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General Editors: Helen Jaskoski and Robert M. Nelson
Poetry/Fiction: Joseph W. Bruchac III
Bibliographer: Jack W. Marken
Editor Emeritus: Karl Kroeber
Assistant to the Editor: Sharon M. Dilloway



SAIL - Studies in American Indian Literatures is the only scholarly journal in the United States that focuses exclusively on American Indian literatures. The journal publishes reviews, interviews, bibliographies, creative work including transcriptions of performances, and scholarly and theoretical articles on any aspect of American Indian literature including traditional oral material in dual-language format or translation, written works, and live and media performances of verbal art.

SAIL is published quarterly. Subscription rates for 1990 are $8 within the United States, $12 (American) outside the U.S. SAIL does not accept retroactive subscriptions, but back issues of volume 1 are available at $12 the volume ($16 outside the U.S.).

For advertising and subscription information please write to
Elizabeth H. McDade
Box 112
University of Richmond, Virginia 23173

Manuscripts should follow MLA format; please submit three copies with SASE to
Helen Jaskoski
SAIL
Department of English
California State University Fullerton
Fullerton, California 92634

Creative work should be addressed to
Joseph Bruchac, Poetry/Fiction Editor
The Greenfield Review Press
2 Middle Grove Avenue
Greenfield Center, New York 12833

Copyright SAIL. After first printing in SAIL copyright reverts to the author.
ISSN: 0730-3238

Production of this issue was funded by the University of Richmond.


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SAIL

Studies in American Indian Literatures
Series 2                  Volume 2, Number 3                  Fall 1990

CONTENTS

PRICKLY PEARS
        Greg Sarris     .                  .                  .                 .                  .              1

COMMENTARY
   Report on ASAIL Business Meeting: 12/29/89              .                 .            18
   From the Editors .                 .                  .                  .                  .            19
   SAIL Special Issue on Early Written Literature              .                 .             20
   MLA Committee on the Languages and Literatures of America       .             21

REVIEWS

Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women. Ed. Paula Gunn Allen.
        Kristin Herzog                   .                  .                 .                  .             23

Blood Salt. Doris Seale.
        Ron Welburn     .               .                  .                 .                  .             26

Coyote's Journal. Ed. James Koller, 'Gogisgi' Carroll Arnett, Steve Nemirow and Peter Blue Cloud.
        Gretchen Ronnow         .                   .                 .                  .                  28

American Indian Autobiography. H. David Brumble, III.
        Helen Jaskoski                .                  .                 .                  .             30

Landmarks of Healing: A Study of House Made of Dawn. Susan Scarberry-García.
        Robert M. Nelson             .                  .                 .                  .             35

The Life I've Been Living. Moses Cruikshank.
        Hertha Wong      .              .                  .                 .                  .             38

Blue Horses for Navajo Women. Nia Francisco.
        Roger Dunsmore  .              .                  .                 .                  .             41

Near the Mountains. Joseph Bruchac.
        Robley Evans       .             .                  .                 .                  .             44

Not Vanishing. Chrystos.
        Marie Annharte Baker         .                 .                 .                  .             47

Briefly Noted
        Helen Jaskoski                  .                  .                 .                  .              48

CONTRIBUTORS                   .                  .                 .                  .             50


{1}

PRICKLY PEARS
by Greg Sarris

{Permission to reprint this article has not been received.}

 


{18}

COMMENTARY



Report on ASAIL Business Meeting: 12/29/89
         The meeting opened with a number of announcements. Andy Wiget announced that the Dictionary of American Indian Literatures was 90% complete. He secured authors for the remaining items. Susan Scarberry-Garcia passed out the current issue of ASAIL Notes. She noted that the Notes had inadequate funds to publish and that she had to use $300 of her own money to publish this issue. She hoped that ASAIL would be able to reimburse her at some point in the future. She also noted that members needed to contribute more information to the Notes.
         Ken Roemer reported that MLA was beginning a review of all affiliate organizations. It plans to review membership and charters in the next few years. MLA also plans on moving all sessions sponsored by affiliated organizations to time slots before the convention or after the convention.
         A motion was made in absentia by Kay Sands and passed unanimously:

I move that the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures, by acclamation, voice our appreciation to Helen Jaskoski, Dan Littlefield, and Jim Parins for the fine job they have done of coordinating, editing, and publishing the new series of Studies in American Indian Literatures. We are grateful for their generous service to the field of American Indian literatures and congratulate them on the quality of both the content and the format of the first issue.

         Helen Jaskoski reported that she had topics, guest editors, and some material already set for future issues of SAIL. Robert Nelson reported that the University of Richmond was ready to pick up the production and publication of SAIL. Some money has been made available from his Dean to cushion the transfer of the production, and to supplement subscription money until SAIL generates adequate funding.
         1989 President Ruppert reported that in the name of the organization, he had accepted an invitation to participate in the American Literature Association. ASAIL has been asked to organize two sessions at the ALA conference; Helen Jaskoski has agreed to serve as chair.
         A motion was made to extend the term of service of the officers from one year to two. It was also suggested that these terms be {19} staggered and that the Vice-President would not necessarily succeed to President after serving as Vice-President. Consequently, Franchot Ballinger will serve as President for 1990 and 1991. The Vice-President will serve for 1990, with a new election to be held in December 1990. The membership voted to reinstitute the positions of Secretary and Treasurer and to combine them into a new position Secretary/Treasurer for 1990 and 1991. The Secretary/Treasurer will organize the membership roll and manage subscription money. The Vice-President will be asked to handle public relations and infor-mation inquiries. Andrea Lerner was elected Vice-President and Elizabeth McDade-Nelson was elected Secretary/Treasurer.
         It was agreed to establish ASAIL membership dues. The money from dues would be used to fund SAIL and ASAIL Notes with some set aside for the Association. It was agreed that in recognition of the present independent subscription status of the two publications that the institution of membership dues would be put off until 1-1-91. A tentative fees schedule was proposed: $12 for graduate students, members without academic affiliation, and special hardship situations; $25 for standard membership; and $35 for foreign or institutional membership. Anyone with suggestions concerning a dues schedule should contact President Ballinger or write a letter to the SAIL editor.
         The question was presented as to future sale of our mailing list. The sense of those in attendance was that we wouldn't want our addresses released for unrelated junk mail, but that we would welcome announcements concerning publications, etc. A motion was made and passed to empower the officers to make decisions on a case-by-case basis concerning the sale of the ASAIL membership list.
         An ad hoc committee was created to investigate incorporation of ASAIL. Franchot Ballinger, James Ruppert, Larry Abbot, and Kate Vangen will serve on that committee and report back to the Assoc-iation at the next meeting.
         Discussion on a motion to have ASAIL establish its own conference was tabled due to a lack of time.

James Ruppert        



From the Editors
         We are especially pleased that SAIL is receiving more articles from young American Indian scholars. Greg Sarris's "Prickly Pears" is one such piece; it offers innovations and challenges, beginning with his original designation of it as "bi-autobiography." We look forward to seeing the completed book that Greg is preparing on Mabel McKay and her stories. And more: we hope that Greg's work in SAIL {20} will come to the attention of other young Native American scholars and critics, and will stimulate them to try their own creative approaches to the riches of traditional literature.
         As SAIL expands in readership and content, we receive ever more books from publishers for review. Publishers pay attention to what SAIL reviewers say, and several have written to acknowledge the acuity and judiciousness of discussions of their publications. If you would like to review books for SAIL, please send a current curriculum vitae to Helen Jaskoski. If you have a book that you think should be reviewed, please let us know that, also. Some works are controversial, and we hope in the future to be able to offer alternative views of some publications.
         Several projects are on-going, including special issues and a major subscription campaign. Future numbers will include new translations of oral tales with essays on traditional northwest literature, articles on pedagogy by Ken Roemer and Joe Bruchac, among others, and new interviews with poets and fiction writers. In addition, we are soliciting new articles for a special issue on early written literature, as described in the announcement below.
         Our current subscription campaign is aimed at libraries. We would like to increase our library subscriptions, and are using as many means as we can to bring to the attention of serials librarians the existence and importance of SAIL. We would like to encourage all our readers to contact a librarian and encourage a subscription to SAIL: at the price of $8 per year it is an offer that few should be able to refuse. Public as well as academic libraries, especially in certain areas of the country, could be encouraged to consider subscribing.
         Finally, we'd like to bring up a practical matter for contributors. Bob Nelson does our typesetting at the University of Richmond (one way we keep costs down), and he uses an optical scanner. For best results, he needs letter quality, black ink copies. If possible, we would like your submissions in letter quality type. At present, we can also accept 5 1/4" diskettes with text files in WordPerfect 5.0.

