Native American Writers of the Plains
After the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890, the Indian Wars of the Great Plains came to an end, and so do most stories about Indians. Movies like Dances with Wolves and Geronimo end with bedraggled Indians riding into the sunset. But what really happened to them? In this series, four Native American novelists update the stories of tribes that continue to live in their home territories. The literature of the Great Plains includes the land east of the Rockies, from central Canada south through Oklahoma. Two of the novels cover the Blackfoot Indians of Alberta and the related American band, the Blackfeet of Montana. Chippewa of North Dakota are represented, and finally the Osage of Oklahoma. Participants in this Let’s Talk About It program can explore Native American writers who describe the struggle to maintain ancient traditions despite the mélange of cultures around them. The values of family, clan, and community are compromised by a non-Indian, capitalist economy. How can a tribal individual and family sustain inner integrity amidst pluralism and commercialism? These are the conflicts that face every American. In these novels, family history is set within the context of tribal history. The extended families, clans, and tribes all have intricate interactions with the characters. These are historical novels in the best sense, great love stories, and stories about identity in the post-modern era. Also, look for that famous survival trick of Indian humor—impossible to define, but unmistakable. If you want to be an active partner in this exploration, please join us for this “Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma” reading and discussion series. Books are available for those who will engage with us throughout the series.
Oklahoma City University invites participants to make these books come alive in the readings of this four-part series. At each session, a Humanities scholar will make a 30-40 minute presentation on the book in the context of the theme. Small group discussion will follow with experienced discussion leaders. At the end, everyone will come together for a brief wrap-up. Anyone interested in participating is encouraged to pre-register and borrow the reading selections and theme material by calling Harbour Winn at 208-5472, emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org or dropping by the Dulaney-Browne Library, Room 211 or 207. (Note the offices are located in the five-story building southwest of Walker Center.) Information can also be found on the web site of the Center for Interpersonal Studies through Film & Literature: www.okcu.edu/film-lit/
The series will be held in Walker Center, Room 151, on the OCU campus from 7:00 to 9:00 PM on Tuesdays, beginning September 11 and continuing on alternate Tuesdays through October 22. Books, services, and other materials for this series of programs are provided by Let’s Talk About It, Oklahoma, a project of the Oklahoma Humanities Council with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Funding for this series was provided by a grant from the Inasmuch Foundation.
READINGS AND DATES
9/11/2012 James Welch’s Fools Crow
Remarkable for its use of language, this work set among the Blackfeet Indians in northwestern Montana will launch our series theme. With authenticity, Welch reconstructs customs and a way of life handed down for centuries as these confront the onslaught of the white man, manifest destiny, and smallpox. Fools Crow must go on a vision quest to find his personal powers and become an adult. Along the way, Welch memorably shows the difference between Indian and non-Indian beliefs.
9/25/2012 Linda Hogan’s Mean Spirit
Chickasaw novelist Hogan has carefully researched one of the most infamous periods in Oklahoma history, the stealing of Osage allotments after the discovery of oil in the eastern part of the state. Both the Indian and non-Indian characters are shown to be subject to the mean spirit that haunts the setting and time of the novel. Strengths of Hogan include her ability to weave elements of the detective genre with magical realism as well as her capacity to render both Indian and white characters realistically; this is not merely a world of the noble savage and the greedy white.
10/9/2012 Louise Erdrich’s The Bingo Palace
Of Chippewa descent, Erdrich began her career as a poet and continues to be an eloquent stylist of much renowned novels. The backdrop for this narrative is legalized gambling on a reservation that resembles the Chippewa reservation at Turtle Mountain in North Dakota. The expose of the casino industry is a timely one for us in Oklahoma. Summoned by his grandmother at the crossroads of his life, protagonist Lipsa finds himself torn between success and meaning, love and money, the future and the past. The slapstick humor makes this novel one of Erdrich’s best.
10/23/2012 Thomas King’s Medicine River
King, a Canadian of Cherokee descent, describes the humorous escapades of the reservation basketball team, a Calgary dating service, a world-traveling storyteller, and the town’s ritualized social life through the observant eyes of protagonist Will, a man returning home in search of discovering his own past. Amidst deceptively light hearted humor and at times hilarious escapades, King weaves together a serious tale through magical storytelling.