- From the EditorGenre, Media, Agency
The recovery and reinterpretation of Native American writing produced before the mid-twentieth century has been an area of great interest and great productivity within American Indian literary studies of the past two decades. A primary focus of this work has been a critical reassessment of Indigenous agency. Before the 1960s and the so-called Native American literary renaissance, to what extent were Indigenous writers able to deploy the media and the genres available to them toward multiple ends—especially toward undermining simplistic stereotypes of Indigenous peoples and toward subverting attempts at Native assimilation or erasure? The three essays gathered in issue 27.4 contribute to this line of inquiry in significant ways. Angela Calcaterra takes a “second,” more comprehensive look at the literary and aesthetic strategies deployed in the popular turn-of-the-twentieth-century works of Charles Alexander Eastman, which have sometimes been dismissed by scholars as simply furthering the dominant culture’s project of producing “legible” versions of Indigenous cultures. Amanda Zink takes a similarly comprehensive, in-depth look at the “sentimental” writing produced by Native women who were boarding school students at Carlisle in the late nineteenth century. Like Eastman’s popular works, this body of writing has often been dismissed as simply furthering an assimilationist agenda; Zink demonstrates the possibility of Native women writers repurposing a dominant discourse to unexpected ends. And Alanna Hickey introduces and contextualizes the publicly performed poetry of John Rollin Ridge from the mid-nineteenth century, demonstrating that contextualization and close analysis of this once popular but now only rarely discussed genre helps us to better understand the situated complexity of Ridge’s politics. All three scholars help us to move beyond simple binaries of (absolute) resistance [End Page vii] and (absolute) assimilation to see the high level of nuance and ambiguity achieved by Native writers even from within those genres and media most readily associated with furthering the goals of U.S. dominant culture.
In addition, this issue of sail includes a brief personal essay by Diane Glancy, followed by a recent interview with this prolific Native American writer by Rachel Luckenbill. Like much of Glancy’s writing, the essay is potentially controversial. Glancy critiques the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (naisa) for its decision to support the call for a boycott of Israeli academic institutions, and she does so from the specific vantage point of an evangelical Christian. Although the editorial board and I do not necessarily agree with Glancy’s critique (and I should note that I served as the 2013– 14 president of naisa, during the period when the statement of support for the boycott was debated and issued), we feel it is vital for the field that we publish a broad range of views and perspectives. [End Page viii]