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Studies in
CHADWICK ALLEN, Ohio State University
Published by the University of Nebraska Press



vii From the Editor
xi Announcement


Choking Off That Angel Mother: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins's
Strategic Humor
Erdrich's Crusade: Sexual Violence in The Round House

Creating a Haida Manga: The Formline of
Social Responsibility in Red



"To Fight against Shame through Love": A Conversation on Life,
Literature, and Indigenous Masculinities with Daniel Heath Justice


Annette Kolodny. In Search of First Contact:
The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland,
and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery



Mishuana Goeman. Mark My Words:
Native Women Mapping Our Nations

Dana Lone Hill. Pointing with Lips: A Week in the Life of a Rez Chick

MariJo Moore and Trace A. Demeyer, eds. Unraveling the Spreading
Cloth of Time: Indigenous Thoughts concerning the Universe
A. James Wohlpart. Walking in the Land of Many Gods:
Remembering Sacred Reason in Contemporary Environmental


Chadwick Allen. Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for
Global Native Literary Studies


Betty Booth Donohue. Bradford's Indian Book: Being the
True Roote & Rise of American Letters as Revealed by the
Native Text Embedded in Of Plimoth Plantation



Contributor Biographies


Disrupting Expectations

It has become standard within Native American literary studies to assert or conclude that Native authors and their works disrupt the expectations of their audiences, even though disruption itself--rhetorical, discursive, and/or political--has become a standard expectation within our field. The hyperbole points to its own irony: Can an author or work disrupt expectations when disruption is the expected norm? Less commonly stated is the observation, more subtle than the hyperbole, that Native authors often appear to have anticipated the diverse expectations of multiple audiences and thus appear to have crafted their works to resonate across distances--of language and culture, of genre and form, of gender and ethnicity, of time and space--rather than to have focused their efforts exclusively on the needs or desires of any audience in particular. As a result, more often it is the expectations of scholars, who tend to read works of Native literature in particular contexts, with particular sets of critical tools, and from particular points of view, that these works seem most to disrupt. The four pieces gathered in the current issue of SAIL begin precisely from this humble observation that the disruption of the scholar's own expectations about a Native author or Native work was the impetus for investigation and analysis.
     Issue 26.3 opens with a demonstration of how accessing new archives can disrupt our expectations for familiar figures. Cari M. Carpenter's essay revisits the rhetorical strategies deployed by the nineteenth-century Paiute tribal activist Sarah Winnemucca by shifting focus away from Winnemucca's much-studied narrative Life among the Piutes, published in 1883, and onto the large body of Winnemucca's public lectures, which have received relatively little critical attention. Carpenter investigates the surprisingly nuanced record of these live performances--and, {viii} crucially, of their effects on audiences--in the literally hundreds of newspaper articles written about Winnemucca between 1864 and 1891. In striking detail, this rich archive reveals a Winnemucca who is not only highly accomplished at deploying tropes of sentimentality in order to appeal to white women reformers in the East, as numerous scholars have documented in their readings of Life among the Piutes, but a Winnemucca who is equally accomplished at deploying variations of gendered, region-specific, and embodied humor in order to make her activist appeal to a broad range of non- Native audiences, male as well as female, situated in both the East and the West.
     Next, Julie Tharp follows a similar investigative impulse in her reading of The Round House, the award-winning novel by acclaimed Ojibwe author Louise Erdrich published in 2012. Tharp turns to recent newspaper opinion pieces written by Erdrich, and to recent magazine and broadcast interviews conducted with her, in order to better understand how and why this disturbing novel about sexual violence against Native women disrupts readers'--and perhaps especially scholars'--expectations for Erdrich's typically lyrical prose style. The more overtly activist tone of The Round House has already garnered a great deal of attention for its unflinching examination of the all- too- common crime of rape in reservation communities and for its detailed exploration of the complexities of competing federal, state, and tribal jurisdictions that impede the prosecution of non- Native perpetrators. Erdrich's straightforward activist discourse in newspapers and magazines and on the public airwaves, Tharp argues, helps to contextualize her seeming departure from her literary norm and helps to explain its broad appeal.
     In the issue's final essay, Miriam Brown Spiers turns our attention to a different archive in her examination of the graphic text Red, the Haida manga published by the Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas in 2009. Spiers's fascinating analysis of how Yahgulanaas manipulates the defining frame of sequential comics or other graphic texts to function similarly to the formline in Haida art reveals how Red disrupts expectations about the mechanics of appropriation and the aesthetics of popular forms. What at first appears to be a "mash-up" of US and Japanese conventions for the graphic novel, Spiers argues, is actually a sophisticated adaptation of traditional Haida art techniques and philosophy that appropriates US and Japanese conventions while maintaining distinctly Haida artistic and moral values.
    The issue concludes with a wide-ranging interview with Cherokee author and scholar Daniel Heath Justice, a former coeditor of SAIL, conducted by Sam McKegney. Informative, poignant, often humorous, their conversation explores a breadth of personal, familial, cultural, social, literary, and popular expectations about American Indians, and it addresses the many ways such expectations implicitly and explicitly influence an individual Native author and intellectual and his work across multiple genres. Perhaps inevitably, their conversation also demonstrates in vivid and precise terms the many ways such expectations simultaneously provoke implicit and explicit disruptions.

Chadwick Allen



Please join the SAIL Editorial Board in congratulating K. Tsianina Lomawaima, whose essay "The Mutuality of Citizenship and Sovereignty: The Society of American Indians and the Battle to Inherit America," published in the combined special issue of SAIL 25.2 and AIQ 37.3 on The Society of American Indians and Its Legacies, was voted by the membership of the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association (naisa ) as the most thought-provoking essay in Native American and Indigenous studies published in 2013. The award was announced at a public reception during the NAISA annual conference held in Austin, Texas, in May 2014.


Choking Off That Angel Mother
Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins's Strategic Humor


Anyone familiar with the sentimental rhetoric that characterizes the self-narrative of Northern Paiute author and activist Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins is likely to be surprised by her account of Elizabeth Peabody, the steadfast eastern reformer who was her best champion, on a Nevada stage in 1884: "When I spoke in Boston my angel mother got up on the platform and began to talk and I had a hard time to choke that angel mother off " ("Sarah Winnemucca").1 The audience, we are told, met this description with delighted laughter. Altogether different from Winnemucca's previous accounts of Peabody as a bona fide "angel mother," these words indicate a comedic disdain for the "meddling," naive easterner who is moved by sympathetic naïveté to open her pocketbooks for the "poor Indian," a disdain that obviously played well out West.2
     This essay argues that the hundreds of newspaper articles about Winnemucca between 1864 and her death in 1891 indicate that her success as a rhetorician was due at least in part to her use of humor.3 Scholars such as Malea Powell, Siobhan Senier, and Beth Piatote have identified the complex rhetoric Winnemucca employs, particularly in her 1883 self-narrative Life among the Piutes.4 Powell, for instance, argues that Winnemucca constructed herself as a "civilized Indian"--one who occupied both a Euro-American and a Paiute position, functioning as a kind of translator between the two cultures (Powell 407). Less attention, however, has been given to the humor that Winnemucca incorporated into her lectures. The relative absence of such analyses is likely due in part to the tendency in literary studies to privilege the book; indeed, many of the articles I examine have not previously been considered. Written largely for an audience of white northeastern women reformers, Life among the Piutes is characterized by the sentimentality {2} we also find in her lectures to the same crowd. The humor that exists in her self-narrative doesn't seem particularly humorous; it is better described as a biting sarcasm that critiques the hypocrisies of whites and the US government. It appears, then, that our focus on Life among the Piutes--albeit a critical text for studies of Winnemucca and early American Indian literature itself--has created a blind spot, preventing us from identifying the spectrum of tactics she used on stage. The newspaper articles indicate that in addition to sentimentality, Winnemucca mobilized a humor that was in turn biting, self-deprecating, and regionally specific. In doing so, she challenged nineteenth-century mores that largely excluded women from comedy and developed a technique that forcefully critiqued colonialism.5
     Sarah Winnemucca employed no single form of humor on stage; indeed, part of her strategy was to tailor her humor to her audience. East Coast crowds heard sarcastic critiques of Indian agents out West, while western audiences were more likely met with physical comedy and blistering accounts of easterners. Despite the form her humor took, the articles suggest it had a similar effect: it often lowered the listeners' guard so that Winnemucca could deliver a powerful critique of the treatment of American Indians. In other words, humor was useful as a tool for startling the audience out of its expectations. In this sense, Winnemucca invoked what Philip J. Deloria has called the unexpected, that "which resists categorization and, thereby, questions expectation itself " (11). Deloria contrasts the unexpected with the anomaly--that which "re-creates and empowers the very same categories that it escapes" (5). The power of the unexpected is that although it occurs more often than anticipated, it is a narrative not told (or heard) by the majority; it functions, in other words, as a secret that counters what the dominant culture expects or desires. Once we pay attention to the "unexpected," Deloria argues, we are better able to acknowledge the work of colonial ideology and its practices. For example, while non-Natives mocked Indians who participated in Wild West Shows, the unexpected Indian disrupted these representations. When an English soldier described the rain as "How! Heavy wet" to the actor Rocky Bear, the latter responded in a British accent, "'Yes, it's rawther nawsty, me boy'" (qtd. in Deloria 67). As these newspaper articles indicate, Winnemucca similarly used humor to make the "unexpected" more palatable to her audience, tapping into a long Indigenous tradition.6 In Gerald Vizenor's words,{3} Winnemucca "ousts the inventions with humor, new stories, and the simulations of survivance" (5), presenting herself as a post-Indian warrior who disrupted non-Native expectations of Indigenous identity.
     Although some Northern Paiutes remain suspicious of Winnemucca's motives,7 she can be credited with certain achievements in a bitter period of removal and dispossession: hundreds of lectures articulating the abuses of the reservation system, testimony in 1884 before the US House Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, and the establishment of a multilingual school for American Indians. She also called attention to the forced removal of Northern Paiutes and Bannocks in 1879 from the Malheur Reservation in Oregon to Yakima, Washington Territory, a journey in the dead of winter that took the lives of a number of her people. Her public career can be roughly divided into three sections: her first lectures out West; those in the East in 1883-84, when she wrote and published her self-narrative Life among the Piutes; and her final tours in San Francisco and Nevada. For the purposes of this article, I am most interested in her ability to influence popular representations of American Indians, an influence that I measure in terms of the newspaper archive. As a study based on these representations, this analysis is most concerned with how Winnemucca was constructed--and constructed herself--in the media of her day. These articles should be viewed not simply as non-Native representations, for Winnemucca was adept at manipulating her public image in a variety of ways. In Carolyn Sorisio's words, "Creating and controlling news coverage was key to her political strategy; she recognized that newspapers were sites wherein resistance had to take place. She was politically astute and rhetorically sophisticated, a savvy negotiator of the news media" (2). In 1880, Winnemucca sent a dispatch "threatening to have the heart's blood" of a western editor who claimed she had appeared in public drunk and violent, a threat that led to her arrest ("Princess Sallie"). While this example is particularly dramatic, it illustrates her resolve to control how she was represented.
     In approaching her audience with humor, Winnemucca entered a lonely terrain; as historians of nineteenth-century American humor have noted, women of any race were not typically granted a place in the comedic tradition. Instead, Ann M. Ryan argues that women--especially women reformers--were subjects of satire who were viewed as largely devoid of humor: "Since humor has been marked in public space as a predominantly masculine discourse, women confirm their {4} marginal status--as unladylike and unnatural--if they employ it; if, on the other hand, they represent their outrage or their anger when they are ridiculed, they appear humorless and as a result the proper objects of satire" (194-95). It was particularly rare for women to appear before "promiscuous" (male and female) audiences in the nineteenth century. Winnemucca was certainly described as unladylike by critics in both the West and the East: western newspapers noted her gambling and drinking, and the members of the "Indian Ring," an Indian reform organization, sought to discredit her in eastern circles by questioning her virtue. Yet the newspaper accounts also indicate that Winnemucca successfully met such representations with humor of her own. As Edward Piacentino has noted, despite the typical exclusion of women from the tradition of the Old South, "some of the sketches in this tradition actually give women extended voice and empowerment" (17). These sketches resemble those of writer Florence King, who, according to Kathryn VanSpanckeren, used "dialogue, repetition, jokes, shocking allegations, exaggeration, and surprise endings" (qtd. in Piacentino 18). Women who were outspoken and who deviated from the nineteenth-century norms of femininity, Piacentino claims, were most likely to access this humor. Indeed, I argue, some of Winnemucca's most successful moments on stage occurred when she used physical comedy, a technique that necessarily emphasized her body's departure from expectation.


From the moment Winnemucca began performing for white audiences alongside her father and sister, she was subjected to racist stereotypes of American Indians.8 As John M. Coward has demonstrated, nineteenth-century newspapers were notorious for their production and circulation of stereotypes of American Indians due to the popularity of sensationalism, the use of the telegraph, and the increasing influence of the Associated Press. The coverage of Winnemucca's first performance with her father and sister Elma in San Francisco in October 1864 demonstrates the way the mainstream press fixed American Indians into indistinguishable appearances, often in a facetious tone.

These warriors were all rigged out in a curious uniform costume, as far as red shirts and head dresses resembling feather dusters went, but the nether extremities disclosed a varied make-up {5} of buckskin leggings, cotton tights, cassimere pants, mocassins, high-lows, and brogans, that would doubtless be worn by "Injuns," whether Pi-Utes or Diggers9 --if nothing better offered. Which of the "braves" was Snow Cloud, White Water, or Black Devil, we were unable to distinguish, as they were not labelled or stamped, and we concluded that the fanciful nomenclature was all bosh, put in to fill the bill. ("City Items")

Here the Indians are rendered as indistinct and even ridiculous. One observer, who claimed to know Chief Winnemucca, bitterly decried the performance in an 1864 letter to the editor, arguing that it only made a mockery of the Paiutes: "I did wonder, when I saw the accounts in the newspapers of the city, that Winnemucca his daughter and braves, were exhibiting pantomimic scenes of Indian Life, if it could be the veritable Old Chief who was stooping from his dignity to become a common actor, for a 'star'" ("Winnemucca and the Suffering Tribe"). The Daily Alta California of October 1864 describes one of the family's first performances in facetious terms: "Of the dances the Coyote was the best, and was decidedly the favorite with the youngsters, especially when the 'Flower' (the one that most resembles Menken) got a back fall by pulling too hard on the tail of the Coyote" ("City Items"). Such an account supports Zoe Detsi-Diamanti's argument that in the mid-nineteenth century, American Indians were transformed via burlesque from an object of romance to ridicule. Through laughter, she argues, the playwright and audience created a sense of both their own racial unity and an "other" distinct from them in a time of disconcerting social change. Similarly, articles about Winnemucca often attempted a humor based on stereotypes of American Indians' "uncivilized" behavior or appearance. The Humboldt Register of June 1872, for example, sports a melodramatic headline reporting Winnemucca's fight with a waiter: "A Bloody Combat!!! / The Queen of the Piutes Assaulted / Fits! Faints!! Spasms!!!" And in March 1885 an article that originally ran in the Chicago Herald declared, "Sarah Winnemucca is giving speeches in California in favor of giving Piutes the ballot. What they need most is the bath" ("Only Said in Fun").
     Such mocking portraits were particularly popular in the western states. As the July 1878 Idaho Avalanche declared, "The above is from the Chicago Inter Ocean, and is a good sample of the gush and romance the Eastern press wrap around the Indians. The truth about Sarah {6} Winnemucca is, that she is a drunken strumpet; her royal father is a dirty old beggar, whose royal dignity would permit him to accept cold grub, or any petty charity from the whites." Similarly, an Idaho newspaper answered a complimentary account of Winnemucca in Harper's Weekly with a biting burlesque:

Sarah was at that time about sweet sixteen or twenty--it would be difficult to judge of her exact age from her appearance, owing to a careless habit she had acquired of never washing her beautifully chiselled features. But as we had been taught to judge the age of a cow by the wrinkles on her horns, or the age of a tree by the belts of growth on its trunk, so we made a slather at Miss Sarah's age by the number of scales of greasy dirt which naturally accumulated on the ridge of her comely countenance during the lapse of years. ("Miss Sarah Winnemucca")

Here the newspaper reporter trivializes her forceful words, as if the entire topic of American Indian affairs can be reduced to a joke. These disturbing details about Winnemucca attempt to demonstrate that the people of Nevada--unlike those out East--know her well; indeed, they can count her years like those of a tree trunk. In a similar, if less mean-spirited vein, the March 1875 Humboldt Register recounts her response to someone who questioned her virtue: "Of course the Princess could not, or would not, submit to such defamation of character, and her royal blood boiled in her veins; which was heated to a high degree by an overdose of the elixir of life known as China brandy" ("Indian Rows"). This casual tone grants her an authority that is immediately undermined. When the "royal" moniker was used, it was treated facetiously. The Silver State of 1881, for example, notes that "Her Highness is dressed in the prevailing feminine fashion, and, as becomes one of her station, came through in a palace car" ("Royal Visitor"). The light tone functions to reduce her to another stereotype: the Indian princess who, like Pocahontas, ultimately serves colonialist interests. Given such representations, Winnemucca must have realized that sentimentality had limited use before a western crowd.
     Faced with such racist humor and debilitating stereotypes, American Indian women who spoke before predominantly white audiences had to consider how to present themselves in a way that would marshal support for their cause. Sentimentality was most effective, it seems,{7} when directed at an eastern audience. Elizabeth Peabody affectionately recalled Winnemucca's first lecture out East, which was directed exclusively to women: "she unfolded the domestic education given by the grandmothers of the Piute tribe to the youth of both sexes, with respect to their relations with each other both before and after marriage,--a lecture which never failed to excite the moral enthusiasm of every woman that heard it, and seal their confidence in her own purity of character and purpose" (Peabody 28). Such rhetoric was especially effective given the opposition of white men such as Agent William Rinehart, who in response to her criticism of his reservation management declared her a "notorious liar and malicious schemer" (Canfield 173). Out East, the spectators' tears were her goal, which she often achieved: she spoke with "such persuasion and conviction . . . that many people were moved to tears" (qtd. in James 629). As with many of her eastern lectures, tears have a prominent place in Life among the Piutes, the self-narrative she published in 1883; references to weeping occur on no fewer than eighteen of the first fifty pages. Recounting an early incident in which one of her uncles was shot by whites, Winnemucca notes that as her grandfather urges restraint, "he wept, and men, women, and children, were all weeping. One could hardly hear him talking" (21). The headlines for the various articles documenting her eastern lectures speak to this sentimental theme: "Lo! The Poor Indian" "Tells a Pathetic Story" as she details "The Wrong of the Piutes."10
     This distinction between the sentimental East and the coarse West did not always hold, of course; Winnemucca's performances in San Francisco, for instance, were often of a different flavor than those in Nevada and other western states. An article originally in the San Francisco Chronicle documents a speech at Platt's Hall:

"Oh, my dear friends," said the speaker with a passionate earnestness, the tears streaming down her cheeks, "you little know what we have to live through. People come to the frontier who can live with you no longer. Do you think those Indians have no feelings when cruel hands are laid on their mothers, sisters and their little girls? I judge my people by myself" clasping her hands to her breast. ("Piute Princess")

Such sentimental recitations made sense in a city where the newspapers often defended American Indians. In contrast to smaller Nevada {8} newspapers like the Silver State, the San Francisco Chronicle describes Winnemucca as a "Civilized Indian Woman" who has come to the city to lecture, protected by army officers who will "see her safe through this wilderness of civilization, our city" ("Dusky Princess"). In this interesting turn of phrase, she is represented as even more civilized than the city itself: a revision of the Noble Savage discourse that would see her as an untouched innocent of nature. San Francisco had a long history of such sentimentalism: in the 1850s, Sally Zanjani notes, the Herald reported the freezing and starvation of American Indians and urged leniency when desperation drove some to kill cattle; years later, the Daily Alta California advertised a petition urging the release of Sarah's brother Natchez from prison ("Natchez, Chief of the Piutes"). The distinctiveness of these representations indicate not only the complex terrain Winnemucca had to navigate on the public stage, but her dexterity in playing different roles depending on the media with which she was engaged.
     The newspaper articles also suggest that Winnemucca found more room for humor on the western stage, far from the epicenter of Indian reform. Ironically, then, she may have had more flexibility in her repertoire in the West--especially if she was willing to satirize the easterner. Particularly when speaking in western states, Winnemucca did not conform to the docility expected of women; rather, she made dramatic calls for revenge. In this sense she startled audience members by mimicking their colorful language. She surprised them by enacting the characteristics they accused her of having instead of retreating to the safer confines of nineteenth-century domesticity.
     Like the stand-up comic whose first joke is about her short stature, Winnemucca did not shirk from using her appearance as comedic material even in the East. In an 1883 Boston lecture, she commented on her heft: "she naively speaks of her fleshly tabernacle as 'dumpy'" ("Wrongs of the Piute Indians").11 By accompanying her comments with light laughter, she made herself amenable to her audience and complicated the "Indian princess" stereotype. As Carolyn Sorisio has noted, on another occasion Winnemucca poked fun at her figure: "The Baltimore Sun reported of a January 1884 interview: 'Her name, Winnemucca, signifies mirage, but as she laughingly said yesterday, she is pretty substantial and the reverse of a mirage'" (12). As an article from the Baltimore Sun reports, "That she is courageous and determined no physiognomist would doubt, notwithstanding her pleasant, genial manners. When {9} asked her age yesterday she laughed and said, 'Guess.' The interrogator guessed 25 years. She said, 'I don't know how old I am. I have no records, but I can remember things that happened 35 years ago, and I must be 40 or 42 years old'" ("Princess Winnemucca"). Here Winnemucca refuses the opportunity to assume a more youthful status and embraces her actual age. Her willingness to call attention to her body recalls Edward J. Piacentino's assertion that for both southern and southwestern humorists, the body (especially the body that departs from the norm) was a central vehicle for comedy (19). It is this tradition that Winnemucca accessed when she emphasized the ways that her body did not conform to social expectation.
     Winnemucca's departure from norms becomes more evident when she is contrasted to the Omaha woman Susette LaFlesche (also known as Inshtatheamba by her people and "Bright Eyes" by the popular press), who also participated in a speaking tour before East Coast audiences in the 1880s. LaFlesche consistently used sentimentality to generate sympathy for the Poncas, who had been removed to Indian Territory in 1878. LaFlesche, whose father was of Ponca ancestry, shared other Omahas' concern that their dispossession would follow. She became a key figure in the movement that sought the restoration of Ponca land.12 She also served as Chief Standing Bear's translator and the author of an introduction to the book Ploughed Under: The Story of an Indian Chief (1881). Thomas Tibbles, a white man who later married LaFlesche, wrote that she spoke first before an Omaha audience with a trembling voice, gradually gaining more confidence in delivering a speech she had written herself (Mathes and Lowitt 85). This nervousness would have played into expectations of women in the nineteenth century, who were often discouraged from public speaking. A New York Times article from February 1880, reporting on her appearance before a congressional committee in support of the Poncas, suggests that she played up the Poncas' naïveté: "Bright Eyes gave an account of abuses practiced under the agency system to show how it creates a number of petty despots, under whose tyranny the Indians are helpless" ("Appeals of the Poncas"). Scholars have described LaFlesche's speeches as "intense and eloquent" (Mark 126), "pathetic appeals [that] did much to hasten the righting of the wrongs heaped upon the tribe" ("Bright Eyes Married"). The New York Sun of July 27, 1881, reporting on her marriage to Thomas Tibbles, described her as a "refined, well educated, Christian young woman, who {10} would readily pass for a Caucasian brunette. She is about 20 years old, of delicate and regular features, and pleasing manners" ("Bright Eyes Married"). Such descriptions suggest she was thought to meet the expectations of white femininity. She learned such norms as a girl when she enrolled in New Jersey's Elizabeth Institute for Young Ladies, where she was "taught to dress and behave like an eastern lady" (Mark 125).13 Using stereotypical language to describe Standing Bear, Valerie Mathes and Richard Lowitt report that LaFlesche's "graceful appearance alongside the stoic, noble chief was a combination sure to elicit support from eastern philanthropists" (13). Coward notes that LaFlesche fit the "attractive and charming" role that whites expected of American Indian women; a rumor even sprang up that she was the inspiration for Longfellow's demure Minnehaha (216). This role came with its own power; she may have been considered such an effective speaker in the East because she met whites' expectations of femininity. Many link LaFlesche to white women's Indian reform associations such as the Boston Friends of the Indian, organizations that relied upon sentimentality. Her introduction to Tibbles's book The Ponca Chiefs ends with a familiar sentimental plea: "May those who read this story, when they think of the countless happy homes which cover this continent, give help to a homeless race, who have no spot on earth they can call their own" (viii). Such representations suggest little of the humorous rhetoric we see in articles about Winnemucca; if LaFlesche did employ such tactics, they are not apparent in the newspaper record and thus do not seem to have figured into her public image.
     Winnemucca's self-deprecating humor was another deviation from the norms of nineteenth-century femininity that LaFlesche embraced. As the Dodge City Globe Republic reported in February 1885:

The Princess knocks the romance out of this anecdote by telling the truth as follows: "Once Captain Wagner, in charge of the reservation, went away, leaving Lieutenant Bartlett in charge. As soon as he found himself alone Bartlett got drunk and at the end of the week he became possessed of the idea that the Indians were going to massacre him. He rode around like a madman, shooting and shooting, and it was with the greatest difficulty that he could be quieted. Some of his soldiers finally got him to bed, and when he sobered off he was all right. I married him after that." ("Princess Sally")

{11} While it is difficult to determine the tone in which this story was stated or received, the claim that she "knocks the romance out of this anecdote" as well as the shortness of the final sentence suggests a humor--as well as a hint of self-critique for marrying him immediately after such a display. While making oneself the object of amusement may not seem like an act of agency, in doing so she preempted others' critique of her marital choices--and the expectation that women use utmost caution in marital choices. At least in this instance, self-deprecation seems to have caught the audience unawares. It may also function as a form of what Vine Deloria Jr. has described as a Native tradition in which the individual preempts others' teasing by mocking him-or herself. Within Native communities, he argues, teasing has many roles: a means of solidarity, a teaching tool, an ego check, or an enforcer of conformity:

Gradually people learned to anticipate teasing and began to tease themselves as a means of showing humility and at the same time advocating a course of action they deeply believed in. Men would depreciate their feats to show they were not trying to run roughshod over tribal desires. This method of behavior served to highlight their true virtues and gain them a place of influence in tribal policy-making circles. (147)

Although Deloria envisions American Indian men as the teasers and concentrates on teasing within a Sioux community, Winnemucca seems to have used it before largely non-Native audiences to similar effect. A number of writers and scholars have identified the self-deprecatory joke as a critical element of Native American humor. As Eva Gruber notes, "Within a colonial framework, self-disparaging humor is sometimes conceptualized as a 'pre-emptive strike to minimize the agony suffered in the event of the joke being told by the white outsider' [citing Jannetta 2001, 122-23], or as a way of claiming a share of the power of the dominant joke tellers [citing Purdie 1993, 65]" (Gruber 200). In a context in which American Indians were too often the focus of mean-spirited humor, Winnemucca claimed some of this humor for herself.
     Other examples of her self-deprecating humor surface in the newspapers: a Carson City Morning Appeal article of September 1884 reported that when Winnemucca faced a smaller than expected audience of no more than twenty people, she "shaded her eyes with her hand, peered about as if searching for something; then with a laugh she {12} said, 'I was looking for the people, they don't seem to be here'" ("Sarah Winnemucca"). Such a response won her a favorable review by this article's reporter, who went on to note how her sketches were particularly funny. By naming the poor showing instead of trying to ignore it, she diffused its power and made the audience more inclined to empathize with her.14
     Perhaps because of Winnemucca's skillful manipulation of her image, many reporters seem to struggle to find the proper language to describe her. An article in the Daily Alta California notes, "Sarah's manner of speaking is most decidedly odd, and because of its oddity, attractive" ("Princess Sarah"). Another claimed, "She is not an elocutionist, but a very odd off-hand speaker" ("Princess Winnemucca"). This sentence suggests the degree to which Winnemucca challenged discourse about women's public speech in the nineteenth century. Elocution was shorthand for a more respectable--and serious--speech than acting, which was often regarded with suspicion.15 Here, Winnemucca is said to transcend elocution, occupying an uncertain category. In 1879, the San Francisco Chronicle suggested that Winnemucca might have won some laughs by catching her audience off guard, interrupting the persona they expected of her: "The lecture was unlike anything ever heard in the civilized world--eloquent, pathetic, tragical at times: at others her quaint anecdotes, sarcasms and wonderful mimicry surprised the audience again and again into bursts of laughter" ("Piute Princess"). In her study of Native American humor, Eva Gruber writes that through the element of surprise, one can "create spaces in which previous assumptions lose their validity, so that new perspectives can be playfully introduced and readers are prompted to reconsider their assumptions and preconceptions" (35). Gerald Vizenor's characters frequently "startle the audience into laughter through their highly incongruous claims: They liberate them from accustomed perspectives and interpretations and induce them to reimagine 'alterNative'. . . versions and viewpoints" (Gruber 102, citing Taylor's term). Faced with the unfamiliar or incongruous, Gruber notes, the spectator is surprised into a new perspective. Such anecdotes indicate that Winnemucca accomplished some of the same intervention in audience expectations of the "Indian" on stage.
     Winnemucca was particularly adept at regional humor, demonstrating an intimate understanding of what made each of her audiences laugh. Evidence indicates she was often quite funny: in San Francisco {13} in 1879 her "witty and telling points" were met with applause. She drew from local humor, mimicking the infamous San Francisco character Joshua Abraham Norton, who proclaimed himself "Emperor of these United States" ("Piute Princess"). As an article in the Baltimore Sun from 1884 indicates, Winnemucca was not above racially motivated humor; as she told an audience there: "Take your agents away and give us the same rights as other citizens. I want a right and a word in your courts such as the negro man has. [Great applause.] Why not give this to the Indian? Is he a brute? Has he not a mind? Is he not as good as a negro? Would he not know as well when a good man came along and said here is $2 or $2[.]50? Would he not know as well who to vote for?" ("Plea of an Indian Princess"). In Carson City, Nevada, she used some "rough language," which she notes was used in a New York play to no objection. It may then be acceptable, she states, in Carson City. "The ludicrousness of the idea brought down the house" ("Sarah Winnemucca"). Such irony--that a western stage would have higher standards for virtuous language than its fuddy-duddy eastern counterpart--indicates her complicated use of the vernacular and an intimate understanding of what was locally acceptable. This "ludicrous" idea is not only a comparison between the fastidious East Coast crowd and the more rough-and-tumble western one but also is delivered by the supposedly "savage" Indian. Winnemucca wasn't afraid, it seems, even to oust her own inventions: the "angel mother" figure who had won her points out East is here discarded. Antebellum southwestern humor, James H. Justus has argued, "was the unpredictable assertion of one region's right to become its own sort of place, with its own idiosyncratic ways of thinking and telling; and to hold ground against an inundation of imported tastes" (qtd. in Michelson 173). By tapping into a humor that made fun of the easterner and demonstrated an acute familiarity with the culture of the West, Winnemucca won her audience to her side.
     Physical comedy allowed Winnemucca to tread into the more dangerous territory of critiquing those in power: especially the duplicitous Indian agent who cheated American Indians by pocketing money intended for their supplies or forcing them to buy rations. In Winnemucca's eyes, such graft only worsened with President Grant's Peace Policy in 1869, when agents like the comparably reputable Samuel Parrish were replaced by missionaries. Christianity was merely a convenient cover, she argues in Life among the Piutes and her lectures, for the hypocrisy {14} and deception that characterized most agents. At times Winnemucca used physical comedy to make her point, again finding her body a useful comedic tool. As one reporter writes,

There was little left of the redoubtable Christian agent when she finished him. She described him as having a right arm longer than his left, and while he was beckoning them to be kind and good and honest with the one hand, the other was busy grabbing behind their backs. She would wrap up her summary of Rinehart's character with a bit of mischievous sarcasm that brought down the house. ("Indian War Notes")

She repeated the sketch of a missionary lifting one hand to heaven and using the other to rummage in a money sack at another event, causing "considerable merriment" ("Sarah Winnemucca"). Part of the audience's surprised delight may have been due to her ability to momentarily inhabit such a different body. The reporter's transcription of the audience's reaction gives us a more intimate sense of its response to her speech, as she said at one point, "My father, Winnemucca, pleads with you that the guilty shall be punished, but that the innocent be permitted to dwell on their own lands in Nevada, and he asks that you send white ladies into our midst to teach us instead of men; they would at least give us half instead of none.' [Laughter and cheers]" ("Indian Question"). Perhaps Winnemucca knew that the audience would allow such humor if it was removed from them: in both of these instances she pointed her finger at an agent rather than her predominantly non-Native spectators. Alternatively, Gruber suggests that non-Native readers laugh out of a momentary sense of kinship with the performer: "On the one hand, readers can therefore feel flattered by their successful decoding of the irony. On the other hand, by acknowledging the irony, they laughingly recognize the author/ironist as a kindred spirit whose assessment of who--or whatever is mocked (even if it is themselves) they implicitly share--even if they come from a vastly different cultural background" (56). Ian Ferguson describes this as an "in joke," which allows "the listener to feel in on the joke. If you are non-Native, you can pretend to have a deeper understanding of Aboriginal culture than you really do. And you'll appear tolerant. So there is a hip quality to laughing at these jokes; it allows you to indicate that, yes, the First Nations got a really raw deal, but hey, we're all in this together now" (125). The newspaper {15} record indicates that such responses are not limited to the contemporary moment; even then, non-Natives in her audience seem to have shared Winnemucca's humor and aligned themselves with her at least temporarily.16 Out West, such success may also have been due to audience frustration with the "meddling" government employees who were often critiqued in her lectures.
     Some of this laughter, however, might have masked the effectiveness of Winnemucca's political critique; the Daily Alta California of September 1879, for example, follows one of her sarcastic comments with the bracketed word laughter, which suggests that the audience received her critique as a lighthearted joke: "They lived with us peaceably, and we hoped more of our white brothers would come. We were less barbarous then than now. [Laughter]" ("Sarah's Appeal"). This article begins by noting Winnemucca's frustration with "friends" who were intent on offering her political advice. She was relieved, the reporter notes, to be speaking on her own the next day. While the bracketed word laughter suggests a certain response, it does not convey the precise quality of that response; there are, of course, different kinds of laughter, and we cannot be sure if it was polite, lighthearted, or cognizant of Winnemucca's intended barb.17 This suggests the challenge she faced in framing her humor so that it would have political potency; there was always the danger that the critique would be diluted by a jovial, non-self-conscious laughter. Such moments highlight the discrepancy between her position and that of her audience: while they could look at her, and her body, as a source of temporary entertainment, she was speaking in response to grave issues of genocide, land dispossession, and violence against Native American women.
     The newspaper archive suggests that at times Winnemucca took the more radical step of using humor to critique the audience itself--a tactic that was not always successful. As the Alta California of December 1879 reports,

As she retired, she laughingly said: "If I were to take off these things and put on tights, and a * * *, and twirl round and caper like this [imitating the ballet], you would all come to see me, but as I come to appeal for my people, you don't care to listen to me." A long prolonged outburst of applause greeted this remark, and Sarah retired for a moment or two. ("Indian Question")

{16} The latter part of this quotation suggests that such critiques were, at least on occasion, received positively. This instance appears to be a mix of self-deprecation and a scolding of the finicky spectator, a combination that recalls Leslie Marmon Silko's observation that in many Native stories there is a "movement toward balance--the funny with the serious" (qtd. in Lincoln 31), or Black Elk's observation: "You have noticed that the truth comes into this world with two faces. . . . One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping" (qtd. in Lincoln 309). Here Winnemucca makes a sophisticated critique of her audience's expectations; she seems to know that they would have a very different response to a ballet than a lecture by an American Indian woman. Not far beneath their layer of sympathy, then, is an insincerity or even indifference to her plight. Her words also indicate an awareness of the necessity of "twirling" to the audience's delight, like a marionette. Perhaps in this moment she recognized that the audience's laughter or applause signified a costly success: she had entertained the spectators momentarily, but her words were rendered benign and light-hearted. At such times, a contemplative silence may have been a more appropriate reward for her charged comments.


Given the enduring presence of humor in Indigenous communities, it is not surprising that Sarah Winnemucca used it in her lectures. Vine Deloria's well-known essay on the subject argues that Indian humor is a register of the perseverance of American Indians themselves. One of the most sustained forms is the trickster, which for Northern Paiutes (and many other tribes) is the coyote. The newspaper archive suggests specific ways that coyote found his way into Winnemucca's performances: an early appearance with her father and sister included a coyote dance. Kenneth Lincoln includes the trickster in his study of Indian humor:

Perhaps because his intelligence is most matched to that of man, coyote will outlast the devastation, outwit the stupidity, and laugh-sing his freedom home, all the while we stand listening behind the locked doors and screened windows and flush toilets of "civilization." If we survive, so will he; if we don't, he might anyway. . . . For he plays with, indeed survives off, all that we hold sacred and trash. Coyote is a contrary without equal. (135)

{17} Northern Paiutes continue to tell trickster stories; Corbett Mack recounts such stories in Michael Hittman's biography, and Eileen Kane notes how the Northern Paiute community of Yerington, Nevada used stories of coyote to teach her lessons.18 As Kimberly Blaeser notes, the trickster is famous for an adaptability across time and space, an adaptability that Winnemucca herself demonstrated in her lectures.
     Winnemucca's wit also resembles that of Alexander Posey, a Creek journalist who was most famous for the Fus Fixico letters, a series of fictionalized letters to the editor in Native American newspapers of the early twentieth century. As editors Daniel F. Littlefield Jr. and Carol Petty Hunter note, Posey's humor was characterized by linguistic idiosyncrasies like misspellings, puns, and anything else "that might get a laugh" (Posey 26). His characters are often "wise fools"--tricksters, of a sort--whose mystification with non-Native bureaucracy is itself a critique of that system. Such feigned ignorance as a means of critique resembles Winnemucca's physical and self-deprecating comedy, in which she was not afraid to use herself to indict the US government. Posey's work inspired a number of later Native authors, such as Bill Kantfraid (Cherokee), Ben Locke (Choctaw), and Daniel M. Madrano (Caddo) (Posey 45). Others have been inspired by the comedy of Will Rogers, who, according to Rumiana Velikova, has been labeled a quintessential (white) American comic, a label that belies his Cherokee origins: "He played on his audience's nativist prejudices and used American patriotic rhetoric successfully to reassert its very negation: the Native right to land possession and independence" (86). His jokes about Custer and Columbus, Velikova notes, make his humor outside mainstream American humor. Like Winnemucca, Rogers spoke the colonists' language--as she occasionally incorporated racist jokes--and he positioned himself in opposition to that language. Further, in the operatic "Song of Hiawatha" plays, which were performed by Ojibwe and Odawa people in Michigan from 1901 through the 1960s, performers used the Ojibwe language to articulate a distinctive Anishinaabe humor: they altered the words of the famous finale and inserted the Ojibwe line "if I had someone to sleep with" in the grave wedding ceremony of Minnehaha and Hiawatha. As Michael D. McNally argues: "In a pageant that otherwise took itself far too seriously, such unauthorized humor stood out. Tongue-in-cheek improvisation enabled Native actors to insert their presence on a stage that otherwise elided them into tropes of vanished {18} Indianness" (McNally 126). In a time when US assimilation policies pursued the elimination of Indigenous culture, McNally argues, these plays were important, if subtle, reminders that these policies hadn't entirely worked. As with Winnemucca, the body thus becomes a source for humor--and social critique.
     Indian humor is not limited to literature, of course; a number of Native artists have contributed comic forms. Even a silent film like Nanook of the North (1922), which seems like an epitome of the ethnographic caricature of Native Americans, can be read not as making fun of an Indigenous man who does not understand a telegraph machine, but as his mockery of the machine itself. The recent film Fast Runner, Michelle Rajeha argues, picks up where Nanook left off, turning the tables so that it is the Inuit people who have the last laugh. Indian humor has also been examined as a form of healing, as with Jim Northrup's meditations on his experience in war. Indeed, Vine Deloria suggests humor is vital to any political movement as a force for unity (147).
     In marshaling a sharp political humor, Sarah Winnemucca also resembles present-day American Indian writers like Sherman Alexie. He is the first to acknowledge that his popularity stems in large part from his ability to approach tricky racial issues with a humor that makes even the most taboo topic palatable. In an interview with Åse Nygren in 2005, Alexie explained: "I think being funny breaks down barriers between people. I can get up in front of any crowd, and if I make them laugh first I can say almost anything to them" (160). Humor becomes a means for him to broach topics that otherwise might make the reader angry. Being funny doesn't necessarily create change, he adds; it simply makes dialogue possible. Alexie would likely agree with a statement by comedian Don Kelly: "If you can keep them laughing, they'll keep listening" (59). Defending Alexie from critics, Joseph L. Coulombe argues that Alexie refuses the formulaic to constantly surprise the audience, an observation that recalls the spectators' response to Winnemucca. Such surprises, Coulombe notes, "disrupts readers' complacency and necessitates analysis, clarification, and, ultimately, identification" (96). Vine Deloria has also written about the sharp, often surprising edge of Indian humor: "Like the Dakota weather, Vine Deloria, Jr., says, you can depend on Indian 'unpredictability'" (Lincoln 54). In Drew Hayden Taylor's words, "Humour kept us sane. It gave us power. It gave us pri-{19} vacy. . . . a little bit of home tucked away for when we needed it. Sort of like spiritual pemmican" (69).
     In her use of humor to challenge popular representations of American Indians, Sarah Winnemucca engaged in a resistance that resembles the biting comedy of today's Indigenous women performers, such as the actors of the Spiderwoman and Turtle Gals troupes. Ann Haugo's analysis of Spiderwoman's anticolonial tactics is also applicable to Winnemucca's presentations. One of the most effective forms of resistance that Spiderwoman Theater engages in, Haugo argues, is exposing the inherent instability of the stereotype; in their hands, the stereotype is unable to survey, and thus control, "all the 'proliferating differences' created by the effects of its attempts to contain colonial identity" (135). In other words, the troupe reveals the contradictions--the messiness--that the stereotypes themselves inadvertently produce. The Spiderwoman troupe also employs the physical comedy that Winnemucca found so popular.
     In Spiderwoman Theater's Winnetou's Snake Oil Show, the "princesses" prance around the stage, literally disrupting both the fixed stereotype of the princess and the sedimented conventions of the Wild West Show. Similarly, Winnemucca's physical comedy presented the audience with a far more dynamic body than the stereotypes suggest. Not just any movement is acceptable, of course; Winnemucca made a distinction between her mimicking of the Indian agent taking money from the Northern Paiutes and the "twirling" and "capering" her audience would prefer. In making this distinction, she asserted her control over her image--and her body--outside of the audience's expectations.
     We can also compare Winnemucca's strategy of "talking back" to the techniques of Spiderwoman Theater. Haugo comments on a performance at the University of Illinois that began with a frank conversation between the audience and the actors. A man in the audience asked about the meaning of the word Indian, a question that Haugo reads as deliberately provocative. Gloria Miguel "talked back" to him, "saying 'Does that answer your question?' And, then, with a shrug, 'Or, I guess, you knew the answer'" (134). In exposing his assumption of his own authority, Miguel intervened in the colonialist logic that would privilege a white man to a Native woman, even (or perhaps especially) in defining Native identity.19 Winnemucca's sarcasm and anecdotes could also be described as a form of "talking back," such as when she explained her decision to marry Bartlett in humorous terms--thus wresting control of the narra-{20}tive about her marital choices--or when she used "rough language" in the Nevada theater. Like the Spiderwoman troupe, Winnemucca ousted the inventions in unexpected ways, resisting any fixed identity.
     An examination of the various forms of humor that Sarah Winnemucca employed thus gives a more complete picture of her nuanced rhetoric. Whether using sarcastic barbs out East, mockery of easterners out West, or physical comedy in either location, she found a way to startle and disrupt social expectation. Most successful--and at the same time most tricky--was her use of physical comedy, in which her body was the source for humor. Such embodied performances, as Amy Stillman has argued regarding the hula exhibitions of Native Hawaiians, offer "'moments in which remembrances are sounded and gestured,' 'archivings' of knowledge of the past'" (qtd. in McNally 129). For both Stillman and McNally, such embodiment is key to building community and sovereignty. Such humor also surprised Winnemucca's audience, allowing her to mount a forceful critique. Yet this also highlighted the Native woman's body, the very site that was the target of racialized and sexualized violence in the nineteenth century. The newspaper record, as mediated as it may be, captures those moments when Winnemucca was aware of the price of this laughter. As such, it indicates that the challenge for American Indian artists, both then and now, is to use such rhetorical humor as a means of access rather than an end in itself. The task, in other words, is to deliver a humor that is taken seriously.


     1. Given that Winnemucca does not refer to this "angel mother" by name, we cannot be entirely certain that it is Peabody to whom she refers; but as Winnemucca's most devoted champion in the East and one who frequently introduced her lectures, she is the most likely candidate.
     2. Following convention, I refer to her as Sarah Winnemucca from here on.
     3. These articles are collected in the forthcoming book I have coedited with Carolyn M. Sorisio. See Sorisio and Carpenter.
     4. See Powell 407. For more on Winnemucca's rhetoric, see also Carpenter and Sorisio.
     5. For scholarship on women and humor in the nineteenth century, see, for example, Camfield; Ann M. Ryan; Walker. See Rourke for a classic study of American humor.
     6. Studies of Indigenous humor often begin with the complex, ribald, enduring trickster tale. Kenneth Lincoln includes the trickster in his study of Indian humor
{21} (135). For other scholarship on humor in American Indian literature, see, for example, Posey; Velikova; McNally. Much has been written on Sherman Alexie's use of humor for political critique: see, for instance, Coulombe; Nygren.
     7. Winnemucca's critics often describe her as an assimilationist (see, for example, Scott). Others continue the nineteenth-century tendency to question her virtue (for a discussion see Carpenter 117).
     8. Winnemucca would have also been subject to beliefs in the immorality of the actress as well as the "eloquent Indian" (for the latter, see Gustafson).
     9. A derogatory term for Indigenous people of the Great Basin, particularly California.
     10. See "Lo! The Poor Indian,""Plea for the Piutes," and "Wrongs of the Piute Indians."
     11. Sorisio makes a similar point; see 13. Winnemucca's response resembles Bill Powless's late twentieth-century portrait "Indians' Summer," which depicts an Indian whose body contrasts the "historic portraits of indigenous war chiefs and peacemakers who posed, resplendent in their beaded and feathered finery, for non-Native painters" (Allan J. Ryan 20).
     12. For an early biography of LaFlesche, see Wilson.
     13. LaFlesche later critiqued these schools; see Mark 127-28.
     14. The line is also an interesting reversal of the usual colonial logic in which it is the American Indian who has vanished. This play on "vanishing" resembles the efforts of the Ojibwe and Odawa people in Michigan who performed the operatic "Song of Hiawatha" plays from 1901 through the 1960s.
     15. For a discussion of elocution as preferable to acting, see Strong-Boag and Gerson 105.
     16. As Sorisio notes, we should not assume her audience was made up only of whites (31).
     17. In their investigation of postcolonialism and laughter, Reichl and Stein consider in what sense laughter upholds or challenges the postcolonial order.
     18. Studies of early Northern Paiute humor are generally limited to anthropological accounts such as the ethnography of Steward and Wheeler-Voegelin, which documents coyote trickster tales and brother-in-law pranks. The tribal corrections to Kane's anthropological narrative is somewhat similar to the experience Greg Sarris describes in Keeping Slug Woman Alive.
     19. Many of the troupe's publicity posters emphasize the theme of talking back, challenging the expectations of feminine reticence or Indian stoicism. See the archive


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Velikova, Rumiana. "Will Rogers's Indian Humor." Studies in American Indian Literature 19.2 (2007): 83-103. Print.

Vizenor, Gerald. Manifest Manners: Postindian Warriors of Survivance. Hanover: UP of New England, 1994. Print.

Walker, Nancy. A Very Serious Thing: Women's Humor and American Culture. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988. Print.

Wilson, Dorothy Clarke. Bright Eyes: The Story of Susette LaFlesche, an Omaha Indian. New York: McGraw Hill, 1974. Print.

