Add to GoodReads. Red Pedagogy. This ground-breaking text explores the intersection between dominant modes of critical educational theory and the socio-political landscape of American Indian education. Grande asserts that, with few exceptions, the matters of Indigenous people and Indian education have been either largely ignored or indiscriminately absorbed within critical theories of education.
Furthermore, American Indian scholars and educators have largely resisted engagement with critical educational theory, tending to concentrate instead on the production of historical monographs, ethnographic studies, tribally-centered curricula, and site-based research. Such a focus stems from the fact that most American Indian scholars feel compelled to address the socio-economic urgencies of their own communities, against which engagement in abstract theory appears to be a luxury of the academic elite.
While the author acknowledges the dire need for practical-community based research, she maintains that the global encroachment on Indigenous lands, resources, cultures and communities points to the equally urgent need to develop transcendent theories of decolonization and to build broad-based coalitions. Her research interfaces critical Indigenous theories with the concerns of education.
The first edition of Red Pedagogy had a deservedly powerful impact. Scott Momaday — even be initiated into a traditional society within our tribal culture, but we are inescapably both institutionally privileged by access to Euramerican education and distinctly migrant in the sense that we possess a mobility denied to our less privileged relations. As I argued in my introduction, crucial to the authors discussed in this study is the idea of bringing forms and patterns from the oral tradition onto the written page, challenging the rhetorical structure of Western discourse while suggesting new, alternative ways of producing theory.
As his comparative study of Mathews and Deloria intends to suggest, tradition, conceived as an open-ended process, can and should permeate the intellectual production of American Indian critical studies in order effectively to promote some sort of intellectual sovereignty. Ironically, however, instead of suggesting how works of criticism including his own can pragmatically convey the idea of tradition in new written forms, Warrior proceeds to analyze the poetry of Jimmy Durham and Wendy Rose, thus reinforcing the idea that poetry remains the primary choice in promoting the kind of intellectual sovereignty that he has been theorizing throughout his work.
Warrior is quite right in asserting that education can be a powerful avenue through which to validate the activity of any form of theoretical discourse and give pragmatic context to what would otherwise be mere aestheticism. However, after reading Tribal Secrets, a reader might wonder how well Warrior himself has put into practice his theoretical assumptions. In this essay, Warrior looks at the work of Gerald intellectual sovereignty and red stick theory 77 Vizenor as writing that offers important insights into the framework of intellectual sovereignty that he has developed through his reading of Deloria and Mathews.
More important, Warrior claims, Vizenor replicates the conclusions and praxes of French theory. Like Foucault, he is resigned to allowing power and knowledge to play out their own control. Like Baudrillard, he is resigned to there being only more simulation underneath the simulacrum of the world that modernism and capitalism has produced. Like Derrida, difference becomes the only politics that the creative artist or intellectual can offer.
Deloria and Mathews. But is this act of decolonization possible? But could such an international dialogue detach itself from Eurocentric discourse? Can we read Spivak without reading Derrida? Can we read Gates without reading Saussure or any of the other structuralist and poststructuralist thinkers? While they cannot be completely resolved here, a closer look at Tribal Secrets will at least allow us to make a start. Undoubtedly, Warrior has undertaken a very ambitious project, attempting to construct some kind of American Indian criticism with Mathews and Deloria as the primary material on which to base this discourse.
Owing to their international and, I would add, hybridized experience, Mathews and Deloria seem to be the perfect candidates to bring the Native American experience into a wider context and give some pragmatic foundation to a Native American critical theory. Like Deloria and Warrior, Womack looks at tradition as a dynamic entity, something that is perpetually in motion and that adapts to new cultural challenges. Like Deloria and Warrior, Womack envisions Red Stick literary criticism rooted in land and culture, sensitive to the needs of the community, and creating resistance movements against colonialism.
Against this anthropological, ethnological stance, Womack seeks to politicize the oral tradition, claiming that the ongoing expression of a tribal voice through imagination, language, and literature gives identity to the citizens of a nation and legitimates their sovereign status. Him and Hotgun found that they could get to the heart of the matter quicker by funning each other than by writing literary criticism, and they could use jokes instead of taking up the hickory sticks themselves as a bloody cudgel on everybody who disagrees with them. They felt that as Creek critics.
However, what separates the other theorists discussed in this study Vize- intellectual sovereignty and red stick theory 81 nor and Sarris in particular from Womack is the way in which the oral tradition in their writing subsumes Western theoretical paradigms, reinventing and reimagining the language of authoritative discourse and turning it to its own advantage. As I argued at the beginning of this chapter, the term Native perspective is itself problematic and contradictory.
