American Indian Literature: Resistance and Renewal

                        Jaune Quick-To-See Smith (Salish)
T H I S      I S      I N D I A N      C O U N T R Y

Fall   2012 * TR  9:30 - 10:45  *  TLC  023


Course Info
Service Learning
Essential Understandings in Stud
Class Schedule
Final Project
Lecture Notes
Historical Trauma
Indian Humor
Campus Events

Tuesday  8/21
Welcome! This course  takes an American Indian Studies approach: we'll learn what Native people think about themselves, about others, and the world, expressed through oral and written literatures. We'll  learn from Native speakers and writers, and approach the material from a Native American perspective, based on indigenous values and epistemologies.

3 Crucial Ideas to Understanding American Indian people and their literatures:
1) American Indian tribes are sovereign and each defines its sovereignty differently, given its own history and culture and treaty/executive order acknowledgement. Tribes are sovereign primarily because they are asserting their own will, not because the US granted it.

2)  Each tribe has a continuing, unique and rich cultural tradition, still alive and well today. Many urban Indians retain ties to their homelands and live "Indian lives" in cities.

3)  Nevertheless, Indians have experienced overwhelming assimilation and genocidal forces  due to US policies and missionaries.

The theme of this course is Resistance and Renewal, designating Native Americans' determination to resist complete destruction by or assimilation into Settler culture. This is accomplished by a continual renewal of culture and identity. Primary values of Native people include,    Respect * Reciprocity  * Relationality

Additional Indigenous values/themes our course will explore are:

Wisdom Sits in Place
All My Relations
Circle of Life
The Trickster/Resilience

Guest: Joe Roberts, UI Service Learning Program
Service Learning Opportunities: Tutoring at Plummer, Lapwai,
Native American Prisoners Inside-Out Prison Exchange Project, Sapatq'ayn Cinema

Unit 1: Native Worldviews, Oral Literatures

Thursday   8/23

Read: "Essential  Understandings" button at top left   
PDF:  Federal US American Indian Policy and American Indian Demographics

Assignment 1: Write About today's discussion

Tuesday   8/28
Assignment 1 due

(30 min): Native Voices: Resistance and Renewal in American Indian Literature (includes authors Simon Ortiz, Joy Harjo, Paula Gunn Allen, Leslie Marmon Silko, Greg Sarris, and Lucy Tapahanso. from the online American literature survey american passages.

Assignment 2:  Write a 2 page (typed, double-spaced) response to Native Voices.
Resources for the Video


Thursday   8/30
Share responses to Native Voices
"Huckleberries," Rodney Free, pp 1 - 56
to be a guest
to go  inside the  Tin Shed
to see from the inside out
to feel it

Storytellers Online:

Stories of the Lewis and Clark Trail Tribes

Nimiipuu (Nez Perce)

About Stories
Santa Fe Indian School Spoken Word Team


Tuesday   9/4              

Animal Tales
excerpt from Salmon and His People: Fish and Fishing in Nez Perce Culture, Landeen and Pinkham
excerpt from Nez Perce Coyote Tales: The Myth Cycle, Walker and Matthews

Reading Graphic Literature: Graphic Novels, Paul Gravett (pdf)

Group One: Trickster Tales
Dara, Conor, Latona, Billy, Mason S, Meagan, Kirk

Trickster: Native American Tales: a graphic collection


Thursday    9/6
About American Indian comics

Groups present from Trickster


Tuesday   9/11
Groups present from Trickster

Thursday    9/13
Conclude Trickster

Tuesday 9/18            Nez Perce Stories and Place

Visit from Nez Perce storyteller NAKIA WILLIAMSON  

Thursday 9/20
About Horace Axtell
A Little Bit of Wisdom, Preface - 67
and read the Glossary on pp 215-217

Visit from Horace Axtell and Margo Aragon


Tuesday 9/25       

Conclude, A little bit of wisdom
Assign Exam 1 on Oral Literature and Place: create groups to create stories

Coyote Story Project: form groups of 3 to create your own Coyote Story on UI campus to illustrate the Indigenous concept "Wisdom Sits In Places"

Coyote, as you know, is a trickster, a transformer and a bungling egomaniac. But he also tries to solve problems and make life better. He always interacts with other animal  people, sometimes competing with them, sometimes cooperating with them--even helping them, though he often needs their help as well. He's a genius and a fool. Both community-minded AND exceedingly self-centered. Think about Coyote's attributes and those of the other animal people. Through Coyote stories we learn how "things came to be," such as why Grizzly Bear has a flat nose, and why death is permanent. Through these stories we learn how to survive successfully in our communities and in the places we live.

