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{1}

                 STUDIES IN AMERICAN INDIAN LITERATURES

                 The Newsletter of the Association for the
                 Study of American Indian Literatures

                 Volume 6, No. 1. Winter 1982

                 Editor: Karl Kroeber, Columbia University
                 Bibliographer: Lavonne Brown Ruoff, University of Illinois, Chicago
                 Book Review Editor: Jarold Ramsey, University of Rochester
                 Assistant to the Editor: Marietta Pino, Columbia University



Third Woman Issue
Native American Women Writers

The Third Woman: Minority Women Writers of the United States. Ed. Dexter Fisher. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1980. xxx. 594 pp. Pb. 9.50.

         The Third Woman is an ample book, a fine selection of writings from America's Asian, Chicana, Black, and Native American women. Its first purpose, so says the introduction, is to offer a range of the best writing by contemporary minority women. The second purpose is to provide a teaching tool for all sorts of courses. The book clearly succeeds in accomplishing both these goals. Its structure--which one apprehends only with difficulty from a table of contents in which type styles, sizes, and faces do not distinguish one section from another as they should--comprises four sections, each with its own historical-cultural context, selected bibliography, and biographical information. The appendices offer, in a cross-cultural context, discussions and suggested study questions on Folklore and Literature, Texts and Contexts, Storytelling and Narratives, and Poetry. Each section has notes as well, which are somewhat difficult to follow, but nonetheless substantial. The selections do, as the editor Promises, avoid the "shotgun" approach in favor {2} of depth and of writings which are, if not unexpected, at least somewhat unfamiliar.
        Perhaps it is time for this anthology, which will effectively rescue a great many teachers of Introduction to Women's Studies courses from the necessity of xeroxing masses of material rather than requiring students to purchase ten to fifteen expensive books. Most of the selections are short and complete, which makes them appropriate for beginning courses.

That these women have power was never more clear than in the selections from Native American writers. The eighteen writers in the collection represent tribes of different regions and different lifestyles, from urban to reservation, migratory to sedentary "traditional" to "modern." These women have, however, a shared inheritance . . . "the greatness of the remote past and the pain and conflict of the recent past" (p. 14). This is by far the most successful section of the book.
        If the sub-theme of almost all the selections is power, an additional theme is anger. Wendy Rose objects to the collectors and the "White Poets Who Would Be Indian" (pp. 85-86). Anita Endrezze-Danielson writes a very forceful feminist statement in "Making Adjustments" (p. 121); and Paula Gunn Allen writes, in a more abstract and quite rhythmical way, of women's power and their stories in "Grandmother" (p. 126).
        This collection is excellent, enriching both the Native American and the women's tradition. As Wendy Rose says, "It is my greatest but probably futile hope that someday those of us who are `ethnic minorities' will not be segregated in the literature of America" (p. 85). Until that happens, I am glad to have at least this part of their literature between the covers of one book.
        The section devoted to black writers provides interviews with over twenty writers, women who are being "noticed" right now, but whose selections in this work (except for Toni Morrison's Sula) are not those anthologized recently. All of this demonstrates both the range of women's writing and that "there is, in fact, a rich body of literature by minority women that has developed within a historical and cultural framework" (p. xxix). Sally Dunn, of Women's Studies at the University of New Mexico, whose department has
{3} selected the book for its Introduction to Women's Studies course, comments that it gives us all the opportunity "to read about the experience of third-world women from their own perspective, immediate and historical, and it offers a wide range of attempts to make creative statements in different forms. As Alice Walker so appropriately puts it, " . . . in my own work I write not only what I want to read . . . I write all the things I should have read (p. 157)."
        What is significant about the twenty-odd writers in the section on black literature is the high quality of their artistry. Because experience is clearly the basis of art, politics becomes quite important. Consciousness of a tradition, shared by Native American writers, also implies placing oneself within a heritage. This consciousness distinguishes many Black women writers from others in different groups.
        The section devoted to Chicanas contains the only bilingual pieces in this anthology, a not unimportant statement about what concerns Chicanas today. Unfortunately, there is no biographical information on Soledad Perez, Carmen Toscana, Rosalie Otero Peralta, who represent almost one fourth of the eighteen writers represented. The themes in the selections are in some ways quite familiar to those who know the Chicano tradition in literature: Malinche, LaLlorona, the children, the family, and the heritage.
        I am, however, uncomfortable with this section of the book because it represents a distorted viewpoint of Chicanos. The distortion is exemplified in the following two quotations: "Born of the forced union between the Indian mother and the European father, Chicanos are descendants of the Aztecs and offspring of the Spanish conquistadors . . . " (p. 307), and "The legend is representative of an aura of fatalism that characterizes the Mexican sensibility and has carried over into Mexican-American literature--the feeling that heritage has rendered inevitable the condition of living between two worlds in each of which the individual has little or no power" (p. 309). Both of these statements would be soundly criticized by Chicanos from all over the country. The one owes more to the myth of Atzlan than to the real heritage of many Chicanos. The other owes a great deal to Octavio Paz and not much to U.S. Mexicanness. Of all the sections
{4} and selections in this anthology, the Chicana section must be supplemented by other readings and by a more accurate introduction.
        At my request, Lotus Yee Fong, an American-born Chinese presently at the University of New Mexico, examined the Asian-American section, which she found weighted in its Japanese-American orientation. She also felt that this section lacked a selection which spoke for the Chinese-American experience, a gap which must be filled with other works. Fong felt that individual works cannot represent a group. Japanese-Americans "made it" first in the United States. Because more of them became writers, they are more represented in the anthology. Pacific Islanders, on the other hand, are just beginning to be recognized as writers, which in the future will necessitate the inclusion of their work. This important political point can apply as well to Chicanas who come from a number of disparate groups and cultures. With regard to the book as a whole, Fong commented that such an anthology can be enriching: "the education comes from comparing your experiences with those of others; you don't have to be categorized as a single group; you can share lots of ethnicities."
        In summary, The Third Woman neatly avoids many of the pitfalls of anthologies. If you keep its intrinsic limits in mind, if you respect the tip-of-the-iceberg quality which is its definition, and if you revise the viewpoint of the Chicana section, then this is an excellent example of the genre.