Helen Jaskoski        
Bob Nelson        



SAIL Special Issue on Early Written Literature
         We would like to publish a special issue on literature by American Indian writers who published before 1950. We encourage articles on a wide range of genres: in addition to discussion of fiction and poetry we would like to see consideration of other texts such as histories including autobiographical texts that combine personal, family and tribal history; essays; satire; published letters, diaries and journals; {21} polemical writing; ephemeral and periodical publications; performance scripts and religious treatises. We also encourage a variety of approaches, including (but not limited to) historical or biographical themes, comparative analysis, conditions of production and publication, reader-response approaches.
         Deadline for finished papers: April 1991.
         Please send all submissions and inquiries to Helen Jaskoski, Department of English, California State University Fullerton, Fullerton, CA 92634.



MLA Committee on the Languages and Literatures of America
         The Committee on the Languages and Literatures of America is actively seeking more involvement in its organizing of panels at the annual MLA convention.
         The Committee on the Literatures and Languages of America consists of nine scholars or writers representing research and teaching in the literatures of five American ethnic groups: African American, American Indian, Asian/Pacific American, Chicano, and Puerto Rican. Each year at the MLA convention CLLA sponsors panels or sessions dealing with these five American ethnic literatures or with interethnic perspectives. The committee particularly invites panels on linguistic and multilinguistic topics; in the past there has been a dearth of panels dealing directly with language issues.
         When submitting a proposal for a panel, consider the following guidelines:
         1. The term "America" refers to the continental United States and its territories, including Puerto Rico and Hawaii. The committee cannot consider sponsoring whole panels that deal solely with national literatures outside the boundaries of the United States, even when these may be directly related to the ethnic groups we represent (for example, Mexican literatures). An acceptable panel, for instance, would address issues of differentiation or of cultural identities in which both United States and Mexican Native American groups are examined.
         2. The responsibility for checking panelists' MLA membership status belongs to the organizer, not to the committee.
         3. Any other paperwork related to the panel must be completed by the organizer, not by the committee. Requests for travel funds, membership waivers, or special audiovisual equipment must be addressed directly to the convention office.

         The committee does not provide funds for sessions. Sponsorship is solely by name; in addition there is the benefit that, on the committee's approval, the panel is integrated into the convention {22} program without having to go through the special sessions review process.
         Although we were unable to assemble complete information on the Committee in time for the 1990 convention, we urge interested SAIL readers to contact committee members with your ideas and suggestions. Presently Joy Harjo and Jarold Ramsey serve on the committee; their addresses are:

         Joy Harjo, Department of English, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721
         Jarold Ramsey, Department of English, University of Rochester, Rochester, NY 14627

         Present committee members nominate individuals to serve on the committee in the future; if you are interested in serving or would like to suggest the name of someone else to serve on this committee, you can write to either of the people mentioned above, or to Ms. Carol Zussass at the national offices of MLA, 10 Astor Place, New York, NY 10003-6981. Nominations generally include the nominee's curriculum vitae, plus a statement giving the name, institutional affiliation, department, rank and statement of qualifications for the position.

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REVIEWS



Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women. Edited by Paula Gunn Allen. Boston: Beacon, 1989. 242 pp. cloth, ISBN 0-8070-8100-0.


         As we approach the 500-year anniversary of Columbus's landing on these shores, we will do well to remember what Paula Gunn Allen says in the introduction to this volume: American Indian women carry with them "the experience of being in a state of war for five hundred years" (1f.). The title and subtitle of the book do not express one of its special features: "The stories I have chosen are women's war stories or woman-warrior stories" (18).
         Allen ingeniously combines traditional tales, contemporary stories, and explanatory comments for each contribution. She points out in her general introduction that writing is one of the ways in which Indian women resist and survive all historical and contemporary attempts to wipe out their culture. They do so by employing "aesthetic processes from both the oral and Western traditions, choosing elements from each in ways that enrich both" (2). The result is often a blurring of traditional genres, a disregard for the Aristotelian unities of time, place, and action, and the absence of an individualistic hero. Native stories might contain a plurality of characters, settings, and themes in a pattern of "regularly occurring elements that are . . . employed to culturally defined ends and effects" (5).
         Allen distinguishes two main kinds of Native stories: those "told to people"--which can then be recorded in writing--and those "told to the page." Both are literature through certain aesthetic structures that are "spiritual at base" (9) and that "make communal transcendent meaning out of human experience" (7). Whereas a "singularity of consciousness" is typical of Western fiction, "commonalities of consciousness" are basic to Native fiction, and blood relationships are only a reflection of a more comprehensive bonding with all the forces of the cosmos.
         The stories by "Spiderwoman's granddaughters" are not to be read as "women's literature" but as "tribal women's literature" (20). As such, they grow out of a collective unconscious that encompasses historical trauma and the awareness that "as American Indian women, we are women at war." "War, in a traditional context, is as much a matter of metaphysics as of politics," and "these stories of women at war are about the metaphysics of defeat" (20f.).
         Allen divides the book into three parts: "The Warriors," "The Casualties," and "The Resistance." The introduction to the first part {24} defines what "war" means in tribal terms:

In English, the term "war" means soldiers blasting away at military targets for the purpose of attacking or defending territory, ideals, or resources. In the tribal way, war means a ritual path, a kind of tao or spiritual discipline that can test honor, selflessness, and devotion, and put the warrior in closer, more powerful harmony with the supernaturals and the earth. (25)

It is from this perspective that Allen's selected stories can make an eminent contribution to our understanding of war and war narratives in any culture. That does not mean falling into the trap of "universal-izing" what is in fact a very unique experience of colonized and oppressed Native women, but by analogy we can discover the social conventions and mythological underpinnings of war in other cultures. We can also observe the "intertextuality" of war narratives--which for Native stories implies the use of tribal traditions (17).
         Three basic concerns are expressed in these stories: an attempt to understand the "nature" of war, the power of war narratives to impact and change this so-called nature, and the role of women warriors.
         The first part, "The Warriors," comprises ancient traditional stories (Oneida, Mohawk, Okanogan), stories by transitional writers (Pretty Shield, Zitkala Sa, Pauline Johnson, Ella Deloria), and some by con-temporary writers (Louise Erdrich, Soge Track, Anna Lee Walters). "A Woman's Fight," by the Crow wise-woman Pretty Shield, is a short, powerful story about Strikes-two, a woman sixty years old, who in the midst of battle is riding around the Crow camp on a grey horse, carrying a root-digger and singing her medicine-song. While Lakota bullets and arrows are flying around her, she calls on every-body to sing along with her, and the Lakota, afraid of her medicine, run away. While that story will delight most modern readers, Zitkala Sa's "A Warrior's Daughter" has a more jarring effect: "The warriors are in the enemy's camp, breaking dreams with their tomahawks." A young beauty, grieving for her lover who was taken captive, with cunning and courage rescues the young brave by sticking a knife into one of his enemies. Allen wisely suspects that the author "is having her little vengeful joke on the white women she spent so much time with, trying to get them to work for Indian rights." Allen's prefatory comments on the next story, however, are insufficient for understand-ing a traditional Chippewa tale. "Oshkikwe's Baby" appears to the uninformed reader more like the story of a male identity crisis than of the spiritual warfare of two women. It becomes much clearer in reading it in its context of related tales and their interpretation in {25} Victor Barnouw's Wisconsin Chippewa Myths and Tales. Fortunately, however, Allen follows up this tale with Louise Erdrich's "American Horse" in which the defiant struggle of a mother for her endangered son is superbly drawn in contemporary as well as tribal terms.
         The rest of the stories in this section on warrior women follow the same pattern: traditional Oneida and Mohawk tales in which courage-ous women wield creative powers are followed by a turn-of-the-century story (from Pauline Johnson's The Moccasin Maker), by an excerpt from Ella Deloria's Waterlily (completed 1944), and two contemporary stories by Soge Track and Anna Lee Walters. Since all these stories vary between expressing calculated violence (Pauline Johnson's woman narrator poisons a faithless white lover) and a gentle-tough warring for spiritual beauty and integrity (Anna Lee Walters' Pawnee women), it is important to notice in Allen's interpretive comments the varieties of tribal attitudes toward war, including those of "conflict-phobic cultures":

Many gynecentric societies did not engage in the warpath. . . . When Pueblo people did participate in warfare, long purification ceremonies were required before the combatant was allowed to reenter village life. (67)

