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George Sword's Warrior Narratives

Compositional Processes in Lakota Oral Tradition

Delphine Red Shirt

The general focus in Lakota oral literary research has been in the study of content rather than process in oral traditions. In a new disclosure of the characteristics of Lakota oral style, Delphine Red Shirt shows how its composition and structure are reflected in the work of George Sword, who composed 245 pages of text in the Lakota language using the English alphabet. What emerges in Sword’s Lakota narratives are the formulaic patterns inherent in the Lakota language that are used to tell the narratives, as well as recurring themes and story patterns. Red Shirt’s primary conclusion is that this cadence originates from a distinctly Lakota oral tradition.

Red Shirt analyzes historic documents and original texts in Lakota to answer the question: How is Lakota literature defined? Her groundbreaking discernment of the process of composition of Native literature uncovers the epistemological basis of this literature, which provides the object for literary studies, anthropological linguistics, translation studies, and linguistics. Her analysis of Sword’s texts can be used to determine whether the origin of any given narrative in Lakota tradition is oral and opens avenues for further research.

 

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Gerald Vizenor

Texts and Contexts

Edited by Deborah L. Madsen and A. Robert Lee

This essay collection offers an overview of Vizenor scholarship through close reading of his texts and exploration of the intellectual contexts in which they are situated. Vizenor’s achievements cannot be easily summarized; rather, this book gives due evidence of the complexity of his work and the diverse critical responses to it.

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Home Words

Discourses of Children’s Literature in Canada

The essays in Home Words explore the complexity of the idea of home through various theoretical lenses and groupings of texts. One focus of this collection is the relation between the discourses of nation, which often represent the nation as home, and the discourses of home in children’s literature, which variously picture home as a dwelling, family, town or region, psychological comfort, and a place to start from and return to. These essays consider the myriad ways in which discourses of home underwrite both children’s and national literatures.

Home Words reconfigures the field of Canadian children’s literature as it is usually represented by setting the study of English- and French-language texts side by side, and by paying sustained attention to the diversity of work by Canadian writers for children, including both Aboriginal peoples and racialized Canadians. It builds on the literary histories, bibliographical essays, and biographical criticism that have dominated the scholarship to date and sets out to determine and establish new directions for the study of Canadian children’s literature.

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Howling for Justice

New Perspectives on Leslie Marmon Silko’s Almanac of the Dead

Edited by Rebecca Tillett

More than twenty years after its publication in 1991, Leslie Marmon Silko’s monumental novel Almanac of the Dead continues to disconcert, move, provoke, and outrage readers. In a work that is overtly and often uncomfortably political, Silko’s overflowing cast of characters includes representatives from a range of cultures and communities who are united by common experiences of dispossession, disenfranchisement, exploitation, and poverty. Clearly, Silko’s depiction of a social uprising that draws together the indigenous People’s Army of the Americas and the American Army of the Homeless triggered—and was designed to trigger—a range of reactions among readers and critics alike.
 
Howling for Justice actively engages with both the literary achievements and the politics of Silko’s text. It brings together essays by international scholars reacting to the novel while keeping in mind its larger concern with issues of social justice, both local and transnational. Aiming both to refocus critical attention and open the book to a broader array of readers, this collection offers fresh perspectives on its transnational vision, on its sociocultural, historical, and political ambitions, and on its continued relevance in the twenty-first century. The essays examine and explain some of the key points that readers and critics have identified as confusing, problematic, and divisive. Together, they offer new ways to approach and appreciate the text.
 
The book concludes with a new, never-before-published interview in which Silko reflects on the twenty years since the novel’s publication and relates the concerns of Almanac to her current work.

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Indigenous Cities

Urban Indian Fiction and the Histories of Relocation

Laura M. Furlan

In Indigenous Cities Laura M. Furlan demonstrates that stories of the urban experience are essential to an understanding of modern Indigeneity. She situates Native identity among theories of diaspora, cosmopolitanism, and transnationalism by examining urban narratives—such as those written by Sherman Alexie, Janet Campbell Hale, Louise Erdrich, and Susan Power—along with the work of filmmakers and artists. In these stories Native peoples navigate new surroundings, find and reformulate community, and maintain and redefine Indian identity in the postrelocation era. These narratives illuminate the changing relationship between urban Indigenous peoples and their tribal nations and territories and the ways in which new cosmopolitan bonds both reshape and are interpreted by tribal identities.

Though the majority of American Indigenous populations do not reside on reservations, these spaces regularly define discussions and literature about Native citizenship and identity. Meanwhile, conversations about the shift to urban settings often focus on elements of dispossession, subjectivity, and assimilation. Furlan takes a critical look at Indigenous fiction from the last three decades to present a new way of looking at urban experiences, one that explains mobility and relocation as a form of resistance. In these stories Indian bodies are not bound by state-imposed borders or confined to Indian Country as it is traditionally conceived. Furlan demonstrates that cities have always been Indian land and Indigenous peoples have always been cosmopolitan and urban.
 

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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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