- From the EditorsSAIL: Fortieth Anniversary Issue
It's been a wildly busy first year for us since Siobhan came on as SAIL general editor in 2016—first with Michelle Raheja, now with June Scudeler—and started building a dynamic group of new (and old) associate editors and editorial assistants. So the journal's fortieth anniversary in 2017 very nearly caught us unawares. But here we are, four decades into publication of the flagship journal for Native American and Indigenous literary studies. Like other editors before us, we feel the need to take some stock of how things have developed and where we hope our ever-diverse and ever-burgeoning field might go.
Since 2003 ASAIL, our host association, whose newsletter became SAIL in 1997, has met annually under the generous hospitality of the Native American Literature Symposium (if you haven't caught up with Clan Mother LeAnne Howe's history of that symposium, it's a must-read). In 2013 we also welcomed the arrival of an exciting new sister organization, the Indigenous Literary Studies Association (ILSA). It was founded by the late Jo-Ann Episkenew (Métis) and Renate Eigenbrod along with Kristina Bidwell (NunatuKavut [Labrador]), Keavy Martin, Sam McKegney, Rick Monture (Mohawk), Deanna Reder (Cree-Métis), and Armand Ruffo (Anishinaabe), as well as one of our predecessors, former SAIL editor Daniel Heath Justice (Cherokee). ILSA provides a home for scholarship on Indigenous literatures produced within the territories claimed by the Canadian state. Some of the most cutting-edge work in Indigenous literary studies today is being produced by ILSA and its members, and we are eager to create more sustained dialogues and partnerships between our two groups.
Our focus in this issue—on women writers on both sides of the forty-ninth parallel—t hus reflects our editorial makeup and aspirations, as well as developments in our larger field. Indigenous women have been newly visible, and newly empowered, in recent battles against the imperial, gendered, and environmental violence of both the Canadian and [End Page vii] American settler states. They have demanded greater visibility for the epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women; they have fought for and won changes to the Violence Against Women Act. They have been at the heart of the Idle No More movement, as well as the Dakota Pipeline protests. And Indigenous women have been writing, with energy like never before.
Longtime readers of this journal may recall that, in its first decades, it was rather heavily bibliographic, as scholars including Karl Kroeber and LaVonne Ruoff labored to identify and build the canon. Paula Gunn Allen was one of our first editors, and women writers have been a subject of interest since the very beginning: Leslie Marmon Silko, Mourning Dove, and Virginia Beavert (Yakima) were all mentioned in SAIL's first year. Today, it's almost impossible to keep up with all the great writing being published by Indigenous women. In Canada they have produced groundbreaking collections, like the 1993 volumes Writing as Witness, edited by Beth Brant (Bay of Quinte Mohawk), and The Colour of Resistance, edited by Connie Fife (Cree). Both of these Two-Spirited editors and authors died within the last couple of years without the full recognition we feel they deserve; but things may be changing for the better. Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm (Anishinaabe), for example, founder of Kegedonce Press, is well-known for publishing Indigenous erotica and other path-clearing work, including the brave and beautiful Passages, by self-described Two-Spirited trans poet Gwen Benaway (Anishinaabe/Métis). We have also watched with pleasure as First Nations women have begun racking up awards and accolades for their work, including Cherie Dimaline's thought-provoking and beautifully written young adult novel, The Marrow Thieves; Carleigh Baker's (Métis) wonderfully strange short story collection Bad Endings; and Eden Robinson's (Haisla/Heiltsuk) Trickster Shift, the first of a trilogy.
In the territories claimed by the United States, Native women have been just as prolific and successful. Poets like Natalie Diaz (Mojave) and Layli Long Soldier (Oglala Lakota) are getting recognition far beyond Indigenous and ethnic studies. Native American writers are also actively...