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Studies in American Indian Literatures
Series 2                 Volume 7, Number 1                 Spring 1995


morning prayer
        Thomas D. Jenks       .                   .                  .                  .         1

Gender at Work in Laguna Coyote Tales
        Theresa Delgadillo     .                  .                  .                  .         3

Indian Men With Baseball Caps
        Charmaine M. Benz   .                  .                  .                  .         25

dealing with bears
        Clyde L. Hodge         .                  .                  .                  .         26

Trickster, Trickster Discourse, and Identity in Louis Owens' Wolfsong
        Chris LaLonde           .                  .                  .                  .         27

        Clyde L. Hodge         .                  .                  .                  .         43

"This Woman Can Cross Any Line": Feminist Tricksters in the Works
of Nora Naranjo-Morse and Joy Harjo

        Kristine Holmes         .                  .                  .                  .         45

a new poem for elisabetta
        lance henson              .                  .                  .                  .         64

Subverting the Dominant Paradigm: Gerald Vizenor's Trickster Discourse
        Kerstin Schmidt         .                  .                  .                  .         65

Mythic Rage and Laughter: An Interview with Gerald Vizenor
        Dallas Miller              .                  .                  .                  .         77

ASAIL President's Report                 .                  .                  .         97
ASAIL Sessions at ALA                     .                   .                  .         99
1995 ASAIL Executive Committee    .                   .                  .         100
Book Review Editor Announced        .                   .                  .         101

Our Grandmothers' Lives as Told in Their Own Words. Ed. and tr. Freda
Ahenakew and H. C. Wolfart

        Theresa Delgadillo     .                   .                  .                  .         103

Born a Chief: the Nineteenth Century Hopi Boyhood of Edmund Nequatewa.
As told to Alfred F. Whiting
. Ed. P. David Seaman

        Ermal Eston Henderson                .                   .                  .         107

Owl in the Cedar Tree. Natache Scott Momaday
Red Hawk's Account of Custer's Last Battle. Paul Goble
Brave Eagle's Account of the Fetterman Fight. Paul Goble
        Agnes Grant              .                  .                  .                  .         110

Love Medicine: New and Expanded Version. Louise Erdrich
        Sarah Bennett            .                  .                  .                  .         112

The Indian Chronicles. José Barreiro
        Jeannie Ludlow          .                  .                  .                  .         118

CONTRIBUTORS             .                  .                  .                  .         123

6.4 Errata: A typesetting error in SAIL 6.4 (Winter 1994), page 34, resulted in the misattribution of three of Arnold Krupat's works to Karl Kroeber. Line 30 on that page should read "Krupat, Arnold. Ethnocriticism: [. . . ]." Our apologies for this typographical oversight.

1995 ASAIL Patrons:

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

1995 Sponsors:

D. L. Birchfield
Arnold Krupat
Andrea Lerner
and others who wish to remain anonymous


morning prayer

Thomas D. Jenks         

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


Gender at Work in Laguna Coyote Tales

Theresa Delgadillo         

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



[This and the following seven pages are a facsimile of pp. 167-74 of Franz Boas's Keresan Texts, Volume 8 Part 1 of the Publications of the American Ethnological Society, as published in 1928. Our thanks to AMS Press for permission to reproduce these pages in SAIL. The vertical bars and numbers in parentheses that appear in this text refer, respectively, to line breaks and numbered lines in the text of Keresan Texts Volume 8 Part 2, which is itself a holograph written in the Keresan language.]

{facsimile, Boas 167}


{facsimile, Boas 168}


{facsimile, Boas 169}


{facsimile, Boas 170}


{facsimile, Boas 171}


{facsimile, Boas 172}


{facsimile, Boas 173}


{facsimile, Boas 174}


Indian Men With Baseball Caps

Charmaine M. Benz         

        They all came out for the funeral,
        She had lots of men in her family.
        Uncles, nephews, cousins, and

        They sat quietly
        Without their baseball caps
        It was a twentieth century ceremony
        For the dead.

        They sat calmly,
        Like warriors without regalia,
        To go outside
        And smoke cigarettes
        And put their baseball caps back on.


dealing with bears

Clyde L. Hodge         

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


Trickster, Trickster Discourse, and Identity in Louis Owens' Wolfsong

Chris LaLonde         

        In Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel (1992), mixedblood critic and novelist Louis Owens writes that "in spite of the fact that Indian authors write from very diverse tribal and cultural backgrounds, there is to a remarkable degree a shared consciousness and identifiable worldview reflected in novels by American Indian authors, a consciousness and worldview defined primarily by a quest for identity" (20). This quest for identity is integral to what Owens calls the Native Americans' "unending battle to affirm their own identity, to resist the metamorphoses insisted upon by European intruders and to hold to that certainty of self that is passed on through tribal traditions and oral literatures" (21). It is precisely this battle for identity which is being waged in Wolfsong, Owens' 1991 novel, a text set against the backdrop of the contemporary land rights controversy in the Pacific Northwest. Tom Joseph, the protagonist of Wolfsong, must find his identity before he can affirm it, however, and our understanding of his quest for a certainty of self is enriched by the figure of the trickster appearing throughout the narrative, for that figure helps us understand Tom Joseph and his actions. The trickster and trickster discourse, the figure and economy which both free and compel us to re-examine the world, are also fundamental to the text's interrogation of the tropes of Indian and the vanishing Native, both of which are vitally important to resistance and the affirmation of true identity.
        Tom Joseph returns home from his freshman year of college in California in order to attend his uncle's funeral. Jim Joseph had died of what the coroner called a heart attack some time after taking to the wilderness above the town of Forks in order to harass the workers and wage a guerilla action against the machines being used to build a road to a nascent mining site deep in sacred Stehemish land. Tom Joseph, {28} we also learn, returns to reevaluate the decision he had made to leave his family, his girl friend Karen Brant, and his home amongst the rivers and peaks of the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. He tells Karen that "I didn't fit in down there" at Santa Barbara because, he thinks, living in the valley had made him too dark inside.1 Riding the bus north in the rain through Oregon and into Washington then, Tom Joseph feels the dampness of the climate settle deep into his body and experiences "a great sense of coming home" (13).
        That homecoming is tellingly marked by a lack of immediate recognition on the part of Amel Barstow, the truck driver who picks Tom up hitchhiking the last leg of his journey home. When Amel does place Tom's face he laughs at his failure to immediately recognize someone he'd known for years and then says, "I'll be damned. . . . Must've been the hair. You're starting to look like an old-time Indian, a whole lot like a picture I seen once of your uncle when he was a kid" (18). The comment highlights the theme of transformation in Wolfsong, as do Karen Brant's later comments to Tom that "Your hair's longer. You look like an Indian" (63) when she first sees him after his return and Bob McBride's comment that Tom "sure look[s] like" a "timber beast" (181) after working as a logger for a time. These transformations are external, however, changes of appearance which do not necessarily signify a fundamental transformation in Tom and the way he looks at the world and his relationship with it.
        Amel's comment also effectively yokes together Tom with his uncle. That union or joining prefigures both Tom's connection with Jim Joseph's cause later in the text, as Tom eventually turns to militant action in order at the very least to disrupt the desecration of the wilderness in general and the Stehemish ancestral lands in particular, and Tom's attempt to understand the connection between himself and his uncle. The difficulty of making and understanding the latter connection is signalled by Amel's statement that Tom is starting to look "like an old-time Indian," for the adjective "old-time" drives home that the image of an Indian which Tom Joseph mirrors and which Jim Joseph personified is a part of the past. To make the past a part of the present, and indeed a part of the future, to make tradition live, is what is at stake in Wolfsong, as it is in so many other contemporary Native American texts, for it is only through a living tradition that one might understand what it means to be an Indian and attain a true sense of one's identity.
        Raven, the trickster in the oral tradition of numerous Pacific Northwest tribes, is transformed into a figure in the written text which scolds, barks, watches, shouts, laughs, and mocks throughout Wolfsong.2 Raven's entrance into the written world of Wolfsong in the text's opening chapter links Jim Joseph, the trickster, and the theme of {29} identity. Owens writes that after Joseph fires at the bulldozers rending the wilderness, Leroy Brant comes out from behind the cover he had taken to shout up into the forest which "leaned in a black wall, wet and impenetrable" (3). Unable to pinpoint Joseph's exact location, Brant can only cup his hands around his mouth and yell "We know you, old man. Now come on down before somebody gets hurt. This ain't cowboys and injuns." The narrative then discloses that "Somewhere in the timber above him a raven barked and he shifted irritably" (3). Brant shifts to direct his gaze and voice to where the raven barked because, being a good woodsman, he believes that the raven has revealed Joseph's position. With that sentence Owens establishes a link between Jim Joseph, who is described throughout the narrative as grinning, and Raven. Brant shifts irritably because, like the trickster, Jim Joseph is an irritator. Most importantly, the passage also links the trickster and identity because the raven barks immediately after Leroy Brant shouts the hackneyed "cowboys and injuns," a phrase which the dominant culture has been all too quick to use to inscribe both the Native Americans and their relationship to the vision of the white frontier hero.
        As is the case with his appearance, Tom Joseph's actions link him with his uncle and hence with the trickster as well. Indeed, the actions leading to his flight for freedom across the glacier are strikingly reminiscent of those taken by the trickster. If we know the trickster, it is through his actions: sexually active, often violent, ravenous, impetuous, quick to play tricks on others, quick to deceive and at times self-deceiving--the unwitting sufferer of his own tricks. So it is with Tom Joseph: throughout the narrative we learn that he is and has been sexually active, that he can be quite violent, that he is willing to play a destructive trick, and that he is an unwitting sufferer of the trick he plays.
        Consider the subplot in Wolfsong concerning Tom Joseph's relationship with Karen Brant, his former girlfriend, which might seem at best tangential to the larger issues being explored in the text. What, after all, does the story of Tom Joseph's return home to discover that Karen has had intercourse with Buddy Hill, become pregnant, and gotten engaged have to do with issues of identity, tradition, and what it means to be an Indian? The story of the failed relationship does, of course, accentuate the degree to which Tom Joseph is separated from others in the valley. One could also read Karen's physical transformation, which Owens highlights throughout the novel, as symbolic of her psychological transformation: with the pregnancy and engagement Karen loses both the dream of togetherness she had shared with Tom and the dream bears that had protected and nurtured her. Either reading, however, fails to take into account the sexual intercourse {30} between Tom and Karen after her engagement to Buddy. The second time they make love is prefaced by a discussion about Native identity and the mine:

     "Are you against the mine like your uncle was?"
     "I think I saw a wolf," he said. "The first night I was back. I'm almost sure it was a wolf." He reached to touch her neck and then he kissed each eyelid slowly and carefully, moving his hand to the softness of her neck beneath the long hair and then down over her breasts to the barely perceptible swell of her belly. (105)

Karen's question elicits both the invocation of the wolf spirit that was Jim Joseph's helper and guardian and Tom's initiation of sexual foreplay leading to intercourse. The invocation and initiation tacitly form Tom Joseph's response to the question, for the combination of the wolf spirit, which links Tom and his uncle, and the trickster, a character whose sexual appetite leads to the transgression of social boundaries, suggests precisely why and how Tom will deal with the mine befouling the sacred land.
        Like the trickster, Tom Joseph will turn to violence and destruction. The opening of the chapter that introduces Tom Joseph in the narrative begins to sound the connection between the young man and violence. Owens writes:

The bus slid into sight on the coast highway, trailing a mist as the tires threw rain off the asphalt. Above the red bank where the road cut across the cliffs, tall black firs stabbed a layer of cloud. The rain slanted in on the wind, streaking across the window, and the ocean slashed at the base of the cliffs, throwing seaweed and polished logs and debris against the land. A hundred yards out, columns of black rock, pocked by the wind and water, guarded the empty coastline and mists of gulls lifted in uneven lines before settling again. The wind cut the tops off the waves and wove whitecaps around the broken stone. (13)