Once the oral tradition enters into dialogue with the rhetorical systems of the Western tradition, once it forcefully enters a book such as Red on Red, a product of the conjunction of cultural practices and hybridized discursive modes, an authentic Native perspective, such as the one promoted by Womack, becomes an ironic contradiction. Womack writes: Through imagination and storytelling, people in oral cultures reexperience history. This concept of ancestral memory relates to nationalism in that sovereignty is an intersection of the political, imaginary, and literary.
To exist as a nation, the community needs a perception of nationhood, that is stories like the migration account that help them imagine who they are as people, how they came to be, and what cultural values they wish to preserve. Within the telling, the event is reexperienced so that the people are reconstituted as a nation as they hear about their origins in ancient stories of creations and journeyings.
At the beginning of his discussion, Womack argues that, as an intellectual idea, sovereignty is inherent in Native cultures and that, as a political practice, it predates European contact. Creeks, for example, had local representations in autonomous towns, and, more important, Creek storytelling articulated concepts of nationhood and politics Red on Red Whereas Warrior, Deloria, and the other critics mentioned earlier acknowledge the European theological and political origin of the term sovereignty, arguing that it has little to do with the original status of indigenous American realities, Womack goes back to the time before European treaty relationships with Native nations in order to claim sovereignty as a possession of Native communities.
As does Allen in taking a gynocentric perspective, Womack appeals to a supposedly authentic past in terms of one shared culture, a sort of collective one true self to reinforce the idea of nationhood. While his intent is to demystify the notion of oral tradition as an ethnographic artifact and illustrate the crucial role of stories within the political life of a tribal culture, his position raises many doubts about the concept of tradition and cultural identity. Like most contemporary Native American authors, Womack suggests that the oral tradition can be reimagined and reexpressed owing to the living quality of language.
However, what Womack seems to overlook is the danger that occurs when oral stories are used as an avenue to legitimate identity and authenticity. Womack then offers his own interpretation. In other words, his analysis of the story turns the Native or subaltern into an object of investigation.
Like many other Indian songs, the Turtle medicine song reveals the powerful healing power of language, the power to restore an inarticulate individual to a condition of speech. The Turtle story is also a trickster narrative with trickster patterns displayed throughout the narrative. The effect of the erased narrator is a fragmenting one — the stories do not connect to a living human community.
The tellings occur in a vacuum. They are artifacts; they have no bearing on contemporary concerns. What he fails to realize, however, is that his own analysis and interpretation of the story work in the same ethnographic mode, albeit with the terms reversed. He becomes the insider claiming to present the correct meaning of the story merely on the basis of an authentic Native perspective. In his anxious attempt to re-create a cultural feature through which to legitimate a nationalistic culture, Womack conveniently dismisses the fact that he is utilizing language and tools borrowed from the colonizer and that, by wishing to attach these instruments to some form of nationalism, he inevitably ends up exoticizing them.
Referring to African intellectuals in particular, he uses the term europhone to describe the product of cultural practices originating from the encounter between non-Western and Western modes, adding that neither Third World literature nor Third World literary criticism can escape this europhone reality. It has its own traditions, models, and norms. Its constituency is separate and radically different from that of the European or other literatures.
And its historical and cultural imperatives impose upon it concerns and constraints quite different, sometimes altogether antithetical to the European. Statements such as this display, Appiah maintains, a Nativist rhetoric in their recapitulation of nationalist ideologies, ideologies that, ironically, however, reproduce the Eurocentric bias of Western criticism. Is it indeed possible to read Native literature by relying exclusively on a theory originating from a Native cultural background? Unlike Womack, Appiah would say that it is not, claiming that insisting on this rationale would mean underestimating the cultural hybridity and multiplicity of heritages of the modern Native writer.
Rejecting the narrative of the nation, these novels appeal instead to an ethical universal, a certain simple respect for human suffering. That is, despite the fact that the notion of resisting complicity with Western or Christian cultural traditions was current, Callahan chose to write an assimilationist novel. LaVonne Ruoff, however, takes a somewhat different approach to the novel. In Wynema, Callahan uses a double-voiced discourse, which simultaneously expresses the direct intention of the character speaking and the refracted intention of the author.
It is not within the scope of this chapter to engage in a thorough discussion of Wynema. By whom? On what basis? Borrowing the vocabulary of Ashcroft et al. These are the same authors discussed by Owens, who argues, in contrast, that this is a powerful literature of resistance created as a countervoice to the dominant discourse, the same discourse that keeps perpetuating images of Indians as cultural artifacts.
What happens to political struggles when a concept like identity is deconstructed? Statements such as these inevitably raise a series of questions. Does the fact that Womack holds a professorship at the University of Lethbridge in Alberta change the way in which he speaks to his own community? Can Womack justify grounding his study in a notion of Creekcentrism when that study must, as it does, inevitably engage Western literary theory even if only to attack it?
