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SAIL

Studies in American Indian Literatures
Series 2                Volume 6, Number 3                Fall 1994

Linda Hogan: Calling Us Home
Betty Louise Bell, Guest Editor

 

CONTENTS

Calling Myself Home
        Linda Hogan                     .                  .                   .                  .       1

Introduction: Linda Hogan's Lessons in Making Do
        Betty Louise Bell              .                  .                   .                  .       3

Breaking Boundaries: Writing Past Gender, Genre, and Genocide in Linda Hogan
        Peggy Maddux Ackerberg                  .                   .                  .       7

The Politics of Place in Linda Hogan's Mean Spirit
        Elizabeth Blair                  .                  .                   .                  .      15

Showdown at Sorrow Cave: Bat Medicine and the Spirit of Resistance in Mean Spirit
        Andrea Musher                 .                  .                   .                  .      23

Caretaking and the Work of the Text in Linda Hogan's Mean Spirit
        Anna Carew-Miller          .                  .                   .                  .      37

Dark Wealth in Linda Hogan's Mean Spirit
        Alix Casteel                      .                  .                   .                  .      49

 

FORUM
        From the Editors      
     .                  .                   .                  .      69

 

REVIEWS
Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman's Sourcebook. Paula Gunn Allen

        Sandra Sprayberry          .                  .                   .                  .      71

The Lightning Within: An Anthology of Contemporary American Indian Fiction. Ed. Alan Velie
        Eric Anderson                   .                  .                   .                  .      74

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The Things That Were Said of Them. Told by Asatchaq
        Larry Ellis      .                  .                  .                   .                  .      77

wanisinwak iskwêsisak awasisasinahikanis: A Cree Story for Children. Told by Nêhiyaw/Glecia Bear
        Agnes Grant and Lavina Gillespie        .     ;               .                  .      80

The Bingo Palace. Louise Erdrich
        Sarah Bennett                    .                 .                   .                  .      83

The Business of Fancydancing. Sherman Alexie
        Kristan Sarvé-Gorham      .                 .                   .                  .      88

Full Moon on the Reservation. Gloria Bird
        Lynn Domina                   .                 .                  .                   .      90



CONTRIBUTORS                  .                  .                   .                  .      93



1994 ASAIL Patrons:

California State University, San Bernardino
Western Washington University
University of Richmond
Karl Kroeber
A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff

and others who wish to remain anonymous



1994 Sponsors:

Arnold Krupat
Andrea Lerner

and others who wish to remain anonymous


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Calling Myself Home

Linda Hogan         `



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


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Introduction: Linda Hogan's Lessons in Making Do

Betty Louise Bell         



"We make art out of our loss." --Linda Hogan



        Linda Hogan's poetry and prose concerns itself with the detritus of loss and the need to take and create life from the remnants of personal and cultural histories. In her work, there is no possible return to Native American lives and cultures before colonization: the heroism and future of Native Americans is in their capacity for making do. By no means is the art of making do an ignoble or unworthy act, an unnecessary compromise of passion and belief for continued survival, but a recognition of ordinary lives, the lives of Native Americans, fragmented and forever effected by extraordinary losses. The survival of tribal peoples is not located in continuous, isolated acts of recovery but in adaptations to loss that discover continuity and affirm life.
        Indian Country in Hogan's work is the land she knows and loves: the Red Earth of Oklahoma. From chickens to oil, the reader inhabits the land of removal: pick-up trucks and stomp dances, rodeos and powwows, family histories and cultural histories in a tight, neverending weave from one generation to the next. Oklahoma was the destination for those tribes removed from their homelands in the Nineteenth Century, and it became Indian Territory, a land dedicated to tribal peoples, before becoming the Sooner State. Oklahoma Indians are, as are all indigenous peoples, adept at loss.
        Linda Hogan and I grew up in towns about fifteen miles apart in southwestern Oklahoma. There, the people were mostly farmers--or more accurately tenant farmers--living self-reliant, inventive lives, and making what poverty prevented them from buying: lye soap, bathtub beer, and quilts. These quilts had nothing in common with the decorative aesthetic of contemporary folk art. They were {4} made from odd strips of old dresses and overalls, old curtains and flour sacks layered and sewn together by hand, piece by piece. Like generations of Indian women before them, they took the worn, the castoff, the handy and created use, beauty, and warmth from them. In this way, Linda Hogan has made her own elegant quilt from ordinary Indian lives in twentieth-century America. Story by story, poem by poem, it holds ruggedly together, with the enduring beauty and eloquence of a common yet complex cloth.
        By chance, all the contributors to this volume are women. Native and non-Native, we began with Hogan's poetry and prose, finding in it pieces of our own lives and professional interests. From the MLA panel in Toronto to the present issue, this effort has been inspired by an admiration and respect for Linda Hogan's work. Kathryn Shanley and Kimberley Blaeser read original and provocative papers on Hogan's work at the MLA panel, and I regret that their papers are not included in this issue.
        Significantly, we begin with the breaking of boundaries in an essay by Peggy Maddux Ackerberg. It is in the refusal to be contained or known within boundaries--race, class, gender, and genre--that Ms. Ackerberg locates the act of Linda Hogan's coming to writing. She centers her argument in the strategies women writers use to smash narratives of experience and culture that have served to silence difference. Ms. Ackerberg, currently working on a transatlantic study of Native American images exchanged between New France and France, offers insights (and breaks a few genres herself) into Hogan's acts as woman writer through the lens of the nineteenth-century French poet Marceline Desbordes-Valmore. Ms. Ackerberg's question "From what grounds can Hogan desire to write?" becomes the question considered in the remaining essays. And her answer, "Literally, no grounds at all, it seems," is the challenge to every indigenous writer in the creation of home and place.
        Hogan's novel, Mean Spirit, is the common subject of four of the essays. The Graycloud's exile becomes the opportunity for an ingenious postcolonial discussion of home and place in Elizabeth Blair's essay; Andrea Musher does a meticulous reading of resistance and regeneration in Sorrow Cave; Anna Carew-Miller invites us to consider the communion between caretaking and work in the novel; and Alix Casteel convincingly argues the commodification and exploitation of the Osage. Whether the contributors rely on feminist, postcolonial, or materialist readings for their arguments, all honor Linda Hogan's words not only to inform their arguments but to illuminate ways of being within the world.
        It would be difficult to privilege any theoretical practice in a reading of Hogan's works. Often, as our essays demonstrate, such {5} application is interrupted by Hogan swerving from the expected narrative. For instance, an important departure from the works of other indigenous writers is Hogan's refusal to equate removal from the land with the loss of land and community. In Mean Spirit, the Grayclouds endure, as Ms. Blair argues, "landless, but not loveless," taking not only their lives into exile but also the living and constant possible recreation of home and community. The Grayclouds, like all tribal peoples, frustrate attempts at extinction and destruction with the very fact of their lives.
        The following essays do not discuss the controversial response to Hogan's use of Osage history in her novel. As a Chickasaw, she wrote of Osage experience and as a novelist, she dared to rewrite history. These criticisms are founded on the grounds of experience: only an Osage can tell the story of the greedy destruction of the Osage, and a story, if founded on history, must rely completely on history as its muse. In Mean Spirit, Hogan courageously creates a pan-Indian community brought together by a shared history of sorrow and struggle and a belief in the sanctity of the land. Like Wounded Knee or the Trail of Tears, the Osage tragedy serves, without diminishment or distortion, as a metaphor for the attempted devastation of tribal peoples.
        Hogan has been criticized for her deviation from some historical facts in Mean Spirit. This assumes that there is a sole and accurate historical narrative to every event and that truth resides only in that narrative. In fact, to the advantage of all peoples once absent from History, the privileged voice of History has long been reduced to its narrative form and intent. It is just another way of telling a story. As a Native American woman, Hogan knows the dangers of complicity with History; as a writer, she insists on the primacy of the imagination. Few literary scholars would complain of Dickens' historical representation of London. Why, then, are such complaints filed against a Native American woman writer? Are Native American literatures still obliged to be real historical, ethnographic glimpses into other cultures? By combining the authorities of experience and imagination, Linda Hogan claims the rights of every writer and propels Native American literatures into a new century of self-creation.
        This volume is dedicated to Linda Hogan, for her gifts of wisdom and courage. The project has been informed by love and enthusiasm for her work by all involved in it.
        And blessings, Linda, for inspiring us with the lessons of making do.


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Breaking Boundaries:
Writing Past Gender,
Genre, and Genocide in Linda Hogan

Peggy Maddux Ackerberg         



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


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The Politics of Place in Linda Hogan's Mean Spirit

Elizabeth Blair         



        "In Native American novels, coming home, staying put, contracting, even what we call `regressing' to a place, a past where one has been before, is not only the primary story, it is a primary mode of knowledge and a primary good," argues William Bevis in his essay, "Native American Novels: Homing In" (582). Perhaps so, but Bevis' contention that the hero comes home in most Native American novels presupposes that there is a place of origin, an ancestral homeland, or even a recently acquired reservation to come home to.
        In her autobiographical essay "The Two Lives," Chickasaw mixedblood writer Linda Hogan states that land-loss is a common characteristic of contemporary Indian people: "We are landless Indians . . . We are made to believe that poverty is created by ourselves" rather than being a predictable product of the history of colonization (Coltelli 237). Born of working class parents and raised in Colorado in and near major metropolitan areas, Hogan's own "homing in" must, of necessity, be an imaginative act rather than an actual one.
        In the title poem of her 1978 book Calling Myself Home she asserts: "This land is the house / we have always lived in" (6). While that poem and many others are ostensibly about her father's roots in (and her childhood visits to) the red clay of rural Oklahoma, local place is not her only or even primary concern, nor can it be, as the following lines from "Heritage" make clear: "From my family I have learned the secrets / of never having a home" (Calling 17). This homelessness has roots at least as far back as Hogan's paternal grandmother, who recounts tribal tales of a sacred stick that sent the Chickasaw people on their peripatetic way (Calling 17). In "Blessing," Hogan defines her tribe's name thus: "Chickasaw / chikkih asachi, which means / they left as a tribe not a very great while ago. / They are always leaving, those {16} people" (Calling 27). How then, in the face of departure, landlessness, and lack of place, does one "call oneself home?" How establish a "home" at all?
        In her 1990 novel, Mean Spirit, a story of white greed and deceit in the Oklahoma oil fields of the 1920s, Hogan explores the theme of calling oneself home in the face of imminent dispossession and departure. The novel explores the varying ways in which its Osage characters struggle to define "home" and "place" while attempting to live in a borrowed and broken land.
        Historically, the Osage Indians, like the Chickasaw and the Cherokee, were forced by encroaching white immigration and governmental pressure to sell their ancestral homelands. According to mixedblood writer John Joseph Mathews, Osage spokesman Wah Ti an Kah made this case for relocating in Oklahoma Indian Territory:

There is much game in this country; there is much grass and water . . . White men cannot put iron thing in ground here. White man will not come to this land . . . This country is not good for things which white man puts in ground. (Wakontah 50-51)