Patricia D'Andrea

*    *    *     *    *    *

The Third Woman: Minority Women Writers of the U.S.

        Anthologies serve various purposes: to collect, to instruct, to explain, to nurture. Dexter Fisher's The Third Woman: Minority Women Writers of the United States is directed toward these purposes and succeeds as much as a collection of such varied literary traditions could succeed. The anthology brings together the writings of contemporary (for the most part) ethnic women: folk narratives, interviews, {5} essays, short stories, excerpts from longer narratives, and poetry, as well as an introduction outlining significant historical issues and literary themes. In addition, there are several bibliographies and four appendices of discussion topics for classroom use. This is a large undertaking and its scope is the major weakness of the volume. There is simply too much ground to cover adequately.
        The editor has emphasized in her general introduction, however, that her primary purpose has been to collect: to demonstrate by the very weight or length of the book (600 pages) that ethnic women write and that "mainstream" literature cannot ignore them without impoverishing itself. In the four groups Fisher addresses, some twenty women from each are represented: American Indian, Afro-American, Chicano, and Asian American. The literature ranges from themes such as the imperative of redressing the past--whether it is stereotypic views of women from the dominant or the immediate culture or the search for role models and the buried heritage of each tradition--to personal relationships between women, parents, lovers, and children. It is in the documentation of woman's struggle for literary voice and her sense of continuity and achievement, that the anthology succeeds. It serves as a resource for the rediscovery of woman's place in literature; as Alice Walker says, the woman writer must be her own model and she herself must write all the things she "should have read" (pp. 154-157). The task of the ethnic woman in literature is multi-fold: the realization of her artistic self, the search for a literary tradition within her own culture as well as the dominant one, the expression of woman's perspective, and the recognition that she will be critically observed by aspiring young writers. The encounter with women which The Third Woman affords us is thus a rewarding one.
        The book, nevertheless, has been designed for classroom instruction, and as such should be used carefully as a supplementary text, for "anthologization" tends to effect a certain levelling of the individuals and the issues within the tradition. That is, the selected texts come to represent the whole of the literature, and problematic concerns peculiar to that literature can be misinterpreted. Fisher has
{6} taken care to provide an historical context for the literatures and gives us some salient facts appropriate to each, but the literary tradition has been slighted and the principles of the selection of texts are not entirely clear. In the Chicano literature section, for example, a literary history would have provided us with the facts with which to analyze the romanticization and the shades of elitism of the Cabeza de Vaca and Niggli samples, writers of the 40s and 50s. The mere fact that these women wrote in English represents a marking point in Chicano literature; that major novelists in the 70s return to Spanish as their primary language must be made clear if we are to understand the change in audience which contemporary Chicano literature establishes. Similarly, the use of Aztec mythology is not a simple recalling of our Indian heritage (resulting, at times, in a glorification of the imperialistic Aztec) but an acknowledgment of mestizaje in protest of Chicano assimilationists and others who overly stressed the "Spanish" heritage of the Chicano. Moreover, the relative scarcity of contemporary short story writers (only three in the anthology) needs to be assessed in terms of the many emergent poets whose multilingual style is perhaps more dynamically expressed through poetic genres. The volume is intended for English-speakers and of the few short stories in Spanish which exist none is represented.
