politically-charged subject with a fairly balanced pen.
This reviewer would like to know, however, at what point do we stop history and declare land ownership? The author of THE WIND WON'T KNOW ME chose to stop the clock after the arrival of the Navajo into Hopi lands. But there is much more to the story than this. By reading this work the complexity of the issue can be understood. It is a welcomed addition to the few up-to-date monographs about the Hopi-Navajo dispute.
Copyright (c) 1995 by H-NET, all rights reserved. This review may be copied for non-profit educational use if proper credit is given the author and the list. For other permission, contact
THE EAGLE CATCHER by Margaret Coel. University Press of Colorado, Box 849, Niwot, CO 80544, (303) 530-5337, FAX: (303) 530-5306. 186 pp., $19.95 cloth. 0-87081-367-6
Since Tony Hillerman has taken a vacation from writing Jim Chee mysteries, many authors have, with more-or-less success, jumped into the void by penning murder mysteries which take place on Indian reservations. Most of these are mixed with a generous amount of Indian lore and traditional beliefs which, in many cases, drive the plot. The Quinault have Naomi M. Stokes, the Cherokee have Jean Hager, and the Crow have Sandra West Prowell; to these, mystery aficionados will applaud the addition of Boulder resident Margaret Coel.
In Coel's debut novel, Father John O'Malley, a Jesuit priest who is recovering from lengthy ministrations to the whiskey bottle and was "banned" to the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, teams up with divorced tribal attorney Vicky Holden who had recently returned to the reservation to open a law office, to solve the murder of two tribal leaders who had uncovered some shady land deals in the 1800s that affected Arapahoe oil revenues, in a story reminiscent of the movie "Thunderheart." The prime suspect is Anthony Castle, nephew of slain Tribal Chairman Harvey Castle. Anthony was seen arguing with Harvey shortly before his body was discovered, and Anthony's bloody knife is found near the tipi where the murder took place. Jeff Miller, an FBI agent, believes it's an open-and-shut case and refuses to examine other suspects and motives, and BIA police chief Art Banner seems to believe him.
When O'Malley, an ex-history teacher, discovers that Harvey was writing a history of the Arapaho that may affect a land acquisition deal between gubernatorial aspirant Ned Cooley, whose grandfather was the Indian agent when the reservation was created, the St. Francis Mission archives may hold the key to present misdeeds, as well as those in the Old Time.
With her abundant knowledge of Western history, exploration of tribal issues such as romance between Indians and non-Indians and the exploitation of natural resources, and characters that are easy to imagine, Coel has turned a nifty mystery into a fascinating history lesson. Grade: A-. Due next year is "The Ghost Walker," also featuring Father John. Also by Coel: "Chief Left Hand, Southern Arapaho" (1981), and "Goin' Railroading: A Century on the Colorado High Iron" (1985, 1991). Reviewed by Steve Brock
SHADOWCATCHERS: A JOURNEY IN SEARCH OF THE TEACHINGS OF NATIVE AMERICAN HEALERS by Steve Wall. HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. (HarperPerennial), 10 E. 53rd St., N.Y., NY 10022-5299, (800) 242-7737, (800) 822-4090 FAX. Illustrated. 294 pp., $16.00 paper. 0-06-092672-4
In this companion volume to his "Wisdomkeepers" (1990), Wall visits the elders and tribal leaders of seven tribes in Mexico and South America and revisits six nations in the U.S., recording in their words how they feel about the earth, their place in it, and its ability to heal them. The book also contains Wall's experiences with each tribe, many of which were reluctant to talk to him about their spirituality. Though the book is an inspiring call for harmony among the races, there is little here that makes it preferable to others on the same subject. Grade: B-. Reviewed by Steve Brock
NATIVE AMERICAN COMMUNITIES IN WISCONSIN 1600-1960: A STUDY OF TRADITION AND CHANGE by Robert E. Bieder. University of Wisconsin Press, 114 North Murray St., Madison, WI 53715, (608) 262-8782. Illustrated, index, bibliography, notes, maps. 302 pp., $37.50 cloth (0-299-14520-4), $17.95 paper (0-299-14524-7).
Written for the general reader, Bieder analyzes the idea of community and how it has changed for Wisconsin tribes (Ojibwa, Potawatomie, Menominee, Winnebago, Oneida, Stockbridge-Munsee, and Ottawa) as they experienced contact with French, British, and American explorers and settlers. During the period studied, Bieder found that more important than the loss of their land was the constant need for tribes to redefine their cultural identity. While those looking for a structural approach or specific informa- tion on individual tribes will be disappointed, this is a solid general history. Grade: B. Reviewed by Steve Brock
PIMA INDIAN LEGENDS by Anna Moore Shaw. University of ArizonaPress, 1230 N. Park, #102, Tucson, AZ 85719. Illustrated. 111 pp., $9.95 paper. 0-8165-0186-6
In this reissue of the 1968 original edition, Shaw retells twenty-four stories that she began collecting from her relatives in the 1930s. While many who claim to be preserving Native American folklore do so in an academic setting which frequently saps their life, Shaw's tales abound with vitality and humor.
Beginning with the Pima creation myths of the great flood of the Gila River and the making of the images of the Pimas by Elder rother (Se-eh-ha) and the Apache by Coyote, Shaw relates how (and why) the Hohokam Great House was built on the banks of the Gila River at Casa Grande, the fight between the Yumas and Pimas, and the touching tale of Meteor and Morning Star.
My favorite folk-hero is the coyote - the trickster who can send you down the path to wisdom or just as easily fool you into thinking you matter to the world. At least half of these stories involve coyote, either playing tricks (such as getting the Bear People to have a victory celebration after a fight, not knowing that they had killed their brothers) or being tricked himself (as when he is instructed not to look at his beautiful blue coat. When he does, he falls in the sand and it sticks to him).
Pima Indian Legends is perfect for reading aloud to children, and is highly recommended. Reviewed by Steve Brock
GABRIEL DUMONT - A history of the life of 19th century Metis leader Gabriel Dumont.Published by the Gabriel Dumont Institute of Native Studies and Applied Research (Saskatchewan or is this in Manitoba), description accessed there.
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