Hogan's Mean Spirit is the ironic sequel to Wah Ti an Kah's hopeful dreams for a future life in Oklahoma Indian Territory. In the story, the white man does indeed succeed in putting an "iron thing" into the hard-packed Oklahoma clay. Immediately following reports that oil has been discovered, drilling rigs pock the land and whites come in droves, an influx that results in the exploitation, dispossession, and death of Watona's Indian inhabitants.
        Victims of cultural imperialism as well as political corruption, the Indian citizens of Watona face a spiritual crisis in addition to political and economic ones. Even characters with the deepest connections to Indian traditions, such as Lila Blanket, Nola Blanket, Michael Horse, Belle Graycloud, John Stink, and the sacred runners from the hills, find themselves rendered next to powerless in the wake of events in the summer of 1922. Confronted with the cultural disintegration around them, they are forced to seek new ways to live on the land.
        Mean Spirit opens to a surreal scene of tribal dreamers on cots in kitchen-gardens, iron beds in horse pastures, and four-posters in cornfields. "Given half a chance," the wild iris leaves, bluegrass, and vines "would have crept up the beds" to reclaim the sleepers and bind them to the earth (3). But there are divisive forces at work in this Edenic paradise. Beyond the sleepers lie "a forest of burned trees" and the black, skeletal forms of oil pumps, hard at work in the red light of dawn (4). Trained to mimic the "civilized" habits of whites, the modern members of dreamer Belle Graycloud's family choose to stay {17} inside the "oven-hot" house, and even dark-skinned Grace Blanket, who sleeps in her flower garden, restlessly returns to the glass house that oil money has enabled her to build.
        One of the wealthiest members of the tribe, Grace Blanket was sent as a girl to learn white ways in order to better protect the traditional life of her people, a group of Indians who live a separatist existence in the isolated hills above Watona. But instead of infiltrating the whites Grace tries to emulate them. Dominated by heavy, carved furniture, gold angels, and marble mantles, her Roman-columned house is "an icy palace of crystal, and European to the ceiling" (48). While Grace prefers moccasins to high-heeled shoes, retains her traditional braids, and allows her grand piano to become a roost for chickens, her house is a monument to assimilationist good taste. Within it, nature is temporarily tamed and domesticated: "Glass swans sat on the mantle and they were swimming in a marble lake. The silence was like the calm eye of a tornado" (19).
        Dreaming in one world and living the affluent life in the other, Grace is doomed, as the novel's vivid symbolism makes clear. As Mean Spirit opens, Hogan's camera lens zooms in on the sleeping Grace, highlighting the "shocking red blooms of roses" at her feet (3), an image that foreshadows her brutal murder by white, greed-stricken conspirators.
        In fact, impending disaster is embedded in the novel's first sentences: "That summer a water diviner named Michael Horse forecast a two-week dry spell. Until then, Horse's predictions were known to be reliable" (3). As these words indicate, the summer of 1922 marks a turning point for Watona's Indian inhabitants. Up to now, many had maintained a delicate balance between the new ways and their Indian heritage. They lived Christianized lives yet continued to rely on traditional spiritual figures such as Michael Horse for instruction, inspiration, and prediction.
        Nola Blanket, born of the Hill Indians and able from childhood to speak the language of animals, walks for a time in the netherlands between the dream world and the world of the living after the murder of her mother, Grace. Like the legendary hermit John Stink, she is a ghost in life. Without speech, she sleeps with her eyes open. It was "as if she'd been broken all the way through her body to her bones" (105), Hogan writes. Eventually healed by the presence of her guardians, the sacred runners from the Hills, Nola is transformed from a sweet, quiet girl to a belligerent child who resists the cultural coercion practiced by the Watona Indian school.
        Despite this change, Nola agrees to marry the son of her white guardian. While she wears an Osage wedding coat and puts on a traditional giveaway, the wedding feast itself is a decidedly European {18} affair. It includes an ice peacock, vegetables carved into lilies and birds, and a wedding cake, topped with "an Indian maiden, a cowboy, and a model of the Eiffel tower that looked more like an oil derrick than the real thing" (183).
        Like her mother, Nola furnishes her house with crystal, but "every glass-filled room looked fragile and breakable" no matter what European import she added (194). Clearly ill-at-ease in her "cultured" house, Nola gradually recognizes that her heart remains with the Hill Indians, that her glass-filled house is not her home, that another Nola furnished it and lived in it.
        Like Grace and Nola Blanket, wealthy but traditional Jim Josh purchases the material trappings of white society. Less tragic than Nola and more pragmatic than Grace, he converts luxury items into agricultural containers, growing beefsteak tomatoes in his new luxury car and corn in his ten clawfooted bathtubs.
        For traditional figure Belle Graycloud, who is "Indian from the heart out," the earth also represents sustenance rather than mineral or material wealth. A "guardian of nature" (Bonham 114-15), Belle conditions her fields with words, songs, and cornmeal and treats her sick neighbors with healing plants. As the novel opens, we find Belle sleeping

in the middle of her herb garden with a stubborn golden chicken roosting on the foot of her bed, a calico cat by [her] side, a fat spotted dog snoring on the ground, and a white horse standing as close to Belle as the fence permitted, looking at her with wide, reverent eyes. (10)

Farmer, gardener, and keeper of bees, Belle defends golden eagles from the brutality and cupidity of white bounty hunters and the sacred bats of Sorrow Cave from the white townspeople of Watona.
        Like Margaret Kashpaw of Louise Erdrich's Tracks, Belle merges Christian beliefs and Indian spirituality: "She sat before the burning sacred heart candle, a cross, and an eagle prayer feather . . . she cried and prayed" (67). Belle's way of life represents a middle ground between Indians like Grace Blanket, who live in luxury on "barren" land, and the Hill Indians, who have renounced the world of town for an older life more in tune with the rhythms of the earth.
        As traditional as Belle, Michael Horse is the last person in Indian territory to live in a tepee and one of the few who do not attend Reverend Billy's Indian Baptist church. Water diviner, healer, seer, and keeper of the traditional Osage fire, Horse is noted for prescient dreams of danger that allow him to warn potential victims of impending disaster. But his gifts begin to elude him in the summer of 1922; he fails to dream of Grace Blanket's impending death or to predict the {19} imminent approach of rain, and in his role as diviner he douses oil rather than water on tribal lands.
        Unaccountably, while Horse sleeps peacefully, all around him "bad dreams were as common as gas fires at the drill sites, as ordinary as black Buicks" (39). Troubled by his failing powers, Horse attempts to provide a logical explanation for the people's dreams: "Disturbances of earth . . . made for disturbances of life and sleep" (39), he reasons. But it is clear to all that something has gone wrong. Prophets, preachers, and water diviners alike find their power fading in the face of new and disruptive forces that they barely understand. As Hogan points out, "second sight" is "easy to lose" (40).
        "One of the last proud holdouts from the new ways" (13), Horse is surrounded by tribal members who choose to train their sights on "the world of automobiles and blond people" (7). What many of Horse's friends and neighbors ignore in their rush to gain the material products of white culture is their old, vital connection with the land. According to Native preacher Reverend Joe Billy, "The Indian world is on a collision course with the white world" (13). "It's more than a race war," Reverend Billy explains. "They are waging a war with earth" (14). It is this war with earth that precipitates both the loss of traditional power and the disasters that follow.
        Despite her own hard-won balance, Belle Graycloud fears the changes that are occurring as much as anyone: "All along the smell of the blue-black oil that seeped out of the earth had smelled like death to her" (29). In their thirst for wealth and power, the white oil drillers mutilate the land. Their gas wells create enormous craters that swallow mules and workers, their oil pumps belch away the night's silence, and their drilling drains the land of water, leaving dead trees and burned grasses. As the trader McMann puts it, "You should see them down south of here. The land's dead. They're boiling rocks for soup." In an apocalyptic passage, Hogan sums up the condition of the land in the midst of this war against it: "These bruised fields were noisy and dark. The earth had turned oily black. Blue flames rose up and roared like torches of burning gas. The earth bled oil" (54). Like the blasted earth, the Indian survivors are "broken all apart" and suffer from "spiritual malnutrition." The world, Moses Graycloud concludes, is as upside-down as an inverted umbrella (64).
        Yet some positive changes are afoot. Joe Billy returns to the old religion of his father, medicine man Sam Billy; his white wife Velma embraces Indian customs and beliefs; Louise Graycloud gives up the white world "almost overnight"; and even the Catholic priest, Father Dunne, "awakens" to hear "the deep and dreaming voice of the land" (188). In like manner, refugees Nola Blanket, Belle Graycloud, Stace Red Hawk, and Michael Horse flee Watona and join the Hill Indians,{20} who live high above the town in a silence that goes "deep down into the fiery bones of earth" (253).
        Sporting lithe bodies that play the wind like flutes, the Hill Indians live in earth-colored huts and bless the soil in age-old planting rituals. Their spiritually-integrated community provides a cultural safe house for Indians like Nola Blanket and Belle Graycloud who have been forced to flee because they have taken an active stand against an alien way of life.
        Before the murder trial in Guthrie, Belle Graycloud pays a last visit to the cave of Sorrow, another sacred site for the Watona Indians. There she merges with the earth's "four-chambered heart" and feels "hope in the land, hope and tomorrow living in the veins and stones of earth" (344).
        Meanwhile, back in Watona, even the most assimilated townspeople start to sense the kind of world they are living in. "They began to see white people as wisps of smoke stealing by and around their own more solid world (340)," writes Hogan. Yet, despite this insight, they have no choice but to become refugees. As Michael Horse watches the mass exodus of Indians from Watona, he concludes: "It was a fatal ignorance we had of our place" (341). "They were driven out," Hogan tells us, "or maybe it was that they escaped, that they survived by leaving this land and its waters and rich black earth" (342).
        Despite the final conflagration, the Grayclouds, too, endure. Landless but not loveless, they have lost "place" but carry with them respect for the sacredness of all life, which, as Hogan suggests, is the only way to create a proper "home" on this planet, the only way to make this land into "the house we have always lived in." As Hogan argues in an interview with Laura Coltelli: "If you believe that the earth, and all living things, and all the stones are sacred, your responsibility really is to protect those things. I do believe that's our duty, to be custodians of the planet" ("Linda Hogan" 79).
        To Hogan's way of thinking, both the daily news and historical events like those depicted in Mean Spirit are directly connected to "the continuing destruction of the Third World and tribal people, and the exploitation of our earth" ("The Two Lives" 233). Believing that denial and repression are the greatest hindrances to liberation and growth ("The Two Lives" 241), Hogan retells this American tragedy because many of us still have not learned the essential lesson of the sanctity of the earth, as evidenced by the world we have made.

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WORKS CITED

Bevis, William. "Native American Novels: Homing In." Recovering the Word. Ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat. Berkeley: U of California P, 1987. 580-620.

Bonham, R. A. Review of Mean Spirit. Studies in American Indian Literatures 4.4 (Winter l992): 114-16.

Erdrich, Louise. Tracks. New York: Harper & Row, 1988.

Hogan, Linda. Calling Myself Home. Greenfield Center NY: Greenfield Review P, 1978.

---. "Linda Hogan." Winged Words: American Indian Writers Speak. Ed. Laura Coltelli. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1990. 71-86.

