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Indigenous North American Drama

Birgit Däwes

Traces the historical dimensions of Native North American drama using a critical perspective.

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Listening to the Land

Native American Literary Responses to the Landscape

Lee Schweninger

For better or worse, representations abound of Native Americans as a people with an innate and special connection to the earth. This study looks at the challenges faced by Native American writers who confront stereotypical representations as they assert their own ethical relationship with the earth. Lee Schweninger considers a range of genres (memoirs, novels, stories, essays) by Native writers from various parts of the United States. Contextualizing these works within the origins, evolution, and perpetuation of the “green” labels imposed on American Indians, Schweninger shows how writers often find themselves denying some land ethic stereotypes while seeming to embrace others.

Taken together, the time periods covered in Listening to the Land span more than a hundred years, from Luther Standing Bear's description of his late-nineteenth-century life on the prairie to Linda Hogan's account of a 1999 Makah hunt of a gray whale. Two-thirds of the writers Schweninger considers, however, are well-known voices from the second half of the twentieth century, including N. Scott Momaday, Louise Erdrich, Vine Deloria Jr., Gerald Vizenor, and Louis Owens.

Few ecocritical studies have focused on indigenous environmental attitudes, in comparison to related work done by historians and anthropologists. Listening to the Land will narrow this gap in the scholarship; moreover, it will add individual Native American perspectives to an understanding of what, to these writers, is a genuine Native American philosophy regarding the land.

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Maurice Kenny

Celebrations of a Mohawk Writer

Explores the work of Maurice Kenny, a pivotal figure in American Indian literature from the 1950s to the present. 'This collection explores the broad range of works by Mohawk writer Maurice Kenny (1929–), a pivotal figure in American Indian literature from the 1950s to the present. Born in Cape Vincent, New York and the author of dozens of books of poetry, fiction, and essays, Kenny portrays the unique experience of Native New York and tells its history with poetic figures who live and breathe in the present. Perhaps his best known work is Tekonwatonti/Molly Brant: Poems of War. Kenny’s works have received various accolades and awards. He was recognized by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers with the Elder Achievement Award, and two of his collections of poems, Blackrobe and Between Two Rivers, were nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. Kenny has also been honored with the American Book Award for The Mama Poems. His works have been recognized by National Public Radio, and have drawn the attention of famous figures such as Allen Ginsberg, Jerome Rothenberg, and Carolyn Forché. Maurice Kenny: Celebrations of a Mohawk Writer serves as a comprehensive introduction to Kenny’s body of work for readers who may be unfamiliar with his writing. Written by prominent scholars in American Indian literature, the book is divided into two parts: the first is devoted to musings on Kenny’s influence, and the second to traditional critical essays using historical, nationalist, Two Spirit, creative, memoir, and tribal-theoretical approaches.

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Medicine Bundle

Indian Sacred Performance and American Literature, 1824-1932

By Joshua David Bellin

From the 1820s to the 1930s, Christian missionaries and federal agents launched a continent-wide assault against Indian sacred dance, song, ceremony, and healing ritual in an attempt to transform Indian peoples into American citizens. In spite of this century-long religious persecution, Native peoples continued to perform their sacred traditions and resist the foreign religions imposed on them, as well as to develop new practices that partook of both. At the same time, some whites began to explore Indian performance with interest, and even to promote Indian sacred traditions as a source of power for their own society. The varieties of Indian performance played a formative role in American culture and identity during a critical phase in the nation's development.

In Medicine Bundle, Joshua David Bellin examines the complex issues surrounding Indian sacred performance in its manifold and intimate relationships with texts and images by both Indians and whites. From the paintings of George Catlin, the traveling showman who exploited Indian ceremonies for the entertainment of white audiences, to the autobiography of Black Elk, the Lakota holy man whose long life included stints as a dancer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West show, a supplicant in the Ghost Dance movement, and a catechist in the Catholic Church, Bellin reframes American literature, culture, and identity as products of encounter with diverse performance traditions. Like the traditional medicine bundle of sacred objects bound together for ritual purposes, Indian performance and the performance of Indianness by whites and Indians alike are joined in a powerful intercultural knot.

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Members of the Tribe

Native America in the Jewish Imagination

Rachel Rubinstein

In Members of the Tribe: Native America in the Jewish Imagination, author Rachel Rubinstein examines interventions by Jewish writers into an ongoing American fascination with the “imaginary Indian.” Rubinstein argues that Jewish writers represented and identified with the figure of the American Indian differently than their white counterparts, as they found in this figure a mirror for their own anxieties about tribal and national belonging. Through a series of literary readings, Rubinstein traces a shifting and unstable dynamic of imagined Indian-Jewish kinship that can easily give way to opposition and, especially in the contemporary moment, competition. In the first chapter, “Playing Indian, Becoming American,” Rubinstein explores the Jewish representations of Indians over the nineteenth century, through narratives of encounter and acts of theatricalization. In chapter 2, “Going Native, Becoming Modern,” she examines literary modernism’s fascination with the Indian-poet and a series of Yiddish translations of Indian chants that appeared in the modernist journal Shriftn in the 1920s. In the third chapter, “Red Jews,” Rubinstein considers the work of Jewish writers from the left, including Tillie Olsen, Michael Gold, Nathanael West, John Sanford, and Howard Fast, and in chapter 4, “Henry Roth, Native Son,” Rubinstein focuses on Henry Roth’s complicated appeals to Indianness. The final chapter, “First Nations,” addresses contemporary contestations between Jews and Indians over cultural and territorial sovereignty, in literary and political discourse as well as in museum spaces. As Rubinstein considers how Jews used the figure of the Indian to feel “at home” in the United States, she enriches ongoing discussions about the ways that Jews negotiated their identity in relation to other cultural groups. Students of Jewish studies and literature will enjoy the unique insights in Members of the Tribe.

