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Indian Voices

Listening to Native Americans

Alison Owings

Publication Year: 2011

Indian Voices, Alison Owings's most recent oral history, documents what Native Americans say about themselves, their daily lives, and the world around them. Through interviews many express their thoughts about the sometimes staggeringly ignorant, if often well-meaning, non-Natives they encounter-some who do not realize Native Americans still exist, much less that they speak English, have cell phones, use the Internet, and might attend powwows and power lunches. An inspiring and important contribution about the original Americans that will make every reader rethink the past-and present-of the United States.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. ix-x

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pp. xi-xix

... I am? I thought. Nobody is stopping me? I’m allowed? Ever since childhood I had felt American to my core, almost primevally American, but for the first time within these United States I felt intrusive. After stopping to ...

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pp. xxi-xxv

A cartoon reprinted in the book Do All Indians Live in Tipis? shows Christopher Columbus arriving on an island, and a bright-eyed Native man and woman looking at him.1 The man says, “We’ve thought and thought, but we’re at a loss about what to call ourselves. Any ideas?” ...

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1. A Man of the Dawn: Darrell Newell (Passamaquoddy)

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pp. 1-17

On the first day of the Passamaquoddy blueberry harvest, Darrell Newell slept until two a.m. or so, tossed and turned for an hour, then gave up on sleep. He left the Northeastern Blueberry Company’s ranch-style house in Columbia Falls he uses at harvest time, walked down the driveway into Northeastern’s warehouse, and got to work. ...

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2. “Indians 101”: Elizabeth Lohan Homer (Osage)

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pp. 18-36

In her sparkling office at Homer Law, a few steps off Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C., Elizabeth Lohah Homer was having her standard lunch of “roast beast” sandwich, as she calls it, Diet Coke, and a small bag of Utz potato chips. Resplendent in a black-and-pink-pinstriped power suit that perfectly complemented her black hair and pink fingernails, Elizabeth, an attractive and hearty woman with a dimple in her chin and a voice that ...

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3. A Trio of Lumbees: Pamela Brooks Sweeney, Curt Locklear, and Mary Ann Cummings Jacobs

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pp. 37-61

“A ballpark figure” puts the population at around 56,000, says Dr. Stanley Knick, who heads the Native American Resource Center at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke. The commercial and social hub of Lumbee country, Pembroke lies about two hours inland from North Carolina’s southernmost coast and is surrounded by expanses of flat farmland. Beyond that are swamps, treasured in part for having kept centuries of marauding Europeans, and European Americans, away. Through the swamps meanders ...

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4. Elders of the Haudenosaunee: Darwin Hill (Tonawanda Seneca) and Geraldine Green (Cattaraugus Seneca)

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pp. 62-91

The pattern, made by stringing together shell beads, consists of five rows. The top, bottom, and middle rows are white, the other two purple. The white rows represent the river of life. The purple rows represent two vessels floating on the white. In one purple row travel people of the Iroquois ...

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5. City Kid: Ansel Deon (Lakota/Navajo)

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pp. 92-108

One brisk Chicago morning, twenty-seven-year-old Ansel Deon set about his job within the tribal hall of the American Indian Center, or AIC. Around and above him, cultures clashed. Banners comprised of tribal flags hung from a high ornate molded plaster ceiling. A mural of three Native women extended over a Corinthian pilaster. A grand stage filled one side of the ...

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6. The Drum Keeper: Rosemary Berens (Ojibwe)

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pp. 109-127

In ways, Rose Tennant Berens never ranged far from the northern Minnesota Bois Forte Reservation that encompassed her childhood. She is a member of the Bois Forte band of Ojibwe, sometimes known as Chippewa, and inherited the region’s accent, her o’s in words such as go or throw seeming to come from a well. ...

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7. “How’s everybody doing tonight?”: Marcus Frejo, aka Quese IMC (Pawnee/Seminole)

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pp. 128-141

Along Route 51 in northern Oklahoma’s Pawnee tribal territory, forests rolled by and snow fell lightly as disparate questions wafted. How had the Pawnees, who originally lived hundreds of miles to the north, survived past winters? When would the cell-phone dead zone end? Which of two available radio stations was preferable? Choice A: golden oldie country. Choice B: ...

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8. Tales from Pine Ridge: Karen Artichoker, with Heath Ducheneaux and Dwanna Oldson (Lakota)

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pp. 142-167

“We got along well enough,” Karen Artichoker said of her white dorm-mates decades ago at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. “I even went home with one girl. She was really young. She was sixteen, really smart.” The girl’s parents invited Karen and another friend to their home in La Crosse, Wisconsin, for a holiday weekend, and picked them up at the college. “All the way her mother told me about the big Indian [statue] in the Wisconsin harbor. ...

