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of the Association for Studies in American Indian Literatures
New Series,  Volume 1, No. 2 Supplement,  Fall 1977

Editor: Karl Kroeber, Columbia University
Bibliographer: LaVonne Ruoff, Univ. of Illinois, Chicago
Editorial Ass't: Mary Frances Budzik


American Indian Prose and Poetry: We Wait in the Darkness, ed. by Gloria Levitas, Frank R. Vivelo, Jacqueline J. Vivelo. New York: G. P. Putnam, 1974. 325 pp. $3.25

        This anthology aims to do justice to most native culture areas of North American and to the full range of Indian literatures from the beginning to the present day. The longest section, "Before the Coming of the White Man" presents stories and poems from standard ethnological collections, the same sources being used principally for the second segment, "'After the White Man Came." The last section, "The Present," consists of under twenty pages of contemporary writing, mostly poetry. The introduction, stressing the diversity of Indian traditional literary accomplishments, concentrates on defining cultural areas. There are three bibliographies, one of general sources, another of works by American Indians, and a brief listing by name only of some American Indian periodicals.
        The final section is too short to be of much use, and there has been an inevitable tendency to choose brief rather than extended narratives from the earlier periods, but the editors have not done badly at selecting examples which without significant notation can give some idea of the variety of Indian cultures. And the editors deserve praise for having sought ethnographic {20} reliability. Through clear indication of sources and a minimum of falsely learned commentaries, this anthology should not mislead beginners too grossly.
        Lack of annotation is preferable to the kind of comment one finds in most such anthologies. In Astrov's The Winged Serpent, for example, after quoting incompletely a Chippewa song from Densmore, the editor observes: "This lovely Poem, composed of but a few words, though full of overtones and hints of things unsaid, bears such a strange resemblance to those exquisite little poems of classic Japanese literature that I cannot refrain from calling a reader's attention to this fact." (P. 181) What fact? To which kind of Japanese poem might this resemblance refer? One suspects some vague haiku, but all Japanese poetry is radically in style, content, and social purpose from American Indian poetry. Editors lacking literary edge and critical training do least harm to American Indian poetry. Editors lacking literary knowledge and critical training do least harm to American Indian literatures by silence.
        Unfortunately, as in so many anthologies, misleading features occur in this one even without bad annotating. On page 93 of American Indian Prose and Poetry a poem entitled "Yellow Butterflies" is given without indication of its tribal origin, though one can deduce it to be Hopi, with a citation to Nathalie Curtis' The Indian Book, p.304. The poem is actually taken from p. 484 of Curtis' book, where it is not titled "Yellow Butterflies" and where one finds a different text: the new editors have changed words in the first and last stanzas and altered the punctuation throughout. In a book claiming to show the literary merit of Indian poetry such disregard of minimal standards of literary editing is unfortunate.
        And of course what we are given here, as in all modern collections, are translations without originals or meaningful literary analyses. This is not an anthology of Indian literature but an anthology of selections from {21} reports by ethnographers and samples of writing by belletristic amateurs. The ethnographers did provide information on the cultural contexts and, whenever possible, original texts to accompany their literal translations. No such ideals here. I suppose it is now too much trouble to compile cultural/social information about the situations out of which Indian tales and poems emerged- but is it too much even to cite some of the careful musical analyses of Densmore, whose reports of Indian music are so consistently pillaged as examples of poems? Surely it should be possible to reproduce original texts so that a moderately intelligent reader can perceive where a translation drastically diverges from its original. And even a few linguistic notes would enable such a reader to arrive at some understanding of the literary art of the original. Collections of translations without critical analyses do not, despite their claims, celebrate traditional Indian literatures. Such collections debase the literatures by exploiting them, by standing in the way of serious critical understanding instead of facilitating it
        The harsh fact is that virtually all criticism of traditional American Indian literatures is kindergarten level. Worthwhile analyses of Indian literary works can be numbered on the fingers of one hand, and these are by linguists-folklorists-anthropologists, not literary scholars.. If ASAIL members are interested in more than contemporary writing in English by Indians, they must develop at least rudimentary standards of literary scholarship. A few ethnographic generalizations are no substitute for disciplined, informed critical understanding. At the risk of sounding as belligerent as John Paul Jones, ASAIL's current motto ought to be, "we haven't begun to criticize." Until we do, Native American literatures will with some justice be regarded by serious intellectuals as a playground for mountebanks.


Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White), No Turning Back: A Hopi Indian Woman's Struggle to Live in Two Worlds (as told to Vada P. Carlson) . Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1977 (1964). 180pp. $3.95

        No Turning Back is the autobiography of Polingaysi Qoyawayma (Elizabeth Q. White), who was persuaded to tell her story by non-Indian friends because they felt it was her duty to tell the world about her cultural background and her long struggle to "span the great and terrifying chasm" between the Hopi and the White worlds. The period of Polingaysi's life described in the book covers the period between the government's intensive efforts at the turn of the century to enforce acculturation through education and its later attempts to reverse the consequent destruction of Hopi culture.
        Born in 1892, Polingaysi remembers vividly the frantic efforts of Hopi mothers to hide their children from the whites and Navajo policemen who raided the Hopi villages to put the children in school. Although successfully hidden by her mother, Polingaysi became so lonely that she deliberately followed the children to school--a decision which began the long, painful process of separation from and eventual ramification with Hopi culture. The pain was both physical and psychological. Typical of the insensitivity of educators at the time was the use of corporal punishment on Hopi children, whose religion was based on the principle of non-violence, and the assignment of English names printed on cardboard hung round the necks of the children.
        However, Polingaysi's desire for education overcame her fears, and in 1906 she insisted on being permitted by her family to attend Sherman Institute in Riverside, California. Despite her terrible homesickness at the school, she nevertheless became so adapted to non-Indian life that when she returned home for her first visit in four years, she rejected her parent's Hopi ways. She then realized that she could never go back to living the old life or {23} enter a traditional Hopi marriage which as far as she was concerned, meant endless hard work and child-bearing. She became such a zealous Christian that she would have abolished Hopi religious symbols if she could.
        Later she attended Bethel Academy in Kansas and Los Angeles Bible Institute. In 1924, she accepted a position with a Hopi school in Hotevilla, first as a housekeeper and then as an elementary teacher. It was at this school that she found her true vocation as a teacher and developed her method of utilizing traditional Hopi beliefs and stories to teach basic skills of English, arithmetic, and nat-ural science. Her method, which received high praise from the Indian Service in 1927, was instituted over the opposition of Hopi parents, both at Hotevilla and later at other Hopi schools. That her achievements as a teacher continued to merit the praise of her colleagues is evidenced by her being asked in 1941 to demonstrate her method at a national convention of teachers in the Indian Service. Polingaysi taught Hopi children until her retirement in 1954, at which time she was presented with a bronze medal by the U.S. Department of Interior for her thirty-one years of teaching. After retirement, she turned her creative efforts to pottery and became a skilled and respected potter of traditional Hopi designs.
        Her achievements as a teacher and as an independent person were reached through considerable personal anguish. As Carlson puts it, Polingaysi's consuming desire was to "achieve a good life, independent of both white people and her own Hopi people, but esteemed by both". (p. 127). Throughout her life, Polingaysi endured bitter criticism by her people not only for her teaching method but especially for her white ways. Althoogh in her youth her own intolerance and desire to convert all the Hopi to White Christianity, customs and food undoubtedly sparked much of the criticism, it did not diminish as she herself became more tolerant and respectful of her heritage. Much of the book is concerned with her anguish over what she rejected from the past and how she came to value it again in the depths of her loneliness and despair.
        The book is marred by a highly fictionalized method, complete with flashbacks, and an often melodramatic style exemplified by the following passage: "Suddenly, emotions overwhelming her, she flung herself face downward on the sand, clutching in anguish at the Mother Earth, as though she must, must have something good and sound and familiar to cling to" (p.154). Nevertheless, it is a valuable addition to the growing list of autobiographies of Indians and is especially significant as a record of the effects of acculturation on the first generation of reservation Indians. Although authors such as Charles Eastman and Luther Standing Bear have recorded its impact on their lives as Plains Indians, Polingaysi is one of the few to record that on the Pueblos. The book is also important for its description Of such historical events as the 1906 split between the Conservatives and Progressives in Old Oraibi., which led to the founding of New Oraibi and Hotevilla, and for its interpretations of various aspects of Hopi ceremonies, religious beliefs, and myths. It can be read with profit by young people and adults. Originally published in 1964, No Turning Back has been issued in paperback for the first time in 1977.

