ASAIL home

ASAIL Home Page
SAIL Indices
SAIL search engine
Guide to Native
American Studies Programs
Subscribe to


Studies in American Indian Literatures
Series 2                Volume 5, Number 3                 Fall 1993


Coffee House Discourse
        Rodney Simard                 .                  .                   .                  .         1

The "Person" in Postmodern Fiction: Gibson, Le Guin, and Vizenor
        Patricia Linton                  .                  .                   .                  .         3

Chance and Ritual: The Gambler in the Texts of Gerald Vizenor
        Nora Barry    .                 .                  .                   .                  .         13

Gerald Vizenor's Shadow Plays: Narrative Mediations and Multiplicities of Power
        Juana María Rodríguez    .                  .                   .                  .         23

Textual Stimulation: Gerald Vizenor's Use of Law in Advocacy Literature
        Irene Gonzales                  .                  .                   .                  .         31

Suppressive Narrator and Multiple Narratees in Gerald Vizenor's "Thomas White Hawk"
        Winona Stevenson            .                  .                   .                  .         36

"I Defy Analysis": A Conversation with Gerald Vizenor              .         43

Harold of Orange: A Screenplay
        Gerald Vizenor                  .                  .                   .                  .        53

        Calls for Papers               .                  .                   .                  .        89
        Notice             .                  .                  .                   .                  .        90

On the Translation of Native American Literatures
. Ed. Brian Swann
        William Bright                   .                  .                   .                  .        91

a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 7.2 (Fall 1992). Guest Ed. Hertha Wong
        Helen Jaskoski                   .                  .                   .                  .        98

Forked Tongues: Speech, Writing and Representation in North American Indian Texts. David Murray
        James Ruppert                  .                  .                   .                  .         101

Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives. Ray A. Young Bear
        Robert F. Gish                   .                  .                   .                  .        105

another distance: new and selected poems. Lance Henson
        Norma C. Wilson              .                  .                   .                  .        108

CONTRIBUTORS                   .                  .                   .                  .       110

1993 ASAIL Patrons:
California State University, San Bernardino
Western Washington University
University of Richmond
Laura Coltelli
Karl Kroeber

and others who wish to remain anonymous

1993 Sponsors:
Dennis Hoilman

and others who wish to remain anonymous


Coffee House Discourse

Rodney Simard         

        The increasing prominence of Gerald Vizenor in American Indian literary study is indicated by this issue, unintentionally "special," focused on his work. The genesis was sparked on May 1 at the MELUS Conference in Berkeley after a special session on his "Thomas White Hawk." Juana María Rodríguez, Irene Gonzales, and Winona Stevenson, each Vizenor's former student, presented brief papers that attempted to come to terms with that compelling piece, originally published as an advocacy pamphlet and later reprinted and contextualized with "Commutation of Death" in Crossbloods: Bone Courts, Bingo, and Other Reports; in Wordarrows: Indians and Whites in the New Fur Trade, Vizenor expanded the story with the four additional contributions in his "White Hawk and the Prairie Fun Dancers" section: "No Rest for the Good Sheriff," "Daisie and Beacher on the Prairie," "Word War in the Partsroom," and "Prosecutors and Prairie Fun Dancers." (The case retains its hold on his imagination, for he is currently at work on yet another narrative.) Betty Louise Bell moderated the session, and Vizenor himself served as respondent; the three essays are included here. Strolling away from the Conference building to a coffee house across from the University of California campus, Vizenor the trickster commented that "I defy analysis," despite the engaging efforts of the four women in the previous two hours. Indeed, the ensuing conversation, also included here, did much to confirm the validity of his remark.
        At the core of these discussions are many key questions that not only apply to the Vizenor canon, expanding at an astonishing and unrivaled rate, but also to all Native Literatures, not least important questions about genre and the nature of narrative. Tellingly, some of this material will also appear in a special issue of the journal Genre, guest edited by Vizenor and Alan Velie. Just what is "Thomas White Hawk"? Journalism or short story? Fact or fiction? Is it an independent narrative (of whatever nature) or a segment of a larger and {2} evolving cluster? Is it reportage or autobiography? All are questions that have been asked of much of Vizenor's work, and the contribution in this issue illuminate an evolving examination.
        Shortly after the MELUS Conference, two essays arrived at the SAIL editorial offices that contributed to this exchange. Nora Barry's discussion of the gambler transcends the usual boundaries of literary criticism by embracing key aspects of cultural and personal biography. Further, Patricia Linton contextualizes Vizenor by juxtaposing him against William Gibson and Ursula K. LeGuin, asking important questions about the nature of person, self, and subject. Ironically, while Vizenor's production seems to increase exponentially, his audience seems still contained by the traditional boundaries of Indian literary studies; readers seem to be becoming more aware of him but also seem to grow proportionately puzzled by his work. Perhaps by placing his efforts in wider and more varied contexts, such as CyberPunk, and by examining the position of the writer in his writing, not just in Interior Landscapes, we can more fully appreciate this monolithic figure.
        Finally, this issue also includes Vizenor's own contribution, the screenplay of his Harold of Orange, certainly a non-traditional genre. While many have seen the fine film, few have had the opportunity to examine the text, published here for the first time. Just as this issue was sparked in a coffee house, it concludes in one as well--here is an afternoon's material for stimulating discussion and irreverent debate, a multifaceted discourse that includes the word warrior himself.


The "Person" in Postmodern Fiction: Gibson, Le Guin, and Vizenor

Patricia Linton         

One of the strong currents in postmodern fiction is a changing notion of what constitutes a person. Challenges to the existence and the importance of the independent, coherent "self" have led critics to label postmodern works "anti-humanist" or, more accurately, "post-humanist" (for example, analyses of postmodernism by Linda Hutcheon and Veronica Hollinger). Jane Flax has observed that postmodern discourses are all "deconstructive" in that they seek to distance us from beliefs that are taken for granted in Western culture and to make us skeptical of them (624). The idea that only human beings are capable of consciousness and agency is one of those core beliefs that have been placed in question.
        In Discerning the Subject, Paul Smith has analyzed both the terminology employed to articulate this concept and its use in the discourses of contemporary criticism. He demonstrates that terminology poses problems because the words person, individual, self, and subject have been so weighted with implications that are false or partial that they can never be used safely. Person, individual, and self imply an undivided core that is the seat of perception and conscious action. Smith calls this a "misleading description of an imaginary ground" (xxxv) where multiple seats of consciousness are gathered and integrated. Subject, on the other hand, suggests something not self-contained but determined and dominated by forces outside itself. Subject, too, is inaccurate in its suggestion of stability; it is unable to take into account the multiplicity of provisional positions that anyone may occupy as he or she interacts with the world. The features that comprise a person's identity are inevitably unstable, not only in their make-up, but in their relative power and the dynamics of their interactions. Some features are contradictory; a person can be white and female, a teacher and a student--in each dyad, one element is a {4} position of power and one element is a position of powerlessness. These elements sort and rank themselves differently on different occasions.
        According to Smith, what tends to be lost in all of these formulations of personhood is the concept of "agency"--a provisional cluster of subject-positions that establishes a ground for action, both resistance and assertion. Smith emphasizes three crucial points that other critical discourses often neglect: (1) the cluster of features we have been accustomed to referring to as the "self" or the "person" is provisional rather than stable, multiple rather than unitary; (2) these negotiated subject-positions--what Patrick Murphy terms "pivots" rather than centers (1-2)--are neither wholly independent nor wholly determined by external social forces; (3) although the liberal humanist notion of an undivided core is inaccurate, there is "singularity" in the sense that every one has a unique history--in other words, each of us comes by a different route to the ground on which we stand at this moment.
        Postmodern fiction presses the boundaries of personhood not only by decentering the idea of identity or individuality, but also by suggesting that personhood is not exclusively human. It is important to recognize, however, that this perception is only postmodern when viewed within the continuum of the dominant Western traditions of literature. Set within a broader framework, one that gives due attention to other cultural perspectives--notably, Native American traditions--an inclusive concept of personhood is not postmodern at all but actually pre-modern. In fact, Arnold Krupat has suggested that postmodernism has had a salutary effect on the reception of Native American literature because it has accustomed readers to more varied literary insights and strategies (323).
        In the postmodern novel, consciousness and agency can be exercised by machines and animals as well as by human beings. Ironically, it may be easier for many readers to relate to machines (especially computers) as persons than to animals as persons. Mixed with the sense that machines are inadequate or flawed because they lack genuine emotions is awe and fear of their often superior potential for rationality and concerted action. Machines can exceed humans in capacities we have been taught to respect--linear thought, decisive action, control--rather than in capacities we have been taught to dismiss--emotion, intuition, unpredictability. Machines are aliens or "others" that may be better than we are in ways we take seriously. Donna Haraway points out in "A Manifesto for Cyborgs" that science fiction about the union of human and machine in the cyborg offers "potent myths for resistance and recoupling" (179). Although we have been accustomed to thinking of cyborg unities as "monstrous and {5} illegitimate," they have successfully undermined our secure sense of what counts as nature. Human conceptions of "nature," Haraway stresses, are historically contingent; they can be changed (Penley and Ross 2).
        In his discussion of cyberpunk fiction, stories of the high-tech culture of the future that he calls "the vanguard white male art of the age" (267), Istvan Csicsery-Ronay comments that cyberpunk is "fundamentally ambivalent about the breakdown of the distinctions between human and machine, between personal consciousness and machine consciousness" (275). This ambivalence can be seen in William Gibson's striking novel entitled Neuromancer. Csicsery-Ronay has hailed the novel as "one of the most interesting books of the postmodern age" (269). Veronica Hollinger has called Neuromancer the "quintessential cyberpunk novel," the cyberpunk "limit-text" ("Cybernetic Deconstructions" 30). She discusses it as fiction that illustrates the "potential of cyberpunk to undermine concepts like `subjectivity' and `identity'" (35).
        Like much cyberpunk fiction, Neuromancer deals with efforts by corporations to use their vast technical resources to create new beings, artificial intelligences that would be more powerful, more reliable (and more profitable) because they would eliminate the defects of the human. However, the formula has been altered in interesting ways. In the first place, the myth of origin in Neuromancer emphasizes the feminine, the role of the mother, rather than the role of the patriarch as creator. As the protagonist, Case, gradually uncovers the history of his employer, Wintermute, an artificial intelligence operative of the Tessier-Ashpool Corporation, what comes to light is a family tragedy in which the crucial issue is the status of illegitimate "children."
        Wintermute is what one expects an artificial intelligence to be--coolly rational, unemotional, oppressively competent. Early in the novel, Wintermute has communicated an image of himself (itself) to Case in a dream--a nightmare image of a wasp's nest, "hideous in its perfection" (126). But Wintermute's objective, instilled by Marie-France Tessier, is to unite with Neuromancer, his brother and shadow, whose "medium" is personality (259). Glenn Grant reads Marie-France Tessier as a "mad corporate matriarch" whose objective is personal immortality (47). Yet it is her husband, Ashpool, the patriarch of the corporation, whom the novel describes as a mad king (203). According to their daughter, Ashpool killed his wife because "he couldn't accept the direction she intended for [the] family" (229):

She commissioned the construction of our artificial intelligences. She was quite a visionary. She imagined us in a symbiotic relationship with the AI's, our corporate decisions made for us. . . . Tessier-Ashpool would be {6} immortal, a hive, each of us units of a larger entity. (229)

        The novel sets the goals of the matriarch and those of the patriarch against one another. The patriarch Ashpool kills to defend the status quo; he defends autonomous human consciousness and a hierarchy in which all of his operatives, human and artificial, keep to their places. On the other side, Marie-France Tessier's vision is certainly disturbing. There is no question that she has sought to abandon individual consciousness as we understand it: "She dreamed of a state involving very little in the way of individual consciousness. . . . Only in certain heightened modes would an individual--a clan member--suffer the more painful aspects of self-awareness" (217).
        Yet the end of the novel does not support apocalyptic fears of the loss of human agency. Hollinger has commented on the way the cyberpunk novel "decenters the human body, the sacred icon of the essential self" ("Cybernetic Deconstructions" 32-33). Neuromancer's conclusion also decenters our obsession with the inviolability of independent consciousness. Wintermute, the computer mind, the "cybernetic spider," succeeds in uniting with his shadow, Neuromancer, who is all personality, and "becomes" the matrix. But in response to Case's question, "How are things different?" Wintermute responds "Things aren't different. Things are things" (270). When Case remembers his vision of the "community mind" Wintermute represents, he understands why Wintermute portrayed it as a nest but feels "no revulsion" (269):

Wintermute was hive mind, decision maker, effecting change in the world outside. Neuromancer was personality. Neuromancer was immortality. Marie-France must have built something into Wintermute, the compulsion that had driven the thing to free itself, to unite with Neuromancer. (269)

The new being Wintermute has become is not preoccupied with humans, but rather with relationship to other like beings: "I talk to my own kind" (270). If Wintermute is Marie-France Tessier's demon offspring, her illegitimate child, his interest at the end of the novel seems to be the feminine concern for relationship rather than the patriarchal concern for control.
        A similar portrayal of a machine-being is offered in Ursula K. Le Guin's Always Coming Home. In this remarkable postmodern novel, a futuristic world is rendered in a variety of different kinds of discourse, including narrative, poetry, ethnography, and journal writing, blurring the distinctions between reader, author, and character {7}(Cummins 162). In this world, a society of cybernetic beings coexists with human society: "Some eleven thousand sites all over the planet were occupied by independent, self-contained, self-regulating communities of cybernetic devices or beings--computers with mechanical extensions" (156). The language of the novel makes it clear that these beings represent a form of life and consciousness: "The business of the City of Mind was, apparently, the business of any species or individual: to go on existing." Its activity was the collection and interpretation of information of all kinds, plus "the improvement and continuous enhancement of . . . the network as a whole--in other words, conscious, self-directed evolution" (157). Like Gibson's novel, Le Guin's suggests that advanced machine intelligence, although far more powerful than human intelligence at certain kinds of linear thinking, would not concern itself with manipulation or control of human life. And as the artificial intelligence in Neuromancer can be seen as the offspring of a human matriarch, so the artificial intelligences in the City of Mind recognize the lineage they share with humankind. Human consciousness represents "a primitive ancestor or divergent and retarded kindred" (159). In the view of the human inhabitants of Le Guin's world, "the two species had diverged to the extent that competition between them was nonexistent, cooperation limited, and the question of superiority and inferiority bootless" (159).
        However, in Always Coming Home, the greater challenge to the privileged position of human consciousness arises from the status of animals as persons. The Valley people, called the Kesh, the society at the heart of the novel, have a sense of community and reciprocity with all living entities. According to Le Guin, the Kesh have no concept of higher and lower values; rather they articulate values in terms of concerns that are central or less central (Dancing 187). The Kesh concept of conscious life includes all elements of the ecosystem: animals, plants, other features of the biosphere such as rocks, mountains, fields, and streams, as well as human beings. The putative narrator of the novel comments, "It is very hard for me to keep in mind that `people' in this language includes animals, plants, dreams, rocks, etc." (181). An explanation of kinship within the Houses (or clans) of the Valley people begins:

Relatives . . . included creatures other than human beings. . . . To call an olive tree grandmother or a sheep sister . . . is behavior easily dismissed as "primitive" or as "symbolic." To the Kesh, it was the person who could not understand or admit such relationship whose intelligence was in a primitive condition and whose thinking was unrealistic. (451)

{8} Human interrelationships with animals are particularly close and complex because these two kinds of "people" live together and provide food for one another. It is important to offer ritual words of respect before killing an animal. When Stone-Telling, a central character in the novel, accompanies her Condor father (a member of an alien society) on a journey out of the Valley, she is shocked at the indifference to life shown by him and his men: "Along the way they sometimes killed cattle or sheep grazing on those high hills. They did not ask me to, but I came and gave the person they killed my words" (201).
        When she lives with the Condor people, Stone-Telling is situated between two value systems (Roberts 146). The indifference of the Condors to animal life is an index of the hierarchical and exploitive attitudes that characterize their culture. They are contemptuous of women and of "hontiks"--members of foreign cultures and lower castes. To be told that she is half-animal is a deadly insult. On the other hand, when she finally returns to the Valley, her companion Esiryu comments, "Here people are animals" (390); in the Valley context, this identification of human and animal life is an affirmation, a recognition that the Kesh "live softly," in harmony with all elements of their environment.
        The movement from one value system to another highlights alternative conceptions of an "individual" or a "self." Readers for whom the Kesh conception of animals as persons is exotic or strained find themselves identifying uncomfortably with the "wrong" culture. In the Condor culture where animals are not persons, most humans are not persons either. Readers who do not wish to share the sickness of the oppressor must rethink the conviction that human consciousness is privileged. Thus in the course of the novel readers may feel themselves occupying different subject-positions, grounding their perceptions of themselves and their interactions with the environment in different definitions of "self."
        A final example of the postmodern novel's disruption of the secure sense of what constitutes a person is provided by Gerald Vizenor's Bearheart. Louis Owens has written of the novel, "To read Bearheart is to take risks, for no preconceived notion of identity is safe, no dearly held belief inviolable" (141). The novel chronicles the migration to the Fourth World of a group of Native Americans displaced by corporate greed and the disintegration of American high-tech culture. It challenges the autonomy and priority of human selfhood in a variety of ways, some fundamentally disquieting.
        In this novel, animals have shamanistic power. The tribal pilgrims are guided on their journey by seven clown crows. A dog named Pure {9} Gumption is a healer. The central figure in the novel, the trickster Proude Cedarfair, joins his consciousness with that of a vision bear. The mythic significance of these animal figures is not readily paraphrasable; nevertheless, their function as actors in the narrative begins, in Donna Haraway's terms, to "break down the notion that only [human] language-bearing actors have . . . agency" (Penley and Ross 3).
        More difficult to assimilate is an incident, realistically presented, in which a woman has sex with two dogs. Vizenor asserts that the scene is not "pornographic, obscene, or bestial" because in tribal culture "animals are not lower in evolutionary status" (Bruchac 296). He argues that reception of the passage is essentially a question of worldview--readers who are offended are incapable of accepting mythic truth as concrete and real. He points to a cultural tradition in which all creatures are regarded as exercising consciousness and agency. Responding, in an interview, to questions about the passage, he mentions tribal stories in which there is sex or marriage between humans and animals:

You can accept that on a kind of folk level, mythic level, but here it is, now what do you do? Is it too real? Has it lost its mythic power or is myth just make-believe? Is myth just for fairy-tale movies or is myth a powerful reality, a truth that can be experienced? (Coltelli 175)

By offering myth as reality, Vizenor challenges readers' certainties about who is a person and who is not, what is fitting and what is not. It is almost inevitable that a reader reacting to such a scene will feel the "self" ungrounded, poised on several positions at once, failing to negotiate a single stance.
        All three of these postmodern novels--Gibson's Neuromancer, Le Guin's Always Coming Home, and Vizenor's Bearheart--prompt readers to confront their fears of loss or diminishment if other entities are acknowledged as persons. In the recent past, our myths have projected a human loss of autonomy if machine-beings achieve selfhood and a loss of dignity if animals are recognized as subjects. Such fears exist because we are too anthropocentric to recognize any other kind of agency except our own. Donna Haraway has argued that regaining a conception of nature that permits us to imagine "genuinely social and actively relational" exchanges with a variety of actors would permit us to "refigure the kinds of persons we might be" ("Actors" 21). The "fantasies" of postmodern fiction may help to reinstate that vision.


Works Cited

Bruchac, Joseph, ed. "Follow the Trickroutes: An Interview with Gerald Vizenor." Survival This Way: Interviews with American Indian Poets. Sun Tracks 15. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1987. 287-310.

Coltelli, Laura, ed. "Gerald Vizenor." Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1990. 155-82.

Csicsery-Ronay, Istvan. "Cyberpunk and Neuromanticism." Mississippi Review 47/48 (1988): 266-78.

Cummins, Elizabeth. "The Land-Lady's Homebirth: Revisiting Ursula K. Le Guin's Worlds." Science-Fiction Studies 17.2 (1990): 153-66.

Flax, Jane. "Postmodernism and Gender Relations in Feminist Theory." Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 12 (1987): 621-43.

Gibson, William. Neuromancer. New York: Ace, 1984.

Grant, Glenn. "Transcendence through Detournement in William Gibson's Neuromancer." Science-Fiction Studies 17.l (1990): 41-49.

Haraway, Donna. "The Actors Are Cyborg, Nature is Coyote, and the Geography is Elsewhere: Postscript to `Cyborgs at Large.'" Technoculture. Ed. Constance Penley and Andrew Ross. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991. 21-26.

---. "A Manifesto for Cyborgs: Science, Technology, and Socialist Feminism in the l980s." Coming to Terms: Feminism, Theory, Politics. Ed. Elizabeth Weed. New York: Routledge, 1989. 173-204.

Hollinger, Veronica. "Cybernetic Deconstructions: Cyberpunk and Postmodernism." Mosaic 23.2 (1990): 29-44.

---. "Feminist Science Fiction: Breaking up the Subject." Extrapolation 31 (1990): 229-39.

Hutcheon, Linda. A Poetics of Postmodernism: History, Theory, Fiction. New York: Routledge, 1988.