The paragraph is full of violent verbs: the road cuts, the wind cuts, the firs stab, the ocean slashes and throws debris against the land. The connection between Tom Joseph and violence is strengthened later in the chapter when Owens writes that Tom rides the bus and plays his own violent "game from childhood, sliding the razor-edged blade out from the bus and lopping off everything in its path, seeing the telephone poles fall in neat lines, the timber mowed like grain before the inexorable blade" (14). This image of seemingly indiscriminate destruction, as Tom imagines that both the telephone poles symbolic of the artificial world of the white man and the trees symbolic of the {31} natural world are scythed off, is immediately tempered by the disclosure that Tom retracts the blade and spares a "dull farmhouse" which reminds him of all the Indian homes he has seen. While willing to spare what is remindful of contemporary Native American existence, Tom is quick to slice in two the "shining, two-story brick house" (14) indicative of white culture.
        Later, Tom and his brother Jimmy are forced into a fight with Jake Tobin, Buddy Hill, and two other men. Tom uses violence so extreme that Tobin suffers a severely crippled arm. Tom feels "pity but no guilt" (171) for Jake and remarks that he is free of guilt because "Somethings just happen, I guess. Jake made it happen. Or he let somebody else make it happen" (171-72). Tom's lack of guilt is also suggestive of the trickster, a figure frequently characterized as free from guilt.
        Tom Joseph's most violent and destructive act, of course, is blowing up the water tank at the mining camp. It is only after seeing the mine and being told of the damage it will do to the land that Tom understands why his uncle shot at the machines. With that understanding comes an awareness of what he must do. That awareness is signalled by the fact that he "memorized the site" (169) while there with forest ranger Martin Grider. He does so in order that he will know what to look for and where to plant the dynamite when he returns. What he cannot anticipate, however, are the circumstances that lead to J. D. Hill emerging from the relative cover of one of the camp cabins just as the dynamite is detonated and "ten thousand gallons of water exploded" from the ruptured tank. Caught by the wall of water, Hill is thrown against a bulldozer with such force that his back breaks and he dies (220). Suddenly and unwittingly a murderer, Tom Joseph attempts to avoid pursuit and capture while Owens, to insure that we see the connection between his protagonist and Trickster, writes that "Raven dreamed up death and then mourned bitterly for his lost daughter, the trickster tricked by death" (225).
        The trickster is the sign for Tom Joseph's social antagonism. That is not, however, all that the trickster signifies in Wolfsong. Owens crafts his narrative so that the audience might see both the connection between Tom Joseph and the trickster and that Tom Joseph is neither conscious of the connection nor striving to forge it. Far from diminishing the importance of the trickster in Wolfsong, this dual aspect of the figure is indicative of the complex nature of the trickster in the text. While, as we have seen, the sign of the trickster helps us to understand Tom's actions, the signifier of the trickster, particularly the signifier "raven," helps to accentuate Tom Joseph's isolation.
        The sense of homecoming Tom Joseph experiences as he rides the bus north from California is quickly replaced by questions of identity {32} and his relationship to the place he has called home. Seeing old-growth cedars hauled out of the valley as he rides toward Forks makes Tom realize that for nearly a year he had not thought about the copper company's plan to conduct open-pit mining in the heart of the wilderness area. Tom reminds his brother shortly after arriving home that that country was sacred to their uncle. And, he thinks, "if it was a sacred place, shouldn't it be sacred to him, too, and Jimmy?" (33). Tom Joseph knows the answer to that question, knows that the land should be sacred to him, and that knowledge is the catalyst for his attempt to determine his identity so that the land will be sacred to him.
        He begins by going to his uncle's room and carefully examining all that the man had with him when he died alone in the wilderness, opening himself up to his uncle's presence, and taking the room as his place to sleep. Tom quickly realizes, however, that he is unable to see his identity and its relationship to the land as easily as his uncle had his. Wolfsong drives home that Tom Joseph has difficulty finding out who he is because he did not listen closely enough to his uncle and the stories he told. Tom tells Karen that "My uncle knew a whole lot that he tried to teach me . . . but I never really listened. I mean, I never listened like it would really make a difference. And now I think of all the questions I should have asked" (105). Haunted by those questions, as well as by both an earlier vision quest that failed because of his inability to believe and his failure to have the language necessary to articulate his relationship to the sacred wilderness, Tom fears that while the "map" of his home is made up of the "same mountains, rivers, and forests the Stehemish, Stillaguamish, and Skagit" had always known, the signs now "pointed in different directions, toward different destinies" (121-22). Given such a map, and without his uncle to guide him, Tom comes to feel "alone, cut off, a distant speck in the whirling world" (163).
        It is precisely his isolation that prohibits Tom from understanding the signifier for the trickster, the raven, and what it twice attempts to communicate to him. In the first instance, "A pair of ravens settled in the top of a tattered hemlock and began to mock and scold" (136) as Tom listens to Karen tell him she has chosen to go through with marrying Buddy even though she does not love him. As the ravens bark and laugh, Tom feels "in some strange way that the message was for him if only he knew the language" (137). He cannot understand what the ravens are trying to communicate, however, any more than he can understand the raven that later "ratcheted a question at him" (219) as he prepares to plant the dynamite at the base of the water tank. There, too, Tom Joseph can only glance at the "disappearing bird" while "wondering what it had tried to tell him" (219).
        Gerald Vizenor takes Carl Jung to task for assuming "an inert trickster, an erroneous assertion because the narrator imagines the trickster and the characters are active in a narrative discourse" ("Trickster Discourse" 205). In Wolfsong, however, Tom Joseph is not active in a narrative discourse with the signifiers of the trickster-- raven and coyote. Tom's failure to participate in discourse with the trickster is the result of his increasing isolation. Even the articulation of community offered in the sweatlodge ceremony Tom participates in relatively late in the narrative is all too soon replaced by the "enormity of his solitude" (217) as he camps in the mountains the night before he blows up the water tank. By that time his mother has followed her brother to the grave, Jimmy Joseph has fallen further into the trap of alcohol, and Karen Brant is all but out of his life. Completely isolated from community, Tom cannot understand the trickster, "a sign, a communal signification that cannot be separated or understood in isolation" (Vizenor, "Trickster Discourse" 189). Raven turns "a black eye bright with intelligence and skepticism" (219) upon Tom Joseph as he prepares to dynamite the water tank.3 Like Raven, we should be skeptical, not of what the trickster represents as the sign for social antagonism, but of Tom Joseph's ability to assume the identity of the trickster without the necessary communal base.
        Owens' understanding of the meaning of the sign of the trickster is nowhere more brilliantly conceived and carefully articulated than in his description of the raven's "black eye bright with intelligence and skepticism," for the invocation of the philosophy that absolute knowledge is not possible and that we must therefore approach with doubt the world and what is offered to us as certain and true evokes a worldview that the sign of the trickster would have us see, understand, accept, and adopt. With that adoption comes freedom and the ability to interrogate the world that is given rather than merely accepting the world as given. The trickster, the sign of freedom and chance, can liberate readers as well as characters and audience, if we are aware of and understand both the signifier and the signified which comprise the sign. Only then will the trickster be real for us. While Tom Joseph cannot understand the raven, we can. The trickster is also real and liberating for Louis Owens, for it enables him to "summon agonistic imagination in a comic holotrope" and transform the narrative of Wolfsong into "a discourse on the revolution in [the] semiotic signs" (Vizenor, "Trickster Discourse" 193) or tropes of Indian and the vanishing Native. With the sign of the trickster and trickster discourse, the narrative of Wolfsong moves from the definition of identity inscribed by the "cowboys and injuns" of the first chapter, through the various invocations of "Indian" that are found wanting in the text, and to Tom Joseph's weak grin at a "cowboys-and-Indians joke" while he {34} lies wounded on the glacier and "a raven made grave pronouncements somewhere in the rocks above" him (243).
        The connection between Wolfsong and trickster discourse is most clearly articulated in a passage that conflates the issue of identity and traditional trickster tales:

[Tom]'d tried to imagine what it would've been like to have been a real Indian, before the whites came and began to cut the trees--and pay Indians to cut the trees-- and everything changed. In the winter, when the valley was stiff and quiet with snow, his uncle and mother told the funny stories about coyote's tricks, about fox shrinking the animals so the Indians could hunt them, about the tall, bearded hemlock that stood near Concrete on the banks of the Skagit and stole the souls of foolish Indians who came too close, and threw the souls across the river to another tree which threw them back until the person died. (37)

What might seem like a rupture in sense, the jump from the allencompassing change brought by the transformation of the natural world into a commodity to the invocation of the traditional time of year for telling trickster tales, is in fact a narrative strategy designed to draw our attention to the concatenation of identity, economics, trickster, and trickster discourse.
        The trickster uncovers "distinctions and ironies" (Vizenor, "Trickster Discourse" 192), and the trickster discourse of Wolfsong, signalled by Raven, early on discloses the irony in what Jimmy Joseph had told Tom to do about the heritage and tradition they share. The passage reads:

[Tom]'d tried to tell his brother about stakyu once when they'd sat on a windfall fishing for dolly varden trout, but Jimmy had laughed and said, "Forget that old crap. That stuff's for old men and crazy longhairs. You forget about wolf spirits and all those other things--Knife Man and Cedar Man and Old Man Raven and all that crap--and learn about chainsaws and carburetors. That ghost stuff is for movies." Jimmy had spit a wad of Redman chewing tobacco into the stream and grimaced. For a week he'd been trying to learn to chew, and he'd felt sick all week. (35)