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Ultimately, Womack is writing from a privileged position within the academy, his audience largely other academics, not Native communities. Red on Red remains, therefore, a sophisticated work of literary criticism and, as such, inaccessible to those members of a Native audience who cannot approach it from a similarly privileged position. Despite its Creekcentrism Red on Red is envisioned by Womack as a theoretical approach that all tribal groups should imitate. Traveling in the Southwest, through places important to Creek history, Harjo is able to imagine and empathize with the legacy of oppression faced by all Native people in the Americas.
In it Harjo takes memories triggered by her presence in New Orleans — memories of the tragic episodes of Removal generally and of Creeks drowning during a forced crossing of the Mississippi in particular — and recasts them within the context of violence against Indian people generally. Yet, this is not. Pan-tribalist feelings call to mind the visions and shadows of the Ghost Dance religion, the doctrine of spiritual renewal that spread across the plains at the end of the nineteenth century.
The ideological connection between nationalism and pan-tribalism as perceived by Womack should, in this light, be obvious. Both hope to recover a precolonial cultural purity, thereby creating some kind of national consciousness entirely independent of the European colonial enterprise. There are many memories there for me. According to Allen, Harjo arrived at her view of the permeability of all intellectual sovereignty and red stick theory 95 boundaries from reading the work of feminists The Sacred Hoop Whereas Harjo laments the materialistic and objective nature of English, its lack of a spiritual center, Cixous tries to restore the body in writing, to open up language to structures that are nonhierarchical and nonexclusive of sexuality.
Trapped in a system of oppositional duality, Harjo and Cixous share, according to Donovan, a culturally imposed self-fear and self-loathing, the product of gendered colonialism, a parallel to nationalistic colonialism The poet strives for a balance between chaos and order, following the Muskogean idea of the balance of opposites Red on Red Native literatures deserve to be judged by their own criteria, in their own terms, not merely in agreement with, or reaction against, European literature and theory.
In the light of the literary separatism that Womack has advocated throughout Red on Red, such a position appears, indeed, contradictory. What he does not notice, however, is that his own position is not that far from this reactionary mode, a mode that keeps one eye always on Europe. Creekness and pan-tribalism legitimate, for Womack, a Native American literary separatism that categorically excludes any possibility of encounter at the cultural crossroads. According to Womack, while Riggs was in Paris, studying European theater on a Guggenheim fellowship, he formulated a theory of Oklahoma and Oklahomans as well.
Responding in a letter to a friend to a review of his plays, Riggs explained this theory: 18 And I know that what makes them [Oklahomans] a little special, a little distinct in the Middle West is the quality of their taciturnity. There are two reasons for this: one — faulty education or none at all ; the other, the people who settled in Oklahoma were a suspect fraternity, as fearful of being recognized by others as they were by themselves. Gamblers, traders. Men on the move. Speech reveals one. It is better to say nothing. By adopting the doom-and-gloom vanishing-culture mentality, Riggs presents his struggle with his homosexual identity and his struggle with his Indian identity at the same time.
The future of Native studies lies, for Womack, in challenging the status quo, in breaking down the hierarchy of center and margin and claiming a space of its own. Still, it is interesting that, at the end of Red on Red, Womack turns to queer theory to stabilize that stance. As critics have pointed out, the most conspicuous strain of queer theory draws heavily on the theories and methods of poststructuralism and deconstruction. Patrick Dilley writes: Queer theory is a postmodern concept, an outgrowth of movements both political and personal. It seeks to invert the delineations and borders of our culture, the very concepts we use to create knowledge.
Queer theorists attempt to show the structures and concepts created by those limits and borders, and how the people involved in creating theory affect and are affected by those concepts. They challenge — and sometimes reject — the notion of epistemological certainty, normal and abnormal, inclusion and exclusion, homosexual and heterosexual. By dismissing the poststructuralist, Eurocentric matrix of queer discourse theory, by refusing to engage the hybridization and syncretism inherent in its very nature, Womack misses a very important point.
Surely, I posit, Jim and Hotgun succeeded in their intent, and so did their author. Both insist, for example, on authentic traditions of Indian intellectualism. Both argue for the necessity of creating discursive modes that mirror indigenous forms of thought. Both raise important issues concerning the responsibilities of intellectuals to their communities.
And the list goes on. Embracing literary separatism, and refusing to acknowledge their implication in the dominant discourse, Warrior and Womack end up, like Allen, perpetuating the discursive paradigms of Eurocentric thinking, thus further marginalizing Native American literature and theory, consigning it to the role of the Other of the Euramerican consciousness. In this story, a girl is trying to tell her mother unsettling but crucial news that will affect them both, but, intent on maintaining the status quo, the mother stubbornly refuses to listen.