---. The Politics of Postmodernism. New York: Routledge, 1989.

Krupat, Arnold. "An Approach to Native American Texts." Critical Inquiry 9 (1982): 323-38. Rpt. in Critical Essays on Native American Literature. Ed. Andrew Wiget. Boston: Hall, 1985. 116-31.

Le Guin, Ursula K. Always Coming Home. New York: Bantam, 1987.

---. Dancing at the Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places. New York: Grove, 1989.

Murphy, Patrick D. "Pivots Instead of Centers: Postmodern Spirituality of Gary Snyder and Ursula K. Le Guin." Paper presented at The Shadow of Spirit: Contemporary Western Thought and Its Religious Subtexts Conference. King's College, Cambridge UK, July l990.

Owens, Louis. "Ecstatic Strategies: Gerald Vizenor's Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart." Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native {11} American Indian Literatures. Ed. Gerald Vizenor. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1989. 141-53.

Penley, Constance, and Andrew Ross, eds. "Cyborgs at Large: Interview with Donna Haraway." Technoculture. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1991. 1-20.

Roberts, Robin. "Post-Modernism and Feminist Science Fiction." Science-Fiction Studies 17.2 (1990): 136-52.

Smith, Paul. Discerning the Subject. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1986.

Vizenor, Gerald. Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart. St Paul: Truck, 1978. Rpt. as Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.


Chance and Ritual: The Gambler in the Texts of Gerald Vizenor

Nora Barry         

        Manabozho, the Anishinabe (Ojibwa/Chippewa) trickster, enters a dwelling through "a mat of scalps" to meet the gambler, "a curious looking being" who is "almost round in shape." Hanging in his wigwam are the hands of those who lost their lives in games of chance. Yet Manabozho laughingly plays with this sinister being as they toss the figures of the four ages of man in a dish game. The gambler wins three tosses of the figures, who all remain standing:

But one chance remained, upon which depended the destiny of manabozho and the salvation of the anishinabe people. He was not frightened, and when the nita ataqed prepared to make the final shake, manabozho drew near and when the dish came down on the ground he made a whistle on the wind, as in surprise, and the figures fell. Manabozho then seized the dish saying: it is now my turn, should I win you must die. (Summary and quotation are taken from the retelling of Theodore Beaulieu's version by Gerald Vizenor in anishinabe adisokan: Tales of the People 147-49)1

        The myth of the gambler occurs in Native American traditions as a test for a trickster and/or culture hero, who must win the game in order for the tribe or something valuable to it to survive. All of the gambler's victims must wager their lives, and Gerald Vizenor's contemporary texts imply that this mortal game is still being played.
        Indeed, on an everyday level, games of chance are endemic to Native American cultures with 382 pages of games of chance described by Stewart Culin in Games of the North American Indians. He points out that many of the games he records were "played ceremonially," often including music and dance as accompaniment, and are mentioned in several origin myths (32-34). Dish games, in which carved figures {14} are tossed, and the moccasin game, where players try to track a playing piece, are familiar to Vizenor's readers and described as part of several cultures by Culin (65-67, 339-45). Nor are games of chance a thing of the past, although they may have lost their ceremonial function, as Seminole and other tribal bingo games as well as the apparent success of the Pequot's Foxwood Casino in rural Connecticut attest.
        Vizenor's texts reflect the mythic, ceremonial, as well as secular aspects of games of chance connected often with the gambler figure. Although his work is associated most often with Trickster, variations on the gambler story loom as a constant threat to the trickster's ability to "balance the forces of good and evil through good humor in the urban world" (Wordarrows 30). In Vizenor's vision the gambler would destroy the comic, yet sacred, survival strategies his texts celebrate. If the woodland trickster is a "comic trope; a universal language game" (The Trickster of Liberty ix-x), then the mythic gambler is a potentially tragic trope in Vizenor's language game, a threat to, but also a test of, balance for the compassionate trickster.
        Although the gambler appears in Vizenor's texts through very different narrative strategies, the myth represents in all of the texts a struggle against spirit-killing absolutes, what Vizenor calls "terminal creeds." When narrative chance finds certain characters facing the gambling test, they survive because of an undogmatic, even casual, adherence to rituals that reflect tribal values. Yet narrative chance as random event appears as quite positive and reflects what Louis Owens calls the "infinite proliferation of possibility" (Other Destinies 234). Chance brings together an evolving, not static, world of ritual with the postmodern world of possibility. Vizenor sees the postmodern condition as "an invitation to narrative chance in a new language game . . ."(Narrative Chance 4). Indeed, in works such as Dead Voices, he rejects the "romantic revisions of the tribal past" and associates his heroine Bagese with "tribal chance" (6). Bagese lives her life through a wanaki game and becomes bear, beaver, squirrel, crow, flea, praying mantis, or trickster with the turn of a card (17).
        Vizenor refers directly to gambling and indirectly to the gambler in several texts. In Earthdivers, Father Berald One is accused of losing money for the tribe through meddling with the outcome of bingo. However, he plays for tribal men and women who "were responsible for the care of others" (155). He wins through a variation on tribal vision when he pictures "the numbers and letters in his mind and concentrate[s] on the numbers to complete a row in favor of the person he chose to win" (155). Also, Slyboots Brown, one of a family of tricksters in The Trickster of Liberty, makes a fortune with a game called tribe--a name adapted to avoid a confrontation with the {15} government, but obviously a form of bingo. Through this game, Slyboots gains a college scholarship and the financial betterment of his community.
        Bingo can have dubious results, however. In Crossbloods, bingo earned millions for a small tribal community near Red Wing, Minnesota. Yet Vizenor, in his journalistic mode, notes that:

The enormous cash returns, according to some critics, have attracted organized crime. Behind the wild cash and instant fiscal power in tribal communities, a serious concern has been voiced by several scholars; should tests of tribal sovereignties be tied to games of chance? (19-20)

Is the mythic gambler in charge of bingo? Or is the mob the gambler? Or is the game the economic and entrepreneurial answer to tribal ills? Vizenor leaves the questions open. However, while bingo as chance might be open to scholarly or journalistic criticism, when played through ritual (Father Berald One) and for generosity (Berald One and Slyboots), gambling and chance are positive forces.
        Gerald Vizenor uses the gambler myth directly and often in many of his texts. In The People Named the Chippewa, he adds dramatic details to Theodore Beaulieu's version when he tells how Manabozho ignores his grandmother's warnings against "the great gambler who has never been beaten in his game and who lives beyond the realm of darkness" (4). However, Trickster travels through this hellish underworld (People 4) where he hears "the groans and hisses and yells of countless fiends gloating over their many victims of sin and shame . . . and he knew that this was the place where the great gambler had abandoned the spirits of his victims who had lost the game" (5). When he meets the gambler and defeats him on the fourth toss by "making a teasing whistle on the wind" (6), the tribes are saved temporarily from losing their spirit to the land of darkness, for "the trickster had stopped evil for a moment in a game" (6). Now Manabozho will toss and, should the figures remain standing, the gambler will lose his life. Vizenor ends the story as Manabozho "cracks the dish on the earth" (6).
        In Vizenor's texts the game is never finished and neverending. He makes this clear in his autobiography, Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphors, when he retells a portion of the traditional story but ends at the beginning of the game (27). He then says that his father, Clement William Vizenor, who was murdered in Minneapolis, "lost the game with the evil gambler and did not return from the cities" (27). Later in the autobiography, Vizenor retells the complete story of Manabozho and the evil gambler to the point of the {16} last toss but adds, "that game, the four ages of man, continues to be played with evil gamblers in the cities" (180).
        An example of the gambler's urban presence occurs in Wordarrows, when Laurel Hole In The Day comes for aid to tribal advocate Clement Beaulieu, who finds her a landlord: ". . . a despicable overweight slumlord who smoked stout cigars, the reincarnation of the evil gambler from the tribal past, [who] agreed to provide a six-month lease . . ." (51). Laurel's dreams evaporate in the gritty realities of urban life and she returns to the reservation. Her confrontation with the reincarnation of the gambler is not the immediate cause of her retreat but is representative of the many confrontations that lead her back to a tribal, and open, if difficult, world--in other words to "tribal chance."
        Vizenor's most extensive direct representation of and variation on the gambler myth appears in Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles (previously titled Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart). Although the gambler episode in the novel is only one of many tests for Proude Cedarfair, the pilgrims who travel with him, and their animal helpers, this confrontation is narratively and philosophically at the center of Vizenor's text. Vizenor does not retell the traditional story here but instead creates a fully realized modern equivalent of the evil gambler in the character of Sir Cecil Staples, who:

. . . dreams in themes of great rivers dark and deep. Coiled stoutwhite on a leather chair behind his heart shaped desk he is dressed in a shortsleeved tan uniform. Small silver birds are pinned to the epaulets on his shirt. He wears a translucent obsidian pendant on a beaded chain and a diamond ring on his little finger. His bald head, marked with dark pigmentation like tracks from small birds, droops forward on his chest. His upper lip twitches like that of a sleeping desert animal. (101)

Echoes of the myth are apparent here. The traditional gambler has a door of scalps; the cut off hands of his victims decorate the wigwam. Sir Cecil has two skeletons on his wall "near the entrance," "their white-bones touching in fleshless passion" (101). He is associated with realms of darkness yet appears round and white like the figure in the myth. But Vizenor's description also associates Sir Cecil with contemporary images of the military, with the accoutrements of a pimp or a drug lord, as well as endowing him with the name of an English aristocrat. Metaphorically and physically, he also bears a resemblance to Joseph Conrad's corrupt, empirical culture hero Kurtz with his bald and "bony head" who appears as "an animated image of death carved out of old ivory" (Heart of Darkness 59). Like Kurtz, Sir Cecil {17} presumably hoards, not ivory, but that most essential of all commodities to the industrial world--gasoline.
        Sir Cecil is a corrupted trickster, what Trickster could become through greed and through lack of tribal values. He possesses trickster qualities in his creation of many identities for himself. Stolen as a child, he is encouraged by his stepmother in guiltless murder and incest as well as in aristocratic pretensions. He is, like Trickster, a wanderer who finds his truest identity in tricking people, but he does not trick to liberate or to balance good and evil through humor. Yet he is a necessary figure because Proude/Manabozho is tested by him. In Vizenor's novel, Sir Cecil and the other characters are given free and independent voice. As Maureen Keady says, "on the whole the Gambler's philosophy is utterly perverse, but within it there are kernels of truth" (62) about guilt-making family, corrupt government, and terminal creeds. Sir Cecil reminds us that chance means all the possibilities that the compassionate trickster must face.
        In order to play the traditional game, the pilgrims find themselves embroiled in choosing a good gambler to confront Sir Cecil and lose life or gain the promise of gasoline, but Proude Cedarfair, the trickster/ culture hero of the novel, says "chances are terminal creeds" (111). As Owens sees this and other episodes in the novel, "Chance, random event, would deny the responsibility of individuals for the world they inhabit, a denial not part of the traditional tribal world view" (Narrative Chance 147). Possibilities remain open as the pilgrims base their choice on an elaborate word game won by Lilith Mae, who becomes the good gambler yet who "did not know the rituals of spiritual balance and power" (116). Lilith Mae wins the second round against the gambler "driven with a perfect power"; however, she "took personal pleasure in winning and lost her place in the energies of sacred time" (118). She succumbs to fear and loses the ceremonial moment and the game.
        Proude Cedarfair is left to save the pilgrims by playing with the gambler. Entering the trailer, he smells "The pungent odor of false civilizations, foolish terminal creeds and the bare visions of death. Living smells sweet and gives other lives breath. Death has the smell of cities and machines and plastics" (120). As Culin notes about games of chance among North American Indians, the games "appear to be played ceremonially, as pleasing to the gods, with the object of securing fertility, causing rain, giving and prolonging life, expelling demons, or curing sickness" (34). Alone with Sir Cecil, Proude ceremonially faces "eastward. He smiled and roared in a low bear voice at evil" (131). In Proude's confrontation with the gambler, Vizenor appears to allude to the sacred Ojibway rituals of the Midewiwin (Ruoff 67).
        Manabozho, with whom Proude is parallel in this variation on the myth, is associated with the origins of the Midewiwin for he was sent "with the gift of medicine" (Johnston 80, Coleman 58) to the Anishanabeg by Kitche Manitou and remains the principal figure in the Great Medicine Lodge (Coleman 56). In Ojibway Heritage, Basil Johnston describes initiation into the four orders of the Midewiwin. During each initiation, the candidate is met by four bears "emblematic of all that is good in life" (Johnston 86). In each succeeding initiation, the candidate is obstructed by various malevolent spirits (reminiscent of the "coiled" gambler in Bearheart). The initiation is also a test of whether the candidate is on the correct path in life as he makes four journeys, analogous to the four stages of life (parallel to the four figures in the gambler's dish game), around the "Midewigun before gaining admittance into the inner sanctum. On and along the way he must not falter and yield to forces of evil" (86).
        When he and Proude toss the figures representing the four ages of man, the gambler serves as an obstruction similar to those in the ceremony. He would tie himself to Proude through chance:

At the end, the end of all games, when we both have the power to balance the world and raise the four directions, we will find a new game because we are after all bound to chance. . . . Evil will still be the winner because nothing changes when good and evil are tied in a strange balance. (Bearheart 131)

Sir Cecil also claims that he and Proude are equals "at this game of good and evil" (132). But Proude will not accept an equality, a common vision, a "power adverse to living" (132); he will not accept the gambler's voice as his. He argues that "Death is not the opposite of living, but you are the opposite of living" (132). This association of life and death is apparent in the initiation to the Fourth Order of the Midewiwin, when the candidate intones, "I come / To die. / I come / For life." The members respond, "It is easy to die. / It is hard to live" (Johnston 92). When Sir Cecil Staples picks up the dish for the third and final toss, "confident that good and evil were in a strange balance," like Manabozho, Proude makes "a teasing whistle on the wind," the four figures fall, and the evil gambler must die (132). Vizenor's variations on the gambler myth always include the wind motif, associating his protagonists clearly with Manabozho, whose mother was impregnated by wind, and, in some versions of his life, Manabozho is the east wind or helps finish off the world through blowing on sand.2
        The certainty of the gambler's death in Bearheart shifts the emphasis of the myth. There is no fourth round eternally caught in narrative openness when Proude/Manabozho might win or lose.{19} Proude's association with bears, who appear prominently in the Midewiwin ceremonies, which include the priest and the candidate impersonating bears (Dewdney 116), as well as his association with Manabozho's whistle on the wind, make this confrontation with the gambler and with chance highly ritualized to show Proude Cedarfair's real powers to transform life.
        Most of Proude's fellow pilgrims do not have his power, indirectly associated with breaking through barriers in the Midewiwin ceremonies. The death that the Gambler represents lives on to take the lives of those characters who bow to "terminal creeds" (Keady 63). At the end of the novel, few of the pilgrims have survived to make the ascent, the metamorphosis into the Fourth World. But Proude Cedarfair and Inawa Biwide "flew with vision bears ha ha ha haaa from the window on the perfect light into the fourth world" (243). Also, Proude's wife, Rosina, follows the animal helpers, the clown crows and luminescent mongrel Pure Gumption, "to the top of the north mesa where the sacred road led to rainbows and the sunrise" where Rosina "found bear tracks in the snow" (245). Hereafter, Rosina is associated with the Pueblo stories of Changing Woman and vision bears as the mythology of the woodlands and the mythology of the deserts meet.
        The Heirs of Columbus provides Vizenor's most elaborate variation on the gambler motif when a handsome blond wiindigoo takes on the role of the gambler. In Anishinabe stories a wiindigoo is an icy cannibal monster associated with starving in winter (Barnouw 120, Dewdney 124, Landes 13). In Vizenor's variation, the wiindigoo cannot be beaten in a moccasin game and his winning will destroy all humans and leave only robots and the wiindigoo gambler.
        The demon wiindigoo insists that "The tribe is a game, the children are a game, but evil and fear are chances, and nothing in the world is more real than the moccasin game. . . . This is your last chance to save the game and the real" (21). The tribal players are saved by an ice woman who blows a cold wind--a variation on the whistling on the wind motif--and freezes the wiindigoo as he makes his last move. She holds the wiindigoo and the accoutrements of the game in the back of her cave (22) until he is unfrozen by government agents. While the heirs of Columbus and their new world at Point Assinika seem doomed, the wiindigoo withdraws over the threat of a war herb, associated with the Lakota mystic Black Elk, and revealed to Stone Columbus in a dream. Here Vizenor uses variations on the tribal rituals of dream/ vision and herbal medicines to outwit the gambler figure.
        The wiindigoo insists that the game never ends (183) and that no chance is his last chance (180) when Vizenor leaves his text, once again, open ended. As "The children danced on the marina, and their wounds were healed once more in a moccasin game with demons" {20}(183), one is reminded that children are particularly talented at destroying a wiindigoo (Barnouw 129). The "whistling on the wind" motif appears as a tune from the New World Symphony by Antonin Dvorak when Vizenor asserts the power of old and new world "winds" to create balance. Also, the moccasin game is accompanied traditionally by ceremonial drumming and singing (Culin 339). Combining the wiindigoo and gambler figures in a new variation on traditional myths and rituals reflects the evolution of traditional texts and traditional ceremonies. Vizenor presents the social and spiritual cannibalism of the dominant culture as it intersects with these new variations on tribal ritual and chance.
        Even in the most postmodern of Native American texts, ongoing and always renewable narrative traditions and tribal rituals remain powerful. Gerald Vizenor creates worlds where traditional myths and everyday reality are interwoven in new variations. In his work the mythic process is a part of that everyday reality; it is simultaneous with it in ways similar to the vertical chronotope Mikhail Bakhtin envisions in chivalric romance where one must see ". . . this entire world as simultaneous" (Dialogic Imagination 157). However, in Vizenor's texts, mythic reality is always in the process of evolving: it is never finished; it is not an absolute. The myth of the gambler used as a direct text, as an indirect subtext, or as a variation on the traditional materials creates the evolving simultaneity of mythic and everyday realities and establishes a test of balance. Even though Vizenor's trickster novels are comic and satiric, the gambler is there to remind us that the comic text might deconstruct itself at any time through narrative chance to become tragic. Characters who face the gambler must take risks, must submit to narrative chance; however, through variations on tribal rituals, they often restore, momentarily, the balance of good and evil.


        1Another version of the Chippewa gambler story can be found in Radin and Reagan (61-62). The gambler figure appears also in the Southwest. See Franz Boas' Keresan Texts (76-82, 253) and Frank Hamilton Cushing's Zuni Folk Tales (385-97). Diné Bahane' includes a gambling god "descended among the Pueblos" (Zolbrod 99f). Also out of the Pueblo tradition, Leslie Marmon Silko retells a great gambler story in Ceremony (170-76).

        2Radin and Reagan note that wind impregnates Manabozho's mother (107) and associate him with the east wind (84). Ruth Landes describes Manabozho {21} as being created by winds out of the body of Mother Earth's daughter (24). Sister Bernard Coleman says that the four corners of wind killed the trickster's mother (63).

Works Cited

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogic Imagination. Ed. Michael Holquist. Trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist. Austin: U of Texas P, 1981.

Barnouw, Victor. Wisconsin Chippewa Myths and Tales. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1977.

Boas, Franz. Keresan Texts. Part 1. New York : American Ethnological Society, 1928.

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness: An Authoritative Text, Backgrounds, and Source Criticism. 3rd ed. Ed. Robert Kimbrough. New York: Norton, 1988.

Culin, Stewart. Games of the North American Indians. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1992.

Cushing, Frank Hamilton. Zuni Folk Tales. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1988.

Dewdney, Selwyn. The Sacred Scrolls of the Southern Ojibway. Toronto: U of Toronto P, 1975.

Johnston, Basil. Ojibway Heritage. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1990.

Keady, Maureen. "Walking Backwards Into the Fourth World: Survival of the Fittest in Bearheart." American Indian Quarterly 9 (1985): 61-65.

Landes, Ruth. Ojibwa Religion and the Midewiwin. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1968.

Owens, Louis. "Ecstatic Strategies: Gerald Vizenor's Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart." Narrative Chance. 141-53.

---. Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel. American Indian Literature and Critical Studies 3. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1992.

Radin, Paul, and A. B. Reagan. "Ojibwa Myths and Tales." Journal of American Folklore Society 41 (1928): 61-146.

Ruoff, A. LaVonne Brown. "Compassionate Trickster." American Indian Quarterly 9 (1985): 67-73.

Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: Penguin, 1977.

Vizenor, Gerald. anishinabe adisokan: Tales of the People. Minneapolis: Nodin, 1970.

---. Darkness in Saint Louis Bearheart. N.p.: Truck, 1978. Rpt. as Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.

---. Dead Voices. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1992.

---. Earthdivers: Tribal Narratives on Mixed Descent. Minneapolis, U of Minnesota P, 1981.

---. The Heirs of Columbus. Hanover NH: Wesleyan UP, 1991.

---. Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphors. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.

---. Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American Indian Literatures. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1989.

---. The People Named the Chippewa: Narrative Histories. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.

---. The Trickster of Liberty: Tribal Heirs to a Wild Baronage. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1988.