         We can learn here that the struggle over "just" wars is not a Western invention. From pre-historic traces of battle to modern nuclear conflicts, the attempts to justify, explain, and end war have never been without a mythic dimension. But the difference between tribal and modern Western warfare lies in a basic difference of world-view and a tremendous inequality between the adversaries in modern wars between "First World" and "Third World" peoples. Anna Lee Walters's story, "The Warriors," is a powerful expression of the tragedy that evolves when a tribal warrior for "beauty" has to fight, e.g., in the Korean War of the U.S. Native Americans are forced to take on the work of their colonizers and often are crushed in the process. But, as Allen reminds us, "the one who tells the stories rules the world" (27). As American Indian war experiences are turned into stories and are becoming part of the tribal tradition, they are capable of releasing the same power of creation as the original tribal tales. In expressing "the metaphysics of defeat," they indicate a spiritual victory that can have concrete cultural and political consequences.
         The second part of Allen's book is concerned with the "casualties." The victimizers are "Owlwoman" or "Ogre" in the traditional stories, but their role is taken over, for example, by white people in Mourning Dove's "The Story of Green Blanket Feet" or by the Roman Catholic Church in Mary TallMountain's "The Disposal of Mary Joe's Child-{26}ren." A superb story about child abuse as it relates to Indian abuse is "Grace" by Vicky L. Sears. Linda Hogan's "Making Do" is a beautiful expression of the power of art to heal and sustain a wounded woman.
         The last part of the book concerns "The Resistance." Elizabeth Cook-Lynn's "The Power of Horses" "is about soul-theft, the theft of magic, of wonder, from the people" and about reclaiming that wonder. Three "Yellow Woman" stories are fitting introductions to the final "ultra-contemporary" stories of the book, as Allen calls them (198), because Yellow Woman is that ever-shifting persona, "a Spirit, a Mother, a blessed ear of corn, an archetype, . . . an agent of change . . . a wanton, an outcast," that leads us to understand the modern Native women who are half-lost in urban deserts and yet still resist in feeling gripped by ancient tribal forces.
         Spider Woman's Granddaughters
challenges us to find answers to some ancient questions: Are there wars worth fighting? How do war stories--those of the victors and those of the victims--change the definition and "nature" of war? What is the role of women in war? The answers will be very different for tribal and for Western people, but the wisdom stored up in the stories of Native women who have been at war for 500 years is important for all of us. Just as the Crow woman Strikes-two could win a battle by singing, today's women can change the face of war by writing about it.

Kristin Herzog        



* * * *



Blood Salt. Doris Seale. Little Rock: American Native Press Archives/ U Arkansas at Little Rock, 1989.


         The first volume in the new poetry chapbook series initiated by the American Native Press Archives at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock is this brief collection by Doris Seale, who traces her ancestry to a Santee/Cree grandparent. Seale's name may ring familiar to those teachers and parents lucky enough to have encountered Books Without Bias: Through Indian Eyes, which she compiled along with Beverly Slapin. Not enough copies of that massive spiral-bound text were printed and it ought to be reprinted soon. [Ed. note: Books Without Bias is reprinted and will be reviewed soon in SAIL.]
         Seale's poetic voice could easily be ascribed to the realm literary critics might call ethnopoetics. It is a natural and unadorned voice and her brief line-statements are like chanted phrasing. Her ironical tone {27} turns cynical at the bitter experiences and lessons of Native women messed with by white men. A reader might wish Seale would break into extended expressions, because her strength comes in the parallel development and interpolation of song modes. The musical "Little Sister" offers an example of how quickly she perceives imagery and conveys it. Slower to unfold is one of the chapbook's nine untitled poems beginning "You see me." The five lines of "Noon Woman" are imagistic and have clever rhyme.
         Seale hits hard in the title poem as she refers to the taste of blood from a tongue cut out. Other polemical pieces have already been published. She advises the white man in "The Boss": "There's nothing give you more trouble/ Than a woman with something on her mind/ And nothing to lose." One of Blood Salt's better poems, "The Things That Survive the Whiteman," endears those things he calls

                  Rank, coarse, scavenger,
                  Vermin.
                  . . . .
                  The skunks
                  That sweeten city streets,
                  And crows--

         The speaker here shares this reflective state with "Sister rat," yet another being whose life is determined by hardship. The poem "His Half-Breed Wife" appeared in the anthology A Gathering of Spirit in 1984 and its portrait is memorable still: "Only her eyes gave her away;/ They were little grey birds/ In cages."
         Doris Seale's poetry avoids any elaborate versification and imagery. Her voice is distinct in tapping common root sources in Native perception. Let's hope she can break through the limitations she seems to have set for her form.

Ron Welburn        





* * * *





Coyote's Journal. James Koller, 'Gogisgi' Carroll Arnett, Steve Nemirow and Peter Blue Cloud, eds. Berkeley, California: Wingbow Press, 1985. 157 pp., $6.95 paper, ISBN 914728-38-5.

 

         It may seem slightly unusual in 1990 to review a book which was published in 1982, but Coyote's Journal enjoyed a second printing in 1985 and still seems to maintain a certain popularity. Hence, a few {28} commendations and cautions are in order.
         In the seventies and perhaps even the early eighties, interested scholars, teachers, and readers were generally delighted to find any new source of Native American writing, especially one such as Coyote's Journal which, at a glance, seems to promise a selection of pieces chosen from a variety of literary styles, cultural sources, and verbal genres, all descriptive of the central icon--coyote. And for readers new to Native American literature, Coyote's Journal is a disingenuous introduction to that ubiquitous trickster.
         In the hands of a well-prepared and knowledgeable teacher, Coyote's Journal would be useful for junior high and high school students who have never heard of coyote tales or are unfamiliar with Native American literature in general. Thinking of the uninitiated reader, I liked Will Staple's "when coyote/ is dropped out of an airplane/ on a moonless winter night/ does he land on his feet?/ no./ on his heart." And I liked the universalist impulse in Robert Aitken's koan-like excerpts from "Coyote Rshi Goroku": "The student asked, 'How can Essential Nature be destroyed?' Coyote said, 'With an eraser.'" And this: "Everybody knows how Coyote Rshi loves to collect Buddhist images. Once a disciple of Rajneesh wrote to him, saying, 'You are always looking for wooden Buddhas. You should come to India and meet a living Buddha.' Coyote mentioned this letter to his students, and remarked, 'Living Buddhas are all over the place, but a good wooden Buddha is hard to find.'"
         Essays like John Brandi's "How Many Ways Are There to Tell of Coyote?"--which runs an eclectic gamut of coyote sources from direct personal experience to J. Frank Dobie's literary meditation to songwriters and poets to paleolithic memories--help further the sense that coyote is everywhere and involved in everything. The casual reader is further attracted to the volume by Harry Fonesca's drawings of hip, insouciant, downtown/uptown coyote which adorn the cover and illustrate some of the selections. But I was confused by pieces such as Jim Hartz's "Shambhala National Anthem": "May my heart/ Be empty, O Karmapa;/ My wallet full" and Philip Daughtry's "The Dragon Singer": "BAAAAAA! Am back,/ When ah slithered oot of Jarrow Slats/ aye, ye knew this world wasnae ye/ ah fed ye fire and fear/ beast giv ye/ craft tae warlock wi, boon ta mek/ song iv deed an stone/ for a beast ye kept awake, on the rim. . . . an each bairn bore a castle tae heard the flame." Are these Native American or what? In their attempts to universalize coyote, the editors give us no real clue.
         The editors write in a minimal introduction that they "tried to contact as many writers as possible, by letter and by public announce-{29}ment in newsletters and magazines." They asked, "Who or What is Coyote anyway?" From the "numerous" responses they selected pieces--poems, prose, and fiction--from fifty-five "contributors from all corners" as the blurb on the back cover proclaims. Even though these contributors (some of whom have since become quite well-known) are named in the table of contents along with the titles of their contribu-tions, we are told nothing else about the contributors. The editors' grass-roots "call for coyote tales" reinforces the notion that coyote belongs mainly to an easily accessible, mainstream public discourse tradition, that legends and anecdotes circulate internationally but essentially anonymously, and that it is the content, even just the "gist of the story," that is important rather than the craft of the re-presentation or the genius of the author/artist. I would prefer that any collection of coyote tales include an introductory essay that engages itself with these complex issues.
         Besides wanting to know more about the individual contributors-- i.e., who are they? from what culturally or ethnically influenced point of view do they write? do they see themselves as inventors or conduits of their coyote tales?--I would like to know something about the original context or starting point of the coyote tale, especially of the ones which seem obviously to have a tribal source. Is it a re-telling of a myth or legend or sacred story from "time immemorial"? Has it been translated from a tribal language? How has the author changed or added to or subtracted from it? To borrow Alan Dundes's distinc-tions: What is its Text, which is essentially paraphraseable content; what is its Texture, which is the linguistic and paralinguistic dimen-sions of any oral performance which are often given up in the translation of Text; and what is its Context, which is the social situation in which the performance takes place?
         Appended to Peter Blue Cloud's prose piece--"Coyote's Discourse on Power, Medicine and Would-Be Shamans"--is the note: "recorded by Peter Blue Cloud." Such a notation only raises questions such as "recorded where, how, when, why, from whom?" rather than supplying any real information. William Shipley does tell us that his "How Old Man Coyote Married His Daughter" was recorded by Roland Dixon, a Harvard professor, and that the storyteller was H'anchibuyim, "perhaps the last great Maidu raconteur." Shipley writes that "in the present translation I have tried to respect both languages . . . I hope it has been a relatively successful one." What follows is a smoothly written, grammatically correct-in-English story with no trace of the original Maidu--no "accent" in the translation. I find the lack of context and explanation throughout the book to be a type of "playful savage" sentimentality.
{30}
         Finally this collection raises the question of just what is "coyote"? The Journal proposes a broad-based, eclectic sense of "coyote." Coyote is any joke or trick or glitch in one's life; "coyote is the miss in your engine," says Peter Coyote. According to the Journal Coyote is any gambler, prostitute, comedian, dharma-bum, Zen master, or trickster anywhere. This approach certainly universalizes Coyote and makes the concept more fun, especially for a younger audience. Critically, however, the editors of the Journal commit the intentional fallacy of seeing Coyote wherever they look.