We will be telling the texts not to speak. As critics involved in reading texts originating in differing epistemologies, in the narratives of Native American oral traditions, we might, Hymes suggests, listen carefully to what these narratives have to say even when they are heavily hybridized, affected by contact with Western discursive paradigms; we might consider both our and their different viewpoints and ultimately learn to see things in new ways.
As critics deeply committed to a discourse on hybridity and dialogism, Sarris and Owens explore new creative avenues in a language that will allow Native people to reimagine themselves. Shuttling back and forth between worlds and worldviews, mixedblood authors disrupt and unsettle while bridging distances between cultures and experiencing every conceptual encounter as a crosscultural one. The eight essays that constitute Keeping Slug Woman Alive cover a range of topics related to American Indian studies, including orality, art, criticism, and pedagogy.
He realizes that it is important to remember his life, presence, and history as he attempts to understand Mabel. The text, thus, becomes a kind of dialogue that opens and explores interpersonal and intercultural territories. Whereas he values only the end product, the peeled potatoes, the women in the kitchen value both the end product and the process the act of peeling ; unlike Sarris, they are not wasteful.
As simple as this lesson is, it provokes and informs the entire argument of Keeping Slug Woman Alive. What are the aims and consequences of their readings? How are their readings located in a certain history, say that of American Indian and Euro-American interrelations? Is there a way that people can read across cultures so that intercultural communication is opened rather than closed, so that people see more than just what things seem to be?
Keeping Slug Woman Alive represents an attempt to answer these questions. Unlike a Western articulation of philosophy that depends on linear, sequential reasoning, crucial within the Native worldview a worldview common, I would suggest, to most tribal people in North America, despite cultural and historical diversity is the notion of interconnectedness leading toward a holistic conception of the universe.
Such a view makes the Western idea of cataloging and dissecting chunks of information almost meaningless. Envisioned as an ongoing story, the web becomes, Silko suggests, an organic whole that human beings inhabit, their words, thoughts, and actions inextricably tied together. Storytelling as a living, expressive form has often been adopted by Third World theorists. Trinh, for example, examines processes of cultural hybridization, multiple identities, and languages of rupture. It places a semantic distance between oneself and the work; oneself the maker and the receiver; oneself and the other.
It secures for the speaker a position of mastery. Marcus, Michael M. Exposing the inadequacies of old conceptions of static, monolithic cultures, he calls for social science to acknowledge and celebrate diversity, narrative emotion, and the unavoidability of subjectivity. I am not interested in pitting Indians against non-Indians, insiders against outsiders, or in showing that any one group of people is necessarily privileged or better or worse than another. As in the storytelling process, readers are called on to create their own meaning, and, in the process, they are reeducated, encouraged to embrace different traditions of discourse.
Rather, it is an introduction to other stories, to the endless spiderweb structure that characterizes traditional storytelling as well as Keeping Slug Woman Alive. The only surviving member of the Long Valley Cache Creek Pomo tribe and the last of the Bole Maru Dreamers, Mabel McKay has for years been considered a source of valuable information by anthropologists, linguists, and people in general who want to know about her shamanism and dream world.
Later in the essay, Sarris reports another conversation with McKay, one that took place during a visit to the various places in which the story is set. Raping time, how they [Europeans] done with the women. People moving. You know about people moving around, different people.
Implicit in these observations is a reference to the complex and puzzling question of Indian identity, a question crossreading texts, bridging cultures that has given rise to perhaps the most essentialist forms of discourse on Native American literature and that still dominates the current critical debate. The fact that Sarris is part Indian does not make his reading more comprehensible or authoritative; quite the contrary, it raises still more questions concerning his position as an Indian academic reading Native American literary texts.
Sarris opens the essay with a personal anecdote that in turn opens to other forms of discourse. He tells us how one day he took his friend Jenny to meet Mabel McKay. For Jenny the snake was symbolic of something and, in that sense, supernatural. Many times in my work with Native American literary texts I have found myself asking the same kinds of questions that Jenny asked. In my naive approach to Ceremony I underestimated the different episte- crossreading texts, bridging cultures mological orientation out of which the narrative originates, an orientation that, I now know, must be carefully accounted for through the exercise of a strategy that Owens calls crosscultural reading.
Woven within the life of the snake-lover story is another story that McKay tells Sarris during one of their many road trips to Pomo villages. Borrowing the concept culture contact from the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, Sarris claims that each story is to a certain extent a contact narrative, a dynamic dialogue that opens the territory of orality while engaging listener and teller in a mutual learning process.