"Winnemucca and the Suffering Tribe of Pah-Utes--An Appeal to the Public." Bancroft Scraps, vol. 93: Nevada Indians (22 Aug. 1864): 27. Unpublished scrapbook at Bancroft Library, U of California, Berkeley. MS.

"Wrongs of the Piute Indians." Salem Gazette 23 Oct. 1883: 1. Print.

Zanjani, Sally. Sarah Winnemucca. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 2001. Print.


Erdrich's Crusade
Sexual Violence in The Round House


After it was announced that she had won the National Book Award for The Round House, Ojibwe novelist Louise Erdrich commented that the book is a "suspense novel masking a crusade" (Luscombe 60). Surely this is a surprising twist on the highly lyrical prose of Erdrich's fictional works. It suggests that Erdrich's crusade against rape--the novel's central focus--is compelling enough for her to part ways from her usual style, to use her considerable power and talent to try to shape the course of political events. In February 2013 Erdrich published a direct attack on the topic in the New York Times, entitled "Rape on the Reservation," bringing attention to the deplorable circumstances often endured by Native American women. There are at least three pieces to the crusade contained within The Round House: the historical background on tribal law and order that have contributed to the crisis in sexual violence on reservations, Erdrich's fictional illustration and strategic telling of the effects of sexual violence, and the response that Erdrich has urged and that the federal legislation, the Violence Against Women Act, may assist. The Round House essentially makes a witness of the reader, inviting a consideration of the legal complications, social history, and far-reaching effects of violence that have made justice on the reservation a rare and dearly purchased commodity.
     In The Shapes of Silence: Writing by Women of Colour and the Politics of Testimony, Proma Tagore includes Erdrich's Tracks (1988) as one example of literature as historical testimony. She writes: "Tracks endeavours to account for the losses and deaths of colonial history, including personal and collective traumas of the past and the present. The novel thus tells the story of different generations of witnesses, who find themselves haunted by histories of colonial violence and erasure" (70). She {26} points out that a major character, Fleur, is only known through the witness testimony of Pauline Puyat and Nanapush. Fleur never actually figures in the novel's action. Significantly, Fleur is a victim of rape, and like Fleur, Geraldine Coutts, a rape victim and a central character in The Round House, is silent through most of the novel and must rely upon others to piece her story together as best they can. Geraldine's son, Joe, is the point of entry for the reader, a relatively innocent boy who must comprehend not only the crime but also the tribe's inability to seek justice for his mother. Tagore notes that in Tracks "[t]he multiple voices of this book reach across the traumas of colonial violence--at once personal, collective, and generational--so that otherwise silenced stories may be heard" (71). The Round House also provides personal, collective, and generational analysis through Joe with the focus on both the trauma of sexual violence and the trauma of being denied justice. The beginning point for that analysis is in the history of tribal disenfranchisement.
     The Round House testifies to the loss of tribal jurisdiction, which has directly affected the ability to protect Native women from sexual and domestic violence. Indeed the legislation makes it difficult to protect all Native people from crimes committed against them by non-Indians, but the complications arising from combined sexism and racism make it even less likely that crimes against Native women will be tried. Jasmine Owens, attorney and former managing editor of the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, goes into detailed background on the jurisdiction issues referenced in The Round House in her article "'Historic' in a Bad Way: How the Tribal Law and Order Act Continues the American Tradition of Providing Inadequate Protection to American Indian and Alaska Native Rape Victims." There are essentially four legal decisions over the course of the past 130 years that have tied the system of justice into knots.
     First, the Major Crimes Act of 1885 grants jurisdiction of major crimes on tribal land to federal courts, but courts disagree over whether tribes have concurrent jurisdiction in Indian Country. Any given crime must go through a jurisdictional maze based on location, severity of crime, state status, and race of perpetrator. In the process of traversing that maze, many cases get lost, dropped, or endlessly deferred (Owens 504).
     Second, Public Law 280, passed in 1953, infringes on tribal authority by transferring jurisdiction over Indian Country in California, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, Oregon, and Alaska from the federal government {27} to the state governments (Owens 507). Neither party consented to this, but it forces those states to pay for legal action the federal government had previously funded. This in turn has proved to be a disincentive for prosecuting many cases.
     Third, the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968 extended constitutional rights of due process, trial by jury, and right to a public defender to anyone tried in a tribal court or case. This meant that either the tribes or the states now had to pay for these expenses. Originally this was primarily for misdemeanors--up to six months in prison or a $500 fine--but it was expanded in 1986 to one year in prison or a $5,000 fine and in 2010 with the Tribal Law and Order Act increased to three years in prison or $50,000 fine. This now means that tribal courts can prosecute for felonies, but only if they have a law-trained judge, they pay for a public defender, and they have long-term, full-service incarceration facilities. Most, if not all, tribes cannot afford this, and the state does not want to pay for duplicate services, so cases usually get referred to the already overburdened state courts or, if a major crime, to the federal court. Due to heavy caseloads within federal courts, only the most airtight cases typically make it to trial. Rape cases are rarely airtight.
     Finally, in the 1978 Supreme Court case Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe, it was decided that "Indian tribal courts do not have inherent criminal jurisdiction to try and to punish non-Indians, and hence may not assume such jurisdiction unless specifically authorized to do so by Congress" (195-212). In 1978, some 33 of the 127 reservations asserted the right to arrest and try non-Indians committing crimes in Indian Country based on their status as sovereign nations. The Supreme Court struck down that exercise of power for all. Instead, state and federal courts were given jurisdiction to choose whether or not to try non-Indians for crimes against Indian people. In the instance of sexual violence against Indian women, they have chosen to ignore much of it. The Department of Justice reports the rate of sexual violence against Native women is 2.5 times higher than in the general population. Roughly 37 percent of Native women can expect to be raped and another 39 percent to suffer domestic violence. According to a December 2004 Department of Justice study, around 86 percent of the reported cases of sexual violence are committed by non-Indian men, 41 percent of them strangers. This study includes Indigenous women living both on and off reservations (Owens 508-11).
     This is a grave situation, over which tribal law has had no direct power and which others often dismiss. To be fair, the case dismissal rate has in the past often been due to poor follow-up in gathering evidence and processing the crime, but some steps have been taken to begin remedying that, without significant improvement in prosecutions or convictions.
     Owens sums up the situation thus:

Presently, these women continue to be raped by white men and strangers, a shocking phenomenon considering that the majority of rapes are intraracial. Despite the disproportionally high rape rate, American Indian and Alaska Native women face barriers to justice. Tribal courts have been stripped of their power to prosecute these crimes, and federal and state officials often drop the ball on investigation, follow through, and prosecution of rapes and sexual assaults in Indian Country. (513)

Erdrich is clearly concerned about this precise situation, commenting further that this "gap in the law has attracted non-Indian habitual sexual predators to tribal areas," and noting that in Minnesota there is a "marked increase [of sexual assaults of Native women] during hunting season" (Erdrich, "Rape"). In the article she urges people to support the Violence Against Women Act with its enhanced protection of Native American, LGBT, and immigrant women. While the novel does not specifically name this legislation, it amply demonstrates the need for change.
     The Round House takes on violence against women by illustrating the dynamics within communities, families, tribes, and even state politics. Erdrich comments in an interview for National Public Radio:

When I found out that one in three Native women suffer rape and sexual violence in a lifetime, knowing that practically no one even gets around to reporting it, when I found that over 80 percent of these crimes are committed by non-Native men and that tribal courts are not allowed to prosecute non-Native men--when I found out that Native mothers prepare their daughters to be raped, how to behave when it happens, you know, that it's somehow considered unavoidable and that--here's how we're going to behave and respond, it felt like a small devastation of my spirit, {29} and I am a mother of daughters. So how would I approach this? I had a very difficult time, emotionally, getting to it and then how to craft an approach. ("National")

Despite the emotional difficulty, in The Round House Erdrich creates an approach that seems almost calculated to attract and transform readers.
     As mentioned, Erdrich consciously uses the suspense novel format to empower her crusade. In fact many of the early reviews of the novel promote it as a mystery or suspense novel rather than dramatic literature, making it much more likely to reach a wide audience. Second, the female victim in the novel, Geraldine Coutts, works in the tribal registry office, giving her access to critical clues, but also setting her up as the target in the first place. Third, her spouse, Antone Bazil Coutts, is a respected tribal judge, making it perfectly natural that the novel should be liberally sprinkled with references to Felix Cohen's Handbook of Federal Indian Law--a much-thumbed family favorite--the Indian Child Welfare Act, the Tribal Law and Order Act, Public Law 280, and the Major Crimes Act, not to mention occasional exploration of minor cases on the reservation of hotdog thieves and estate settlement. This allows Erdrich to make her real world critiques without damaging the verisimilitude of the novel. Fourth, Geraldine and Bazil's son, Joe, is the narrator of the story. He is thirteen years old, on the cusp between childhood and manhood. Last, the time frame of the novel enables a complex perspective on the events. Joe is telling the story in the present, looking back at events that took place in 1988. This provides adult perspective, distance, and reflection, but it also provides a sense of continuity over time. The rich and full cast of characters and events on the reservation round out the novel and provide the larger sense of ripples in the pond that occur when a heinous crime takes place in any community.
     Not having the victim as narrator of the story is another interesting choice that Erdrich makes. Geraldine's crumpled, bleeding body is found by page 6 of the novel, her husband and son in shock and grief, rushing her to the hospital. She is unable to communicate with them or with authorities in any meaningful way for many weeks, first recovering in the hospital and later hiding out in the dark cave of her bedroom, not eating or speaking at all. The attack on her silences her, renders her voiceless. Even if she could regain her voice, she would make a poor narrator at this point, and perhaps there is little political ground to {30} be gained by going through the emotional agony with her. The reader must experience her injury, her horror, instead as a sympathetic, close observer. As a witness. Erdrich implicitly challenges the reader to walk away from the extensive damage seen and do nothing about it. Geraldine's silence also fuels the suspense in the novel, forcing the other characters and reader to piece together scant clues. This motivates Joe's exploration of the round house and the neighboring lake, leading to several discoveries, and provides an excuse for Bazil and Joe's thorough research and discussion of the judge's past legal cases.
     Although Geraldine does eventually return to her family and to her job, she is not the same woman. Joe observes, "I had believed that my real mother would emerge at some point. I would get my before mom back. But now it entered my head that this might not happen . . . Some warm part of her was gone and might not return" (193). As one might expect, additional behavioral complications are common. The organization Futures without Violence reports that Native American victims of sexual violence have higher levels of alcohol abuse and dependence, suicide rates, and mental distress than the general population. Posttraumatic stress disorder is substantially higher among American Indian and Alaskan Native persons than in the general population. In addition to PTSD, it is well documented that Indigenous people frequently suffer from generational or historical trauma: "According to proponents of this idea, domination and oppression of Native peoples increased both economic deprivation and dependency through retracting tribal rights and sovereignty. Consequently, American Indian and Alaska Natives today are believed to suffer from internalized oppression and the normalization of violence" (Futures). That Geraldine does not resort to chemical dependency is a reflection of her professional status, her intact nuclear and extended family support, and her inner resiliency (Erdrich, Round). She is not, however, fully recovered even after the death of her attacker; nor is it likely she ever would be.
     Having the victim married to a tribal judge provides us with natural access to the history and complexity of tribal law while also showing us a man deeply affected by his paralysis within it, his complete inability to try the man who has brutally attacked and attempted to immolate his wife. Judge Coutts is essentially emasculated. And as an honorable upholder of justice, he cannot bring himself to vigilante justice. His sudden attack on Linden Lark in the grocery store when he is taken {31} unawares shows the degree to which he has been repressing his need for violent revenge. He is so upset that it leads to his first heart attack, further extending the negative effects on the family. Perhaps the most memorable passage, however, is Bazil's explanation to Joe for why he believes his hotdog thief cases are important. He illustrates it with an old, moldy casserole he has dumped on the table, stacking knives, forks, and other utensils atop it. He then stands back and says, "That's it. . . . That's Indian Law" (228). The "fuzzy black noodles" on the bottom are Johnson v. M'Intosh (1823) which opened up Indian land to white "discovery," justified by views of Indians as savage and land as useless wilderness to them. He points out other cases but singles out Oliphant v. Suquamish--"This one I'd abolish right this minute if I had the power of a movie shaman" (229). Bazil goes on to explain to Joe that he does the very limited job he does in order to build a solid base for the future, "to press against the boundaries of what we are allowed" (229). The utensils represent legal tools to help him build a better future for his tribe.
     By choosing Joe as narrator, Erdrich gestures to that future. She asks the reader to think generationally, not just in the sense that these laws affect generations of people but also that it may take generations to change them. One must take the long view but not give up. There are several passages in the novel from the point of view of the adult Joe, a public prosecutor who is writing "tribal court opinions" (246). He survives and thrives. As a symbol that he comes to value the apparently modest accomplishments of his father, he wears his father's ties and carries his father's fountain pen until he becomes too afraid of losing it.
     Erdrich's positioning of Joe as narrator is also a strategically effective choice because he is a young male. This increases the likelihood that the novel will be read by men as well as by women. Erdrich demonstrates her concern on this score in her New York Times article where she references misogynist comments made by two Republicans about rape. That Joe is a relative innocent on the topics of sexuality, violence, and law enhances his appeal and provides Erdrich with opportunities to reflect on how young men might negotiate those minefields. Joe's comments about Grandma Ignatia's overt sexuality reveal how innocent he is. He is only just becoming aware of girls and their possibilities. To have his mother brutally raped, and that fact made very public, places Joe in a deeply conflicted situation. On the one hand he is just beginning to see women as desirable sexual objects, and on the other hand he is witness {32} to the devastation of his mother by one man's sexual aggression. He is in the perfect place and time in his life to give these events full consideration. Many have argued that sexual violence will not be taken seriously as long as it remains a women's issue. Women are often considered interested parties, overreactors, whiners, and even, yes, false reporters. Placing the reader in Joe's position shifts the focus away from women's veracity and enables an understanding of the wider effects of violence against women and an appreciation for the complexity of male sexuality. Joe's concern for his mother and need for revenge invites further reflection on women's humanity and their right to be protected by law.
     Joe is just beginning to learn what it means to be a man. He must choose between reservation role models that range from his beloved Uncle Whitey, who happens to beat his girlfriend, to the sometime tribal chair and Pow Wow announcer Doe to the ex-marine priest to his intelligent, reserved tribal judge father and even to the sadistic rapist, Linden Lark. Joe is clearly watching all of these men, deciding what he can and cannot embrace for himself. After he treats Sonja badly, she tells him her life story and ends with "I thought of you like my son. But you just turned into another piece of shit guy. Another gimme-gimme asshole, Joe. That's all you are" (223). The adult Joe reminisces about that, thinking "A gimme-gimme asshole. Maybe I was. Still, after I thought about it for a long time--in fact, all my life--I wanted to be something better" (223). Joe consciously rejects the casual domestic violence of his uncle when he quits the gas station job and moves out of his house, and he begins to reject his own objectification and abuse of Sonja after her story. Joe comes to terms with the priest and eventually learns to respect his father. He rejects Linden Lark's sadism, but does reluctantly embrace violence in the interests of justice.
     Erdrich comments about Joe's response to the rape:

This catapults him into an adulthood. He's not ready for this, but it throws him into a set of responsibilities that no 13-year-old should have to bear. And as the book goes on, as he sees that the adults cannot find justice, it becomes clear to him--and then it becomes clear to his best friend, as well--that they may have to seek justice on their own. ("In House")

Joe is an ambitious character, but he finds himself in the difficult situation of having to save his parents. He truly believes that either his {33} mother will try to kill Linden and instead be killed by him or his father will die of a heart attack, unless he takes the law into his own hands. Planning the attack, practicing his shooting, hiding the gun, and shooting Linden with his friend Cappy's assistance turn the corner for Joe, leading him to a profoundly wiser but bitter place from which he cannot return. The injustice of it must surely rankle with every reader. No young man should be forced to make that kind of decision, to carry that kind of burden with him for the rest of his life. His father tries to ease the burden by speaking to Joe about justice. The implication of this passage is that Bazil suspects Joe is the killer and is providing him with a legal and cultural framework for justifying his actions.

Any judge knows there are many kinds of justice--for instance, ideal justice as opposed to the best-we-can-do justice, which is what we end up with in making so many of our decisions. It was not lynching. There was no question of his guilt. . . . Lark's killing is a wrong thing which serves an ideal justice. It settles a legal enigma. It threads that unfair maze of land title law by which Lark could not be prosecuted. (306)

Bazil goes further yet, however, to explain to Joe that Lark's killing actually fits within traditional legal precedent. Because Lark is a "wiindigoo," "his killing fulfilled the requirements of a very old law" (306). The wiindigoo is an Anishinabe monster from traditional stories who devours others out of greed. Typically cautionary tales about balance and selflessness, wiindigoo stories also can revolve around real people, like the tale Joe's grandfather Mooshum tells him in which a loyal son saves his mother from a spouse's false accusations of being a wiindigoo. Joe says he feels some relief but that every night Lark still comes after him in his dreams. Like his mother and father, Joe suffers from ongoing trauma.
     In part we can blame these events for the boys' wild drive across North Dakota that leads to Cappy's death, just one of the many ripple effects in the tribal community. Even if Lark's death is just, it leaves behind a bitterness and sense of injustice in the community. Rather than holding their heads up, accessories like Linda Lark or those who know too much like Whitey or Vince Madwesin are forced to compromise their own integrity. Even the most obvious victims, Geraldine and Bazil, have to work hard to rationalize not turning their son over to the authorities. The very end of the novel expresses it thus: "The sentence {34} was to endure" (317). Joe and his parents drive back from the car accident and back into the reservation "in a sweep of sorrow that would persist into our small forever. We just kept going" (317). In an NPR interview, Erdrich comments that "revenge is a sorrow for the person who has to take it on" ("In House"). Erdrich would clearly like a better future for Indian people than "the best-we-can-do justice" and sorrowful endurance. Although her essay focuses on Native women, The Round House makes it clear that this does not only affect women. Joe, his father, the men who want to help but cannot, the women who know they may be the next victims, and the children who bear the brunt of their elders' emotional states are all victims too.
     The scope of the problem is developed through Mayla Wolfskin's story, the events that actually motivate the attack on Geraldine. The details are only uncovered slowly and are never fully revealed. Geraldine believes initially that she is protecting Mayla's baby by keeping silent about Lark's attack on her, but she certainly knows the probable outcome for Mayla and her child. Mayla is a high school student, from the Coutts family's reservation, who has worked as an intern in the office of the South Dakota governor, Governor Yeltow. When she bears a child by him, she takes Yeltow's hush money and returns with the baby back to the reservation to enroll the baby in the tribe, naming "old Yeltow father of her child--meaning she got pregnant while she worked for him" (299). As tribal record keeper, Geraldine now has access to powerful information. It is this file that Linden Lark seeks, either to "save Yeltow" or to "blackmail Yeltow" (299). Linda speculates that Lark probably also wants Mayla and the money. Mayla's body is never found, but Linda is convinced that her brother has killed Mayla. Her car is found in the lake, and Joe finds the money earlier in the novel, so it is unlikely that Mayla survives. Geraldine recalls Linden Lark saying that Indian women "have no standing under the law for a good reason and yet have continued to diminish the white man and to take his honor" (161). He believes they should be "crated up and thrown in the lake" (161). Lark's comments reveal one possible line of thinking behind tribal disenfranchisement.
     Erdrich, however, extends her criticism of the treatment of Indian women beyond individual predators and even beyond misguided and confusing tribal law. The implication is that individuals from the very ordinary all the way to the governor's office carry racist and sexist attitudes and practices that essentially institutionalize abuse. Sadly, Erdrich {35} did not have to manufacture this plot. Mayla's story is in fact a thinly veiled allusion to a scandal involving William Janklow, the governor of South Dakota from 1979 to 1987 and again from 1995 to 2003. In 1974 a young woman named Jancita Eagle Deer filed a petition to keep Janklow (Yeltow in the novel) from practicing law in tribal court. She claimed that he had raped her when she was fifteen and working as a babysitter for his family. At the time of the rape in 1967, Eagle Deer was examined and interviewed.
     According to records subsumed by journalist Steve Hendricks (2006) and the 1974 tribal judge Mario Gonzalez, there was compelling evidence in this complicated but ultimately unresolved case. In 1967 the BIA had forwarded the case to the FBI office, but neither arrest nor charges were ever made. According to Dennis Banks's memoirs of the time, Ojibwa Warrior, in 1974 a tribal hearing was held to show cause for disbarring Janklow (based on his alleged assault on Eagle Deer), but he failed even to appear at the hearings. Just a few months later Jancita was killed in a suspicious hit-and-run accident after last being seen in the company of an FBI informer.1 Her stepmother, Delphine Eagle Deer, who took up the cause after Jancita's death, was herself beaten to death just months later by a BIA police officer who "pleaded drunkenness as his defense" (Banks 283). Both cases remain "unsolved." The corruption appears to have permeated the system.2 Interestingly, Hendricks notes that Janklow, then state attorney, worked very hard to promote the 1978 Supreme Court case that stripped tribes of their right to try non-Indians (Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe). To the casual observer it might appear that political, FBI, and BIA interference in the tribal court system have made rape and murder merely manageable inconveniences.
     The Round House extends to bitter irony by having Governor Yeltow seek to adopt an Indian child whose mother "has disappeared" (158). Bazil comments: "The governor of course is well known for his bigoted treatment of Indians--an image he is trying in his own way to mitigate. You know he does these public relations stunts like sponsoring Indian schoolchildren or giving out positions in the Capitol, aides, to promising Indian high-school students" (157). That he seduces the aides and then seeks to adopt his own offspring does not appear to be part of the PR. Uncle Whitey also reports:

you wouldn't believe the things that old boy has done and got away with. Smashed into a freight train, drunk, and lived. Used the prai-{36}rie nigger word for Indians. Thought it was funny. Had a mistress in Dead Eye. Bought gold and stored it in the basement of the governor's mansion. And guns? He is a gun lover slash freak. Collects war shields. Indian beadwork. Pays homage to the noble savage but tried to store nuclear waste on sacred Lakota earth. Said the Sun Dance was a form of devil worship. That's Yeltow. (166)

This vision of the state's leader suggests just how compromised the state must be, encompassing both nostalgia for the "noble savage" and murderous disregard for his descendants.
     The land dilemma illustrated in the novel and exploited by the killer goes back to one of the complications that makes it so difficult to prosecute crimes given the current legal structure. The site where the rape and murder take place--the round house site--is host to three classes of land--"tribal trust, state, and fee" (160). Geraldine's inability to say exactly on which piece of ground she was raped makes it impossible to assign jurisdiction. The round house itself is a structure built pre-1978 so that Indians can hold ceremonies in relative safety, quickly switching to bibles if headlights are sighted. The land is a legal patchwork though.