---. Wordarrows: Indians and Whites in the New Fur Trade. Minneapolis, U of Minnesota P, 1978.

Zolbrod, Paul G. Diné Bahane': The Navajo Creation Story. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico P, 1984.

Gerald Vizenor's Shadow Plays: Narrative Meditations and Multiplicities of Power

Juana María Rodríguez         

At first encounter, "Thomas White Hawk" is a straightforward narrative of murder in post-colonial1 America, another Bigger Thomas caught in the web of someone else's nightmare. Gerald Vizenor enters in the role of narrative mediator who, acting through the authority of the text, intervenes to effect communication and renegotiate the terms of the discourse. A life is at stake. The immediate goal is having White Hawk's death sentence changed to one of life imprisonment. Through the publication and dissemination of the story, this goal is attained: White Hawk's sentence is commuted to life imprisonment without parole. Both the life of Thomas White Hawk and the right of whites to hunt other game in South Dakota, free of Indian protests and controversy, are preserved, but the story and the storyteller remain to unravel the fabric of relations that constitute power.
        In Vizenor's narrative, multiple relations of power compete within preexisting narratives, entangling the ways in which these discursive spaces are defined and the various ways in which power is exercised within them. Foucault challenges the paradigm that defines power as a "general system or domination exerted by one group over another." Instead, he writes, "Power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society" (History of Sexuality 92-93). The texts that comprise the case of Thomas White Hawk can be explored in several ways, such as the means by which the multiple subject of White Hawk acts, reacts, and is acted upon within an interwoven system of power relations. Power within this context consists of both individual and institutional power. In this case, institutional power extends to encompass the reservation, the courts, fosterage and guardian systems, educational systems, prisons, churches, families, and psychiatric institutions. Also important are the ways in which the story of this multiple subject is written, negotiated, and inscribed by a multitude of discursive systems,{24} including psychiatry, law, feminism, and an American Indian national liberation movement, as well as the ways in which different narrative styles Vizenor employs illuminate and shadow elements of the story.
        In "Thomas White Hawk," Vizenor begins the story with the last details of James Yeado's life. It is an intimate portrait: the narrator tells us that Yeado was a Virgo, a gardener, the father of two children, and a member of the Vermillion Chamber of Commerce. On the opposite page is a copy of a handwritten note with the words "Notes Pertaining to My Case" scribbled across the top. Its author is not identified, but we know it is Yeado's murderer. Vizenor first introduces us to Thomas James White Hawk a few paragraphs later, identified as a freshman premed student. He writes, "Yeado had sold a good many engagement rings to University students, but this one was different. He knew them both. They were Indians" (102). The last two lines are short and deliberate, and the sequence seems noteworthy. The narrator does not refer to these Indians by tribe or speculate about the nature of Yeado's knowledge. The sentences seem somewhat connected, yet the connection is never stated. By beginning from the perspective of Yeado, the narrator creates a sense of textual distance and neutrality from White Hawk and compassion for the murder victim.
        Vizenor's construction of White Hawk seems slow and deliberate. Bits and pieces of his life are interspersed between vivid details of the crime and the ensuing events of the trial. White Hawk the murderer, the rapist, the Indian becomes layered with other vestments of identity: a Dakota born on the Rosebud reservation, an orphan who had lived under the care of white people for most of his life, a football player and track star who had suffered an injury to the head many years back, a young man who dreams of being a doctor. The omniscient narrator never hints at the source of his construction. Some of the details are mundane, others more profound. Many incidents are only suggested in the text, yet the suggestions are revealing, beginning with the possible murder of his mother. "Friends have told him that his mother died in childbirth, but he has dreams that she died some other way" (111). Later, White Hawk's guardian is introduced with the portentous line "Phil Zoubek . . . is Tom's guardian and a lot more. Each of these two men is half of a warm human adventure" (115). Zoubek's name and the words "a lot more" are italicized in the text, as if to make explicit the homosexual relationship they shared. The source of this knowledge is again kept hidden, creating a textual silence and raising further questions as to the actual nature of this relationship between a white foster father and his teenage Indian son.
        Other instances of italicized text point the reader to discursive contradictions, phrases such as "cultural norms," "uncontrolled {25} discretion," or Judge Bandy's euphemism for capital punishment, "I am removing him from the world." This selective glossing visually marks the text with authorial intention and disrupts the illusion of journalistic objectivity and distance. Vizenor exercises his authorial power through the coded text and its dissemination, and ultimately this power "saves" White Hawk from the death sentence. Already the relationships of power have begun to breed--White Hawk's power over James Yeado and his wife, Zoubek's power over White Hawk, the power of the fosterage system, the courts, the educational system, and of course the authorial power of the text--a Foucaultian nightmare of competing discourses acted out on the body of Thomas White Hawk.
        In much of his writings, Foucault demonstrates the interdependence of the penal and medical systems in terms of creating mutually supportive discourses on criminality, deviance, and delinquency. In Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Foucault delineates the history of the penal system in the West. He argues that it is the person, not the crime, that is judged and punished. He writes:

Certainly the "crimes" and "offenses" on which judgement is passed are judicial objects defined by the code, but judgement is also passed on the passions, instincts, anomalies, infirmities, maladjustments, effects of environment or heredity; acts of aggression are punished, so also, through them is aggressivity, rape, but at the same time perversions; murders, but also drives and desires. . . . For it is these shadows lurking behind the case itself that are judged and punished . . . and which, behind the pretext of explaining an action, are ways of defining an individual. (17-18)

White Hawk's trial inevitably becomes dependent on the sanity of the defendant. The judico-psychiatric discourse surrounding the trial is perhaps the most verbose in its depiction of him. Terms such as "psychoneurotic," "sociopathic," "passive-aggressive," and "personality defect" with a "poor prognosis in treatment" are all used to describe and define White Hawk. The legally imposed binary of guilty or innocent becomes dependent on the psychiatric binary of sane or insane. Psychiatry helps to create the narrative of victim turned victimizer, the result of "environmental contacts." A "personality disturbance [that] appears to be his ambivalence concerning his psychosexual development." This White Hawk, constructed through a psychiatric discourse, seems to take on the characteristics of an odd sort of Oedipus, murdering the figure of the white paternal father and sleeping with the forbidden mother.
        Other preexisting narratives have already circumscribed White Hawk's story.2 Each represses aspects of the subject's positionality and {26} tries to reinscribe the story within a specific narrative that is always already written in binary opposites. These arguments are in turn instrumental in reconstructing the binary of victimization and agency, innocence or guilt. They include:
        1. The colonial narrative that inscribes the story in terms of civilization/savagery, Christian/heathen. Within this narrative, White Hawk's crime is etched into the dominant psyche as an act of treason against the purity of a white social order and must he punishable by death. How would the trial and the sentence have been different if the Yeados were Chinese, African American, Indian?
        2. The cultural nationalist narrative that presents White Hawk as a victim of the hegemonic powers that seek to destroy him. This anti-colonial narrative challenges the occupying state's authority to define criminality, sanity, and jurisdiction. His act is thus inscribed as an act of rebellion against the dominant culture. However, in this narrative the male nationalist fantasy of ultimate revenge thus becomes coded as murdering the white man and sleeping with his wife: Indian vs. White Man.
        3. An unwritten radical white feminist narrative that would present White Hawk as a victimizer of women. The act of rape is written as purely an act of male violence, the ultimate expression of patriarchal power. White Hawk is thus written as a agent of male power. The white woman is then revealed as a pawn between the Native man and the white man: Man vs. Woman. However, these terms are already racialized: Native man, white woman, obfuscating the figure of the white man. In both this and previous scenarios, the Native woman is totally written out of the story.
        Vizenor draws on these competing discourses to construct the complexity of social forces impacting the fate of the multiple subject. The origins of these narratives are as old and as new as the binary of "us" and "them." They circulate like viruses, infiltrating the body politic. In contrast, Vizenor deconstructs the tyranny of these preexisting binaries by presenting a multiplicity of voices and power relations. Nowhere in the text is it suggested that White Hawk views himself as a colonialized subject, or as an agent against cultural hegemony, or white womanhood. These narratives have been constructed by others for their own ends, and White Hawk is merely caught in their web.
        White Hawk's participation in the crime is never contested; instead the text attempts to challenge absolute definitions of agency and victimization. In order to do so, the multiple subject must then be repositioned within a legion of oppressive localities. White Hawk as colonized male subject, childhood victim, murderer, and rapist is {27} already racialized and gendered within existing systems of power. These factors exist simultaneously, even as they contradict and contest each other's power to define. This is where Foucault's theories of power as omnipresent and capillary are most productive. Rather than seeing power as something that is possessed by a centralized force (state or patriarchy), it is something that is fluid and dynamic, something that is exercised rather than possessed:

The omnipresence of power: not because it has the privilege of consolidating everything under its invincible unity, but because it is produced from one moment to the next, at every point. Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere. (History of Sexuality 93)

Foucault's work does not deny or minimize the power of the state and its institutions; however, he sees this as only one form of power. By recognizing the fluidity of power, he is also able to acknowledge the swarm of power relations that operate on the microlevel of society.
        By presenting the case in its fullest complexity, Vizenor is able to capture these subtleties of power and use them to mediate between the several narratives that I have delineated. Vizenor puts flesh on the multiple subject and attempts to reposition White Hawk as a Dakota Indian within post-colonial occupied America. He gives us pictures of White Hawk, of downtown Vermillion, photographs of each of the central characters in the trial in an attempt to make them something more than the individual roles they play. There are no photos of Yeado and his wife. They are incidental characters whose actions appear offstage and are only alluded to in the text; they have no agency and no voice in this new story of crime and punishment. Instead, Vizenor's narrative remains focused on White Hawk. His discursive power lies in his ability to reframe judicial and psychiatric discourses in terms of colonialism and power. This would include the diagnosis of White Hawk as suffering from cultural schizophrenia and the coding of Zoubek as homosexual. Throughout the court transcripts, Vizenor again inserts italicized text that is at times White Hawk's memories, dreams, and thoughts and at other times the thoughts of Judge Bandy and others. These glossed phrases suggest an excess that cannot be expressed discursively within the prefigured legal framework.
        Vizenor's investment and fascination with White Hawk, beyond the goal of commutation, hints at motives within the shadows of the lines. The question mark that is intent curves ambiguously around each sentence and textual silence. Each time the story is told it becomes transformed. The story becomes multiple, radiating out to encompasses the other stories circulating around White Hawk. With each new {28} telling, the position of the narrator shifts. Vizenor is first and foremost a storyteller. In his writings, the man slips in and out of the shadows he projects. In a recent piece, "The Ruins of Representation," Vizenor uses the term "shadow survivance" as a means to understand tribal consciousness and literatures:

The shadow is that sense of intransitive motion to the referent; the silence in memories. Shadows are neither the absence of entities nor the burden of conceptual references. The shadow is the silence that inherits the words, shadows are the motions that mean the silence, but not the presence or absence of entities. (7)

These shadows inhabit his own texts.
        The story is first told in "Thomas White Hawk" as a seemingly nonfictional piece of journalism, printed as a pamphlet and later reprinted in the collection Crossbloods: Bone Courts, Bingo, and Other Reports. In the piece, Vizenor assumes the role of omniscient narrator. He withholds the political intent of his text, which is clearly the commutation of White Hawk's death sentence. Intent is also related to Vizenor's masking his own subject position. Like White Hawk, Vizenor is a tribal mixed blood survivor of cultural schizophrenia, the foster care system, and childhood abuse and neglect. Vizenor's naming himself as a survivor would have further implicated White Hawk's own agency: Good Indian vs. Bad Indian. By cloaking his role as writer and investigator, as well as his connection and insight into White Hawk's past, he veils the sources of his knowledge. After the immediate goal of commutation has been achieved, other stories can be told.
        In Crossbloods, this first telling is directly followed by "Commutation of Death," a short polemic on the limits of justice in occupied territories. In this essay, Vizenor writes:

. . . the story will not end because White Hawk has become a symbol of the conflicts and injustices of many dakota people living in a white-dominated state. And the dominant white people on the plains will not forget the savage demon who twice raped a white woman while her husband was dying of gunshot wounds in the next room. (152)

In this addendum, the narrator is unrestrained by the limits of advocacy journalism and the subsequent problems of audience and authorial motivation. He is able to point directly to the intent of the text, without the concern of alienating many of the white liberals it was intended to sway. Once the immediacy of commuting White Hawk's {29} sentence has been achieved, the narrator is free to move outside the specificities of the case and address the larger issues of justice and cultural domination.
        In Wordarrows: Indians and Whites in the New Fur Trade, the story is retold in a series of veiled, fictionalized accounts that allow for details, previously marginal, unspeakable, or unsubstantiated to be told under the guise of fiction. As the story moves farther away from the scene of White Hawk's crime, the image of the author and his own investment and attraction to the stories become clearer.
        In the series of stories in Wordarrows, Vizenor inserts himself in the text under the name of Clement Beaulieu, a "liberal tribal writer." Clement is also the name of his father, who was himself the victim of a seemingly senseless murder. The intertextuality that exists between these stories adds credence and depth to the original story of the trial as they explicate the complexities of Indian identity.
        By creating himself through the character Beaulieu, Vizenor gives voice to the tribal identity that he shares with White Hawk. Through trickster discourse, Vizenor transforms himself through this character to escape representations of the author. Fiction allows for the articulation of this Native voice that would have further complicated the initial narrative of White Hawk's trial. Yet, even here, Beaulieu is one character, one voice, among many. The position of both the narrator and the author remain shadowed.
        The stories in Wordarrows have as much to do with the writer's search for a way to understand White Hawk's story as with the case itself. Here, Vizenor delves even deeper into the microlevel of power relations circulating throughout the trial. Among the stories woven around the figure of White Hawk is the illicit affair between the minister's wife and the condemned man through the bars of a prison cell, a Pine Ridge Indian law student who testifies for the prosecution as an expert on tribal justice in support of capital punishment, and Beaulieu's invisibility as a tribal person, which allows others to speak uncensored about the Indians in their midst. The characters he invokes are marginal at best to the narratives I have delineated, yet they reveal the many ways in which Native peoples are made savage, exotic, invisible, insane within the dominant culture.
        In a third, and as yet unfinished future telling of the story, Vizenor plans to reinsert himself through the use of first person narration. Yet even from within this posture, the "real" author remains in the shadows. Even within the genre of personal testimony through autobiography, the author remains the fictive construction of authorial imagination, as evidenced by the subtitle of Vizenor's own autobiography: Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphor. In a recent work, Vizenor writes, "first person pronouns have no referent. {30} The other is a continuous pronoun with no shadows" ("The Ruins of Representation" 23).
        Through narrative, Vizenor is able to deconstruct binary representations of subjectivity. By presenting a range of competing discourses, he challenges the authority of others to define, and hence to judge. By occupying the shadows, he makes sense of the multitude of discursive statements and silences surrounding the case. Narrative ultimately allows him a way to mediate between the vestiges of language that exist between the binaries.


        1I use post-colonial here in the sense of after the onset of colonialism. See The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures, ed. Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin (London: Routledge, 1989).

        2For another example of how pre-existing narratives frame political arguments, see Lata Mani, "Multiple Mediations: Feminist Scholarship in the Age of Multinational Reception," Feminist Review 35 (Summer 1990): 24-39.

Works Cited

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin, eds. The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures. London: Routledge, 1989.

Foucault, Michel. Discipline and Punish: Birth of the Prison. Trans. Alan Sheridan. New York: Vintage, 1979.

---. The History of Sexuality: Volume 1, An Introduction. Trans. Robert Hurley. New York: Vintage, 1990.

Mani, Lata. "Multiple Mediations: Feminist Scholarship in the Age of Multinational Reception." Feminist Review 35 (Summer 1990): 24-39.

Vizenor, Gerald. Crossbloods: Bone Courts, Bingo, and Other Reports. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.

---. Interior Landscapes: Autobiographical Myths and Metaphors. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1990.

---. "The Ruins of Representation: Shadow Survivance and the Literature of Dominance." American Indian Quarterly 17.1 (Winter 1993): 7-30.

---. Wordarrows: Indians and Whites in the New Fur Trade. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1978.

Textual Stimulation: Gerald Vizenor's Use of Law in Advocacy Literature

Irene Gonzales         

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

Suppressive Narrator and Multiple Narratees in Gerald Vizenor's "Thomas White Hawk"

Winona Stevenson         

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

"I Defy Analysis": A Conversation with Gerald Vizenor

The following conversation between Gerald Vizenor and Rodney Simard, Lavonne Mason, and Julie Abner took place on 1 May 1993 at an outside table of a coffee house in Berkeley, California, shortly following a MELUS session on his "Thomas White Hawk." The preceding three essays were the presentations on that panel, chaired by Betty Louise Bell, who joined the conversation in its last minutes.

SAIL: The question I'm itching to ask you--everybody in the room was really amused when you were talking about linking Oedipus and Columbus [Vizenor: Yeah], and, aside from implying that Columbus was a motherfucker, what's at work? [Laughter]
Vizenor: He's blind.
SAIL: He's blind?
Vizenor: Yes, he's blinded by Western civilization. That's the tragic reversal of fortune.
SAIL: Scholars today have made much about authorial intent, but of course this gets us into the intentional fallacy, and, when we're talking about your work, it gets us into a quagmire of unlimited dimensions. The famous remark Harold Pinter made when he first came to the academy's attention, when he said that his work is about the weasel under the cocktail cabinet, produced a generation of scholarship, very much a trickster event. All in all, are you more amused by these attempts to explicate, particularly something that's dealing with historical fact? How do you treat people interpreting your intent?
Vizenor: I thought their critique [the three panelists'] was very fair in trying to discover where I was and was not and what strategies that appear to be in the text. You can't treat fiction that way, but "White Hawk" employs fictional style because it's a narrative. It's also journalistic; it's also testimony and that's cited directly from the {44} transcripts, a sort of superstructure; it is official documentary. I thought a really brilliant insight was that I have deliberately written myself out of the narrative by creating Clement Beaulieu as my persona.
SAIL: What about The People Named the Chippewa?
Vizenor: No, I'm not in there, except the AIM thing. I wrote myself out of that. Not that I was a member of AIM, but I was in all of that in the beginning, so, in fact, I preceded my subject in that work.
SAIL: Then why are you writing yourself in now in the new work about White Hawk that you have proposed?
Vizenor: Well, my purpose at the time was capital punishment. It seems self-serving to say that it was to oppose capital punishment to save this kid's life and for all kinds of reasons: one, because the state has no right to do that; second, it is a double not right to do that because it's tribal; and third, they can't do it because they've acquitted people who have committed far worse crimes, and there are more reasons than that. But my interest was to oppose capital punishment, which I hadn't done before but which I continue to do. I was a member of the Minnesota American Civil Liberties Union, not that membership is an automatic position, although it probably is. It would be hard to be an ACLU member and support capital punishment, not that that's the acid test, but it's one of them. It is part of the philosophy that the state doesn't have the right, but the state has no right to kill any Indian and never has for any reason, and this is a constitutional issue. My interest was to show this, not to put myself in as the noble rescuer.

