- Fighting for the Mother/Land:An Ecofeminist Reading of Linda Hogan's Solar Storms
Like many contemporary Native American writers, Chickasaw poet, novelist, and essayist Linda Hogan sees the landscape in its indispensable connection to the human beings inhabiting it. Throughout her writing, Hogan maintains that the interaction between human and nonhuman nature, as well as the disruption thereof, has an undeniable influence on a person's sense of self. In her novel Solar Storms (1995), Hogan examines the effects resulting from the dislocation of the individual from her natural and cultural landscape. She thus adds to a large canon of Native American texts whose characters engage in identity formations that entail negotiations between their native heritages and the impact of the dominant society.
In their struggle for survival, the characters in Hogan's novel, as this essay demonstrates, are painfully aware of the interconnectedness between the domination of their Native American tribal culture and the exploitation of the nonhuman biosphere. The novel epitomizes such interconnectedness in its depiction of the young mixed-blood woman, Angel Jensen, who goes back to her reservation with the intention to reconnect with her tribal lands, her female ancestors, and most particularly with her mother who gave her up for adoption. During this journey, Angel realizes that the destruction of her tribal lands, the broken bonds among her family members, and her separation from her mother are results of an imbalance between human and nonhuman nature, an imbalance caused by the interference of the white Euro-American settlers with her tribe's culture. In the novel's social critique of the dominant culture's interference with nonhuman nature and [End Page 67] with tribal traditions, Hogan draws on the ecofeminist heuristic that humans must restore the connection to the biosphere in order to reach a sense of equilibrium. Thus, Angel's fight for the legal rights of her tribe and the conservation of the tribal lands are acts of responsibility based on her understanding of the organic interconnectedness within the biosphere.
Ecofeminism (ecological feminism) is a philosophy that draws a connection between the domination of sexual, ethnic and social minorities, and the domination of nonhuman nature. Ynestra King defines ecofeminism as "a critical social movement, representing the convergence of two of the most important contemporary movements, feminism and ecology" (702). King emphasizes that the main goals of ecofeminism, "human liberation and the liberation of nature are inextricably connected, as are the ecological and the social crisis" (730).1 Ecofeminist criticism has made considerable contributions to the innovative readings of a postmodern literary tradition. In their book, Reading under the Sign of Nature: New Essays in Ecocriticism (2000), John Tallmadge and Henry Harrington emphasize that ecocriticism is "an attitude, an angle of vision, and a mode of critique" (ix) that has launched new perspectives of an interdisciplinary literary practice. In their introduction, for instance, Harrington and Tallmadge argue that
[e]cocritics have begun a long migration away from foundational theory toward the exciting and varied terrain of actual practice. In the process, they are reaching beyond the romantic Euroamerican canon and its nature writers like Muir and Thoreau toward other traditions, including those of oriental and Native American cultures. And they have begun to explore pluralistic and syncretic approaches, employing techniques of feminism, ethnic studies, biography, and postmodern analysis along with tools borrowed from geography, anthropology, and natural history.(ix–x)
Critics have been reading Native American literature increasingly under the scope of ecocriticism, discussing the dislocation of Native American protagonists in relation to the destruction of tribal lands.2 [End Page 68] Hogan in particular juxtaposes the healing powers of the ancestral landscape with the protagonists' fighting for a restorative healing of the landscape. It is not so much through their return to a pristine land within their tribal territories but rather through their activism for the preservation of the tribal lands that the characters in Hogan's fiction reach a sense of completion to their identity quests.
Throughout her writing, Hogan emphasizes the healing power that comes from a reconnection of humans to their environmental landscapes. However, unlike N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn (1968) and Leslie Marmon...