Here's the round house. Just behind it, you have the Smoker allotment. . . . Then a strip that was sold--fee land. The round house is on the far edge of tribal trust, where our court has jurisdiction, though of course not over a white man. So federal law applies. Down to the lake, that is also tribal trust. But just to one side, a corner of that is state park, where state law applies. (196)

Significantly Lark brings Mayla, Geraldine, and the baby here, not just because of the ironic juxtaposition of violence in a place of Indian spirituality and safety but also because of its location of legal limbo between competing jurisdictions. Even the spaces built by Indians to protect their tribe's spirits are subject to fragmentation, distortion, and defilement. At the base of this novel lie recurring, plaintive questions about personal integrity, social justice, and safe space.
     The Violence Against Women Act appears to offer improved groundwork for responses to rape on the reservation, but the act does not yet provide the ideal solution. The tribal provisions within the act are in fact quite limited. There are provisions for grants to tribes to work on addressing legislation and policies surrounding violence against {37} women; however, tribal jurisdiction is only granted in a narrow set of circumstances. Tribes may now exercise jurisdiction over non-Indians in cases of domestic violence, dating violence, and violation of protection orders. The non-Indian must, however, be either living in Indian country, employed in Indian country, or the intimate partner of a member of the prosecuting tribe. In other words, he has to have "sufficient ties to the Indian tribe" that he has implicitly accepted their culture (National Task Force). This means that 41 percent of all rapes, which are apparently committed by non-Indian strangers, are outside tribal jurisdiction. Before non-Indian predators in Indian Country can be taken as seriously as this warrants, however, there will need to be significant shifts in cultural attitudes toward women and Indians in general.
     A further complication even with the jurisdiction over domestic and dating violence is that these cases can easily escalate to major crime status, making it very unlikely that the majority of tribes will be able to respond themselves, lacking the resources needed, according to the Tribal Law and Order Act. Owens ends her essay with a call for Congress to put more trust in tribal governments through "concurrent jurisdiction and the authority to impose sentences proportional to the crime" (524). One can only hope that with the extended jurisdiction granted by vawa , tribal judges will be able to continue building on the work done to date, working for the future safety of Native people.
     There is evidence to suggest, on the one hand, that many of the challenges to protecting Indian women still rest within the tribes themselves. On the other hand, funding cuts within the bia may challenge tribal law enforcement. Lack of staff and resources make it difficult to reach widespread crime scenes in a timely fashion, gather evidence, and interview witnesses. Further, the cultures of some reservations inhibit women's willingness to report assault. According to journalist Kathy Dobie, working then on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation, many victims are threatened by the accused and their family members, convincing them to drop charges and suffer silently. Even if they do follow through, there is often a lack of response: "'Tribal police do nothing,' says Beth Melancon, a social worker at AARC's Bismarck shelter. 'So many times it stops at the tribal level and it is forgotten about. They keep it under wraps. I would say the majority [of cases], seventy-five percent, stop at the tribal police" (Dobie 59). Even if the police do pursue rape cases, these cases are typically transferred to state or federal {38} courts, which have in the past rejected tribal cases at "twice the rejection rate for all federal cases" (57). Timothy Aqukkasuk Argetsinger, social advocate for Alaskan and Canadian Inuit tribes, concurs with Dobie's findings, arguing that many have unrealistic expectations for vawa 's ability "to end violence against Indian women on reserve, when in reality many tribes fail to adequately investigate, try and prosecute Indian perpetrators" (Argetsinger). He argues that the focus on non-Native stranger perpetrators is based on distorted research and applies to very few women living on reservations.3 "At the end of the day, the only way to prevent rape and domestic violence is to teach men not to rape and batter women" (Argetsinger).
     The Round House already has the difficult task of engaging readers in a historically and legally complicated maze as well as an emotionally troubling story. While Erdrich's primary goal is clearly not a criticism of the reservation politics of sexual and domestic violence, the ending of "Tiny Little Laws" echoes the novel's ending when Dobie writes:

The psychological and social effects of justice deferred can be seen and felt everywhere on Standing Rock, in the acts of violent retribution against accused rapists and molesters carried out by victims' families because that will be the only justice they receive, . . . in the soaring crime rates and in the drinking and drugging that work to quiet the nightmares of victims and dampen the guilt of perpetrators, . . . [and] in the way children marshal themselves to protect their mothers--the stiffened worried faces of little boys who play man of the house. (64)

While the purported sources of crime may differ, the outcome is painfully similar.
     In "Rape on the Reservation," Erdrich also reports the development of a new tradition at Minneapolis powwows, of women wearing red shawls to honor survivors of sexual violence. "People hush. Everyone rises, not only in respect, for we are jolted into personal memories and griefs. Men and children hold hands, acknowledging the outward spiral of the violations women suffer." She remarks that the "violence cuts deep." While one novel may not have the ability to heal those wounds, The Round House attempts to bring the damage into the light of day through Joe's testimony. Tagore remarks about Tracks that "Fleur's absence, Pauline's and Nanapush's telling and Lulu's listening . . . bear {39} witness to gendered and sexualized histories of north American Indigenous displacement and land loss, as well as to different modalities of survival and love amidst and against such forces" (150). While Erdrich does depict survival and love in the midst of violence and displacement, the circumstances are not inevitable. She challenges the reader to rise as a witness for tribal justice. Rooted in legal and cultural realities, Erdrich's narrative voice and style shift to proclaim the urgency of her crusade.


     1. A thorough accounting of the alleged events and the apparent cause of Eagle Deer's death are detailed in Steve Hendricks, The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country.
     2. The coincidences between Mayla Wolfskin and Jancita Eagle Deer are numerous--both underage when the alleged rape took place, both allegedly assaulted by the governor of South Dakota, both of Lakota/Nakota origin; Jancita attended Rosebud Boarding School at the time, while Mayla is related to Geraldine's cousin, LaRose; both are killed in a neighboring state, and neither case is solved.
     3. The 2004 study is problematic. Argetsinger points out: "In the report, sexual assault data are published from a crime survey taken telephonically by self-identifying American Indian men and women dispersed throughout the U.S." The data is not based on actual reported or prosecuted cases. Nor does it differentiate between Indians living on and off reservation. In fact, there is very little data available about reservation cases, as both Argetsinger and Dobie point out.


Argetsinger, Timothy Aqukkasuk. "VAWA 's Loudest Advocates Further Silence Native Women." Indian Country Today 24 Mar. 2013. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.

Banks, Dennis. Ojibwa Warrior: Dennis Banks and the Rise of the American Indian Movement. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 2004. Print.

Dobie, Kathy. "Tiny Little Laws." Harper's Magazine 322, no. 1929 (2011): 55-64. Print.

Erdrich, Louise. "Rape on the Reservation." New York Times 27 Feb. 2013, a23. Print.

------. The Round House. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. Print.

Futures without Violence. The Facts on Violence Against American Indian/Alaskan Native Women. N.d. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.

Hendricks, Steve. The Unquiet Grave: The FBI and the Struggle for the Soul of Indian Country. New York: Thunder's Mouth Press, 2006. Print.

"In 'House,' Erdrich Sets Revenge on a Reservation." All Things Considered. National Public Radio 2 Oct. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

Johnson v. M'Intosh, 21 US (8 Wheat.) 543 (1823).

Luscombe, Belinda. "10 Questions." Time 14 Jan. 2013. 60. Print.

"National Book Award Winner Inspired by Tragedy." Tell Me More. National Public Radio 21 Nov. 2012. Web. 10 Mar. 2013.

National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. "Tribal Provision: Myths v. Facts--vawa Reauthorization." National Task Force to End Sexual and Domestic Violence Against Women. 4 Mar. 2013. Web. 8 Mar. 2013.

Oliphant v. Suquamish Indian Tribe. 435 US 191 (1978).

Owens, Jasmine. "'Historic' in a Bad Way: How the Tribal Law and Order Act Continues the American Tradition of Providing Inadequate Protection to American Indian and Alaska Native Rape Victims." Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 102.2 (2012): 497-524. Print.

Patton, David. "Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010: Breathing Life into the Miner's Canary." Gonzaga Law Review 47.3 (2012): 767-800. Print.

Tagore, Proma. The Shapes of Silence: Writing by Women of Colour and the Politics of Testimony. Quebec: McGill-Queen's UP, 2009. Print.

Woodward, Stephanie. "Louise Erdrich's New Novel Is a Gripping Mystery and a Powerful Indictment of the Tribal Justice System." Indian Country Today 23 Dec. 2012. Web. 7 Mar. 2013.


Creating a Haida Manga
The Formline of Social Responsibility in Red


Red is an example of a new genre that its author, Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas, labels Haida manga. Initially, the form appears to be a loose blurring of the style and color scheme of traditional Haida art and the exaggerated illustrations typical of manga, or Japanese comics. The book also resembles a Western comic in that it is a story told through a combination of words and pictures, arranged at least loosely into a series of images that can be read left to right across the page to create a narrative arc. While the inspiration of both Haida art and manga is evident in Red, this new genre does not, at first glance, seem to be a distinct entity. When the formal rules of Haida art are applied to the text, however, Yahgulanaas's traditional philosophy and aesthetic emerge. Red is not simply a mash-up of popular genres; rather, it is the work of a traditionally trained Haida artist who is respectful of the culture and artistic traditions out of which he has emerged. Even though Yahgulanaas's adaptation of Haida art is vastly different from the work that has come before it, the Haida manga actually maintains and reinforces both the rules of the traditional art and the beliefs of the Haida people. Yahgulanaas says that the story in Red originates in "[o]ral narrative from my family's history" (Yahgulanaas, "Re: quick"). Thus, while the text may initially disorient readers who are unfamiliar with the conventions of Haida art, even the narrative aspect has been influenced by Yahgulanaas's family and community. Through its content as well as its form, Red insists upon the importance of balance in both art and life, a belief that is central to Haida culture.
     A closer examination reveals both Yahgulanaas's respect toward and innovation of traditional Haida art forms. According to Bill Holm, one of the distinguishing characteristics of Haida art is that its primary colors are black, red, and either green, blue, or blue-green (26). The most {42} important of these colors is black, which is used to create the formline, the "characteristic swelling and diminishing linelike figure delineating design units" in traditional Haida art (29). In the creation of the artwork, the formline is "outlined and then filled in," allowing the artist to vary the width of the line and also giving the artist "considerable control" over those lines (35). In Red, Yahgulanaas follows this traditional definition of the formline while expanding upon it in significant ways: it also separates the individual panels that make up the comic. As a result, the swelling and diminishing of the formline dictates the size and shape of the images that make up the work. True to its nature as one of "the fundamental elements of the art," the formline in Red controls the shape of the story and also forms the outline that connects each of the 108 pages into a single mural, as illustrated inside the jacket of the book (33).
     This outline is one of the most innovative formal aspects of Haida Manga. Like traditional Haida art, Red is a single, static image of three interlocking figures.1 As is evident from photos of Yahgulanaas working on Red in his studio, the book began as a large mural, the structure of which is dictated by the three figures depicted in the formline.2 But within that static image, literally inside the formline, Yahgulanaas has also created a sequence of images that work to tell a story. He tells this story chronologically, relying on the formline that shapes the original mural to separate images into a sequence within the narrative. That formline, already responsible for guiding the traditional mural, serves a double function by becoming the frames of the narrative, the black line working to both separate and juxtapose the sequential images that allow us to identify Red as a comic.
     In many comics, the artist can build the frame as a way of containing the narrative, but in the case of Red, Yahgulanaas had to find a way to tell the story across a space that had already been claimed by the formline. This strategy echoes Holm's description of expansive design, one of the three categories he uses to describe "the actual handling of design elements" in Haida art (Holm 11). In expansive design "an animal is distorted, split, or rearranged to fit into a given space, but the identity of the essential body parts is apparent and to some extent their anatomical relationship to one another is maintained" (12). Yahgulanaas seems to have employed this approach when designing Red, where individual panels have been rearranged to fit within the given space of the formline, but their "anatomical relationship," their chronological order, is {43} still basically retained and, thus, the panels still work together to tell a story. Yahgulanaas's choice to fit the sequential images around the larger formline reiterates his decision to follow the traditional rules of Haida art, even as he adapts those rules to the comics form.
     The principles of Haida art and culture are also connected to Haida Gwaii, the islands that are home to the Haida people. Guujaaw, a Haida carver and political activist, explains: "The culture actually is our relationship to the land, and the art tries to manifest that relationship by portraying other things that live here" (qtd. in Jones 29). Similarly, Nika Collison, a curator at the Haida Gwaii Museum, says that Haida art is "born from our inextricable connection to the lands, waters and supernatural beings of Haida Gwaii" (59). Yahgulanaas expresses a similar belief when he suggests that "[t]he study of Haida design is like the study of water because the basic theme is compression and expansion" ("Impulse" 156). He describes watching "the water between the rocks at the most southern end of Haida Gwaii. . . . It was so compressed. I could have cut it. I see that same tension in Haida design where space is either obviously filled or seemingly empty, compression seeking expansion" (156). His description echoes Holm's observations of traditional Haida art, where the artist's "effort was always directed toward . . . achieving even distribution of weight and detail within the flowing and continuous primary formline structure with its secondary and tertiary elements" (80). Holm also notes that an artist "must use all of his sensitivity to relate [the] design to the total space and to control the space of the ground or negative space" (67). In other words, Haida art relies on sensitivity to the available space, which means that the artist must, as Guujaaw suggests, be aware of the relationship between the Haida people and their land, including the other creatures that live on that land. In both art and daily life, Haida culture emphasizes the importance of making choices in response to the total space.
     Because Red is influenced not only by Haida art but also by manga, a Japanese form similar to what is referred to as the graphic novel in the United States, the text also includes many of the formal conventions of a novel, including basic elements such as plot and character development. So, in addition to forming a giant mural in the stylized Haida form, Red also tells a linear story, an overarching narrative that relies primarily on the development of the title character. Within that narrative, Red attempts to gain revenge on raiders who have kidnapped his sister, and {44} in so doing, he upsets the balance of both his community and the natural world. His destructive behavior is both represented and reinforced by his efforts to bend the formline to his will. Yahgulanaas uses Red's manipulation and misuse of the formline, as well as the ultimate restoration of that line, to emphasize traditional Haida beliefs in the importance of balance and respect, in life as well as art.
     The traditions of Haida art control the design and plot of Red in additional ways. In Haida art, red is a secondary color, its importance coming after the black formlines (Holm 30). The character Red's name is not coincidental; he, too, is secondary to the formline that shapes his story. As Holm observes, "secondary designs are often enclosed by primary formlines and are always in contact with the adjacent primary units at one or more points" (30). According to the rules of Haida art, Red, as a color and a character, is expected to rely upon formlines while also being contained within those lines. Because red/Red's importance is secondary, he is responsible for respecting the naturally existing boundaries and living according to their structure.
     In addition to the formal rules of Haida art, Yahgulanaas also invokes the traditions of comics and of manga in particular. In a comic the action is divided into sequential images called panels, which are usually separated by frames-- most commonly straight black lines arranged at right angles. Frames, however, are not even a necessity of the form. Scott McCloud's well-known text Understanding Comics defines comics as, simply, "juxtaposed pictorial and other images in deliberate sequence, intended to convey information and/or to produce an aesthetic response in the viewer" (20). McCloud argues that this definition does not specify the medium or the genre, nor does it mention "black lines and flat colored ink"; the most important rule of comics is not the lines, as it is in Haida art, but that the work uses images "in deliberate sequence" (22, 20). It is precisely this definition that Yahgulanaas adheres to in Red. Traditional Haida art is not sequential, though it often meets the rest of McCloud's requirements. It presumably intends to "convey information and/or produce an aesthetic response in the viewer" but does not do so by juxtaposing images in sequence (20). Rather, traditional Haida art usually focuses on a single representation.3 That representation may include multiple figures, but they are depicted in a single, static pose.
     Red initially maintains the boundaries dictated by both the juxtaposition of sequential images and the primary and secondary colors in

Fig. 1. We first meet Red and his sister, Jaada, on the water (Yahgulanaas, Red 3). Reproduced by permission of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.

Haida art. For example, in the early scene where Yahgulanaas introduces Red and his sister, Jaada, the formline clearly divides both the panels and the action (fig. 1). The panels, according to McCloud's terminology, comprise each individual moment on the page: one of Jaada reaching into the water; one of Jaada's hand pulling Red out of the water; one of Red holding a shell; and one of Red and Jaada on their boat. The formline creates boundaries, or frames, between these images. When viewing the images, readers work to commit closure, what McCloud explains as the act of "completing that which is incomplete based on past experience" (Understanding 63). Readers take each of the disparate images and {46} put them together into a sequential story. Based on our own knowledge, we can come to understand what happens in between each of the pictures. We also determine how to read across the page, imagining that first Jaada plunges her hand into the water, and second Red appears on the surface. While readers can fill in gaps for themselves, the story is literally shaped and held in place by the formline, which divides the pictures into individual panels that allow readers to create a timeline in the first place. Without those lines, a comics page would cease to make narrative sense; there would be multiple and contrasting images of characters in the same picture, and the order in which action occurs would be unclear to readers. Thus, Red reveals the importance of the formline to not only Haida tradition but to narrative understanding as well.
     The formlines in Red also become a part of the comic itself, a distinctly Haida feature of the work. When Jaada plunges one hand into the water, she steadies herself by holding onto the formline with the other. Her hair blurs into the formline, so that even her own body is somehow reliant upon and mixing with the natural and controlling force of that line. This blurring invites us to see the formline and, by extension, Haida art itself as organic, as a literal part of the environment. The organic nature of the formline is portrayed even more obviously in other parts of the text. In a later scene the formline blends into a tree branch on which a raider is leaning for support (fig. 2). Here, the line still does the work of dividing the majority of the page into three panels, but the line is no longer a frame separating the action in one panel from the action in the others. Instead, this character leans on the first panel in order to see beyond his frame into the next one. Both images seem to happen simultaneously, since the raider in the left panel is commenting on the beauty of the canoe in the middle panel. When formlines serve as panels, the boundaries that we expect in a traditional comic become porous, allowing a much more organic flow of material across time and place.
     However, the text asserts, in a world where the boundaries are so flexible, it becomes imperative that each person is aware of her connections and the power of her actions. If characters can reach across boundaries in both time and space, and if boundaries are not hard and fast formal characteristics but actually organic elements, then any boundary can be disrupted by any character or, really, by any other part of the world. Rather than the binary way in which Euro-American culture often views the world, Red's organic formline erases compartmentalization.

Fig. 2. A raider admires a canoe in another panel (Yahgulanaas, Red 13). Reproduced by permission of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.

The text's formal characteristics emphasize recognition of how human actions will affect the rest of the world, both in its individual frames and in the story as a whole. That the book is also a mural is another way of reminding readers of this interconnectedness: because we can step outside of a single panel or even a single page and view the story as a unified whole, we can understand that each action in each frame has the ability to affect the bigger picture in a very literal sense.
     The value of interconnectedness is expressed not only in the rules of Haida art, but also in Haida belief. As Yahgulanaas explains in an interview with Daina Augaitis, "being appropriate and respectful, [under-{48} standing] when to compress and when to expand" is "a Haida value" ("Impulse" 169). This value is demonstrated in Haida culture in the process of potlatching, a tradition that has been carried on for generations. A potlatch is a gathering of the entire community, hosted by a single person or family. It involves dances, food, and the giving away of a number of gifts by the host family. It is also an opportunity to pass on official names and titles, to celebrate a marriage, to adopt someone into a family, or to make any other significant change in the community. According to Robert Davidson, a Haida artist and a leading member of the contemporary community, "In the past, people lived by a strict code of laws that was defined by public opinion. Since there were no written documents, all changes to the existing order were made at feasts and potlatches, at a time when the public was present" (qtd. in Steltzer 1). This practice shows the importance of maintaining balance: no change can be made without the consent and participation of the entire community, which ensures that each person behaves respectfully and appropriately, maintaining boundaries that are delineated by the community at large. Thus, in Red, both Haida art and the story itself reinforce the lesson of balance: Red is expected to behave as is appropriate for his namesake, which means being respectful of both the human community and those larger forces, like formlines and the land itself, that create the boundaries of the world. If a person does not behave appropriately, he may upset careful balances and do damage, not only to himself, but also to the world around him.
     While Yahgulanaas's training in Haida art has clearly influenced Red, it is also worthwhile to consider the other half of the book's title: Manga. Manga is ultimately "another word for comics," although the comics tradition that developed in Japan differs from that which developed in North America (McCloud, Making 223). In Making Comics, a follow-up to Understanding Comics, McCloud expands his focus to analyze comics traditions in various cultures. In his discussion of manga, he notes that Japanese and North American comics have had an increasing influence on one another in recent years, but historical circumstances and the influence of particular artists in each place first led to the emergence of culturally specific themes and techniques (218-19). Without getting into a lengthy history of comics here, it is useful to note that mainstream American comics have often been considered immature, partially because they focus heavily on the superhero genre, which, among other {49} things, valorizes a quest for vengeance.4 Manga, on the other hand, has long enjoyed a mainstream popularity that has encouraged more formal and thematic experimentation. In the American tradition Red might maintain his childish perspective and be applauded for his desire to gain revenge; within the context of manga, however, readers can expect a more complex critique of his behavior.
     As it tells the story of a young man growing up, Red embodies themes from two genres of manga: shonen, which is marketed to teenagers, and seinen, which is intended for young adult men (Brenner 33). At the beginning of the text, when Red is still a child, he is immersed in the genre of shonen, which includes themes of "honor, heroism, determination, and teamwork" (Brenner 31). In these early scenes, Red is depicted working with his sister to catch fish and receiving spiritual guidance from his elders. Despite the fact that Red and Jaada are orphans, they are clearly situated within their community. After Jaada has been kidnapped, the text introduces themes that are more common to seinen, such as "sacrifice and obligation" (Brenner 33). Yahgulanaas follows Red from his childish determination to become independent and gain revenge through his maturation, when he finally acknowledges his obligation to his people and the sacrifice made necessary by that obligation. Positioning the text within the genres of shonen and seinen allows readers to complicate the American comics trope of revenge, instead framing Red's suicide as a sacrifice that highlights the individual's responsibility to his community.
     In addition to echoing the thematic tropes of manga, Red employs formal techniques that are specific to shonen. McCloud explains that these techniques include "subjective motion and dizzy pov framing," which are used to create a "sense of [physical] participation" for readers (Making 221). In subjective motion an artist uses "streaked backgrounds to make readers feel like they [are] moving with a character, instead of just watching motion from the sidelines" (216). The effect of this technique is to take the shonen reader "inside the action" (221). Yahgulanaas's use of the mural in Red works with the concept of subjective motion to keep the reader "inside the action," in this case literally: readers can move with the characters on the page, but, like those characters, their perspective is bound by the constraints of the formline and the natural world that it represents. When raiders steal into Red's village and kidnap his sister, Yahgulanaas positions readers within the world constrained {50} by the formline in order to emphasize Red's panic and confusion. In a scene depicting Red's struggle to escape a raider who is chasing him up the side of a building, readers must move through a chaotic series of panels that employ various angles and colors and rapidly zoom in and out of focus in order to convey emotion as well as narrative (fig. 3). In addition to the strange perspectives, the formline on this page is oblong, appearing as a series of loops and curves rather than the right angles or sharp corners more commonly associated with comics frames. The effect of these loops is to obscure both the action and the characters; it is difficult to group the images or order them into a sequence, especially because only a portion of Red's body is present on the page.
     This "dizzy POV framing," which is used in manga to create a sense of motion, also echoes a distinctively Haida technique. Holm notes that "traditional design principles" demand that the artist "meet the requirement of space filling" (11). He explains that "the more highly abstracted the design becomes, that is, the more nearly the represented creature, by distortion and rearrangement of parts, fills the given space, the more difficult it becomes to interpret the symbolism accurately" (9). We can interpret scenes such as figure 3 in terms of manga techniques, but these panels also rely on the Haida principle of "space filling," which offers another explanation for the distortion of Red's body. His torso is entirely absent, and we can see at least four hands, two different views of his face, and one very large foot. In this scene, the need to fill a given space is emphasized over the need to represent Red realistically, resulting in a "more highly abstracted design" in this section of the text. Thus the principles of manga and Haida art complement one another, as they use similar visual techniques to convey distinct values. In the case of Red, the two interpretations work together to reinforce both a sense of emotional chaos and the importance of adapting a figure to the available space.
     Not only does this scene exemplify the technique of subjective motion, but it also reveals Red's reliance on manga's ability to amplify "the sense of reader participation in manga, a feeling of being part of the story, rather than simply observing the story from afar" (McCloud, Making 217). As readers struggle to understand the chronology of events in this scene, they must take an active role in the storytelling. Yahgulanaas's choice to use very few words--in the comic as a whole but especially in climactic scenes like this one--becomes a way of encouraging audience participation. Without either narrative or dialogue in these

Fig. 3. Red climbs to the roof, pursued by a raider (Yahgulanaas, Red 30). Reproduced by permission of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.