        It is the nature of anthologies to highlight, surely, and it would be unfair to point out simple oversights and omissions (such as Veronica Cunningham, a feminist and lesbian Chicana poet, and Bernice Zamora, for example). But it is also the responsibility of anthologies, especially this one, to offer a structure that allows us to examine the work with an ear attuned to the dissonances of each literary tradition. Minority literature by women can express not only inherent contradictions of American society, but also the contradictions within the ethnic group that may surface as elements of style, theme, and choice of language. Each tradition emerges and develops out of a complex disenfranchisement and repression, and each piece is uniquely tied to that history. The Third Woman, as inspiration and facilitator, can be used effectively to demonstrate that uniqueness, though it slights the dynamics of the
{7} individual literatures. A more detailed bibliography, perhaps with specific listings of critical essays outlining those developments, would have been helpful.

Theresa Melendez Hayes
University of Texas, El Paso

*      *      *      *      *      *

Helen Slwooko Carius. Sevukatmet: Ways of Life on St. Lawrence Island. Anchorage Alaska Pacific Univ. Press, 1979. 46 pp. Hb. $28.00. Pb. $9.50.

        Reading Sevukakmet: Ways of Life on St. Lawrence Island is almost like reading three separate essays which chronicle Eskimo life on St. Lawrence Island. The first section, "Life on St. Lawrence Island Long Ago," written in a story-telling style, describes the construction of sod homes, traditional male and female roles, taboos and superstitions. Most of the essay is in the third person. Consequently, when the author does switch to the first person, the reader knows that the old traditions are still viable.
        Section two, "After the Missionary and Trader Came," specifies 1898 as the year the village of Gambell was named in honor of the missionary who had come to the island. That date is significant also because it marked the beginning of gradual changes from sod homes to "new-style" houses papered with pages from Time and Life. The intrusion of government and the missionaries resulted in school for the children, new trade goods, and the celebration of different holidays like Christmas and Easter. Tracing the changes, Carius comments, "Now more things change every year" (p. 28). Carius was caught up in the changes: she married a white man and left the Island in 1954. Ultimately she returned (in 1975), but even now she finds evidence that some things never change: "I don't think Eskimos in Gambell will stop whale hunting because that's our food that we have we have eaten all our life" (p. 30).
        The third section, "About Me," emphasizes her role as a survivor, both in her identification with her Eskimo heritage and her recovery from the crippling effects of polio. Helen Slwooko was born on St. Lawrence Island, an isolated piece of land off the
{8} coast of Alaska. Despite the seeming desolation of this place in the north, she remembers fondly the fishing, hiking, and berry picking of her youth. Her carefree childhood was interrupted, however, when she was paralyzed from the waist down with polio. Eventually she learned to use crutches and to enjoy childhood again--"I played around with all the kids and I didn't even miss summer fish camping" (p. 38). After operations and several moves to stay with different sisters, Carius married. Now after three children she is proud to say, "I have not lived like a handicapped woman" (p. 42). Her emphasis in this section is on the positive rather than the negative, on her abilities rather than her disability.
        In the "Foreword" Priscilla Tyler and Maree Brooks analyze the text in detail, focusing particularly on the Eskimo-English language and carefully ordered structure of each essay. The text is illustrated by the author with sketches of traditional Eskimo customs and lifeways.
        This is a short, expensive book. The first two sections are enticing and suggest that "About Me" might tell how Carius integrated Christianity and traditional religion in her own life, why she decided to return home after so many years, or what she sees as her own role in perpetuating the heritage of the St Lawrence Islanders. Instead, the last section is brief and after a quick account of her childhood, Carius focuses on her polio and treatment. It is interesting, but the material is not integrated with the ethnological information presented in the first two sections This reader would like to know more about Carius's life. A more complete autobiographical section would have made clearer the ways in which the old ways have been integrated with the new in the author's life and would have demonstrated the cultural continuity which is suggested in the first two sections.