Gretchen Ronnow         



*                   *                   *                   *





American Indian Autobiography. H. David Brumble III. Berkeley; Los Angeles; London: U California Press, 1988. ISBN 0-520-06245-0.

         H. David Brumble's American Indian Autobiography is the fourth monograph to be published on American Indian autobiographies, which makes this genre one of the most comprehensively discussed in the critical literature on American Indian verbal arts. Lynn Woods O'Brien's 1973 essay on Plains Indian Autobiographies for the Boise Western Writers Series remains an essential reference point: O'Brien was the first to analyze such forms as coup tales and tipi paintings as autobiographical texts. Gretchen Bataille and Kathleen Sands' Native American Women: Telling Their Lives and Arnold Krupat's For Those Who Come After: A Study of American Indian Autobiography (treating only male autobiographers) followed in 1984 and 1987, respectively. American Indian Autobiography enlarges this discourse with a specific agenda in relation to the preceding works.
         Brumble is most indebted to O'Brien in furthering examination of traditional oral forms and the influence and transmutation of these forms in collaborative (as-told-to) and written autobiographies. His opening chapter traces "Preliterate Traditions at Work" in autobiographies of White Bull, Two Leggings and Sarah Winnemucca. The chapter is illuminating with respect to both the traditions themselves and their manifestation in written works. However, Brumble's dismissal of LaVonne Ruoff's theory that slave narratives could have influenced Winnemucca is not entirely persuasive (especially in light of his own later discussion of Sam Blowsnake and peyote convert testimonials): slave narratives were an oral form being performed and collected even as late as the 1930s, and it is not possible to rule out {31} Winnemucca's having heard such tales, even though it may be unlikely that she had read any.
         Brumble also draws on Krupat's approach in analyzing the impact of oral traditions in written works (as seen especially in Krupat's discussion of Black Hawk and Yellow Wolf), but is at some pains throughout American Indian Autobiography to extract and focus on what he perceives to be influencing native-tradition forms, and he does not make use of Krupat's application of Northrop Frye. Brumble's avowedly historical approach relates written works to religious oratory, scientific discourse and other contemporary oral and written "texts," and does not attempt to trace a linear genealogy of the genre (indeed, Brumble tells us in his introduction, his expectation of an internal development through a series of influencing works of American Indian autobiography as a genre was upset with the "comic" revelation that N. Scott Momaday had not read Indian autobiographies before composing The Way to Rainy Mountain).
         The method works best when Brumble is discussing non-collaborative works. He is extraordinarily sensitive in assessing the texts that may have been available to authors, and the means whereby they might have absorbed particular formal modes of discourse. The chapter on Sam Blowsnake is the best discussion to date of that Winnebago writer's artistry, making a case for Blowsnake's debt to both traditional Winnebago tales and the Christian-influenced Peyote testimony introduced by John Rave. Brumble's comparison of Blowsnake's use of confessional form with Augustine's is also illuminating.
         The chapter on Albert Hensley is likewise exemplary in showing Hensley's formulation of two autobiographical statements with reference to his perceived audiences and to familiar verbal arts. In making his case for Hensley's formal models, Brumble demonstrates the prevalence of another subgenre, the "Carlisle success story." This chapter, like the discussion of Blowsnake, is characteristic in another way of Brumble's approach throughout the book: it brings out important points of comparison between American Indian autobiographies and texts from classical antiquity as well as the later Western tradition. In this respect Brumble joins critics like Karl Kroeber, Arnold Krupat, and T. C. S. Langen in placing American Indian literature in a context of world literature.
         Brumble's discussion of Charles Eastman's Indian Boyhood sees Eastman's work in relation to 19th-century scientific thought, demonstrating how the perspective in Indian Boyhood on traditional Indian life is congruent with theories of Herbert Spencer and other proponents of social Darwinism. The discussion is carefully nuanced; {32} besides providing an insight into a possible foundation of Eastman's work, it reminds the reader that bad science is not necessarily the result of evil intention. However, in contrast to his thorough treatment of the genesis of other texts, Brumble does not discuss or even mention the possible collaboration of Elaine Goodale Eastman in the writing of her husband's autobiographies; such an investigation might qualify or alter the assertions Brumble makes here regarding Eastman's thought.
         The chapter on Momaday treats The Way to Rainy Mountain primarily as autobiography, again in terms of the book's reference to traditional modes of discourse. Brumble suggests a powerful model for future study in characterizing The Way to Rainy Mountain as a collaborative product of author and reader (rather than author and amanuensis): "Momaday leaves to his readers the task of constituting a self out of all these stories" (176). The emphasis on the task of the reader in constituting the text opens an important perspective on all American Indian autobiographies--and American Indian literature generally--in relation to its perceived and actual audience, and one which merits much more study than it has so far received.
         While American Indian Autobiography provides essential new readings of the written autobiographical works of Winnemucca, Blowsnake, Eastman, Hensley and Momaday, Brumble's treatment of collaborative ("as-told-to") works in chapters on "Editors, Ghosts and Amanuenses" and "Don Talayesva and Gregorio" is less persuasive. American Indian Autobiography places works in historical context, and Brumble employs history-of-ideas strategies to document the relationship between text and text, and text and ideology, school or social context. However, the book does not adhere to the rigorous descriptiveness of classical history-of-ideas method, but makes a highly prescriptive argument for judging autobiography, including American Indian autobiography, according to subjective standards. In his "Concluding Postscript" Brumble quotes Pascal on "the attractions of autobiographies" as offering "unparalleled insight into the mode of consciousness of other men" and goes on to stipulate that "We read autobiography because we are interested in seeing things with the eye of the other; we are interested in seeing how people represent their lives, how they understand their lives; we are interested in seeing another personality from the inside" (181). This assertion summarizes and generalizes Brumble's rationale for judging individual texts, and it raises the question of what constitutes the "we" for whom the writer speaks with such assurance.
         The strongest statement of this assumption about readers' experience in reading autobiographies appears in the two chapters on {33} collaborations. In "Editors and Amanuenses" Brumble attempts to sort out different approaches by editors to the collaborative process, distinguishing between what he calls the Absent Editor (Ruth Underhill, Leo Simmons), the Self-Conscious Editor (Willard Schultz, Frank Linderman, Lucullus McWhorter) and the unlabeled, excessively intrusive editor represented by Vincent Crapanzano. In addition to distinguishing the different approaches, he then evaluates them. The Self-Conscious editors do the best job, and Schultz is the best of those discussed: he is able to give the reader the vicarious experience of actually being present in a long-gone world: "We probably cannot do much better than Schultz if we want to experience something like the excitement preliterate people felt listening to hunting stories and war stories, stories of raids and remarkable encounters told informally, for uplifting entertainment" (86).
         Again, in contrasting the autobiographies of Don Talayesva and Gregorio, Brumble finds Gregorio's story much more satisfactory because it is "a window back through time" (109), whereas Talayesva has, according to Brumble, been so influenced by Leo Simmons's questions and demands that he has been moved farther and farther "from being a typical Hopi" (109). Brumble's judgments lack credibil-ity in his use of purely speculative grounds to characterize Underhill's, Linderman's and Crapanzano's methods, when he invents a series of questions they might have asked to elicit material for a purely imaginary autobiography and then suggests that the resulting nonexistent work is inferior. Speculation replaces argument again in the discussion of Sun Chief, where Brumble tells us that "even if we were reading the unedited material [of Sun Chief] in the order in which it came to Simmons, we would still be able to work out much of the order for ourselves" (114).
         A more substantive difficulty with Brumble's approach comes in the adoption of an affective position as an evaluative basis to determine the quality of literary works. The early pages of American Indian Autobiography devote considerable space to arguing against Bataille and Sands' attempt to distinguish literary versus non-literary qualities in the autobiographies according to criteria such as length, or the presence or absence of devices like metaphor or direct discourse; Brumble characterizes their approach as a "checklist" method which is unsatisfactory because, he says, it is culture-biased and inappropriately quantitative. But is it really more sound to believe that any text--and especially such thoroughly mediated and translated texts--will provide the sort of experience of "authentic Indian life" that Brumble asserts is the touchstone for value?
         Let me emphasize that Brumble's taking the affective position to {34} speak for his own responses is not at issue here. The best of what Brumble has to tell us, and the best telling, comes from personal insights like the one that opens the book, in which we learn that the first paragraph of Sun Chief "startled me, and it still has that power now" (1). This discussion, by providing a way into Brumble's own consciousness and sense of self, enlarges my understanding and appreciation of Don Talayesva, his book, and literature in general. I have no difficulty accepting that Brumble feels that he has a window on Navajo life, or that reading Schultz has transported him to story exchanges of warrior expeditions and buffalo hunts. What gives me trouble is the assumption that he speaks for all readers, that "we" all read autobiography for just the reasons he says (or that we might have made the same assumptions about the influences on Scott Momaday), and that these reasons are the basis for judging the merits of autobiographies as products of the imagination. (There is a pervasive sense, as well, that the "we" of Brumble's argument is not really "we" as in "everybody," but "we" as non-Indian, academic--and male. Missing from the argument on collaboration is the evidence of Nancy Lurie and Mountain Wolf Woman or Florence Shipek and Delfina Cuero--both collaborations that counter Brumble's low rating of the "absent" amanuensis. Women's written autobiographies are largely ignored as well, with the exception of Sarah Winnemucca, who is noted mainly for adapting coup stories in her autobiography.)
         These more provocative aspects of American Indian Autobiography may well be the most valuable, as they point up once again the engaging and, as Brumble terms it, powerful character of these narratives. The collaborative autobiographies especially offer both challenge and opportunity. They resist conventional analysis, and their interpretive challenge is the possibility of creating new critical frameworks for all of literature. Brumble has made a significant contribution to that creation by giving us a model of sensitive, carefully documented retracing of verbal art forms and traditional philosophy in the written texts we have.
         One last word should be said regarding the book's scholarly apparatus, which is superb. The general bibliography is preceded by a generously annotated bibliography of American Indian autobiographies. Although the index lapses in at least one place, chapter notes, an appendix with an autobiography relevant to Brumble's critique of Levi-Strauss, and the layout and printing of the entire book are of the highest quality.