pivotal moments, readers must tell themselves the story of what is happening on the page.5 Because the pieces of the story are fragmented, readers not only have to commit closure; they must also decide how to group the images on the page, both separating the images into panels and then placing those panels in a logical sequence.
     This participatory reading practice is similar to Native oral storytelling traditions, which also demand a level of audience/reader involvement that may be more difficult to reproduce in text-based novels. For instance, Leslie Marmon Silko says that "the storytelling always includes the audience, the listeners. In fact, a great deal of the story is believed to {52} be inside the listener; the storyteller's role is to draw the story out of the listeners" (50). While Silko's description is specific to Pueblo traditions, many Native storytelling techniques operate on a similar assumption. In the case of Red, Yahgulanaas borrows a visual technique common to manga in order to encourage such reader participation. As readers gather together disparate panels like those examined here, Red encourages its audience to use prior knowledge to put together a story. By combining both Haida storytelling traditions and manga reading traditions, Red presents a more complicated version of the closure technique discussed earlier: readers must bring both their own experiences and their interpretative skills to the page in order to make sense of the narrative.
     In addition to the stylistic elements that Yahgulanaas includes in Red, the text also draws some thematic material from manga. Seinen, the genre aimed at young men, deals with themes including "honor, outsiders, and violence," but it allows for complexities within those themes, including "morally ambiguous war and crime stories" (Brenner 33). The antagonists often look a lot like heroes in character design, although they are "more willing to bend the moral and legal rules to attain their goals," and "the emotional nature of the individual" is ultimately hidden in order to maintain social harmony (46, 73). Like those characters, Red's position is morally ambiguous throughout the text. Readers may be sympathetic to him, particularly after his sister is kidnapped, but his willingness to "bend the moral and legal rules" and his indulgence in his "emotional nature" cast him as an antagonist. It is only at the end of his story, when Red sacrifices himself to prevent war and restore social harmony, that he emerges as a hero according to the rules of the genre. Brenner explains, "The conclusion that war is futile is common in Japanese manga, even in stories that are all about war" (143). Similarly, Red spends the majority of his life--from the time that Jaada is kidnapped until the day of his death--intent on aggression. He stockpiles weapons, encourages his people to take revenge on the raiders, and carries around his brother-in-law's head like a trophy (Yahgulanaas, Red 49, 34, 92). Despite the physical conflicts and action sequences that abound, however, the book ultimately concludes that war must be avoided at all costs--even if Red must sacrifice himself in the process.
     But Yahgulanaas is not simply importing Japanese culture into his work, nor is he merely mimicking manga's conventions. Haida art often engages in adaptation, which has become a method of resisting colo-{53}nialism and preserving Haida culture. As Dean Rader suggests, Native artists participate in "engaged resistance through creative work and cultural production as a means of defiance but also as a source of connection to tribal ways of telling stories, representing images, and animating the world" (1). And Nika Collison links Haida art explicitly to the people's resistance to assimilation, to the silencing and abuse that many Haida faced when potlatches were outlawed and children were forcibly placed in the residential school system. She argues that by quietly preserving cultural practices, by continuing to use "our own words and art," the Haida have both resisted colonization and preserved their own culture and suggests that, "[w]hile Haida art fulfills many roles, it is this social function that is its truest responsibility" (Collison 59). In order to fulfill that social responsibility in the face of enormous pressure, Haida artists have had to adapt. By 1900, smallpox had reduced the Haida community to six hundred people, and the potlatch law of 1885 banned "all ceremonial, political, and spiritual aspects of [Haida] culture" (Davidson 50; Jones 35). In such an environment, "adaptations became icons of survival and continuity" (Jones 35). As Marianne Jones argues, "History shows a long record of the Haida adapting new materials into traditional forms" (35). Thus, the fact that Red adapts some of the thematic and artistic characteristics of manga actually reinforces its place within a Haida tradition.
     Additionally the narrative themes of Red emphasize Haida values and reinforce the traditional role of Haida art. As Guujaaw observes, "Haida art is a way of expressing respect for the things around us" (qtd. in Jones 29). This statement also echoes Ian Thom's observation that Yahgulanaas "does not view his art as distinct from his work as an activist" (171). While Red certainly teaches by negative example, his story is grounded in a specifically Haida worldview. Red's death occurs because he ignores Haida values when he becomes tangled, both emotionally and physically, in his desire for revenge. By sharing this story with a wide audience, Yahgulanaas engages in social activism and stresses the necessity of respecting and maintaining a balance between the individual and his world.
     Yahgulanaas uses the visual guidelines of both Haida and manga to demonstrate Red's transgression, as well as by following his downfall through character interaction and plot development. A careful reader can tell that something is wrong by paying attention to Red's interactions with the formline: as the story progresses, he begins to manipulate {54} the line rather than relying on it as a support system and natural feature of the world. Our first indication of trouble comes after Red meets Carpenter, who convinces him to build a mechanical whale. On Red's orders the townspeople begin killing sea lions and collecting their hides to create the skin of that whale. One member of the community notes, "The whales won't be happy we're killing all their sea lions" (Yahgulanaas, Red 37). His friend responds, "We need more hides so Carpenter can build us our own great whale. Maybe we won't need real whales anymore" (37). This exchange reveals two problems with Red's actions: first, rather than maintaining a balance with the natural world, Red is willing to kill animals just for their hides, which goes against the careful rationing of resources and the respect for animals found in Haida culture. Second, Red has decided to replace "real" nature with an artificial creation, one that he intends to use for selfish purposes. Whales, the largest creatures in the sea and an important resource for food and other materials, as well as an important ancestor of the Haida, cannot simply be replaced. The idea that a mechanical creature, which neither shares a connection to ancestors and the natural world nor provides food and resources, could replace the living creature appears in stark contrast to traditional Haida beliefs and demonstrates the intensity of Red's desire to control nature rather than working respectfully within its boundaries. In giving voice to the community's concern and drawing attention to the whales' perspective, Red shows readers that individual actions must be viewed within a larger context.
     When Red fails to take this larger context into account, he damages not only himself but also those members of his community who have given him their support. Red's misuse of the natural world is further emphasized later in the same scene, when the formline becomes practically indistinguishable from the whales and the water, reinforcing their alignment against Red (62). The mechanical whale that Red builds also connects to the formline, but only to show how improperly Red is using that line. When that whale becomes trapped under water, Red himself is shown trapped within the formline, no more than a tiny face and hands looking helplessly outward (78). On the same page, Red announces, "The lines are tangled. We can't move" (78). While Red is literally referring to the complicated system of ropes that allows his whale to move through water and air, we can also understand this as a reference to the formline itself. Red has tangled the lines of his story by working against {55} nature and ignoring natural balance, as well as by ignoring his community's desire to avoid war with the raiders. He has become physically tied up, preventing the movement and change inherent to a formline that constantly swells and ebbs, connecting one part of the story to another. A tangled line not only keeps Red trapped underwater, but it also prevents his story from moving forward and connecting to the rest of the world. Through its protagonist's mistakes, Red reveals each individual's responsibility for being aware of and maintaining his appropriate role within a larger community.
     In an effort to free himself, Red attempts to break the line by force, thrusting a pin into the works of the whale, which, once again, are also a part of the organic formline (fig. 4). Carpenter orders one of the men inside the mechanical whale to "Hit the pin," which has been driven violently through the line itself. At the same time, the tension that Red has placed on the formline is evident in the portion of the line that is actually crumbling into many individual pieces, a direct result of the pressure placed on it by the ropes tied around it. By this point, Red's manipulation of the line has become violent, and his method is doomed to fail. He does not have enough control over the world to change the formline by himself, and he has obviously not requested communal assistance or approval in his attempts. Indeed, the natural world refuses Red when, a few moments later, the wind begins to drop, bringing Red's flying boat back to earth rather violently (86-87). When he crashes down, Red is left to face his responsibilities. His sister informs him that the man he has killed was her husband and his brother-in-law, and thus that he was indeed part of Red's family and community. Moreover, warriors from his brother-in-law's village have followed Red home and are now awaiting an opportunity to exact revenge. Confronted by these facts, Red begins to realize that his violent actions have inadvertently hurt his family and brought violence to his community. Here the text asserts the necessity of adhering to traditional Haida values, whereby Red should have been aware of his relationships and mindful of his place in the community, whose approval he should have sought before carrying out plans for revenge.
     Despite his irresponsible behavior up to this point, Red's community is still willing to help him fix the situation. One of the elders steps in to assess and repair the damage, announcing that "[a]s [Red's] people, we are responsible for his actions," and instructing the community to "Make

Fig. 4. Red and Carpenter struggle to manipulate their artificial whale (Yahgulanaas, Red 81). Reproduced by permission of Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.

this right" (92). The villagers work to restore the balance that Red disrupted, some of them meeting with the strangers who have pursued Red while others repair the cracks in the formline (98, 101). But even as the community comes together to correct Red's mistakes, he continues to refuse their assistance. As the elders return his brother-in-law's head to Jaada, Red forces his way into the situation by tearing a new hole in the formline and shouting "No" (98). The word becomes physically embedded in the formline, reinforcing the way that Red continues to inflict damage on the world around him.
     Because Red repeatedly alienates himself from the community, even {57} in these last moments, he refuses every opportunity to resolve the situation peacefully. When an army from his brother-in-law's village assembles on the beach, demanding Red's head, he realizes that he is out of options; his death is the only way left to restore both the community and the formline. When Red steps forward to meet the army, he accepts responsibility for his behavior and finally acknowledges that he is, as Yahgulanaas puts it, "a powerful person with obligations" ("Impulse" 169). In order to restore balance, he accepts the offer of a "great bow," from his kaagi (Yahgulanaas, Red 102). This bow is also a representative part of the formline, and Red pauses to note a crack in it, further evidence of the damage he has inflicted. Then he strings a red arrow, symbolically restoring the appropriate roles of color in Haida art: the red arrow is controlled by the black bow, showing that red must be contained within and determined by the black formline. And with this restored relationship between black and red, Red commits the only act that can still restore balance: he kills himself before his brother-in-law's people can start a war against him and his community.
     Red's final act reinforces the traditional Haida values of communal participation and approval. Since Red alone, and not his community, has started a war against another people, Red alone ultimately takes responsibility for it. If he drew his people into the attack, a full-blown war might begin. Innocent people would die for Red's actions, not as a result of any communal decision. The balance between the two peoples would be upset, and the result would be still more damage to the world. Instead, Red finally, tragically, uses the formline as it was meant to be used: he allows it to control his life instead of attempting to manipulate it, and he demonstrates that he has become aware of his community and the importance of respecting its values.
     Although the portrayal of suicide as a solution appears troubling, especially given the high suicide rates among contemporary Native youth, it is important to remember that Red instructs readers through a negative example.6 Like many people who contemplate suicide, Red feels isolated and beyond help. But help has been offered throughout his life, and Red has repeatedly declined it. By the time he commits suicide, Red has spent years isolating himself and refusing every opportunity for assistance. Even before Jaada's abduction, Red complains about being an orphan and having to "settle for leftovers," ignoring his sister when she points out that they have "a home, food, relatives" (Yahgulanaas, Red {58} 22-23). Given his attitude, it is unsurprising that Red continues to act alone, overlooking the relationships that connect him to the world. And it is important to note that even after he has killed his brother-in-law and led a large number of hostile warriors back to his village, the community continues to accept him and take responsibility for his behavior. The moment when he protests returning his brother-in-law's head to Jaada is only the last in a long series of choices that have led Red to this place. He has lived contrary to the values of his community for so long that, ultimately, he finds himself in a position where he must take sole responsibility for his behavior, but only because he has already refused every other option.
     Despite Red's poor decisions, his community never abandons him, not even in his death. The elders who have guided Red throughout his life take responsibility for his body, which they carry back to the village for burial (106). And although Red murdered Jaada's husband, Red's death still leaves her shaken. The page after Red's suicide is devoted to a single panel that shows Jaada, frozen in place and crying as she stares in the direction of her brother's body. Although other members of the community are present in this panel, they all have their backs to Jaada, emphasizing her isolation (106). But on the next page an anonymous member of the community approaches Jaada to tell her that he is "truly sorry for our losses" (107). As she shares her burden, Jaada makes eye contact with the man and smiles, already reconnecting with her community. This sense of community is reinforced on the last page of the novel, which depicts Jaada and her son, a little boy who shares her brother's red hair, returning home on a boat with Red's face painted on the bow (108). Although Red made a series of poor decisions that alienated him from his community and led to his death, he will remain a part of the Haida people through his sister and her son.
     Ultimately, Yahgulanaas's story about breaking boundaries ends with a strong affirmation of traditional values and the great necessity of respecting those values, including both the rules of Haida art and the importance of acknowledging an individual's place within a community. Although he has created a new art form to tell his story, it is clear that Yahgulanaas is still invested in traditional Haida values, which he maintains through both the form and content of the Haida manga.
     Red, and the entire genre of Haida manga, suggest just one of the many ways that Native American and First Nations writers and artists {59} can appropriate, adapt, and indigenize the comics form. Since the publication of Red in 2009, interest in Native comics has continued to grow. In addition to the attention that Yahgulanaas's work has received within the field of art criticism, Native comics have also been increasingly discussed within the field of Native American literary criticism, including Margaret Noori's chapter on Anishinaabe comics in the edited collection Multicultural Comics and a panel entitled "Teaching Native Graphic Novels," chaired by Nancy J. Peterson, at the Native American Literature Symposium in 2012. Several comics written or drawn by Native artists have also appeared in the last few years. These include collaborations between Native authors and professional artists, such as Matt Dembicki's anthology Trickster and the Graphic Classics volume Native American Classics (Pomplus), which features contemporary Native writers' adaptations of stories and poems by earlier Native authors, including Charles Eastman and George Copway. Full-length graphic novels, like Andrea Grant's (Coast Salish) Minx: Dream War, which premiered in Indian Country Today, have also appeared recently. In relation to these new texts and emerging academic discussions, Haida manga becomes an instructive example of the ways in which Native artists in the twenty-first century preserve traditions while embracing innovation and adaptation.


     1. Yahgulanaas describes the image in the mural as "a representation of nourishing wealth. It has animal/human like attributes or more precisely structures but it is misleading or settling for too little to describe it as an animal icon" ("Re: Talk").
     2. Refer to Robert Haines's article "Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas." The photos that accompany this blog post offer a clear depiction of Yahgulanaas's method.
     3. Individual pieces of Haida art may "present narrative accounts," but they do so by depicting a character as he appears in a single moment of a familiar story (Macnair 96). For instance, Peter Macnair gives the example of two plates carved by Haida artist Charles Edenshaw, which "illustrate an episode from the Raven cycle" (96). Each plate depicts a static moment in time, but the visual details of each moment refer to a particular story from the Raven Travelling cycle, in this case the story of Raven and Fungus Man spearing chitons from their canoe (96). Such pieces may be considered narrative, but they rely on viewers who are already familiar with traditional Haida story cycles. In contrast, Red fills in the narrative details and thus includes a broader audience.
     4. See, for instance, the Batman comics. Bruce Wayne, otherwise known as Batman, has no inherent super powers. Instead, he creates his superhero identity out of sheer willpower (and a family fortune) as a way to avenge the deaths of his parents, who were killed during a botched mugging in Gotham City.
     5. In fact, when teaching Red, I have followed Deanna Reder's (personal communication) suggestion to begin class discussion by summarizing the plot, page by page, as a group activity. Students are often unsettled by the lack of language and eager to confirm their interpretation of events before they are willing to engage in analysis of the text.
     6. In a 2001 report on the relationship between mental health and culture, race, and ethnicity, the United States Office of the Surgeon General reports that "an analysis of Bureau of Vital Statistics death certificate data from 1979 to 1993 found that 'Alaska Native males had one of the highest documented suicide rates in the world.'" The report also states, "in another survey of American Indian adolescents (n = 13,000), 22 percent of females and 12 percent of males reported having attempted suicide at some time; 67 percent who had made an attempt had done so within the past year" (Blum et al., qtd. in United States). In light of such data, it is especially important to frame Red's behavior as a cautionary tale.


Augaitis, Daina, et al. Raven Travelling: Two Centuries of Haida Art. Vancouver: Vancouver Art Gallery, Douglas & McIntyre; Seattle: U of Washington P, 2006. Print.

Brenner, Robin E. Understanding Manga and Anime. Westport: Libraries Unlimited, 2007. Print.

Collison, Nika. "Everything Depends on Everything Else." Augaitis et al. 56-81.

Davidson, Robert. "Reclaiming Haida Culture." Augaitis et al. 48-55.

Dembicki, Matt. Trickster. Golden: Fulcrum Books, 2010. Print.

Grant, Andrea. "Exclusive: An Excerpt from Andrea Grant's Graphic Novel, Minx: Dream War." Indian Country Today 14 Mar. 2012. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Haines, Robert. "Red: A Haida Manga by Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas." The Joe Shuster Awards. 22 Feb. 2010. Web. 4 Apr. 2013.

Holm, Bill. Northwest Coast Indian Art. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1965. Print.

Jones, Marianne. "Haida Art and Haida Gwaii." Augaitis et al. 28- 39.

Macnair, Peter. "From the Hands of Master Carpenter." Augaitis et al. 82-121.

McCloud, Scott. Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels. New York: HarperCollins, 2006. Print.

------. Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art. New York: HarperPerennial, 1994. Print.

Noori, Margaret. "Native American Narratives from Early Art to Graphic Novels: How We See Stories/ Ezhi-g'waabamaanaanig Aadizookaanag." Multicultural Comics from Zap to Blue Beetle. Ed. Frederick Luis Aldama. Austin: U of Texas P, 2010. 55-72. Print.

Pomplun, Tom, series ed. Graphic Classics, vol. 24: Native American Classics. Ed. John E. Smelcer and Joseph Bruchac. Mount Horeb: Eureka Productions, 2013. Print.

Rader, Dean. Engaged Resistance: American Indian Art, Literature, and Film from Alcatraz to the NMAI. Austin: U of Texas P, 2011. Print.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. "Language and Literature from a Pueblo Indian Perspective." Yellow Woman and a Beauty of the Spirit. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996. 48- 59. Print.

Steltzer, Ulli. A Haida Potlatch. Seattle: U of Washington P, 1984. Print.

Thom, Ian M. Challenging Traditions: Contemporary First Nations Art of the Northwest Coast. Seattle: U of Washington P, 2009. Print.

United States. Office of the Surgeon General; Center for Mental Health Services; National Institute of Mental Health. "Mental Health Care for American Indians and Alaska Natives." Mental Health: Culture, Race, and Ethnicity (A Supplement to Mental Health: A Report of the Surgeon General). Rockville: Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2001 Aug. Web. 30 Dec. 2013.

Yahgulanaas, Michael Nicoll. "The Impulse to Create." Augaitis et al. 154-169.

------. "Re: quick question on Red." Message to Deanna Reder. 15 Aug. 2011. E-mail.

------. "Re: Talk." Message to the author. 22 Oct. 2011. E-mail.

------. Red. Vancouver: Douglas and McIntyre, 2009. Print.


"To Fight against Shame through Love"
A Conversation on Life, Literature, and Indigenous Masculinities with Daniel Heath Justice


Daniel Heath Justice is a Colorado-born Canadian citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He is the author of Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee Literary History (U of Minnesota P, 2006) and numerous critical essays in the field of Indigenous literary studies. With James Cox, he is the co-editor of The Oxford Handbook of Indigenous American Literature (Oxford UP, 2014) and former coeditor of Studies in American Indian Literatures (2008-2012). He's also the author of the Indigenous epic fantasy novel The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles (U of New Mexico P, 2011), formerly published as a trilogy by the Indigenous Canadian publishing house Kegedonce Press (Kynship, 2005; Wyrwood, 2006; Dreyd, 2007). Having taught as an associate professor in the Indigenous Studies and English Departments at the University of Toronto, Daniel is currently a Canada Research Chair of First Nations Studies at University of British Columbia in Vancouver BC .
     When I began conducting interviews with Indigenous artists, activists, academics, and elders on the subject of Indigenous masculinities in 2010, Daniel was among the first people I contacted. His creative and critical work in the areas of gender, nationhood, and decolonization consistently courts complexity and tension, resisting the oversimplifying undertow of tragedy and romance while engaging with the messiness of lived experience. I've always marveled at his ability to speak to complex issues in a clear and accessible manner without sacrificing acuity and precision. His critical work on kinship--including "'Go Away Water!' Kinship Criticism and the Decolonization Imperative" from the collection Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective (U of Oklahoma P, 2008)--illuminates not only the reciprocal responsibilities that adhere among the human and other-than-human elements of creation {63} but also the sophistication of Indigenous cosmologies of gender that betray the inadequacies of Eurocentric binary oppositions. His article "Notes toward a Theory of Anomaly" (GLQ, 2010) expands on these issues in the specific historical context of legal restrictions on sexual diversity in the Cherokee nation, mobilizing the late Mississippian category of "anomaly" as a queer-inclusive tribal model for belonging.
     Daniel's creative work grapples with many of these same concerns but with different weaponry in efforts to pursue, engage, and enliven alternative audiences. Shrouded by the dark shadow cast by legacies of historical trauma, The Way of Thorn and Thunder dares to reimagine community and warriorhood within complex conditions of dispossession and to consider the reinvigoration of reciprocal responsibilities to land and peoplehood after territorial removal. In a staunch refusal to accept colonial narratives of inevitable demise, Daniel struggles in his creative work to imagine decolonized futures, and through pedagogy, criticism, and public engagement he struggles to create conditions that will coax his audiences toward a more balanced world.
     His written work has a great deal to teach readers about gender, power, and responsibility. I wanted to ask him about his own development as an artist and critic and to build that conversation into a critical study of Indigenous masculinities. The following conversation took place on February 14, 2011, in my office at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, after Daniel had made a guest appearance in a graduate course I was then teaching entitled "'Carrying the Burden of Peace': Exploring Indigenous Masculinities through Story." This conversation also appears as "Fighting Shame through Love" in Masculindians: Conversations about Indigenous Manhood (U of Manitoba P and Michigan State UP, 2014), a collection of twenty-two interviews with leading Indigenous thinkers. It is reprinted here by permission of the University of Manitoba Press.

* * *

SAM MCKEGNEY: What influences were most significant to your maturation and development as a Cherokee man, and how have those influences informed your critical sensibilities as a scholar and a creative writer?

DANIEL HEATH JUSTICE: Really, it was my parents more than anything and then radiating circles of influence beyond that. But I grew up as my dad's youngest child and my mom's only. My mom's his fourth wife. {64} They've been together forty-two years now, forty-three years--a long time. And they had been married seven years before they had me, so I'm my mom's only, my dad's baby, and so I have all of the flawed personality traits of an only child and the youngest child.

