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

Resources for Writing and Research

MLA Formatting and Style Guide

What is Good Writing? 
Interesting and Important Ideas 
Logical and Effective Organization
Individual and Appropriate Voice 
Specific and Memorable Word Choice
Smooth and Expressive Sentence Fluency 
Correct Conventions That Communicate

"What is Good Writing?"   and  "the Principles of good writing"
How to Write A Literary Analysis

MLA Style Guide


Resources for Research

Area Tribes' Oral History and Culture:

Native Authors/Cultures/News on the Internet:

Indigenous/Two Spirit Authors and Literature

Circle of Stories

Indian Literature of the Southwest

Luci Tapahanso reading

Index of Native American Resources on the Internet

Resources of Indigenous Cultures around the World

Internet Public Library, Native American Authors

Native American Storytellers

National Museum of the American Indian

Indian Country Today newspaper

Native Literature and Culture Journals:

these are the best:

Studies in American Indian Literature

American Indian Quarterly

Wicazo Sa Journal of American Indian Studies

Library Search Terms:
American literature Indian authors history and criticism (this whole phrase)
Also, look at PS153I52 in the stacks

Local Tribes' Websites:

Nez Perce Tribe

Coeur d'Alene Tribe

Boarding Schools

Residential Schools/Wellness and Healing

About Indian Boarding Schools

Videos (documentaries) on boarding schools:
Taken From My Home
Beautiful Resistance
In the White Man's Image (PBS)
A Century of Genocide in the Americas (Canadian system)


Learning about Race and Ethnicty

What is race?
What is ethnicity?
What is "white privilege"?
"Unpacking the Knapsack of White Privilege"














Silko: "Yellow Woman"   367
"Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit,"  (read pages 10-15), Leslie Marmon Silko (article on Pueblo landscape/myth)

Yellow Woman Stories
Told by the Pueblo peoples of the Southwest, Yellow Woman stories dramatize how humans interact with spirits in the world once it has been created. Although there is always variation, Yellow Woman stories often involve a young married woman who wanders beyond her village and has a sexual encounter with a spirit-man; sometimes she is killed, but usually she returns to her family and tribe having grown spiritually, and therefore has an empowering influence on the people in general. In her influential essay "Kochinnenako in Academe," Paula Gunn Allen points out that Yellow Woman stories are "female-centered, always told from the Yellow Woman's point of view," and that they generally highlight "her alienation from the people," but that her apparently transgressive acts "often have happy outcomes for Kochinnenako [Yellow Woman] and her people." This suggests, Allen argues, "that the behavior of women, at least at certain times or under certain circumstances, must be improper or nonconformist for the greater good of the whole." Like many Native American stories, these narratives have the communal function of both drawing socially important boundary lines and observing where they sometimes need to be transgressed. In particular, according to Allen, they emphasize "the central role that woman plays in the orderly life of the people." Leslie Marmon Silko frequently draws from the Yellow Woman tradition when she writes of empowered (especially sexually empowered) and empowering women like the spirit-being Ts'eh.


Teaching Silko's Ceremony:

Brief History of the Pueblo Indians
Sacred Stories in Ceremony
Brief Excerpt on Uranium mining in SW

Comparing oral stories in Ceremony
Possible timeline for Ceremony
Women in Ceremony
Colors and directions


"Hummingbird and Fly" story: Silko's Hummingbird story reveals how, after the shamans inappropriately begin practicing magic, Nau'ts'ity'i shows her disfavor by taking the land and grass away (in Silko's version the people trigger Nau'ts'ity'is's disfavor by neglecting the corn, though in her Story of Ck'o'you magic, the shamans are at fault). The people turn to Hummingbird and Fly to intercede with Nau'ts'ity'i. They go to her to ask for forgiveness, and she asks that they perform a healing ceremony that requires much travel. As the narrator of Ceremony puts it, "It is not easy." Rocky and Tayo appear to connect with the actions of Hummingbird and Fly, and thus you'll see that reenactment of old stories are a central element of Silko's novel.

The story makes clear that Nau'ts'ity'i, while loving , has clear expectations for behavior and responsibility and that there will be consequences for misbehavior. Indeed, when a few people misbehave, the whole  community pays a price. This direct connection between actions and consequences pervades Ceremony, with Tayo convinced that his actions during the war are the cause of the drought.

