University of Nebraska Press

American Indian Lives

Published by: University of Nebraska Press

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American Indian Lives

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Alanis Obomsawin

The Vision of a Native Filmmaker

Randolph Lewis

In more than twenty powerful films, Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin has waged a brilliant battle against the ignorance and stereotypes that Native Americans have long endured in cinema and television. In this book, the first devoted to any Native filmmaker, Obomsawin receives her due as the central figure in the development of indigenous media in North America.
 
Incorporating history, politics, and film theory into a compelling narrative, Randolph Lewis explores the life and work of a multifaceted woman whose career was flourishing long before Native films such as Smoke Signals reached the screen. He traces Obomsawin’s path from an impoverished Abenaki reserve in the 1930s to bohemian Montreal in the 1960s, where she first found fame as a traditional storyteller and singer. Lewis follows her career as a celebrated documentary filmmaker, citing her courage in covering, at great personal risk, the 1991 Oka Crisis between Mohawk warriors and Canadian soldiers. We see how, since the late 1960s, Obomsawin has transformed documentary film, reshaping it for the first time into a crucial forum for sharing indigenous perspectives. Through a careful examination of her work, Lewis proposes a new vision for indigenous media around the globe: a “cinema of sovereignty” based on what Obomsawin has accomplished.

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Chevato

The Story of the Apache Warrior Who Captured Herman Lehmann

William Chebahtah

Here is the oral history of the Apache warrior Chevato, who captured eleven-year-old Herman Lehmann from his Texas homestead in May 1870. Lehmann called him “Bill Chiwat” and referred to him as both his captor and his friend. Chevato provides a Native American point of view on both the Apache and Comanche capture of children and specifics regarding the captivity of Lehmann known only to the Apache participants. Yet the capture of Lehmann was only one episode in Chevato’s life.
 
Born in Mexico, Chevato was a Lipan Apache whose parents had been killed in a massacre by Mexican troops. He and his siblings fled across the Rio Grande and were taken in by the Mescalero Apaches of New Mexico. Chevato became a shaman and was responsible for introducing the Lipan form of the peyote ritual to both the Mescalero Apaches and later to the Comanches and the Kiowas. He went on to become one of the founders of the Native American Church in Oklahoma.
 
The story of Chevato reveals important details regarding Lipan Apache shamanism and the origin and spread of the type of peyote rituals practiced today in the Native American community. This book also provides a rare glimpse into Lipan and Mescalero Apache life in the late nineteenth century, when the Lipans faced annihilation and the Mescaleros faced the reservation.

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LaDonna Harris

A Comanche Life

LaDonna Harris

This book is the unforgettable story of a Comanche woman who has become one of the most influential, inspired, and determined Native Americans in politics. LaDonna Harris was born on a Comanche allotment in southern Oklahoma in the 1930s. From her earliest years, she was immersed in a world of resistance, reform, and political action. As the wife of Senator Fred R. Harris, LaDonna was actively involved in political advising, campaigning, and networking.

Not content to remain in the background, LaDonna became a well-known political figure in her own right, serving on the National Indian Opportunities Council as President Lyndon B. Johnson’s appointee and working beside such notable political figures as Hubert Humphrey, Robert Kennedy, and Sargent Shriver. In 1980 she became the vice-presidential nominee for the environmentalist Citizen’s Party. Her story provides a witty and valuable American Indian insider’s view of modern national political scenes.

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Rights Remembered

A Salish Grandmother Speaks on American Indian History and the Future

Pauline R. Hillaire

Rights Remembered is a remarkable historical narrative and autobiography written by esteemed Lummi elder and culture bearer Pauline R. Hillaire, Scälla–Of the Killer Whale. A direct descendant of the immediate postcontact generation of Coast Salish in Washington State, Hillaire combines in her narrative life experiences, Lummi oral traditions preserved and passed on to her, and the written record of relationships between the United States and the indigenous peoples of the Northwest Coast to tell the story of settlers, government officials, treaties, reservations, and the colonial relationship between Coast Salish and the white newcomers.

Hillaire’s autobiography, although written out of frustration with the status of Native peoples in America, is not an expression of anger but rather represents, in her own words, her hope “for greater justice for Indian people in America, and for reconciliation between Indian and non-Indian Americans, based on recognition of the truths of history.”

Addressed to indigenous and non-Native peoples alike, this is a thoughtful call for understanding and mutual respect between cultures.


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Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer

A Story of Survival

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke

“A name creates life patterns,” Allison Adelle Hedge Coke writes, “which form and shape a life; my life, like my name, must have been formed many times over then handed to me to realize.” Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer is Hedge Coke’s narrative of that realization, the award-winning poet and writer’s searching account of her life as a mixed-blood woman coming of age off-reservation, yet deeply immersed in her Cherokee and Huron heritage. In a style at once elliptical and achingly clear, Hedge Coke describes her schizophrenic mother and the abuse that often overshadowed her childhood; the torments visited upon her, the rape and physical violence; and those she inflicted on herself, the alcohol and drug abuse. Yet she managed to survive with her dreams and her will, her sense of wonder and promise undiminished.