SM: [Laughter]

DHJ : I was very spoiled. I like to say I was spoiled with love. And I was, I really had a pretty Edenic childhood--with my parents. Outside of that, I didn't have much of a social circle in school, and I was bullied quite a bit. But my folks were and continue to be wonderful and completely supportive. Doesn't mean that there weren't issues--my dad was a very heavy alcoholic until I was six, when he quit drinking, and then we had mortgaged our house so my mom could have a restaurant. Four years later we lost the restaurant and lost the house, so we kind of bounced from house to house for a while and it caused a lot of strain in my parents' relationship. And I kind of became my mom's emotional support because my dad was not a particularly supportive husband at the time. He's since become very sweet and loving. So it was a vexed relationship in that way, but my folks were always really loving and supportive to me--there was never a time when I didn't feel loved at home.
     And they were very encouraging of my nerdiness and my love of books. I would go hunting with my dad and I'd lean up against a tree with a novel and read, and he was good with that. You know, I had my rifle; I'd know if there was an elk coming, and being part of the hunt was my responsibility. So we adapted; we adapted some of these masculinist pursuits for my nerdy fantasies. And I spent a lot of time outdoors with my dad and then indoors with my mom. My mom's not a very physically active kind of person. So I had a really nice mix of two different spheres. Out in the woods with my dad, domestically with my mom. But my mom is the dominant personality in the household. She's a tough woman. I learned very early about the strength of women and sometimes what that costs them. My mom had to always be strong even when she didn't necessarily want to be because my dad wouldn't necessarily--he wasn't always emotionally available to her. My dad is a very good man but he worked only when he wanted to, which wasn't all the time, so she supported him a lot. Now his memory is that he was this great provider, but my mom and me, we have a different memory. He'd spend his money on {65} his own stuff and mom would spend her money on groceries and food, or groceries and clothes, and medical bills and whatever. So in terms of coming to a sense of self, there were a lot of things I admired about both of my folks. There were also things I didn't want to replicate about both of them. And my mom at the time--it wasn't diagnosed--but my mom has depressive tendencies, and after we lost the house and restaurant, she really spiraled into deep depression, which caused a lot of anxiety for me because I was her primary emotional support. I was a preteen trying to be supportive of a very depressed and very unhappy mother, who I'm very close to.
     But I always--always--felt loved at home. My folks were so supportive of all my idiosyncrasies and my fantasy worlds. And although we didn't have very much, I never went without, not really. Had I been my oldest half brother, who was raised when my dad was very much an alcoholic, it would have been a very different situation. He had a very different childhood than I did. My dad was the town drunk when my brother Gifford was being raised. And he remembers coming to the bar to collect Dad, and Dad just really not doing well. And my dad was a binge drinker, so he wouldn't drink for a while, but when he would he would be drinking until he was heaving blood. So at twelve years old, Gifford had to start fending for himself and looking after both himself and our dad. Dad raised him, while his ex-wife, his first wife, raised the other two kids. So, when I was coming along, my brother, who was an officer in the US Navy at the time, thought that I was not the kind of man I should be. So, actually the only judgment I had in terms of my masculinity was my brother. And I always thought that my dad loved Gifford more than me, because Gifford would come home once or twice a year, and it was always a big production and everything would be put on hold for Gifford's week, and then he was gone. So for a long time I thought that Gifford was the kind of man Dad wanted me to be. Well, Dad never said that, Dad never implied that. But he didn't see Gifford much, and he has a lot of guilt about the kind of life Gifford had as a child. So I tried to kind of be a cool guy when Gifford was home, but it just didn't work. And so Gifford and I have always had a very vexed relationship. I mean, he insisted that Mom was going to turn me into a fag [Laughter], being so close to my mom. Well, you know. With my folks it was great, but beyond that I was always facing kind of a critical audience about how I wasn't masculine enough . . .
     So, my sense of self came from having a really good home foundation but also a critical and forthright home foundation. We've always been a bluntly honest family about most things. So Mom would say, "I love your Daddy a lot, but I don't want you to be like him in this way." And I could kind of see that on her side, too. Like I would see how depressed she was, and I didn't want to be so worked up and hyper-obsessed about things. You always inherit things from your folks even when you're trying not to, and I tend to worry about things like she does, and I wish I didn't.
     And when I came out, that was probably the hardest time for me and my mom. I was twenty-four, I think, when I actually came out to her. It was hard. But even then, I never felt like she didn't love me. We spent a lot of time crying; she was very angry. She had just lost her dad not too long before then, and then I came out in a not particularly thoughtful way, and so I didn't know until a while afterwards that she was a little suicidal over this, which of course was a little bit of a burden, but we worked through it. My dad and I have never talked about me being gay. We've never said the word. Although he knows that Kent and I are married. Kent comes home, and he and Dad get along incredibly well. Dad gave him a rifle for Christmas because he's part of the family now, and they're really cute together. They have a lot of fun. So there's no question about who I am, but it's just not--my dad is twenty-one years older than my mom as well, so he's eighty-two, that's just not within his vocabulary. For him, a gay man has a particular image that his son who shoots and hunts and stuff doesn't fit. Even if I'm kinda fey in other ways, the fact that I know how to shoot and, you know, clean game and do all this stuff, doesn't quite fit the fag, you know? [Laughter]

SM: You've mentioned to me before about the different religious journeys in your mom's life . . . Do you think she read your coming out in a causal way? Did she endorse your brother's interpretation that closeness with her had turned you gay?

DHJ: A little bit. One thing about my mom is she's not a homophobe. She had a lot people she was close to who were gay. But I'm her baby. I'm her only child. I was her only shot at grandkids, right? [Laughter] So I get it, I get why it was so hard for her. And I came out really casually over the phone, which didn't give her much of a chance to process things face to face, which was really our main way of dealing with difficult things. Part {67} of it was, she was also the black sheep of her family. She was the second of seven kids, the oldest girl, and her mother was incredibly emotionally and physically violent to her. I was the first grandchild, and when I was very young, my grandmother and mother had reconciled, and I would be visiting and my grandmother would say, "You're spoiling that child. The way you're treating him, he's going to be a serial killer by the time he's fifteen." She constantly judged me as deficient, in large part because I was my mom's child. I was good at school, so I kind of became the success story that helped my mom redeem herself with her own mother. She always saw herself as this failure because she didn't go to college, even though she was brilliant and courageous and had an amazing work ethic. But, to her, she felt like she was judged less negatively because she at least produced this son who was academically accomplished and was going to school and doing well and then became a professor and all this stuff. So I was seen as her greatest success and then, all of a sudden, to have the people who had judged her all her life say, "Aha!"
     Later on, when things were a bit better, we had a pretty profound moment: she was talking with me and said, "You know, I've been in male-dominated jobs all my life, and I had to be twice as good as a man to be considered half as accomplished. And I always thought that yours was going to be an easier road. But now, no matter how good you are, no matter what you do, you're still going to be just another fucking faggot to a lot of people." And that really . . . that devastated her. And she wasn't saying that I was a "fucking faggot" to her, but she had been the victim of so much sexism in her life and she fought it; she didn't want me to have to fight like she did. And yet, that was what happened. So that was really hard for her.
     It was her older brother Dan who kind of got her head around this because she just broke down into tears and she told him I was gay--and he's always been a good man to me--but he just let her cry for a while, and then he finally said, "Kath, 90 percent of the world is going to be against that boy all his life. Whose side do you want to be on?" And it was just kind of like, "Oh!" And that's all it took. It was like, "Oh yeah, my son's, damn it!" The one way to get her out of the dumps is to stoke her fighting spirit, and that's what it took to bring us close again.

SM: It was interesting for me to hear about the ways in which your family was able to adapt to different circumstances. For instance, you were {68} talking about hunting with your dad but taking the time with your books; that was participatory and I guess reciprocal on your father's part to enable the space while maintaining the integrity of the relationship or what the event was seeking to do. And it strikes me how that resonates with your critical work, particularly on expansive kinship and ethics of inclusivity, and I'm wondering if you might think aloud about how that model functions in terms of adaptability.

DHJ: I haven't really thought about it in that way, but just honoring who people are and making space for them to be who they are in different circumstances, without disrupting everyone else's experience--because part of it too was, yeah, I was reading, but I was also hunting and I had responsibilities as a hunter. So when the elk were coming down, you stand up, you do your job. So there's space, but you're also there as part of another thing, so it's a balance: you honor people's integrity, but you're also honoring what's bringing you together.
     From the time I was very young, my mom decided I was going to be self-sufficient as much as possible. So she taught me how to cook; she taught me how to do laundry; she taught me how to clean. Even early on, when she had her restaurant, my first job at twelve was washing dishes, one hour a day, six days a week. That's a lot of work for a twelve-year-old kid. And then every year, it was one hour more until we lost the restaurant four years later, and then I was ready to work for other people. So yes, it was noncoercive, but I was trained to be accountable up until that point. It's not enough just to be noncoercive; you have to train people to be sufficient and independent and able to do their work, and then you can be really hands-off because they know what's expected.

SM: Were there many Indigenous people at your school or in the community in Victor?

DHJ: No. As far as I know--there could have been some others--we're one of two Native families from the area. Um, maybe three. But it was primarily white. There were some folks of Mexican American heritage, but primarily a poor rural white community. It's also a tourist area, so there's kind of a summer middle-class population. In Cripple Creek, the next town over, six miles over, that's where I went to school. Cripple Creek was the place with the name, with the touristy thing. That's where {69} the moneyed people lived, and Victor was where all the poor folks--the supposed trashy folks--lived. I lived in Victor. So there was class distinction there. But even the pretty well-off folks would have only been solidly middle class in other places. No, I'm pretty sure we were pretty much the only Indians.

SM: And was there stigma attached to being one of the only Indian families?

DHJ: No. No. It was kind of an interesting situation. Class was more of an issue up there, at least for us. Dad was just a good old boy, and still is. He's just a much older good old boy. So yeah, he was the Indian. But people never really--my dad's a short man and a very slender man, but people wouldn't have said much to him about it. I mean, he dealt with some of that stuff when we'd go outside of town, a little bit, but nothing, nothing in town. There might have been more of it when Mom and Dad first got together. She was eighteen and he was thirty-nine--three times divorced, alcoholic, Cherokee truck diver. But a lot of that just had to do with "He's thirty-nine. She's eighteen." Well, she was seventeen when they first actually met. He thought she was in her twenties. And she pursued him. Once he found out how old she was, he tried to get away from her. And she said, "I'm gonna be your last wife, one way or another."
     But what's interesting is that I had internalized a lot of anti-Indian stigma that wasn't even from the community around me, but just from popular culture. When I was about three, my dad--there was a friend of his that was Lakota, a truck driver who came to visit. And I guess--I don't remember any of this, this is the story my parents tell--we were at a restaurant, it wasn't even in that town, it was in another city my parents were living in before they moved back to my mom's hometown. But we were at breakfast with this Lakota guy, and the whole time I was glaring at him--'cause he was very phenotypically Native. My dad's dark-skinned but has a buzzcut and "not the Indian you have in mind" kind of thing. But I was glaring at this Lakota guy through the whole meal, just with absolute hate, and Mom knew I was going to say something--I was always a very verbal child. But she couldn't very well spank me before I said anything! So she was going to take me to the bathroom to go pee, and I went over and I poked him. And I said, "Hey! My daddy doesn't like Indians." And, of course, they all started laughing and laugh-{70}ing and thought it was the funniest thing, and Mom said, "Your daddy is an Indian." And I guess I started throwing a walleyed fit in this crowded restaurant, "My daddy is not an Indian! My daddy is not an Indian!" Just screaming and crying and just horrified that my daddy was an Indian, and Mom kinda shook me and said, "Yes, he's an Indian, and that makes you an Indian, too." And I guess the story is, I kind of looked at her, snot running down my face, and I said, "I'm a little Indian boy?" Mom said, "Yes." And I said, "Oh." And I was fine. I was fine.
     What interests me about that story is why at three would I have been so horrified that my father was an Indian? Three years old: I had already internalized so much anti-Indian imagery, so much anti-Indian rhetoric. You know, I knew what Indians did to little boys and their mamas. My dad loved watching westerns, so I knew Indians killed people. They killed nice people. My daddy wasn't one of those. My daddy was a nice guy. You know, by the time I was old enough to really think about it, I had become a complete Anglophile. I wanted to be as far away from being a mixed-race Cherokee hillbilly with kinda ambiguous sexuality and gender norms. I wanted to live in the England I read about and saw on TV. I wanted to go to Oxford and wear tweed with patches and smoke a pipe and sit in oak-paneled drawing rooms and talk about big ideas with other sophisticated, cultured, civilized people. I'd watch Merchant Ivory films and just salivate, because I didn't want to be from where I was . . . I didn't see anything of value where I was from until I was in university. In high school, when we would have pep rallies, there would be contests, and I was always very artistic, and so I was the one designated in my class to draw posters and stuff. And there were a few times our team, the CC-V Pioneers, was competing against Indian-themed teams, like the Lamar Savages or something. And I distinctly remember drawing really nasty stereotypical pictures of Indians scalping people and stuff, and in retrospect it's just the most mortifying thing to think that I participated in that, and I did it without a second thought until I was about sixteen or seventeen and started being a little more attentive. And it really wasn't until I was about twenty that I had a bit of a turnaround, and then I sort of became an über-Indian and then I kinda pulled away from that.

SM: Born-again Indian.
DHJ: Oh God, awful! I was just awful. I hope I've become a little less obnoxious. But yeah, it wasn't really the community that was an issue that I grew up in. Yeah, there weren't any other Indians or very few Native folks, but it was popular culture that affected me.

SM: Do you think, from the images that you and I were privy to as kids, that the semiotics have really shifted in relation to Indigenous peoples? Or are children today beholden to the same regime of images?

DHJ: I think it's a bit less, well, it's less overt in terms of the cartoons. The one I always remember is just the old Bugs Bunny cartoon, which had this Indian with a huge red nose and these big black glasses. You don't see those anymore, just like you don't see those old Tom and Jerry cartoons anymore with the Mammy character. Those things have gone by the wayside, which in most ways is probably good, but I think it's a little unfortunate we don't have those more readily available to talk about and analyze; those stereotypes haven't gone away--they've just gone underground.

SM: And sometimes the invisibility of them makes them more dangerous.

DHJ: Yeah, yeah. So I think there's a better mix, but it's still the one-size-fits-all Indian. But we're back in the age of noble savages rather than ignoble savages that I grew up with. Either way, you're still seen as a dying people. But one gets to have really cool monologues, and the others just howl and scream a lot. [Laughter]

SM: Thinking of Chingachgook looking out over the vista.1

DHJ: [Sigh] Yeah. Visually beautiful, philosophically bereft.

SM: Do you see a role in contemporary society for Indigenous art to actually intervene in those systems of representation that seek to foment "inevitable disappearance" of Indians?

DHJ: Well, I think, I can really only speak for me in terms of that, but it was literature that brought me back home. Ironically, and kind of sickeningly, it was The Education of Little Tree that started me on the path to {72} Native Lit.2 So this very dodgy faux-Indian book. But actually, from that, I moved into other texts that were more sensible and more useful. I think literature can have a profound impact, good or bad. Took me a long time to get out from under the spell of Little Tree--honestly, I still cry when I read it, even though we all know that's a dodgy, very problematic text. But I think it has profound power to influence. And it's gonna influence us one way or another; it's just are we conscious of it or not?

SM: Can even romanticized images be mobilized in positive ways?

DHJ: Oh, hell yeah. Yeah. I would much rather, much rather have Chingachgook than the nasty, scalping, slaving Indians. It's not great; it's still a stereotype, but at least it's something with some dignity to it. And considering that Native people are so often represented as having no dignity and being so bedraggled and so debased, God, the alternative . . . If you only have two choices, take nobility, right?

SM: Do you view your creative work as both building from and reacting to the representational history that we're talking about?

DHJ: I think a lot of it is unconscious, that you just tell the story you want to hear. And I've always been influenced by strong women and by mountain folks and down-to-earth figures and people who kind of stand between the spaces and inhabit multiple worlds. So those are the kind of characters that I write about. The ones who are kind of the standard heroes--I think of The Lord of the Rings and The Lord of the Rings movies, the character who interests me the least is Aragorn. I just don't care. [Laughter] I don't care about the king trying to get back to his throne. I don't care. I'm much more interested in the weird homo-sociality of the hobbits, the fey beauty and elegance of the elves. I mean, I'm more interested in these other figures who are more compelling in their complexity. So part of it is intent: wanting to be very complex in the kinds of characters I write and the kind of narrative I deal with, but part of it . . . this would be the story I would write because those are the stories I want to read more of.

SM: The relationship between Tarsa, as female protagonist, and Shakar, as a complex female villain in The Way of Thorn and Thunder . . . I think {73} of it as being quite significant given the history of non-Native depictions of indigeneity focusing on the hypermasculine through almost the erasure of womanhood from Indigenous communities. Why do you focus on those sources of power in the community?

DHJ: I think they were just interesting characters, right? But I don't think I can get away without mentioning that Tarsa was my first gaming character playing Dungeons and Dragons. Tarsa and Tobhi both were my gaming characters. So was Denarra from the book, too. So these were characters I inhabited. When I was a kid, I pretended to be a woman all the time. I'd play Super Friends, and I was Wonder Woman or Batgirl. I'd play Masters of the Universe, and I wasn't He-Man; I was either the flamboyant and unique villains like Skeletor or, more often, I was Teela or the Sorceress or Evil-Lyn. There was just something about womanliness that really fascinated me. And also, just beauty. I loved pretty things, still love pretty things, and I wanted to be very pretty. So I think when I was going to be playing Dungeons and Dragons, I could pretend to be a woman, and I could kind of inhabit that space.
     Well, of course, in retrospect it's a little problematic; there are all kinds of ways that can go wrong. But Tarsa was my first character, and so she was a character I explored a lot of gender play through. And then Shakar was a villain from early on when this was all a game. When I was writing the novel, it had to be about Tarsa. But Tarsa had become a very different kind of figure. She'd become much more powerful, she'd become much less demure than she'd originally been. She was very demure to begin with, and now she's just a kick-butt warrior who'd kick my ass all over the room. But not in a kind of Angelina Jolie-Lara Croft-Tomb Raider style but a warrior-ness that is rooted in accountability in a really significant way. That was just going to be the story I was gonna write.
     Yeah, Tarsa and Shakar were always gonna be central figures. My one regret is that I focus so heavily on Tarsa's physicality as a figure and didn't really give as much attention to her intellect. So in some ways she kinda becomes this body, rather than a body and mind. Whereas Neranda is mind and very little body. I think that was one thing I should have complicated a lot more with both of them. I think actually Shakar is more complicated in that way than Tarsa is. I think Tarsa, that's a stumble in her characterization. I don't think it's a huge one for her, but {74} enough of one that I wish I would have kinda complicated it, because she's clearly very intelligent, but I think I focus so much on her physicality that in retrospect I wish I would've done more.

SM: I want to ask you about reimagining what warrior means, what an idea of an ethical warrior stance might be, whether that's the physical warrior in battle on behalf of community or other ways of conceptualizing the warrior. And I think of Tarsa, who, as a Redthorn warrior, moves between the "Blood of War" and the "Blood of the Moon" and recognizes those as integral to one another as opposed to polar opposites (with "Blood of War" as the domain of the male and the other as the domain of the female). Can you speak a little bit about the type of warrior figure that Tarsa needs to be in that story, I guess?

DHJ: A warrior to me is somebody who fights the good fight with everything they can with love at the center of their concern. And there are a lot of ways of doing that. Tarsa doesn't always fight out of love. Sometimes it's out of hate. But every time she fights out of hate, it's disastrous--something awful happens. When she fights with love, she's looking for a future. Anybody can fight with hate, but that sometimes presupposes despair about what's coming. You fight with love, you're looking toward a future free of fighting, right? You fight with hate, all you see is the fight, and then it becomes self-defeating. And Tarsa is not self-defeating.
     And that's actually where Neranda's failure is: she does not have hope for the people. And so her battle--that's why she becomes so internalized. It's so much about her: she doesn't have hope for the people. She sees the people ultimately, inevitably surrendering. And so she has a lot of hate in her. And it isn't until the very end she starts to realize what that has cost and that she has helped facilitate this failure, she has helped facilitate the great massacre, which was never her intention. But out of despair, that has been the result. So she surrenders herself, again in despair, but that very last moment when she joins the song, that's what sparks the rebirth of the Tree. It's not Tarsa who does this--it's Neranda. In her last moment, when she joins the song, she's let go of despair. That transformative song has started to heal the people. Her last moment of consciousness before she's gone, she joins. And that's the last voice that's been needed and that's what starts the Tree growing and that's what {75} destroys Vald. It's not Tarsa who does that. Tarsa just begins the song. Tarsa opens that up. It's Neranda who saves them all because she finally gives up her despair. That's being a warrior, too.
     Tarsa's driving force at her best is love. And that's the kind of warrior she had to be. So she goes from being a blood warrior, where she has to shed blood, to becoming an advocate for peace. But even as an advocate for peace, she's a warrior. The difference is, she's looking for other alternatives and is paying attention to the particular kind of balance that peace requires. As a Redthorn, it's an immediate experience, an immediate threat that you're dealing with. The Greenthorn Guardian that she becomes the head of, these are long-term warriors, these are long-term visioners. They're about building, they're about growing things. And that's the kind of warrior that she becomes and embodies by the end.

SM: Ultimately at that stage, in my reading of it, she's become the warrior-wielder who fights on behalf of community but who, to do that effectively, must simultaneously act as a healer of community, so . . .

DHJ: Absolutely.

SM: So it's not, it's not just the ability to wield violence but to heal the violence that has already occurred.

DHJ: Yeah. Well, and if you think, her name, when she gets her Redthorn name, it's Tarsa'deshae, "She Breaks the Spear." Her name at the end is Tarsa'meshkwé, which means "The Spear, She Plants It" or "Spear-Planter." So the one, she breaks it, she plants it. So one is about destroying, the other's about creating, and her name reflects that.

SM: I also want to think about Tobhi as a warrior figure because in many of the battle scenes it's quite palpable what a fighter he is, what a fighter spirit he has. But he's a different kind of warrior figure, as well. And he doesn't fall into stereotypical masculine warrior mode in a lot of ways. And my other reading of him has always been that he is, in a way, a literary theorist. He is the one who takes the stories of the leaves and seeks to put them to use. He doesn't try to just translate their stories but rather to see their relevance by mobilizing knowledge and experience and understanding--theory. Do you see any connection between {76} Tobhi's warrior capacity and warrior writers, warrior critics? What the intellect can do on behalf of community?

DHJ: I love that idea of Tobhi as a literary theorist! I hadn't really thought of that. I really like him as a warrior--so I'll talk about the leaves but--but when [he] gets out there and fights, he's having fun, right? And he's doing what's needed, but he also kinda just gets a kick out of it. He enjoys that kind of physical tussle. But he is not motivated by hate when he's doing this.
     The reason he goes on this journey to Eromar is because he's been asked by Garyn and his aunties; his clan mothers have given permission for that. He is in service to those purposes, and he takes it very seriously. And that's when he learns the leaves. It's not just a love of the people, it's a love of the gift. It's a love of the stories. And he has fun with it. And he interprets, he translates, and he's playing with it to understand the story in as many ways as he can. And eventually by the end of the book the leaves are etched on his flesh; they become part of him. So he becomes the embodied story of the people.
     And I think that's something that theorists can do and that writers can do: so we can give back stories to people that lift them up and lift ourselves up at the same time and show possibilities that are different than the ones we are given by mainstream culture and hopefully more enriching, more exciting, more loving possibilities. It doesn't mean that we don't deal with hard things or difficult things, but we're still telling stories about people who are loveable in many cases. Or stories about people who are worth listening to. Even if they're miserable, cantankerous, unpleasant people, they're worth listening to. So giving a space for voices that are so often silenced: I think writers can be really important in that. And that's war. That's war against pop culture. That's being a warrior against this overwhelming hegemony of dysfunction and deficit that is a long battle, but you gotta start somewhere.

SM: When you talked about Tobhi ultimately being able to embody the story, it made me think of the importance of validating embodiment and sensual experience in The Way of Thorn and Thunder. Can creative work--like that which celebrates the sensual--reawaken in readers their own abilities to inhabit their bodies in healthy ways?

: I think absolutely it can. Absolutely. I know that I have seen that. I've experienced that with other books I've read. One thing I wanted to make sure of--and I didn't think about it consciously at the time--but when I was going through revisions, all of the main characters who are in love relationships are people with agency. There are certainly very few references to rape and other forms of coerced, exploitative, or nonconsensual sex in the book. In the Darkening Road, there's kind of a hint that the Folk, the she-Folk, are threatened by he-Folk, as well as humans, kind of human marauders. And then there's the one scene when Vergis Thane has returned back to his superiors, and he's decided to go take a bath because he wants to have a bath and go spend some time with a wide-hipped whore or something. And you also find out that part of Denarra's origin story is having been kicked out of school because she fought back against a group of human students, and she was kicked out and ended up homeless and had to sell herself as part of that. But she found some form of empowerment in herself and then turned that around, instead of making that transactional thing where she was the object, she became the subject; she would make the decisions. She's still involved to some degree in sex-trade work, but it's on her terms. She's powerful enough at this point that it's on her terms. And now she can take pleasure as she sees it. It's not just that she has to have sex for pay. She can also have sex for pleasure. And most of her illicit activities are smuggling rather than sex.
     But I wanted to make sure that the majority of characters, when they are in loving relationships, they have agency, that they're not victims of somebody else. And I think that's where some of these books can be useful. When you see people who are in love and have agency and exist in different kinds of bodies--they're people of different body types. Denarra is a hefty gal in my rendition of her. She's not a waif; she's a very voluptuous figure, with curves. Quill is--actually none of my female characters are skinny. I just realized that. They've all got form, they've all got shape. There are disabled characters: Jitani and Garyn are both disabled but sexual people and have really fulfilling sexual and romantic lives. Just to have those represented--diverse characters, with diverse body types, diverse abilities, in diverse kinds of relational configurations, who can find pleasure in their bodies and in the bodies of others that is not about exploitation, but about actual pleasure--that alone, I think, is helpful and beautiful.
     So yeah, I think just that focus on empowering passion is enough--for some readers, it won't be for all--but for some readers who are hungry to see some alternative to the really explicit stuff you can find on the Internet or in other books. I mean, so many fantasy novels are just about explicit violence and explicit sex that has nothing to do with love, nothing to do with respect or understanding. Those things get tiresome. And I wanted stories that are about people gettin' it on, not just bodies.

SM: In an Indigenous context in Canada, for instance, a lot of writing has demonstrated how Eurocentric patriarchal notions of impurity and the grotesque have been coercively attached to the female body as a "potential vessel of evil." I wonder also how the male body has been stigmatized and how even the silence around the male body potentially can constitute an act of dangerous erasure. Someone like [Métis poet] Gregory Scofield's work actually celebrates the male body in various ways, but that doesn't happen very often. And often when the male body is celebrated, it's as a physical instrument of power through, you know, the speed of the runner or the warrior in action. But the sensual male body is very seldom spoken about in literature.