Your assignment is to form groups of 3 or 4, walk the UI Campus until you find a "place" that you believe can tell a story. How did this "place" come to be?  And what lesson does it teach us? Create a story about your "place" that illustrates the concept "Wisdom Sits in Places." The campus is a "culture" with practices, rituals and they all originate in place (campus) and culture (university practices). The learning goal is for you to "see from the inside out," rethink place and to experience story creation and performance. Turn what seems like "just" a place into a story. What evidence do you find of Coyote and the animal peoples' adventures here?

brief thoughts about final projects
Service Learning updates

Groups for reports

Theories and approaches to Native literature  2 groups
Perma Red and Indigenous Feminism  1 group

Winter in the Blood  2 groups: the novel and the film

The Lesser Blessed  2 groups:  Dogrib origin story/Van Camp/the film

                                     Humor in Native America


E N T E R  T H E  E X H I B I T  B E L O W:
Indian Humor Exhibit at Smithsonian

Deloria (Lakota), "Indian Humor" from Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature (PDF)
Click on the "Indian Humor" button above left side of the screen and read . . .

For discussion:
What are the traditional as well as post-colonial functions of humor in Native societies?
What are the advantages of employing humor in difficult contexts, such as the German Holocaust? How does this apply to the American Holocaust?

Video clips from
Charlie Hill on Richard Pryor Show 1977
Dr. Greene's Original Pain Reliever

The 1491's


Thursday  9/27
No Class: work on your exam/story

Tuesday  10/2
tell your Coyote stories & turn in written component

Thursday  10/4

Historical Trauma and Healing in Native America

Native American Studies as a field was created to support American Indian self-determination and cultural revitalization. Thus, learning about NA historical trauma and healing is important to the study and understanding of Native American literatures. We will attempt to connect the pre-colonized life world of Native Americans to colonized life worlds: how do both seek balance and  healing and balance through literary arts, oral and written.

Native Americans and the Trauma of History, Duran, Duran, and Brave Heart (PDF)


A Century of Genocide: The Residential School Experience

Optional: For further reading on Historical Trauma/Intergenerational Grief you may read:
Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart, "The American Indian Holocaust: Healing Unresolved Grief" (starts on p.60)(pdf)
Lisa Poupart, "The Familiar Face of Genocide: Internalized Oppression Among Native Americans" (pdf)

Tuesday  10/9

American Holocaust: When It's All Over I'll Still Be Indian

Free write: your response to the Historical Trauma films
Discussion Questions for Duran:
What are colonialism and imperialism?
What are the effects of colonialism on the Native American "life world"?
How have Native Americans reacted to the system of colonization?

Understanding this history and the intergenerational trauma it produced is a vital part of the healing and regenerative process for Native American people today.

What is "Postcolonial thinking"?
What are "academic colonial processes" ?
What is "epistemic violence"? 
What is "counter-hegemonic ideology"?

Hegemony:  Ideological/cultural domination by the assertion of universality and neutrality and by disavowal of all other cultures forms or interpretations. (68) A Eurocentric mode of representation of Native Americans is a biased assessment of non-Western cultures.

What is the "Soul Wound"?
Why would loss of the traditional environment be a severe spiritual and psychological injury?
What happens when your own government is the oppressor?
What are the ramifications for Native people when the "American holocaust" is not acknowledged by the majority culture?
See top of p. 69 for a discussion of the inadequacy of western healing models, and the idea that they actually can inflict "epistemic violence"
See bottom of p. 70 for a definition of "Postcolonial thought"
How can simply educating Native Americans (and other Americans) about historical trauma be healing?