---. Mean Spirit. New York: Ballantine, 1990.

---. Seeing Through the Sun. Amherst: U of Massachusetts P, 1985.

---. "The Two Lives." I Tell You Now. Ed. Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1987. 231-49.

Mathews, John Joseph. Wakontah. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1932.


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Showdown at Sorrow Cave:
Bat Medicine and the Spirit of Resistance in
Mean Spirit

Andrea Musher         

Life resides in all things, even the motionless stones. Take care of the insects for they have their place. . . All is sacred, especially the bats.
                                                      from the Gospel according to Horse

First, for Native Americans, humans exist in community with all living things (all of whom are known to be intelligent, aware, and self-aware). . . Nor does the tribal community or relatives end with human kin: the supernaturals, spirit people, animal people of all varieties, the thunders, snows, rains, rivers, lakes, hills, mountains, fire, water, rock and plants are perceived to be members of one's community.
                                    Paula Gunn Allen, Spiderwoman's Granddaughters

        If as we enter the world of Linda Hogan's novel, Mean Spirit, we doubt the veracity of the statements I have used as epigraphs, by the time we reach the "showdown" at Sorrow Cave, which occurs about three-fifths of the way through the novel, we find that we have been converted and inducted into the tribal spiritual community that embraces these values in opposition to the "savage" white naholies who are wantonly massacring men, eagles, women, bats, children, and the native prairie grasses. As members of the tribal community, we penetrate the depths of Sorrow Cave escaping the rifle-toting men and boys of the town of Talbert, Oklahoma.
        Father Dunne, "the hog priest" whose Catholic beliefs have been transformed by a series of animist revelations, says during the journey into the cave, "Sorrow runs deeper than we ever knew or could have {24} guessed" (284). While in the immediate context he is referring to the many hidden caverns of Sorrow Cave that are located behind the large, obvious outer chamber, his words set up elegaic ripples that ring the full measure of sadness in this novel that is steeped in death from its first pages to its last. Indian people are tortured, poisoned, gunned down, strung up and blown up so that white men can gain "free" access to their oil-rich lands. But despite the book's grim account of scores of murders, Linda Hogan's dramatic historical chronicle is also a vibrant celebration of the life and survival of Indian people, their precepts, and their practices.
        Although the showdown at Sorrow Cave is neither the climax nor the most dramatic event in this complexly plotted, panoramic novel, close examination of this incident functions like a prism through which various themes of the novel are gathered and laid out in clear bands of color. For those raised on movie westerns, no "real" showdown occurs at the cave. There is no shootout. The action seems to dissipate and it appears we are left with an inconclusive standoff. Depending on one's perspective, something of great magnitude happens, or almost nothing at all happens. While the men of Talbert can't understand what the Indians are up to, we recognize the extent to which our mainstream, Judeo-Christian values have been subverted. Hogan has led us to question our automatic privileging of human life over other life forms, thereby removing the biblical concept of human dominion; she ties us into a webwork of existence where all beings--even those that are by Western standards considered inorganic--have their importance, their stories and their language from which we can learn. The incident at Sorrow Cave becomes a ritual center in the narrative, an affirmation of Indian spiritual values, a vital act of resistance. Events at the cave define for the reader who the true members of the Indian community are and the strategies they will pursue to escape annihilation, while also demonstrating, both literally and symbolically, the efficacy of the paradoxical proposition that Indian survival depends on journeying forward into the past.
        The incident begins as Belle Graycloud nears the region of Sorrow Cave. She hears the "high-pitched sound of young men talking" (277). Then she hears shots and cheers. Belle is an Osage matriarch, one of the important tribal elders in the novel, a woman who has thus far successfully negotiated the difficulties of living in both the Indian world and the white world. She still uses the traditional chants when she plants her corn, but she also uses her crystal radio set to check on what the white government is up to. In one of the novel's early descriptions of her, we learn that at "first glance she looked small, but in spite of her slight stature, she was a giant on the inside, and hard to reckon with" (13).
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        Belle approaches Sorrow Cave with Silver, one of the Hill Indians. At the start of the novel, set in Oklahoma in 1922, Hogan informs the reader that the Hill Indians "were a peaceful group who had gone away from the changing world some sixty years earlier, in the 1860s. Their survival depended on returning to a simpler way of life, so they left behind them everything they could not carry and moved up into the hills and bluffs" (5). Thus the Hill Indians provide a relatively uncorrupted link to the past and their settlement serves as an actual and symbolic refuge to the Indians dwelling in the modern, white-dominated world. Significantly, Sorrow Cave is located halfway between the town--called Watona by the Indians, but Talbert by the whites--and the Hill Settlement. The cave thus marks a boundary between the modern world and the traditional Indian world and is used as a sanctuary by those who travel between these two worlds.
        As Belle and Silver come upon the entrance to Sorrow Cave, they discover that a large group of men and boys from Talbert are shooting the bats that live in the cave:

Unknown to the Indians . . . a war had been declared on bats after the case of rabies that killed the young girl. They mistakenly believed the bats carried the disease. There was a one-dollar bounty per "flying rat," as the newspaper called them. And now a good number of well-dressed men and their fathers stood outside the cave and shot into it, knocking the frightened bats to the ground, then shooting randomly while the animals screamed with terror, unable to escape the man-blocked entrance to the cave. (277)

The war that the trigger-happy men of Talbert have declared against the bats is similar in many ways to the undeclared war that they are waging against the Native Americans in their town. The white men callously misperceive the bats, positing them as loathsome, unwholesome objects to be slaughtered with impunity just as they continue to maintain the belief that the Indians are "a dark people . . . unschooled, ignorant" (60), to be feared, controlled, and killed when necessary to serve the interests of their superiors, the white people. Both the bats and the Indians seem impotent and doomed in the face of hostility, greed, and corruption reigning all around them. Notably, the entrance to the cave, the Sheriff, Jess Gold, is standing by along with a group of unemployed oil workers who are ready to "gas the cave" when the shooting is over. Thus the killing of the bats, like the killing of the Indians, is carried on while the forces of law and order stand by in complicit collusion.
        When Belle realizes what is happening to the bats, she sends Silver away saying, "Go get some of the people to help us" (278). She then {26} empties herself of anger and readies herself to take her stand. Firmly centered, certain of her responsibility, she plants herself at the entrance of the cave, pistol in hand, and forbids anyone to come near. The young men scoff, proclaiming that she's just a crazy old woman, but the Sheriff warns them off. Though he recognizes Belle's determination, he misunderstands the significance of her actions. He knows she means business, but he also accuses her of losing her head and being "backward." That we see Belle's willingness to kill or be killed to save the bats not as "batty" but as morally necessary demonstrates how successfully Hogan draws her readers into the Native American value system she is inculcating. Belle's empathic perspective invests the bats with a dignity and a stature exceeding that of most of the vicious, small-minded humans standing around the cave:

She remained there protecting the double world of bats with their whistling songs and their double lives in the cool and deep darkness, the bats who were husbands to trees, the beautiful creatures who were hated by those who lived in what they called the light. . . . Behind her, the dark animals made soft yelping sounds now and then, and shifted their positions. Some of them, sheltered by the old woman, were busy dying, those animals whose voices were their guide like a prayer opening the way, showing them the passage through life. Others settled back into silence, opening and folding their wings, some hanging from stones and looking toward the doorway with their glittering eyes. (279)

Certainly the reader prefers these gentle, dying bats to the boys who, spitting on the ground, say of Belle, "Shit, she's crazy. She doesn't even make sense. Why don't you just shoot her?" (279). The Sheriff tries to appeal to Belle's "reason," informing her "We have a rabies problem here, Belle." And Belle, who definitely has not lost her wit, replies, "It probably comes from your biting people" (279).
        Belle's militant vehemence in defense of the bats recalls the one other incident in the novel when she becomes totally enraged. Although she and her husband, Moses, maintain an outward demeanor of stoic forbearance in the face of Grace Blanket's murder, the loss of their money and land, the loss of their grandchildren to the white boarding school, and the ever-increasing number of suspicious deaths and grave robberies happening to the Indians in their community, Belle does not even attempt to hide her feelings when she comes upon a group of white hunters who have slaughtered hundreds of golden eagles:

What met her eyes was a truck filled with eagle carcasses. {27} They were golden brown birds with the blue-white membranes of death closed over their eyes. . . . She stared at the dead, sacred eagles. They looked like a tribe of small, gone people, murdered and taken away in the back of a truck. The hunters were busy beside the truck counting the eagles.
     There were 317 carcasses in all. (109-10)

On this occasion, Belle flings herself on the eagle hunters, beating them and smashing out the windows of their truck. The hunters, who are carefully "preserving" the eagles by packing them in ice, try to calm the wild old woman by saying, "They're just birds." While they have no comprehension of the crime they have committed by failing to respect the living beauty of the birds they are shipping to taxidermists out East, for Belle the lives of the eagles are as important as the lives of her people.
        Throughout the course of the narrative, Hogan forces us to question the hierarchical privileging of human life that is so central to Western thought. A case in point is the description that occurs later in the novel of a nineteenth-century Sioux massacre. As recalled by the elderly Sioux healer, Lionel Tall, the scene echoes Belle's discovery of the dead eagles:

It was on Christmas Day when Lionel left Canada and began the trek homeward. And it was on Christmas Day that the Sioux people were murdered by the cavalry all riding uniform gray horses.
     When he rode in from the Badlands, he found his people gone, the bodies of children frozen in the snow. The frozen women lay in broken clusters where they'd tried to escape. When Tall saw his wife, the young son in her arms, he sat on the ice beside them. . . . He sat there in the blue-white light of evening until his hands were frostbitten and his clothing had frozen to the earth. (221)