Even as a boy Jimmy has accepted the Euro-American vision of progress and the future symbolized by chainsaws and carburetors, but Owens includes the sign of the trickster in Jimmy's admonition to his brother so that we might correctly read the passage as trickster {35} discourse. The trickster frees us so we can see that what Jimmy champions both destroys the natural world and makes him sick: chainsaws and men perversely transform trees into timber by cutting them down for profit, carburetors pollute the air, and the juice of the chewing tobacco is poison. The irony of the tobacco sickening Jimmy is deliciously complex, for the chewing tobacco making the Native American sick is at once symbolic of how what Uncle Jim called the now-crazy modern world sickens the Native and, subtly, of how acquiescing to the image of the Indian constructed by the whites, an image signified in the passage by "Redman," will make the Native American sick as well. Twice in the passage Jimmy calls their tradition, their heritage, their stories, "crap"; the irony is that he is unconsciously correct. The stories and the traditions are indeed crap: they are the remainder or excess of Native American identity that the dominant culture cannot synthesize or handle and must therefore label excrement, and they are the "waste" material that is most valuable for anyone trying to make sense of the signs of Indian and the vanishing Native.
        Both signs are fundamental to Tom Joseph's struggle to determine his identity. The struggle with what it means to be an Indian is bound up in his struggle to understand his connection with the father he never knew and with his uncle Jim. Returning from the ancestral graveyard after burying his uncle, Tom recalls how when thinking of his father he sometimes felt as though "he were descended from some madman's dream." In that dream, "Indians rode spotted horses over golden plains after Buffalo. They lived in the light of the sun, where nothing was hidden and earth rose up to sky, in tipis, not in cedar-slab houses crouched in the bowels of a rainforest. They sat horseback against the infinite horizon, barechested and challenging their disinheritors" (54-55). What Tom sees is the stereotypical image of the Indian as plains warrior which the dominant culture has been quick to hold up as representative of all Native Americans. Those warriors, Tom realizes, were after all "the Indians they studied in school" (55). How, he wonders, "could the remote, disturbing figure [of his father photographed] in hat and overcoat be part of that? He was unreal, as were all of them" (55).
        Raven, the sign of the trickster, appears in the next paragraph to "scold" both characters and reader for falling into the trap of either accepting the stylized, one-dimensional, monologic sign of Indian or dismissing the possibility of Indian as a suitable sign. The trickster and trickster discourse demand that we, like Tom Joseph, the narrator, and the author, free ourselves from that trap and interrogate the sign. Doing so, we come to share Tom's realization that "Books and movies seldom showed Indians who looked like the Salish people of these {36} mountains. Short, dark people dressed in woven cedar bark weren't as exciting as Sioux warriors in eagle-feather headdresses on horseback, the sun always setting behind them" (83).
        The dominant culture has wanted nothing less than to have the sun set on the Native American once and for all. Failing that, it wants to define the light with and in which the Natives and their future are seen. Throughout the narrative, however, Owens transforms the trope or figure of "Indian" created by the dominant culture by disclosing the inaccuracies that are perpetuated by the stereotype. Like all stereotypes, "Indian" is dangerous because it enables one to hold to an image of the Native American that is at best an oversimplification, at worst a damning caricature. Wolfsong makes clear that understanding that "Indian" is a construct, a sign, created by the whites to suit their own ends, is only part of the struggle; one must also replace the stereotype with an articulation that is accurate in order that "Indian" might be transformed into a truly meaningful sign. The difficulty is knowing what articulates Native identity. Jimmy tells Tom that "Our uncle wasn't thinking straight. He was too old and stuck in ways you and me can't even understand. . . . He didn't understand that Indian don't matter no more. What matters is that we're people and we have to live here, with other people like J. D. and all the rest. Hell, I don't even know what Indian means, and neither do you" (112). Unlike Jimmy, Tom is willing to run the risks of discovering what Indian means. Karen tells Tom that he is "getting to be real serious. . . . Like the Indians they always show in those old movies" (104), but Tom realizes that he cannot look to that source or others like it for help in discovering what it means to be an Indian. Nor must he look to those who have romantic ideas of what it means to be an Indian, in no small measure because those romantic ideas are the product of that same appropriation and transformation of the Native Americans by the invading Europeans. Rather, Tom tells Karen, "You don't have to be a full-blood to be Indian. It just matters how you feel, what you think. Your dreams" (104). Your feelings, what you think, your dreams, come from the traditions and stories that your community keeps alive in and through oral transmission.
        The questions of what the sign Indian means and what it means to be an Indian that permeate the text take on increased urgency because the Stehemish have all but vanished from the valleys and mountains they had called home. Early in the narrative we learn that Bob McBride, the one-eighth Flathead from Montana with pale skin and green eyes who is Tom's college roommate, liked to tell him that "We're related, man. You Stehemish folks are Salish, too. We're bros, man," but Tom had "trouble thinking of himself and McBride as bros." Rather, Tom thinks, "The only bro he knew was large and dark {37} and waited for him upriver" (18). Jimmy Joseph waits upriver to tell Tom that there is nothing for him in the dying valley and that he is better off going "back to the land of opportunity" (38). Jimmy also asks Tom, "You stop to think about how many of our people are left around here? You ever look around? They're gone, Tom. The whole goddamn tribe" (120). Jimmy only puts into words what Tom had first begun to recognize when he went to the ancestral graveyard for his uncle's rite of interment; there he thinks that "the tribes and clans had melted like July snow, with people drifting away to lumber camps and mills and the slums of Seattle, dying on the skid road that became skidrow" (51). Tom will put into words the reality of his isolation when McBride comes to visit and, as he leaves, asks him, "Where's all your people? Where's your tribe, man, your family?": "Gone," Tom replies, "My aunt's in Rockport, but that's about all. They're just gone" (195).
        What Owens offers us in Wolfsong, in short, is the trope of the vanishing Native tribe. The idea of the vanishing Native has been stated with such frequency in North America that one cannot help but begin to think it the phrasing of an ideal created and then clung to by the dominant culture. Consider, for instance, the conclusion of Franz Boas' 1889 article on the Native Americans tribes of the Northwest Coast of Canada:

We find here very gifted people fighting against the penetration by the Europeans under comparatively favorable conditions. Their ethnographic characteristics will in a very short time fall victim to the influence of the Europeans. The sooner these aborigines adapt themselves to the changed conditions the better it will be for them in their competition with the white man. One can already now predict that the Kwakiutl, who have so completely shut themselves off from the Europeans, are heading for their extinction. Certain Indian tribes have already become indispensable on the labor market, and without them the Province would suffer a great economic damage. If we can succeed in improving their hygienics and thus lower their ruinous child mortality, and if the endeavors of the Canadian government can be successful in making independent producers out of them, we can hope to avoid the sad spectacle of the complete destruction of those highly gifted tribes. (qtd. in Rohner 13)