Thursday  10/11

The Boarding School Experience
About Indian Boarding Schools
A Photo Gallery of the Indian Boarding School

Louise Erdrich (Ojibway), "indian Boarding School: The Runaways"

Canadian Apology and Acceptance by Tribal Leaders and Australian Apology

VIdeo: Our Spirits Don't Speak English
Andrew Windyboy's testimony

For further reading: "American Indian Boarding School Experiences: Recent Native Perspectives"


Tuesday  10/16
Silko, Leslie Marmon:  "Lullaby" (pdf)

Handouts: Oppression Continuum and What is an Ally? (pdfs)
--what for you is most significant about Native American historical trauma and intergenerational grief?
--what does being an ally mean to you?
--where are you on the continuum of racism? where do you want to be?
--how can non-Natives best be allies to Native people?
--how would  becoming an ally help you, other people and the larger group?

Indigenous theories of  & approaches to literature

Thursday  10/18

Group One:
Simon Ortiz, Towards a National Indian Literature: Cultural Authenticity in Nationalism"
Kim Roppolo, "Toward a Tribal-Centered Reading of Native American Literature" (pdf)
"Homing In," Wm. Bevis
"Communitism," Jace Weaver: That the People Might Live 

Group Two:
"Mythic Realism," Louis Owens in Other Destinies
"Tribalography," Leanne Howe
"Survivance," Gerald Vizenor
"That's Raven's Talk: Holophrastic Approaches"

Group Three:
Reports on Indigenous Feminism (2)
Dara and ?

Tuesday  10/23
Reports on Author Debra Magpie Earling,                               
the Flathead Reservation and history, setting for Perma Red 
Kassidy, Katie, Laura, Bridger, Spencer, Whitney

Map of Montana's Tribal Nations

Brief Salish Tribal Timeline
1700s: The Salish acquired horses, making them a target of raiding parties of Blackfeet and other enemies.
1804-6:  The tribe assisted the Lewis and Clark Expedition with food and horses. The expedition was a catalyst for the fur trade which brought goods to make life easier, as well as diseases, alcohol and guns.
1840-1841:  In the early 1840's one of their leaders had a "vision" of the "Blackrobes" who would come with spiritual teaching. A group of Salish men traveled to St. Joseph's Mission on the Potawatomi Reservation at Council Bluffs, Iowa to meet the "Blackrobes," requesting they come and bring spiritual teaching. Father Pierre-Jean DeSmet left for the Bitterroot Valley, where he established the St. Mary's Mission 

  Hellgate Treaty: the Salish ceded over 22 million acres to the U.S. 

 Catholics established a boys and girls boarding school on the reservation 

The Salish were forced from their homeland in the Bitterroot Valley to the Jocko Reservation (later the Flathead Reservation), a tragedy for the tribe 

 Ursuline nuns began a kindergarten which later grew into a grade school and then a high school. 

  forced removal of last few tribal members from the Bitterroot Valley to the Flathead Reservation
1904:  Flathead Allotment Act divided the land and opened it to white settlement
1910:  as result of the Dawes Act, homesteaders became the majority landholders on the Flathead Reservation

The Salish and Kootenai tribes of Montana joined to become The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Debra Magpie Earling

Debra Magpie Earling's debut novel Perma Red is something of a miracle. The University of Montana creative writing professor began writing it in 1984 and, over the years, it has been through at least nine different rewrites, trimmed from an epic-length 800 pages to a compact 288, burned to a crisp in a house fire, and rejected by publishers who loved the writing but thought the original ending too dark and brutal. Through it all, Earling persevered and the novel stands as a testament to her faith and patience.

Resources for Earling and Perma Red:
"Facing Down Violence," Jan Johnson (pdf)

Read  Perma Red, through Chapter 7(Officer Kicking Woman: here)

fyi: Debra's relative, Chief Charlot 

Map of Perma Red Country


Thursday  10/25
Perma Red, through pp 218 (Charlie Kicking Woman: reservation death)

Tuesday  10/30          (Stick Game in Commons Clearwater Rm at 11am)
Conclude Perma Red,
(Louise: the long hunger - end

Group Four: Intro to James Welch and  Winter in the Blood the novel and the movie ("Trailer")
Kiley, Keila, Briana, Eddy

Background on James Welch (Blackfeet/Gros Ventre)

James Welch at Internet Public Library

Ploughshares (a literary journal) story on James Welch


Winter in the Blood, Chaps 1 -14, pp. Intro - 35

Thursday  11/1
Winter in the Blood, through Chapter 24; pp - 83

Tuesday  11/6
Read:  "The Social World of James Welch" by Matt Herman
conclude WITB
Assign Exam 2