The Sioux and the eagles are each portrayed as a tribe of "gone people" caught and frozen in the blue-white light of death. Both are killed with the same efficiency by uncomprehending white hunters who feel they are within their rights carrying out such slaughter--hunters who feel they are engaged in reasonable behavior.
        Confronting Belle's unreasonable behavior at Sorrow Cave, as she stands with her pistol poised, the Sheriff notices that "she looked like a mountain." However, he makes the mistake of talking to her as if she were merely an ignorant child when he says to her, "Bats are pests. They aren't good for us" (279). Then daunted by her silence and intransigence, he sends his Indian deputy, Willis, to get Moses {28} Graycloud. The Sheriff is convinced that Belle's husband will "talk some sense" into this crazy woman's "hard head" (280). Jess Gold assumes that he and Moses, as men, hold certain ideas in common. Gold takes for granted the idea that human welfare and human dominance take precedence in all situations--i.e., if the bats constitute any kind of threat to human life, then the bats should be exterminated; such a supposition seems to Gold eminently reasonable, and he assumes that Moses will see it the way that he does, or at the very least will counsel Belle that she must respect the authority vested in Gold as the representative of the law. Gold also takes for granted the prerogatives of male dominance; he assumes that Moses would have the desire and the right to control his wife. Ultimately, Gold assumes that resistance in the face of superior force is crazy on Belle's part, and that Moses will share this assessment of the situation. But the Sheriff is wrong in all of his unexamined assumptions. He doesn't take into account the respect that Moses has for Belle, nor does he understand that Belle's action constitutes an ethical imperative, a call to arms that grows out of her traditional female role as preserver of life, a role that has real value and meaning within tribal culture. Finally, Gold has misjudged the situation because he believes that he is dealing with a single, crazed individual. Belle, in the initial moments of the encounter, had immediately sent Silver for help because she knew she was acting on behalf of the community; she was acting out of deeply held, communal values. She was not just "acting out" as Gold suspected. Her value judgment in this case is representative of a different code of law, and her authority as a leader is recognized by her husband as well as the rest of the tribal community.
        Thus, Gold is caught completely off guard when Moses goes up into the cave and takes his stand beside Belle, and the Sheriff is even more surprised when "a throng of Hill Indians" suddenly looms up as if "out of the land itself" (280). At first Gold cannot imagine who the group of Indians confronting him could be, nor can he fathom where they came from. But as he looks he recognizes some faces in the crowd; he is able to distinguish Joe Billy and Martha, Stace Redhawk, Father Dunne, and Michael Horse. We are also informed by the narrator that Jim Josh is there as well.
        The group that arrives to defy the gunmen of Talbert serves to identify the Indian tribal community that Hogan is defining for us through her narrative. Hogan demonstrates here that community, like one's identify as a member of a specific community, is neither static nor predetermined. She shows that one's Indianness is not necessarily dependent on bloodlines but rather is a process, involving active choice and an ongoing affirmation of Native American spiritual values. As we examine the make-up of the group of resisters at Sorrow Cave and the {29} nature of the action they take, we also see how, according to Hogan, Indian survival in the Twentieth Century will be accomplished despite the ongoing implicit and explicit policy of Indian cultural annihilation built into the American way of life. Within the group there are four spiritual leaders and two white people; two generations are represented (along with the promise of a third generation implicit both in Martha Billy's pregnancy and in the young Hill children); there are men who have embraced the precepts and the promises of the white institutions in hopes of helping their people and there are the Hill people who have withdrawn from white contact; the Indians are mixed-blood and full-blood, and come originally from many different tribes; two of the people present at the Cave will later be murdered. All who have gathered affirm their Indian values in their willingness to place their lives on the line to preserve the lives of the bats. All of them trust Belle's judgment
        The spiritual leaders who have gathered at the cave include Michael Horse, Joe Billy, Stace Redhawk, and Father Dunne. They have all been there before and recognize it as sacred space. Michael Horse, an elder, diviner, and seer, fluent in English and Chinese (he learned Chinese as a member of the U.S. Army during the Boxer Rebellion) as well as his native dialect, is the first character in the novel to seek the sanctuary of Sorrow Cave. At the start of the book he is living on the outskirts of town, the last Indian in Indian Territory still living in a tepee. But parked in front of his traditional dwelling is his shiny gold Cadillac convertible. After the discovery of oil on Indian land--ironically he, a water diviner, locates the first oil--Horse withdraws further and further from the white culture he had participated in during his younger years. As the murders multiply, Horse gives up his car, packs up his tepee, and retreats to Sorrow Cave. A keeper of the sacred fire in both a literal and metaphoric sense, he keeps "the people's fire" constantly alive, feeding and tending the actual burning embers he has inherited from past generations, and he also keeps a written record of his spiritual beliefs and all the events going on in Indian Territory. With his writing he translates between worlds, preserving a record of the destruction of Indian people and Indian ways while also creating a legacy that can reconstruct Indian identity in the future. He knows that he has a responsibility to keep his Indian heritage alive and that doing so constitutes an act of resistance that is intrinsically dangerous.
        Joe Billy is a spiritual leader of the next generation after Horse and the Grayclouds. His father, Sam Billy, had "been a medicine man for twenty-three years before he'd converted to the Christian faith" (14). Joe, a Creek, is at the beginning of the novel the presiding minister of the Indian Baptist Church who, we are told, had "gone to seminary {30} back East in Boston, married a white society woman [Martha] against her father's will, and returned home determined to save and serve his own Indian people" (14). But despite his marriage and his Christian training at a white institution, Joe Billy knows and says to his congregation on the novel's first Sunday in 1922, "The Indian world is on a collision course with the white world. . . . It's more than a race war. They're waging war with the earth" (13-14). Initially, the Reverend Joe Billy maintains his spiritual ties to the Baptist church and to the Native Church where he is also a presiding minister as "the road man" who "shows Indian people the path of life, takes stones out of their way, and maps out the spirit's terrain" (73). He helps people to pray within the spirit of both traditions but is deeply disturbed by the devastation and the murders going on around him. Eventually, he resigns his position with the Baptist Church as he finds himself dreaming of his father, Sam Billy, "standing in Sorrow Cave surrounded by crystals and sleeping bats" (138). We are told that "Sam Billy had been a practitioner of bat medicine, one of the strongest traditions of healing" (136). As Sam's son and spiritual heir, Joe Billy has inherited his father's bat medicine bundle and finds himself praying at night with the leather bag on his lap. When his wife, Martha, comes upon him sleeping in his study with the bundle "bumping and turning" in his hands and asks him what is in the pouch, he tells her "It's the older world, wanting out" (138). Afraid to tell her anything about bat medicine, he gradually becomes aware that Martha is growing more and more Indian in her ways of dressing, thinking, and even dreaming. When she begins to have bat dreams of her own, Joe Billy decides it is time to leave town and head for Sorrow Cave.
        In answer to Martha's question, which is also the reader's question, "What's all this about bats?" (256), the road man tells his wife that "they are a race of people that stand in two worlds like we do. . . . And they live in the earth's ancient places" (257). Thus we begin to understand the way in which Hogan is retraining us to respond to the awe-worthy dual nature of bats, who are after all mammals like us but who can fly. These nocturnal creatures with their strangely human faces and webbed wings, so often associated with terror and evil in Western mythology, are for the Indians in Hogan's narrative a source of protection. They see the bats' survival as emblematic of their own. Reviled and misunderstood by whites, both the bats and the Indians preserve ways of living that are far more ancient than white, Christian culture. Within the incident at Sorrow Cave, Hogan establishes a protection racket that operates between the bats and the Indian community. First the Indians save the bats' lives, and then the bats save the Indians' lives.
        Ironically, Joe Billy speaks of the bats' ability to live in two worlds {31} at the very point in the novel where he himself is withdrawing as much as possible from one of the worlds that he had thought to inhabit. After camping briefly at Sorrow Cave, Martha and Joe Billy continue up the bluff, leaving behind the world of the town and white civilization as they go to join the Hill Settlement. Thus, Joe Billy's journey subverts the dominant American assimilationist paradigm that is predicated on the notion that progress, power, and enlightenment are derived from embracing mainstream culture and leaving behind one's traditional, tribal values.
        Stace Red Hawk, the third spiritual leader who comes to stand by Belle in defense of the bats at Sorrow Cave, makes a journey that in many aspects parallels Joe Billy's. A Lakota Sioux Indian from South Dakota, Stace is "a keeper of tradition, and a carrier of the sacred pipe of his people" (50). Like Joe Billy, he has gone East to the institutions of white power, but Stace believed he could save and serve his people by allying himself with the U.S. Bureau of Investigation (the precursor of the F.B.I.) in Washington DC. When he hears about the murders taking place in Watona/Talbert, Oklahoma, he longs to investigate, to use the power of the federal government to solve the crimes, and to make things right. He finds, however, that it is not the knowledge, methods, or powers of the federal agents that help him to understand what is going on, but rather his contacts with the Indians. Prior to finding Sorrow Cave and the Hill Settlement beyond it, Stace announces to his boss, Ballard, that he needs to go up into the hills to think and to search out some of the "old-timers." Ballard openly articulates his contempt for Indians and what he sees as Stace's lamentable reversion to type:

     "If you're looking for something, you turn things over. . . . You lift them up like a rock covering a scorpion and you look underneath. You're not supposed to go sit in some hills and dream and talk to people who haven't been civilized." (224)