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Native Authenticity

Transnational Perspectives on Native American Literary Studies

A survey of current critical perspectives on how North American indigenous peoples are viewed and represented transnationally. An indispensable resource for readers, students, and scholars of Native literatures in North America, Native Authenticity offers a clear, comprehensive, and systematic look at the diversity of critical approaches to the idea of "Indian-ness.” Some of the foremost transatlantic scholars of Native Studies in North America and Europe share their insights on this highly-charged aspect of the contemporary theoretical field of Native Studies. The issue of "authenticity" or "Indian-ness" generates a controversial debate in studies of indigenous American literatures. The articulation of Native identity through the prism of Euro-American attempts to confine "Indian" groups to essentialized spaces is resisted by some Native writers, while others recognize a need for essentialist categories as a key strategy in the struggle for social justice and a perpetually renewed sense of Native sovereignty. Pressure from neo-colonial essentializing practices is in conflict with a politics of cultural sovereignty, which demands a notion of "Indian" essence or "authenticity" as a foundation for community values, heritage, and social justice. Contributors participate in a scholarly and pedagogical search for an intellectual paradigm for Native literary studies that is apart from, yet cognizant with, powerful colonial legacies. The complex politics of Polynesian authenticity versus Native indigeneity is engaged by Native Hawaiian writers as they negotiate conflicting demands upon personal and tribal identities. Related to this questioning is the authenticity debate in Canadian First Nations writing, where the claim to authenticity rests upon a claim to historical precedence; also related is the highly contentious claim by some Chicano/a writers to an indigenous heritage as a claim to authority and "American" authenticity. Essays in this volume are focused upon the diverse and sophisticated responses of Native writers and scholars, while offering comparative perspectives on Native Hawaiian, Chicano, and Canadian literatures.

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The New Land

Studies in a Literary Theme

The essays in this volume were originally presented at a workshop held at the University of Calgary on August 1–5, 1977 and sponsored by the Calgary Institute for the Humanities. The phrase “the new land” underwent careful scrutiny and reassessment during the course of the conference, and the insights that resulted from the readings and discussions were of considerable value to participants and observers alike. Chronologically and thematically the essays cover a wide range: from La Nouvelle France as seen by the early missionaries and by the French Romantic writer Chateaubriand to variations on the new land theme in present-day Qußbec; from the Prairies as seen by an early homesteader-novelist from France, Constantin-Weyer, to the Manitoba of Gabrielle Roy, which in turn is contrasted to the Nebraska of Willa Cather; from a historical recreation of the Saskatchewan landscape and history by a gifted contemporary novelist Rudy Wiebe, to a paradisal celebration of British Columbia reflected in the later works of Malcolm Lowry. What emerged from all of this, among other things, was the articulation of a mythology about the new land that was far more complex and expansive than the one derived originally through an old–world perspective.

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Ogimawkwe mitigwaki = Queen of the woods

Simon Pokagon

Simon Pokagon, the son of tribal patriarch Leopold Pokagon, was a talented writer, advocate for the Pokagon Potawatomi community, and tireless self-promoter.
     In 1899, shorty after his death, Pokagon's novel Ogimawkwe Mitigwaki (Queen of the Woods)--- only the second ever published by an American Indian---appeared. It was intended to be a testimonial to the traditions, stability, and continuity of the Potawatomi in a rapidly changing world. Read today, Queen of the Woods is evidence of the author's desire to mark the cultural, political, and social landscapes with a memorial to the pas and a monument to a future that included the Pokagon Potawatomi as distinct and honored people.
     This new edition offers a reprint of the original 1899 novel with the author's introduction to the language and culture of his people. In addition, new accompanying materials add context through a cultural biography, literary historical analysis, and linguistic considerations of the unusual text.
 

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One Good Story, That One

Stories

Thomas King

One Good Story, That One is a collection steeped in native oral tradition and shot through with Thomas King’s special brand of wit and comic imagination. These highly acclaimed stories conjure up Native and Judeo-Christian myths, present-day pop culture, and literature while mixing in just the right amount of perception and experience.

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Plain of Jars and Other Stories

Geary Hobson

In the opening story of Geary Hobson’s riveting new collection, Plain of Jars, a young private confides to his friend that he’s trying to leave the Marine Corps. “I am not doing this just because I find the Marine Corps too tough,” Warren Needham says, but because violence is contradictory to his faith. The story’s surprising climax, however, reveals a different side of Needham’s contradictory nature. It’s this acute understanding of conflict that characterizes Plain of Jars, a book populated by bullies, men in combat, abusive spouses, and Native Americans seeking a sense of personal identity in an environment where conformity is law. The U.S. Marine Corps sets the stage for a number of these stories, whose protagonists combat racism, post-traumatic stress syndrome, and the looming reality of the Vietnam War. With pitch perfect dialogue and a sense of the unexpected, Plain of Jars tests the depths of complex lives.

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