Thursday  11/8
Visit from Steven Paul  Judd (Distinguished American Indian Speakers Series)


Tuesday  11/13

The Lesser Blessed

Group 5:  The Lesser Blessed, Richard Van Camp
Derek, Saleeha, Justin, Claire, Kirsten, Edward

Dogrib Origin Story: "The Woman and the Pups"

INTRODUCING Richard Van Camp         
read his bio here on Nativewiki, hear him read poetry, learn what he's up to--
The Lesser Blessed will soon be released as a movie! See the Trailer

Sam McKegncy, 'Beautiful Hunters with Strong Medicine': Indigenous Masculinity and Kinship in Richard Van Camp's The Lesser Blessed"


Thursday 11/15
Final Paper/Project Proposal Due: Follow instructions at bottom of "Final Project"
Exam 2 due

Deconstructing the Myths of the First "Thanksgiving"


Thanksgiving Break - 11/19 - 11/23 Native American Heritage Day 11/23


Tuesday  11/27

Professor returns Final Project Proposals
Finish Discussion of The Lesser Blessed

Thursday  11/29

POETRY: Group 7:  Melissa, Sarai, Amanda, Becky, Sam

Brian Swann, "Introduction: Only the Beginning," from Nothing But the Truth: An Anthology of Native American Literature Ed. James Ruppert and John Purdy, 2001

Kimberly Blaeser (Anishinaabe), Nothing But the Truth"The Possibilities of a Native Poetics"

Contemporary Native American poetics are "infused with echoes of the song poems and ceremonial literatures of the tribes, born out of the indigenous revolution, filled with the dialogues of inter-textuality, sometimes linked to the cadence and construction of 'an-other' language, frequently self-conscious, and often resistant to genre distinctions and formal structures" (412).

Recognizable facets of Indian-authored poetry:
1)  a significant spiritual and physical landscape
2)  an investment in political struggle (they carry history)
3)  a search for or an attempt to articulate connections with the individual, tribal or pan-Indian legacy
4)  connections to the oral tradition
5)  engages in framing a response to the perceived expectations of Native literature, and/or how non-Natives have represented Indians. "One function of American Indian poetry has been to 'resist cultural erasure' to question the dominant narrative, and to remember our histories clearly as a way to resist both amnesia and nostalgia."

"Literacy in English has not prevented Indian writers from exploring the possibilities for articulating the truth of their own visions through poetry. These visions come out of an exploration of what it means to be Indian and what it means to come from a cultural and historical  past that is unique within American experience."

Poetry often serves to tell us about the places we've been as a people or about the places we wish to be. What we admire about it,  or about the poets who make it, are the ways poetry may succinctly distill and render human experience into language.  Language is a vehicle of ceremony [and healing]. "  poet Janice Gould (Maidu)

The Oral World into Written Poetry


Navajo Nightway Chant


The Delight Song of Tsoai-Talee         --N. Scott Momaday  

I am a feather on the bright sky
I am the blue horse that runs in the plain
I am the fish that rolls, shining, in the water
I am the shadow that follows a child
I am the evening light, the lustre of meadows
I am an eagle playing with the wind
I am a cluster of bright beads
I am the farthest star
I am the cold of the dawn
I am the roaring of the rain
I am the glitter on the crust of the snow
I am the long track of the moon in a lake
I am a flame of four colors
I am a deer standing away in the dusk
I am a field of sumac and pomme blanche
I am an angle of geese in the winter sky
I am the hunger of a young wolf
I am the whole dream of these things

You see, I am alive, I am alive
I stand in good relation to the earth
I stand in good relation to the gods
I stand in good relation to everything that is beautiful
I stand in good relation to the daughter of Tsen-tainte
You see, I am alive, I am alive


from Angle of Geese, 1974


Native Poetry Records and Retells History

The Ghost Dance

Ghost Dance Songs

Massacre at Wounded Knee

N. Scott Momaday, "December 29, 1890: Wounded Knee Creek"

December 29, 1890         --N. Scott Momaday  

                         Wounded Knee Creek

In the shine of photographs
are the slain, frozen and black

on a simple field of snow.
They image ceremony:

women and children dancing,
old men prancing, making fun.

In autumn there were songs, long
since muted in the blizzard.