Our knowing is limited. Let our words show us as much so we can learn together about one another. Let us tell stories that help us in this. This transformation, Owens adds, can, indeed, be prob- crossreading texts, bridging cultures lematic, as Paula Gunn Allen has indicated, threatening in the long run to trap Native American writers in the slippery terrain of identity and authenticity. For Sarris, discussing issues related to the Kashaya healing ceremony, as well as to the Bole Maru religion, becomes a way of meditating on and mediating among his various heritages; ultimately, it becomes a way of reinforcing the concept of crosscultural communication that he has been pursuing all along.
Academic discourse can be interrogated and integrated with other forms of discourse, collapsing what is essentially an arbitrary distinction between the academic and the nonacademic. Instead of looking at the Bole Maru religion merely as a cultural artifact, a remnant of the past, Sarris considers how the practice is changing and, more important, how it affects the Kashaya people today.
I was hoping to know something after today. Why are you interested? What do we see when we do, and why are we interested? What are we looking for? Or is it, rather, a genuine attempt to share knowledge of who we are as human beings?
The Bole Maru had become in this instance at Stanford an interrogative text. The Bole Maru was providing all of us a way to talk, to survive together, to understand. To what extent would I be creating an Indian just as Colson had, albeit an Indian different from Colson? Who am I as a spokesperson for either the Pomo or Colson? Who am I as a Pomo Indian? Who am I as a critic? Whereas Allen and Womack insist that Native American literature can be approached properly only from a Native or insider perspective — that anything else is tantamount to cultural appropriation — Sarris constantly scrutinizes his borderland position and attempts to understand how he can open a dialogue with the text so that he can continue to inform and be informed by it.
As an outsider reading and studying Native American literature, I must continually scrutinize my own position. Rather than looking at these works as self-contained objects whose meaning only needs extracting, I open a dialogue with them and attempt to understand how their narratives speak to my own life experience, to the fact that my culture is different from theirs. And that dialogue does not stop when I stop reading. Like Sarris, I continue to inform and be informed by the stories. My interpretive strategy is one, not of cultural appropriation, but of crosscultural mediation, aimed at embracing differing discourses and worldviews.
In fact, no one reader can ever be a perfect lens into the life and circumstances of any culture. By refusing to consider their position with respect to the texts that they analyze, these critics, Sarris suggests, close discussion with their narratives and prevent crosscultural communication. Rather than opening up a dialogue with the text under analysis, they end up othering it by creating an unbridgeable gap between it and themselves.
Sarris, however, takes a different approach. He employs a variety of discursive styles and critical methodologies in the attempt to make his work a border product, a narrative situated at the crossroads of cultures. And interspersed with academic argument are personal anecdotes, recalling his interaction with the text. I wanted my anger.
My anger is also that of a mixedblood caught in the middle. More denial. The other gets defensive and says what the one is. No one sees what we do to ourselves and one another. No one sees beyond themselves.
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He is reminded of his own story, his mixedblood existence, and of old stories, too. He comes to terms with his mixed identity, and, taking the advice of the old stories, he learns how to counteract the poison of hate and anger. In this sense, Autobiography has, indeed, become a story for him. Given the bicultural nature of narrated American Indian autobiography, it is obvious that, when dealing with it, readers must pay careful attention to such issues as the translation, representation, and interpretation of the Other.
That is, they must take into account, not only their own perspective, but also those of the Indian speaker and the recorder-editor. What happens, however, when we are dealing with what, following Sarris, I term American Indian written literature? What is the difference between, say, reading Ceremony and reading Hamlet? Do we approach both texts in the same way, or do we use different evaluative standards? Originating in the nineteenth century as a reaction to the Enlightenment, the historicist approach called attention to the sociohistorical dimension of literary works. Such a position would, inevitably, lead to controversies and future changes of direction.
When, in the twentieth century, the historicist debate was resumed, critics began to question the processes and methods by which the past is constructed, thus shifting the focus of their attention from object to subject. The new historicism. The application of a new historicist approach to the question of reading Hamlet should be obvious. More important, they must also recognize that the historical contexts within which Hamlet exists come to us through a crossreading texts, bridging cultures variety of signifying practices that are subject to all the problematics associated with the interpretive process.
The more important question, however, is whether the historicist approach can be usefully applied to the question of reading Ceremony. As I argued earlier, a historical and cultural engagement with the Laguna world will clarify many of the issues that puzzle non-Native readers of Ceremony. Yet, as critics have pointed out, crosscultural reading requires a different kind of engagement. Readers approaching any Native text must confront articulations of philosophies and worldviews quite different from those of the West. Such a strategy is rarely employed in works from the Western literary tradition.
