Many Trails, Many Tribes: Images of American Indians in Contemporary Fiction

Winter 2001

Since Christopher Columbus first set foot on American land, the American Indian has fascinated readers. Early historical accounts of American Indians established extreme images that later became the standard characterizations in fiction. More recently, an impressive number of novelists—mostly Indians—have put to rest the fictional stereotypes of American Indians and depicted them as complex individuals. Are you interested in new interpretations of American history? Do you want to explore human nature and universal questions about values? If these topics interest you and if you want to enjoy five incredibly “good reads,” please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series.

Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these issues come “alive” within and among us in this five-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the readings. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone comes together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections by calling Harbour Winn at 521-5472, emailing him at or dropping by OCU’s Walker Center 171. A brochure describing the series theme is also available.

The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the Oklahoma City University campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning January 9 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through March 6. “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma,” a cooperative project of the Oklahoma Library Association and the Oklahoma Humanities Council, provides books, materials, and services for this series. Funding for this series is provided by a grant from the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.


1/9/2001 Linda Hogan’s Mean Spirit

Chickasaw author Hogan opens the series with a novel rooted in truth and mystery. An Oklahoma Book Award winner, Hogan offers a documented history lesson about Oklahoma itself. She depicts the infamous period of the early 1920’s when the Osage land is stolen after the discovery of oil in eastern Oklahoma.

1/23/2001 N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn

Kiowa author Momaday’s magnificent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel shows us a proud stranger in his native land. The protagonist Abel is a marginal man who lives in two worlds, the traditional one of his pueblo and the white one that surrounds him. The mythical words of the novel’s opening paragraph capture virtually every reader who picks up the book. Discover this yourself!

2/6/2001 Barbara Kingsolver’s Pigs in Heaven

Incredibly gifted Kingsolver sets much of this novel in the Cherokee region near Tahlequah. Sequel to The Bean Trees, Pigs in Heaven provides us with an immensely readable story of characters who experience the conflict of belonging to a tribe and being an individual. Humor and profundity intermingle in this New York Times bestseller.

2/20/2001 Louis Erdrich’s Love Medicine

Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Love Medicine introduces us to one of the most acclaimed American Indian writers. Chippewa, Erdrich sets her novel among families living in North Dakota. Vibrant with mystery and magic, this moving multigenerational saga engages us with an authenticity rarely matched in contemporary fiction.

3/6/2001 James Welch’s The Indian Lawyer

Raised on the Blackfoot reservation in Montana, Sylvester Yellow Calf is a successful lawyer respected by both his peers on the reservation and by the white establishment. Welch, however, is a writer who never avoids the realities of contemporary life faced by American Indians, and Sylvester begins to question the psychological cost of his success. This provocative tale of the paradoxes of success will provide a powerful conclusion to our series.