Stace's Indian "instincts" have, however, led him in the right direction. On his journey into the hills, he meets up with Michael Horse, who is at that point living in Sorrow Cave and who invites Stace to stay with him. Horse, seer that he is, decides to show the younger, earnest man the journals he has been keeping that document all of the suspicious events and murderous "accidents" that have taken place. Thus, Stace has come upon the person who can fill in many of the missing pieces of the "mystery" he seeks to solve, while Horse has wrought a necessary living link with the next generation, having found someone who knows the value of his writings.
        As Stace continues his investigation, he grows increasingly {32} distrustful of the Federal agents with whom he has been working, gradually becoming convinced that there is a larger conspiracy operating and that the agents of the white law are neither disinterested nor objective. Journeying spiritually and literally towards community with the Indians while disengaging from his work for the federal government, Stace discovers the existence of the Hill Settlement and knows that he has found the right spirit path. He realizes that the white "justice" system will do as much to conceal as to reveal the corrupt oil deals in Oklahoma and that he cannot "save" himself or his people by cooperating with the forces of oppression. Thus, when during the confrontation at Sorrow Cave the Sheriff and some of the federal agents with whom Stace has been working stand outside the cave supporting the "rights" of the bat-killers, Stace knows that he will take his stand with the Indians.
        The fourth spiritual leader present at Sorrow Cave is Father Dunne. Initially a Catholic priest whose job it is to "convert" the Indians, Father Dunne, a white man, undergoes a conversion to Indian values and in doing so becomes one of the readers' guides in the process of moving from the dominant community to the tribal community. Father Dunne's conversion also underscores Hogan's concept that one can choose an Indian identity and that such an identity is not necessarily dependent on bloodlines or marriage.
        As Father Dunne begins to listen to the voice of the earth, he starts to understand God and community in what are for him radically new ways. Ironically, his "new" insights are both ancient and fundamental to the Indians. What he learns is profoundly simple. The first stage of his conversion comes after the tornado that touches down in various places throughout Indian Territory. Though Father Dunne's church is destroyed, all the saints and icons from within the sanctuary "landed unbroken in the forest" (161), and the priest interprets this as a message from God "that the church should be moved into the woods" (162). He not only holds church services outdoors but also sleeps outside close to the earth. Thus, when a major oil explosion causes the earth to shift and roar and fire lights up the night sky, Father Dunne wakes to feel that again God is delivering a message to which he needs to pay attention. But at this juncture he seeks guidance from Michael Horse, who tells the young man that what he heard "wasn't the voice of God. `It's the rage of mother earth'" (189). Gradually without any official articulation of such a concept, Father Dunne becomes Horse's pupil. Discovering that animals have souls, Dunne starts blessing chickens and hogs. "The Indians began to call him the hog priest. And they said it was the year when the priest went sane" (189).
        Having accepted the Indian valuation of the priest's conversion and having become an initiate along with the hog priest, the reader {33} understands the new title not as a term of denigration but as one of approbation. Conversion, however, is not always an easy process for the priest. In dialogue with Horse, he is often initially resistant to the older man's ideas. The hog priest is particularly appalled by what he can't help but feel is the blasphemous notion of Horse adding a new book to the Bible. He has trouble integrating his old and new value systems. Even after his own revelation that "the snake is our sister" (262), he tells Horse that the Bible says "man shall have dominion over the animals" and that Horse can't set himself up to "correct" the word of God (273-74). But the hog priest's respect for the souls of animals from army ants to crows leads him to the Hill Settlement and to a place within the Indian tribal community. By the time Belle sends out her summons to save the lives of the bats, the white Catholic priest has become one of "the people"; entrusted by Horse to watch over the sacred fire, he is both humble enough and knowledgeable enough to help find the way into the hidden depths of Sorrow.
        Among the people whom Sheriff Gold recognizes on the hillside is one more well-known Indian "old-timer" who has also made the journey from town life to the Hill Settlement. Jim Josh becomes a two-way mirror, showing the reader the subtle and not so subtle differences between what is valued by the white world and what is of value in the Indian world. The people of Talbert justify their contention that the Indians are backward, wasteful people who don't know the value of a dollar by pointing to Jim Josh, who lives in a shack with no running water but who keeps buying claw-footed bathtubs. Josh also buys a car that he can't drive and leaves stuck in the mud outside his house, but because Hogan brings the reader into the Native American community, we learn that Jim Josh's purchases are far from being value-less or useless. We visit Jim Josh's land when Belle goes to see him and find that he has covered the tubs with glass and turned them into hothouses where corn is growing even as winter begins, while the automobile provides the perfect environment for beefsteak tomatoes that are ripe while the snow is frozen on the ground. Rather than being an ignorant spendthrift, Jim Josh proves himself to be a sophisticated and innovative gardener. He also figures out that the Sheriff is in on the killing conspiracy but is careless enough to mention his suspicions out loud in public. After the showdown at Sorrow Cave, Jim Josh becomes another one of the murder victims.
        The last person who joins the defenders of the bats at the entrance to the cave is the mixed-blood deputy, Willis. He, too, will be murdered after the incident at the cave has been concluded. Jess Gold, faced with the crowd of silent Indians, decides to send for reinforcements for his side. The state police arrive just as it is growing dark, at which point Gold surprises everyone by announcing, "Belle. We're {34} going to do as you ask and leave" (281). The Sheriff's decision to leave for the night is derided by the men of Talbert who protest, saying, "You're setting a precedent here. . . . Now they'll resist everything" (281). Thus, despite their initial incomprehension, the Talbert-ites have finally recognized Belle's seeming craziness as an important act of resistance. While the white community has counted on the Indians' inability to understand or to confront their legal system to stop the swindles and the murders, the men of Talbert had not suspected that their lack of knowledge about the Indians could hinder their operations in any way.
        The white men's ignorance provides the Indians with a staging ground, both literal and metaphoric, on which to fight back. Of course, the interesting point here is that no actual fight occurs. The Indians, though initially fearful that the Sheriff and his troops have not really left, occupy Sorrow Cave throughout the night in a spirit of celebration. Their coming together and their affirmation of what they hold sacred give them a heady sense of power. They have created their own survival rites and have felt the magic of the ancient bat medicine coming alive. In the morning they recognize that the bats have disappeared into a secret inner chamber of the cave. Thus, the bats provide an escape for the Indians; the bat medicine gives them a way to slip right past the blockade of the law of the white killers who have returned with tear gas and rifles to finish up the job of getting rid of both the bats and the Indians.
        Michael Horse, in order to determine where the bats have gone through the walls of the outer cave, winds up observing a line of army ants "disappearing at the floor of the back wall" (283). The ants, in a sense, tell Horse, who is joined by Joe Billy and Father Dunne, where to dig to gain access to the inner chambers of Sorrow. These spiritual leaders are able to discover a narrow passageway; along with Stace Redhawk they are the road men who lead the tribal community into a series of caverns where aspects of the sacred past have literally been preserved. They find mummified human remains, the skins of bears that have long been rendered extinct in the region outside the cave, beautifully crafted pottery vessels painted with spiral designs, wall paintings of bats, fish, and buffalo, and ancient corn kernels. Though they enter the tomb, they preserve it by leaving it intact, by once again sealing off the passageway through which they entered. When the Indians exit, unseen, out the back on an underground path that leads to the river, they have succeeded in staging an uncanny escape right under the eyes of Talbert gunman and the state police.
        Hogan takes us on a journey through Sorrow Cave to teach us that in pentrating the depths of sorrow we come to a place that is both ancient and spiritually potent, which, therefore, provides the way out {35} of sorrow. The Indians succeed--they survive despite the immense killing conspiracy surrounding them. As they re-establish a communual link to the past, the Indians create a future for themselves that is like the corn kernel Jim Josh carries in his pocket as he emerges from the cave. The seed contains the germ plasm from hundreds of years ago. It is the once and future child of the corn, the mythic made actual when the seed is planted. The journey through Sorrow Cave parallels the journey that the growing numbers of prescient Indians (and those who convert to Indian values) make into the Hills as the book progresses. This journey towards connection with ancient, traditional tribal life is neither regressive nor, according to Hogan, does it represent a naive attempt to cling to a vanished past. At the tragic juncture in Indian history that Hogan documents in Mean Spirit, the Indians learn that they cannot escape sorrow through denying their heritage or through embracing the ideal of white assimilation. Since they will never be allowed to fully assimilate, and since the traces of their Indianness represent a threat and a recurring nightmare to the dominant culture, their only recourse lies in creating the perfect disappearing act, rendering themselves temporarily invisible to the white community but coming together in a spiritual gathering that makes them more visible to each other.
        The journey through a cave-tomb that leads to a rebirth has significant spiritual resonances within many cultures, but importantly, in Hogan's retelling of this archetypal action no one person makes the journey alone. Michael Horse had previously discovered the existence of the interior caves, and Joe Billy had been told about them by his father, but not until the community is assembled can the ritual action transpire. This underlines the lesson that no one hero can save everyone else through his or her actions, nor can any one person solve the plague of murders. The saving power evoked in this ritual journey comes from the creation and preservation of a community that "re-members" the past--thus filling the present and future with members who share memories that link them together. So although the individual killings do not stop--the bat magic does not save the lives of Jim Josh or Willis after the emergence from Sorrow Cave--the killing off of the tribe and tribal values has been stopped. In this sense the bats do have a powerful medicine, and the Indians have come through sorrow and out the other side. And we come to recognize that for Hogan the spiritual is political. In the face of U.S. policies meant to annihilate the Indian way of life--whether through overt warfare or the cultural stripping intrinsic to the boarding school mandates--continued investment in the traditional tribal belief systems becomes a significant form of resistance. Hogan subverts General Pratt's Carlisle School motto, "Kill the Indian, and save the man" (177), by in effect saying,{36} if we save that which is Indian, then even if they kill the individual man, the tribe will survive.



works cited

Hogan, Linda. Mean Spirit. New York: Atheneum, 1990.

Allen, Paula Gunn. Spider Woman's Granddaughters. Boston: Beacon, 1989.



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{37}

Caretaking and the Work of the Text in Linda Hogan's Mean Spirit

Anna Carew-Miller         



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


{49}

Dark Wealth in Linda Hogan's Mean Spirit

Alix Casteel         



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


{69}

FORUM



ASAIL Sessions at the 1994 MLA Conference in San Diego

        The Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures will be sponsoring two sessions at this year's MLA conference in San Diego. They are:

Session 20: Return to Native Languages (Tuesday 27 December, 3:30-4:45 p.m., Solama Room, San Diego Marriott)
        Presiding: Fred H. White, UCLA
        1. "Ojibwe Language Renewal," Jillian M. Berkland, UCLA
        2. "Reclaiming Language: Reclaiming Identity," Jeanne Breinig, U of Washington

Session 501: American Indian Literature in the Curriculum: Strategies and Resources (12 noon-1:15 p.m., 1B, San Diego Convention Center)
        Presiding: Kathryn W. Shanley, Cornell U

        Speakers: A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff, U of Illinois, Chicago;
        James K. Ruppert, U of Alaska, Fairbanks;
        Kathryn W. Shanley;
        Brian Swann, Cooper Union.



{70}

Calls for Papers

SPECIAL ISSUE OF SAIL

        As announced in a previous issue of SAIL, we are still planning a special issue on Contemporary American Indian Poetry; the submission deadline has been extended to 15 November 1994. Manuscripts should follow the current MLA format; please submit two copies (and WordPerfect 5.1 disk if possible) to the Guest Editor of the issue:
                  Sandra L. Sprayberry
                  Department of English
                 BSC A-28
                 Birmingham-Southern College
                 Birmingham AL 35254
                 205/226-4866.


{71}

REVIEWS



Grandmothers of the Light: A Medicine Woman's Sourcebook. Paula Gunn Allen. Boston: Beacon, 1991. Cloth, ISBN 0-8070-8102-7. 246 pages.

        Following her seminal feminist study of American Indian culture, The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions, and her acclaimed edition of stories, Spider Woman's Granddaughters: Traditional Tales and Contemporary Writing by Native American Women, Paula Gunn Allen has another strong, woman-centered book in Grandmothers of the Light.
        To call Allen an author, as of The Sacred Hoop, or an editor, as of Spider Woman's Granddaughters, seems too academic a misnomer for her role in this book. In the feminist and Native American traditions, she has, in her own words, "rendered" these stories. She explains that the book

. . . contains myths, not necessarily as recorded or told, but as I understand them. Rendering works from the tribal ritual tradition aims to enable readers unfamiliar with those traditions to comprehend implicit as well as explicit meanings of the myth. To facilitate this process, I wrote the narratives with as much an eye to the meaning implicit in the social, environmental, and ritual contexts in which the myths are embedded as to their purely metaphysical content. Short of glossing virtually every word--and even that wouldn't be particularly efficacious--rendering the myths in this larger context seemed {72} the wisest course. (xiv-xv)

It is not my intent, therefore, to analyze the "scholarship" in this review, but rather to give a sense of Allen's renderings.
        Most of the stories here will be familiar to readers who know something about American Indian stories and/or goddess stories--as "What Is Wakan," a rendering of the myth of White Buffalo Calf Woman of the Lakota, and "A New Wrinkle," a rendering of the Keres tale of Spider Grandmother, will be. Yet Allen, through her evocative use of language as invocation (she is, after all, also a poet and novelist, a storyteller herself) gives all of these stories "new wrinkles." Listen to this passage from the Spider Grandmother story, the story itself a web of words, creation chants:

Ic'sts'ity [one of the two sisters whom Spider sang into being] began to sing a new chant: way-a-hiyo, way-a-hiyo, way-a-hiyo, way-a way-ay-o. She sang and sang, thinking to her bundle, and around them as she sang swirling, whirling globes of light began to form. (36)