Boas' conclusion focuses on both the romantic spectacle of the vanishing Native and the potential economic identity of the Native that he sees as their salvation from destruction. In either case, Boas contends that the future of the Natives of the northwest Pacific coast {38} will be marked by transformation and, at the very least, a change in identity.
        Boas' conclusion is written in what Vizenor would term the tragic or hypotragic mode; such modes are "inventions and impositions that attend the `discoverers' and translators of tribal narratives" (Vizenor, "Postmodern Introduction" 9). According to Vizenor, "The notion of the `vanishing tribe' is a lonesome nuisance, to cite one hypotragic intrusion that reveals racism and the contradictions in humanism and historical determinism" ("Postmodern Introduction" 9-10). Trickster, however, "unties the hypotragedies imposed on tribal narratives" (Vizenor, "Postmodern Introduction" 11) because the trickster is a chance that in Wolfsong articulates distinctions and ironies and asks that we engage in a discourse on the nature and efficacy of signs which are fundamental to an articulation of identity.
        Approximately one hundred years after Boas identified the Natives of the Pacific Northwest, the trickster discourse that is Wolfsong makes clear that the future of the Natives and their identity are all too easily bound up in economics. Tom Joseph tries to "imagine what it would've been like to have been a real Indian" (37), but he is unable to do so because the commodification of the wilderness fundamentally transformed both it and the Native Americans. That transformation, the narrative makes clear, occurred "when the first two-man crosscut took a wedge out of the first cedar to fall for money in the valley" (124, emphasis added). Jimmy Joseph has acquiesced to the change, accepting the argument that the mine will not be so bad and looking forward to the prospect of working there even as he drinks himself into an alcoholic stupor. J. D. Hill, the white man instrumental in selling the idea of the mine to the people of Forks, offers Tom what his brother hopes to get: a job, and with it a future in the valley. Hill's offer is presented in a fashion that highlights the text's concern with identity and what it means to be an Indian in contemporary America-- "A guy like you that's Indian could be invaluable for an operation like this. You could symbolize the future for Indian people, progress" (67). Unwilling to have his identity determined by economics and have that identity stand as symbolic of the dubious Euro-American vision of linear "progress," Tom Joseph can only think, "A hundred years ago I would have known who I was" (197).
        In a final effort to find out who he is, Tom Joseph attempts a vision quest that is bound up with his return trip to destroy the mine. He fasts on his way up the mountain and intends to rub his naked body with the branches of the hemlock tree after bathing in order that after three days, in the words he remembers from his uncle, "When you are pure, maybe a spirit will find you and you will be a singer, a man with power" (217). He continues the ritual even as he is being pursued by {39} the posse from Forks. The vision quest is successful, but Tom Joseph is neither found by nor finds the spirit of the trickster. Rather, the raven's final appearance in the text serves to show us that Tom is ready to assume his identity. Tom "grinned weakly at the cowboys-and-Indians joke" that he had only received a "fleshwound" (243) because he now knows that the joke brings to light and makes light of the sign of Indian created and perpetuated by the dominant culture. That identity cannot be his, and Tom Joseph "listened as a raven made grave pronouncements" (243) signifying that he is ready to complete his transformation. The use of "grave" is illuminating, for the word indicates the seriousness with which we should take both the sign of Indian and the trickster discourse that interrogates and makes light of it. "Grave," understood for its meanings as a noun and a verb as well as an adjective, also indicates that the bergshrund is the burial place of who Tom Joseph was before completing his quest for identity, that the narrative is constructed to lay to rest the stereotypical sign of "Indian," and that Louis Owens appropriates written discourse to grave the importance of oral stories and tradition so that his audience might be transformed as well.
        It is the narrative's articulation of the appropriation of written discourse that makes Wolfsong, finally, a metafictive text. Owens' novel is concerned with and concerned over its own becoming. The latter, in particular, is what sets contemporary Native American fiction apart from its equally postmodern counterparts created by writers in the dominant culture. The dilemma for Louis Owens, a dilemma shared by all Native American authors, is how to transform and transport into writing what is vital from and of the oral tradition without perverting it and losing the vitality. Native writers must be concerned about the potentially harmful transformation that results when you transport the stories and legends from their oral tradition into the written tradition of the white man; that tradition, after all, has been used throughout the history of white-American Indian relations to identify the Native American as other, as outsider, as inferior. That tradition has graven the sign of Indian that Wolfsong interrogates and transforms.
        Owens reveals the trickery at the heart of writing even as he appropriates written discourse. In reply to his nephew's question of why logging "boots were called `corks' but spelled `caulks,'" Jim Joseph "had just laughed and said, `Either these white people are all the time tricking language or their language is always tricking them'" (149). The passage discloses the difference between what is written and what is spoken and articulates Owens' relationship to written language. Refusing to be tricked by written language, refusing to be blind to the fundamental difference between what is dead on the page and what is alive in and through utterance and oral tradition, Owens {40} nevertheless tricks written language by crafting a narrative that uses the sign of the trickster to revitalize words, transform the text into trickster discourse, and establish a community of interlocutors capable of seeing both the nature of written language and the ends to which Owens appropriates it.
        Louis Owens stands in tacit juxtaposition to both Dan Kellar, the copper company representative who uses words to convince the people of Forks that the mine will be good for them, and "the famous Indian poet" spoken of by Aaron Medicine "who's always writing about Raven" without knowing "the difference between a raven and a crow" (193). Owens, it strikes me, knows Raven, knows what he is writing about and how best to write about it so that the essence of the trickster is unperverted and his text can resist the metamorphosis insisted upon by the dominant culture even as his narrative articulates Tom Joseph's resistance to the identity the dominant culture would confer upon him. The sign of the textual metamorphosis the dominant culture insists upon is writ large immediately beneath the final sentence of the text: END. Owens employs the trickster and trickster discourse throughout the text so that we might see END for what it is when finally we reach it: the sign of closure and completion signifying a will to power and mastery that must be resisted. The END of Wolfsong is ironic, for there must be no end either to Tom Joseph's ceremonial flight to freedom or the creation of texts that articulate identity while resisting closure.
        Trickster is a trope to action, and it is by taking action that Tom Joseph is able to achieve a transformation of self. One might be tempted to point to the fact that the coyotes are silenced by the wolf's howl at the close of the novel as evidence suggesting that the trickster is finally of limited usefulness. Such a reading, however, succumbs to the trap of trying to fully fix the figure of the trickster. Vizenor again sets us on the right track when he writes that the trickster is "a semiotic sign for `social antagonism' and `aesthetic activism' in postmodern criticism and the avant-garde, but not `presence' or the ideal cultural completion in narratives" ("Trickster Discourse" 192, emphasis added). While Tom Joseph is trickster-like and while his militant, socially antagonistic actions are best understood in light of the trickster, to have Tom Joseph become trickster, identifying himself finally and fully with the trickster rather than having the discourse of Wolfsong identify him with the trickster while he identifies himself with the wolf spirit willed to him by his uncle, would be to confer a damning presence upon the trickster and incorrectly offer it as the ideal cultural completion in the narrative.4
, rather, offers us the trickster as what he is, "a semiotic sign in a third-person narrative, [which] is never tragic or hypotragic, never the whole truth or even part truth" (Vizenor, "Postmodern {41} Introduction" 11), and in so doing Owens' text becomes a model of social antagonism and aesthetic activism as the trickster and trickster discourse enable us to interrogate what has come down to us as the truth. Trickster "summons agonistic imagination" (Vizenor, "Trickster Discourse" 193) in the narrative of Wolfsong and asks that the readers join with Tom Joseph, the narrator, and Louis Owens in seeing the tropes of Indian and the vanishing Native, not as the cultural givens determined by those in power, but as figures to be interrogated so that we might understand both why they exist and how they are meaningful. It is for those reasons, finally, that the trickster, the trope to action, is most valuable, for the sign is what enables the text to become both a model of and an instrument for a necessary activism more insidious, even, than overt militancy.


      1Louis Owens, Wolfsong (Albuquerque: West End, 1991), 73. Subsequent references to Wolfsong will be followed by the appropriate page number(s) in parentheses.

     2Ethnographers, folklorists, and anthropologists have collected the raven tales of many northwest Pacific coast tribes. Among the most valuable collections are from John Reed Swanton, Haida Texts and Myths (1905) and Tlingit Myths and Texts (1909), and Franz Boas, Tsimshian Mythology (1916). The tales indicate that Raven is both creator and trickster; rarely, however, does he act out of altruistic motives. Peter Goodchild brings together raven tales from many different tribes and peoples in Raven Tales: Traditional Stories of Native Peoples (1991). The touchstone for scholars examining the figure of the trickster in the Native American oral tradition remains Paul Radin's The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology (1956). One would also do well to consider Barbara Babcock's seminal essay on Trickster.

     3Joseph's decision to dynamite the water tank and cause a wave of water to wash away the camp is foreshadowed by the figure of the seal in the novel's first chapter, for in the Salish oral tradition a seal aids a young warrior adrift on a raft with a young woman and the children of the tribe. They had been placed on the raft by the elders in order to survive the rains that caused water to cover the earth; the seal helps the brave because years earlier they had become friends as the man nursed the seal to health after it had been hurt. The fact that Tom Joseph only sees the seal as he rides by on the bus is an early narrative indication that he will be without friends as he attempts to save, not the tribe, but the sacred tribal lands. Joseph's decision to dynamite the tank also echoes raven stories of the deluge from the oral traditions of the Tlingit, the Haida, and the Tsimshian-Kwakiutl. In those stories, however, the water comes to punish Raven for his trickster activities. The raven in Wolfsong looks upon Joseph's actions with skepticism, then, in part because such trickster {42} activity has in the past brought retribution. Similarly, Tom's trickster activism will bring unforseen consequences and, at the very least, attempts at retribution on the part of the law and the men of Forks.

     4The link between Tom Joseph and the wolf spirit Stakyu is established early on and reiterated throughout the narrative. Stakyu had come to Tom Joseph during a vision quest at Image Lake. Tom knows that "the spirit would have come to him" (36), as his uncle willed, just prior to his uncle's death: stakyu is there, outside the house, for Tom to see the night he comes home for his uncle's funeral (42). Stakayu is with Tom on each of his treks into the wilderness (90, 161), when he gets the dynamite caps (211), and in his dreams (212, 218, 248). The connection is reinforced by the description of Tom "bar[ing] his teeth" while dreaming of "flight through an endless range of mountains where wolves glided down the bare bones of rock ridges" (218) and by terming his final resting place on the mountain a den (246).


Babcock, Barbara. "`A Tolerated Margin of Mess': The Trickster and His Tales Reconsidered." Critical Essays on Native American Literature. Ed. Andrew Wiget. Boston: Hall, 1985. 153-84.

Boas, Franz. Tsimshian Mythology. New York: Johnson Reprint, 1970.

Goodchild, Peter. Raven Tales: Traditional Stories of Native Peoples. Chicago: Chicago Review P, 1991.

Owens, Louis. Other Destinies: Understanding the American Indian Novel. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1992.

---. Wolfsong. Albuquerque: West End, 1991.

Radin, Paul. The Trickster: A Study in American Indian Mythology. New York: Schocken, 1956.

Rohner, Ronald P., ed. The Ethnography of Franz Boas. Trans. Hedy Parker. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1969.

Swanton, John Reed. Haida Texts and Myths. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 29, 1905.

---. Tlingit Myths and Texts. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 39, 1909.

Turner, Dolby Bevan. When the Rains Came and Other Legends of the Salish People. Victoria BC: Orca, 1992.