Gretchen Bataille
Iowa State University

*    *    *    *    *    *
{9}
Linda Hogan. Calling Myself Home. Greenfield Center, New York 12833, 1978. Pb. 2.00.

Wendy Rose. Builder Kachina: A Home-Going Cycle. Marvin, South Dakota: Blue Cloud Quarterly, 1975. Pb. 2.00.

        Going home, the search for home: a quest that presupposes alienation. Millions of people are displaced, millions more likely to be before long. We look for mirrors, confirming the reality of whatever isolation and strangeness we feel, uncertain, homeless, searching.
        Here are two women going their own ways home. In Builder Kachina: A Home-Going Cycle Wendy Rose writes four road poems. On a journey from her mother's land, California's San Joaquin valley, to her father's, the Hopi mesas of Arizona, she drives with someone named Arthur down highway 5 from the drought-parched hills of central California across the Mohave desert and Colorado river to the summer rains of Arizona.
        The search is geographical, geological, a longing for identity with land: "All this is a part / of my soul's fossil strata: / where the shock of English fog / tornados with the mammoth bones / in my blood." The longing, the drive, remain ambiguous and finally unfulfilled. This journey home, from California to the Arizona desert, is one that I have often made, and I recognize a frustrating dilemma: how to put into words so fundamental a relationship to this harsh, forbidding land. In these poems the relationship remains elusive. We can follow the journey on a road map, through the Techachapis, the Mojave desert, California, Arizona, the Mogollon Rim. There is even a glossary. But the map is easier to see than the landscape, which remains vague, unrealized. "Nothing of great value here. / Just my story. A halfbreed goes / from one half-home to the other." Such journeys are made by way of words, and the poet is always at the mercy of language. We sense that for Wendy Rose the automobile journey was served by a more reliable vehicle: "Must I explain why / the songs are stiff and shy? / Like this: too much voice / about me already / to shuffle in with / my tuneless noise."
        In Calling Myself Home Linda Hogan explores the
{10} inner landscape of memory, both reflecting and creating the Oklahoma "relocation land" that is and is not home. The book's first line: "I'm dreaming the old turtle back." Dreaming things back is modus operandi--perhaps vivendi--for the voice in the poems. Dreamlike, images surface, blend and recur: turtle, dry pond, beads of bones, moon and fish, walnut trees.
        Here are seeming contradictions. In the poem titled "Heritage" the poet says, "From my family I have learned the secrets / of never having a home." And in the title poem of the collection, "This land is the house / we have always lived in. / The women, / their bones are holding up the earth." In the last two poems, "Song for My Name" and "Vapor Cave" the poet seems to have found her goal. In the latter she reaches a paradoxical home of personal immersion in the impersonal, ancestral earth: "Legs and arms lose themselves / lose their light boundaries of skin. Old voices, / I think I hear them / speaking / up the long stairway of my back, / white steps / toward the sounds of air."
        As they do in dreams, things seem fluid, metamorphic. In "Fisherman" we are not sure if we see a man fishing, or the sun: "His fish basket is empty / except for the lures / in their nest of clear thread." A rain of fish is a gift: "When it rains fish / we say / night's bird is shaking out her wings." Yet images are sometimes startling in their precision and resonance. About the Man in the Moon: "Yesterday he was poor / but tomorrow he says his house / will fill up with silver / the white flesh will fatten on his frame."
        It is a pleasure to encounter such a gift for language, from the precise ambiguity of the title through the dreamlike, fluid imagery: "Hooked on old habits / and seeing the moon / float by in daylight, / I catch the knife / and slit a pale crescent." Yet the poems are strangely uniform and almost monotonous in their emotional tone, probably as a result of the idiosyncratic, free-verse rhythms. One hopes for more from Linda Hogan, especially for more venturesome excursions into different forms. This is a talent to be nurtured, tended, and above all, challenged.