The collection begins with a section of these creation stories, which Allen titles "Cosmogyny: The Goddesses." In her preface to the book, she defines the term cosmogyny as "an ordered universe arranged in harmony with gynocratic principles" (xiii-xiv). Thus, the book opens with a section of stories that reveal the universe in harmony with the "gynocratic values" of "peace, tolerance, sharing, relationship, balance, harmony, and just distribution of goods" (xiv).
        The second section of the book, titled "Ritual Magic and Aspects of the Goddesses," moves from myth to ritual or, as Allen explains, from noun to verb (8). Defining ritual tradition as "the great body of articulated experiential knowledge that deals with the features of the universe of power" (8), Allen writes: "Myths can be seen as reports or recipes for ritual practice, and rituals can be seen as enactments of myth. But either seen separately from the other is seen falsely" (8).
        So, of course, the three sections of the book are not to be analyzed or even read separately, and this fact points to one of my limitations in writing this review. Since one of the central figures of both the female and Native American worlds is the circle, one must read (and write about) the book in a circular manner, for,

Many times the stories weave back and forth between the everyday and the supernatural without explanation, confusing the logical mind and compelling linear thought processes to chase their own tails, which of course is a major spiritual purpose behind the tradition's narrative form. (5)

{73} But to continue with a linear analysis, the third section of the book, "Myth, Magic, and Medicine in the Modern World," is testimony to the present and future uses of the myths and rituals of the past. This last section's stories "testify to the pertinence today of the ways of power. They indicate that relations between human women and supernaturals are as viable in the present time as in days gone by" (xvi). But since I have presented the stories as following a linear past-present-future chronology, I should reiterate that the stories do not end, that all time is all-present. This is the paragraph that closes but does not end "Someday Soon," the final story:

It is said that at the time of the beginning, the Goddess will return in the fullness of her being. It is said that the Mother of All and Everything, the Grandmother of the Sun and the Dawn, will return to her children and with her will come harmony, peace, and the healing of the world. It is said that time is coming. Soon. (201)

It is usually a taboo to disclose a book's ending in a review, but here I have broken no taboo, since this is, in a sense, also the book's opening. The only taboo here, in fact, is not in disclosing but in disbelieving. Paula Gunn Allen continually renders to the reader a way of reading the book that is a way of believing:

. . . the stories in this collection are not to be taken primarily as metaphors for instinctual patterns deeply embedded in the human psyche as Jung would have it, or as meta models of the structure of the human mind as Levi-Strauss claimed. Though they function on a number of levels of significance, as is the nature of all literature, they are factual accounts. (6-7)

Later, she reiterates, and I wouldn't dare not allow her the last word:

Notice the land, the vastness around you, and say there are no goddesses, no gods. Say that the holy people are imaginary substitutes for hidden human instinctual drives. Go on, I dare you. Say it. (218)

Sandra L. Sprayberry         



{74}

The Lightning Within: An Anthology of Contemporary American Indian Fiction. Ed. Alan Velie. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1991. Cloth, ISBN 0-8032-4659-5; paper, ISBN 0-8032-9557-x. 163 pages.

        Anthologies are vexing. Governed on all sides by complicated processes of selection and exclusion, anthologies gain weight, change their minds, or lose currency to the extent that their makers and consumers recognize their own political, historical, and cultural investment in the act, and in the art, of making and consuming. Much more than pedagogical conveniences or unnatural history museums, anthologies are now more than ever tenable as occasions for constructive critical discussion of what we teach and how we implement change--provided, of course, that we have the time, the inclination, and the employment opportunity to do so. Maybe, as recent such discussions indicate, only one thing is really clear: a good anthology remains hard to define and harder still to find.
        For better and, I think, for worse, Alan Velie's The Lightning Within offers a refreshing alternative to what Kenneth Warren describes as "the biblical weight and size of anthologies"--the two-volume, ten-pound, 5500-page colossi that often seem both to represent the "palpable weight of a tradition" and to regret that they could not be heavier still (Kenneth Warren, "The Problem of Anthologies, or Making the Dead Wince" in "Forum: What Do We Need to Teach?" American Literature June 1993: 341). In startling contrast, Velie's Anthology of Contemporary American Indian Fiction gathers together but seven writers and nine writings, and the book weighs in at what is, by other "contemporary" standards, an Ultra Slimfast 163 pages. Editorial intrusions are kept to an extreme minimum; Velie's introduction, which opens with the sentence "American Indians have been composing narratives for thousands of years," comprises fewer than five hundred words. Headnotes introduce each of the seven writers and these, with the exceptions of those devoted to Momaday and Vizenor, are shorter still. And, while it proposes the worthwhile intention of {75} both introducing and celebrating contemporary American Indian fiction, the anthology makes only slight gestures toward suggestions for further reading.
        Now, friends and fellow members of ASAIL, you will probably do all right without lengthier editorial commentaries and bibliographies. You will already know something about the seven writers featured in this anthology--Momaday, Welch, Silko, Vizenor, Simon Ortiz, Erdrich, and Dorris--and in fact it's likely that you're familiar with most if not all of the stories Velie collects, since all but Vizenor's "Luminous Thighs" are excerpted from major works such as House Made of Dawn, Storyteller, and Love Medicine. To my reading, the selections are all powerful and all beautiful; the stories are well chosen both for their diverse particular merits and for the ways they work together. (A good anthology is not exactly a ceremony, of course, but can be understood as a form of community.) Many of them look unflinchingly at contemporary on- and off-reservation life, detailing problems involving (for example) poverty, alcoholism, racism, and sexual abuse while also, importantly, affirming real and various strengths--literary strengths, yes, and also cultural strengths, spiritual strengths, the survival and maintenance of family, community, and storytelling.
        At the same time, the stories collectively demonstrate that simple binary-driven understandings of Indians and of Indian-white relations just won't do. Again, for SAIL readers this will not come as revolutionary news, but those readers who genuinely seek and need an introduction to contemporary American Indian fiction (and, by extension, contemporary American Indian culture) will learn a great deal from these nine stories. Dorris's Rayona, a mixed-blood African-American and Native American living in the American Northwest, comes from a very contemporary sort of broken home; she sleeps, she tells us, in her estranged mother's old bedroom, under her mom's pictures of Elvis Presley, Jackie Kennedy, and Connie Francis. She flips through old copies of Seventeen magazine while her Aunt Ida watches As the World Turns and The People's Court downstairs. Rayona meets up with very contemporary sorts of cruel teenagers, and ends up defiantly happy in the wake of the inept white priest's sexual assault. James Welch's White Man's Dog, in contrast, comes from an earlier Northwest, where his Blackfeet people are still sovereign and whites the likes of Father Tom are still more outside than inside their lives. Welch describes the courtship, marriage, and sexual passions of White Man's Dog and Red Paint in the context of a wealth of family relationships and friendships, as well as a breathtaking and very highly-charged mythic realm where Raven-People and Wolverine-People and receptive Blackfeet smoke, talk, and enjoy mutually {76} courteous relationships. In general, whites in these stories--with the cheerful exception of Silko's Captain Pratt--typically believe themselves superior to Indians, but their racism turns up in many different (and often self-delusory) packages. Dorris's Father Tom, for example, doesn't understand nearly as much as he so self-assuredly thinks; to both old and young Indian men, Father Tom is a laughing-stock, and Rayona immediately pegs him too: "He is a real jerk, a dork" (140). But, as Rayona learns over time, he is a real jerk with just enough power to be annoying if not actively dangerous. And just such modulations and transitions and mixtures--of, for example, comic deadpan, wariness, boredom in the face of fatuously peppy Christians, and lyric expressions of both teen angst and love medicine, both Wolverine song and bad 1970s disco--may very well teach new readers of contemporary American Indian fiction most of all.
        And yet, even in liking the anthology as a collection of good stories, I found that the same question inevitably recurred throughout my reading: Why is this book so short? I mean, can contemporary American Indian fiction be introduced and celebrated in a book that's only 163 pages long? Velie tells us in his introduction that "[t]hese writers have gained some critical attention . . . but by and large they are still not well known to most readers. It is the purpose of this book to address that problem by providing a selection of some of the best pieces of contemporary Indian fiction to serve as an introduction to the principal Indian novelists and short-story writers of the past twenty years." I would like Velie to tell us more about the critical and aesthetic standards that inform his sense of "the best." I would like to see a bibliography at the end of this anthology, simply because the stories Velie gathers together are so good; it's a shame that the book does not end by building bridges toward further reading and imagining and learning. Velie does say, in his introduction, that "[r]eaders who enjoy the authors included here will want to seek out other works by them. I hope, too, that these readers will also move on to other sorts of Indian writing--the drama of Hanay Geigomah, the political and philosophical writings of Vine Deloria, and the poetry of Rayna Green, Diane Burns, and Paula Gunn Allen, to name just a few examples" (x). I agree. But why not name more than "just a few examples," including suggestions for listening to American Indian stories told orally? (Even the end of a millennium will not persuade me to cede the place of oral storytelling!)
        Finally, though, I cautiously recommend this anthology. I think that The Lightning Within can be useful for, among others, high school and college teachers who are comfortable with the idea that, compared to the colossi, less can be more. Spare and reticent as Velie's anthology can be, it still brings together a nice range of contemporary {77} American Indian fiction. It can also help generate discussion and greater understanding of the wonderful varieties of contemporary American Indian fiction as well as the no-less wonderful connections between seven Native American writers who can now, thanks to Velie, be reinterpreted and reimagined as a working community. Short in length, The Lightning Within is generous and challenging in spirit.

Eric Anderson         





The Things That Were Said of Them. Told by Asatchaq. Tr. from the Inupiaq by Tukummiq and Tom Lowenstein. Berkeley: U of California P, 1992. ISBN 0-520-0659-7.