Vizenor, Gerald. "A Postmodern Introduction." Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American Indian Literatures. Ed. Gerald Vizenor. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1993.

---. "Trickster Discourse: Comic Holotropes and Language Games." Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American Indian Literatures. Ed. Gerald Vizenor. Norman: U of Oklahoma P, 1993.


Bigtime (at Chaw'se Sowwa)

Clyde L. Hodge         

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


"This Woman Can Cross Any Line": Feminist Tricksters in the Works of Nora Naranjo-Morse and Joy Harjo

Kristine Holmes         

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


a new poem for elisabetta

lance henson

         as sudden as blue frost
         after awakening
         someone turns

         the sorrowed signal of lateness
         on everything

         we seem so estranged
         from the cup of courage
         of laughter

         darkness and the yellow moon

         i will look for you somewhere in the
         marrow of the sea

         i cannot forget

         this is how far i have travelled
         from you

                 *riva trigosa, a small town in liguria, italy
                  on a plane from ny to milano


Subverting the Dominant Paradigm: Gerald Vizenor's Trickster Discourse

Kerstin Schmidt        

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


Mythic Rage and Laughter: An Interview with Gerald Vizenor

Dallas Miller        

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



From the ASAIL President

        As we swing into a new year and another volume of SAIL, I would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your support of our organization. That support has taken many forms: maintaining subscriptions, contributing articles and creative work to the journal, functioning as readers for submitted material, attending our annual meetings, and a host of other encouraging deeds. Many have generously contributed at the sponsor and patron levels of subscription, while others have secured new subscribers for us among school libraries and friends. Thanks to all of you, we can boast about being in the red, which means--besides paying our bills--being able to plan for future growth in our endeavors. (I'll get to that in a minute.)
        Special thanks are due several people for their extraordinary dedication and hard work during 1994. Rodney Simard stepped down as SAIL editor for health reasons, but may return in the future when he feels fully recovered. We greatly appreciate the fine work Rodney has produced for SAIL, particularly the vision he provided as editor; he continues as consulting editor. John Purdy graciously has agreed to step in as editor for an interim period of one year or more. Not only has he saved the day, but John also brings with him a career of thinking, teaching, writing about, and puzzling over American Indian literature; he provides us with capable and open-minded, open-hearted leadership in our publication. Bob Nelson . . . well, he's nuts and bolts and much more. Without Bob's keen sense of planning--production schedules and specifications, mailing particulars, subscriptions lists --SAIL would simply not be possible. But more than that, he works harder than most and manages to keep a sense of humor going. Michael Wilson has taken over the editorship of ASAIL Notes that John relinquished in order to take on SAIL editorship--welcome aboard to {98} Mike! For those of you who do not know Mike, he is the one who keeps the electronic discussions going on The Net. Ring him up to say hello or to pass along the latest about some book or conference: MWILSON@CONVEX.CSD.UWM.EDU. Betty Louise Bell and Inés Hernandez Avila will continue to serve the Association as Vice-President and Secretary, respectively, for another two years. Thanks to each person for the unique contribution each has made to our organization.
         future I promised to talk about is bright. At this year's annual meeting at the Modern Language Association Conference in San Diego, we agreed to go forward with our plans to increase Native participation in the organization. We partially sponsored two Native graduate students to attend MLA, both of whom gave papers on ASAIL panels, with $300 travel grants. Next year we hope to continue offering travel grants as we can afford to do so. In addition, we are planning to reach out more effectively to the tribal colleges by offering them free subscriptions of SAIL for one year. We hope to feature a volume of tribal college student writing within the next year. We call upon you to consider contributing an extra $35 to ASAIL, and thereby becoming a special sponsor of a tribal college library subscription.
        As President of ASAIL, I welcome any comments or suggestions you may have for the directions of the organization, journal, and newsletter. As all of you know, the interest in American Indian literary study has grown substantially over the last several years; we must have your help and contributions if we hope to continue the high standards we have achieved for discussions of our topics, writings, and teachings. Because of the increased volume of names on our Notes subscription list, we will soon be instituting a special charge for non-ASAIL members. (We discussed and agreed upon this plan at the 1993 MLA.) John continued the practice of sending the newsletter to individuals who are not interested in or able to subscribe to SAIL, but the costs of doing so have skyrocketted. We are talking about designing a new cover for the journal. Let us know what you think.
        Next December we will be sponsoring two sessions at the MLA: "Identity and Intentionality: Native Language Presence in Contemporary Native American Texts," with Fred White organizing, and "Regionalism and American Indian Literatures," with A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff organizing. We will also be participating in the American Literature Association conference in Baltimore in May with several panels.
        Again, thank you for your continued support. We look forward to another productive and inspiring year.

Kate Shanley        
ASAIL President        

ASAIL Sessions at ALA, Baltimore, 26-28 May 1995

        The American Literature Association's sixth annual conference will be held at the Stouffer Harborplace Hotel in Baltimore on 26-28 May (the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of Memorial Day Weekend).
        Though the exact dates and times of individual sessions have yet to be scheduled, the following two ASAIL sessions will be on the program:

I. Talking Red: Native American Literature and Language
Chair: Bob Reising, Pembroke State U

1. "Hoop Dreams: Sherman Alexie's Reservation Moves," Eric Anderson, Rutgers U
2. "The Subtle Politics of Storytelling in American Indian Fiction," Edward Huffstetler, Bridgewater College
3. "Lumbee Language and Literature," Bob Reising, Pembroke State U

II. Tracking Louise Erdrich
Chair: Catherine Rainwater, St. Edward's U

1. "Narrative and Ethos in Erdrich's `A Wedge of Shade,'" William J. Scheick, U of Texas
2. "Indi'n Humor and Postmodern Play in Erdrich's The Bingo Palace," Nancy J. Peterson, Purdue U
3. "Of Vision Quests and Spirit Guardians: Female Power in the Novels of Louise Erdrich," Annette Van Dyke, Sangamon State U

1995 ASAIL Executive Committee Members

Kathryn W. Shanley
Department of English
Cornell University
Ithaca NY 14853

Betty Louise Bell
Department of English/American Studies
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor MI 48109

Inés Hernandez Avila
Native American Studies
University of California, Davis
Davis CA 95616

Treasurer and Production Editor of SAIL
Robert M. Nelson
Box 112
University of Richmond VA 23173-0112
804/289-8311 / FAX 804/289-8313

General Editor of SAIL
John Purdy
Department of English
Western Washington University
Bellingham WA 98225-5996
360/650-3243 / e-mail PURDY@HENSON.CC.WWU.EDU

Editor of ASAIL Notes
Michael Wilson
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Department of English and Comp Lit
Curtin Hall
PO Box 413
Milwaukee WI 53201
414/229-4839 / e-mail MWILSON@CSD4.CSD.UWM.EDU

Book Review Editor Announced

        It is a pleasure to announce the appointment of Julie LaMay Abner as book review editor for SAIL. Julie has been very actively involved with the journal for years, beginning as assistant to Rodney Simard. Without her help over the last year or more, and particularly during this time of change in the last few months, we would have been hard pressed to keep things going.
        If you have books you would like to see reviewed in future issues, and/or would like to review books, please contact Julie at:
        Department of English
        California State University, San Bernardino
        5500 University Parkway
        San Bernardino, CA 92407
 or call her at (909) 880-5843.

{102}{U Nebr ad 2}



Our Grandmothers' Lives as Told in Their Own Words. Ed. and tr. Freda Ahenakew and H. C. Wolfart. Saskatoon: Fifth House/U of Toronto P, 1992. $24.95 paper, ISBN 0-920079-81-4. 408 pages

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

Born a Chief: The Nineteenth Century Hopi Boyhood of Edmund Nequatewa. As Told to Alfred F. Whiting. Ed. P. David Seaman. Tucson: U of Arizona P, 1993. $13.95 paper, ISBN 0-8165-1354-6. 190 pages.