Helen Jaskoski

{11}

California State University, Fullerton

*     *     *     *     *     *

Linda Hogan. Daughters, I Love You. Denver: Research Center on Women, 1981.

        Linda Hogan's most recent book, Daughters, I Love You, is an outgrowth of her experience at the 1980 International Survival Gathering, held near the Black Hills of South Dakota. The necessity of peace has been recognized in other historical and contemporary works by American Indians. In Land of the Spotted Eagle (1933), Luther Standing Bear wrote that before the European conquest of this continent, Dakota women had begun to lead their people toward an end to war by raising their sons to seek peace. In Leslie Silko's Ceremony (1977), it is Tayo's memory of his grandmother's horror at the explosion of the atomic bomb that turns him away from violence, toward acknowledging his relationship to all on the planet who are being threatened by the Destroyers.
        In confronting nuclear power directly, Linda Hogan has expressed her personal impressions and fears. But her expressions go far beyond the personal. In the first poem, "Daybreak," her daughter represents all the children of the earth whose innocence is the opposite of war, but who have been and remain its victims.

               In her dark eyes
               the children of Hiroshima
               are screaming
               and her skin is
               their skin
               falling off.

But the poem conveys more than this transcendence and horror. It also reminds the reader that it is because "it is a good thing to be alive / and safe / and loving every small thing / every step we take on earth," that we must grieve when "every small thing" is threatened.
        In her poems Hogan seeks to exert the power of language against the destructive power that endangers all innocent, loving people. "The Women Are Grieving" is a chant to release the emotion and pain of the women
{12} "who have lost their bright children" because of the power mad destroyers to whom children's lives are expendable. These women cry out:

               Death is turning me round
               Death is winning
               Death is stealing from me
               Death is dancing me ragged.

        Near the end of the book is the powerful, descriptive poem, "Black Hills Survival Gathering, 1980." The experience itself was symbolic, and Hogan has used these symbols to represent the complexity and instability of our lives. Monks "in orange cloth" sing and drum the "morning into light." Meanwhile "B52's blow over their heads / leaving a cross on the ground." The shape is a dual symbol of Christianity and the build up of arms justified by the "Moral Majority." Not to recognize that we are surrounded by the weapons of war, even while close to nature as on Marvin Kammerer's ranch at the Survival Gathering, is to be victims of ignorance. The collection of poems ends with "The Women Speaking." Women of Russia, India, the Americas "walk toward one another." They walk together "to bless this ground," the opposite of war.

Norma Wilson
University of South Dakota

*     *     *     *     *     *

Wendy Rose. Lost Copper. Illustrated by the Author. Intro. N. Scott Momaday. 1980. Malki Museum Press: Banning, CA 92220. 129 pp. Hb. 8.95.

        This fine collection of nearly one hundred poems by one of the best contemporary Native American poets is, as Scott Momaday observes in his introduction, "a celebration." But it is not a celebration easily characterized, because Wendy Rose explores such a wide range of experience. SAIL will publish a full-scale review of the book, for it unquestionably is a major event in Native American Literature. For the moment we simply recommend it for its emotional intensity and wit (both qualities reinforced by the author's brilliant {13} drawings), and, to quote Momaday again, for its bringing to bear "the old language of Donne and Shakespeare and Pope and Hardy . . . upon a native sensibility, a native landscape, a native experience."

