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The Heirs of Columbus

Gerald Vizenor

Publication Year: 2013

"If you must read a book on Columbus," declared the Los Angeles Times in its review of The Heirs of Columbus, "this is the one." Gerald Vizenor's novel reclaims the story of Chrisopher Columbus on behalf of Native Americans by declaring the explorer himself to be a descendent of early Mayans and follows the adventures of his modern-day, mixedblood heirs as they create a fantastic tribal nation.

The genetic heirs of Christopher Columbus meet annually at the Stone Tavern at the headwaters of the Mississippi to remember their "stories in the blood" and plan their tribal nation. They are inspired by the late-night talk radio discourses of Stone Columbus, a trickster healer who became rich as the captain of the sovereign bingo barge Santa Maria Casino, anchored in the international waters of the Lake of the Woods. The heirs' plan to reclaim their heritage enrages the government and inspires the tribal nations in a comic tale of mythic proportions.

Vizenor is a mixedblood Chippewa who writes fiction in the trickster mode of Native American tradition, using humor to challenge received ideas and subvert the status quo. In The Heirs of Columbus he "reveals not only how Indians have staved off the tidal wave of assimilation," noted the San Francisco Chronicle, "but also how, through humor and persistence, they sometimes reverse the direction of cultural appropriation and, in the process, transform the alien values imposed on them."

"Vizenor understands the wilder, irrational, half-mad parts of the Discoverer's soul as few people ever have," noted Kirkpatrick Sale in the Nation; "Columbus is appropriated here in an entirely new way, made to be an Indian in service to his Indian descendents." And the Voice Literary Supplement said "Even more rousing than Vizenor's deconstruction of Columbus, though, is his alternative vision of an American identity."

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Half Title

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pp. 2-3

Title Page

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p. 4-4


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pp. 5-7


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pp. 8-9


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pp. 1-11

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Santa Maria Casino

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pp. 3-12

Christopher Columbus saw a blue light in the west, but "it was such an uncertain thing," he wrote in his journal to the crown, "that I did not feel it was adequate proof of land." That light was a torch raised by the silent hand talkers, a summons to the New World. Since then, the explorer has...

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Stone Tavern

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pp. 13-27

Truman Columbus shouts that the "dikinaagan of civilization is located at the headwaters of the gichiziibi," or the cradle board of civilization is at the Mississippi River. "Civilization started right here in our stories at the river we named the gichiziibi," she shouted that night with her back...

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Storm Puppets

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pp. 28-44

Columbus would survive the culture of death, the wicked histories of his time, the crusades, medieval colophons, burdens of shame, and morose politics of the mind, with an untold radiance. He inherited the signature of survivance and tribal stories in the blood from his mother, and...

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Conquistador Club

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pp. 45-62

Felipa was born in the spring and raised in a narrow house trailer on the White Earth Reservation. As a child she heard the sounds of civilization on an untuned piano and refused to attend a white public school near the reservation. She had inherited the piano and a sense...

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Bone Courts

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pp. 63-90

Miigis counted the crows to nine in the birch. Admire, the trusted mongrel with the blue tongue, barked once and then moaned at the crows; she hated their harsh manner and heartless thrust at carrion on the cold black roads to the reservation. She licked and healed...


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pp. 91-101

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Miigis Crow

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pp. 93-117

Stone Columbus brushed the blue meadow with the last tribal waves of summer birds. He heard the winter in the autumn, the rumors in the pine, the sorrow of birch, red wisps of sumac on the rise, and the eternal crows on the cold, cold roads; he heard the last touch of black...

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Wooden Head

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pp. 118-129

Harmonia Dewikwe, the government trained manicurist, was saved at last by her own hard head. She was pressed by a monotonous hollow caw to be healed at the new tribal nation announced on talk radio; thereupon she paddled an aluminum canoe into the Strait of Georgia...

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Genome Pavilion

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pp. 130-137

The New York Times reported in an editorial that television stations and the federal government have remained silent on the recent insurrection at Point Roberts by the Heirs of Columbus. The report speculated that the silence could be in response to the acquiescence of the...

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Mute Child

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pp. 138-149

Teets Melanos saw the mute child come out of the hemlock with two blue puppets. The manicurist, who had earned a venerable tribal seal for her dedication to hands. told the heirs that there were other children on the cold wisps of winter that night. She envisioned the blues...

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Parthenos Salon

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pp. 150-158

Blue Ishi reached into a hemlock to hear their tribal stories; the heart was warm, a sacred hollow in the evergreen. The scientists were enchanted by the blues, and trusted tribal humor as an antidote, but the nation was divided over the sentience of the hemlock and...

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Blood TIthes

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pp. 159-167

Louis Riel wore a black coat and blue moccasins that late autumn of his death. "I thank God for having given me the strength to die well," he said to the priest on the stairs to the cold, cold gallows platform. "I am on the threshold of eternity and I do not want to tum...

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Moccasin Game

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pp. 168-183

The Trickster of Liberty was obscured in a close fog once more at the point. The rough boards on the marina were mellow in the morning, fast and loose conversations carried from the casino, horns sounded hard by the sea, and creation stories were overheard in the...

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pp. 184-189

Christopher Columbus landed in the New World with a striven western gaze that would be overturned in five centuries by the tribal people he saw as naked servants with no religion. "Our Lord pleasing, I will carry off six of them at my departure to Your Highnesses, in order that...

E-ISBN-13: 9780819573896
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819552419

Page Count: 198
Publication Year: 2013