A. LaVonne Ruoff         
Univ. of Illinois at         
Chicago Circle              

The Zuni People. The Zunis: Self Portrayals. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 1973 (1972). ppxii+ 245. HB$7.95 PB.$3.95

        The packaging of this book, if not its content, is very different from what it started out to be. When publication plans were first announced by the University of New Mexico Press, we were told of two books, divided according to subject matter, and the covers were to bear the name of C. Gregory Crampton of the Duke Indian Oral History Project at the University of Utah. In the single volume we {25} now have before us, nobody really takes clear responsibility for the book. The title and attribution of authorship that were dreamt up sometime after the pre-publication announcement make the claim that the book is a sort reflexive, collective act: it consists of "self-portrayals" and it is by "the Zuni People." 'The latter is an English phrase which Zunis themselves instantly recognize asa favorite of Robert Lewis, Governor of Zuni at the time of publication, who usually prefaced it with the first person singular pronoun. This usage rankled his opposition, especially when they reflected that he was the first Governor in Zuni history never to call a meeting of "his people", thus putting an end to participatory, town-meeting democracy. He was also the first Governor to draw a regular salary provided by the B.I.A.
        On the title page, Aivina Quam is mentioned as translator, though only three of the forty-six translations are specifically attributed to her (the others are not attributed at all). Only in the foreword, written by Floyd A. O'Neil of the University of Utah, do we learn, briefly, of the existence of Mr. Crampton, who is said to have "joined the tribe to support the translation of this material." Apparently the tape-recording of the stories had already begun by this time, funded by the O.E.O. We are told that "the recording and translation were managed" by Quincy Panteah, whose chief fame at Zuni, by the way, is as a policeman. Dave Warren, then head of the Research and Cultural Studies Development section of the B.I.A., is given credit for the money provided to Virginia Lewis, who was appointed by the Governor and Council "to review and edit . . . with an eye to publication." Mr. O'Neil then goes on to tell of his pleasure, as a representative of the Center for Studies of the American West and the Duke Project (both at Utah), in "working with the Governor, the Council, Mrs. Lewis, Mr. Panteah, and finally with the University of New Mexico Press." Among all those individuals whose names are {26} mentioned in the book, Mr. O'Neil comes closest to making a claim to responsibility for the book, and there is no further mention of the person to when the original press announcement gave sole billing.
        The introduction was written by Governor Lewis, and there we find him in full use of the words, "my Zuni people." His tone is benign and he gives an intriguing glimpse of Zuni ritual, which he depicts as taking place on Thanksgiving and Christmas. One would never know that a minority of Zunis are proudly non-Christian, and that their ceremonial calendar is their own, not ours.
        The book's photographs depict fourteen narrators; though only three out of forty-six narratives are actually credited, all of them to a man named Enote, who is not depicted. One need not think that all the others necessarily opted against being credited; the narrators I worked with in 1964-65 opted strongly in favor of being credited when given the choice. It is not as if there were no individual artistry in oral narrative; performers have their own styles and their own specialized knowledge, and some of them achieved village-wide reputations. But in this book the subtleties of individual style and many of the collective tricks of the Zuni storyteller's trade are masked by what must have been multiple levels of translation, editing and re-editing. Someone could do a whole dissertation on what has disappeared in the process, but I will only point to some of the more obvious problems.
        Zuni narrators have a penchant for long sentences, interlocking parallelism, and a liberal sprinkling of seldom-heard words; in the book at hand all this is transfomed into simple sentences in basic English. Further, one would never know that Zunis have their own terminology for genres (the groupings of narratives in the book seem to be the creation of an editorial hand), or that one of those genres, that of telapnaawe (roughly, "tales") is introduced and ended with formulaic sayings that carefully set it apart from other genres. Telapnaawe should only be told on winter evenings;.when this is bypassed, which it occasionally is, the narrator commonly {27} leaves off the formulas, as if to say, "This isn't official." That may be what happened in the present case, since the project was carried on during the day and since it ran through the summer; that is, it was carried out in accordance with a foreign rather than a Zuni sense of timing. 
        Most Zuni narratives run from half an hour to a full hour or more; a full translation in the format of the present book should run fifteen to thirty pages, not the five-page average actually displayed. The story of "The Beginning", which here runs just over eight pages (chap. 9), provides an example: Ruth Bunzel's version (47th Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1932), pp. 584-602) would run thirty pages in the present format. Her version displays tremendous sophistication in its language and structure, but what comes through in the present version is simplified, even skeletal. In it we learn, for the first time in all the vast literature on the the Zuni (and it will certainly be news to the Zunis themselves), of the existence in Zuni religion of "the Great Spirit" so familiar in the Plains. This, judging by other versions of "The Beginning," is somebody's idea of Yatokka Tacchu which simply means Sun Father"; together with the Moon Mother and a number of other beings, the Sun Father is among the aawonaawillap'ona, "the ones who hold the roads," the makers and givers of light and life.
        At this point one thinks of Mr. O'Neil's words near the close of the foreword, where he assures us that "the project has taken great care to preserve the cultural integrity of the Zuni people as presented in this book." As with so many other oral history projects, whether among Indians or not, the results make it clear that the work was carried out as if the extensive methodological expertise of anthropology, linguistics (the Zuni words appearing in the book are almost unintelligible), folk- lore, and literary criticism did not exist. There are manifold and well-known ways of "taking great care," and these ways are what, if anything, a university might {28} have to offer a people willing to set about making a written record of their own traditions. We can judge Mr. O'Neil's knowledge of the subtleties of oral tradition by his remarkable claim that the present project "recorded the entire body of literature of the Zunis." Had federal and local bureaucracies been solely responsible for this project, we might not be surprised at the result finally presented, but the bureaucrats may be excused on the grounds that they did call in purported experts. It is harder to find excuses for the Center for Studies of American West at the University of Utah and for the University of New Mexico Press.
        The book received favorable reviews at the time of its original publication and has gone through a successful low-priced trade edition. Its boldly stated title and authorship have protected it from adverse criticism, given that a reviewer takes it for what it claims to be. What the book does have going for it is a certain homey, children's-book atmosphere, conveyed by the combination of simple English with a content that provides entertaining sunrises. The non-Indian reader, rather than being threatened with what is in fact a tradition of great complexity and worthy of the highest respect, a tradition that is not "primitive" relative to somebody else's sophistication, can keep the Zunis and their stories right where they are most comfortable; they are folksy, or, as Mr. O'Neil puts it, "colorful."
        There are some stories in this book that have never appeared before, particularly those of relatively recent events, but all in all it would take a scholar to sort out what is solid about the book and discard what is simply the result of error and distortion. The Zunis themselves could do this critical reading even better than a scholar, of course, but they customarily receive and discuss their information about traditional subjects in the Zuni language, which has never shown any signs of disappearing.
                                  Dennis Tedlock
                                  Boston University