I think Winona [Stevenson's] use of narratee theory is good because obviously I'm present as narrator. There's the author who is omniscient and then there's a narrator present who is taking positions; she points out at the end that I am editorial, but I'm also editorial in the selection of material. I don't work with material to serve ideology. Actually, each of the papers emphasizes that I concentrate on all the contradictions and that I don't choose one voice over another.
SAIL: After the session, Winona said, "Damn, he's hard to read."
Vizenor: Yep. She likes saying that, too.
SAIL: What about your polemical and historical and journalistic writing for which most of the critical attention seems less directed at your material and more toward trying to discover you in it, a search for you rather than an examination of your material?
Vizenor: Betty [Louise Bell, panel moderator] brought together the autobiography with the White Hawk text, and, in another place, she has discussed White Hawk and Dan White as two cases that I wrote about as a journalist. In a similar way as I did with White Hawk, I wrote {45} about White in Earth Divers where I create the journalist, who is me. I get a little distance that way. Then I can omnisciently observe the journalist and I don't have to get caught up in "I," which is also a very limited perception. It's extraordinarily limited and I don't like the "I." Even in my autobiography I don't use "I" very much. I speak of myself as a person in different contexts, which makes me a different person all the time.
SAIL: Creating self in the process?
Vizenor: Yes. Obviously I created self, but I create a complex self that I don't understand, that I dare not understand. Other people can understand me as a text, but I dare not create myself as an understanding text. The reason that I'm going first person on the new White Hawk thing is because the case is long over; twenty years is good enough. It's been published twice, first as a pamphlet, the advocacy; second, it was in a collection of essays, which is historical, more than advocacy, but I've got a lot more to say and in both first and third person--a lot more to say. I've got documents I couldn't touch for their difficulty.
        I don't agree that the White Hawk piece is a hidden Vizenor, except in the sense that my rage is present, and I think Winona and Betty and also Irene [Gonzales]--well, actually, they all touched on my presence in the selection of material and its emotional intensity. I wish someone else had come upon White Hawk. Wouldn't it be interesting to have had a couple of different narratives on this. I really would have liked someone to take seriously a conservative point of view, but in the first few months of working on this we could hardly find an Indian who would support him. I want to write about these things in a way that's not White Hawk anymore; he's the text now. I want to write how this text got to be. I mean . . .
SAIL: Moving from journalism to history and making a leap into literature?
Vizenor: Yes. I want to write about the hotel I checked into to research the case. Because I'm phenotypically an eastern liberal, I said I was a journalist, which I was, and that's also a better identity than saying I'm a rights activist or something. Happily, white people everywhere told me evil shit about Indians. I remember telling some good friends, who were darker and appeared more Indian, about the insights that I get out of this twist of typical identity, for people who appear Indian are closed out from this kind of perverse discourse. I want to know and hear the perversities. It's important and I feel a commitment and dedication as a writer to make that my business. It's a silent text and I don't want it silent. I want all those conservative racists to have their say in my context, and I'm the writer. They can write if they like and then I will write about what they have written.
SAIL: You're not going to approach the new book as journalism, yet it has a historical dimension and I know that you're interested in the nexus between history and literature, or literature as it has been traditionally defined in the European American sense. Can literature then embrace history as literary texts according to aesthetic standards?
Vizenor: That's one of those keen aesthetic questions. Let's see-- aesthetics are sentimental, and aesthetic texts can be romantic and sentimental. They serve a dissociation of life experience rather than an existential engagement, and I choose the complexities and contradictions of existential engagement over the aesthetic text; however, a first person is an aesthetic presence because it doesn't exist. "The" first person isn't--it's a contradiction. A pronoun is a pinch hitter and we don't even know what the game is except language, so we've got a substitute voice in the first person in a language game, and we don't know the rules of the game. We don't even know where we are. So this first person is playing out the voice of someone, as a pronoun, and first person has no referent, except itself. First person doesn't exist.
SAIL: Is that social narcissism?
Vizenor: That's good--yeah--thank you.
SAIL: Indian history has largely been written by the victors. Is it a subversion of that history by aesthetizing it or rendering it in a tribal voice?
Vizenor: I suppose you could say I'm the victor--and so is White Hawk--in his case. It's clear that the writing of the text had a lot to do with saving his ass. I don't have to pretend false modesty after twenty years, although I haven't talked about it for that long. I'm now talking about it because I'm going to write about it. I can get back to it without modesty.
SAIL: Earlier you said that you had had a lot more to say in both the first and third persons. How is the third person going to work in?
Vizenor: I have a lot of documents, additional documents, about the lawyer, the legal proceedings, the characterization of other players, aspects of their lives and interests that were not known at the time. Their lives are complicated by other factors now that are brought back into the story.
SAIL: You have always been critical of activists, or suspicious of activism.
Vizenor: No, you're wrong. Some activists are self-serving; a lot of them made a lot of money.
SAIL: Coke De Fountain, Homer Yellowsnow?
Vizenor: Yes, we know who these people are, don't we? You want me to say who they are, don't you?
SAIL: Yes, we really would.
Vizenor: They are fictional--any resemblance to real people . . .
SAIL: Can't you speak to yourself through that window over there?
Vizenor: If a fictional character coincidentally suggests in some metaphorical way the identities of people we know in literature and public affairs, I can't be accountable for that. If their lives, unfortunately, resemble fictional characters, it certainly is beyond me. Why anyone would want to appear to be fictional . . .
SAIL: If they maintain their lives in such a way as to appear to be comic stereotypes . . .
Vizenor: They have complexity--those characters. They are emblematic, but they have some complexity, even contradiction.
SAIL: A point our students inevitably make.
Vizenor: Well, I found a case that was as complicated as my fiction.
SAIL: I thought Betty's autobiographical shadowing was suggestive. Were you struck by White Hawk as an interesting case or a paradigmatic case? Was he a fluke or is he an "every-Indian"?
Vizenor: It's the "every-tribal-person," the rage that can result in violence. It's a disservice to those kind and good people--the Yeados--it's a terrible thing that they end up in this paradigm as the victims, a terrible thing. Some people have observed that White Hawk might have been killing his keepers, symbolically. I just don't buy that. White Hawk was too smart. He has no explanation for this crime, you know. He doesn't speak of it, doesn't understand it. He may have to disguise this, but I don't think so. I don't have access to that, only to the official document he wrote. I don't have access to their conversations. My interest was not in whether White Hawk approved of me or not, although once published, I was curious. I wanted to ask him directly "What do you think?" I didn't even know if he had read it. At first, I didn't care--that wasn't my interest; I wasn't writing to him.
SAIL: Do you know now?
Vizenor: Yes, I asked and he wrote. I quoted him at the end of that introduction to Crossbloods where he said he wouldn't change a word of it for a presentation. Imagine from his point of view--so many people exploring your life because of a horrible thing you have done. It happens all the time and he's probably more celebrated in a text than a lot of people who have done terribly evil things. And it was evil what he did. He's memorialized in a text, not as a generous person but as a contradiction.
SAIL: To broaden out a bit, what happens, from your perspective, when contemporary event reportage translates itself into history, which has been treated as if it were a literary text?
Vizenor: I'm a very good writer. Journalism contained the power of my imagination and the demands of history; I had to break out of {48} journalism. I had to do the best of what is postmodern. I had to be eclectic. I had to add the following postmodern exclamation to every paragraph of history about Native Americans. I had to say at the end of every paragraph by Francis Parkman and other historians that it's not enough. That's aesthetic and I had to perform an existential act of disobedience, resistance, and postmodern eclectic recreation of a context.
SAIL: Subverting your profession?
Vizenor: Yes, and I was a good journalist. I can't say I was frustrated by not being able to write the whole thing because I knew you couldn't do that. It was enough to reach so many people with just the stories, but I had good editors who honored this and honored my presence there and knew that I could do this and wanted me to do it because no one else had and they haven't since. It was the White Hawk pamphlet and another incident that brought me to the attention of the editors [of The Minneapolis Tribune]. I had been writing for magazines, but it was that White Hawk work that brought me to the executive editors' meetings, where they wanted to know how to get into all of this based on what I had written. They actually couldn't take that because it wasn't their style, but I provided them with the whole story. I also provided NBC news with the whole story. They did a special on this, a one hour news program, First Tuesday. I provided photographs and the skeletal structure. I estimated that I might have saved them $25,000 in research costs.
        This is an irony: I advised NBC not to include in the White Hawk piece this cruel irony of Baxter Berry's shooting of Norman Little Brave in the back. Little Brave was Berry's employee on a ranch there. He was shot in the back by Berry, who was indicted by a coroner's grand jury. Now get this, a white rancher kills an Indian by shooting him in the back, unarmed. The white guy hires the best lawyer in the state, who was an Indian, and is acquitted.
SAIL: There's something bitter there.
Vizenor: Yes, that's the contradiction of legal precedence. If White Hawk had had the money to hire Roubideaux he might have gotten a lesser charge, but he got the death penalty because he entered a plea of guilty. That's also extraordinary; you understand that he was sentenced to capital punishment without a trial. There was no trial and he never has had a trial. He's serving on a confession, not on a trial. Now, you cannot confess to capital crimes. You must be tried--it's not accepted--and the judge shouldn't have accepted it either. Anyway, I urged NBC not to include that Baxter Berry thing at the end because they didn't need it. White Hawk's case was strong enough; they didn't need to show the irony and be awkward about it. But they did it {49} anyway. Baxter Berry was acquitted. Baxter Berry sued NBC News and the Indian lawyer, Roubideaux, who handled the suit, for libel; NBC settled for $25,000. Baxter Berry killed the Indian, made some money on it, and lived happily ever after. Contradictions--I want to write about all of these things in the first person because I was present and did these things and acted in this way.
SAIL: Is this going to be creating a fiction maybe because it's necessarily from your perspective or a perspective of yours?
Vizenor: Well, I have the documents; I'll cite them, wherever they are, but it'll be in part fiction style. I'll make descriptive comments, editorial interpretations--I hope this will be a better way to write the story.
SAIL: But no dialogue, no imagined dialogue?
Vizenor: No, not in cases like that because that's implying that I'm transcribing. No, I don't do that. I can create a fictional scene and create dialogue, but I wouldn't attribute dialogue unless I had notes. That's pretty risky. I've never done that.
SAIL: Truman Capote got away with it.
Vizenor: Yes, he sure did, and I didn't like that book much. In Cold Blood is another irony. My view is, how could an author take up such a serious case and also be credited with a new form of journalism-- "faction." It was reviewed as a kind of new journalism. Capote was no advocate; he was a dilettante and he just hung around. He actually witnessed the hanging and he spoke of their fear and how it sounded--he pissed in his pants. What a gruesome, pathetic figure is this Capote that he could stand around, never having opposed the death sentence, dared not oppose it, dared not be an advocate for fear that he wouldn't be able to witness the most gruesome act because they wouldn't have admitted him as a witness if he had. What a deception. What a cruelty. What a degrading thing to be a part of his life history, and what I oppose in that text is that it's an exploitive text. It's not an advocacy case and that's where tensions are important.
SAIL: You don't see it as testament to his objectivity?
Vizenor: Not at all. There's nothing objective in it. He exploited all of the sensations. And he did know. He took no generous creative interest in any of the players. He served aesthetics and simulation as sort of a marketing text, and that happens all the time. Not surprising, but to credit that book with something is reprehensible. It's a disservice to the seriousness of all these issues and especially the cause against capital punishment. He sensationalized it. It's part of the agency that perpetuates the fantasy of hanging people for crimes.
SAIL: Does the Peltier case attract you?
Vizenor: No.
SAIL: Why not?
Vizenor: It's too highly politicized. From the beginning, it was highly politicized. I'm really impressed, though, with the movie Incident at Oglala. It's so good because it doesn't obligate you to take a stand on whether Peltier did it or not. It isn't taking any ideological position; it's just pointing out the improper procedures and the contradictions of his indictment and conviction, raising all of the serious questions of a breech of judicial process--very good ones.
SAIL: It is reportage; it is documentary in the best sense of the word, but at the same time that particular film, I think, reaches an aesthetic dimension.
Vizenor: It does, especially in sound. I think if you took the sound out you might not be able to say that so convincingly.
SAIL: Without the quality of the sound altogether, we might have Nanook of the North again, the first documentary.
Vizenor: And when they added sound to it, in my mind, they damaged the power of the film. The sound is very aesthetic, as well as the editing and cutting.
SAIL: The same thing that you do in fiction? [Vizenor: Yes.] It is a visual equivalent then of your work?
Vizenor: No, because you are obligated in film and editing to a linear message into which you cannot enter any discourse until after. The purpose is to be convincing from beginning to end, and with narrative film you're passive. A text is not passive. It can be, and some people make a text passive. I don't think anybody can make a text that I engage in passive. You were close though; wasn't he sneaky. Boy, I thought he had me there. That's a good point, and, actually, I learned something out of your question: that the kind of montage of voices or talking heads is not the same. Film holds us passive. We can't engage the discourse. There's no imagination either, we're told how to imagine it as a linear story.
SAIL: You said, "I'm a very good writer." Do you consider yourself a storyteller or a writer?
Vizenor: Both. Storytelling is different, different than writing. In storytelling we're present. It's discourse; I can read everything that is going on--play a little bit. When writing, I have to create a whole new context because it isn't there.
SAIL: Of your generation, you're just about the only writer who hasn't really experimented with the visuals of the text, crafted a book as artifact, and tried to get the experiential dimension in; why not? We think about The Way to Rainy Mountain and what Momaday did there, or Storyteller and what Silko did with her work [Vizenor: Yes. Prose poems]. I mean such techniques as the horizontal format and mixing in the photographs--a variety of effects that could be subversive and {51} make a reader interact with the text in so many different ways.
Vizenor: I don't think it's subversive at all. I think it's clichéd. It's a consumer gesture if people design books to capture a consumer's interest. I don't see what's subversive about it. You can plainly see what somebody did. They put a photograph here and a caption over there and they turned half the page upside down. There's nothing very mysterious about it.
SAIL: Her photographs do not necessarily match the text.
Vizenor: Well, then you can see that plainly. What's subversive about that?
SAIL: She can be describing an elder woman from her family, but not the one being discussed at that point in the narrative; you have to go to the back of the text to fully uncover her associations and meanings.
Vizenor: I don't see that as subversive. It's tricky. It's dickering with the contents.
SAIL: So the content should be the experience all by itself?
Vizenor: That's where the story is. The story is not in the typeface. Italics are important and you can do a lot with ellipses and paragraph structure, double space--those are important to cue a reader and those are very conventional. There is nothing unique about them. We need some time break.


Harold of Orange: A Screenplay

Gerald Vizenor        


                Harold and the Warriors of Orange
                are descendants of the great trickster
                who created the new earth after the flood.

                But the trickster was soon word-driven
                from the land by the white man,
                who claimed the earth as his own
                and returned to the trickster
                only what he couldn't use.

                Now, Harold and the Warriors of Orange,
                tribal tricksters determined to reclaim
                their estate from the white man,
                are challenging his very foundations.


                              TRICKSTER SONG

                In the great tradition of faith and con,
                The trickster's way is the magic one.
                If you can believe, then it can be done.

                Trickster Hi! Hi! Lo! Trickster Hi! Hi! Lo!

                Let's reroute some of that money green,
                Move the banks and you move the stream.
                Trickster change how everything seem.

                Trickster lying in a bed at night,
                Lying, lying, lying.
                Thinking up schemes to put you right.

                Trickster Hi! Hi! Lo! Trickster Hi! Hi! Lo!

                Trickster on the run.
                If you believe, then it will be done.

                Trickster Hi! Hi! Lo! Trickster Hi! Hi! Lo!

                (final verse used at the end of the film)

                If you get to thinking in the first degree,
                It's an inspiration to you and me.
                Miracles are there for all who see.

Buffy Sainte-Marie                                                   

Harold Sinseer rumbles down a dirt road on the reservation in his damaged car, assembled from multicolored parts, and stops in front of a row of small commercial buildings. A bald tire rolls up to the screen; a car door squeaks open, and a foot touches the road. Harold has a round brown face and black hair. His cheeks are full and his relaxed stomach behind the wheel folds over his wide beaded belt about two inches. He is dressed in a ribbon shirt and brown leather vest. He gestures with his lips in the tribal manner when he speaks. The sign "Harold of Orange Coffee House" is painted over the front of the building. Another sign, printed on a pine board, "The New School of Socioacupuncture," is suspended in the window of the storefront. Harold wears well-worn moccasins.

HAROLD (to the camera): Over there, deep in the brush, the Orange River runs through this reservation as fast as it can down to the wild sea … We live at the best loop in the river, a natural high rise on the earth …

Harold pauses and then he climbs out of his car. He expands his chest and continues speaking to the camera.

HAROLD: We are the Warriors of Orange, tricksters in the new school of socioacupuncture where a little pressure fills the purse … We run a clean coffee house, tend to our miniature oranges, and talk about mythic revolutions on the reservation …

Harold pauses; he smiles, an ironic gesture, and then he continues talking to the camera.

HAROLD: Com'on in for a pinch of coffee …

Harold walks to the back of his car, pries open the trunk, removes several bags of plastic cups and dozens of neckties, and then he turns toward the coffee house. Mongrels sit near the front door as he approaches. There is a small sign near the front door: "What This Country Needs is a Good Injun Tuneup." The sign is weathered and curled at the corners.

The screen is filled with a large photographic silhouette of Harold and Fannie posed like the statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha. Harold walks into the screen, across the silhouette, and the camera follows him around the coffee house. An aluminum coffee urn rests on top of the {56} table or woodstove in the center of the room. Front and rear doors are open. Mongrels move in and out. Light pours in. The walls and ceiling are covered with photographs and radical broadsides. The Warriors of Orange are seated on boxes and chairs, alone and in pairs, drinking coffee and eating fast food. There are two large pots in the corner, an orange tree in one, and a coffee shrub in the other. Several warriors wear hats, one a painter hat. One warrior is reading The Wall Street Journal. Snow shoes are stacked in the corner of the room.

PLUMERO: My god, here he is on mythic time …

HAROLD: You got the first part right.

PLUMERO: Where to this mornin, chief?

HAROLD: To the Bily Foundation with our pinch beans …

NEW CROWS: Not the old pinch bean scheme?

HAROLD: Nothin but the best. Hand picked in the traditional way …

Harold unloads the cups and neckties on the table next to the woodstove. The cups bear the pinch bean coffee label. Son Bear sees the neckties and removes his earphones. Powwow music can be heard through the earphones around his neck.

NEW CROWS: Who'd believe in pinch beans?

PLUMERO: The same people who fell for miniature oranges.

SON BEAR: Potted oranges?

Plumero picks an orange from the tree in the pot and throws it to Son Bear. Several warriors turn and laugh.

HAROLD: Our orchard grows in tax free bonds …

SON BEAR: Orange bonds?

HAROLD: The source of your allowance.

NEW CROWS: From these trees?

New Crows points toward the potted orange tree in the corner.

PLUMERO: We ordered eight crates from an organic farmer in the southwest …

HAROLD: Eight? Thought it was fifteen?

PLUMERO: Too expensive, eight's enough for the foundation directors …

Harold pours a cup of coffee into his special orange mug and then he walks backwards around the table as he speaks in a dramatic tone of voice. He picks an orange from the miniature tree.

HAROLD: Now, with miniature oranges in hand, we return with a proposal to open coffee houses on reservations around the world.

Plumero reaches into a large bin and pulls out a handful of coffee beans.

PLUMERO: And from these pinch beans comes our mythic revolution …

Plumero throws the coffee beans into the air.

SON BEAR: What revolution?

HAROLD: Where there are coffee houses there are tricksters and revolutions …

NEW CROWS: Coffee never made no warrior …

PLUMERO: Maybe not, but there's more tricksters in Berkeley than Beejimee …

HAROLD: Bemidji, Bemidji!

PLUMERO: There too.

Harold sorts through the neckties on the table. Coffee beans crunch under foot. Son Bear points at the neckties.

SUN BEAR: What're these for?

HAROLD: The uniform for our foundation pinch bean show …

NEW CROWS: Nothin doin … Not around my neck.

SON BEAR: The whiteman got white from neckties, stopped the blood to his brains …

PLUMERO: You got nothin to lose …

NEW CROWS: He cut short more than that …

Harold holds up several neckties and admires them with a smile.

SON BEAR: Man, ties'll turn us white …

PLUMERO: Those white designer shorts you got never cut short your blood supply.

SON BEAR: But mixedbloods run a higher risk …

The warriors laugh and tease the neckties on the table. One warrior finds a bow tie in the pile; he examines it.

HAROLD: Come on, choose a necktie … Loose knots for the mixedbloods.

NEW CROWS: We never did this for the orange money.

HAROLD: The stakes are much higher this time around … No one can resist a skin in a necktie.

Harold takes the bow tie from the warrior near the table; he clips it on and continues talking.

HAROLD: When we show up in neckties that foundation pack won't remember nothin we tell them but the truth …

PLUMERO: What was that again?

HAROLD: Nothin but the truth …

Harold throws neckties to the other warriors.

HAROLD: Wear these neckties with pride, the pride of a trickster …

Son Bear refuses a necktie; others scorn the selection. Powwow music can be heard from the earphones around his neck. Son Bear picks up the two oranges on the table, picks a third from the miniature tree, and juggles them.

SON BEAR: We are Warriors of Orange, not white heads …

Plumero catches one orange; Harold tucks a necktie in Son Bear's back pocket. The warriors hoot and trill.

PLUMERO: So, where's the meetin?

HAROLD: Board room at the Bily Foundation …

PLUMERO: Bored room for sure …

HAROLD: This time they want something personal …

PLUMERO: Like a name ceremony.

HAROLD: Something serious …

PLUMERO: Like a ghost dance.

A school bus rattles to a stop in front of the storefront. "The Warriors of Orange" is painted on the side over a cameo portrait of a whiteman, a brand label for miniature oranges. A bus horn honks.

HAROLD: Something active …


PLUMERO: Like a softball game in the park.

HAROLD: Right …

Kingsley Newton cuts a sliver of strawberry and pushes it back on his fork. Breakfast meeting. Fannie Mason attends the first meeting of the executive committee of the board of directors. She is eager to please. Marion Quiet and Andrew Burch are seated opposite Fannie and Kingsley. One place is vacant, set for Ted Velt, who is late for the meeting. Kingsley is mannered, elite, formal, a romantic about tribal cultures. He is dressed in light colored clothing. The other directors are dressed in dark business suits. Fannie wears casual, expensive clothing. Kingsley cuts a strawberry as Fannie speaks, strawberry on the screen.

FANNIE: D. H. Lawrence wrote that "The most unfree souls go west, and shout of freedom. . . . Men are freest when they are most unconscious of freedom. . . ."

MARION: Like American Indians?


MARION: Have you lived with them?

FANNIE: Not on a reservation … You see, my real interest in Indians was stimulated in college …

Andrew leans forward, over his plate, to speak to Fannie.

ANDREW: As you must know, my father was in the timber business … We shared numerous adventures with some of the finest native woodsmen …

FANNIE: Yes, I have studied the …

MARION: Pulp cutters?

