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R O Y W. M E Y E R Mankato State College Hamlin Garland and The American Indian Literary historians and critics have tended to bifurcate Hamlin Garland into two people: the realist of Main-Travelled, Roads and the romantic of the later novels about the mountain West. A few have noted that the early stories of embattled farmers include romantic elements and that even the worst of the western novels contain realistic details. Garland’s Indian stories may be seen as transitional, both chronologically and in the proportions of realism and romanticism they display. At their best they compare favorably with “Under the Lion’s Paw”—and, like that fiictionalized tract on the evils of unearned increment, they were inspired by moral in­ dignation. At their worst they share the sentimentality, the wooden characterization, and the contrived plot structure of They of the High Trails, Cavanagh, Forest Ranger, and other mountain stories. Garland dealt with the American Indian chiefly in one novel, The Captain of the Gray-Horse Troop (1902), and a number of short stories, the best of which were collected in The Book of the American Indian (1923). On the whole the stories are better than the novel, though the defects of the latter are largely unrelated to the use of Indian material in it. If, as Thomas A. Bledsoe argues, the Indian stories are “very nearly equal to his [Garland’s] best work,” the reasons for their obscurity must be sought in the cir­ cumstances of their publication.1 Whereas the stories in MainTravelled Roads were issued in book form soon after appearing in ’In introduction to Hamlin Garland, Main-Travelled Roads (New York, 1914), p. xxi. 110 Western American Literature periodicals (two had not been published previously), the Indian stories had to wait a generation before they were collected in The Book of the American Indian. By that time Garland’s work had to stand comparison with the more sophisticated writing of Oliver La Farge, Charles Lummis, Mary Austin, and others. As Jean Holloway points out in her biography of Garland, at the time these stories were first published, between 1899 and 1905, they had “sounded a new note” in the fictional treatment of the Indian.2 Despite the publication in 1890 of an early Indian tale, “Drift­ ing Crane,” Garland dated the beginning of his interest in the Indian from the summer of 1895, when he traveled through Colo­ rado, New Mexico, and Arizona. On this trip he toured the Ute reservation in southwestern Colorado, attended the Hopi snake dance at the mesa-top village of Walpi, and passed through the Navajo country on his way to the pueblos of Zuni and Acoma, which he apparently visited only briefly. Looking back on it many years later, he saw that summer as marking “a complete ’bout face” in his march. Coming just after the publication of Rose of Butcher’s Coolly (1895), it dated “the close of [his] prairie tales and the beginning of a long series of mountain stories.”8 Although in this remark Garland seems to be emphasizing the influence on the work of his romantic phase, the experiences of that summer may quite as accurately be seen as the genesis of his first-hand acquaint­ ance with the Indian. Aside from four articles and one juvenile story, no literary production resulted directly from this summer in the Southwest. Far more important in determining the course of his writing in the next few years was a trip to the Northwest in 1897, when Gar­ land visited the Standing Rock reservation in North Dakota and the Northern Cheyenne reservation in Montana. He carried a letter from General Nelson A. Miles recommending him to such Indian agents and army officers as he might encounter. Armed with this talisman, he was permitted to examine agency records at Standing Rock, where Sitting Bull had been killed less than seven years earlier. After attending the Fourth of July celebration at the agency town of Fort Yates and interviewing Indians who had been close 2 Jean Holloway, Hamlin Garland: A Biography (Austin, 1160), p. 272. sHamUn Garland, A Daughter of the Middle Border (New York, 1921), pp. 27-31...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 109-125
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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