Helen Jaskoski         

{35}
Landmarks of Healing: A Study of House Made of Dawn. Susan Scarberry-García. Albuquerque: U. New Mexico, 1990. 208 pp. Cloth, ISBN 0-8263-1192-X; paper, ISBN 0-8263-1193-8.

         This is the first book-length study of House Made of Dawn and the only full-length study that treats the novel in the context of its traditional American Indian mythic antecedents. It addresses the vacuum created, in a sense, by Matthias Schubnell's study of Momaday's creative vision: where Schubnell places Momaday and House Made of Dawn in the context of Anglo-American literary traditions, Scarberry-García analyzes Momaday's text (and creative vision) as being at once "both a narrative of illness and a narrative of healing" (1) against the backdrop of such textual sources as Matthews, O'Bryan, Wyman, and Haile, as well as pretextual sources such as the origin stories from which those texts, and the Chantways they transcribe, derive. For those of us who try to teach the novel, this is a very welcome book.
         Its title, Landmarks of Healing, immediately implies three of the basic concepts underpinning both Scarberry-García's critical vision and the creative vision informing House Made of Dawn. One is that the novel is "about" healing, about a disease Abel suffers and about a model for its cure. A second is that the novel is about landmarks, about places on or in the landscape of Abel's life as that life takes shape in the novel. The third is that in the novel, as in American Indian healing traditions more generally, these landmarks serve to locate the sources of both the disease and the cure Abel seeks. At the heart of her analysis is the proposition that

sacred stories from oral tradition, especially origin and creation myths, have a healing dimension because they symbolically internalize images of the land within the listeners. Through participating in the story, the listeners learn about their own relationship to the cultural/geographic history of their home-land. . . . Within the narrative, Black Mesa at Jemez and Tségihi Canyon in Navajo country are landmarks where a reconstitution of life takes place. (7)

According to Scarberry-García, "Momaday draws upon Pueblo and Kiowa traditions for the novel's design, but he primarily structures the novel around Navajo healing patterns" (8); accordingly, the landmarks of healing to which her title refers are mainly those encoded in the healing stories (particularly Nightway, Mountainway, and Blessingway) sacred to the Navajo--located, that is, in diné bikeyah, the landscape encompassed by the four sacred mountains of traditional Navajo {36} creation stories.
         This focus on the geographic implied in the title quickly gives way, however, to a focus on the "hermeneutically puzzling mythological traditions that unify the novel" (2). And in keeping with her contention that "The title of the novel makes it clear that the world [in the novel] is conceived of in Navajo terms through exertion of language on place" (85), most of what she has to say about the underlying myth structure of Momaday's novel has to do with specifically Navajo analogs. Chapter 2 examines significant pairings of characters in the novel--Abel and his dead brother Vidal, Abel and Ben Benally--within the contexts of the Navajo story of the Stricken Twins (informing the Night Chant as recorded by Matthews) and, to a lesser extent, the perhaps more germane Pueblo story of the Warrior Twins (as recorded in Tyler). Chapter 3, "Bears and Sweet Smoke," treats Abel's disease within the context of Abel's faulty relation to the animal spirits he comes into contact with, showing how the Bear Maiden story branch of the Mountainway (as recorded in Aileen O'Bryan's transcription of Sam Akeah's version of the story) may function as the pretext for Momaday's development of the characters of Abel and Angela. The fourth and final chapter, "Story Made of Dawn," argues the healing power of Ben's songs (titled in Astrov's anthology "The War God's Horse Song" and "A Prayer of the Night Chant"), showing how in traditional Navajo oral tradition the Horse Song derives power from the "reassemblage" motif of its broader context, Blessingway, while the song from the the Night Chant is, in its original context, an utterance of the Stricken Twins which compels the Yei to take pity on their suffering. Throughout, the author manages to preserve the difficult distinction between pretext and subtext in her treatment of such materials as sources of the novel. As Scarberry-García presents it, Momaday treats such materials as sources of "storysherds," elements to be disassembled and mixed with new material to be reassembled as Abel's (rather than the Stricken Twins' or Reared-Within-the Mountains') story, and ceremony. This is a welcome and valuable critical analogy, acknowledging as it does Momaday's sometimes Eliotesque use of Navajo, Kiowa, and Jemez materials while at the same time acknowledging the pattern of transformation by fragmentation and reassemblage (91-92) that informs traditional Navajo healingways--and American Indian oral tradition generally.
         Some of Scarberry-García's assumptions about how, in the text, healing occurs for Momaday's protagonist seem to me less warranted than others. For instance, the author consistently takes it for granted that the long narrative passages italicized in the text of the novel represent vocalized utterances; I suspect, however, that Momaday {37} consistently uses quotation marks to indicate the spoken word, reserving italicization to denote interior monolog. Taking the position that such passages are interior monologs, then, seriously weakens Scarberry-García's proposition that these passages function the way the songs and chants and stories of traditional Navajo healingway function, to bring the auditor (Abel, in Scarberry-García's line of analysis) back into harmony with the mythic psychostructures underlying such passages (which include Ben's Horse Song and Francisco's deathbed visions). There is also a perhaps disproportionate concern with the role of Bear energy as a factor in the healing process; I'm still inclined to suspect that Abel's disease in the novel has as much (or more) to do with his faulty relation to the Snake spirit of the land as it does to do with the Bear spirit, and that therefore the Younger Sister branch of Enemyway (Beautyway) might be as important as the Older Sister branch (Mountainway) as a source of "storysherds" in this novel. For another instance: as Scarberry-García points out early, "Story emerges from the land" (9), and the specifically Navajo stories and their associated songs and healingways grow out of the landscape of diné bikeyah. The problem here is that neither of the two settings in the present of Momaday's novel--the landscape of the Jemez reservation (and its immediate environs) and the city of Los Angeles--lies within the pale of diné bikeyah. I am not contesting Scarberry-García's premise that at least one Navajo Chantway (Beautyway, the Younger Sister branch of the Enemyway) encodes some of the landscape of Jemez (in fact, I'm a little surprised that she doesn't mention Momaday's own description, in the novel, of the annual visit/return of the Diné to Walatowa); I'm only skeptical of her implied notion that the healingways of the Navajo, so carefully and even explicitly designed to bring an ailing Diné back into identity (and thus healing) with the land (and by extension the life) of the People, would have the power to heal just anybody whose life "took place" just anywhere. Better, I think, to look to the landscape of Walatowa itself, and seek there the constellation of powers (and stories of those powers) that have, there, the power to heal. This is more than a minor quibble: in the process of mapping the novel to bring it into congruence with Navajo preconceptions, the author violates a couple of Jemez landmarks that Momaday's text happens to respect. For instance, her reading of the final scene of the novel has Abel "running into the dawn" (37), becoming a fused image of the Navajo Stricken Twins "who runs home into the house made of pollen" (38). Given Navajo mythic motifs, it is tempting enough to leave the impression that, because Abel is becoming healed, he is moving eastward here. But both within and without the novel, the {38} course of the winter race at Jemez moves, not eastward "toward the dawn" and the "Black Mesa" out of which the sun rises there, but rather northward--towards his own Jemez origins, the village of Walatowa and, given the way the land happens to be configured there, on a heading which parallels the Jemez River back towards it sources in the Jemez Mountains, regarded in Jemez tradition as the home of the ancestor spirits.
         Such minor reservations about the book, though, merely attest to the power of her study to inform and provoke an interested reader. Susan Scarberry-García accomplishes what she set out to do, "provid[ing] a significant portion of the multitribal mythic context necessary for understanding the development and depth of healing patterns in the novel" (2). (I might add that I found her study wonderfully helpful while wrestling recently with Momaday's The Ancient Child as well.) One hopes that someday, somehow, someone as sensitive to both the Indian pre-texts and the ethical issues involved in using them for a study such as this will complete the picture of the novel by doing with the Jemez subtexts of the novel what she has done with the Navajo ones.