        The Tikigaq people of Point Hope, Alaska, tell the story of the mythic protoshaman Tulinjigraq, who spears a whale that no one can kill. When the whale dives, Tulinjigraq sings an avataqsiun (drag-float song) to make it rise. On reaching the water's surface, the whale is transformed into the peninsula upon and from which the Tikigagmiut build homes and launch whaling expeditions that are a reflection and continuation of this first hunt.
        The premise of a living, interactive harmony between the worlds of myth and the here-and-now is fundamental to many Native American belief systems. The lower worlds of the Navajo story of the Emergence are portrayed as a realm of creation, connected by geography and symbol to the Earth-Surface World of the Dinetah; and as hero tales are reenacted in Navajo healing ceremonials, so order is restored to the cosmos in a celebration of the bond between myth and life. Similarly, raiding expeditions of the pre-twentieth-century Tohono O'Odham were preceded by narrative oratory recounting the tale of the first war party of myth, and it would not be overly satirical to suggest that the ancient lights in the night sky participate in astrophysical ceremonials that grant the modern European psyche an affirmative glimpse of the mythic past articulated in its sciences.
        The story of the shamanic creation of the Tikigaq peninsula is an appropriate beginning to British poet Tom Lowenstein's collection of Tikigaq lore, entitled The Things That Were Said of Them. The whale {78} and the pursuit of whaling were central to the Tikigaq culture of old, providing not only economic sustenance but also societal, ritual, and spiritual focus. The Whale Who Becomes Land is the mythic expression of the essential and existential in Tikigaq life--a metaphor in Euro-American literary parlance, but far more. The inua (resident spirit) of the primal whale lives in the mud and gravel topography of Tikigaq, and if the interaction between the Tikigagmiut and the inua of their homeland has diminished with Americanization, Christianization, and loss of tradition, it survives in the oral literature passed on to Lowenstein by the Tikigag loremaster, Asatchaq.
        Twenty-one of the twenty-four myths, shaman tales, and histories that comprise Lowenstein's collection were spoken by Asatchaq (Jimmie Killiguvik) in Tikigaq during the spring and winter of 1976. Born in a time when Tikigaq society was threatened by starvation, disease, and the disappearance of game (the bowhead whale had been hunted to near extinction to satisfy the baleen markets in Europe and the United States), Asatchaq lived to see the passing of a way of life that had been succumbing slowly to the pressures of contact since the Nineteenth Century. His stories are the chronicle of a culture in transition, and it is the anjatkuq--the Tikigagmiut shaman--whose evolution, from the trickster/creator of myth to the powerful spiritual and political leader of the post-contact period, mirrors this transition within the context of a cosmology in which the mythic, the historical, and the immediate are inextricably joined.
        The first of Asatchaq's shaman tales are firmly set in the myth-time, where "things were opposite to how they are today" (5). Men hunt by the moon because there is no daylight, and people walk on their hands instead of their feet. Distinctions and barriers between spirits, people, and animals are vague, and primal tricksters wield shaman-magic to create and set precedent for the world that will be. Tulunjigraq follows the feat of harpooning the first whale by assuming his raven's guise (Tulunjigraq translates "something like a raven") to steal daylight, "thus ensuring that light and darkness are balanced in the newly made world" (5). The trickster shaman Alinjnaq deceives his sister into committing incest and, to hide his shame, transforms himself into the Moon Spirit. In times of poor hunting, tribal shamans visit the moon in spirit journeys to petition Alinjnaq for the release of the game over which he has charge, and Tikigaq women stand on their iglus to welcome the new moons of fall and spring with bowls of consecrated water. If they show sufficient power, the water reaches Alinjnaq by way of the sky hole that connects the earth to the moon and he drops whale effigies made of lamp-black into the raised bowls of the supplicants, thus ensuring a successful hunt.
        The questing tricksters of legend offer a mythic and narrative {79} bridge between the trickster/transformer exemplified in Tulunjigraq and Alinjnaq and the great Tikigaq shamans who are their spiritual and historical progeny. These picaresque wanderers are clearly human and their landscape closer to a "recognizably socialized world" (45) than the realm of myth. Kinnaq (Crazy Man) "lives in a world of failure and hallucination" (34). His adventures are characterized by the hilarious, frantic ribaldry found in Paul Radin's translation of the Winnebago trickster cycle (The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology [New York: Philosophical Library, 1956]), and the punishment he receives for taunting two old women whom he finds sewing in an iglu is eloquently, and frighteningly, contemporary. Kinnaq's unlikely counterpart is the wandering shaman Ukunjniq, who is described as a "tikigaq man," although his time is very much that of legend. Ukunjniq "roam[s] the world in search of spiritual challenges" (21), and his confrontations with beings of the spirit world define shamanic practice for the Tikigagmiut who are soon to come.
        Asatchaq's narrative continues with accounts of "shamanic gestes," still legend but firmly rooted in the everyday realities of a culture that will survive intact well into the Twentieth Century. The whale-hunting shaman Qipugaluatchiaq takes a caribou woman for a wife. She becomes human but returns to her original identity on jumping into the fire she builds to cremate their dead son. Both mother and son escape inland in spirit form and Qipugaluatchiaq lives to take a spirit journey through the sea, where he directs the body of a whale toward his mortal family who are waiting on the shore. In another tale, a child-shaman is initiated by whaling spirits and is later killed by his rivals. Stories of trading journeys, shamanic displays of power, and revenge killings are told, all with an attention to specifics of Tikigaq culture and village life that suggests a shift from mythical to historical reality.
        The ancestor histories and modern shaman stories that complete Asatchaq's narrative are called uquluktuaqs ("the things that were said of them"). They differ from unipkaaqs (myths, legends, folktales) not in their veracity, for both are believed to be true, but in definable lineages and a proximity of the events described to the storyteller's time. An uquluktuaq can cover events up to five generations in the past--the intensely descriptive tale of the feud of Nigliq and Sunyuk takes place in the Nineteenth Century. As Atachaq's uquluktuaqs approach the modern era, the role of the shaman in Tikigaq society is revealed in detail. Always adaptive, occasionally a charlatan or a venal and ruthless autocrat, the shaman called the North Wind that would bring prey to Tikigaq whalers or made spirit journeys to the underwater iglu of the sea goddess to ensure the arrival of sea beasts for hunting. Masiin, regarded as Tikigaq's last shaman, was said to have used his power to kill Joseph Stalin while on a spirit journey over Russia: {80}"That's a bad man . . . so I killed him" (197). A notable exception to the shaman's benevolent role of provider and spiritual intermediary was the turn-of-the-century Tikigaq "chief" Atanjauraq. He possessed both a shaman's powers and the influence of wealth amassed in commerce with the Whites of Jabbertown, a trading village on the Tikiraq peninsula so named because of the many languages spoken there. His oppression of the Tikigaqmiut led to his murder while "sleeping off his liquor" (173)--a suitably didactic ending for a shaman who embodied the worst in the mythic trickster.
        Print-oriented cultures are often hesitant to recognize authorship in literatures that are spoken rather than set in stone, disk, or paper, and only very recently have texts transcribed from Native American oral traditions gained acceptance into the canonic mythos of comparative literature. Asatchaq is the author of the stories he tells, a fact recognized by ethnographer Tom Lowenstein on the jacket and title page, where his name stands below those of Asatchaq and principal translator Tukummiq. Lowenstein's concession is not a shallow gesture. His respect for the literature he transcribes and the culture that is its source shines in the wealth of contextual material in his introduction, and in a lean, hypnotic translation that strives to communicate the oratory stylistics of the storyteller as well as narrative content. Yet Lowenstein reminds us that the audience of The Things That Were Said of Them "starts with Tikigaq" (ix), where shamanism lives in memory and the Tikigaqmiut continue to live on the back of the whale.

Larry Ellis         





wanisinwak iskwêsisak awasisasinahikanis: Two Little Girls Lost in the Bush: A Cree Story for Children. Told by Nêhiyaw/Glecia Bear. Fifth House/U of Toronto P, 1991. Cloth, ISBN 0-920079-77-6. 40 pages.

        This story was told by Nêhiyaw/Glecia Bear to Freda Ahenakew and is part of a larger collection of Cree women's life experiences. Ahenakew recorded the story on tape and it was translated by herself and H. C. Wolfart.
{81}
        The introduction personalizes the work. Ahenakew says, "This story was told to me by my aunt, and it is a true story" (1). Ahenakew's observations provide a rare insight into life on an Indian reserve in northern Saskatchewan, Canada, in the early 1900s. She explains how children were taught to survive and she shows how strong Nêhiyaw, the heroine of the story, was. She was only eleven years old and still loved to play, but her concern was for her younger sister during their ordeal in the bush. Ahenakew also mentions culturally pertinent material regarding attitudes toward the owl for uninitiated readers and conveys, aptly, the attitudes of people on the reserve when the two girls were lost.
        The top half of each page contains the Cree story and the bottom half contains the English translation. The book is in hard cover and is well bound with a tantalizing cover picture. This is unusual in an "ethnic" book and indicates the seriousness with which rejuvenation of Native languages is being taken in Canada. Fifth House is to be congratulated on the fine quality of this book.
        The book, however, is not without its problems. It is obviously intended for young readers, those learning the Cree language or those being introduced to their own literature in print form. Problems with regional terminology and translation exist and will continue to exist until some form of standardization occurs in the Algonkian languages. To ensure acceptance, perhaps Aboriginal writers should consult scholars from within the culture to ensure that a holistic, accurate perspective is gained in translation. This is particularly important when the work is intended for educational purposes; otherwise confusion and frustration with learning the language will prevail.
        Translators and editors must begin this process of standardization in order that Aboriginal writers may reach larger audiences. First Nations stories, told by elders, are an essential part of culture and language acquisition but they must go beyond just a retelling. Oral narratives must instruct, enlighten, and entertain just as other literatures attempt to do. wanisinwak iskwêsisak appears to do this.
        There are inconsistencies, however, in the Cree and English versions that may lead to confusion on the part of bilingual readers. wanisinwak iskwêsisak simply means "girls lost" whereas the English translation has been embellished to call the book Two Little Girls Lost in the Bush. This mistranslation may lead one who is attempting to learn the language to conclude that the words two, little, and bush are implied in the Cree title, which they are not. Another aspect that detracts from the overall effectiveness of the book for Cree readers is the improper use of, or lack of, prefixes and suffixes. The term used to describe communion, for example, could be succinct by the use of an appropriate prefix such as kische or achák.
{82}
        Other elements in the book that pose problems for Cree readers are the use of non-Cree words and improper terminology. This may lead students of the language to believe that new words are not accommodated in the Cree language, which is incorrect. An example of the former is nipâpâ which should be notawe. To improve terminology, ê-wî-ati-seskisit could be sehtapowayw and minahhiwak could be seta kwanatik. Although the terminology in the text is understood it is lacking in complete description.
        Understandably, the translators had to work with the story as Glecia Bear told it and had to make decisions regarding translation. They have a responsibility, however, to provide sound educational materials for classroom use if this is their purpose. If Aboriginal literatures are to be utilized as instructional tools more effort must be made to publish work reflecting sound pedagogical strategies and good scholarship.
        The English version flows in typical oral narrative style with many digressions as Glecia Bear recalls changes since her childhood. For children who are used to oral narrative and the stories told by elders the style will be interesting and familiar. The excitement of events is portrayed well by the storyteller and is retained by the translators. An example of superb storytelling occurs when Glecia Bear tells about the men finding them in the bush:

Oh, and it was not long before shots were fired all over, when he had fired his shots, shooting was now heard just everywhere, shots all over. (28)

        Outstanding illustrations by Jerry Whitehead, a Saskatchewan Cree artist, are found in abundance. The pictures are brightly colored with meticulous detail, true to the details of the story. They are appropriately placed and will greatly assist young readers in mastering the story, whether in Cree or English. The one exception is a very effective picture of the lost cow peeking through a two-inch leafy square in the middle of the page. Whereas the image of the lost cow is delightful and will charm many a young reader, the difficulty of picking up the correct line to read on the right side of the picture creates yet another obstacle for the young reader.
        This story is engaging and keeps readers, young and old, engrossed to the end. We can look forward to Freda Ahenakew's book of Cree women's life experiences, but unless there is more consistency in translation they will be of limited use to Cree teachers in the classroom.

Agnes Grant         
Lavina Gillespie         





{83}

The Bingo Palace. Louise Erdrich. New York: Harper, 1994. Cloth, ISBN 0-06-017080-8. 274 pages.

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





The Business of Fancydancing. Sherman Alexie. Brooklyn: Hanging Loose, 1992. Cloth, ISBN 0-914610-24-4; paper, ISBN 0-914610-00-7. 84 pages.