DHJ: And it's usually the queer male body when it is celebrated.

SM: Can literature and story and even critical theory unpack and reverse some of that stigmatization or--I don't even know if I want to use the word stigmatization because I don't know if it adequately speaks to what I've been trying to get at--but rather this elision of the sensual male body?

DHJ: What strikes me is the male body is seen as capable of and a source only of violence and harm. When that's the only model you have, what a desolation, right? When your body, the only way your maleness is or should be rendered is through violence, through harm, through corrupted power. Oh, it's just tragic. We need to see the body--the male body--as being a giver of pleasure, not just a recipient of somebody else's acts, but a source of pleasure for the self and others. Whether it's sensual pleasure or just kind of gentleness, kindness, a nice handshake rather than a crushing one. Or a pat on the back or tousling someone's hair or just a touch that is not a taking touch but a giving touch. But {79} the models of hypermasculine maleness that we get: if the male body isn't giving harm, it's taking pleasure. It's always extractive. It's either penetrative or extractive--or assaultive or extractive. One or the other, there's nothing else. And that is such a catastrophic failure of imagination, as well as a huge ethical breach. To imagine that the male body is only capable of wounding. And it's crippling to the soul to imagine that your only function in life is to hurt people. So literature ought to give us alternatives.
     One of the scenes I'm proudest of in the trilogy--the omnibus3--is the scene with Tobhi and Quill, their love scene. I love that. Tobhi's a scrapper, but he's nervous when he's with his beloved. And he's made it clear: he's had sex before; this isn't his first time. We don't necessarily assume it's Quill's first time; it might be, we don't know. But he's nervous, he's scared, like guys get, you know? Even in the age of Internet porn that's just all about exploitation and really degrading treatment, guys get spooked; guys get scared and nervous and excited and want to bring pleasure. So Tobhi, he's nervous, and it's Quill who guides him, and she's gentle and he responds in kind. And it's a very loving moment. That's one of my favorite scenes in the whole story because it's such a tender scene, and it's a straight scene, right? I mean, I didn't write a hot queer scene with that one. It's just these two very sweet, loving people who just want . . . it's about giving to one another. There's nothing about taking. Or if it's taking, it's after it's been given, you know, this reciprocity. Those kinds of scenes, those kinds of stories, when we talk with other men, talk about the pleasures given rather than simply the pleasures received. Even now, I don't know if there are a lot of conversations about, "Yeah, well, the first time I made someone climax, what was that like?" No, that's not the story we often hear. We hear, "My first climax." Well, what about the first time you gave pleasure to somebody else? And that's sexual pleasure. What about the time when you hugged someone, and it was exactly what they needed. That's a warrior's act as well, to know what's needed to be done and to do it boldly and without need of response. To fight against shame through love.


1. The title character in James Fenimore Cooper's novel The Last of the Mohicans (1826) and the Michael Mann film of the same name (1992).
     2. Written by Asa Earl Carter under the pseudonym Forrest Carter, The Education of Little Tree was first published in 1976. Presented as the memoirs of Forrest "Little Tree" Carter, the story tells of maturation of a young orphaned boy of mixed Cherokee descent who learns of nature, farming, love, and life from his adoptive grandparents. The book has been subject of considerable controversy due to inaccuracies about Cherokee language and worldview, concerns surrounding appropriation of voice, and the potentially dubious intentions of its author, who has demonstrated white supremacist leanings in his public and private life.
     3. Because this interview took place directly before the omnibus edition of The Way of Thorn and Thunder was slated for release, both of us were just getting used to referring to it as the omnibus rather than the trilogy.


Carter, Forrest. The Education of Little Tree. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1986. Print.

Cooper, James Fenimore. The Last of the Mohicans: A Narrative of 1757. Ed. Paul C. Gutjahr. Peterborough: Broadview P, 2009. Print.

Justice, Daniel Heath. Dreyd: The Way of Thorn and Thunder. Wiarton: Kegedonce P, 2007. Print.

------. "'Go Away, Water!' Kinship Criticism and the Decolonization Imperative." Reasoning Together: The Native Critics Collective. Ed. Craig S. Womack, Daniel Heath Justice, and Christopher B. Teuton. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 2007. 147-68. Print.

------. Kynship: The Way of Thorn and Thunder. Wiarton: Kegedonce P, 2005. Print.

------. "Notes toward a Theory of Anomaly." GLQ : A Journal of Gay and Lesbian Studies 16.1-2 (2010): 207-42. Print.

------. Our Fire Survives the Storm: A Cherokee Literary History. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2006. Print.

------. The Way of Thorn and Thunder: The Kynship Chronicles. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 2011. Print.

------. Wyrwood: The Way of Thorn and Thunder. Wiarton: Kegedonce P, 2006. Print.

Scofield, Gregory. Love Medicine and One Song: Sâkihtowin-maskihkiy êkwa pêyak-nikamowin. Wiarton: Kegedonce P, 2009. Print.



Annette Kolodny. In Search of First Contact: The Vikings of Vinland, the Peoples of the Dawnland, and the Anglo-American Anxiety of Discovery. Durham: Duke UP, 2012. ISBN: 978-08223-5286-0. 426 pp.
      Harald E. L. Prins, Kansas State University

The author opens her prologue, which she subtitled "the autobiography of a book," with a Penobscot Indian prophecy about a foreign invasion, followed by a Mi'kmaq storyteller's formulaic beginning: Wodin'it atog'agan ("This is a story . . .").
     Now retired as the College of Humanities Professor Emerita of American Literature and Culture at the University of Arizona, Kolodny has authored several influential books. Considered one of the pioneers in the field of ecocriticism, she identifies her research focus as "American frontier studies." Her most recent book, In Search of First Contact, has had, as she explains, "a very long genesis [that] began when, as an undergraduate at Brooklyn College in New York, I elected to use a study abroad scholarship to enroll in the Literature Program at the University of Oslo in the summer of 1961. . . . I had the good fortune to study Old Norse mythology [and], most important for this present study, the sagas of medieval Iceland."
     Kolodny credits her husband, historical fiction writer Daniel J. Peters, author of three epic novels about the demise of the pre-Columbian civilizations, with stimulating her historical interest in Indigenous cultures: "I accompanied Dan on all his research travels to archaeological sites from Mexico to Bolivia and Peru. . . . Together, we read and spent countless hours discussing all the available historical, anthropological, and archaeological data." As a result she introduced in her American litera-{82}ture courses "the extant stories and recorded legends of the Native peoples who had been encountered at each frontier site" (2).
     Rethinking the idea of frontier, Kolodny found this category should include "the precontact period," and this led to her decision to revisit the ancient Icelandic sagas she had earlier studied in Norway--"stories about the Norse explorations and attempted colonization of North America somewhere around the year ad 1000" (3). She then "composed a kind of position paper for reconceptualizing the literary history of the American frontiers [that] would necessarily include . . . Native American materials and the two Vinland sagas" (3). In 1994 Kolodny assigned these Icelandic sagas in her American frontier literature graduate seminar to her students, who wanted to know: "Where was Vinland located, and what had really happened there? And were there any Native American stories about this early contact?" (3-4). As she tells it: "In the summer of 1995, I began searching for answers to all those questions. . . . This book is the product of that search" (3).
     In the process of her long and painstaking (quite literally) research, Kolodny and her husband made numerous trips to the Atlantic seaboard of northeast America, where they queried members of the Mi'kmaq, Maliseet, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot nations, as well as non-Indian professional archaeologists, historians, anthropologists, and a host of other individuals. They also visited Indian Island, a village on the Penobscot Indian Reservation not far upriver from Bangor, Maine, befriending Charles Shay, the only surviving grandson of Joseph Nicolar, the famous nineteenth-century tribal leader who authored The Life and Traditions of the Red Man. A year before his death in 1894, Nicolar had published this small book, which has long been treasured by the Penobscot as well as regional ethnohistory specialists. Of the original edition, few copies still exist. It was republished in 1979, with a short new introduction. In 2007, having secured permission from Shay (who wrote the preface), Kolodny authored a much more detailed introductory chapter to a new edition of this book, retelling his nation's origin myths and legendary oral history.
     In Search of First Contact tells a still fascinating history, with numerous interesting facts, compelling conjectures, and plausible interpretations. Given her multidisciplinary scope, with its numerous historically intertwining political-ideological and cross-cultural themes spanning {83} the northern Atlantic hemisphere, Kolodny must have occasionally felt vexed by the vast complexity of her elusive subject.
     After the prologue, from which I just quoted, the book is divided in seven chapters, respectively titled "The Politics of American Prehistory: Isolation versus Contact"; "Contact and Conflict: What the Vinland Sagas Tell Us"; "Anglo-America's Viking Heritage: A Nineteenth-Century Romance"; "The New England Poets of Viking America and the Emergence of the Plastic Viking"; "The Challenge to Columbus and the Romance Undone"; "We could not discerne any token or signe, that ever any Christian had been before': The Phantom of First Contact"; and "Contact and Conflict Again: What Native Stories Tell Us." The book concludes with "Epilogue: History Lessons."
     To compose her complexly layered "story" about the Vikings of Vinland, Kolodny consulted almost 500 books and articles and provides more than 250 end notes, many of which are very extensive and containing multiple references. Her book offers a synopsis of late-medieval Icelandic sagas about seafaring Norse adventurers contacting Indigenous coastal peoples (Skraelings) in Greenland, Labrador, Newfoundland, and perhaps beyond--perhaps to the outer edges of "The Land of the Dawn." She asserts with justified confidence: "Regarding Vinland's geographical location, these pages offer the most authoritative speculations now available from historians and archaeologists" (18). That being said, she confesses that "conclusive answers" elude her: "Perhaps it is best, therefore, to think of Vinland as what it became for Euro-Americans in the nineteenth century, that is, a geographical site that was transfigured into an imagined landscape for the projection of dreams" (18). Not surprisingly, the most interesting and insightful chapters are those in which Kolodny expertly guides us through the American historical literature, offering a critical discourse on "the many nineteenth-century English-language translations and redactions of those [Norse] sagas [as they] entered the [American] national imaginary and had a profound impact on major American writers" (18). Indeed, the list of authors passing the revue here is impressive, ranging from still-famous writers such as Longfellow, Emerson, Thoreau, and Whittier to now mostly forgotten historians such as Rafn and "passionate partisans" such as Horsford, Kohl, Lowel, and Marie Brown Shipley.
     It is hard to do justice to Kolodny's meticulously researched, densely packed, finely grained, and jargon-free historical literary excursion. She {84}] does a great job showing that epic stories of heroic Vikings discovering America centuries before the Italian explorer Columbus sailing in the service of Roman Catholic royals in Spain were ideologically exploited by an Anglo-Protestant cultural elite in search of a romantic historical narrative fitting an emerging American national identity. Recognizing that interpretations are by definition subjective, I question her assertion that the few enigmatic comments about "residual trace memories of first contact" among the Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, or Mi'kmaq are, as she put it, "equally important" (18). As I understand the cultural heritage of these Indigenous nations, Vikings are irrelevant in their narratives of historical self-fashioning. And even if there had been a few contacts with foreign sailors long ago, why would such an encounter be so uniquely memorable? Such alien stories have no political-ideological impact on the collective consciousness of Indigenous communities in northeast America. The opposite was and remains true for segments in white dominant society in North America who, as Kolodny articulates very well, have a long-standing vested interest in adopting or creating a powerful imaginary linking the heroic exploits of Nordic adventurers with professed ideals of American liberty, self-reliance, and entrepreneurship.
     It is unavoidable that a book like this is without errors or omissions, a few of which I'd like to mention. For instance, while Kolodny discusses the Rhode Island-born diplomat Henry Wheaton in Copenhagen as the "first American to write at length about the Northmen" and writes at length about the Danish historian Carl Rafn, part of a small team that compiled, translated, and edited the 1837 book Antiquitates Americanae (a crucial publication detailing Norse discoveries before Columbus), she does not mention Rasmus Rask, a Danish professor of literature who lived in Iceland from 1813 to 1815. After learning the language and studying ancient Norse sagas relating to Vínland hit góda ("Wineland the Good"), he became founding president of the Icelandic Literary Society in Copenhagen in 1816. In his 1831 letter to Wheaton, written a year before his death, he not only mentioned the Flateybook, Erik the Red saga, and Karlsefni's saga as original sources but also pointed out a book by the Icelander Thormod Torfason (Latinized as Torfaeus), Historia Vinlandiae Antiquae seu Partis Americae Septententrionalis, published in Copenhagen in 1705. This once widely read publication on Vinland is also left unnoticed by Kolodny.
     Finally, I wonder why this book, so rich in historic and literary detail about Longfellow, misses a discourse on the ideological shift from the romantic historical "Viking" featured in his The Skeleton in Armour (1841) to the romantic nationalist "Red Man" celebrated in The Song of Hiawatha (1855). The Maine bard himself described this epic poem as his "Indian Edda," explaining: "In Hiawatha I have tried to do for our old Indian legends what the unknown Finnish poets had done for theirs, and in doing this I have employed the same meter, but of course, have not adopted any of their [Kalewala] legends."
     My few critical comments not withstanding, I highly recommend this thoroughly researched study as an important contribution to American cultural studies.

Mishuana Goeman. Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-8166-7791-7. 245 pp.
      Cari M. Carpenter, West Virginia University

A West Virginia bill recently introduced (and later shelved) called for the state recognition of various Native American tribal groups, from well-known tribes like the Shawnees and the Cherokees to the mysterious "Uninh." A colleague who studies Native American history in this region pointed out to me that "Uninh" was most likely shorthand on old maps for "Uninhabited Region," a fact that seemed to render this "group" a questionable recipient of state recognition. Leaving the knotty politics of state recognition aside, however, I want to ponder for a moment the gesture that such a name implies: the arrogance of referring to an entire swath of the country as empty and thus available for settlement. Like the blank section on a map that represents "the Louisiana Purchase" as originally French rather than Native territory, this colonial turn-of-hand empties the land of its Indigenous presence.
     It is this complicated relationship between maps and the land and peoples they purportedly represent that Mishuana Goeman considers in her book Mark My Words: Native Women Mapping Our Nations. Goeman envisions the literature of several twentieth-century Native American women as literary maps: texts that "tell and map a story of survivance and future" (23). Throughout her examination of the work of E. {86} Pauline Johnson (Mohawk), Esther Belin (Diné), Joy Harjo (Muscogee Creek), and Leslie Marmon Silko (Laguna Pueblo), Goeman articulates a theory of (re)mapping, which she defines as "the labor Native authors and the communities they write within and about undertake, in the simultaneously metaphoric and material capacities of map making, to generate new possibilities" (3). Rather than conceptualizing space as a blank surface, Goeman urges us to see it as, in Doreen Massey's words, a "meeting up of histories" (5). Her model is of both the past and the future, replacing tired beliefs in the Vanished American. This is a contested space of labor, of traditional and new Native stories, of containment and opportunity. Throughout, Goeman calls for a flexibility in analyses of place and space that serves her well; she is able, for example, to draw connections between migratory movement in Harjo's and Belin's poetry while maintaining their tribal and historical specificity.
     Goeman's introduction effectively synthesizes the work of Native American scholars such as Robert Warrior, Colin Calloway, and Andrea Smith with social geographers such as Doreen Massey, Edward Soja, and Ricardo Padrón. This is not, she is careful to point out, a utopian vision of maps offering a kind of "pure," distinct Native space. What she offers instead is a reconception of the complex relationships that necessarily exist in a colonized land. Although Goeman does not wish to sharply differentiate her approach from American Indian literary nationalism, she does pose a somewhat distinct vision of Native space. Her approach seems more in keeping with that of recent critics such as Renya K. Ramirez, whose book Native Hubs: Culture, Community and Belonging in Silicon Valley and Beyond reimagines cities as sites of dynamic Indigeneity. While Goeman's book does not consider the recent turn to "transnationalism" (or in Chadwick Allen's more recent terms "trans-Indigeneity") in depth, it would be interesting to know how "remapping" coexists with or complicates transnational, trans-Indigenous, and hemispheric models of Native space.
     The real power of this book comes in its close readings, particularly of Johnson's and Silko's work. Goeman expands previous analyses of two of Johnson's most well-known short stories by considering them in relation to nineteenth-century versions of Canada's Indian Act, which among other things declared that any First Nations woman who married a white man would lose her Indian status. In this sense, the act functioned to erase First Nations women from the landscape. Offer-{87}ing up "alternative geographies," such stories as "A Red Girl's Reasoning" and "As It Was in the Beginning" display and critique the violence of this racialized space (and time): the "uncivilized" Native village, the boundary town, the city as the "already civilized space of the future" (71). These stories, Goeman contends, both represent and indict colonialism: "Legal and moral contradictions arise when Native nations occupy the same space and time as the newly forming nation--which they always do--and threaten the liberal settler state" (76). It is such contradictions that these stories--these literary maps--expose.
     One of the foremost strengths of this book is Goeman's ability to mount arguments that seem, in retrospect, commonsensical. This is not to suggest their simplicity; indeed, it is their very complexity that strikes the reader as utterly sound. It makes perfect sense, for example, to study Silko's Almanac of the Dead as an almanac--a genre intertwined with colonial discourse. Here the almanac is not simply a map of spatial coordinates but an invocation of "the meeting up of histories." As Goeman argues, Silko mobilizes this genre in order to map both the violence of colonialism and to imagine an "alternative knowledge of the land based on confrontations between different histories and power relations" (183). For example, Silko includes the Mayan Codices, the oldest known written form in the Americas, in "western" book form. Thus the Indigenous text exists side by side with the colonial one in a dynamic relationship that is as complicated as that between Native peoples and non-Native "settlers."
     Mark My Works is an astute, productive analysis that will prove enormously useful to scholars in Native American studies, social geography, and English literature. Goeman exposes the falsity of the so-called uninhabited, offering us a vibrant literary terrain in its place.

Dana Lone Hill. Pointing with Lips: A Week in the Life of a Rez Chick. Greenfield: Blue Hand Books, 2014. ISBN: 978-1495945298. Kindle edition.
     James Mackay, European University Cyprus

"Chick lit" is a tough phrase to like, what with its reclamation of one of the more passé sexist terms, its breezy capitulation to the capitalist business of publishing, and, of course, the assumption it carries that wom-{88}en's stories form a "genre" in their own right. Helen Fielding's acidly witty Bridget Jones' Diary seems somehow diminished when slapped with the chick-lit label, while Jenny Colgan speaks for many authors in telling the Guardian, "If they called it slut lit it couldn't be more insulting." More, as anyone who has suffered through the atrocious Sex and the City 2 movie will attest, the focus on the self-empowerment of individual, overwhelmingly white, upper-middle-class women can lead to the worst kind of well-meaning liberal racism. Nonetheless, two decades from its inception the genre continues to thrive in a difficult marketplace, and as many critics have pointed out, it at least marks a period in which commercial publishers are finally willing to market books primarily intended for women that do not necessarily depend on taming Mr. Darcy as the inevitable conclusion. Although it often involves romance, the modern chicklit novel is more specifically focused on the (defiantly postfeminist) struggles of a female protagonist, usually between her mid-twenties and mid-thirties, to gain control over her life and respect from those around her. As such, while it can be seen to have taken advantage of the appeal of such escapist lodestars as Carrie Bradshaw and Becky Bloomwood, the genre has also allowed for a populist discussion of more serious issues such as illness, poverty, and unemployment.
     Oglala Sioux author Dana Lone Hill's debut novel, Pointing with Lips, sets out to inaugurate a new subgenre, "rez chick lit." It tells of seven days in the life of Sincere Strongheart, better known as "Sis": single mother of three children by two different men; holder of a dead-end cashier's job in the Great Sioux Shopping Center with a side income from selling bead-work to collectors and tourists; member of a chaotic, sprawling family on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Sis narrates the book and quickly establishes herself as a woman not to be messed with. Following her arrest by her tribal policeman brother George for a drunken fight, which nearly led to her children being taken by social services, Sis tells us that she

wanted to kick his ass. But I maintained my cool and just anonymously batted the windshield of his cruiser out and spraypainted "Fuck the Police" on the side of it with my brother Mark. Mark watched me go psycho on the cop car. All this happened while Misun took George out for target practice shooting prairie dogs.

Although she reserves most of her dislike for her sister, Frieda, who has lost custody of two children and is horribly neglecting her other two, it {89} also becomes clear quite quickly that Sis herself is only a few bad decisions away from following the same path. She lives in Shannon County, the poorest area in the entire United States, with unemployment rampant and life expectancy on a par with Haiti. Sis's childhood was marked by neglect and an horrific incident of child abuse, and although she is maintaining her balance precariously, she is also beginning to acknowledge just how deeply alcoholism has her in its grip. Over the course of one week, she is forced to confront various of her demons and to decide whether she has the strength to break free.
     On the basis of such a surface description, you might expect Pointing with Lips to be a grim and gritty read, something like The Jailing of Cecelia Capture. In fact, its primary mode is raucous comedy, from set pieces such as the time Sis's brother Mark wakes up from his alcoholic stupor to find himself rolled in a blanket, stapled to the floor, being abused in Lakota by a ninety-seven-year-old elder, to Sis's own struggles to hold in her developing beer gut and her wry reflections on the absurdities of reservation life. This is important, as Lone Hill clearly wants to show the attractions of a permanently buzzed lifestyle in the company of friends and relations, especially when contrasted against the grim history of colonialism and present-day racism (gestured to, for instance, in Sis recalling the horrific torture and murder of Raymond Yellow Thunder as she enters the town of Gordon). More fun, surely, to continue on her mother's path of drink and welfare dependency. Other relatives point to other ways out--one sister has moved to Minneapolis and is reviled as an "apple," another is destined to become a tribal politician--but the sacrifices and hard work that their choices have cost them are clear. As one would expect of a genre novel, the good mostly end happily, and the bad unhappily, but Lone Hill also suggests that in the squeezed lives of her characters there may not be as much of a distance between happiness and unhappiness as one would like.
     Anyone reading this journal will be quite aware of the problems with using "authentic" as praise for Native American-authored fiction. Nonetheless, the overwhelming mass of detail Lone Hill marshals in this novel gives the reader the feeling of a very much lived reality, from the way that the characters survive on an appalling (and lovingly described) diet of chips, sodas, breakfast burritos, and beef jerky to the routes used to smuggle alcohol onto the dry reservation. This impression of authenticity is only aided by the author's acknowledgments, which include {90} shouts out to her large rez family and "my cellmates in cell block 17 at PCJ," where the book began.
     Certainly, there are elements of this novel that are problematic, particularly the exaggerated and slightly patronizing way that winkte characters are portrayed (though the "gay best friend" is a genre staple): it may have been a misstep to have both of the most sympathetic characters come out toward the end, and one wishes there were a clearer divide between author and narrator when Sis muses that homosexuality explains why one character has always been "so articulate." It is also an odd decision to make both of the main agents of Sis's redemption kind white men from off the reservation, one that I suspect will not sit well with all readers; and, of course, there are always critics of any hint of the old cliché of the drunken Indian. But these elements should not take away from Lone Hill's achievement in creating a believable central character and a convincing working-class reservation milieu: chick lit, sure, but so much more. As Debbie Reese's American Indians in Children's Literature blog is constantly reminding us, Native voices are desperately needed in popular literature, and Lone Hill's ability to get across the complexities of rez culture in a light and enjoyable read should be celebrated.
     What does detract significantly from the novel, however, is its presentation. The publisher, Blue Hand Books, is a new collective of Native writers headed by Trace DeMeyer and dedicated to Native American voices. In this they are taking advantage of the lowered barriers to publishing by tutoring authors in using Amazon's CreateSpace and formatting e-books, as well as "assist[ing] you with social media and PR." Unfortunately, although more than a vanity press, this is significantly less than a full publisher's service. Though we are often fed utopian ideas of easy self-publishing eliminating gatekeepers and allowing unheard voices to get through, there is a downside, seen here in the fact that Pointing with Lips desperately needed a proper editor and proofreader to catch missing quotation marks and to eliminate all-too-frequent run-on sentences and word repetition (for all that they add to the raw authenticity of the voice, for reasons that don't become clear until the final paragraph). For this reason I will recommend the Kindle edition, which has been and continues to be updated with error corrections. But I would also like to express the hope that Lone Hill's next installment of rez chick lit--and it's definitely an idea whose time has come--finds a place with a more traditional publisher, one that can help her grow into the postfeminist Sherman Alexie that she clearly has the potential to become.