The Editor

*     *     *     *     *     *

Paula Gunn Allen. Star Child. Marvin, South Dakota: Blue Cloud Quarterly, Vol. XXVII, No. 2, 1981. 24 pp. Pb. 2.00. (subscription, 4 issues).

Leonora (I Am Cree) McDowell. Moccasin Meanderings. New York: Gusto Press, 1979. 61 pp. Pb. 2.50.

Mary Tall Mountain. There Is No Work for Goodbye. Marvin, South Dakota: Blue Cloud Quarterly, Vol. XXVII, No. 1, 1981. 24 pp. Pb. 2. 00 (subscription, 4 issues).

        Current criticism of poetry by women and current literary historians' interest in defining a women's poetic tradition (in English) center on the problem of women and language--on women's inaccessibility to means of communication appropriate to their particular experience. The poetry of contemporary American Indian writers who are women and poets is best seen, I believe, in the context of this struggle for access to language. The three authors here represent different strategies in the process of finding articulate voice.
        The poems in Moccasin Meanderings employ the conventions of popular verse. One poem, "Old-Neep-A-Wa Dies," is a delicate, precisely rendered elegy. All the rest exemplify the most obvious characteristics of the magazine-verse tradition, being replete with platitudes, trite metaphors and romantic posturing. It would be easy to dismiss the book at this point: it simply is not in the elite tradition that we think of as "literature." Nevertheless, the book deserves attention for two reasons. First, one of the functions of ethnic literature--no matter what the intentions of the author may be--is that it provides a means for those outside it to perceive certain truths about the author's culture. This intercultural communication can
{14} function in popular works that will never win praise for literary merits. Ms. McDowell communicates what it is to be Cree; therefore her work is relevant to those who study inter-cultural discourse. Secondly, McDowell writes in a specifically women's literary tradition. Historians of women's literature are presently finding hidden riches in this much maligned and parodied body of writing, again the contribution of a writer from another ethnic group requires consideration.
        Mary Tall Mountain's poems, by contrast, are more selfconscious, more educated, more literary. There Is No Word for Goodbye is the work of a poet experimenting, searching, in transit and early in her career. This first collection is a hodgepodge of promise, and the most interesting poems in it are not necessarily those with the most polish, but rather the ones that suggest what the future might hold as this poet develops her thought and skills. There is sensitivity to nuances of sound, in "Old Whaling Station" with its faintest of sea chanty echoes, and in the two poems on the old man, Niguudzaagha, with their precise rendering of vernacular speech. Poems for grandmother, sister and parents are well observed but flounder somewhat in the complexity of personal emotion.
        But the most intriguing, although the least well-formed, are "Light upon the Chugach Mountains," "Jubilee," and "Bright Shining." One hopes to see the integration of the mystical dimension in these poems with the keen observation and emotional sympathy evident in the others. An indication of such integration surfaces in "The Last Wolf," where the surreal landscape of the speaker's vision makes a far stronger political statement than the more explicitly political "The Imprisoned Warriors." A different approach, in "The Figure in Clay," again suggests the particular problems of women poets: the speaker fashions a clay doll that eventually becomes both her "eldest kinswoman" crying "through smoke / Of tribal fires" as well as an image of herself: "You . . . / Wrapped in brown, / Myself repeated / Out of dark and different time." This act of self-creation is emblematic of the task of women poets: to find themselves in finding a language, and thus a culture and history.
        Paula Gunn Allen takes that most difficult of
{15} subjects, the limits and failure of language. There are few poets who can manage this paradoxical act of communication; Emily Dickinson was one, and she failed more often than succeeded. In Star Child the struggle for articulation manifests itself through the first seven of the nine poems that comprise the collection. The speaker wrestles with rage, frustration and despair, and with that ultimate madness of finding a language for the inchoate forces impinging on a sane life. In "Lu" the speaker searches for meaning: "I thought I saw poetry / able to stare the self- / riddled eyes of people into opening" and meets only emptiness, "but I saw words / given in emptiness to empty nights. / Haloes of a million shadows dancing / for self entranced shadows." A similar sterility pervades "Christmas at Votech High, Santa Fe": the pupils "make do with plastic reveries, / sunk in unspoken rage." The speaker shares their inarticulateness: "I would cradle them, murmuring, keep them from knowing / what I hear. I will not let them see me weep: I'll / fight with them instead, sneer and rage. Tell them / to sit down." Indeed, the failure of language is implicit in the poems themselves. The last three, however, suggest a resolution. "Transformations" is too vague to be of much interest, but "The Sing" is important: the speaker is able to integrate body, thought and feeling through language, and most importantly, through the traditional language of the ceremonial. The last poem, "What We Know," suggests the best and worst of her work: the pretentiousness of the first five lines gives way to lucid insight in the remainder: "the changing / took air and birds / water and sight away / we know day is near / the dead walk among / us we whisper in dark corners / stories about the light."