In summer the wild buckwheat
shone like fox fur and quillwork,

and dusk guttered on the creek.
Now in serene attitudes

of dance, the dead in glossy
death are drawn in ancient light.


from In the Presence of the Sun, 1992

(Many Excellent Native American Poems for your perusal)


Tuesday  12/4


Wendy Rose (background/bio)
"I Expected My Skin and My Blood to Ripen"

Does poetry influence policymaking?
Native American Graves Repatriation Act (1990)
Nez Perce Repatriation Notice


Sherman Alexie video on his newest book of poetry, "Faces."

Sherman Alexie, "My Heroes Have Never Been Cowboys"

In the reservation textbooks, we learned Indians were invented in 1492 by a crazy mixed-blood named Columbus. Immediately after class dismissal, the Indian children traded in those American stories and songs for a pair of tribal shoes. These boots are made for walking, babe, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over you.

Did you know that in 1492 every Indian instantly became an extra in the Great American Western? But wait, I never wondered what happened to Randolph Scott or Tom Mix. The Lone Ranger was never in my vocabulary. On the reservation, when we played Indians and cowboys, all of us little Skins fought on the same side against the cowboys in our minds. We never lost.

Indians never lost their West, so how come I walk into the supermarket and find a dozen cowboy books telling How The West Was Won? Curious, I travel to the world’s largest shopping mall, find the Lost and Found department. “Excuse me,” I say. “I seem to have lost the West. Has anyone turned it in?” The clerk tells me I can find it in the Sears Home Entertainment Department, blasting away on fifty televisions.

On Saturday morning television, the cowboy has fifty bullets in his six-shooter; he never needs to reload. It’s just one more miracle for this country’s heroes.

My heroes have never been cowboys; my heroes carry guns in their minds.

Win their hearts and minds and we win the war. Can you hear that song echo across history? If you give the Indian a cup of coffee with six cubes of sugar, he’ll be your servant. If you give the Indian a cigarette and a book of matches, he’ll be your friend. If you give the Indian a can of commodities, he’ll be your lover. He’ll hold you tight in his arms, cowboy and two-step you outside.

Outside, it’s cold and a confused snow falls in May. I’m watching some western on TBS, colorized, but the story remains the same. Three cowboys string telegraph wire across the plains until they are confronted by the entire Sioux nation. The cowboys, 19th century geniuses, talk the Indians into touching the wire, holding it in their hands and mouths. After a dozen or so have hold of the wire, the cowboys crank the portable generator and electrocute some of the Indians with a European flame and chase the rest of them away, bareback and burned. All these years later, the message tapped across my skin remains the same.

It’s the same old story whispered on the television in every HUD house on the reservation. It’s 500 years of that same screaming song, translated from the American.

Lester Falls Apart found the American dream in a game of Russian Roulette: one bullet and five empty chambers. “It’s Manifest Destiny,” Lester said just before he pulled the trigger five times quick. “I missed,” Lester said just before he reloaded the pistol: one empty chamber and five bullets. “Maybe we should call this Reservation Roulett,” Lester said just before he pulled the trigger once at his temple and five more times as he pointed the pistol toward the sky.

Looking up into the night sky, I asked my brother what he thought God looked like and he said “God probably looks like John Wayne.”

We’ve all killed John Wayne more than once. When we burned the ant pile in our backyard, my brother and I imagined those ants were some cavalry or another. When Brian, that insane Indian boy from across the street, suffocated neighborhood dogs and stuffed their bodies into the reservation high school basement, he must have imagined those dogs were cowboys, come back to break another treaty.

Every frame of the black and white western is a treaty; every scene in this elaborate serial is a promise. But what about the reservation home movies? What about the reservation heroes? I remember this: Down near Bull’s Pasture, Eugene stood on the pavement with a gallon of tequila under his arm. I watched in the rearview mirror as he raised his arm to wave goodbye and dropped the bottle, glass and dreams of the weekend shattered. After all these years, that moment is still the saddest of my whole life.

Your whole life can be changed by the smallest pain.