McTaggart, Fred. Wolf That I Am: In Search of the Red Earth People. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,1976.

        As an Iowan and as a teacher of American Indian literature, I was aware of the Mesquakie Settlement near Tama. So too had I read some of the early records of Truman Michelson, Ben Jones, and several of the publications that resulted from Sol Tax's Fox Project. Knowing that many of the Mesquakie people were tired of being "studied," I approached McTaggart's book with skepticism. I need not have felt so apprehensive, for from the beginning of the book it is obvious that Fred McTaggart approached the oral materials with sensitivity and reverence. Through the stories he chronicles his own personal journey to awareness. The tales, centuries old, still performed their traditional function, still taught the uninitiated about himself and about life.
        Although Wolf That I Am cannot be called a "collection," it does present several tales and they are presented in the context in which the author learned them. Unlike Jerome Rothenberg or Dennis Tedlock, McTaggart does not dwell on intonations or dramatic quality of the literature. Instead he concentrates on the philosophical meanings and the teaching aspect of the stories. He learned with some difficulty to leave his tape recorder in the car and really listen as the stories were told to him. Then what he heard and learned was what had significance for him. It was not the printed versions of the early twentieth century that were important, but rather the oral versions told during the months of his frequent visits to the Mesquakie Settlement that became real to him. Often he discovered that the stories had not changed significantly from when they were recorded seventy years earlier. In an interview McTaggart discussed his attitude toward the stories:

What's beautiful about the stories is that every thing is there from the material to the philosophical. Whenever I talk about that story in class {30}(the story about trees, pp.46-48) I stress that. You learn the names of the trees and you learn the language; you learn behavior within a family because you are learning it from people you should respect. I try to point that out in the book too. If you don't learn anything else, you learn how to listen. There are times when it's inappropriate to ask questions or to ask the wrong type of questions. You learn the positioning of trees, the behavior of wolves and raccoons. Raccoons have a certain type of hand: they like to work with their fingers as the raccoon works with the dung balls in the story. The emphasis in the book came out on the philosophical because I was obsessed with it at the time. I didn't mean to emphasize the philosophical over the other aspects of the story. All of those things were there, and the philosophical part was there too. Any time you come to a story you can get something more out of it depending on where you are at the time. If you are dealing with a philosophical problem, the story could help you. If you wanted to learn about the trees, that's there too. That's what the real beauty is: the story involves all aspects of life.