MariJo Moore and Trace A. Demeyer, eds. Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time: Indigenous Thoughts concerning the Universe. Candler: Renegade Planets, 2013. ISBN: 978-1-4839-5287-1. 307 pp.

A. James Wohlpart. Walking in the Land of Many Gods: Remembering Sacred Reason in Contemporary Environmental Literature. Athens: U of Georgia P, 2013. ISBN: 978-0-8203-4524-6. 203pp.
      Margaret Noodin, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

In Indigenous studies there are many references to "every direction," "all the relations," and consideration of generations far into the future and the remembered past. Stories, songs, and ceremony elaborate on these themes in many languages and locations, but there is a need to connect the concepts to one another. Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time and Walking in the Land of Many Gods both explore how ancient ideas about place and relations lead to theories of energy, exchange, and sustainable wellness.
     Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time is dedicated to Vine Deloria Jr. It begins with his quote "All the tribes say the universe is just the product of mind" and includes an eloquent exploration of science and philosophy from his book The World We Used to Live In. He points out that the elegant patterns central to so many disciplines have long been part of tribal tradition and are now also confirmed by recent scientific realization. Furthermore, he notes that Native people have a long history of exploring these patterns as a source of power and energy. It is on this premise that the spreading cloth of the title unfolds.
     In five sections on cosmology, ceremony, story, spirit, and space, creativity is bent toward relativity as Native voices use words to describe the known and unknown. The diverse group of authors includes Alice Azure, Sidney Cook Bad Medicine, John Berry, Trevino Brings Plenty, Jack Forbes, Susan Shown Harjo, Basil Johnston, Denise Low, John Trudell, Keith Secola, Lois Red Elk, Georges Sioui, the editors, of course, Vine Deloria Jr., and more. This mix of voices represents many nations, modes of practice, and social positions. It is not a volume focused on a single perspective; it is an introduction to the potential of American Indian philosophy. It is a search for the way Indigenous people have explained the existence and evolution of the universe.
     Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time offers a precise and simple {92} summary of major theories in both Indigenous and Western intellectual history that have led to ideas about the cosmos including the relationship between the earth and sun and the presence of humans in various locations. As many of the authors admit, this is not a textbook with finite answers, only a record of eloquent, inventive individuals attempting to perceive the edges of their own experiences. "I am touching time," writes Amy Krout-Horn as she contemplates the eons expressed by a fossilized clam (56). Taking a more linguistic approach, Sidney Cook Bad Moccasin uses Lakota words to describe scientific equations and social identity while Mary Black Bonnet sings of children and evolution. "I am singing transformation," says Black Bonnet, "I am singing connection. . . . I sing to the world rich with mystery. I sing to the trickster state of being" (149).
     "Time goes in a circle" according to Terra Trevor and her great grandmother, "everything that has ever happened, or will ever happen was going on all around me" (217). The essays, autobiographical experiments, and hypothetical portraits of the solar sphere we inhabit imply a universal infinity. As Denise Low concludes, "creation is unfinished . . . the cosmos is multidimensional and dynamic and humans are participant observers in the ongoing creation of the world" (230).
     A similar motion of unfolding and evolving is emphasized in A. James Wohlpart's Walking in the Land of Many Gods, which describes a literary presence cognizant of both the Indigenous past and global present. He suggests narratives able to resonate with both Heideggerian ontology and spiritual instinct can restore a connection between life and the land.
     Like Moore and Demeyer, Wohlpart also connects with Vine Deloria Jr., quoting his belief that "the physical world is so filled with life and personality that humans appear as one minor species without much significance and badly in need of the assistance from other forms of life" (177). From this reality springs humility, gratitude, and respect in the form of ceremony, song, and story.
     Using the example of three texts that "enact healing and restoration," he demonstrates the way language and writing can do what Barry Lopez, Simon Ortiz, Jeannette Armstrong, and others have often insisted it could--heal and bring balance through more complete awareness of the universe. The books Wohlpart chooses to discuss are Janisse Ray's Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Terry Tempest Williams's Refuge: An Unnat-{93}ural History of Family and Place, and Linda Hogan's Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World.
     He first reviews and connects strands of thinking in anthropology, philosophy, and environmentalism to frame a conversation about "dwelling" as both place and process, recognizing actions in context rather than defining the human relationship with nature as one of dominance over resources. This shifts the conversation about environmental literature to one of spirit and connection. He makes clear that modern ideas on the topic are echoes of long-held Indigenous beliefs. If I had any doubts about the theories he posits I would need only to look carefully at the Indigenous language I teach, Anishinaabemowin, and I would be reminded that the word for life, for being, is bimaadizi, a verb that implies both motion and location; and the word for medicine, mashkiki, is a combination of mashkawizi (strength) and aki (earth). Certainly other readers will have similar examples to offer.
     Each of the authors Wohlpart discusses has a message about shifting the paradigm of environmental literature. Janisse Ray writes of growing up in a junkyard and much later learning to appreciate the long leaf pine heritage of Georgia. By writing of the way the land has been changed by people, she uncovers the way people need to be changed by the land. Terry Tempest Williams's Refuge is another example of reckoning with the complex relationship between people and the land, and in her case, cancer, atomic energy, and Mormonism. Faith, healing, hope, and eventuality are combined in her realization that the people and place are united in ways big industry never imagined. In his analysis of Linda Hogan's Dwellings, Wohlpart reviews theories of Native American literature, ecology, and ceremony, then traces Hogan's journey on and into the earth.
     Both Unraveling the Spreading Cloth of Time and Walking in the Land of Many Gods move the study of American Indian literary theory and philosophy in a new direction. Both of them also call into question a recent suggestion made by some scientists to declare our times the dawn of a new epoch, bringing an end to the Holocene in favor of the Anthropocene, recognizing the impact humans have on geologic time. Yet the passage of one time period to another is often marked by a major extinction. Perhaps instead we need an epoch where the earth's being is recognized as animate--imagine the shift in science and life on earth if we entered the epoch of the Animacene and learned to listen to a center outside ourselves.


Chadwick Allen. Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 2012. ISBN: 978-0-8166-7818-1. 336pp.
      Brendan Hokowhitu, University of Alberta

As the title suggests, Chadwick Allen's Trans-Indigenous: Methodologies for Global Native Literary Studies sets about to illuminate the potentialities of juxtaposition as a trans-Indigenous literary studies methodology, not only in terms of place but also in relation to temporality and medium. Via several case studies, Allen lays out a number of methodological templates centered on contextual and temporal juxtaposition that at the very least provide literary scholars (and Indigenous studies scholars more generally) with pointed examples and discussions on the possibilities for the production of new insights at the interstitial spaces created by the juxtaposition of Indigenous cultures, temporality, and media, whose combination falls beyond how scholars of indigeneity would typically order investigation centered on "local" knowledge.
     Part I, entitled "Recovery/Interpretation," comprises two chapters that in large part deal with subjugated knowledge, that is, texts "excluded from the scholarly conversation thus far" and that, further, may lead to a redirection of interpretation. Chapter 1, "'Being' Indigenous 'Now,'" establishes the methodology of looking across various Indigenous contexts at a historical moment in time. Allen uses the 1965 special issue of the Midcontinent American Studies Journal, titled "The Indian Today," as the central piece in dialectical conversation with other similar "surveys" of Indigenous cultures such as "Canadian Indians Today'"(1963), On Being Hawaiian (1964), Aborigines Now: New Perspective in the Study of Aboriginal Communities (1964), and The Maori Today (1964), most of which are edited volumes that attempt to explain both the "traditional" and contemporary integratory conditions of indigeneity via accepted taxonomical categorizations signified by the temporal marker of "today." Here the dialectic between the central text and the others provokes questions that archetypal monocontextual analysis does not allow for. Yet, I am not convinced of the new insights enabled by this methodology. Do I need comparisons with other settler surveys to realize that "The Indian Today," compiled by "hip" white academics in the 1960s, fails to consider their complicity with the ongoing structures of colonialism? How does the dialectic between "The Indian Today" and reflections on Hawaiian {95} and Maori temporal (i.e., 1960s) ontologies, for example, help me better comprehend such subjugation? The racist discourses that emanate from the dialectic between "The Indian Today" and its US provincial 1960s contemporaries are also unsurprising. "Unsettling the Spirit of '76," the second chapter, acts in juxtaposition with chapter 1 in that it attempts to exhume those subjugated knowledges silenced by the settler survey. Employing American Indian responses to the 1976 American Revolution bicentennial observance, or what he refers to as the "forgotten history," Allen juxtaposes these texts and performances with his personal and academic experiences of the more recent and highly visible (1988) Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander responses to the Australian bicentennial observance; again, in this instance, I am not convinced of the new insights that this interstitial space enables, or at the least they are not clear to me.
     In inverting the axiom of part 1, part 2, "Interpretation/Recovery," is determinedly focused on what the settler survey signals to: subjugated knowledges and, hence, the "continually expanding body of contemporary literatures that place Indigenous histories and politics, cultures and worldviews, and multiple realities at their vital center." Allen is particularly interested here in expanding the field by creating a dialectic between texts and other aesthetic systems and technologies such as painting, weaving, and carving. The first modal juxtaposition occurs in chapter 3, "Pictographic, Woven, Carved," which, like chapter 1, puts one text, that is, N. Scott Momaday's 1992 (also the Columbus quincentenary year) poem "Carnegie, Oklahoma, 1919" in dialectical conversation with three Indigenous aesthetic systems: Kiowa pictographic discourses, Navajo textile designs, and Maori whakairo (carving). Allen's analysis suggests that this multicultural, multimedia approach signals the "possibility of a trans-Indigenous literary criticism--a literary criticism that reads across national and geographical borders to engage a broad spectrum of Indigenous conceptions of aesthetic power and pleasure." Here Allen shows his will to demonstrate cross-cultural convergence; that is, to demonstrate Indigenous conjunction at the interstitial space of the global Indigenous dialectic. According to Allen, then, "Carnegie, Oklahoma, 1919" is "performing a function similar to, if not identical with, the alchemy of taonga [Maori, anything of value], a collapsing of distance in space-time, a bridging of the living and the dead." Titled "Indigenous Languaging," chapter 4 is also concerned with the plausibility of {96} multiple juxtapositions in presenting new interpretations (i.e., "what do we learn or see differently"), but this time particularly focused on the theme of the absence/presence of Indigenous language within multiple Indigenous texts across a range of genre and media. Allen is interested in the provocation each text elicits in terms of the political act of encompassing Indigenous language within primarily English texts. Included in this amalgam is the central text of chapter 3, (i.e., Momaday's poem), "Sad Joke on a Marae" by Maori poet Apirana Taylor, the hip-hop number "Tangata Whenua" by the Maori and Pasifika group Upper Hutt Posse, Hawaiian Naomi Losch's poem "Blood Quantum," "When I of Fish Eat" by Maori poet Rowley Habib, "Strawberry and Chocolate" by American Indian poet and weaver Gail Tremblay, Potiki by Patricia Grace, and Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera. The final chapter, "Siting Earthworks, Navigating Waka," outlines the third and most recognizable methodology, which creates a dialectic between two works linked by genre, theme (dominant discourse disruption), and temporality but divergent in context. The chapter examines American Indian poet Allison Hedge Coke's sequence of poems entitled Blood Run and Maori poet Robert Sullivan's book of poetry, Star Waka. Primarily Allen here is concerned with how both texts emphasize "ancient, ongoing, and possible future histories" (195).
     The mere scope of texts, modes, and Indigenous cultures analyzed within Trans-Indigenous is impressive. Moreover, for the Maori texts used at least, Allen demonstrates a level of care and will to correctness that is imperative to such a bold endeavor. As I read through Trans-Indigenous I became increasingly convinced of the potentiality of the methodologies Allen carves out. In many regards the cross-Indigenous analysis points to a new home in thought that global Indigenous academics have created through international gatherings, sharing, and findings-in-common that in turn provide the safe harbor of a "discipline." More importantly, these methodologies speak to how the dialectic tool of weaving across cultures, space, time, and medium can produce different forms of knowledge within unfamiliar interstitial spaces. For instance, how can the lack of Indigenous language within Momaday's poem when paired with Taylor's "bilanguaging" poetical device help readers comprehend colonialism more fully while augmenting the power of Momaday's lines, "My father's father's name is called, / and the gift horse stutters out."
     I have some criticisms of the methodologies espoused. First, and pragmatically, there is a great deal of privilege inherent to these methodologies that remains unspoken, including the high monetary cost required to move toward even embryonic cross-cultural understandings. Hence, I question who these methodologies are for (the elite?), and what they might produce among graduate students, for instance, whose only means of acquiring trans-Indigenous knowledge is across the Internet? Allen inherently at least demonstrates the protracted time, expense, and engagement with various Indigenous cultures that such methodologies demand, yet without such privilege the knowledge produced in those in-between spaces will be meaningless. Second, and more philosophically, it only makes sense to me that while a broadening of analysis may enable different kinds of knowledge to emerge within new interstitial formations, there is also a loss of depth that inevitably must occur, especially in those texts that fall beyond the realms of English literature, such as whakairo. In Indigenous studies we face the eternal problematic of how to speak more broadly through local or subjugated knowledges while simultaneously resisting the "Enlightenment project" or the will to converge, to synthesize, to assimilate, to universalize Indigenous taxonomies. And so, as we open up conversations with the swiveling crystal to a myriad of times and cultures, we should not let the dialectic be framed by fusion only; there must be a will to accept dissonance.
     Regardless of these criticisms, Allen has produced a text of valiancy in terms of testing the elasticity of dialectics that we (Indigenous studies scholars) hold close. I was particularly drawn to Allen's collusion of temporality in trans-Indigenous analyses, which, I believe, helps illuminate the morphing nature of indigeneity in interaction and production with dominant discourses. More broadly, while loss of depth and dissonance is something that could further inform the methodologies Allen outlines, nevertheless the creation of multiple conversations across time, mode, and contexts does provide for a crystallization like methodology, which illuminates those sometimes miniscule, sometimes blinding infractions of light as the text shifts in composition, and as standpoints shuffle.


Betty Booth Donohue. Bradford's Indian Book: Being the True Roote & Rise of American Letters as Revealed by the Native Text Embedded in Of Plimoth Plantation. Gainesville: UP of Florida, 2011. ISBN: 978-0-8130-3737-0. 193pp.
      Kathryn Zabelle Derounian-Stodola, Independent Scholar

In 2004 Betty Booth Donohue (Cherokee), Theresa Gregor (Santa Ysabel/Kumeyaay), and I gave papers on an ASAIL-sponsored panel called "Indians Re-visioning the Captivity Narrative" at the American Literature Association Conference. Taking a radical, postcolonial approach, our presentations showed how Native writings engaged with the captivity narrative, a non-Native genre that often demonized and stereotyped Indians. Both Donohue and Gregor used Native interpretive theories to deconstruct Mary Rowlandson's seventeenth-century captivity narrative and situate it within an intertextual Indigenous literary continuum. Like many other European American scholars, I viewed Rowlandson's text almost as a generic icon. In fact, I had published several articles on it. But after I heard those papers, the scales fell from my eyes. Donohue's analysis in particular revealed the Indian traces that transformed Rowlandson's account into a Native text as well as a Puritan one.
     According to Donohue, most early documents by English-speaking colonists contain such dynamics, but the largest number of "forensic markers" for Native influence occurs in William Bradford's Of Plimoth Plantation (xi). In this foundational history--source of the national mythology of Puritan settlement in the Northeast--Donohue finds "conjoined narratives" that are "fully Indian and fully Plymouthean" (21). Donohue's assessment of the two-way cultural exchange initiated in Of Plimoth Plantation is groundbreaking and utterly convincing.
     Bradford's Indian Book begins with a methodological preface and a lyrical prelude. It then divides into two parts: "Preparing the Ground" and "The People and American Literature." The first four chapters in part one, titled in English but subtitled with each of the cardinal directions in Cherokee, establish that Of Plimoth Plantation incorporates Native literary and cultural conventions. Most importantly, it has affinities with the most powerful Native genre, the healing narrative, which is designed to bring about change (5). And the land narrative is the most important of the many story strands within the healing narrative. The four chapters in part two consider how the historical Indians in Of Pli-{99}moth Plantation--especially Tisquantum (Squanto) and Hobomok--often manifest themselves as stereotypes in later American culture. Here is Donohue's summary of her book's overall thesis: "Assisted by Tisquantum, Hobomok, the land, and American Indian medicine, Plymouth's governor contrived an Indianized text that records English and Algonquian history while simultaneously replicating American Indian poetics and narrative strategies" (144).
     The conceptual underpinnings of Bradford's Indian Book involve an American Indian reading of an Anglo document and an embedded Algonquian text. Accordingly, the author brings "pan-tribal understandings" to her discussion (xvii). She explains that her main methodologies involve Navaho sacred chants, Native literary theory as articulated by "medicine people, scholars and storytellers" (xv), and the works of contemporary American Indian writers of many tribes. One of the book's major accomplishments is its ability to weave these elements together over the course of almost four centuries. Donohue's assertion that her study is "not 'about' Algonquians. It is 'about' the American Indian presence in American letters" is reminiscent of Toni Morrison's claim in Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination that there is an "Africanist" presence within canonical works by European American writers. Morrison shows how these racialized elements betray tremendous anxiety. But Donohue goes further by asserting Native agency within much earlier texts. Scholars in many fields, especially early American studies and Native studies, have much to learn from Bradford's Indian Book.
     The cover design and frontispiece signify Donohue's innovative approach. On the cover, Bradford's and Donohue's names appear in English and Cherokee. Words from the Cherokee syllabary surround the title and include key subjects the author explores, such as earth, spirit people, story, and book, as well as the names of several animals and the four directions (she provides a useful glossary in the back matter). Two feathers on the cover carry Native (eagle/honorific) as well as non-Native (quill/writing implement) resonance. In her preface, Donohue explains that sometimes the Cherokee language makes her point better than English because her work is a "red reading of a white book" (xix). Hence, modern readers encountering this bilingual text mirror the earlier cultural exchanges among the Algonquians and the Puritans. The preface also identifies humor as a strategy that makes unfamiliar concepts more accessible and memorable. For example, the book's title is deliber-{100}ately ironic. If labeling Bradford's classic an Indian book is not provocative enough, the volume's subtitle cleverly riffs on lengthy, descriptive seventeenth-century English titles that make exaggerated claims.1
     Inside, a specially commissioned pencil drawing by Cherokee artist Troy Anderson depicts William Bradford facing east and Tisquantum (Squanto), behind him, facing west. The feather symbolism carries over from the cover with a large quill atop a freshly written sheet of paper in the forefront of the drawing, across Bradford's breast, and Tisquantum wearing a feather headdress and cradling a book--presumably Of Plimoth Plantation--in his arms. These visual details reinforce the Algonquian contributions that turn Bradford's manuscript fragments into a finished book.
     Finally, Donohue's style is fresh and engaging, which makes reading this academic volume unusually pleasing. The presence of Cherokee words reminds readers of the author's identity and is an effective use of code switching. One of the most memorable examples concludes the chapter "Animals and Tricksters," where Donohue writes, "Trickster unbridled is an unethical individual we can easily despise, but when we combine him with likeable animals as Walt Disney did, we get American classics loved the world over" (86). The next several Cherokee words are translated in the glossary as "Ah ha ha hah ha. That's all folks!" Trickster strikes again! At key points Donohue uses a Cherokee word designated in the glossary as "Function word indicating importance" to good effect so that readers pause there and take note (148). For instance, she inserts this mark at the beginning and end of "Prelude," which opens with the words, "Stories came first" (1). Indeed, Betty Booth Donohue tells a different story from the usual one about contact. Her insights in this book deservedly won her the 2012 Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers Award for History.

     1. For example, consider the first words of the titles of several seventeenth-century Puritan books: Anne Bradstreet's two volumes of poems, The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung up in America. Or Severall Poems, Compiled with Great Variety of Wit and Learning, Full of Delight ... (1678), and Mary Rowlandson's captivity narrative, The Sovereignty & Goodness of God, Together, with the Faithfulness of His Promises Displayed ... (1682).



CARI M. CARPENTER is associate professor of English at West Virginia University, where she is also a core member of the Native American Studies Program and an associate of the Center for Women's and Gender Studies. She is the author of Seeing Red: Anger, Sentimentality, and Nineteenth-Century American Literature (2008) and the editor of Selected Writings of Victoria Woodhull: Suffrage, Free Love, and Eugenics (2010). She and Carolyn Sorisio coedited The Newspaper Warrior: Sarah Winnemucca Hopkins's Campaign for American Indian Rights, 1864-1891 (forthcoming from the University of Nebraska Press).

KATHRYN ZABELLE DEROUNIAN-STODOLA is an independent scholar. Her most recent books include A Thrilling Narrative of Indian Captivity: Dispatches from the Dakota War, coedited with Carrie Reber Zeman (2012), and The War in Words: Reading the Dakota Conflict through the Captivity Literature (2009). An expert on captivity narratives, she has authored many essays on this topic and on early American women's writings in such journals as Early American Literature, Prospects, American Transcendental Quarterly, and Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers. From 2003 to 2005, she was president of the Society of Early Americanists.

BRENDAN HOKOWHITU is of Ngati Pukenga descent, an iwi (people) from Aotearoa/New Zealand. Presently Hokowhitu is dean and professor of the Faculty of Native Studies at the University of Alberta. He has published across a number of disciplines such as Indigenous critical theory, masculinity, media, and sport, including as lead editor of two collections, Fourth Eye: Maori Media in Aotearoa/New Zealand (2013) and Indigenous Identity and Resistance: Researching the Diversity of Knowledge (2010).

JAMES MACKAY is assistant professor in American and British literatures at European University Cyprus. He has edited The Salt Companion to Diane Glancy (2010) and a special issue of SAIL (23:4) dedicated to tribal constitutions and literary criticism. With David Stirrup, he has coedited a collection of essays, Tribal Fantasies: Native Americans in the European Imaginary, 1900-2010, and a special issue of the European Journal of American Culture (31:3) looking at Native Americans in Europe in the twentieth century. He has published articles on writers including Gerald Vizenor, Diane Glancy, Ralph Salisbury, and Jim Barnes, and on topics ranging from Welsh poetry to Wikipedia.

SAM MCKEGNEY is a settler scholar of Indigenous literatures. He grew up in Anishinaabe territory on the Saugeen Peninsula along the shores of Lake Huron and currently resides with his partner and their two daughters in traditional lands of the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe peoples, where he is an associate professor at Queen's University. He has published a collection of interviews entitled Masculindians: Conversations about Indigenous Manhood (2014), a monograph called Magic Weapons: Aboriginal Writers Remaking Community after Residential School (2007), and articles on such topics as environmental kinship, masculinity theory, prison writing, Indigenous governance, and Canadian hockey mythologies.

MARGARET NOODIN received an mfa in writing and a PhD in English and linguistics from the University of Minnesota. She is assistant professor in English and American Indian studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Her most recent book about Anishinaabe literature is Bwaajimo. Her poems can be heard at:

HARALD E. L. PRINS is a university distinguished professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University. Since 1981 his research has focused on Indigenous nations in the Northeast. Author of The Mi'kmaq: Resistance, Accommodation, and Cultural Survival and numerous other publications, he was lead expert witness in the US Senate, US District Court, and Canadian courts, assisting the Aroostook Band of Micmac in its struggle for tribal recognition, Newfoundland's Miawpukek First Nation in land claims, and the Penobscot Indian Nation in reservation boundaries and fishing rights. He was a Smithsonian research associate {103} and Acadia National Park principal investigator and has also taught in the Netherlands and Sweden.

MIRIAM BROWN SPIERS recently finished her PhD in English and Native American studies at the University of Georgia. She is currently a visiting assistant professor of English and women's studies at Miami University at Middletown. Her work has appeared in Studies in Comics, and she is currently writing a book that explores the role of Indigenous knowledge in Native American science fiction.

JULIE THARP is a professor of English at University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County, where she teaches courses in multicultural literature, film studies, and women's studies. She has performed community service for the prevention of domestic and sexual violence for nearly two decades.

Contact: Robert Nelson
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