        Part of the business of fancydancing consists of being Indian. And part of the business of being a contemporary Indian involves police harassment, commodity foods, HUD housing, basketball tournaments, powwows, alcohol, memories, and dreams. In the stories, sketches, and poems that comprise The Business of Fancydancing, Sherman Alexie (Spokane/Coeur d'Alene) makes a stunning debut by depicting the stark cultural landscape surrounding Wellpinit, Washington, "another reservation town of torn shacks and abandoned cars," a town filled with "Crazy Horse dreams, the kind that don't come true."
        In Alexie's vision, the old Salish world diminishes with each generation. In "Grandmother," the speaker recalls childhood memories of this woman's "hands that smelled deep / roots buried in the earth" --hands which more recently have been occupied in "sifting through the dump / salvaging those parts of the world / neither useless nor useful." In "Morphine and Codeine," the speaker remembers his first experience taking mainstream medicine rather than Indian remedies. The narrator explains in "Distances" that "I do not speak my native tongue. Except that is, for the dirty words." In "Translated from the American," he speaks of his childhood shame over his inability to learn Salish. {89} Despite such a deficiency, his grandmother reminds him that "English was your foreign language." This cultural void suggested by the lack of a mother tongue resonates through several pieces of this collection. In Alexie's fictional world, unlike Louise Erdrich's or Leslie Marmon Silko's, little solace can be found in the old ways or in "the old stories / where the Indian never loses." Fancydancing becomes not so much an exercise in cultural pride as a surefire means of obtaining money: "Money is an Indian Boy who can fancydance / from powwow to powwow . . . / a credit card we / Indians get to use." For in this world, "Money / is a tool, putty to fill all the empty / spaces. . . ."
        Despite the overt bleakness, the work as a whole speaks of the strength--and particularly the endurance--of Indian life. In "Gravity," the narrator comments that "every Indian has the blood of the tribal memory circling his heart." The reservation thus becomes a locus of strength, for "the Indian, no matter how far he travels away, must come back, repeating, forming the reverse exodus." Like other Native American writers, Alexie seizes upon Indian humor as a tool to deflect the pain of physical and emotional poverty. Moreover, some pieces speak of strategies of endurance, such as "thoughts of forgiveness" in "Artificial Respiration" or the flattering of a belligerent state trooper in "Traveling." Other pieces suggest the consequences of survival. For perhaps the humiliation of harassment in "Traveling" leads to the smugness of successfully sneaking liquor into a powwow in "No Drugs or Alcohol Allowed," complete with the ironic knowledge that "we won . . . but it was only Indians versus Indians," a hollow victory about which "no one / is developing a movie script." In particular, however, Alexie presents Crazy Horse, a visionary figure extending through past, present, and future, as a metaphor for Indian continuance, for in "War All the Time," the figure of Crazy Horse comments that "you can't stop a man / from trying to survive. . . ." Consequently, in various pieces, Crazy Horse returns from Viet Nam, selling his medals to buy beer. Crazy Horse hitchhikes a ride with the reservation taxi. He takes a job at the 7-11, "four dollars an hour, graveyard shift . . . / and all the Coke he can drink. . . ." Crazy Horse tries to sell blood to buy a ride home to the reservation, only to be told that "we've already taken too much of your blood / and you won't be eligible / to donate for another generation or two."
        Alexie knits the disparate pieces of The Business of Fancydancing together. Recurring family names such as Boyd and WildShoe suggest an extended reservation kinship network. Characters such as Lester FallsApart, Seymour, the Professor, and Chief Victor, the narrator- speaker's father, reappear in various poems and stories. And images such as ashes, house fires, old blankets and new, blood, and car wrecks permeate the stories and poems, creating a matrix for the collection. {90} Because of these various linkings, it is tempting to read this work as an impressionistic portrait of Spokane reservation life by a single inhabitant, whom Alexie names as Chief Victor, Junior, in the final piece, "Gravity." Another unifying factor in The Business of Fancydancing is the constant interplay between the austere physical and cultural landscapes and the rich twists of imagination and vibrancy of language in which Alexie depicts them. This work signals the arrival of a tremendously gifted young writer.

Kristan Sarvé-Gorham         





Full Moon on the Reservation. Gloria Bird. Greenfield Center NY: The Greenfield Review P, 1993. Paper, ISBN 0-912678-86-0. 67 pages.

        Full Moon on the Reservation, Gloria Bird's first collection of poetry, is characterized by diversity in voice and in style. The book contains several prose poems, many poems that are clearly written in free verse, as well as some lineated in more or less regular stanzas. Although the identity of the speaker seems fairly consistent from poem to poem, this speaker places herself in a variety of circumstances and hence expresses various emotions. By arranging this collection as she has, Bird exploits tone to permit many poems to amplify--rather than merely repeat--each other.
        One of the most haunting poems is "Predictions of Yard Rain," which is in its entirety:

                  Mother's banties roosted in brother's corn
                 no ordinary chickens, pretty hens
                 of spotted underthings. Mother dreamed
                 a temperamental yard of queens,
                 my brother envisioned the coming slaughter.
                 That banty invaded summer,
                 both wishes granted. Red and white speckled feathers,
                 blue wet axe, a miscellany of turning heads,
                 and the dirtier white friendly feathers
{91}
                 let us catch their chicks for pets, flattered us
                 our arrogant predictions of domestic bliss.

The success of this poem can be measured by the control demonstrated in its language. Relying on an understated tone, Bird enhances the efficacy of her images. We see the side effects of slaughter--"Red and white speckled feathers, / blue wet axe"--rather than the slaughter itself. Yet we paradoxically feel increased horror because we inevitably imagine the slaughter after what could, in other circumstances, have been a peaceful and dream-like image, the "Red and white speckled feathers." And given the context of this poem among the other poems in the collection, the absence of "domestic bliss" from the barnyard offers an implicit comment on human households, where "domestic bliss" is equally illusory.
        "Bare Bone Winter" is the first of the prose poems in the collection, and it exemplifies the most critical characteristic of prose poetry, that is, interesting language. Through alliteration, assonance, and even rhyme, the words sometimes bang against, sometimes slide into each other. A woman is chopping wood, and her "sharpened axe slips down the grain" while her "neighbor's horses clip their hooves into crusted snow." Because the reader can't avoid being drawn into this language, the implicitly violent content becomes more eerie than it might otherwise be. Integrated into this act are memories of genocide that begin as "a Trader is selling Indian finger bone in an old basket with pottery shards" and move eventually to the more detached statement that "After sixteen hundred miles, Joseph surrendered the Wallowas forever." Splitting wood for the woman becomes an act of the imagination so intense that the future becomes implicated in history as she burns her kindling, and "Bones scatter like the hand of winter over the land as mountainous as the woman's belly."
        Unfortunately, not all of the poems in this collection permit vivid language or implication to convey the poem's significance. "Matriarchal Bloodlines," for example, is didactic and reductive. Simultaneously, and probably not coincidentally, its language is more abstract than the language in the poems I've discussed above, and its metaphors are more simply convenient than particularly telling. The poem begins:

                 My brother went to Nam for attention
                 having learned early to cheer on the cavalry,
                 the Wayne and Reagan cowboys driving Indians
                 through the valley of primal phallus.

True as this may be, the sentence does not transcend cliché, does not provide the reader with any particular visceral moment through which this truth can be accepted emotionally as well as intellectually. The poem continues by inflecting race with gender: "My other brothers {92} demand respect / from the couch of superior gender," but again, the statement is too easy, too expected. By the end of the poem, Bird seems to have lost control of the language:

                 . . . . I am sister to mercenaries
                 who kill from within, the spoils of war,
                 internalized oppression and stupid
                 show-offy pride.

I would much rather have seen the pride in action, have witnessed the details of an event that have led the speaker to these accusations, rather than simply be expected to trust the accusations themselves.
        Poems with these flaws, though they are not predominant, do mar the power of the collection, as do the too-frequent direct references to writing poetry. Full Moon on the Reservation would have benefitted from more vigorous editing. Yet, if the collection as a whole does not live up to its strongest poems, those strong poems do promise that Gloria Bird will become a voice to be reckoned with.

Lynn Domina         




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CONTRIBUTORS



Peggy Maddux Ackerberg is a graduate student in French literature at Harvard University. She is a member of the Citizen Band Potawatomi Tribe of Oklahoma and is currently researching the image of Native Americans in French literature.

Eric Anderson teaches in the English and History Departments at Rutgers University-New Brunswick, where he will be devoting the 1994-95 academic year to a 400-student Native American History course and a seminar entitled "The Indian in American Literature." "Southwestern Dispositions: American Literature on the Borderlands, 1880-1990," recently completed at Rutgers, is under contract with the University of Texas Press.

Betty Louise Bell is an Assistant Professor of English, American Culture, and Women's Studies at the University of Michigan and current Vice-President of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures. Her novel Faces in the Moon has recently been published by University of Oklahoma Press.

Sarah Bennett teaches in the Intensive English Lab at the University of Texas at Tyler. She recently completed her M.A. thesis, "The Lessons of Windigo Madness in Louise Erdrich's World." Currently she is working on a complete bibliography of works by and about Louise Erdrich.

Elizabeth Blair is a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where she is completing her dissertation and teaching Native American Literatures.

Anna Carew-Miller is a graduate student in English at the University of New Mexico. She is completing her dissertation on Mary Austin and has previously written articles on nineteenth-century American literature, the American Indian oral tradition, and critical theory.

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Alix Casteel is a doctoral candidate in the Department of English at the University of Michigan, where she teaches courses in Native American literature this semester. Her dissertation examines the interplay of family roles with gender roles, and the concurrent ideological changes in the family body, in the works of nineteenth-century American writers. Her interest in Native studies has its origins in her own Totonac family stories.

Lynn Domina is a Ph.D. candidate at S.U.N.Y. Stony Brook, where she is writing her dissertation on American women's biography.

Larry Ellis is completing his M.A. in English Language and Literature at Arizona State University. His article "Trickster: Shaman of the Liminal," which appeared in SAIL 5.4, was recently reprinted (in French) in Sur le Dos de la Tortue.

Lavina Gillespie (Cree) has been a classroom teacher in Manitoba, Canada, where she has taught Cree and Native Studies. She recently completed her M.Ed. degree at Brandon University, Manitoba, Canada; her dissertation deals with issues in acquisition of Aboriginal languages. She is currently employed by the Manitoba Department of Education.

Agnes Grant teaches Introductory Native Studies, Native Literature, Native Education and Women's Studies courses at Brandon University, Manitoba, Canada. Most of her teaching takes place in isolated and remote communities where Brandon University Northern Teacher Education Program (BUNTEP) trains Native teachers.

Andrea Musher is an Assistant Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, where she teaches courses in English and Women's Studies. She is also a poetry activist. Her recent collection, The Rhythm Method Poems, was published by turningforty Press.

Kristan Sarvé-Gorham is completing her Ph.D. work in English at Emory University. Her dissertation explores the relationship between the Western and the "medicine woman" novels of Mourning Dove, Silko, Erdrich, and Momaday.

Sandra Sprayberry is Assistant Professor of English at Birmingham Southern College, where she teaches twentieth-century literature. Her work has appeared previously in SAIL.



Contact: Robert Nelson
This page was last modified on: 04/25/03