Significantly, the healing ceremony requires a communal and cooperative response. The people must work together to determine what is wrong, to enact the ceremony, and  to seek assistance from Fly and Hummingbird.  In this way, the process of ceremony helps rebuild the broken community.

Video: Hopi: Songs of the Fourth World (30min)
Questions for video:
1. According to the video, what is the relationship between the cardinal directions (North-West-South-East), color, and the natural world?
2. How do the Hopi define gender roles and child rearing?
3. What is the relationship between traditional Hopi beliefs and the beliefs of U.S. society at large?
4. Who are the katchinas?

CEREMONY pp 1-167
1. Why is Tayo sick? What is done to heal him?
2. What is Auntie's attitude toward Tayo? Toward Rocky?
3. The novel  could be a demonstration of Josiah's lesson to Tayo: "Nothing was all good or all bad either: it all depended" (10). Look for events, characters, and themes in the novel to which this can be applied. Look for people who seem to not have learned this lesson.
4. In the jungle, after Rocky dies, Tayo "damned the rain until the words were a chant" (11). From what we know of Pueblo cultures, what makes this a significant event? How does this  set other events in motion?
5. One of Tayo's Army friends says "Here's the Indian's mother earth! Old dried-up thing!" (23). What does this tell us about his friend's character and his friend's relationship to his tribal culture?
6. Tayo's dilemma is one of "There was no place left for him" (32). How does he look for his place, and what answers does he find?:
7. When/where do you become confused about the chronology of events?
8. "Emo grew from each killing" (56) What does this tell us about Emo, and what conflict does this create for Tayo?
9.  Tayo thinks at one point: "Jesus Christ was not like the Mother" (63). What changes might Christianity have brought to the Pueblo community? How might these changes not be welcomed by all?
10.  At one point Auntie tells Tayo a story about his mother's misbehavior. She says, ". . . she was  your mother, and you have to understand" (65). What does Auntie feel Tayo must understand about his mother? What effect might such a story have on him?
11.  Look for signs of competing cultures in Tayo's mind or life. For instance, what do we see going on with Tayo's science teacher on page 94?
12.   Why are Josiah's cattle so important?
13.  Why is Tayo sent to  Betonie? Why don't people completely trust Betonie? Why does Tayo think to himself "this would be the end of him" (112)?
14.  Why does Auntie dislike Josiah's visit to the Night Swan?
15.  Keep in mind that Tayo visits Night Swan before he goes off to the war and returns sick. But Night Swan seems to know or sense something about him. How she might be important in his education in general and in his future healing process? What do you think Josiah's note told her? Night Swan tells Tayo, "You are a part of it now (92)". What is he a part of?
16.  Betonie says, "you see, in many ways, the ceremonies have always been changing" (116). How does this prove to be a recurring theme in the novel and how is it important for Tayo's healing?

conclude Ceremony

compare/contrast women in Ceremony (print out handout above)
compare sacred stories/characters (print out handout above)

How do the poems parallel the novel's events? Pay close attention to the story of the witch people (122-128).
18.  What do Tayo, Night Swan, Betonie, and Josiah's cattle have in common with Betonie's grandparents (134-141)?
19.  How do "poems" continue to parallel Tayo's story? Look for moments at which the poems appear in the text. Are these important juxtapositions?
20.  A minor character (Helen Jean) thinks of the Indian veterans she meets: "But these Indians got fooled when they thought it would last" (153). What won't last? Why not? What does Helen Jean contribute to the novel?
21.  What evidence do you find that Tayo is getting better? Look at his actions and his thoughts. Look for images that are associated with him as the novel progresses. Where does he express confidence and happiness? Where does he relapse into fear, sickness, and self=loathing?
22.  On page 177, Tayo tells himself that "he had learned the lie by heart." What lie is this? Similarly, he says the whites had believed a lie. What is the lie that they have learned by heart?
23.  Why does Tayo decide NOT to kill Emo (235)?
24.  Where does Tayo end the novel?
Choose a passage that you feel best articulates a major theme of the novel.


GUEST SPEAKER/WRITER: Jeanette Weaskus (Nez Perce)
from her Memoir Never Dirty, Mostly Clean
or her novel in progress
Jeanette received an MFA in Creative Writing at UI, and is now working on a PhD in English at WSU --be sure to be on time and please ask her questions