Robert M. Nelson         



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The Life I've Been Living. Moses Cruikshank. Recorded and compiled by William Schneider. Oral Biography Series No.1. Fairbanks: U Alaska Press, 1986. vii, 132 pp., ISBN 0-912006-23-4.

         "You know, these things that I talk about," begins Moses Cruikshank, "I actually experienced them in my life" (3). An Athabaskan elder and storyteller, Cruikshank narrated these stories to William Schneider, Curator of Oral History at the Alaska and Polar Regions Department, in the Elmer Rasmusson Library at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Schneider then organized and edited Cruikshank's narratives into written form, the first in a proposed series of oral biographies.
         Like many other "as-told-to" life histories mediated by Euro-American editors, this one has a preface. The Rev. Scott Fisher from the Episcopal Diocese of Alaska in the small village of Beaver, Alaska, introduces the reader to the vast Alaskan landscape, to the importance of the Episcopal Church and the "Cruikshank School" (named after Moses upon his retirement in the 1970s), and to the {39} character of Moses Cruikshank who shares stories of his life "not to herald his own accomplishments, but to teach and to help" (vi). After Rev. Fisher's preface, the book is divided into two main sections: "The Life I've Been Living" and "The Collaboration." The first part, covering the first 106 pages, is Moses Cruikshank's personal history. In the second section (pages 111-24), Schneider provides historical background and a description of his collaboration with Cruikshank.
         Moses Cruikshank's oral biography contains an assortment of lively anecdotes, vivid descriptions, humorous stories, and practical advice. Born around 1906 in a native village northeast of Fort Yukon, Moses recounts his "early recollections" of traveling by dog sled and by boat, of hunting, trapping, fishing, and working. When he was five years old, he was sent to the Fort Yukon mission; and when he was nine years old, to the mission at Nenana where he was raised in the beliefs of the Episcopal Church. Cruikshank's stories, then, often focus on mission activities and life on the trail. One spring morning at the mission, relates Moses, they heard Muk, Archdeacon Stuck's well known lead dog, howling. Not waiting to finish their prayers, the students ran outside and found that Muk's "body [had] melted the ice and then his tail froze" to it and he "couldn't get loose" (23)!
         As well as many animal stories, Moses tells anecdotes about travel, work, and "real old-time Alaskans" (60). His extensive travel and numerous jobs provide a "great big cache" of stories. He worked on the Alaska Railroad, at a government sawmill, and for the Episcopal Church and the Bureau of Indian Affairs; he built mission buildings, taught school, prospected for gold, served in the U.S. Army, and drove a caterpillar train, loaded with building supplies, to the Arctic Circle. Throughout his narrations, he provides details of the people with whom he worked and the weather with which they contended. In particular, Moses always acknowledges those from whom he learned: Grandpa Henry taught him how to survive "the old-time Indian way" (4); Kobuk Dick taught him "everything about [the] dog team" (32); and Clinton Wiehl, "the cat man," taught him about taking care of cats (the old Army D-7 caterpillars used to build the Alaska Highway). Now Moses Cruikshank works with the Fairbanks Native Association, telling young natives about "those dog team days" (83). "I'm glad to recall things like that," he explains, "because I know that's the only way it could be recorded. And I think it's pretty good that people have interest and if I can in any way help along that line, I'm glad to do all I can to help" (109).
         Throughout the book thirty black-and-white photographs enliven the written narrative. Many of the photographs are of people: Cruikshank and his family; co-workers and acquaintances; and {40} mission, BIA, and Rural Development Project workers. Several are of buildings: St. Mark's mission, the Old Pioneer Hotel and the Model Cafe in early Fairbanks, and village churches Moses helped build. Similarly, there are photographs of boats, a major mode of transportation: the Hudson's Bay Company's boat, the steamer Yukon, and the Pelican, a boat Moses traveled and worked on several times. General photographs of work such as traveling by sled, laying rails on the Alaska Railroad, and working on the "cat train" are included as well. The captions for the photographs give the feeling of looking through old photographs with Moses as he reminisces about bygone days: "Oh yes," begins one caption, "here's Clint and I. Clint, he's the 'cat man.' He's the one that taught me" (102). Finally, along with the photographs, several sketches add a visual appeal.
         In Part Two, "the Collaboration," Schneider provides background information about Moses, the stampeders (prospectors who flooded Alaska looking for gold), and the development of the trapping economy and mission schools. Similarly, he discusses mission travel, initiated to pursue "mission outreach" and developed by Archdeacon Stuck with whom Moses traveled often; the history of the develop-ment of the interior; and the effect of military service on native Alaskans. In addition, Schneider recalls his "earliest recollections of Moses," an elder and political leader who "stresses the need of villagers and old-time Alaskans to continue their way of life on the land without interference and regulations" (119).
         As well as historical background, Schneider discusses the process of his collaboration with Moses Cruikshank. Schneider explains how he "'ordered' [Cruikshank's] stories chronologically," "provided foot-notes," and added a context for understanding Cruikshank's accounts and their relationship to Alaskan history (123). In addition, he cut repetitions and combined "elements from similar episodes" (123). Using Jeff Titon's distinction between a "life story" (which emphasizes the orality and autonomy of the narrator) and a "life history" (which is "derived from the narrator's experiences," but reshaped by the editor-scholar), Schneider refers to The Life I've Been Living as a "life history based on a life story" (122). In addition, he describes how Cruikshank adapts his stories to persons and occasions and how Cruikshank's oral performance does not transfer into writing. Although Schneider provides a straightforward description of his collaborative process, he never examines the political complexities of such collaboration (particularly the inequities of power) which are now being discussed by anthropologists, folklorists, and critics of autobiography. What linguistic and narrative features are inevitably transformed when a Native Alaskan's oral narrative is reshaped by a {41} Euro-American editor? Unlike many editors who target their books primarily to an academic audience, however, Schneider says that his "first consideration was Moses," then relatives, friends, and community members, members of the Episcopal Church, and finally historians, anthropologists, and folklorists. Such a reversal is heartening, because if there is ever to be an equitable collaboration between native speakers and non-native writers, both must have equal editorial power.
         Moses Cruikshank's life history, The Life I've Been Living, contributes a vivid native voice, mediated though it is by a Euro-American editor, to Alaska history. In addition, it suggests a model of collaborative autobiography which respects the voice of the native as well as the pen of the editor. Those interested in Alaskan history, in native Alaskan life, or in oral history will find this book worthwhile.

Hertha D. Wong         



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Blue Horses for Navajo Women. Nia Francisco. Greenfield Center, NY: Greenfield Review Press, 1988. 78 pp., ISBN 0-912678-72-0.