Pain is never added to pain. It multiplies. Arthur, here we are again, you and I, fancydancing through the geometric progression of our dreams. Twenty years ago, we never believed we’d lose. Twenty years ago, television was our way of finding heroes and spirit animals. Twenty years ago, we never knew we’d spend the rest of our lives in the reservation of our minds, never knew we’d stand outside the gates of the Spokane Indian Reservation without a key to let ourselves back inside. From a distance, that familiar song. Is it country and western? Is it the sound of hearts breaking? Every song remains the same here in America, this country of the Big Sky and Manifest Destiny, this country of John Wayne and broken treaties. Arthur, I have no words which can save our lives, no words approaching forgiveness, no words flashed across the screen at the reservation drive-in, no words promising either of us top billing. Extras, Arthur, we’re all extras.


Horses, by Sherman Alexie 


for your perusal:
A Serious Collection of Alexie Poems


   Joy Harjo (Creek)


"Stories and songs are like humans who when they laugh are indestructible"         Joy Harjo

Joy Harjo, Text of "A Postcolonial Tale"

"I Give You Back"

I Give You Back         --Joy Harjo  

I release you, my beautiful and terrible fear. I release you. You were my beloved and hated twin, but now, I don't know you as myself. I release you with all the pain I would know at the death of my daughters.

You are not my blood anymore.

I give you back to the white soldiers who burned down my home, beheaded my children, raped and sodomized my brothers and sisters. I give you back to those who stole the food from our plates when we were starving.

I release you, fear, because you hold these scenes in front of me and I was born with eyes that can never close.

I release you, fear, so you can no longer keep me naked and frozen in the winter, or smothered under blankets in the summer.

I release you I release you I release you I release you

I am not afraid to be angry. I am not afraid to rejoice. I am not afraid to be black. I am not afraid to be white. I am not afraid to be hungry. I am not afraid to be full. I am not afraid to be hated. I am not afraid to be loved.

to be loved, to be loved, fear.

Oh, you have choked me, but I gave you the leash. You have gutted me but I gave you the knife. You have devoured me, but I laid myself across the fire. You held my mother down and raped her, but I gave you the heated thing.

I take myself back, fear. You are not my shadow any longer. I won't hold you in my hands. You can't live in my eyes, my ears, my voice my belly, or in my heart my heart my heart my heart

But come here, fear I am alive and you are so afraid                            
of dying.

from She Had Some Horses, 1983

Linda Hogan


Who Will Speak?         --Linda Hogan  

If all the animals came from the hills, 
if all the fish came from the rivers, 
and the birds came down from the sky 
we would know our lives, 
somewhere between the mountain 
and the ant. 
We would see what we do pass by 
and return 
around earth's curve.

All I know are these rivers, 
the air and wind 
carving down the trees 
with their invisible hands 
until the trees are bent figures of old men 
and then only the empty space, 
a longing that passes.

And that sorrow says, 
the animals, 
who will speak for them? 
Who will make houses of air 
with their words?

And the mouth of a man, 
the tongue 
that belongs to grass and light 
and the four-legged creatures. 
He speaks of tomorrow. 
He gives voice to the small animals. 
He gives a seat to the eagles. 
Words for the fish. 
The golden light of creation.

Light. Lumine. The world returns.

I do not want to break this spell. 
I do not want the words to fall away. 
I do not want to break this spell.

                                (for Oren Lyons, 1978)

from Eclipse, 1983

Louise Erdrich (Anishinaabe) 

"Dear John Wayne"

August and the drive-in picture is packed.
We lounge on the hood of the Pontiac
surrounded by the slow-burning spirals they sell
at the window, to vanquish the hordes of mosquitoes.
Nothing works. They break through the smoke screen for blood.

Always the lookout spots the Indian first,
spread north to south, barring progress.
The Sioux or some other Plains bunch
in spectacular columns, ICBM missiles,
feathers bristling in the meaningful sunset.

The drum breaks. There will be no parlance.
Only the arrows whining, a death-cloud of nerves
swarming down on the settlers
who die beautifully, tumbling like dust weeds
into the history that brought us all here
together: this wide screen beneath the sign of the bear.

The sky fills, acres of blue squint and eye
that the crowd cheers. His face moves over us,
a thick cloud of vengeance, pitted
like the land that was once flesh. Each rut,
each scar makes a promise: It is
not over, this fight, not as long as you resist.

Everything we see belongs to us.

A few laughing Indians fall over the hood
slipping in the hot spilled butter.
The eye sees a lot, John, but the heart is so blind.
Death makes us owners of nothing.
He smiles, a horizon of teeth
the credits reel over, and then the white fields

again blowing in the true-to-life dark.
The dark films over everything.
We get into the car
scratching our mosquito bites, speechless and small
as people are when the movie is done.
We are back in our skins.