Despite the sociocultural and historical differences out of which these texts generally originate, they are still cast within an epistemological framework to which Western readers can relate. The same is not true of works outside the Western literary tradition. These texts have a much more disorienting effect on Western readers. How has Erdrich as a writer understood that history? How might I understand it? He argues that, as a reader who projects his own experience and ideas, his own community, onto the text and its community, he is unable to arrive at generalizations that apply to either community; he cannot, in other words, achieve closure.
He can, however, start a conversation with the text. His narrative becomes, then, a story of this interaction with the novel, a story that other readers, readers who have different stories and come from different kinds of communities, can further explore. Storytelling in the classroom becomes, thus, a powerful tool with which to open a dialogue, talking back to material that is often foreign to students and engaging stu- crossreading texts, bridging cultures dents despite their backgrounds. As he had pointed out earlier, stories can be used in any number of ways and for any number of reasons.
In the writing of this book, both in telling my stories and in my academic analysis, I found her in us. I found her in our silence. This study is an attempt to doctor and to heal. Can it sing medicine songs? Can it lift Slug Woman up, singing, right before our eyes? By constantly scrutinizing his position as a scholar and critic as well as a person of Native ancestry , and by insisting on keeping the discussion with the text open, Sarris calls attention to the fact that the critic is, after all, telling a story, not just decoding a text.
Words are intrinsically powerful. They are magical. They are created in the imagination and given life on the human voice. Like Momaday, Owens believes in the primary, essential human need to order the universe with words, and he articulates the necessity, for all of us, of looking at language as a vehicle through which we can surmount our physical and cultural boundaries and continue to survive as living human beings.
Owens explains: In Mixedblood Messages, I wanted to put together a book that looked at mixed identity and the construction of Indianness from as many angles as possible. However, I also wanted to foreground the subjectivity of the critical posture, to write a book in which the critic is the subject as much as the subject is criticized. It becomes, then, a kind of metacriticism in which the usual subject position of the godlike critic is interrogated. In that sense, the criticism criticizes the critic, as well as the critic writer criticizing analyzing the subject.
And their stories have been crucial in the act of cultural reappropriation and liberation. Using the language of Ashcroft et al. Parallel to crosswriting is, then, the act of crossreading, that is, crossing our own conceptual horizons in the attempt to understand different epistemologies. According to James Ruppert, these texts create multiple narratives of identity, an identity that is a dynamic force in the making. While heavily and inevitably drawing on Western hermeneutical discourse, Mixedblood Messages brings to our attention elements from a Choctaw-Cherokee epistemology, particularly the idea of words having the power to create but also to destroy the world.
In a subtle example of his own crossreading, Owens writes how at an early age he learned the importance of stories and our inextricable relationship with the world we inhabit: I happen to be descended from a mix of Choctaw, Cherokee, Irish, and Cajun ancestors.
Within all these cultures the oral tradition runs strong. Stories, I learned very early, make the world knowable and inhabitable. Stories make the world, period. Stories also arise out of our inescapable need to feel ourselves related to what John Steinbeck and Edward F. In the safe territory of Indian criticism, however, the parameters are still, ironically, dictated by Western categories.
As I argued in the introduction, various critics, including Owens himself, have relied recently on the instruments of postmodernist and poststructuralist theory to interpret Native American texts. Beginning with Krupat, it has been argued that the literature produced by Native American authors bears interesting parallels with the ideological perspective of postcolonial literatures.
Yet, Owens points out, distinctions must be made and questions raised before labeling Native American productions postcolonial. Particularly dangerous, Owens goes on to suggest, is the attraction of postcolonial theory, often conceived as an oppositional discourse. Yet I would argue that, self-consciously or otherwise, Native American theorists such as Owens and Vizenor take stances similar to those articulated within the discourse of postcolonialism.
Similarly, Owens appropriates the concepts mimicry and diaspora and applies them to the Native American experience. Any appeal to a pure or authentic Native American theory is utopian and absurd. In awarding the Pulitzer Prize to N. While subversively and superbly employing the language of Euramerican modernism, House Made of Dawn relies on an intricate web of elements from the Pueblo and Navajo oral traditions, a complex layering that, although undoubtedly unrecognized by the Pulitzer jury and, if recognized, probably considered simply a touch of exoticism , places the novel in that shifting, hybridized, and unstable position of anticolonial resistance.
Photographs assume an important role in crossreading texts, bridging cultures this section, and Owens himself seems fascinated by these cultural artifacts. Our own very existence consists in our imagination of ourselves. Our best destiny is to imagine, at least, completely, who and what, and that we are. However, much like the contested term hybridity, the concept diaspora is easily exploited.
