- Fort Marion Prisoners and the Trauma of Native Education by Diane Glancy
This brief and suggestive book imaginatively reconstructs the experiences of the Fort Marion prisoners and reflects on the trauma of Native education, including the author’s own. These two main subjects unquestionably have to do with each other, but as Diane Glancy writes, the exact nature of the relationship is oblique: “In my travels for this book, my offsetness met the offsetness of those prisoners who had lost their way of life, and in that, I found a placement, a sense of belonging” (117). Glancy confides that “in my research, the interiority of the prisoners began to speak in my imagination as they sat at the tables in the casement listening to what they were supposed to learn” (88). Listening to their ghostly voices in turn, absorbing their ledger art, and carefully detailing her own writing methods, Glancy chronicles the ways her travels and the prisoners’ travels intersect.
She opens her book with an account of the prisoners’ involuntary trip from Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to Fort Marion, St. Augustine, Florida, in 1875, then begins the hard work of imagining the prisoners’ largely undocumented interior lives and representing “different versions of the same story—the telling and retelling of the story in different ways” (14). Offering both third-person and first-person narratives, moving back and forth across historical periods, mixing in photographs of Southern Plains Indians and ledger art, and more, Glancy reanimates and recontextualizes the Fort Marion prisoners.
This is thus a book about hauntings as well [End Page 328] as journeys. It is also a very interesting book about writing. Glancy’s reflective pieces about her writing process are often illuminating, though perhaps they also signal a worry that the method she uses might not be sufficient unto itself. To my reading, some passages, and indeed some of the glosses, remain somewhat cryptic. That said, Glancy has written a memorable book. Intuitively and perceptively connecting the difficult journeys of late nineteenth-century Southern Plains Indians and her own difficult journeys more than one hundred years later, Glancy gives us valuable, evocative ways of imagining the Great Plains and its peoples in motion, undertaking often painful and traumatic journeys to understand who they are, where they have been, and where they might be going.