How can we help but keep hearing his voice,
the flip side of the sound track, still playing:
Come on, boys, we got them
where we want them, drunk, running.
They'll give us what we want, what we need.
Even his disease was the idea of taking everything.
Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins.

discuss the setting, speaker, imagery and themes

"The Strange People," Louise Erdrich

    The antelope are strange people ... they are beautiful to look at, and yet they are tricky. We do not trust them. They appear and disappear; they are like shadows on the plains. Because of their great beauty, young men sometimes follow the antelope and are lost forever. Even if those foolish ones find themselves and return, they are never again right in their heads.

—Pretty Shield,  Medicine Woman of the Crows   (transcribed and edited by  Frank Linderman (1932)

All night I am the doe, breathing   
his name in a frozen field,
the small mist of the word
drifting always before me.
And again he has heard it   
and I have gone burning   
to meet him, the jacklight   
fills my eyes with blue fire;   
the heart in my chest
explodes like a hot stone.
Then slung like a sack
in the back of his pickup,
I wipe the death scum
from my mouth, sit up laughing   
and shriek in my speeding grave.
Safely shut in the garage,
when he sharpens his knife
and thinks to have me, like that,
I come toward him,
a lean gray witch
through the bullets that enter and dissolve.
I sit in his house
drinking coffee till dawn
and leave as frost reddens on hubcaps,
crawling back into my shadowy body.
All day, asleep in clean grasses,
I dream of the one who could really wound me.   
Not with weapons, not with a kiss, not with a look.   
Not even with his goodness.
If a man was never to lie to me. Never lie to me.
I swear I would never leave him.

Louise Erdrich, "The Strange People" from Original Fire: Selected and New Poems. Copyright © 2003 by Louise Erdrich. Reprinted with the permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.


Thursday, 12/6

Phil George (Nez Perce)
from his book Kautsa (Grandmother)

Name Giveaway

That teacher gave me a new name. . . again.
She never even had feasts or a giveaway!

Still I do not know what “George” means:
and now she calls me “Phillip.”

Two Flocks of Geese Lighting Upon Still Waters
must be a name too hard to remember.


Salmon Return

Like many Grandfathers before me,
I spear Salmon: splashing, flapping.
These echoing waters no longer your home.
Up Celilo Falls you will dance no more.
Cleansed, Grandmother will weave
willows into your needle-boned flesh.
Beside night fires you will roast—
Fat oozing, dripping, sizzling.
My people will not go hungry.
We fast. We sing. We feast.
May your spirit always live, my friend,
if even in the Moon of High Waters.
From saltwaters you swim upstream to die.
We remember: “Return home to die.”


Moon of Huckleberries

 Black Bear sang, drumming on a log:
“Come, bring your biggest baskets
To the best berry patches.
I’ll show you.”

 “If you maidens get lost—
Just follow my dung,
Just follow my dung.”
Black Bear sang, drumming on a log.


Tiffany Midge (Standing Rock Sioux), MFA (UI)

About Tiffany MidgePortrait

A selection of Tiffany's  poems
be sure to read all the poems here

and one of Tiffany's favorites:

Nora Dauenhauer "How to Cook a Wild Salmon"



Final  Paper Due Monday 12/10, BRINK 200, my mailbox by 5:00 PM

Have a Great Break!









from previous semesters . . .

New Engl 484 presentation.ppt

  HooPalousa basketball game, 7:30 Memorial Gym with Sherman Alexie

Sherman Alexie's website     
Video Clips: Sherman Alexie: Open All Night (NOW/PBS)                                                   
Video Clip
: 2001 World Heavyweight Poetry Championship with Sherman Alexie
Alexie on Colbert

Lecture: Sherman Alexie's Postmodern Aesthetics
FABULOUS INTERVIEW  with Alexie on trauma, writing



discuss Flight

Optional secondary readings:
S. Evans, "Sherman Alexie's Open Containers"
PBS/POV "Border Talk" with Sherman Alexie
also check out:  RED ROAD TO SOBRIETY




















Ortiz (Acoma Pueblo), "Towards a National Indian Literature: Cultural Authenticity in Nationalism" 120-125
1. Explain the ceremonies of Acquemeh and how they are "authentically" Indian.
2.  How have Native people responded to colonialism, according to Ortiz?
3. What quality or qualities, for Ortiz, most characterizes NA literature and people/communities?