         When Nia Francisco spent two days presenting her poetry in classes and assemblies at the largest Indian high school in the U.S. (Tuba City, Arizona, 1400 students, 95% Navajo) in October, 1988, everyone was amazed at her energy, and felt the continuity of the Navajo world, from the ancient ones to the students in their Metallica and Guns and Roses T shirts.
         She carried her youngest child, Gina, aged about three years, "my liquid, my seed," with her both days. Sometimes Gina's voice and movements came into the poems. Part way through the second day, perhaps on her seventh or eighth presentation, Nia's voice began to give out. She laughed, and took short breaks while a poet from the school read a few of his. She would catch a common thread, and jump up to read her own poem, weaving together the two poetries. The high point for many of her hearers was when she danced the refrain lines of, I believe, "Escaping the Turquoise Sky," and all felt the presence of the holy ones. She brought not only her poems, and her daughter, but also her weavings, which she hung over desks and podiums, such beings as "Flea Bone Daisy" actually there with us in the school. The students were especially moved by her use of their/her language, Navajo, in scraps and phrases, sometimes in her {42} comments to them and sometimes in whole poems, like "Awe'e'."
         Her book, Blue Horses for Navajo Women, is divided, appropriate-ly, into four sections for the four directions, each with its sacred mountain: "I. Iridescent Child," "II. A Navajo Woman's Moment is Eternity," "III. Mating of Turquoise and White Shell," and "IV. The Old Woman Sat to the Fire Place." It is characteristic of her being a weaver together of generations, as well as of words and wool, that she includes two poems by children in the "Iridescent Child" section. Though short, both contain Navajo words and syntax.
         There is tremendous pain in these poems, the pain of the "heart they ripped out/ of my ancestors a hundred years ago/ leaving our blood spots as legal documents/ of victory . . . the Sun never sees/ BIA and Oltá decapitate a thousand children/in the thickness of sage brush shrubs/ leaving confused faces on the ground." There is the pain of the rape of "My Only Daughter Within Me," pain at the attempted molestation of a six-year-old, of the cultural loss--"I am sorry/ your grandfather's knowledge/ is not experience anymore."

         There is the pain of alcohol--

         Friends of Sky people grant salvation to drunken women
                        to medicine men
           they have walked away to drink that liquid that eats the brain
           that liquid that takes away the heart and inner land, its people
           that liquid that eats away the wombs and fetuses.

Her "Ode to a Drunk Woman"

         dear lady earth
                with
         swollen lips
               your beauty
           comes and goes
         . . . . .
         dear lady
               with 'roma' delusions
         my ancestors beaded inside you
           you are my mother

not for one moment of eternity denies either the reality of alcohol or the deep, unbroken connection between people, a kinship born of tribe, desert beauty, and the inner patterns of constellations:

               mother see us
         we are sober          but drunk
                  with pain
         caused by the same damn shame you learned.

{43}
Wallace Begay's six powerful illustrations are perhaps at their starkest intensity in depicting the woman of this ode.
         But this is, innately and fearlessly, a book from the deepest reaches of the female. And, true daughter, sister, mother, person of Crystal Mountain that she is, Nia Francisco weaves all this pain into the beauty, neither isolating it as this reviewer has done, nor insisting upon it as the ground of anger or bitterness. The pain in these poems is always deeply true, but also always transformed as a part of the pattern of something much larger and infinitely more compelling: a ceremonial life which is the cycle of the people, of the desert land, and of the ancient holy ones born out of rock, water, plants, and stars. She uses her "modern weapon" ("a typewriter in my hands now") to carve language in our hearts like stars in a black desert sky:

                  a doe licks her fawn
                           while stars pattern themselves
                                    across its back

                  and on the black cloth of sky
                           amniotic fluids transparency
         laced with red threads          she licks
                  red of her ever humble life-giving spirit.

         Nia Francisco, as a poet, is immeasurably bigger than her current reputation. She stands in the changes that sweep through the Navajo universe with a clarity and intensity bred of the power of the female-- to weave, always, like grandmother spider,

         webs                   and webs
         of unspoken legends
                  into looms of Milky Way

                           she spun
                  the blackest of Universe
                           as clothing for the Twins
                                             Night
                          who is the twin of day
                                             Day
                         who is the twin of night.

"Like water her voice flows."

Roger Dunsmore         

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{44}
Near the Mountains. Joseph Bruchac. Fredonia: White Pine Press, 1987. ISBN 0-317-61745-1.

         The title of Joseph Bruchac's poems perfectly expresses their theme and the nature of his poetic voice: only near the mountains, not in them. Bruchac praises the felt bonds between the speaker and his soil, the child and his ancestors who have passed the land on and for whom it is now the richer because of their absence. The essential reference points here are familiar-pastoral: long-worked fields, stones, springs to be cleaned, streams running down into rural valleys. What is left is partial, an American family tree held together by its remnants: old tools, says the speaker, are "reminders/ of the soil which shaped/ the bones of my lineage." The grandson's hands that fit around his grandfather's ax-helve. Arrowheads. Songs. And in things that grow from the soil:

         It is only in the golden Corn, the twining Beans
         and the bright skins of Squash
         that I can begin to touch the hands
         of the Longhouse People who kept this land. ("Relics")

Feelings in these poems rise from absence, from what is missing and must be called into shape, a process of supplementation. In "Photo of the Old House" the speaker knows the house "though I have never/ been through its doors," and addresses a "you" who has returned to the land, the house: "One hand on the lintel, you lean into the stance of your grandfather's voice." To lean into the ancestor's voice is to give it present form, just as the memory of the speaker's sleeping grandfather is a creative sharing: "what was it he held, while half awake,/ in his circle of sleep/ which I feel in mine?" ("Memories of my Grandfather Sleeping"). What is missing makes what is valuable known, though the concentering voice sometimes speaks out of a sense of meaning unavailable. In "Finding Arrowheads" the speaker never turns them up, unlike his grandfather who works the land with the ancient plow. He can only hope that "when the time is right/ words of stone will find me." In "Stone Maps" he pulls a stone from the earth like those "the oldest people" had used to trace their lives. But he refuses to read this stone, to make it into a "chart," and he re-buries it in the earth, "uncertain/ whether I was ready for those directions it might take me."
         It is the old people, the grandfathers, who live in the mountains. It is they who hold one side of the "balance," the weighty past.

         He found the stone ax in his field
         plowing one spring to put in corn.
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         I remember him holding it on his palm,
         weathered as that flint chipped by one
         whose voice would always be silent to me
         as the story he told, weighing it the way
         another might heft a gold piece, then
         placing it carefully in my hands. ("The Balance")

Here the nice ambiguities of the modifying "weathered" (palm/flint) and the structural parallel of "silent" voice/story extend the stone ax's meaning precariously as the long, elegant sentence places it "carefully" with all its mystery "in my hands." Neither giver nor receiver, however, can tell what it "means" to "weight" and be weighed. Like the stone in "Stone Maps," the ax is a metaphor for the knowledge that comes through hands and mouths but refuses intellection, to come out as roundness, heaviness, hardness. Nor is it certain the voice will always respond to the gift: "My voice, which loses a little more/ of that ease of inflection each/ year . . ." ("Snowing the Go-Back Roads"). Denied meaning is not denied value however: "balancing" is an organizing trope in Bruchac's work.
         The first two parts of Near the Mountains--"The Balance" and "Old Tools"--give us mythic time in the ancestors, grandfathers, especially, who keep toads from being run over by cars or who stand as distant monitors, cupping the sun in their hands, cutting up potatoes to plant. The grandfathers keep the scale of being, the "balance" of past and present, dead and living, returning to its trembling parallel. The grandmothers are here, too: in "Dead Skin" actually ingested. The child cutting his grandmother's calluses: "even the skin which was horny and dead/ I sneaked into my mouth and ate--/ keeping those impure parts of myself . . ." ("Dead Skin"). In a poetry in which the past is invoked so organically, it is natural there should be many references to mouths that speak, sing, eat; to hands that hold, cup, and evoke through their preliterate tonguing: earlier-planted radishes are

         First to leave my hands, first to return
         one day in late May when I pull red globes,
         my teeth feeling the crisp white flesh
         within the biting taste of the skin,
         this year's renewal of the old pledge,
         between my blood and this soil,
         a pact which began long before
         I saw grandfather's hand pack down
         spring earth brown as his fingers. ("Radishes")

Bruchac's skill moves metaphors softly from root to pledge, blood, {46} pact, and back to a time remembered still linked to the physical pressure of "pack down/ spring earth brown as his fingers." Generational flow with its weaving together of organic and felt moments makes time into a friend in this poetry: generative, acceptable. Time, in "Fourth Harvest," will bring the grandfather back down the mountainside to "where/ his spirit waits: home." Generational balancing turns up again in "Cleaning the Chimney" where the speaker repeats his grandfather's balancing act on the roof and remembers that of another, a friend of his generation who died in Vietnam. But he doesn't force the possible political connections. The several kinds of balances in the poem are private; he doesn't try for one more handstand on the roof: "Instead I just stand,/ finish cleaning the chimney,/ give one more moment/ to memory and height,/ then, holding that balance,/ go back down the ladder."
         The last section of the volume, "Near the Mountains," is the loosest in structures, slighter moments without the complications of more demanding readings of earth. "Finding the Spring," however, is a strong evocation of following the ancestors, here, the father, whose search for a remembered spring in the brush, will be successful, if not now.