        Reactions from the Mesquakie to McTaggart's book have reflected the existing political divisions on the Settlement. Most of the informants were generally pleased, although one woman laughingly commented that she didn't like the name he had given her because the name placed her in a different clan from her own. Some Mesquakie continue to feel that they are tired of outsiders coming in and disturbing the balance of their universe, and others are not aware of the book's existence. Such diversity is to be expected. The Mesquakie are a strong people with a common tradition and the stories reflect that strength and that communal history. But they are also individuals {31} who speak out when they are ready and do not hesitate to criticize each other or outsiders. It is to McTaggart's credit that the negative reactions have been few from the people whose stories he learned and shared with us. Although his title suggests that McTaggart went to the Mesquakie Settlement to find the People of the Red Earth, he shows us that it was himself he discovered, and we too can learn about ourselves by sharing his experiences.

Gretchen Bataille, Dept. of English        
Iowa State University                             

Leslie Marmon Silko. Ceremony (New York: Viking, 1977) pp. 262. $10.00

        Ceremony is an important creative work; to review the novel as if it were only of concern to students of Indian writing would be grossly unjust to its aesthetic excellence. Necessarily, the novel follows the general pattern of twentieth-century Indian fiction in centering attention upon an Indian soul disadvantaged, distorted, nearly destroyed by pressures from white American civilization. But Silko's story passes beyond the usual limits of the pattern. By an Indian and about Indians, Ceremony is recommended for anyone intrigued by the diverse subtleties of human behavior--and for anyone who appreciates superior
        Two aspects of the novel, however, specially merit the attention of those familiar with Indian literatures, past and present. Silko has said that the book "is essentially about the powers inherent in the process of storytelling." And it is true that her novel is not just a story, not just an interweaving of different kinds of stories, but an exploration of how the power of the story might be made to cope with dangers and complexities of the modern world. That Silko may not be completely successful in her {32} search matters less than the intelligence of her attempt to transform both traditional, oral narrative and novelistic narrative. Neither nostalgic nor experimental", Silko seeking a curative made of storytelling is more adventurous and original than most contemporary novelists or than pretentious poets claiming to have recovered lost secrets of oral performance.
        Exploration into essential story-power as a cure for despair (the "witchery" destroying her Indian characters) is inseparable from Silko's willingness to accept change and her unwillingness to retreat into an illusory "mythic" past. Possibly the most impressive character in Ceremony is Betonie, the medicine man who doesn't "act like a medicine man at all," but who "cures" the mind-shattered protagonist. His curing ceremony is not quite traditional, or, as he explains,

long ago when the people were given these ceremonies, the changing began, if only in the aging. of the yellow gourd rattle or the shrinking of the skin around the eagle's claw, if only in the different voices from generation to generation, singing chants. You see, in many ways the ceremonies have always been changing . . . after the white people came, elements in this world began to shift; and it became necessary to create new ceremonies . . . only this growth keeps the ceremonies strong. (p. 126)

        It is in fact true that most American Indian cultures have been amenable to change. Even the pueblos, which seem to epitomize fixed life, have shifted their locations in the course of time. The small size of Indian nations, their relatively democratic social structuring, and their undogmatic religiosity made them prize not so much changelessness as continuity. By centering the story on a protagonist of unusual openness of sensibility (also, of course, a terrible vulnerability), Silko succeeds in dram-{33}atizing profound "Indian" qualities. This success depends upon her readiness to admit dubieties and opacities, as in Tayo's confused responses to the war and its incomprehensibility to those who have never gone beyond Pueblo life. Silko's title tells us by the absence of article that it is not a, let alone the, ceremony which is needed to alleviate the degradations today afflicting American Indians. They are, after all, like Chinese, African, even Anglo-Americans: to be human is to need ceremony. This novel., in fact, reminds us of the paradox inherent in all fine literature--through the specific the universal is realized.
(A full-scale review of Ceremony will appear in a subsequent issue.)




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