Although I myself do not object to Owens positioning himself as a migrant in the diaspora — a strategy that, as I pointed out earlier, aims at reinscribing some of the concepts of postcolonial discourse theory within a Native American experience — other critics might. Contemporary invocations of diaspora have been severely criticized, both politically and intellectually, by those people who claim natural or First Nation sovereignty. Tribal assertions of sovereignty and First Nationhood usually stress continuity of habitation, aboriginality, and a natural connection to the land.
More important, as we have seen in my discussion of Warrior and Womack, representatives of tribalist discourse aim, in the most extreme cases, at recovering a pure, original past, a precontact time that might legitimate nationalistic claims. What such a position does not take into consideration, however, is that Native cultures themselves experienced migration and hybridization even before the European invasions. It therefore seems appropriate to designate the experience of such writers as Momaday and Owens as that of migrancy, transculturation, diaspora.
As both Uramerican and Euramerican intellectuals, Native critics inhabit, whether consciously or unconsciously, the very structure that they critique. According to Cook-Lynn, as products of the university setting mixedblood authors — for example, Wendy Rose, Diane Glancy, Joseph Bruchac, Gerald Vizenor, and Louis Owens — express the Indian experience in assimilative and mainstream terms, promoting individualistic values that have no stake in First Nation ideology. They tell stories of who they are to- crossreading texts, bridging cultures day, stories of survival in which the past is constantly reimagined in the present tense, not frozen in some distant, entropic time.
Stuart Hall, for example, has recognized that multiple readings of Gramsci, all plausible, are possible, partly because of the fragmentary nature of the Prison Notebooks, but also because of the context personal and political in which they were written see Hall quoted in Harris Other scholars have pointed out that our reading of Gramsci today is determined largely by the interpretation of his work propagated by the postwar Italian Communist Party the pci — and Palmiro Togliatti in particular — which made Gramsci out to be a follower of Lenin. Although it might be true that the shape and content of the Prison Notebooks were determined largely by the fact that they had to pass the severe scrutiny of the prison censors and that Gramsci wrote without access to an adequate library, his ambivalence concerning the function of the intellectual might be best understood in the context of his own origins.
As I pointed out in the previous chapter, the question of how effectively Native American authors working in the safe space of an academic institution commit themselves to their Native communities is complicated and controversial. Implied in the idea of community is also the notion of writing as a social function, a notion that Native writers often share with Third World authors. Although Native American intellectuals cannot always speak to the economically, racially, and politically oppressed people on reservations, Owens suggests that they can speak about and against their dangerous and denigrated positions inside the dominant culture.
More important, by conceptualizing the reality of indigenous people as something other than Other, Native American intellectuals might help decenter the very essence of subjectivity. Those who argue that such a cosmopolitan position inevitably makes Native American intellectuals complicit with colonialist discourse — since it avoids the material and political realities of First Nation ideology — should be reminded that the domain of culture is a primary component in the struggle toward decolonization.
Those who argue the oppositional standpoint are not doing crossreading texts, bridging cultures anything different from their enemies and are most certainly not directly changing the downtrodden lives of those who seek their survival in metropolitan and nonmetropolitan spaces alike. Putting it in Foucauldian terms, Chow raises questions of how intellectuals can resist the forms of power that transform them into its objects and instruments in the spheres of knowledge, truth, consciousness, and discourse.
These same issues are a primary concern to Native American theorists. Words are related to the natural world, as the innumerable creation stories out of which Native people derive their sense of identity tell us. Whereas the former see the natural landscape as an invaluable source of knowledge providing them with stories that tell them who they are , a place to be respected and honored, the latter see it as a resource to be exploited until it is used up. As writers, Owens suggests, it is our responsibility to make people understand that the only way that we as humans can survive on this planet is to arrest our self-destructive impulse as far as the environment is concerned.
Joni Adamson Clarke argues that any satisfactory ecocritical discussion of nature or nature writing must be conducted from a multicultural perspective. A journey through the storied landscape resembles, thus, an interior journey of awareness and imagination in which the traveler comes to terms with his or her cultural identity. Weaving together bits and pieces of Native cosmologies and epistemologies, then, this last section of Mixedblood Messages reaches out to rewrite dominant ecocritical discourses that exclude the indigenous worldview, ulti- crossreading texts, bridging cultures mately enfolding this seemingly Western theoretical approach within a reimagined Native orientation.
Instead of perpetuating the asymmetrical relationship whereby minority cultures must master the dominant culture in order to survive, we should, according to Owens, reverse the direction of the exchange. Both Keeping Slug Woman Alive and Mixedblood Messages can be considered excellent examples of these crossreading and crosswriting strategies as they have been theorized throughout this chapter. Arguing for a dialogic approach, Sarris and Owens envision a Native American critical theory as a constant and delicate balancing of Western and Native forms out of which people can, indeed, cross boundaries and explore differing cultural worldviews.