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


Owl in the Cedar Tree. Natache Scott Momaday. 1965. Rpt. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1992. $9.95 Paper, ISBN 0-8032-8184-6. 117 pages.

Red Hawk's Account of Custer's Last Battle. Paul Goble. 1969. Rpt. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1992. $9.95 Paper, ISBN 0-8032-7033-X. 64 pages.

Brave Eagle's Account of the Fetterman Fight. Paul Goble. 1972. Rpt. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P, 1992. $9.95 Paper, ISBN 0-8032-7032-1. 64 pages.

        These three books are a welcome addition to any collection of children's literature. When first published, they were unique in their field; today they join an ever-expanding body of literatures by and about Native Americans, providing a much greater variety of choice for teachers and librarians. Both Indian and non-Native children need to be exposed to a wide variety of reading material about Native Americans. Historical biases and inaccuracies need to be corrected; moreover, literature is one of the most effective vehicles for transmission and understanding of cultures.
        Momaday's Owl in the Cedar Tree, illustrated by Don Perceval, is a sensitive story that deals with the universal themes of family responsibility, respect for elders, and the conflicting expectations of children that grandparents, parents, and teachers have about the choices children should make. Haske, a Navaho boy who has dreams and aspirations like many other American boys, comes from a loving family and has a significant role to play in the family's welfare. Like other boys, he would rather stay home and look after the sheep but his parents send him to school. Though Washington decreed that all Navaho children must go to school, Haske's parents supported this move. Night Singer, Haske's father, said, "It is good! I want my children to have a good education" (52). Once at school, Haske recognizes the benefits; he learns English and he also has access to {111} secretly coveted art supplies.
        Momaday has carefully crafted a fast-moving, satisfying story that also provides a great deal of cultural information. It is rich in spirituality and the excerpts of Navaho chants enhance the story in a non-contrived way. The uninitiated reader cannot, however, place the story in an historic context. Though this in no way detracts from the story, a teacher concerned with historic accuracy will question whether Navaho still live this way, or to what extent Navaho still live this way. Portraying Indians only as historic figures has been a common practice in American literature and history courses. The concerned teacher who is not familiar with contemporary Navaho lifestyles would be well advised to do some research before introducing this book to young readers.
        The reading level is approximately grades 4-6. Though the children will enjoy the book for its story, the innovative teacher will find many uses for this attractive little book.
        Paul Goble's books, on the other hand, are clearly historic in content. Precise times, dates, and events are given as Goble attempts to correct historic biases. In each book the author gives background information on the battles and bases much on his information on published accounts. In Red Hawk's Account of Custer's Last Battle, he uses italics to provide information that is required for continuity, leading to some confusion for the reader since it is not made clear at the beginning of the book. There are overlaps in time in the first- person accounts and the explanatory comments that sometimes require a re-reading for clarity. It is not until the Conclusion that the reader learns that Red Hawk is not a real person but a composite figure taken from various historical accounts and that the book is in large part fictionalized history. This does not detract from the initial reading, but there is a sense of regret at the end when Red Hawk turns out to have been non-existent. In The Fetterman Fight, Red Cloud, a real person, is quoted copiously; however, Brave Eagle may or may not be real, the reader never does know.
        The books are lavishly and brilliantly illustrated by the author. He makes reference to the "ledger-book art" and his romantic portrayal of Indians in a rather apologetic introduction. The art work is arresting, interesting in its detail, and accurately portrays the events as described in the text. The reading level is approximately grades 6-8 and the vocabulary is relatively uncomplicated, but Goble's books have some limitations as "children's literature" because of the difficulties inherent in the style. They are, however, a welcome addition to any collection of children's books because of the balance they provide to historic accounts of the "opening of the West." They will also be welcomed because of the visual feast they provide.
        Fostering understanding across cultures has been sadly neglected in American school systems. It is important that Native students receive instruction in a way that will enhance their self-images and provide accurate information about themselves. It is also important that non-Native students receive this same insight into Native cultures. These three books will assist any teacher, librarian, or parent in this very important task.

Agnes Grant        

Love Medicine: New and Expanded Version. Louise Erdrich. New York: Holt, 1993. $22.50 cloth, ISBN 0-8050-7298-X. Harper, 1993. $12.00 paper, ISBN 0-06-097554-7. 367 pages.

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

The Indian Chronicles. José Barreiro. Houston: Arte Público Press, 1993. $19.95 cloth, ISBN 1-55885-067-8. 300 pages.

        One of the central questions of recent post-colonial criticism has been, in the words of Gayatri Spivak, "Can the Subaltern Speak?" Is {119} there a position from which the colonized can speak of the experiences of colonization? In the swathe of the 1992 "celebrations" of the "Columbus Quincentenary" the question for the multiply-colonized Original Nations peoples of the Western hemisphere is perhaps more accurately "How can the subaltern/colonized speak?" What voices and positions are complex enough to express seemingly contradictory needs and experiences? These voices would occur at the intersections of a discourse of celebration of cultural identity and survival, and a discourse of domination and impending cultural genocide; of the valuation of tradition, and of continuance within the inevitability of "progress"; of speaking in affirmation of/for the community; and of speaking to the colonizer culture in opposition to continued oppression.
        In The Indian Chronicles, José Barreiro has given us a narrative and a narrator that address these various needs, and more. This is the story of Guaikán, a twelve year old boy-man of the Taíno nation and a member of the first party encountered by Christopher Columbus when he landed on the island the Taínos called Guanahaní (present day San Salvador).1 In the novel, Guaikán becomes Columbus' first New World interpreter; his youth and his friendship with a Castillian servant boy his own age enable him to pick up the Admiral's language very quickly. He travels with "Don Christopherens" for five years. The novel follows Guaikán's involvement in Columbus' initial "explorations" of the "West Indies" and his trip to Spain where he met with Queen Isabel, who insisted that Columbus adopt Guaikán and "give him a Christian name" (129); thus Guaikán was baptized Diego Colón after Columbus' younger brother. When he returned to the Caribbean with Columbus he resumed his role as interpreter between the Castillians and the Native leaders, participating in negotiations and fighting during times of battle. We experience with him his six years away from the Castillians, during which he married, fathered twin sons, led his wife's family village as cacique, and learned to distrust the Spanish men, to disrespect their ways of dealing with the Native peoples. Guaikán names this "the best part of my miserable life" (211). After six years of Taíno lifestyle, Guaikán is forced back into service for the Spaniards. He witnesses the virtual destruction of his own culture, the enslavement and murder of his people (including his wife and sons) at the hands of the colonizers. Finally, he moves to a Dominican convent and becomes friends with Bartolomé de las Casas, who teaches him to read and write. The novel ends with Guaikán's participation in the 1535 uprising of the Native peoples against the Spanish. The story is a fascinating one, filled with historical data and cultural information that are obviously the results of meticulous research cautiously coupled with a visionary imagination (the novel includes a glossary of both Spanish and Native terms, a few of which have been constructed by {120} Barreiro's following of linguistic patterns evident from the known Native terms).
        While the story, the history and the attention to detail make this novel a provocative read, the structure and narrative strategy embody some elements of post-colonial2 writing. Dieguillo (as Guaikán is consistently called in the novel) reveals his story in a series of short diary-like entries he is writing at the request of his friend Las Casas. Las Casas intends to take to the King and Queen of Spain a "literate Indian's" recollections of colonization of the Native peoples, in hopes that these recollections, recorded in Guaikán's own writing, will help convince the King that the "Indians" are "nearly Christian" so he will outlaw encomienda, the system of enslavement of Native peoples. Guaikán's memoir is framed by a twentieth-century introduction, in which Barreiro (a persona with the novelist's name) recounts his discovery of this first Native American manuscript in the attic of a Santo Domingo family who may be descendants of a friar at the convent with Guaikán and Las Casas. The body of the novel, then, is a fictionalized "translation" of a memoir written in Spanish by a Taíno man--an interpreter--more than forty years after initial contact.
        The narrative and structural elements not only give the novel a multiply-positioned protagonist, but also displace the reader into several positions simultaneously, positions that are in various ways displaced from the very experiences with which we are asked to identify. On one hand, we are invited to experience the processes of colonization through our identification with Guaikán--with his initial admiration for Columbus, with his wonderment at exotic fifteenth-century Spain, with his pride at being chosen Columbus' interpreter. The political and historical importance of indigenous interpreters to the processes of colonization is explicitly discussed in the narrative; Guaikán often mentions being conscious of his responsibility as interpreter, of being afraid to repeat threats, of translating statements so as to lessen negative impact and emphasize cooperation. And Guaikán's role as interpreter--as one who speaks the discourses of two cultures but speaks in the voice of neither--provides readers with a (false) sense of being in between the two cultures, of being witness to the experiences of both the colonized and the colonizers.
        At the same time, our position of identification is consistently disrupted by narrative and structural elements that displace readers from the locus and experiences in the novel. As mentioned earlier, Barreiro frames the memoir with an "introduction" that deliberately distances the narrative from its own locus and story, both temporally and discursively. In the introductory remarks, Barreiro emphasizes the layers of translation that are occurring in Guaikán's text ("old Spanish" to English, written by an interpreter for whom "old Spanish" is a {121} second language and for whom writing is a "foreign" activity). In the body of the novel, that discursive displacement is occasionally reasserted by holes in the translation/text that are filled only with the remark "illegible," thereby disrupting the readers' processes of identification with Guaikán. A similar displacement is effected in the text and introduction with regards to time. The text, readers are told, is not just a memoir--written many years after the events (as Guaikán mentions often); it is also a rediscovered relic presented to contemporary readers by a contemporary researcher.
        These strategies are crucial to the novel's success as a post-colonial narrative that provides readers with one subaltern/colonized voice speaking about colonization. Beyond that, though, the novel moves its readers from a colonizer perspective to a more tradition-centered perspective with a focus on continuance. This move is effected through the character of Guaikán, whose opinions about the Castillians (all Castillians, even Las Casas) have changed dramatically since his initial employment on Columbus' ship; his disillusionment with the white men leads to harsh criticism of them, their behaviors, and their religion. His gradual rejection of all things christian is accompanied by a narrative strategy that mirrors his changing opinions: in the memoir, the mode of storytelling moves from explicitly written ("I am writing this down for Las Casas")--corresponding with his initial admiration of Western ways--to explicitly oral (recounting verbatim in writing the stories he tells to the young Native people about their cultures and heritage)--corresponding to an angry rejection of all things Western-- to a synthesis of the two (the novel ends with Guaikán's answering in writing a letter from Las Casas on the back of that letter, thereby undoing the delay inherent in written correspondence by an attempt at "talking back"; he writes, "what can I say?"). This process, of course, is a process of continuance, in which the rejection of all things colonizer gives way to indigenous cultures' growth as a part of (but not in submission to) a changing world. That Barreiro manages to invoke a sense of continuance while maintaining the displacing strategies mentioned above is testimony to his ability as a writer. The readers' knowledge that Guaikán's culture had been virtually dismantled by the Spanish by the novel's end3 makes this sense of continuance that much more poignant.