Helen Jaskoski
California State University, Fullerton

*     *     *     *     *     *

{16}
Gretchen M. Bataille and Charles L. P. Silet. The Pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans in the Movies. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State Univ. Press, 1980.

        Of all the minority cultures that make up American society, the Indians have been by far the most visible in Hollywood films. Yet, until now, critical examinations of the way movies have stereotyped Indians have been scant. Gretchen M. Bataille and Charles L. P. Silet have put together a valuable anthology of readings on this topic. The Pretend Indians: Images of Native Americans provides a useful overview of the kinds of work that have been done to date and suggests directions future study may take.
        The book begins with a provocative forward by prominent Indian spokesman Vine Deloria, followed by the author's brief overview of the history of Indian stereotyping and the critical issues it has raised. The next section is largely theoretical, made up of essays on the function of Indians in American mythologies by critics such as Richard Slotkin and Leslie Fiedler. The next parts treat images of the Indians in American films, first from the perspective of early commentators and then from that of critics writing after 1950 (who tend to be more critical of the prevailing stereotypes). After a short photo-essay, a section of in-depth reviews deals with films made after 1960 which focus on Indians, such as Cheyenne Autumn, Ulzana's Raid, A Man Called Horse, Tell Them Willie Boy is Here, and Buffalo Bill and the Indians. Finally, an annotated checklist directs the reader to other articles and books on the topic.
        Bataille and Silet have prepared the volume carefully, digging out early essays from obscure sources, abridging relevant arguments from longer articles with sensitivity, and providing balanced summaries to introduce each section and essay they have included. The result provides a good picture of the achievements and shortcomings of writing on this topic.
        The achievements lie primarily in the area of mapping the history of Indian stereotyping. What emerges most dramatically from the essays in The Pretend Indians is the change in the Indian stereotype which began to take place in Hollywood during the
{17} 1950s. From formulas which showed the Indians as mysterious savage adversaries, films turned to formulas which portrayed Indians as unfairly victimized members of a venerable but vanishing culture. The essay which best chronicles this shift, both in its analysis of the way the changing stereotypes operate within the cinematic texts, and in the connections it draws between these stereotypes and the patterns of American culture, was written by an Englishman, Philip French. French's distance from the issue appears to have enhanced the clarity and depth of his perceptions. His conclusions, however, agree with those of American theorists like Richard Slotkin, Leslie Fiedler, and John Cawelti, who point out that the newer, more sympathetic portrayals of Indians have finally only replaced one stereotype with another.
        During the past several years there have been few movies featuring Indians. Perhaps this lack has discouraged critics from refining the prevailing modes of treating Indian stereotypes. The last essay to be included in this collection is dated 1977; hence, some readers may miss references to more sophisticated techniques of approaching the subject such as those recently developed by other disenfranchised groups. Feminist critics, for example, now read "against the grain" of conventional movies and analyze neglected films in which the plight of women is treated in provocative ways.
        For feminist critics, such neglected films are typically those created by women, and it is clear that theorizing about the role of Indians in film would be greatly enhanced by the presence of a body of work by Indian filmmakers, though, as Susan Rice's essay argues, such films need not contain fewer stereotypes. The evidence of both feminist and black filmmaking suggests that films by Native Americans could begin to define a world view with which Indians could identify--as Vine Deloria persuasively contends in his preface. Many of the essays in The Pretend Indians protest Hollywood's tendency to cast non-Indian actors in Indian roles. It is demoralizing and distorting to show white actors pretending to be Indians; however, it is far more pernicious to deny Indians the right to shape their own screen images by controlling the forms in which these images are cast. Only when Indians
{18} attain this power themselves can the cinematic portrayal of native Americans hope to transcend pretense and achieve a credible authenticity.