The title Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer refers to the life-revelations that brought Hedge Coke through her trials, the melding of language and experience that has brought order to her life. In this book, Hedge Coke shares the insights she has gathered along the way, insights that touch on broader Native issues such as modern life in the diaspora; the threat of alcohol, drug abuse, and violence; and the ongoing onslaught on self amid a complex, mixed heritage.

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Sarah Winnemucca

Sally Zanjani

This book is the triumphant and moving story of Sarah Winnemucca (1844–91), one of the most influential and charismatic Native women in American history. Born into a legendary family of Paiute leaders in western Nevada, Sarah dedicated much of her life to working for her people. She played an instrumental and controversial role as interpreter and messenger for the U.S. Army during the Bannock War of 1878 and traveled to Washington in 1880 to obtain the release of her people from confinement on the Yakama Reservation. She toured the East Coast in the 1880s, tirelessly giving speeches about the plight of her people and heavily criticizing the reservation system. In 1883 she produced her autobiography—the first written by a Native woman—and founded a Native school whose educational practices were far ahead of its time. Sally Zanjani also reveals Sarah’s notorious sharp tongue and wit, her love of performance, her string of failed relationships, and at the end, possible poisoning by a romantic rival.

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Searching for My Destiny

George Blue Spruce

George Blue Spruce Jr. is recognized as the first American Indian dentist in the United States. His life story reaches back to the ancient Pueblo culture cherished by his grandparents and parents and extends to state-of-the-art dentistry and the current needs of the American Indian people.
 
Blue Spruce’s journey begins on the Santa Fe Indian School campus with his parents’ determination that their children would excel academically and obtain college degrees. After graduating from dental school, Dr. Blue Spruce planned to return to the pueblos to treat his people. As it turned out, his destiny reached far beyond: from the wilds of Montana to New York City to San Francisco to South America and back to the United States. In Washington DC, he presented the needs of American Indians to Congress and lunched with the president.
 
Throughout his journey Dr. Blue Spruce has traveled between two cultures, succeeding in mainstream society while keeping Pueblo tradition in his heart. Facing prejudice and conquering adversity, he reached the zenith of his career as director of the Phoenix Regional Indian Health Service and achieving the rank of assistant surgeon general of the United States.

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Tales of the Old Indian Territory and Essays on the Indian Condition

John Milton Oskison

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Indian Territory, which would eventually become the state of Oklahoma, was a multicultural space in which various Native tribes, European Americans, and African Americans were equally engaged in struggles to carve out meaningful lives in a harsh landscape. John Milton Oskison, born in the territory to a Cherokee mother and an immigrant English father, was brought up engaging in his Cherokee heritage, including its oral traditions, and appreciating the utilitarian value of an American education.

Oskison left Indian Territory to attend college and went on to have a long career in New York City journalism, working for the New YorkEvening Post and Collier’s Magazine. He also wrote short stories and essays for newspapers and magazines, most of which were about contemporary life in Indian Territory and depicted a complex multicultural landscape of cowboys, farmers, outlaws, and families dealing with the consequences of multiple interacting cultures.

Though Oskison was a well-known and prolific Cherokee writer, journalist, and activist, few of his works are known today. This first comprehensive collection of Oskison’s unpublished autobiography, short stories, autobiographical essays, and essays about life in Indian Territory at the turn of the twentieth century fills a significant void in the literature and thought of a critical time and place in the history of the United States.

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Telling a Good One

The Process of a Native American Collaborative Biography

Theodore Rios

Telling a Good One is the first comprehensive examination of the collaborative process that creates a Native American life story. Kathleen Mullen Sands draws on her partnership with the late Theodore Rios, a Tohono O'odham (formerly Papago) narrator, to address crucial issues surrounding the inscribing of a life story.

Sands examines the creative, critical, and cultural processes behind this increasingly popular mode of self-expression. The impetus, initial negotiations, interview process, narrative content and style, and the editing and interpretation phases of a Native American life story are all given equal scrutiny. Of particular interest are Sands's successes and failings as a collaborator and the influence of Tohono O'odham culture and its tradition of storytelling on Rios's actions and words. Sands examines the effects of her personal background and academic training on her actions and decisions, how her experiences compare with other collaborative autobiographies and biographies, and the role of academia and publishers in shaping expectations about the content and format of Native American biographies and autobiographies.

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Turtle Lung Woman's Granddaughter

Delphine Red Shirt

Told in their own words, Turtle Lung Woman’s Granddaughter is the unforgettable story of several generations of Lakota women who grew up on the open plains of northern Nebraska and southern South Dakota. Delphine Red Shirt has delicately woven the life stories of her mother, Lone Woman, and Red Shirt’s great-grandmother, Turtle Lung Woman, into a continuous narrative that succeeds triumphantly as a moving, epic saga of Lakota women from traditional times in the mid–nineteenth century to the present. Especially revealing are Turtle Lung Woman’s relationship with her husband, Paints His Face with Clay, her healing practice as a medicine woman, Lone Woman’s hardships and celebrations growing up in the early twentieth century, and many wonderful details of their domestic lives before and during the early reservation years.

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