- Native Women and Land: Narratives of Dispossession and Resurgence by Stephanie J. Fitzgerald
In this absorbing and timely work, Stephanie J. Fitzgerald (Cree Nation) supplements and extends the works of such scholars as Joni Adamson, Donelle N. Dreese, Lee Schweninger, and T. V. Reed in an effort to “forge new links between Native studies and gender [End Page 117] studies, postcolonialism, legal studies, and ecocriticism and environmentalism” (6).
Fitzgerald’s study is thematically organized into two sections, “Askîy/Land” and “Nipîy/Water.” Beginning with land narratives, Fitzgerald in chapter 1 recounts the plight of Cherokees along the Trail of Tears and their forced resettlement to the Oklahoma Territory in the late 1830s and the infamous Long Walk of the Navajos and the Mescalero Apaches to Bosque Redondo in southeastern New Mexico in 1864, revealing how these sufferings led to stories of “survival and sacrifice for future generations, of relying on the ‘old stories’ and incorporating new ones into the land narrative repertoire”(41). She illustrates these processes further by showing how they play out in Diane Glancy’s Pushing the Bear: A Novel of the Trail of Tears (1996) and Pushing the Bear: After the Trail of Tears (2009), in Luci Tapahonso’s poem “1864,” and in the oral YouTube account titled “Grandma Margaret’s Long Walk.” Chapter 2 takes up the issues of environmentalism and federal land allotment laws and their portrayal in Louise Erdrich’s Little No Horse series: Love Medicine (1984), The Beet Queen (1986), Tracks (1988), The Bingo Palace (1994), The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse (2001), and Four Souls (2004). Fitzgerald maintains that collectively these works “highlight what has been at stake all along in the fractious relationship between the Ojibwe and the US government. . . . Land and tradition are bound up together—just as they bind the community together. Far from being mere marks on an Indian agent’s map, the reservation has come to represent Ojibwe Country . . . Indian land” (65).
Section 2 continues the land narrative theme, but with the addition of how altered waterways represent broken pacts with tradition as well. In chapter 3, Fitzgerald examines Linda Hogan’s Solar Storms (1995) and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn’s From the River’s Edge (1991) and how these fictional works provide a window into contemporary dilemmas faced by Indigenous tribes along major watercourses. Fitzgerald first analyzes Hogan’s use of the fictitious Fat-Eaters (or the Beautiful People) and the Wing women’s journey along the Boundary Waters of Adam’s Rib (the epicenter of the broken pact) to illuminate the legal, cultural, spiritual, linguistic, environmental, and epistemological struggles of the real Cree and Anishinaabeg [End Page 118] peoples against the James Bay (Canada) dam and reservoir project of the 1970s. Fitzgerald does the same for Cook-Lynn’s Crow Creek Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, where her fictitious protagonist, John Tatekeya, seeks restitution in federal court for forty-two stolen cattle, purloined in part by one of his fellow tribesmen. Fitzgerald’s inclusion of From the River’s Edge is meant to show not only how tribal groups can become factionalized but more importantly how Cook-Lynn’s novel reveals the “discrepancy between Western notions of ‘justice’ and what is ‘fair’ on the one hand, and Dakotah beliefs and values on the other” (81). Fitzgerald deftly shows how Cook-Lynn uses these opposing views of justice to amplify the US Army Corps of Engineers’ destruction, by virtue of the 1944 Pick-Sloan Act, of 202,000 acres of Sioux lands along the Missouri River during the 1950s and 1960s. Chapter 4 takes readers into the watery worlds of the Houma Nation in coastal Louisiana and the Alaska Native villages of Kivalina and Shishmaref in the Arctic. As Fitzgerald notes, hurricanes (in Louisiana) and, more generally, global warming have led to relocations and an increasing relevance of older tribal stories and traditions in the rewriting and reclaiming process among these tribal groups (90).
Fitzgerald concludes her work by scrutinizing the Canadian Parliament...