We can be prisoners, and we are, in our bodies. But we can liberate our minds. Then Wenebojo took the grains of sand in the palm of his hand and held them up to the sun to dry them out. When the sand was all dry, he threw it around onto the water. There was a little island then. Then animals at the bottom of the water, whoever was there, all came up to the top of the water and went to the island where Wenebojo was. They were tired of being in the water all that time, and when they heard about the earth that Wenebojo had made, they all wanted to stay there.
Wenebojo kept on throwing earth around. Crucial in Earthdivers is the idea of tribal people in cities trying to understand how their mythic traditions apply to their everyday lives. Only by engaging with the mythic and the metaphoric as they are articulated in tribal stories will Natives escape, Vizenor argues, the conceptual inventions that trap them as they search for the sacred in the city. Of the crane clan, he descends from the orators of that people. Stories form the foundation of his being, words the foundation of his career. To accomplish these goals, Vizenor relies both on Native American traditions and contemporary critical theory since the two, for him, ultimately converge in important ways.
Drawing from these theories, Vizenor conceives of language as deception, something that applies perfectly well to liberative stories and strategies of survivance the ideological intent of trickster stories. Why else would humans have a need to create a language? While heavily and inevitably drawing from Western hermeneutical discourse, Native American theory possesses, I would argue, unique characteristics, characteristics that allow the Native oral tradition to speak for itself about its nature and various functions, providing the tools, concepts, and languages necessary to a discussion of Native American literature, and, ultimately, adding to the rhetorical systems of Western critical theory.
Crucial in these authors too is the idea of the performative nature of the oral tradition, a concept that they transfer to the written page, with the reader becoming an active participant in the dialogue. Drawing from the work of Walter Ong and that of other scholars e. In Manifest Manners and Fugitive Poses, Vizenor explores such tension by experimenting with the nature of the essay itself. Owing to its open nature, the essay, for Vizenor, becomes an excellent medium through which to convey the dialogic context of the oral tradition on the written page.
By incorporating the terminology of poststructuralist and deconstructivist theory into a Native American paradigm, Vizenor creates a mediational discourse with an intensely political message. In Ashcroft et al. Our bodies are connected to mother earth and our minds are parts of the clouds. You tell me that the invention is different than the rest of the world when it was the rest of the world that invented the Indian.
Are you speaking as an invention? In sentence after sentence, question after question, the hunter destroys Belladonna and her deadly views of the static Indian, the same views that Vizenor explores in Manifest Manners. The inventions have become disguises. There is another idea I have worked in the stories, about terminal creeds. It occurs, obviously, in written literature and totalitarian systems. Some upsetting is necessary.
As he explains to Robert A. The indian is a discoverable mu- liberative stories and strategies of survivance seum absence. Clearly the stoical image of the warrior is one simulation, and the other ironic simulation is that the actual artistic production of the silk screen was only supervised by Andy Warhol. That is to say, the simulations of the other have no real origin, no original reference, and there is no real place on this continent that bears the meaning of that name. The indian was simulated to be an absence, to be without a place. To contravene the invention, Vizenor presents the idea of the postindian, the Native presence after the simulation who represents both resistance and survival, reinvented as survivance.
By alluding to Foucault even before the text begins, Vizenor hints at his theoretical agenda. It would seem that, in the context of European expansion, including the discovery of America, a particular interaction takes place between aesthetics and ideology, an interaction legitimated by a rhetoric of presence and absence. In the name of this so-called Reason, the West has created an ontological imperialism in which the Other is assimilated into the self.
The territory no longer precedes the map, nor survives it. Whereas the literature of dominance keeps treating living Indians as sources for a literary construction of a vanished way of life rather than as members of a vital, continuing culture, Vizenor responds by engaging the intellectual elite on their own ground, using their own tools to his advantage, gathering bits and pieces from various theoretical discourses only to subsume them into a Native context, into the visual and performative qualities that he feels are essential in tribal oral tradition.
In order to suggest the open, unresolved quality of the oral tradition and the possibility of a discourse that is liberating and healing, Vizenor coined the term word cinemas. This is how it enters into the book. Everything enters into, transpires in the book. It always remains suffering and vigilant. Every exit from the book is made within the book.
One emerges from the book, because. By bringing the mythic quality of the oral tradition onto the written page, Vizenor introduces an alternative way of knowing that is implicit in the mythic system of tribal people. On the syntactic level, for instance, Vizenor adopts a declarative, nonsubor- liberative stories and strategies of survivance dinate style, refusing to make any kind of connection. Sometimes he even fails to complete thoughts or sentences, leaving the reader to make the necessary connections.