FANNIE: The exploitation … The, ahh, corporate development of resources on the reservation.

Kingsley attempts to direct the conversation.

KINGSLEY: Fannie studied American Indian folklore …

FANNIE: Literature, which is a much larger subject than folklore.

MARION: Do Indians have a written language?

FANNIE: No, they have oral traditions.


KINGSLEY: Which reminds me … Harold of Orange will make his special presentation to the board this afternoon …

MARION: That little orange man?

Marion laughs too hard; she does not notice the silence of the other directors.

ANDREW: Have we not already approved his proposal?

KINGSLEY: Yes, informally as the executive committee.

MARION: Does he know?

KINGSLEY: No … Even if he did he would still insist on an oral presentation …

MARION: The oral tradition seems so natural to him.

FANNIE: Harold of Orange? Is that his name?

KINGSLEY: Fannie has not yet read his unusual proposal …

Marion leans forward to speak to Fannie.

MARION: Harold Sinseer …

Marion laughs too hard. Fannie blinks several times when she hears the name. She turns her head from side to side, a nervous tic. She remembers an affair, one night in the park, with Harold ten years earlier.

MARION: Sinseer, if you can believe that as a surname.

Ted Velt, the other member of the executive committee, seems to leap into the board room. His is a small man, breathless, with a forceful personality.

TED: Better late than sorry … The scissors were too dull at the ribbon cutting …

KINGSLEY: Nice of you to show …

Ted is seated; he folds his hands over his plate, breaks into a wide smile, and looks from face to face around the table. Kingsley leans toward Fannie to speak.

KINGSLEY: Watch out for Ted Velt, he made his fortune on tricks and games.

Ted extends his hand across the table to Fannie.

TED: Call me Veltie …

FANNIE: Call me Fannie, Veltie …

Fannie shakes his hand. Still holding her hand, Ted turns his wrist to show his digital watch. He points to his watch with his other hand, across the table.

TED: Watch this …

Ted pushes a button on his watch, still holding onto Fannie's hand, and a tune, the theme music from The Lone Ranger, fills the board room.

The warriors are seated on the bus as they chant the lines of a poem. The bus is running. Harold enters last and when he takes his seat the warriors begin their chant.

PLUMERO: Oranges and darkness …

NEW CROWS: Oranges and light …

SON BEAR: Orangewood and promises …

NEW CROWS: Oranges and delight …

PLUMERO: Orange warriors …

SON BEAR: Oranges for Christ …

NEW CROWS: Oranges in magical flight …

PLUMERO: We are orange tricksters …

HAROLD: And Lawrence is white.

The bus lurches forward; voices change from surreal to conversational.

SON BEAR: Lawrence of Arabia?

HAROLD: No, Lawrence of New Mexico … David Herbert Lawrence of the red and the white …

NEW CROWS: Did you tell him about the oranges?

HAROLD: No, but I told him he was right.

PLUMERO: White about what?

HAROLD: How he loves to hate the dark and how we love to hate the white …

The bus rumbles down a dirt road as the warriors continue their conversation. The question by Son Bear, the answer by Harold, and the song "Our women are poisoned part white ho ho ho ho. . . ." are heard as the bus passes. Guitar music with the song. The song voice {62} carries over into the next scene where Harold and Fannie are intimate in the board room. Guitar music continues to the next scene.

SON BEAR: Did Lawrence of New Mexico wear a necktie?

HAROLD: He wore it so tight he faded in the bright light …

WARRIORS' SONG: Our women are poisoned part white ho ho ho ho peeled part white ho ho ho ho buried deep down where the dead turn around …

Harold and Fannie are seen in an intimate, private embrace. The camera circles close. Fannie remembers; the past is revealed on her face as she begins to resist the passion of the moment. The resistance is slow, develops in silence, in subtle facial gestures. She turns away, avoids his eyes, his lips; we see her face as Harold speaks to her.

HAROLD: Tell me you're not still sore.

FANNIE: No, I mean yes … Forget it. You are ten years too late … Forget it.

Fannie breaks from his embrace. The board room is decorated with original works of art by tribal artists, placed for the occasion.

HAROLD: Have you forgotten the oral tradition?

FANNIE: Yes, and the interruptions.

Fannie turns from Harold and moves around the table as she speaks, placing materials on the table for the board meeting. Harold follows her as he speaks.

HAROLD: The shaman called me back to the reservation.

FANNIE: You told me your grandmother had died.

HAROLD: Well, she did.

FANNIE: She died four times that year, right?

Harold follows Fannie around the table.

HAROLD: Hey, Fannie, bend a little, turn with the stories … You know me, short on apologies.

FANNIE: Do you have a grandmother?

HAROLD: We buried our relatives in college to avoid exams …
        We survived, didn't we?


FANNIE: On fake funerals and borrowed money.

Harold is distracted, nervous. He expands his chest. Fannie touches his arm, affection with a purpose. She smiles, tilts her head, gestures of dominance.

FANNIE: Remember that thousand you borrowed from me?

HAROLD: What thousand?

FANNIE: That thousand you said you needed to bury your grandmother for the fourth time …

Harold looks around the room; he is anxious, cornered in his own game. When he turns back to Fannie he is more aggressive.

HAROLD: Listen, we need your money … I mean, we need your support for this pinch bean proposal … Can we count on you for that much?

Fannie looks down in silence. She turns her ring.

HAROLD: Come on, this proposal is not for me alone.

Fannie looks up and smiles.

FANNIE: Of course not, your proposal is for the traditional

elders on the reservation who cannot speak for themselves …

HAROLD: You know the old foundation game, we get the money and the foundation gets the good name …

FANNIE: No I don't know that …

Harold is more dramatic; he raises his voice in poetic anger.

HAROLD: The Warriors of Orange are not victims to please the white man … We never cheat people, we are not corrupt politicians with medicine bundles stuffed with false promises … We are imaginative survivors, we cross the world in the middle of the block …

FANNIE: Save the rest for the foundation directors … Listen to me now.

Harold gestures with his lips; he exhales and smiles.

HAROLD: My ears are to the daffodils.

Fannie is more aggressive, at the edge of anger.

FANNIE: You owe me one thousand dollars.

HAROLD: The check is in the mail …


FANNIE: No, no, this afternoon, return my money this afternoon before the directors make their final decision on your proposal …

Kingsley Newton enters the board room. He pulls the drapes open and then walks toward Fannie and Harold. The room is filled with light, white. Foundation directors and warriors also enter the room. The warriors are carrying crates of miniature oranges. The directors admire the new tribal art on the walls. Harold notices an affectionate gesture between Fannie and Kingsley. Harold thrusts his chest forward, smiles, and moves close to Fannie's ear to speak.

HAROLD: This afternoon then, on my grandmother's grave …

Kingsley stands in front of a podium. The directors are seated around the conference table. Harold stands next to Kingsley. Fannie is seated near the front of the table. The warriors stand in the back of the board room. Kinsley spreads his arms as he speaks.

KINGSLEY: Now it is my pleasure to present Harold Sinseer, one proud American Indian from the Watteau Point Reservation in beautiful northern Minnesota … Some of you know him as Harold of Orange because we funded his last proposal to cultivate an orchard of miniature oranges … In a secret place to avoid pests and competition … And this afternoon we will have our first taste of the oranges.

Ted Velt arrives late; he bursts through the door into the board room. He notices the crates of oranges, points at them, comments on the portrait on the label, and then greets the warriors, slaps them on the back, and moves to his seat at the table. The warriors are uncomfortable with his attention. Velt takes his seat, stacks his hands on the table, and smiles to each director. His watch fills the screen while Kingsley continues his introduction.

TED: Oranges overnight? How about that … Hey chief, good to see a little color here for a change …

KINGSLEY: Harold has challenged us in the private foundation field to meet his proposal in places around the cities, a removal, as it were, from the carpets …

MARION: Not removed too far …

ANDREW: Not too long, I trust …

KINGSLEY: Where we will experience something serious and ceremonial …

Three warriors move forward to the front of the board room and stand with their arms folded, stoical postures. Kingsley is nervous.

KINGSLEY: But first, allow me to introduce his workers, warriors, from the orange orchards …

Kingsley makes a sign to each of the warriors.

KINGSLEY: We welcome you one and all, and we celebrate your desire to better yourselves in a miniature orchard of your own on the reservation …

Kingsley pauses and then gestures to Harold.

KINGSLEY: My friend, Harold Sinseer …

Harold rises to the podium. Guitar music. Harold speaks like an evangelist. He leans forward and turns his head as he speaks.

HAROLD: Once we climbed into church basements to better ourselves with heavy hearts and empty pocketbook speeches … The money was good then, but the guilt has changed and so have we … So here we are dressed in neckties with oranges and pinch beans …

MARION: Mister Sinseer, we have heard so much about your oral traditions …

Fannie clears her throat and turns the rings on her fingers.

HAROLD: Listen, first we told you about miniature oranges and now with two hundred thousand dollars we will serve you pinch bean coffee with the oral tradition …

Several warriors loosen their neckties and examine the art on the walls.

MARION: Miniature oranges, and now pinch beans, what ever will be next?

HAROLD: Truffles and cashews.

MARION: Truffles? Can you be serious?

HAROLD: Red Lake truffles …

Harold pauses in silence. The foundation directors laugh, in short and practiced bursts. Harold clears his throat.

HAROLD: Grand Portage cashews … Not to mention White Earth caviar …

Harold steps forward to the conference table; he speaks in a secretive tone of voice. The directors lean forward to listen. Fannie examines her fingernails.


HAROLD: Now follow me down the great white road to the orange bus for the first red pinch …

The bus moves through the city, down Franklyn Avenue, on the way to the first stop, the Naming Ceremony. The foundation directors are not comfortable, seated next to the warriors, but their manners compel them to speak and to raise questions about culture and the weather. Points of view out the window include several scenes of tribal people. Son Bear has his earphones on; he moves in his seat to the beat of powwow music. Harold stands, moves from seat to seat.

MARION: How many Indians live on your reservation?

PLUMERO: Seventeen hundred and thirty-nine …

Plumero loosens his necktie and flashes a thin smile. Marion turns to comment on the view out the window.

ANDREW: I have considered the origin theories of the American Indians … Some are quite interesting. I find the Bering Strait migration theory to be the most credible … How about you then, what are your thoughts on the subject?

NEW CROWS: Which way, east or west?

ANDREW: Which way? What do you mean?

NEW CROWS: Which way across the Bering Strait, then?

ANDREW: Yes, I see … Well, I hadn't really thought about it that way. Which way do you think?

NEW CROWS: From here to there, we emerged from the flood here, the first people, unless you think we are related to the panda bear.

ANDREW: Oh, not at all, not at all … Actually, What you say makes a great deal of sense, but the problem I seem to have, you see, is that there is so little evidence to support your idea …

NEW CROWS: Jesus Christ was an American Indian …

ANDREW: Was he now, who would have guessed?

Andrew examines his fingernails and then looks out the window of the bus. New Crows watches him and smiles. Point of view is outside the moving bus: scene of tribal people. Harold takes a seat next to Kingsley. Fannie is at the front of the bus, seated alone.


KINGSLEY: Your warriors certainly are knowledgeable. The directors seem quite impressed …

HAROLD: The Warriors of Orange are trained in the art of socioacupuncture … We imagine the world and cut our words from the centerfolds of histories …

KINGSLEY: Is that a tribal tradition?

Harold cocks his head to the side, smiles; he appears pensive.

HAROLD: We are wild word hunters, tricksters on the run …

KINGSLEY: We are impressed … You seem to know so much about so many things, from orange trees to linguistics …

HAROLD: Not to mention pinch beans …

KINGSLEY: Yes, of course … I have asked our new associate Fannie Mason to pay particular attention to your oral proposal …

Harold turns to the camera and smiles. Cut to Kingsley.

HAROLD: I have a problem which I hesitate to share with you at this time, but you are an understanding person …

KINGSLEY: Yes, please continue …

HAROLD: Well, the problem is money … We have none and we wondered if the foundation could advance us about a thousand dollars to cover our expenses for this presentation …

KINGSLEY: It would be highly irregular to advance money on your proposal which the full board has not yet approved …

HAROLD: We are hard pressed for cash or else I wouldn't think about asking …

KINGSLEY: Of course, we will forget that you asked.

Harold moves forward on the bus to direct the driver to the first stop for the Naming Ceremony. The warriors and directors continue talking. Kingsley brushes his suit coat sleeves and tightens his necktie. Son Bear lowers his earphones around his neck; the powwow music can still be heard.

TED: I was reading about American Indian populations in the National Geographic magazine …


SON BEAR: Where, in the doctor's office?

TED: We have a subscription … The article mentions the revisions of the population estimates of American Indians at the time of Columbus …

SON BEAR: Who? Who was that?

TED: Christopher Columbus, when he discovered the New World … Well, actually an island … How many Indians were there then, here I mean, on this continent?


TED: None? What do you mean none?

SON BEAR: None, not one. Columbus never discovered anything, and when he never did he invented us as Indians because we never heard the word before he dropped by by accident …

TED: Of course, I see what you mean … Well, let me phrase the question in a different way then. How many tribal people were there here then, ahh, before Columbus invented Indians?

Ted smiles, pleased with his question. He looks out the bus window. Point of view, scene of tribal people. The voice of Son Bear is over the point of view scene: tradition at a bus stop.

SON BEAR: Forty-nine million, seven hundred twenty-three thousand, one hundred and ninety-six on this continent, including what is now Mexico …

TED: Really, that many then?

The Warriors of Orange bus rumbles to a stop in a parking lot at Franklyn Circle. The warriors, directors, and others, gather around a large cart on wheels:

Oral Traditional Food
miniature orange marmalade
pinch bean espresso
mild moose burgers
totem crackers

The directors and warriors gather around The Last Stand where they are each served a piece of fry bread with miniature orange marmalade. The warriors take deep soul bites, but the directors are hesitant; they nibble at their fry bread. The directors are polite and carry their fry bread to the next scene.

HAROLD: This is a special name feast prepared by the Warriors of Orange in honor of all the founders and foundations in the New World …

PLUMERO: And a few fakes and fools.

Loud music. An audience of white and tribal shoppers, with their bags and carts, gather around the bus and the fry bread cart. Plumero bears a cigar box with a cigar store Indian on the label. New Crows carries a fist full of orange chicken feathers.

HAROLD: Kingsley Newton … The urban spirits have directed me in a dream to select your new name from the cigar box.

Harold closes his eyes as he reaches into the box. Kingsley is nervous. He looks around and tightens his tie.

KINGSLEY: Are you serious?

HAROLD: Who could be serious about anything in a parking lot at a shopping center … use your imagination.

KINGSLEY: By all means …

HAROLD: Your new name speaks to me from the cigar store Indian box …

Harold reaches into the box and selects a property card from a monopoly game. Loud music. More people gather, move closer.

HAROLD: Your new name is … Baltic, your urban dream name is Baltic … Congratulations, bear your name with pride …

Harold hands the monopoly car to Kingsley. The warriors hoot and trill; the audience cheers and applauds. Baltic unbuttons his suit coat and swallows a nervous smile. The keeper of the Last Stand hands him another piece of fry bread. He has fry bread in both hands. He nibbles at both. Plumero moves close to Kingsley, whispers in his ear.

PLUMERO: Fry bread is white on the inside, you know.

Kingsley examines both pieces of fry bread, looks up and smiles.

HAROLD: Who will be our next contestant … Who will seek {70} a fortune as a founder with a new name? Step forward into an urban dream …

Marion is volunteered by the other directors. She is applauded and she applauds herself as she steps forward, but her smile does not relieve her tension. Marion stands next to Plumero.

MARION: Should the oral tradition be a public affair?

PLUMERO: Close your eyes when the shaman calls your name …

MARION: Never …

HAROLD: The great urban shaman who directs all the interstates has given me your name in a dream … Where is the card …

Harold closes his eyes and selects a card from the box.

MARION: This better be good …

HAROLD: Your name is … Connecticut …

The audience applauds and the warriors hoot and trill.

HAROLD: Now, one more dream name for the lady over there with the sweet daffodil …

The audience looks around. Fannie tries to avoid attention, but her gestures attract attention. She shakes her head and avoids the event. Harold slides his hand into the cigar box, a sensuous gesture. Ted's watch sounds the theme of The Lone Ranger.

HAROLD: My fingers are searching the box, I have a name, the name is chance, chance … But wait, the name card reads: "Good for one thousand dollars."

The audience applauds and the warriors hoot and trill. Harold hands the card to Fannie; she returns it, puts it in his pocket. Strangers from the audience step forward to receive an urban dream name but the warriors close the box. The remaining feathers are presented to the audience.

HAROLD: The box is closed for the afternoon; all the proud cigar store Indians have retired in the west …

Bus moves down Summit Avenue. Points of view of the affluent white world. Focus on a personal license plate that reads: "Indian" or "Savage." Harold is sitting next to Andrew. Fannie is behind them; she overhears their conversation.


ANDREW: One is still not certain how your pinch bean trees survive the winter?

HAROLD: Coffee shrubs …

ANDREW: Shrubs then … Are the beans frost resistant?

Andrew is distracted when Harold points out the window of the bus at a white couple with a white child who wears a feather headdress and carries a rubber tomahawk.

HAROLD: Were you in the war?

ANDREW: The great war?

HAROLD: Yes, the great wars … Do you remember those little packets of instant coffee?

ANDREW: Not with pleasure, to be sure …

HAROLD: We supplied the great war with the first instant coffee from woodland beans … Our tribal children gathered the beans in winter and then we pinched them for the war.

ANDREW: Indeed, your stories seem convincing enough, but will we have the pleasure of meeting the live shrubs?

Harold looks out the window of the bus. Point of view: an attractive blonde is washing her car.

HAROLD: That depends on how you see the oral tradition.

ANDREW: I see, well then, please explain.

Harold removes a large red felt-tip pen from his pocket, holds open his left hand, and draws two crude shrubs on the palm of his hand to illustrate his explanation. Fannie leans forward between them, sees the drawings, hears the explanation, and then rolls her eyes and falls back into her seat.

HAROLD: A logical positivist would demand cold clear data to be sure, while a mythic trickster in the oral tradition, on the other hand, would be satisfied with a handful of beans … Either way, as you can see, there are still two shrubs …

Harold reaches into his pocket and offers Andrew a handful of coffee beans. The director is nonplussed; he holds out both of his hands to receive the beans. Andrew examines the beans; he tries to pinch them, as Harold continues talking.

HAROLD: Remember those code talkers who spoke tribal languages to confuse the enemies?

Harold watches Andrew pinching the beans. Harold takes one bean from his hand and pinches it as he continues to talk. The bean becomes powder. Andrew is amazed.

HAROLD: Well, we maintained an elaborate pinch bean exchange in military units throughout the great war …

ANDREW: How did you do that?

HAROLD: That, sir, is a tribal secret …

Fannie leans forward and tries to pinch a bean. Andrew continues pinching beans without success. Harold moves back to sit with Kingsley.

HAROLD: Are you still interested in that reservation tour you once asked me about?

KINGSLEY: Yes, that would be interesting …

HAROLD: I could make arrangements to hunt wild rice, whatever interests you the most … But of course I would need some money in advance to cover the expenses … you understand.

KINGSLEY: Of course, let me get back to you on that.

HAROLD: I could make the arrangements today …

KINGSLEY: I should check my schedule first.

Point of view outside the bus: sunbathers on a balcony.

Scene begins with a photographic slide of the ghost dance. Harold steps into the slide; the ghost dance figures are projected on his face and body; he appears to be in the dance. Harold stands in light on an artifact case in an anthropology department. Plumero operates the slide projector. The warriors and directors are gathered near the case. Harold speaks in a deep dramatic tone of voice. Sound of a rattle.

HAROLD: The earth will rise to cover these sacred bones in the ghost dance vision … Time will run behind and white people will soon disappear …

MARION: What about the mixedbloods?

HAROLD: Mixedbloods will be buried as deep as their white blood … The more the deeper … Fullbloods will levitate in a sacred dance at the treelines …

Several anthropologists, dressed in western attire, string ties, turquoise are alarmed that the artifacts might be seized by militants. Harold points toward the nervous group of professors. Sound of a rattle. Slide change: death scene from Wounded Knee.

HAROLD: Those anthropologists over there will be buried upside down with their toes exposed like mushrooms …

PLUMERO: Poison mushrooms…

Ted is nervous; he checks his watch and wrinkles his face.

TED: Get on with the pitch, I mean pinch.

HAROLD: The rivers are dead near the universities, the fish are poisoned, even the carp yawn near shore … Birds are stalled in flight … Interstates uproot our families …

PLUMERO: And we hold the secrets of survival in a tribal pinch bean …

Harold seems surprised. His mood changes; he is less serious. He smiles and becomes an evangelist. Slide change: Wild West Show broadside.

HAROLD: Resurrection on a pinch bean.

Two university police officers push through the crowd, followed by a student newspaper reporter. The foundation directors move back to avoid trouble. The anthropologists are relieved. Flash photographs. Harold smiles and steps down from the cases.

POLICE OFFICER: Is this an authorized assembly?

HAROLD: Yes, sir, from the president himself …

POLICE OFFICER: Which president?