         I trail, without complaint, behind
         knowing he'll find his spring again,
         if not for me, then for his grandchildren.

A poem like this at the volume's end reminds us of where we've been, looking back to the ancestor-evocations of earlier sections, going over the land again. The father "vanishes, quick as a trout in the ripple,/ lost in the shoulder-high brush, his legs as young/ as that half-century of following sign." Following, not finding half-images, Bruchac's synecdoches for the eternal return, can only be observed when return is impossible, save in spirit, the denied meaning, after all, each generation repeating and accumulating human promise. These are the pleasures of a text where nothing is forced, everything about to be.

Robley Evans         

*                   *                  *                  *



{47}
Not Vanishing. Chrystos. Vancouver: Press Gang Publishers, 1988. 105 pp. ISBN 0-88974-015-1.

         Chrystos' resistance is honest and compelling. She is like many of us who grew up in the cities. Chrystos saw this mix of peoples--Gays, Latinos, Blacks and Asians with relocated Indians in San Francisco-- and she developed the gift of telling off the world and telling about us then and now.
         She tells us about her people the Menominee, whose struggle for sovereignty and landbase was a victory for all of us. She's a strong and fierce exponent of our endurance. Her poems expose misconceptions others hold of our identity. White guilt gets an extra straightening out but we, Native women, are kept more honest in the presentation of ourselves to our would-be allies or supporters.
         She has not become isolated from other Indian women, or Third World Women or political activists. Her readings have been beautiful testimony to the bridging of communities of color and gender. She writes as a Gay American Indian woman, but we are not excluded from the feminist camp which at other times may seem racist, sexist and classist to us indigenous women. Her book is organized after a reading. She ranges in emotions, for we get serenaded, wooed, cajoled, tickled, and schemed into an ultimate surrender to her enticing poetics.
         "Table Manners" is about her annoyance at our having to answer the perpetual questions about being Native American. In "White Girl Don't" we picture how:

         Easy
         to be enraged & run off to save
         somebody . . .
         I've got El Salvador & South Africa
         in my throat . . .

The poem "I have not signed a treaty with the U.S. government" shows her knowledge of what the elders tell us about rights. Chrystos is also compassionate towards the victims of child abuse, AIDS or prostitute murders. She has a zany advocacy for the plight of lettuce victimized by "vicious vegetarians." Upon return to the res, she endures not only homophobic reactions but generational differences. Her revelation about how one's family may climb the assimilation ladder while others are left in the dust is a family dynamic not much written about in Indian country.
         Not always angry in her writing, Chrystos is a generous legend. Her giveaway poem has been recited by many other poets. It {48} ends this mighty work with her own honest giveaway of self and sisterly stance. Let us all learn from her militancy, because the time is not for claiming to be a '60s radical but for retracing the steps in our struggle. She allows us to remember the ancestral voices even if we live in the noise and clutter of yuppie dreams. Let her tune up our feminist fiddling. Let's give her the highest praise: "I wish I had said that."

Marie Annharte Baker         

*                  *                   *                  *



Briefly Noted

         A number of noteworthy books and articles have come to our attention this year; without space to review all, we hope these brief notes can assist readers. We are especially interested in hearing of work that has come out from little-known presses or that may have been overlooked by the standard indexes and bibliographies.
         Living the Spirit: A Gay American Indian Anthology is presented as "Compiled by Gay American Indians" under the coordinating editorship of Will Roscoe (St Martin's Press, 1988). The anthology includes fiction, poetry and non-fiction prose by 24 authors; selections are grouped under two headings: "Artists, Healers, and Providers: The Berdache Heritage" and "Gay American Indians Today: Living the Spirit." The book is also a good example of combining artist-imaginative vision and social consciousness; besides the excellent bibliography there is a list of contacts and resources, including AIDS services.
         Two important collections have come in from University of New Mexico Press. This Is About Vision, edited by John F. Crawford, William Balassi and Annie O. Eysturoy, presents interviews with southwestern writers including N. Scott Momaday, Paula Gunn Allen, Linda Hogan, Joy Harjo and Luci Tapahanso; also of interest to readers of SAIL may be the interviews with Frank Waters and Tony Hillerman. Blue Mesa Review, focused on creative work in the Southwest, began publication with the Spring 1989 issue, which included work by Della Frank and Evelina Z. Lucero; this publication, presently an annual, could be a small step to alleviate the shortage of fiction markets noted by Joe Bruchac in our last issue.
         Interest in traditional healing and visionary practices continues, as {49} does controversy over the reliability of those who report on phenomena that challenge empirical scientific methods. The Don Juan Papers: Further Castaneda Controversies (Wadsworth, 1990), Richard de Mille's sequel to his earlier Castaneda's Journey, collects further essays attempting to debunk the works of Carlos Castaneda. De Mille's own labored encounters with representatives of academe are generally boring, but some other contributors offer thoughtful comments on what distinctions may be made between fiction, fact and anthropology.
         William S. Lyon cites Castaneda as the inspiration for present interest in shamanism in his Preface to Black Elk: The Sacred Ways of a Lakota (Harper & Row, 1990). The book is Lyon's redaction of tapes describing Black Elk's spiritual journey and, according to the editor, is thoroughly edited and rearranged from the original telling, intentionally made less "strange" and more "easy to follow" (sell) to the non-Indian reader (buyer). Lyon is as canny as Castaneda about marketing shamanism: the Black Elk here is not, of course, the Nick Black Elk made famous in the book produced with John Neihardt, but Wallace Black Elk, a Lakota who was mentored by the earlier Black Elk and many other "grandfathers" in traditional wisdom. The book very much needs thorough discussion and critique by Lakotas knowledgable in traditional learning.
         Jerome Rothenberg also mentions Castaneda, in the Preface to Maria Sabina: Her Life and Chants, written by Alvaro Estrada and translated by Henry Munn (Santa Barbara: Ross-Erikson, 1981). Unlike the mysterious don Juan, peyote shaman Maria Sabina has been thoroughly documented with photographs, recordings (Folkways Record 8975) and a documentary film. Maria Sabina has a refreshing-ly practical approach to drug-taking: "Before [R. Gordon] Wasson [recorded the ceremony in the 1950s] nobody took the mushrooms only to find God. They were always taken for the sick to get well" (73). This book merits further attention.

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CONTRIBUTORS

Marie Annharte Baker prefers to use her middle name as a signature to her poetry, which has appeared in Conditions, Backbone, Fireweed and Seventh Generation. She is a founding member of the Aboriginal Writer's group in Regina.

Roger Dunsmore teaches one-third time at the University of Montana where he is Professor Emeritus, Humanities. Several of his essays on American Indian literature have appeared in SAIL. His latest volume of poems, Blood House, is published by Pulp Press, Vancouver, BC.

Robley Evans, Professor of English at Connecticut College, has contributed a number of reviews to SAIL. He has published articles on Tolkien and Hillerman and is currently working on a detailed study of a Navajo autobiography, Son of Old Man Hat.

Dr. Kristin Herzog works as an independent scholar in Durham, North Carolina. She is the author of Women, Ethnics, and Exotics: Images of Power in Mid-Nineteenth-Century American Fiction (Univ. of Tennessee Press, 1983) and of numerous articles and reviews in American literature and in religion.

Helen Jaskoski is professor of English and comparative literature at California State University Fullerton. She has published and lectured in the U.S. and abroad on American Indian and African-American literature and on poetry therapy. She is currently working on a collection of essays on witch wife stories.

Robert M. Nelson teaches courses in current literature as well as in American Indian literature at the University of Richmond. He is currently working on a study of the functions of landscape in Native writing.

Gretchen Ronnow teaches at the University of Arizona. She has published articles on Leslie Silko and John Milton Oskison and is completing a dissertation on Oskison.

Greg Sarris will be joining the Department of English at UCLA following a year of leave to complete his collaborative "bi-autobiography" of Mabel McKay.

Ron Welburn has published poems in The Phoenix, The Eagle: New England's American Indian Journal, and several other magazines and anthologies. He teaches in the English Department at Western Connecticut State University and is active on the powwow circuit in the Northeast.

Hertha D. Wong has just taken a position at the University of California, Berkeley. She has published several articles and is working on a book on the Indian captivity narrative as a model for ethnic American autobiographies.



Contact: Robert Nelson
This page was last modified on: 10/11/00