Virginia Wright Wexman
University of Illinois, Chicago

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Announcements

        There will be three ASAIL meetings at the next MLA Convention in Los Angeles, Dec. 27-30: A business meeting; "Verbal Art, Visual Art, and American Indian Literature," Speakers Wendy Rose and Leslie Marmon Silko, Moderator Larry Evers; Brian Swann and Franchot Ballinger will lead a panel on how to teach American Indian literature, providing course outlines and bibliographies: audience participation is expected, and those attending are urged to bring their own course outlines, etc. for discussion. SAIL will try to publish results of this meeting.

        SAIL is preparing issues on Ray A. Youngbear and Duane Niatum and will continue its bibliographies of contemporary Native American writers. A reprint of our Hanta Yo issue, 15 pp. is available for 2.00; the 1978-80 Bibliography, revised Dec. 1981, with a list of small presses (37 pp.) is available for 4.00. The Basic Bibliography for Teachers, revised Jan. 1982 (40 pp.) is now available for 3.00 (those who have already paid for orders should receive their copies very soon).

Notices

        Andrew Wiget, Native American Studies, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, is in charge of a Panel sponsored by the MLA Commission of the Literatures and Languages of America at the next MLA convention entitled: "Shaping Sound: Native American Concepts of Oral Literary Genres and Aesthetic Forms." Send papers and queries to Wiget.

        Joseph and Carol Bruchac are the directors of the {19} newly established Greenfield Review Literary Center, RD 1, Box 80, Greenfield Center, NY 12833, which will encompass The Greenfield Review, The Greenfield Review Press and publishing program, and the COSHEP Prison Project Newsletter. The Center, which will sponsor readings, houses a growing collection of more than 5,000 literary magazines and poetry books from small presses. The Center, which now publishes a useful newsletter, welcomes donations of books and magazines. The Greenfield Center serves the major regional area; its valuable collection is catalogued and is open to the public by appointment, and we recommend that small presses and authors make donations to it as an excellent way of getting works known both to specialists and a general public.

        The Greenfield Review, 9, No. 3 and 4, 1981, American Indian Writings, edited by Joseph Bruchac, is a superlative collection. It costs only 4.00 and is available from The Greenfield Review, RD 1, Box 80, Greenfield Center, NY 12833. Order a copy!
        The double issue contains three poems by Maurice Kenny, a tribute to him by Michael Castro, Kenny's description of the founding and surviving of The Strawberry Press, plus four reviews of its publications. Besides five poems by Wendy Rose, there is a review of her Lost Copper and Long Division. Thirty-eight contributors are too many to list here, so I'll just note that I enjoyed especially the poems by Linda Hogan, Barney Bush, Duane Niatum, Simon Ortiz, Lance Henson. I liked Ted Kooser's retelling of the "Raven Boy and Raven Girl" story, and Geary Hobson's marvellous beginning, "The Coldstream Baptist Cemetery," to a novel in progress. Besides four fine poems, Paula Allen provides a smashing foreword to Brian Swann's interesting re-visions of earlier translations. I haven't told the half of it--send $4.00 to the Greenfield Review, Greenfield Center, NY 12833.

Karl Kroeber

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Studies in American Indian Literatures, The Newsletter of the Association for the Study of American Indian Literatures, is issued four times a year. Annual subscriptions are by the calendar year only and are 4.00. For back numbers and special publications by SAIL consult the editor, 602 Philosophy Hall, Columbia University, New York, New York 10027, to whom contributions and subscriptions should be addressed. Advisory editorial board: Paula Gunn Allen, Gretchen Bataille, Joseph Bruchac, Vine Deloria, Jr., Larry Evers, Dell Hymes, Maurice Kenny, Robert Sayre.

1982 © SAIL.

 

 


Contact: Robert Nelson
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