* Colonialism: what is it? where is it? how does it work?

Tuesday 9/07

Simon Ortiz, "The Killing of a State Cop" 321
Leslie Marmon Silko, "Tony's Story," 362
Cook-Lynn, "The Power of Horses," 226

Discussion questions:
1. Why do you think both Silko and Ortiz chose to apply their imagination to an historical event?
2.  What are the major differences between the stories and what effect(s) do these differences have?
3. Choose a passage from each story that represents for you one of the author's major concerns/themes.
4. Which story--Silko or Ortiz's--did you most enjoy and why?
5.  What role does the Tribe's oral stories play in this story? How does the story employ Momaday's  "myth, history and memoir/personal" ? How do both the ancient story of the horse and the mother's story affect the father and daughters' actions? What IS the power of horses?


of the profane.



(NBT) Pauline Johnson, "As It Was in the Beginning," (1917) p. 282
1.  choose the passage you find most powerful in the story
2.  explore the animal imagery and how it is used
3.  consider the first line of the story and the final two lines, "They account for it by the fact that I am a Redskin. They seem to have forgotten I am a woman" (288).
4.  what are the major themes of the story, and perhaps Johnson's "message"?
5.  does the story resonate in any ways with the boarding school essay above?

For further reading:  Silko, Leslie Marmon, "Lullaby"

Prof. Johnson's Nez Perce Jazz Band Research (if time)

The Power of Place/Place-Based Religion in Native America
Video clip: In the Light of Reverence ( (excerpt) NOW ON RESERVE

for further reading: (Indigenous Environmental Network)

Intro to James Welch (Blackfoot/Gros Ventre) and 19th Century Northern Plain culture/history

Welch's novel, Winter in the Blood, is currently being made into a movie with filming occurring in Montana



FOOLS CROW   Parts 1, 2 and 3-- Look at the Map in the back of the book--learn Blackfeet country and important places in the novel

For Discussion:
1. What are the setting, situation and point of view or the narrator? Describe our two protagonists. What are some of the Blackfeet values communicated in this early part of the novel?
2. What are some of the names for the animals Welch has named and why do you think he chose to this language? What effect do these names have on you?
3. What evidence is there within the novel that the buffalo economy of the Pikuni is changing? What is their response to the change?
4. What are the expectations for young Blackfeet men in terms of being accepted as adults in the community? What skills, values and behaviors demonstrate male maturity? What defines success and status? How does White Man's Dog meet or not meet these expectation? How does Fast Horse meet or not meet these expectations?
5. How do the Pikuni define and acquire material wealth? How does this influence their behavior toward other tribes? Toward traders? Settlers? How do the settlers define and acquire material wealth? How does this influence their behavior toward the tribes? Toward the traders?
6. What role do different perceptions of land ownership play in the conflicting economies of the Pikuni and the settlers?
7. Explain a "vow" and its value to the Blackfeet.
8. What are the expectations for young Blackfeet women in terms of being accepted as adults in the community? What skills, values, and behaviors demonstrate female maturity? What defines success and status?
9. Discuss gender roles and division of labor in Pikuni society?
10. What is the purpose of the Sun Dance ceremony? Is it analogous to traditions in other cultures?
11.  How do the Pikuni define warfare? What are their goals? What is permissible and impermissible in their acts of war? Why did the Blackfeet war against the Crow?

FOOLS CROW Parts 4 and 5
12. What is the significance of the conversation between  Raven and Fools Crow? In terms of worldview, what does Welch suggest through the relationships the Pikuni have with animals?
13. Why does Welch call whites "Napikwans" and how has the Pikuni's attitude toward them changed from the beginning of the novel?
14. What statement is the novel making about justice? What does Kipp mean when he thinks, "These people have not changed, but the world they live in has" (252)?
15. In chapters 21 and 22, what are the different chiefs and their philosophical position on the conflict with the Napikwans. What would you advise in the council meeting?
16. Where does Fools Crow journey? What is the symbolism of the turnips?
Who is Feather woman and what does Fools Crow learn from her? How are they similar?
What is honor to Blackfeet?
Where is the hope in chapters 25-32?