         1The exact location of Columbus' initial landing has not been agreed upon by scholars; Guanahaní is generally accepted as a good possibility, and is the location referred to in Barreiro's novel. See Irving Rouse, The Taínos: Rise {122} and Decline of the People Who Greeted Columbus (New Haven: Yale U P, 1992), 142-43.

        2My use of this term is not intended to imply that the Americas are no longer colonized, that the "post" indicates an end to colonization. Rather, I use this term as it is used by Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, and Helen Tiffin in their book The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London: Routledge, 1989): "We use the term `post-colonial' . . . to cover all the culture affected by the imperial process from the moment of colonization to the present day. This is because there is a continuity of preoccupations throughout the historical process initiated by European imperial aggression" (2).

        3 According to Rouse, "[b]y 1524 [the Taínos] had ceased to exist as a separate population group" (169).

Jeannie Ludlow        



Sarah Bennett is a graduate student in English at the University of Texas at Tyler. Her M.A. thesis, "The Lessons of Windigo Madness in Louise Erdrich's World," is nearing completion. In real life, she is a writer, quilter, sculptor, gardener, wife, and mother.

Charmaine M. Benz (Anishnabe) is currently the Director of her tribe's substance abuse program on the Saginaw Chippewa Reservation (Mt. Pleasant MI), where she lives. Her connections are to the earth and sky. Her writings (on contemporary life on the rez, the dilemma of gaming, nature, and Native spirituality) have been published in many magazines and journals and regularly in her tribe's own Tribal Observer. She is the mother of two children and holds a bachelor's degree in social work.

Theresa Delgadillo is completing work on a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing/Fiction at Arizona State University, where she is also a Teaching Assistant.

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

Ermal Erston Henderson is 43 years old. His early life was devoted to scholarship and alcohol. He has been a cook, copy-editor, gardener, editor, teacher and sportswriter. He recently graduated from Shawnee State University and presently writes for the Portsmouth Daily Times. He is working on a novel, Brothers of the Spear, and a paper on the status of women in the Cherokee nation during the early 1800s. He lives in Portsmouth, Ohio, with his wife, cousin, grandmother, step-son, five cats, two dogs and one ghost.

Lance Henson (Southern Cheyenne) has published 16 books of poetry, eight in the U.S. and eight abroad. His poetry has been translated into 25 languages and he has read and lectured in nine countries, including readings for the One World Poetry Festival in Amsterdam, the International Poetry Festival in Tarascon, France, and the Geraldine Dodge Poetry Festival in Waterloo NJ. He has also co-written two plays, one of which, "Winter Man," had a recent successful run at the La MaMa Experimental Theatre Company. Lance represented the United States Information Service as a Featured Lecturer in Singapore, Thailand, New Guinea, and New Zealand in 1993, and is currently under consideration for a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer's Award to return to the Far East.

Clyde L. Hodge (Muskokee/Tsalagi/Celtic) teaches Bilingual English at Franklin High School in Stockton CA. He is a direct descendant of Pocahontas and among his Creek relations are the Poseys of Oklahoma. He is pursuing an M.A. in Native American Education with a concentration in Indigenous literatures. His poetry has been published in Penumbra and he has published a book of poetry titled Songs of the Earth: Requiems, Wakes, and Celebrations. His poetry in this issue of SAIL is from a work in progress titled Coyote Feathers and Other Realities.

Kristine Holmes is a doctoral candidate in English at the University of California, Los Angeles and holds an M.A. from the University of Arizona. She is currently working on a study of representations of the farm in twentieth-century Western American literature. Her other research interests include Native American literatures, American women writers, and feminist theory.

Thomas D. Jenks (Northern Ute) is currently living in Shawnee, Oklahoma, with his wife and four children. He attended Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, where he studied creative writing. He is a member of the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers. His poems are influenced by a wide range of Native poets and writers.

Chris LaLonde is an Associate Professor of English at North Carolina Wesleyan College. He has published essays on works by William Faulkner, on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, and on folklore.

Jeannie Ludlow, Ph.D. in American Culture Studies (Bowling Green State University, 1992), is a part-time instructor in Women's Studies, Popular Culture Studies and English, and a full-time mom. Recently she has taught a course entitled "Decolonizing Feminism: Native {125} American Women's Criticisms, Responses, Strategies." She also teaches Introduction to Women's Studies, cross-cultural women's literatures, and popular media courses.

Dallas Miller is a doctoral student at the University of Freiburg writing on the work of Gerald Vizenor. He has had a varied career which has led him in the fullness of time to the study of literature. His interest in tribal writers stems in part from family history: his ancestors include, among various European immigrants, members of the Cherokee tribe. He is himself, however, undocumented.

Kerstin Schmidt is working towards her Master's Degree in American Studies, History, and Political Science at the University of Freiburg in Germany. As the recipient of the University of Massachusetts and Freiburg University scholarship during the academic year 1993-94, she was enrolled in graduate programs in English, History, and Political Science at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst.

Contact: Robert Nelson
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