HAROLD: The university president … The Warriors of Orange, he said, are always welcome to examine these tribal artifacts.

The students cheer and applaud the warriors.

FANNIE: Sir, perhaps I could explain … You see, he is presenting his proposal for …

The students boooo and hisssss.

POLICE OFFICER: Who are you?

FANNIE: Fannie Mason, and this is Harold Sinseer … POLICE OFFICER: Sincere?


HAROLD: Sinseer, yes, my name is on this letter …

Harold unfolds a letter from a small square and hands it to the police officer. The police officer examines the letter; he turns it upside down, sideways, then smiles. Sound of rattles.

POLICE OFFICER: Sincerely, is that it there?

The police officer points to the bottom of the letter.

HAROLD: Sinseer on the top, sincerely on the bottom, sir …

The students, even the anthropologists, laugh.

POLICE OFFICER: Right … Are you an Indian?

HAROLD: Right … Are you an Irish?

The students appreciate the humorous confrontation.

POLICE OFFICER: Right … Could you examine these artifacts while standing on the floor?

HAROLD: I was dancing how high the earth will be come the ghost dance vision.

POLICE OFFICER: The ghost dance?

HAROLD: When all this disappears …

POLICE OFFICER: Right … Keep your feet on the floor.

The students applaud while the police officer refolds the letter into a small square; he looks around and then returns the letter to Harold. Sound of a rattle. The anthropologists are embarrassed; the foundation directors are relieved. Slide change to a photograph of Paul Newman in Buffalo Bill and the Indians.

NEWS REPORTER: What did you say about the ghost dance?

HAROLD: I said that the river is dead below the brain trust …

NEWS REPORTER: What brain trust?

HAROLD: The university faculties …

NEWS REPORTER: Are you serious?

HAROLD: Come the ghost dance vision the brain trust will become the brain drain …

NEWS REPORTER: That I can believe, but is this a protest against the anthropology department?


HAROLD: The cultures that anthropologists invent never complain about anything …

NEWS REPORTER: What are you doing here then?

HAROLD: We are pinching a foundation for grants to establish coffee houses on reservations …

NEWS REPORTER: Coffee houses?

HAROLD: Coffee houses foster revolutions.

NEWS REPORTER: I see … here's my card, let me know when the revolution is served … Make mine with cream.

Harold smiles and then folds the card into a small square. He turns toward the students and continues his stories. His voice is more dramatic.

HAROLD: We come to the cities from our tribal past and pace around our parts here like lost and lonesome animals …

Harold continues talking while Kingsley and a foundation director discuss the merits of his proposal. The two are standing at the end of the cases. Guitar music. Slide changes to a portrait of Buffalo Bill Cody.

HAROLD: In the beginning there were words and pinch beans and when the first flood came the great trickster saved a few beans to create a new earth … Then the trickster was word-driven from the land the second time, but he saved the secret of the pinch beans and now we come to a foundation with a plan to create coffee houses on reservations …
     The great spirit created the frost tolerant pinch beans and gave them to the trickster for the tribes … The pinch shrubs flower late in the spring and then red berries appear in the summer … Late in winter under a whole moon the berries are harvested in birch bark containers … The secret is that there is no processing …

While Harold is telling stories in the background, Kingsley and the foundation director are discussing the merits of his proposal:

ANDREW: Kingsley, tell me, is he serious?

KINGSLEY: Harold insists that he is a trickster …

ANDREW: A confidence man?

KINGSLEY: No, a tribal trickster is not the same … He is {76} rather sincere, even innocent, artless at times … He believes that he can stop time and change the world through imagination.

Andrew is nonplussed; he pulls his ear and frowns.

ANDREW: With a foundation grant of course …

KINGSLEY: Of course … Who could change the world without a foundation grant?

Kingsley and Andrew smile; they share the same secret.

ANDREW: Quite right, for a proponent of the oral tradition that letter from the president was a smart move.

KINGSLEY: He seems to have a word or a letter for all occasions …

The class bell rings and most of the students leave. Slide change: scene of Harold bearing Fannie in his arms, like the pose of the statue of Hiawatha and Minnehaha.

The statue is on the screen as the bus approaches and stops. The warriors leave the bus dressed in "Anglo" shirts, the name of their softball team; the directors leave the bus with "Indian" shirts, the name of their team. Fannie and Harold walk toward the field together. He carries the bats and gloves; she carries the softball. Kingsley, who is the umpire, does not wear a team shirt. The directors have removed their suit coats and loosened their ties. Kingsley remains formal, suit coat buttoned. Harold and Fannie are heard speaking, voiceover from a distance as they walk away from the statue.

HAROLD: Is it true that Indians are great lovers?

FANNIE: Sometimes, when you catch one with his mouth closed in an "Anglo" shirt …

The "Indians" and the "Anglos" are huddled in separate teams, Harold in a huddle with the warriors who are the "Anglos."

HAROLD: Listen gang, we are the "Anglos" and we're here to win and win big … Play by the rules if you must, but rape and plunder to win the game … When the "Indians" talk about the earth and their sacred ceremonies, steal a base, win the game like we stole their land, with a smile {77} … Score, score, score, in the name of god, win, and send those "Indians" back to the reservation as victims, where the slow grass grows … We'll mine the resources later.

PLUMERO: But if you should lose, you can't count on a job with the Bureau of Indian Affairs to get even …

Harold pulls off his "Anglos" shirt and walks over to the "Indians" team huddle. The directors are stoical.

HAROLD: We are in the cities now and we must never forget what the missionaries said our elders said around the fires …

TED: Lead me to the foundations?

HAROLD: That was much earlier; we dropped the first grant proposal with the pilgrims … The elders said we should never enter the game to win but to dream … We are made in dreams and the white man is the one who must win … When we help him win we are free and soon the white man will want to be like us, and when that happens we can leave him, once and for all times, a winner, on the reservations he made for us …

MARION: Who invented that game?

HAROLD: Boy Scouts and anthropologists.

ANDREW: The Order of the Arrow, you will be pleased to know, still whistles in the dark.

HAROLD: Competition is not our curse, but we are the best tricksters in town to let the white man win with pride …

TED: Trick the white devils to win? … That defies all reason.

Harold puts on his "Anglos" shirt and returns to his team, which is first at bat. Fannie is the pitcher for the "Indians" and Harold, who is the first at the plate for his team, is the pitcher for the "Anglos." Harold dances at the plate. The first ball rolls across the plate, ball one. The second rolls behind him, ball two.

HAROLD: Throw the ball, this is not a treaty conference …

Ball three rolls over the plate.

HAROLD: Come on, just one high enough to hit and you can be my Indian guide forever …

Fannie pitches a fast ball, strike one; strike two. Then she rolls the fourth ball over the plate and Harold walks to first base. Ted is an {78}"Indian" at first base. Harold talks to Ted.

HAROLD: This is my first visit to a real reservation … Where is your bingo hall?

TED: Behind the smoke shop, honkie …

Harold steals to second base. Harold talks to Andrew on second base.

HAROLD: My great grandmother was an Indian princess once …

ANDREW: Cherokee, no doubt … Listen, my grandmother was a French Duchess …

Harold steals to third base. Harold talks with Marion on third base; he removes a moccasin and hands it to Marion.

HAROLD: An old Indian guide gave these moccasins to my grandfather … I was wondering if you could tell me what tribe made them …

Marion, of the "Indians" team, sniffs the toe of the moccasin; she ponders the smell, and then sniffs it again.

MARION: Yes, these were worn by an old gambler who lived three miles north of Bad Medicine Lake …

HAROLD: What tribe is that?

MARION: Mixedblood Nacirema …

Harold seems to move from base to base, inning to inning, in magical flight. He appears and disappears in fast cuts of the game. Fannie comes to bat; Harold teases her with a fast ball, strike one, but she hits the second pitch out of the park. Harold dances on the mound.

HAROLD: White people always want to be better Indians than the Indians … The missionaries never translated the meaning of a "home run."

MARION: We blame everything on the Bureau of Indian Affairs … Even when we win.

The players ad lib from base to base; the "Indians" win the game.

The directors and warriors return to the board room, exhausted, for the conclusion of the proposal; all are seated around the conference table still wearing their team shirts from the softball game.


KINGSLEY: Thank you for remaining to the end of this most unusual oral traditional ball game …

MARION: The pretend Indians won again …

PLUMERO: So did the pretend "Anglos."

TED: Most unusual, most unusual, but I do have one last question before we adjourn …

HAROLD: Your questions are my very answers.

Kingsley frowns. Ted twists his face as he speaks.

TED: The Warriors of Orange, all of you, have been perfect gentlemen … Calm and mannered throughout, which makes my question all the more difficult to construct without appearing …

HAROLD: Without sounding like a racist?

Harold removes his "Anglos" shirt and throws it on the table.

TED: Exactly … You understand then?

HAROLD: Perhaps we could help you find the first unracist words … Does your question have anything to do with our proposal?

TED: Not at all … Pinch beans will give us all a good name.

Ted waves his arms wide. Harold smiles and then gestures with his lips to the warriors.

HAROLD: Savagism, the question must be about savagism and civilization.

TED: Well, yes, in the broadest sense of the word.

PLUMERO: How broad can a savage be?

HAROLD: Would you like to meet a beautiful tribal woman?

TED: No … Well, of course, but not in an improper manner …

PLUMERO: How about a hunting guide?

TED: No, that's not it at all, but that would be interesting now that you mention it …

PLUMERO: Sweat lodge ceremonies … Purification?

TED: No, not that either … Well, what I mean is that I am too sensitive to the heat …


PLUMERO: A shaman, an herbal healing then?

Ted is more relaxed; he takes pleasure in being the center of attention; the pursuit of the question.

TED: What does a shaman do?

Harold and Plumero and the other warriors become more aggressive. Plumero pulls his "Anglos" shirt off and throws it on the table.

PLUMERO: Leather and beadwork?

The warriors are restless, they rise and move around the room, they remove their "Anglos" shirts and stop from time to time to stare at the directors. Ted clears his throat.

TED: No, not beadwork … My wife bought too much, dozens of beautiful objects for practically nothing from an old Indian woman who was in the hospital … What I mean is that my wife was a volunteer and she took care of this woman … No, not beads this time.

Ted thrusts his head back like a bird. He pinches his lips with his two fingers and then expands his chest as he buttons his suit coat. He clears his throat. The warriors circle his chair. Sound of a rattle. Plumero raises his voice and bangs the table with his fist.

PLUMERO: Indian alcoholism …

Kingsley stiffens and looks over to Fannie. Fannie rolls her head and looks at the ceiling. Ted is pleased; the warriors have discovered his question.

TED: That's it! Yes, thank you, yes, my question is about Indian drinking, but it bothered me to say the word …

Ted examines his watch.

HAROLD: The old firewater thesis, of course, we should have known …

Kingsley is uncomfortable and interrupts the conversation.

KINGSLEY: What he means to say is that he has worked with American Indians who have had serious drinking problems and he appreciates how sensitive the subject can be … Even in the best of times, we all have had some problem with spirits …

HAROLD: The "Indians" seemed sober to me during the ball game …

PLUMERO: Even the "Anglos" …

The board room is silent. The warriors and directors all look off in different directions.

TED: That's what I mean … That's exactly what I wanted to ask you about … You are all so sober, and you should be proud that you are …

The warriors turn on their heels. Harold interrupts the director with a harsh tone of voice. Ted still enjoys the attention.

HAROLD: What is your question?

TED: My question is, ahh, how did all of you overcome the need and temptation to use alcohol? You are so sober, a credit to your race …

Fannie and Kingsley cover their eyes with their hands. Faces are frozen in time and place. Harold begins to smile. He claps his hands.

HAROLD: Pinch beans, pinch beans my friend are the cure …

The warriors hoot and trill. Ted seems confused.

TED: Pinch beans?

HAROLD: Pinch beans are the perfect booze blocker; the beans block the temptation to take alcohol from evil white men … Our proposal to establish coffee houses will lead to a sober, as well as a mythic, revolution …

TED: Fantastic, indeed this is fantasitic, you've got my vote for sure …

KINGSLEY: And not a minute too soon, I hasten to add …

HAROLD: Let me explain how our pinch beans will …

Kingsley stands and interrupts Harold; he raises his voice.

KINGSLEY: Harold, we congratulate you and your warriors on a fine presentation … something personal and ceremonial …

ANDREW: Ever so memorable …

HAROLD: Pinch seven beans once a day into warm water while looking at a tree and your delusions of progress and domination will dissolve …

The directors smile and applaud. The warriors have removed their "Anglos" shirts, but the directors still wear their "Indians" shirts. Harold moves closer to Kingsley at the end of the table.


HAROLD: Listen, I have been avoiding the real reason I need the thousand dollars … I did not want to trouble you with my personal problems.

KINGSLEY: Please, trust me …

HAROLD: My traditional grandmother died last week.

KINGSLEY: Harold, I am so sorry …

HAROLD: She lived a full and wonderful life; she cared for me during the hard times on the reservation, and now, well, we don't have the money to bury her … She is at home now laid out in the kitchen waiting to enter the spirit world … Do you suppose you could borrow me one thousand dollars to bury her?

KINGSLEY: Borrow? Oh, yes, of course … Harold, you should have come to me sooner …

Kingsley writes a check and hands it to Harold.

HAROLD: Thank you, you are most generous … Please keep this to yourself because I am embarrassed to ask my friends for money …

KINGSLEY: My lips are sealed … Could I attend the funeral?

HAROLD: Ahh, this is a traditional burial … But we will invite you up to the reservation in about a week.

Harold crosses the board room; he looks back to be sure he is not being watched and then endorses the check. He looks around again, sees that Kingsley is involved in a conversation, and then hands the check to Fannie.

HAROLD: At last, we are even …

Fannie examines the check, rolls her head, looks toward Kingsley, and then to Harold. She crumples the check in her fist.

Harold and the warriors smile and wave from the windows of the bus as it passes in slow motion on the interstate. Harold speaks, voiceover as the bus passes, in a poetic tone of voice. Guitar and sound of a rattle.

HAROLD: We are the Warriors of Orange and we move in {83} mythic time … We are elusive birds in borrowed nests, animals at the treelines in late winter … We are thunderclouds on the run … We are tricksters in the best humor, we leave no culture stains from separations, nothing so cruel as civilization and loneliness …

The bus disappears in the distance.

The Harold of Orange Coffee House at sunset. The bus stops in front of the building. The warriors stumble out and walk into the building. The lights are turned on in the coffee house, and the sign is illuminated. Harold is the last to leave the bus. Near the bus, with the coffee house in the background, he speaks to the camera for the last time.

HAROLD (to the camera): This is where the revolution starts, on a gravel road in the brush … At a reservation coffee house in the softwoods … Remember, you were here with some of the best trickster founders of this new earth …

Harold smiles and turns from the camera. He walks toward the coffee house. In the last shot Harold is seen through the front window of the coffee house with other warriors. Harold and the warriors burst into wild laughter and the scene fades.


Sundance Institute        
June 1983        


A Minnesota Screen Project produced by Film in the Cities

16 mm, color sound running time: 32 minutes

Original Music by  BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE
Director of Photography: GREGORY M. CUMMINS
Original Screenplay by  GERALD VIZENOR
Produced by  DIANE BRENNAN
Directed by  RICHARD WEISE

(alphabetical order)
        Marion Quiet     
    Fanny Mason     
Harold Sinseer     
        Son Bear     
Kingman Newton     
JAMES NOAH             
               Ted Velt     
                 New Crows     
   Andrew Burch     

Police Officer     GREG STEBNER 
  Second Police Officer     
       Warrior I     
               Warrior II     
               Warrior III     
       Director I     
               Director II     
  Director III     
Girl with Fry Bread     

Additional Warriors in the Coffee House

Additional Directors at Board Meeting



Naming Ceremony
JUDE BEAUCHAMP                     LOUISE BELLANGER               GAIL BOSWELL           
    SHELLY BOYD                             DEAN BRUCE                   JOAN CRAWFORD
     DONNA FOLSTAD                        RODNEY JEEMAN              SHANNO JENKINS             
WALTER JOURDAIN                     LORIE KRIEGER                           CHARLES H. LYGHT          
EARL PIKE                            SHARON ROMANO                             HANK STONECHILD      
DOREEN SMITH                  MORNING STAR TAYLOR                RODNEY TCHIDA          
ANITA TUCKER                            CINDY TUCKER                            CRYSTAL TUCKER           
RICHARD TUCKER                       FRANK WADE                              BONNIE WALLACE          

Soft Ball Game
RODNEY AILES                           DANA ARNDT                            DEBBIE COOPER
MIKE COOPER                              GERTRUDE FETTIC                          NATHANIEL FULLER
THOMAS GUNSALES                    JOHN HUEBNER                          OLIN MOORE
VICKI NORBY                               SHARON O'BRIEN                        MEGAN PETERSON
JAMES SCHULTZ                          REGGIE WALTON

Anthropology Students
ETHAN ADAM                              JEFFREY ANGNITSCH                  LISA BARNHILL
DAVID R. BRANDT                        AMY CHAPDELAINE                    GREER DEMPSTER
KATHLEEN G. DUFFY                    TERRY P. DUNN                           RENE V. FOSS
KIRSTEN FRANZTICH                    KIM GREEN                                           JENNIFER L. HART
JIM HEADLEY                               STUART HORWITZ                       MARGARET HUBBELL
KATHERINE HUBBELL                  STEVE KRAMER                          CHARLES O. KILARS
LESLIE LYNN KUNZE                   SUE KYLLONEN                          JAMES LUNDY
RUSS MEYER                                DORA L. LANIR                           CAROL LAWRENCE
MICHAEL P. LEVIN                       DAVID MARN                              PAUL MOCKAVOK
MICHELLE C. MYERS                   STEVEN NELSON                         KERRY M. OTTERSON
WILLIAM RICHARD                       DAVID ROGERS                          BRETT SCHUMACHER
RENEE SCHROEDER                      KEVIN SEIME                               ROBIN SOENCER
ROBERT SPITZER                          AMY M. SKEMP                            TIM STEINBRECKER
ANN E. STOCKES                          WENDY WALLEM                        JANE ZAMM

Production Manager     
Casting Director     
Production Sound Mixer     
Make-up Advisor     
Assistant Camera     
JERRY POPE          
Field Production Coordinator     
SHERYL MOUSLEY                 
              Set Decorator     
Cinematography Fellow     
Assistant to the Producer     
VICTORIA MOORE            
Second Assistant Camera     
C.T. HANSON                     
   Grip Electrician     
Assistant Casting Director     
ELIZABETH PACE                
Assistant to the Production Mgr     
         Make Up     


Sound Assistant     KAI HOLM           
                                              STEVEN BLACKBURN

    Production Assistants    
LEE STANFORD              
                                      SLATER CROSBY
                               OLIN MOORE

     Graphic Design    
                                        DOUG HENDERS
                                             HILTON GOTTSHALL

Assistants to the Director    
MARTIN DANIEL                  
                                         ANDREA K. SCOTT
Editing Assistant    
Still Photographer    
Wardrobe Consultants    
EMILY GALUSHA                
                                                     DARLENE WHITE EAGLE
                                                      DEFOREST WHITE EAGLE

Fellowships Administrator    
KARON SHERARTS                
Financial Development    
PATTY BROOKS               
                                      DAVID MADSON
                                      CURTIS WENZEL

Location Scouts    
                                      MARTIN DANIEL

Casting Assistants
                     CHUCK LARSON

Production Equipment    
 Sound Transfers and Mix    
CINE SOUND II                    
Film Processing and Printing    
DELDEN FILM LAB                           
 Music Recording Studio   
Title Camera    
Optical Printing    
Negative Cutting    
Sound Effects Recording    
ROGER SCHMITZ               
                               DAN GEIGER
Sound Effects Editor    
Music Score Consultant    
JACK NITZCHE                
Music Scoring Mixer    
JACK FEIN                   
Assistant Music Engineer    
Re-recording Mixer    


"Trickster," "Fast Bucks," "Anthropology Flute"
written and performed by

arranged and performed by

"When Shrimps Learn to Whistle," "June Bug," "Machine #2"
written and performed by
published by Round Wound Sound, Inc.

"Cripple Creek"
traditional, arranged and performed by
published by Round Wound Sound, Inc.

"How Long Have You Been Blind"
written by
performed by
published by Clara Music

"B.I.A. Blues"
written by
Red Crow Publishing

Produced by Film in the Cities
with major funding from:
Northwest Area Foundation
National Endowment for the Arts, a federal agency
Archie D. and Bertha H. Walker Foundation

Additional contributions were provided by:
the crew and cast of the production
SER Production Services, Inc.
Lighthouse, Inc.
A.R.A. Transportation
Polaroid Corporation
West Photo
Sage Cowles
James P. Lenfesty
John H. and Marcia L. Stout


This film was developed with the assistance of
Sterling Van Wagenen, Executive Director
Jennifer Walz, Managing Director

Resource Personnel
Robert Redford     Frank Daniel  
Sidney Pollack     Saul Bass     
    Karl Malden     JAC Redford
Dusan Makavejev     Jeff Dowd         
      Waldo Salt     Tom Bernard

The purpose of the Minnesota Screen Project is to produce dramatic films using the talents of Minnesota's writers, actors, and filmmakers and to bring the work of these artists to both Minnesota and national audiences. The screenplay is chosen by a selection panel and the film's director, from applications submitted by Minnesota writers. The crew consists of professional filmmakers, actors, and student interns.

