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Native Presence and Survivance in Early Tw entieth-C entury T ranslations by Natalie Curtis Burlin and Mary Austin M a u r e e n S a l z e r Translations of Native verbal art appeared in The Indians’ Book (1907) by Natalie Curtis Burlin (1875-1921) and in many works be­ tween 1910 and 1934 by Mary Austin (1868-1934). Rereading these translations from a perspective informed by Gerald Vizenor’s concepts of survivance, Indian presence, and Native absence demonstrates that the published texts have a problematic relationship with their original verbal sources and are, in most cases, sufficiently removed from accu­ rate translation or representation to be considered non-Native. They are, in terms Vizenor borrows from Umberto Eco, ‘“ absolute fakes’” John Sloan. SOUTHWEST ART (also known as ROLSHOVEN PAINTING AN INDIAN MODEL). 1920. Oil on canvas. 21" x 24 '/z". Courtesy of the Anschutz Collection. Photo: William J. O’Connor. W e s t e r n A m e r ic a n l it e r a t u r e S p r in g 2 0 0 4 (Manifest 9). On the whole they represent a simulated Indian reality and erase Native presence, substituting for actual texts constructed texts that modify and substantively remake the originals.1 On the other hand, among the misrepresentations of Native voice and text that Burlin and Austin produced, some texts appear that may be said possibly to represent a Native voice. By reading these texts through methods of ethnopoetics, I argue that some traces of Native voice can be found in Burlin’s and Austin’s works. To establish my argument I briefly characterize the interdisciplinary enterprise of ethnopoetics and then offer close readings of texts by Burlin and Austin. The textual examples provide a basis upon which I consider the new ethnography and its relation to verbal art collection, translation, and publication. My analysis relies as well on theories of ethnographic methodology such as the hermeneutic term reflexivity, which is associated with the new ethnog­ raphy. Finally, I place these approaches in the critical field of Native survivance established by Vizenor and argue that intellectual property rights may be ascribed to these and other representations of Native ver­ bal art. Through these multiple lenses, Native presence and survivance appear. Thus, in a metaphorical extension of the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the essay ends in a call for the repatriation of those Native texts that may be recovered. Ethnopoetics, which began in the 1960s in a spirit of interdisciplinary inquiry, can be defined as the study of the literature of non-dominant cultures from culturally aware perspectives. Ethnographers and linguis­ tic anthropologists including Dell Hymes, Dennis Tedlock, and Brian Swann pioneered ethnopoetics approaches to translation and textual representation of Native verbal art. Through an awareness of their own privileged positions in relation to the Native texts, these scholars devel­ oped new and self-reflexive methods for presenting versions of Native texts to English-speaking audiences; their approaches incorporated what has been called the new ethnography, a self-questioning approach to writing about people from other cultures that takes into account the power differential that is always operating between unequal groups. Practitioners of ethnopoetics and the new ethnography, as represented by Hymes, Tedlock, Swann, James Clifford, Clifford Geertz, and others, critique rather than defend the practices of earlier ethnographers, col­ lectors, and museums that have taken texts, objects, artifacts, and remains from Native communities. Further, they attempt to work from an insider, or emic, perspective through participant-observation in contrast to their predecessors, who viewed non-dominant cultures from outsider perspec­ tives. In the oral, written, and performed literature ofNative people, this M a u r e e n S a l z e r emic perspective is useful if a Native presence is to be recovered. In an article originally published in 1965, Dell Hymes calls for a reexamination of Native verbal art translations, most of which in exis­ tence were collected by ethnographers; Burlin and Austin both use ethnographers’ versions of Native verbal art at times in their transla­ tion projects. Hymes critiques nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century practices. He...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1948-7142
Print ISSN
0043-3462
Pages
pp. 79-102
Launched on MUSE
2017-10-04
Open Access
No
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