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Plateau Indian Ways with Words

The Rhetorical Tradition of the Tribes of the Inland Pacific Northwest

by Barbara Monroe

Publication Year: 2014

In Plateau Indian Ways with Words, Barbara Monroe makes visible the arts of persuasion of the Plateau Indians, whose ancestral grounds stretch from the Cascades to the Rockies, revealing a chain of cultural identification that predates the colonial period and continues to this day. Culling from hundreds of student writings from grades 7-12 in two reservation schools, Monroe finds that students employ the same persuasive techniques as their forebears, as evidenced in dozens of post-conquest speech transcriptions and historical writings. These persuasive strategies have survived not just across generations, but also across languages from Indian to English and across multiple genres from telegrams and Supreme Court briefs to school essays and hip hop lyrics. Anecdotal evidence, often dramatically recreated; sarcasm and humor; suspended or unstated thesis; suspenseful arrangement; intimacy with and respect for one’s audience as co-authors of meaning—these are among the privileged markers in this particular indigenous rhetorical tradition. Such strategies of personalization, as Monroe terms them, run exactly counter to Euro-American academic standards that value secondary, distant sources; “objective” evidence; explicit theses; “logical” arrangement. Not surprisingly, scores for Native students on mandated tests are among the lowest in the nation. While Monroe questions the construction of this so-called achievement gap on multiple levels, she argues that educators serving Native students need to seek out points of cultural congruence, selecting assignments and assessments where culturally marked norms converge, rather than collide. New media have opened up many possibilities for this kind of communicative inclusivity. But seizing such opportunities is predicated on educators, first, recognizing Plateau Indian students’ distinctive rhetoric, and then honoring their sovereign right to use it. This book provides that first step.

Published by: University of Pittsburgh Press

Series: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture

Front Cover

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Series Info, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

This book was ten years in the making. But I could not have completed this journey without the aid, advice, and support of so many people along the way, from start to finish. ...

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Scott Richard Lyons

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pp. xiii-xvi

As far as we know, the first Native American to publish writing in the English language was the Mohegan preacher Samson Occom (1723–1792). Occom is primarily remembered today for his autobiography, “A Short Narrative of My Life” (1768), the first of many Native autobiographies to come, ...

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pp. xvii-xxiv

In 1870, in anticipation of the removal of several Plateau Indian tribes to what would become the Colville reservation, the superintendent of Indian Affairs dispatched sub-Indian agent William Parkhurst Winans to northern Washington state to collect census data, among other particulars. ...

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1. “Real Indians” Don’t Rap: Theorizing Indigenous Rhetorics

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pp. 1-19

Let me begin by saying that I am not an Indian, “real” or otherwise. I am a white female English professor whose research focuses on the cultural rhetorics of U.S. minorities. In 2001, I embarked on a five-year collaboration with two schools on a Plateau Indian reservation in Washington state. ...

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2. Defining Principles of Plateau Indian Rhetoric

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pp. 20-42

In chapter 1, I theorized how and why a rhetoric might be identified as indigenous, situating that discussion within the context of American Indian studies. In this chapter I describe the indigenous rhetoric specific to the Plateau Indians, situating that description within the context of rhetoric and composition. ...

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3. Speaking Straight in Indian Languages: 1855–1870

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pp. 43-74

"I am of another nation, when I speak you do not understand me. When you speak, I do not understand you,” Spokan Garry asserted at the Spokane council in 1855.1 His statement carries multivalent meaning, suggesting that the Indians and the Americans were separated by many kinds of differences—at once linguistic, political, cultural, and rhetorical. ...

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4. Writing in English: 1910–1921

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pp. 75-103

In 1915 government rangers caught a band of Yakama shooting and trapping wild game animals in the prohibited area of Mount Rainier National Park. The band was led by eighty-two-year-old Chief Sluiskin, who as a boy had tended Chief Owhi’s horses at the Treaty Council of Walla Walla. ...

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5. Deliberating Publicly: 1955–1956

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pp. 104-127

At the General Council meeting of the Yakama Nation on January 13, 1956, council officer Burdette Kent opened proceedings with a summary behind the “squabbling” that had dominated the assembly’s meetings since the previous July: ...

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6. Writing in School: 2000–2004

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pp. 128-156

At the Treaty Council at Walla Walla in 1855, U.S. military scribes were not the only ones transcribing the proceedings. Several literate Indians, who had been taught by Presbyterian missionaries how to read and write in English, and in some cases, in their own languages, also took notes.1 ...

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7. Reassessing the Achievement Gap

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pp. 157-174

“Would it not be good if you wanted to talk with my brother, or if you wanted to talk with our Great Chief? If you knew how to write and wanted to talk you could send it to him on paper and he would know your heart. Would it not be good then to have schools among you?”1 ...

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Kristin L. Arola

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pp. 175-178

I grew up in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. This matters deeply to me. On the Euro-sides of my family—mostly Finnish with a dab of Italian, German, and French Canadian for good measure—I’m the fifth generation born within a thirty-mile radius. ...


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pp. 179-196


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pp. 197-206


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pp. 207-220

E-ISBN-13: 9780822979562
E-ISBN-10: 082297956X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780822963066
Print-ISBN-10: 082296306X

Page Count: 288
Publication Year: 2014

Series Title: Pittsburgh Series in Composition, Literacy, and Culture
Series Editor Byline: David Bartholomae and Jean Ferguson Carr, Editors See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 883281487
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Plateau Indian Ways with Words

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Northwest, Pacific -- Languages -- Rhetoric.
  • Indians of North America -- Columbia Plateau -- Languages -- Rhetoric.
  • Indians of North America -- Great Basin -- Languages -- Rhetoric.
  • Indian students -- United States -- History.
  • Persuasion (Rhetoric) -- History.
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