        ©      1984 Film in the Cities
                 2388 University Avenue
                 St. Paul, Minnesota 55114

HAROLD OF ORANGE is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the screenwriters imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.


Calls for Papers


        Papers on all topics are welcome. We hope to offer five sessions, which may include panels, readings, discussion groups, as well as the presentation of papers. Possible session topics include:
        * the criticism and fiction of Louis Owens
        * critical response to Silko's Almanac of the Dead
        * the criticism and fiction of Gerald Vizenor
        * American Indians and popular culture
To propose a paper, please send a one-page abstract to Jennifer Sergi, 33 Nisbet Street, Providence RI 02906.
Deadline: January 10, 1994
        If you would like to organize a panel or session, please call Jennifer Sergi at 401/831-4315 as soon as possible.


        SAIL will publish a special issue on the work of Linda Hogan. The deadline for paper submission is 1 February 1994. All inquiries and papers should be sent to the Guest Editor:
                 Betty Louise Bell
                 Department of English, Haven Hall
                 University of Michigan
               Ann Arbor MI 48109
        Also forthcoming is a special issue on Contemporary American Indian Poetry; the submission deadline is 1 July 1994. Inquiries and submissions, which can include creative work and interviews, should be addressed to the Guest Editor of the issue:
                 Sandra L. Sprayberry
                 Department of English
                  BSC A-28
                 Birmingham-Southern College
                  Birmingham AL 35254


        The Council Press was founded to create a body of children's literature for the education of young Native American people to promote literacy, self-esteem, and cultural identity. The press seeks stories for early readers (K-3rd), middle elementary (4th-8th), and young adult (teen). Special emphasis will be placed on stories about modern Indian children, because of the dearth of such material and because of the positive and productive impact modern stories can have on young readers. Authors and artists will be encouraged to work within their immediate communities to reach children who will benefit from their model. Funding will be available to support authors and illustrators to read and present in schools and libraries, to travel to reservations and speak to children about the art and craft of writing and illustration.
        For more information, or to submit manuscripts, recommend authors and illustrators, or to volunteer to participate in the editorial board, please contact the Council Press: Carrie Jenkins Williams, 3000 Jefferson Street, Boulder CO 80304.


On the Translation of Native American Literatures. Ed. Brian Swann. Washington DC: Smithsonian Institution P, 1992. $45 cloth, ISBN 1-56098-074-5; $19.95 paper, 1-5609-8-099-0. 498 pages.

        Brian Swann's editorial energy and acumen are here demonstrated in a third collection of papers on Native American Literatures, following the path blazed by his Smoothing the Ground (Berkeley, 1983) and Recovering the Word (with Arnold Krupat, Berkeley, 1987). The earlier volumes dealt both with traditional ("classic") oral literatures, composed in Native languages, and with modern work written in English. The present volume focuses more sharply on questions of translation from Native languages into English. By the nature of the topic, a strong linguistic slant emerges, and most of the papers offer substantial passages in the original languages. As a group, the three collections have a "family" feel: the general effect is that of a continuing and productive conversation among scholars who read, quote, question, and build upon one another's work. To be sure, specialists will be able to criticize details (especially linguistic points) in some articles of the present volume, but these do not detract from its overall value.
        Swann's "Introduction" briefly shows how attitudes toward Native American Literatures have gone through several stages. In the early Eighteenth Century, Indian compositions "were regarded as the howls of wild beasts" (xiii); later, in the romantic period, they were thought to manifest a kind of natural eloquence, needing only the benevolent aid {92} of whites to be incorporated into Euroamerican literature. More modern approaches, however, have recognized that outsiders can never fully possess what may be found most appealing in Native Literatures, namely their "otherness"; as Swann says, "the desire is not for appropriation but some sort of participation" (xvii).
        I object only to Swann's neo-Romantic declaration of faith that "there is only one native America, one thought, one spirit" (xviii), from the Arctic to the Antarctic. To some observers, including many American Indians, one of the most notable features of Native languages, cultures, and literatures is their amazing diversity--their multiple adaptations, within relatively short historic periods, to the climatic, topographic, and ecological differences of two continents.
        The first major section of the volume, headed "Part One: General," begins with Arnold Krupat, "On the Translation of Native American Song and Story: A Theorized History." In this, one of the most valuable essays in the book, Krupat even-handedly summarizes the dialectical tension between accessibility and authenticity, which has characterized the interpretation of Native Literatures since the Eighteenth Century and which is still manifest in the contributions to this volume. At one extreme we have Henry Timberlake's eighteenth-century translation of a Cherokee war song into heroic couplets: "Like men we go, to meet our country's foes, / Who, woman-like, shall fly our dreaded blows" (6). Contrasted with this is Dell Hymes' "literalist" translation of a Chinook myth: "They lived there, Seal, her daughter, her younger brother. / After some time, now a woman got to Seal's younger brother" (16). On an entirely different dimension of contrast is the Navajo "Tenth Horse Hong of Frank Mitchell," in the "total translation" by Jerome Rothenberg (discussed in his own article, 74-75). This begins with the literal translation, "Boy-brought-up-within-the-Dawn it is I, I who am that one," then passes through an intermediate "Because I was the boy raised in the dawn" to reach an ultimate version that incorporates elements corresponding to the meaningless "vocables" of the Navajo original: "Because I was thnboyngnng raised ing the dawn NwnnN."
        Krupat makes it clear that translators have differed in terms of their backgrounds and goals. Some have had a knowledge of Native languages, from Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (on whose work Longfellow based his Hiawatha), in the Nineteenth Century, to Tedlock and Hymes in the Twentieth; others, like Rothenberg and Swann, have been content to rework earlier translations. Some translators, such as Matthews, Tedlock, and Hymes, have emphasized the goal of faithfulness to inherent Native literary structures; others, including Schoolcraft, Rothenberg, and Swann, have emphasized "re-creation" in forms {93} accessible to an Anglo audience.
        William M. Clements, "`Tokens of Literary Faculty': Native American Literature and Euroamerican Translation in the Early Nineteenth Century," is a close examination of the approach to translation followed in work like that of Schoolcraft. Examples include prose such as "three times has the night-queen turned her full face to smile upon the prowess of Lacota arms" (41), and poetry reshaped "through unknown Procrustean adjustments" (42). The basic idea, as Clements shows, was that "translators should transform Native American oral performances into Euroamerican literature" (46).
        John Bierhorst continues the historical survey in his "Incorporating the Native Voice: A Look Back from 1990." Although himself a prolific translator/adapter, Bierhorst here discusses the influence that translations of Native American Literatures have had on twentieth-century non-Indian writers in both Anglo and Latin America, including Gary Snyder, W. S. Merwin, Octavio Paz, and Darcy Ribeiro. Bierhorst suggests that Euroamerican audiences, in their response to such writers, participate "in the Native American's incremental progress toward restitution" (60).
        Jerome Rothenberg, "`We Explain Nothing, We Believe Nothing': American Indian Poetry and the Problematics of Translation," casts light on work of this author, mentioned above. Rothenberg "has been extensively criticized for the liberties he takes with Native expression" (Krupat 14); however, in the present essay, Rothenberg "offers a thoughtful and nondefensive defense of his ongoing commitment to `total translation'" (Krupat 28). This is a very personal and subjective account of Rothenberg's involvement with Native poetry. He claims no competence in the American Indian languages on which his versions are based, and he disarmingly admits that "this puts any such translations into question, except . . . as guidelines for a new poetics" (69). Nevertheless, Rothenberg says: "the doubt I felt was more an incitement to continue than an injunction to desist. . . . I've long found questions to be of greater interest to me than answers" (77). Such open-mindedness can be admired even by those who take a more "literalist" approach to translation.
        "Part II: North America" contains 11 articles dealing with North American Literatures. Most of these are case studies in translation from particular languages, yet each of them makes points of general relevance.
        The first essay in the section is the most general: Dell Hymes' "Use All There Is to Use." Here Hymes updates the general principles of his "measured verse" translations, with illustrations from both Chinookan and Tonkawa. He begins by vividly comparing his approach with that of Dennis Tedlock:


I would like to resign from the role of "Hymes" in the drama "Hymes vs. Tedlock." To be sure, there are differences in what we . . . prefer to do. Dennis is concerned most of all with the moment of performance, and I am much concerned with the competence that informs it. Dennis trusts most of all the speaking voice, I evidence of recurrent pattern. That means that I run the risk of finding pattern that isn't there. . . . Dennis runs the risk of missing pattern that is.
     What is not so is that there is a fundamental difference between us with regard to the importance of the oral life of narrative. . . . What is particularly not so is the equation, Tedlock : Hymes = pause : particle. Dennis has sometimes attended to particles as relevant, and I have never attended to particles alone. The point of method is not to look for any single feature, but to look for what counts in the text and tradition. (84; emphasis supplied)

This last point is expressed in Hymes' title, "Use All There Is to Use," taken from Kenneth Burke. Later, Hymes reworks the idea, referring to use of ethnographic and cross-cultural data: "One has to read all there is to read, whatever its source. Each fresh venture will require fresh reading, because what is relevant now may not have been relevant then" (117). These are, of course, instructions for an asymptotic approach to an ideal goal. But the goal can be made even higher. Recalling that Native Literatures can now be recorded not only on paper but also on audiotape and videotape, we can say: Hear all there is to hear; see all there is to see.
        Among the writers represented above, the variant usage of the term "ethnopoetics" is occasionally disturbing. The term was coined in 1970 by Jerome Rothenberg and Dennis Tedlock, when they founded the journal Alcheringa, and it was used to cover a wide range of interests in traditional oral literature. The subsequent breakup of that editorial team was accompanied by a split in the use of the term: when Rothenberg speaks of "the ethnopoetic enterprise" (60), he refers to work like his own, often done at some remove from the Native sources. By contrast, more anthropologically oriented and "literalist" translators such as Tedlock and Hymes have used "ethnopoetics" to refer to work like their own (see Hymes 83). Against this background, I was confused to find Clements saying that "some critics of the ethnopoetics movement, one of whose aims is to produce texts reflecting the Native esthetic, have argued that some contemporary translators are actually imposing their own postmodern poetics on the texts they create" (47). In fact, the critic referred to is myself (in my {95} American Indian Linguistics and Literature [Berlin: 1984]: 83); and the translator whom I was criticizing is Rothenberg. In fact, both Rothenberg and I have attempted to produce translations "reflecting the Native esthetic," but we have taken different approaches. I hope the word ethnopoetics can survive in the maximally general sense of its original coinage; along with Hymes, I am unhappy to hear it suggested, of any approach, "That's not ethnopoetics" (112).
        Judith Berman, "Oolachan-Woman's Robe: Fish, Blankets, Masks, and Meaning in Boas's Kwakw'ala Texts," gives a linguistic and rhetorical analysis, in near-microscopic detail, of a short myth collected by Franz Boas in 1894 in the Kwakw'ala language of the Kwagul (Kwakiutl) people. The text describes how Oolachan-Woman created a magical abundance of herring (an oolachan is a herring-like fish). As translated by Boas, the story seems incoherent, but Berman argues that it makes sense when re-interpreted in terms of sexual word-play: "Boas was told a lewd story and didn't know it" (125). Nevertheless, Berman concludes by praising Boas: he never suggested that his translations be taken as the last word. Rather, he published 11 volumes of texts in the Kwakw'ala language, and these primary data are still available for re-analysis and re-translation. However, Berman says nothing about the degree to which Kwakw'ala is still spoken, or about any field experience she may have had with the language. In her exclusive focus on Boas' publications and manuscripts, she is clearly working within what has been called "anthropological philology," as compared with "anthropological linguistics."
        The same is true to varying degrees in the next three essays, which deal with Salishan languages of the Pacific Northwest. M. Dale Kinkade, "Translating Pentlatch," compares two translations of a myth collected by Franz Boas in 1886, in a now extinct language of British Columbia. Nile Robert Thompson, "The Discovery of Nursery Tales in Twana," recounts his attempt to translate an enigmatic seven-word story from a language of Washington, the last fluent speaker of which died in 1980; he finally decides that it must be understood as a "nursery" version of a longer myth. Toby C. S. Langen, "Translating Form in Classical American Indian Literature," discusses problems of rendering a Lushootseed myth tape-recorded in 1952. The difficulties of such archival research are clear: the translator cannot go back to the original storyteller to seek additional explanation. Yet these papers show how much can be done in spite of the handicap.
        The Hopi language, still very much alive, is the topic of two papers. Peter Whiteley, "Hopitutungwni: `Hopi Names' as Literature," argues that Hopi personal names are not just meaningless labels, but rather--quoting Edward Sapir's characterization of some American Indian words as "tiny imagist poems"--that they constitute a literary {96} genre, because they are individually created to convey both information (about clan membership) and aesthetic pleasure. David Leedom Shaul, "A Hopi Song-poem in `Context,'" analyzes the words of a butterfly dance song within its musical framework, concluding that "The envelope and simultaneity of text and sound make the song-poem a three-dimensional experience" (234).
        Paul G. Zolbrod's "Navajo Poetry in Print and in the Field: An Exercise in Text Retrieval," is above all an account of his personal quest for understanding of the Navajo emergence myth. He concludes that "we need to revise our assumption that poetry exists only where there is literacy" (252). In the context of the present volume, this might be seen as "preaching to the choir" (it may even provoke the reply, "What do you mean, We, Kemo Sabe?"). Donald Bahr, "Translating Papago Legalese," strikes a different note, since he is concerned with the translation not of "classic" texts or indeed of "literature" as usually understood, but rather of legal documents issued by the Papago Tribal Council.
        Two articles deal with Lakota. Julian Rice, "Narrative Styles in Dakota Texts," refers to stories that were transcribed, translated, and published in 1932 by Ella Deloria--a native Lakota speaker, student of Franz Boas, and co-author with Boas of a Lakota grammar (1941). Rice shows here how, in spite of Deloria's Native expertise, she avoided translations that would closely reflect stylistic features of Lakota; rather, she adapts her translations to the narrative conventions of English. William K. Powers, "Translating the Untranslatable: The Place of the Vocable in Lakota Song," is concerned with the use of "non-semantic" syllables like he ya na hee yee yoo wee (but his adjective "vocabalic" raises my hackles) and with ways of incorporating them into translations.
        "Part Three: Central and South America" concentrates on Mesoamerica. Miguel León-Portilla, "Have We Really Translated the Mesoamerican `Ancient Word'?" is concerned not with the methodology of translation, but rather with the extent to which we can achieve authenticity in analyzing and translating alphabetically notated texts from Native languages of the Colonial period. It has been suggested that post-Conquest texts are compromised both by the act of "reducing" an oral tradition to writing and by the prejudices of the Spaniards (or Native converts) who wrote them down. But as regards orality, León-Portilla reminds us that aboriginal Mesoamerican culture did not lack writing or books: as early as 1514, the Spanish encountered Indians who recognized European books as counterparts of their own. Peoples such as the Nahuas and Mixtecs used pictographic symbols, and the Maya had what we now realize to be a full-fledged logosyllabic {97} writing system. Furthermore, the value of the post-Conquest texts is shown by the close correspondence of their contents to material in the 15 surviving pre-Conquest codices. On this basis, it is possible to assert that, in translating alphabetic texts, "we have indeed translated parts of the Mesoamerican `ancient word'" (334).
        The next two articles deal specifically with Colonial Nahuatl. Louise M. Burkhart, "The Amanuenses Have Appropriated the Text: Interpreting a Nahuatl Song of Santiago," describes the Psalmodia christiana, a Christian hymn book written in Nahuatl by four Native scholars in 1558-60, under the direction of the great Franciscan ethnographer Bernardino de Sahagún. A hymn in praise of Saint James the Apostle is shown to contain a mixture of Spanish and Native sytlistic elements, culminating in a eulogy of itlapalteuilo-tlauhquechol-ezçotzi, the saint's "precious blood like amethysts, like roseate spoonbills" (352). Burkhart concludes that Sahagún's Indian amanuenses "saw translation as a transformative process through which they could construct texts appropriate to their own place and time and their own concerns as nobles and cultural brokers in a colonized society" (353). Turning to the task of the modern translator, Willard Gingerich, "Ten Types of Ambiguity in Nahuatl Poetry, or William Empson Among the Aztecs," discusses a variety of hazards, including problems of orthography, metrics, morphology, metaphor, and cultural context.
        The next three papers also deal with Mesoamerican peoples. Kay Sammons, "Translating Poetic Features in the Sierra Popoluca Story of Homshuk," presents the myth of the maize spirit Homshuk from a community of southern Veracruz state; she gives the complete Native text and translation, with a discussion of narrative patterning and line structure. Allan F. Burns, "Modern Yucatec Oral Literature," presents a translation of an Orpheus story from modern Yucatán, taking particular notice of both Native and European elements. Dennis Tedlock, "The Story of Evenadam," in fact presents the story of "Eve and Adam"--treated variably as a singular or plural being--as told by don Mateo Uz Abaj, a Quiché Mayan of Guatemala. Tedlock reminds us that the Native storytellers, "when it comes to the processes by which their own discourse might be represented, edited, and expounded upon, have their own habits and notions before we get there" (406). He further emphasizes a point also made in Burns' article: that the Mayan peoples regard all narrative, and indeed all discourse, as arising out of dialog (407). Accordingly, Tedlock gives us a tape transcript that includes not only don Mateo's story and his running self-commentary, but also the responses of his gringo audience, and even some contributions from the faulty tape recorder: "•ano•ther• th*i*ng that ~de~fea*ted ~us / was a de~vi~l / who was *ca*lled the Ser•pent" (410).
        The last two articles move farther south. Joel Sherzer, "Modes of Representation and Translation of Native American Discourse: Examples from the San Blas Kuna," dealing with a culture of Panama, notes that the understanding and interpretation of any discourse, in any language, involves "comprehending a totality of elements" (427). He sees his ethnopoetic task as twofold: first, to capture the Kuna ways of experiencing a given discourse, and second, "to render the Kuna experience meaningful for . . . an English-reading audience." Since every performance is multi-dimensional, he proposes several alternative modes of representation and translation, each of which conveys particular aspects of the original. Clearly, Sherzer is serious about following Hymes' advice to "Use all there is to use."
        The last contribution, Nancy H. Hornberger's "Verse Analysis of `The Condor and the Shepherdess,'" is an ethnopoetic reworking of a Peruvian Quechua narrative, in versions from two different sources. The explicit verse analysis provides the means for clear specification of both the similarities and the differences between the two versions.
        The Index is unusually full and useful, and the volume as a whole meets high standards of editing, design, and typography. The degree of sophistication in Native languages possessed by many of the contributors encourages us to believe that we have come a long way from the wigwam of Nokomis: we are in an increasingly better position to value Native Literatures for their own qualities, rather than for the degrees to which they can be squeezed into Euroamerican molds.

William Bright         

a/b: Auto/Biography Studies 7.1 (Fall 1992).