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9. “Get over it!” and Other Suggestions: Patty Talahongva (Hopi)

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pp. 168-187

“When we had our winter ceremonies,” said Patty Talahongva, one January afternoon in her Albuquerque office, “our schedule was like this. My dad was a baker. That’s the wonderful job”—she raised her eyebrows with “wonderful”—arranged for him after the Talahongva family relocated to Denver. “King’s Bakery,” she recited. “He would get off at, say, two in the afternoon. My mom would have the car packed. He would come home, load ...

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10. The Former President: Claudia Vigil-Muniz (Jicarilla Apache)

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pp. 188-208

She was among a hundred or so Native women attending a conference at the Gila River Indian community’s Wild Horse Pass Resort and Casino outside Phoenix. For days, the women had gone to workshops such as “Understanding Tribal Budgets” and “Rising Impacts of Meth” in Indian Country.1 The stated theme changed each year, but the unstated one ...

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11. Practicing Medicine: Harrison Baheshone (Navajo)

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pp. 209-232

The ceremony would take place on the Navajo Nation in the hogan of the Goldtooth family, relatives by clan to the medicine man, by blood to the patient. Directions, which the fastidious medicine man Harrison Baheshone sent by e-mail, included such instructions as “Enter cattle guard and turn diagonal east.” ...

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12. The Kin of Sacajawea: Emma George and Summer Morning Baldwin (Lemhi Shoshone)

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pp. 233-253

... Emma George, curled on her springy couch, smiled at the memory. Light through seen-better-days Venetian blinds warmed the living room of her house on the Fort Hall Reservation in southeastern Idaho. Photographs of relatives hung everywhere. Behind her, on a yellow wall, was one of her father, Wilford George, often called Willie, wearing the regalia of the Lemhi ...

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13. Indian Humor: Carol Craig (Yakama)

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pp. 254-270

Is there a joke within the infinity labeled “Indian humor” that Carol Craig does not know? All attempts to stump her have failed. Okay, how about this one under the heading “Don’t Mess with Indian Women,” which I forwarded from a Native Web site? ...

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14. Powwow Power: Tom Phillips (Kiowa)

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pp. 271-288

On a sticky August evening in Sacramento’s O’Neil Park, hard by a highway underpass, master of ceremonies Tom Phillips opened the city’s thirteenth annual powwow by invoking timelessness. “Over the year we’ve lost a lot of our loved ones. A lot of our people have left the circle,” he intoned into a microphone. “But we still want to continue on, because that’s the way they ...

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15. Relearning for Life: Henry Frank (Yurok)

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pp. 289-306

... As he held up his woodcuts, Henry, generally a modest man, all but beamed. A self-portrait titled Big Bear Medicine features the top half of Henry’s Buddha-like torso, his hands clasped lightly, his expression serene behind glasses. Emanating from his wide head and long hair are myriad strands, possibly of hair, possibly of light. Henry’s face and arms (“the color ...

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16. Eskimo Ice Cream: Christine Guy (Yup'ik)

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pp. 307-320

Christine Guy, a thirty-six-year-old Yup’ik, sat on the linoleum floor of her kitchen in Kwethluk, in western Alaska. A beaded barrette, one of many in her collection, held the end of her black braid, which almost reached the floor. Her back was straight, her legs in a V-shape, pinioning a huge metal bowl. On the floor around her she had arrayed various ingredients. Beside her, or on chairs, or standing, were about eight other people. They included ...

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17. Aloha from Hawai’i: Charles Ka'upu Jr.

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pp. 321-332

Let me pose other questions. Did Hawai’i not have an indigenous population whose lives were radically changed by European arrival? Did European Americans not take over much of the land and the government? Did they not change the lives of the indigenous population by such efforts as adding their own religion and subtracting the other’s language, while proclaiming their appreciation of the indigenous people’s cultural output? Do descendants of ...

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pp. 333-335

The first is the rationality and reasonableness of Native people in the wake of one imposed insult or assault or disaster after another. I was stunned less by their resilience, stunning enough on its own, than by what might be called accommodation. There was much resentment expressed, of course, but virtually no hatred, and none at the level that my fellow European Americans ...


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pp. 337-343

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pp. 345-346

The major challenge of this project was finding people of many backgrounds who were willing to talk to me. To those who were, and did, I thank them most of all for their time, their frankness, and their trust. ...


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pp. 347-363

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About the Author

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Alison Owings is the author of Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich and Hey, Waitress! The USA from the Other Side of the Tray. ...

E-ISBN-13: 9780813550961
E-ISBN-10: 0813550963
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813549651
Print-ISBN-10: 0813549655

Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2011

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Indians of North America -- Ethnic identity.
  • Indians of North America -- Biography.
  • Indians of North America -- Social conditions.
  • Indians of North America -- Cultural assimilation.
  • Indians, Treatment of -- North America.
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