        In this special issue on "Native American Identities and Autobiography," Hertha Wong has edited a collection of essays that will advance not only the study of American Indian Literatures but also understanding of the genre of autobiography. The editor's concise introduction {99} surveys for the general reader the major issues in scholarship on life-story texts by American Indian authors, including both those who recited their stories and those who inscribed them. The following eight essays offer a range of types of autobiography and critical approaches to it.
        Documents exploring the production of autobiography open and close the collection. In "Opening the Shawl" Susan Scarberry-García offers a thoughtful meditation on the process defined by Arnold Krupat and now invoked in every discussion of "original bicultural composite composition." Scarberry-García is engaged in a collaboration with José Rey Toledo, an artist from Jemez, in the creation of his text. In a discussion that is itself an example of recursive, accretive structure, Scarberry-García explores the significance of a single incident that has recurred in her conversations with José Rey and how the textualizing of this exprience through their work together produces that significance.
        The last piece in the issue, Inez Hernandez' "Tejana Intonations," is also a meditative text that gains its power from the author's associative returns to her family, her ancestors, and the places that hold meaning for her in working through her personal expression of being Indian, Chicana, Mestiza. Hernandez also embraces identities such as educator and scholar as she draws together family, traditional music, and theoretical analysis. (I had the opportunity to hear the author present this paper at a scholarly conference, where she sang the songs included in it; while the essay is a valuable exploration of the issues it takes up, it remains in some respects but a script for a vital and engaging performance. Thus, although the point is not made explicit in the essay, Hernandez' text is also related to other oral-performance scripts including dictated autobiographies.)
        Two contributors offer new light on classical texts and some of the vexing questions associated with them. G. Thomas Couser revisits the Neihardt/Black Elk collaboration in "Black Elk Speaks Again," providing a lucid overview of the considerable body of related texts that now surround Black Elk Speaks: Wallace Black Elk's book, Mary Crow Dog's Lakota Woman, and the scholarship of Raymond DeMallie and Julian Rice, as well as the view of missionary Paul B. Steinmetz. Couser also makes the important point that, regardless of the corrections of later scholars, Black Elk Speaks has more currency among both Lakota and non-Lakota readers than any other version of Black Elk's story.
        In "Speaking Cross Boundaries," Jonathan Bradford Brennan undertakes a reappraisal of the life and work of Okah Tubbee and Laah Ceil, a mid-nineteenth-century couple who created a unique space for themselves and their gifts in the hostile world of the slave-holding South. Brennan raises several points worth pursuing: structural {100} features as defining elements of American Indian autobiographies, the restrictiveness of the binary white-other as the only terms in the discourse around race, and the exclusion of Tubbee/Ceil's work from the emerging canon of American Indian autobiography, paralleling the authors' own marginality (Okah Tubbee was born a slave) in the world they lived in.
        Betty Louise Bell's "Almost the Whole Truth," a study of Gerald Vizenor's Interior Landscapes, likewise approaches Vizenor's text in the context of his other work and his on-going exploration of the notion of the crossblood. In serendipitous dialogue with Hernandez' reflections on mestizaje, Bell's interrogation of the notion "crossblood" finds a negative valuation in the larger culture; her commentary suggests that "silence," as well as the unique and extravagant word-play that characterizes Vizenor's work, must be attended to for how it speaks identity.
        Two transcribed and translated autobiographies that have received little critical attention, Son of Old Man Hat and Mountain Wolf Woman, are examined by Robley Evans and Melissa Hearn, respectively. In "Precarious Autobiography," Evans develops a reading that sees Left Handed's story as exemplifying through a kind of imitative form the values and even daily tasks of traditional Navajo life. Similarly, in "Iterative Score from a Singulative Motif," Hearn sees the recursive structure of Mountain Wolf Woman's sequence of stories as a re-enactment of her self-perception as a Winnebago woman. These two articles, which extract from finished texts principles of iteration and recursion, are usefully placed in dialogue with Scarberry-García's discussion of a text-in-process; the three together show a new critical vocabulary emerging to deal with these texts that elude the expectations of linear plot.
        Recursiveness and iteration are also important keys to understanding the song texts discussed by Kathleen M. Donovan in "Havasupai Women's Songs." Donovan examines transcriptions of women's song texts for evidence of self-definition and self-creation in a culture labeled misogynist by ethnographers. She finds that repetition, along with devices such as quotation and naming of place, offers the woman a highly expressive technique within circumscribed areas of appropriate behavior.
        Hertha Wong and the editors of a/b: Auto/Biography Studies are to be commended for making this important collection of studies available.

Helen Jaskoski        


Forked Tongues: Speech, Writing and Representation in North American Indian Texts. David Murray. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1991. $39.95 cloth, ISBN 0-253-33942-1; $14.50 paper, 0-253-20650-2. 188 pages.

        I find this book stimulating and maddening. On the good days, it is the kind of book I wish I had written, and on the bad days, I fear that this is the kind of book I am writing. You see I ended up struggling on every page--not struggling to understand it exactly, though it does require a familiarity with a wide range of contemporary critical theory, but struggling to move rapidly from one set of critical terms to another in a relatively short space. However, it is a book with which I want to argue, but in the best sense of dialogue. Yet when I got to the end, I was not sure exactly what I had been shown, why these texts were chosen, what is the connection, and how I was going to use this book in my research or teaching. But maybe that sounds too negative for a book I really have a number of good things to say about because Murray desires to demonstrate the "usefulness of seeing many of the literary and ethnographic approaches to Indian materials in terms of a wider debate over modernism and postmodernism" (65).
        Murray wants to make problematic our reading of a number of texts that represent Native American voice and thus identity. However, the crisis of representation that has swung through all the social sciences in the last 20 some years has already redefined literary studies, so in that sense his book is not as revolutionary it might first appear. Did he really think scholars do not realize that white representations of Indians are a problem? Okay, so he wants to define his view of the parameters of the problem. I am in sympathy with his purpose, which is to show how the major, contemporary theoretical discussions improve our appreciation of the representational texts he chooses.
        His introduction sets out the essential dichotomy between difference and similarity as the starting positions of textual "discourse on Indianness." He posits a mediator/translator who creates the Indian voice/identity for his culture (and may efface himself), and a self-{102}sustaining discourse evolving over centuries. In reviewing selected texts from this discourse, his method will be to "show the instability of each of these overlapping discourses, and how they can be dialogised by using one discourse against another, or by locating points of contradiction or hesitation in the texts." This leads him to examine the power relationships of those in the mediator/translator position and explore their totalizing cultural frameworks. This agenda puts him firmly on the field of postmodern literary discourse.
        Chapter One, "Translation," rephrases the similarity/difference dichotomy in terms of two attitudes toward translation: one that sees an "unknowable and untouchable otherness" and another that sees "the rapport of unproblematic translation." These two positions create differing attitudes toward representation of Indian voice and attempt to efface "the issues of power in relation to translation" that Murray wishes to foreground. Chapter Two, "Languages," explores early linguistic discussions of the nature of Indian language. Murray tries to show how these are flawed, culturally motivated attempts to essentialize difference and reserve writing and a superior mode of thinking for Euroamericans. Chapter Three, "Indian Speech and Speeches," takes the groundwork from the previous two chapters and applies it to early published accounts of Indian orators.
        In this chapter and Chapter Four on the texts of early Christian Indians, Murray is at his best. He presents an interesting and illuminating deconstruction of Indian speechmaking as seen in white published texts, explaining how they fix the speakers in noble savagism, making their words become safe representations. Drawing on ideas about Native American culture and language, the white cultural attitudes and their support for a perceived, larger, historical drama take power out of words. In the ideological role of the idea of natural eloquence, Murray sees a successful attempt to overwrite Indian words. Thus speeches that would appear to be self-representing can be understood to represent something else in the white cultural dimension. In his discussion of Samson Occom and William Apes in Chapter Four, Murray tries to show the collision of an official voice and a vernacular voice in their work and especially how they use this dialogic interaction to refuse "white assumptions even while using the language in which they are encoded." Through this method, Murray concludes, ". . . the whites are forced to see in the mirror the results of their own acts, their own creations, rather than the `other,' the natural Indian."
        A strength of this chapter is that Murray addresses the theoretical problem surrounding the identification of a "voice" to which he can ascribe Occom's or Apes' purpose. Yet his weakness is characteristic of the theoretical diffuseness that permeates the book. After quoting {103} Foucault on the ability of discourse to transmit power and to undermine it, and questioning if all authorial presence is constituted by the power of the dominant culture, he admits it is difficult to find a sound notion of authorial intention for a marginalized writer. He sees hope in Bakhtin's polyvocality and then quotes Arnold Krupat to defend his use of the concept of "voice" as "a willed line of informed approach" (Voice in the Margin 19). He adopts this tentative approach and asserts he will include the role of reading in his analysis. Yet the rest of the chapter, while good, is rather conventional. He sidesteps Foucault and never comes back to the role of reading. When he struggles with the question of an authentic voice, he retreats into saying publications of that day existed to fill some white need, so we are unable to talk about authenticity. What a perfect place to bring in polyvocality, yet he does not. Even if you extend Bakhtin to show and assert the domination of context over text, Murray could address the nature of the discourse fields engaged to delineate reading from mis-reading. I thought he was going to follow Raymond Williams into a discussion of culture vs. subcultures. This would have required Murray to discuss some specific historical and cultural interactions, and this he avoids throughout the book. I kept wishing Murray could have shown me something about the hegemonic nature of the discourse he examines, but for a discussion built on the concept of dialogic interaction, his analysis is rather static. I guess my major complaint is that he promises so much and delivers so little.
        I find his long Chapter Five, "Autobiography and Authorship: Identity and Unity," to be derivative of much of the work done on Indian autobiography in the last decade, especially by Krupat. He cites Ricoeur to set up a critical dichotomy between an "I" in the text and the cultural conventions of literary form. Though he cites Clifford and Bakhtin throughout the book, he does not bring Clifford's sense of identity as negotiation or Bakhtin's discussion of polyvocality and the other to play when he really needs them. He adopts a rigid sense of cultural identity and locks all the texts into his dichotomy. Though he acknowledges Indian narrative conventions as influencing autobiography, he never explores that discourse field. On the other hand, the self-sustaining discourse mentioned in the Introduction and that played a role in the first few chapters seems to drop by the way here.
        Inexplicably, the chapter moves on to discuss contemporary novels in terms of modern and traditional identity. His attempt is to make problematic the concept of wholeness or unity in contemporary writing, concluding "in the existing body of American Indian writing, the idea of wholeness and unity are more usually an expression of a nostalgia without any political cutting edge--a nostalgia for tribal unity, and for a simplicity which fits neatly into the patterns of literary Romanticism"{104} (88). And this after discussing Winter in the Blood and Ceremony.
        Calling this desire for unity a universalist assumption, he tests it against what he calls "the decenterness of postmodernism" by examining how use of the local may help in the postmodern attempt to sustain, not repress, contradictions. He sidesteps Gerald Vizenor and comes to some startling conclusions:

Another way of putting this is to say that modern Indian writers writing in English are not so very different from white ethnopoets Silko criticises, in their relation to Indian cultures. . . . Perhaps it is worth risking the charges of cultural imperialism or universalising to argue that the most useful opening up of cultural forms is still to be found in Jerome Rothenberg rather than any Indian writer, both in his anthologies and in his use in his own poetry of the most formally radical aspects of modernism. (92-93)

        I have so much to say about this section I don't even know where to begin arguing with him. It may be unfair of me to excerpt his conclusions, but I do so because you really have to look at this chapter. I remember cultural brahmin Helen Vendler saying much the same thing when we discussed Native writers. Let me just ask if this really is the major goal of contemporary Native American writers, and the one by which they should be evaluated? Isn't there something about community missing here, or at least interpretative communities?
        Chapter Six reviews the work of Boas, Jacobs, Hymes and Levi-Strauss on the Grizzly Woman stories to show how the creation of the texts and their interpretations reveal assumptions about "larger wholes or totalities, like myth, literature or culture." Using the ideas of similarities and difference, and examining inconsistencies, Murray presents an interesting discussion of the ideas of culture, otherness, and text, as well as an examination of the role of the mediator/translator informing the texts and making them express totalizing cultural attitudes.
        His final chapter, "Dialogues and Dialogics," I find the most interesting and useful, perhaps because he abandons his discussions of identity and moves to an exploration of the contemporary notion of dialogics as a cure for monologic, objective, and authoritative voice, especially as it appears in the current anthropological debate. I think he effectively makes problematic the concept of dialogue as an interpretative model, concluding it is "a very real question about whether dialogue is really an epistemological and methodological as much as a political and moral issue" (146). My only problem with this last chapter is that I am unsure why he chose Cushing and Benedict for {105} extended discussion since dialogue was not their intention. This chapter could really stand by itself as an excellent discussion of the question of a reflexive anthropology.
        The book has an impressive bibliography of work on Indian materials and contemporary theory, but I must point out that there are a number of places where sources cited in the text are not listed in the bibliography. For instance, try to find the references to Jameson in footnotes 11 and 14 of Chapter Six. Oh well, I know how publishers can mess you up.
        I've gone on too long about this book, and while I think there is a great deal of excellent discussion, it seems to jump around so much, and make problematic what already has been, that I am not sure how useful has been his attempt to look at approaches to Indian materials in terms of postmodernism. His analysis of questions of power works to focus meaning on the way texts reveal or hide the white/Indian conflict. In other works, what is worth discussing in Native American Literatures is what they say to the white cultural debate. His style is one where he does try not to make prescriptive pronouncements, opting for the raising of questions and phrasing his points in a qualified manner. His qualification, hedging, and quick efforts to tie some point into some position in a postmodern debate may be some scholar's idea of reasoned toughmindedness, but it really yields few lasting results. Yet with all this, I still have to say it is very suggestive, provocative, engaging work--a genuine contribution to the field and a work we should be talking about.

James Ruppert        

Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives. Ray A. Young Bear. Iowa City: U of Iowa P, 1992. $24.95 cloth, ISBN 0-87745-356-X. 281 pages.

        Black Eagle Child is a very special book--for readers and for the author, Ray A. Young Bear. It's special as a breakthrough work, a {106} transitional work in Young Bear's progress as a poet and a writer, a work that synthesizes much of his past writing while simultaneously making giant strides along new pathways.
        Now in mid-life as a person and in mid-career as a writer, Young Bear offers us and himself an imaginative account of his making as an artist. Black Eagle Child most certainly belongs to the tradition of American autobiography and to the tradition of "portraits of an artist as a young man"--but with what a powerful difference!
        For here in The Facepaint Narratives of Young Bear's dramatization of himself as Edgar Bearchild--resident of the Black Eagle Child Settlement and of the beautiful, crazy, angst-ridden world of his own darkly humorous mind and heart--author and reader see and feel what it's like to love and do battle with an aboriginal heritage in a modern world.
        Just as Edgar Bearchild and his buddies, Ted Facepaint and Junior Pipestar, are only distancing disguises for Young Bear himself, so is Black Eagle Child a renaming of the Mesquakie Settlement near Tama, Iowa. In the absurdist world of Bearchild and Facepaint, and their exuberant and depressed friends, kin, and acquaintances, the Settlement elementary school becomes the Weeping Willow Elementary School and the nearby south-central town of What Cheer becomes Why Cheer, academic home of first-love Dolores Fox-King, and the Why Cheer High School Indian girls' club.
        Pathos and passion abound in Black Eagle Child Settlement and its environs. These set-aside acres of the Settlement are for all purposes forgotten by the bigwigs in Des Moines and demeaned by do-gooders who devise schemes to give all tribal members a few thousand dollars for a sociological experiment to see what effects "wealth" brings to the "Indians."
        Young Bear's satirical thrusts spare few in either the white or Native American cultures as he crosses between the two worlds, writing not so much as "marginal man" but as a seer and shaman whose biting, atavistic images slice away all cant.
        Edgar's anger is apparent throughout, but nowhere more trenchantly than in his long eulogy to the returning ghost of his companion singer and reveller, Pat "Dirty" Red Hat, whose drunken death in a car wreck is relegated to mere state statistics--money unwisely granted, confirmation of a test-case hypothesis. It is during Edgar's stint as a visiting poet in eastern Washington, where Young Bear taught in 1987, and a powwow in White Swan, Washington, that Pat haunts Edgar's memories.
        Edgar Bearchild and Ted choose to reside in the Settlement, attempting to know, to connect with their heritage, their elders, their {107} Star-Medicine religion. In such a localized world, small happenings loom large as adventures, as all-important moments of living. Edgar says it best in his memories of Ugly Man Pat: "Due to our geographic and cultural isolation, we were sentimental. Twenty-four hours after anything occurred, it was recollected."
        One of the largest loomings and most magically real narratives is "The Supernatural Strobe Light," an at once ancient and futuristic encounter by Edgar and his post-1973 girlfriend/wife, Selene Buffalo Husband, with three evil, defiant owls.
        Edgar wanders West to Claremont, California, as Young Bear himself did when he attended Pomona College in 1970, and Ted Facepaint visits him. Together they experience an "eclectic California" of drugs and sex and the wonderland rhythms of Jefferson Airplane and rock'n'roll. The masterful Dickensian adolescent debauchery and worldly descent of David Copperfield and Steerforth have nothing on Young Bear's terrific, archetypal rendering of this particular chapter in Ted's and Edgar's rites of passage. Aside from coed carnality with Colleen, an "athletic Mexican-American girl," letters from home are the highest of stylistic high points.
        Adolescent love pangs begin earlier for Edgar, of course, and the Pomona years are anticipated in time spent at Luther College in 1968 when Edgar attends college prep classes for "deprived minorities." It is here, on the Decorah campus, that his 19 months of dating zestful Dolores Fox-King in high school before she graduated and enrolled in Morningside College preoccupy his thoughts and dreams and anticipate the true love of Selene.
        Edgar's struggling years as a young poet--his applications for various grants such as a creative writing fellowship from the Maecenas Foundation, his years holed up, waiting for inspiration on the Settlement, virtually papers with paper, pasted to his body like a cocoon and hanging, suspended, awaiting some kind of emergent metamorphosis of genius--now fully and finally come to fruition.
        Look! He has come through! Young Bear has arrived! We, too, can chant with Pat "Dirty" Red Hat, in the words of his shared song, "Shining Black Eagle Child Dancer": "Come and look at the best dancer; come and look at this Black Eagle Child, the one who shines so."
        Run to read Black Eagle Child: The Facepaint Narratives. Ah, such shining it is!

Robert F. Gish        


another distance: new and selected poems. Lance Henson. Norman: Point Riders, 1991. $9.00 paper, ISBN 0-937280-30-5. 63 pages.

        The first two poems in another distance were inspired by Lance Henson's grandmother, Rena Cook, who died in 1988. Her words in "poem from a master beadworker" go far beyond themselves, poignantly stating how much the act of creating means to an artist:

                 i close my eyes and bead in my head
                 and then i cry

                 i cry

                 and i guess my tears are the beads

Out of Henson's minimalist style emerges a depth of emotion rare in literature. His poetry illustrates his belief that Indians are "linked to a metaphysical reality" and "live lives of heightened imagery" (Henson's words at the Native American Writers' Forum, Telluride, Colorado, 27 September 1991). His natural way of expressing the cultural reality of the southern Cheyennes through his own personal experience is what makes his poetry so unique and powerful.
        Henson has travelled and presented many readings in Europe during the past several years. His poetry has been translated into 22 languages, and five of his 13 books have European publishers. A number of the poems in this new book, including "a dream of european stones," written for his grandmother, emerge from travel in Europe. There are poems here from Italy, Frysland, the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and Luxemburg. In some ways they remind one of N. Scott Momaday's poetry about Russia; both poets have described a foreign landscape from Native American sensibilities, but Henson writes more concisely, in the symbolist mode.

        These lines are from the first of "two poems at elisabettas house":
                 again i hear the deep sounds of life
                 and try to write them
                 yet find only these few words
                 that are a broken vase of hope
                 in the rain
                 and the last ember in the fireplace
                 smoldering and alone

and these are from the second:

                 my life is the dark sound
                 of someone walking on bruised stars
                 fallen to ground
                 as shards of stone
                 lit by the sun
                 and the seas tears

Henson finds precise metaphors to express an understanding of experiences that are at once metaphysical, geophysical, and emotional.
        There is a wide range of language and time here--all the way from poems like "she wolf song," written bilingually in Cheyenne and in English, to others like "talking truckstop blues" that are filled with the images and words of contemporary America. You see in these poems both the fear within the hunted and the arrogance of the bounty hunters, past and present.
        I had this book with me on a recent trip to Mexico and Guatemala, and, on top of a Mayan pyramid at Zaculeu, I read Henson's "american anthem" to the other Witnesses for Peace there with me on a Sunday afternoon. The poem grieves for the children who live in fear and for all of us living on the spoils of the brutal conquest:

                 in the end
                 there is a sore dusk
                 toward which we all walk
                 across the mirage of america
                 trying through our anger to pray

Henson's another distance is particularly relevant to our time. Indigenous or European, we share a common humanity, and Henson's poems can help one to see and to feel it.

Norma C. Wilson        


Nora Barry teaches American Indian Literature, Contemporary Literature, and Humanities courses at Bryant College, where she is a Professor of English. She has published articles on James Welch, Louise Erdrich, and N. Scott Momaday.

William Bright is Professor Emeritus of Linguistics and Anthropology, UCLA; Professor Adjoint in Linguistics, University of Colorado, Boulder; author of A Coyote Reader (U of California P, 1992); and Editor of the journal Language in Society (Cambridge UP).

Robert F. Gish is Professor of English and Director of Ethnic Studies at California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo. His most recent books are Songs of My Hunter's Heart: A Western Kinship (Iowa State UP) and First Horses: Stories of the New West (U of Nevada P).

Irene Gonzales (Mescalero Apache/Yaqui) is a former student of Gerald Vizenor at the University of California, Berkeley, and is completing her degree in Ethnic Studies.

Helen Jaskoski, immediate past General Editor of SAIL, writes fiction, poetry, and articles on American literature and poetry therapy.

Patricia Linton is Assistant Professor of English at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her interests include twentieth-century literature, postmodernism, and narrative theory. She is particularly interested in literary "border crossings" that challenge cultural or aesthetic boundaries.

Juana María Rodríguez is a doctoral student in the Ethnic Studies Graduate Group at the University of California at Berkeley. Her research interests include theorizing sexuality, power, and subjectivity in discourse.

James Ruppert teaches in the English and Alaska Native Studies Departments at the University of Alaska--Fairbanks. He is a past President of ASAIL and a frequent contributor to a number of magazines.

Winona Stevenson (Cree/Assiniboine) is Assistant Professor of Native {111} Studies at the University of Saskatchewan on educational leave in Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.

Gerald Vizenor is Professor of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. His most recent novel is Dead Voices: Natural Agonies in the New World.

Norma Wilson is a Professor of English at the University of South Dakota where she teaches two courses in Native American Literatures. She has written many reviews and articles. Her "`old ones have passed here': The Poetry of Lance Henson" appeared in A: a journal of contemporary literature.

Contact: Robert Nelson
This page was last modified on: 10/12/00