Kutaputash (thank you) for the thoughtful responses to the last set of readings, After reading these, I am sure we will have engaging discussions. I hope you enjoyed the trip to Plymouth and I very much look forward to seeing and interacting with you on June 3.
No other ethnic group in the United States has endured greater and more varied distortions of its cultural identity than American Indians. (Mihesuah 9).
I get frustrated when my friends send me links such as this one about a “powwow party” a mother designed for her little girl because she wanted to be like Tiger Lily in Peter Pan (http://elizabethkartchner.com/2012/06/04/birthday-party-pow-wow/). The mother made a teepee, feathered headbands, arrow and fox party favors—sigh. Or now that football season has started, there is a photo on social media with a football fan holding a severed head of an Indian with headdress---horrific. One of these seems benign in light of the other, but neither is appropriate. Then there is the issue of using Natives as mascots, especially for the Washington DC football team. Thus, Mihesuah’s lists of stereotypes are important to help begin to critically analyze such behaviors.
Mihesuah is probably more of what one would call a nationalist in the field of Native Studies, yet her points throughout are ones that provoke awareness. I call her a nationalist because as an enrolled member of a federally-recognized tribe, she often holds a bias against unenrolled people. But that is a longer discussion we will have at a later time. The important contributions are bringing awareness about misrepresenting and misappropriating Native cultures as well as restoring dignity to Native peoples. This introduction works nicely with Thomas King in that Mihesuah briefly touches on issues that King raises in his book.
First, I love King, and I especially love this book. That is not to say that you must also love it, but I do think it is an important book to read. I appreciate his use of story and how he sets up his audience to understand stories. Then he tells several which intertwine with one another. These stories raise issues not only about Native peoples, but of all the kinds of –isms out there and playing out in our world. He comments on how he/we become “chained to these stories” (9), how they are “wonderous and dangerous” (9-10). He points to the differences between Western and other world views. He becomes particularly pointed about issues that Native peoples face including racism, being placed in the past, and sovereignty.
I’ve known Malea Powell for a long time, yet each time I read this work (or hear her speak on it) my intellectual self is re-awakened. While both of us have been engaging story as theory, I am stunned by her work here in which she re-thinks her own scholarly endeavors and takes them to a different. I saw her speak at an Octalog two years ago. She began by displaying a wampum belt made by one of her graduate students, and said, “this is not a thing.” We have both been pushing against, as she writes, “our discipline’s inclination to fetishize the text above the body, combined with a narrowness of vision that insists on connecting every rhetorical practice on the planet to Big Daddy A & the one true Greco-roman way” (2). I’m sure you have had experiences with seeing everything as a text, and this, too, has been an approach I’ve used. It has had its value, but as someone who also engages in practices of her ancestors, I appreciate the work Malea is doing here.
Thus in my classes, I bring this self to my teaching. Students not only gain knowledge from readings and discussions, but also learn how writing and makings were important to the transmission of knowledge. In my classes, I have also been engaging students in thinking about things and practicing making. These makings, as Malea Powell writes, “are significant for understanding Native rhetorical traditions is because as things they provoke, create, and prompt the stories that tell us who we are in relation to one another. They instruct us about our responsibilities to each other, and to the land” (Rhetorical Powwows). However, they cannot merely be treated as just things, but as rhetorical practices which can speak about themselves. Such a teaching model also grounds our course in local Native space and honors Indigenous peoples because every university must recognize that it is built on what were once and are still Native lands.
Selu marks the Cherokee telling of a Corn Mother story, inviting us to learn how and why Ginitsi Selu is honored and continues to be “practical advice’” to maintain balance. As Wilma Mankiller writes, “How can we possibly keep our world from spinning out of balance if we don’t have a fundamental understanding of our relationship to everything around us?” (ix). Awiakta points out throughout Selu that it is continually more difficult as we get further and further from the land through our machines: cars, faxes and now computers, cell phones…and on. And as the human race supports these machines, we destroy the mother which sustains us, namely the Earth. One only needs to turn on the news today to see the ravages of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico—weeks of oil spewing into the ocean now coming ashore and destroying habitats of wildlife. Our greed has done this, our centering on the self rather than living in balance. A lack of respect, a lack of giving back. I cannot help but feel that Mother Earth is pushing back with all the earthquakes, floods and tornados—we must be more aware and treat her with respect. As Awiakta speaks of corn, I am also reminded of the interventions of humankind to alter that corn with genetic modification (same with soy). In doing so, we have created an unhealthy product. While genetic modification has occurred naturally, these new procedures take from “the seed, the spirit” of the Corn Mother. Yet, Awiakta speaks to the destruction in her own upbringing, the Tellico Dam, the “atomic wastelands,” and her own experiences with prejudice. Within her telling of the Selu stories and how she came to know them, she provides insights to issues Native peoples, particularly Native women, face.
The multigenre nature of Selu is interesting. Awiakta uses story, poetry, the drawings of Mary Adair and other voices to comprise her text. Some might argue that this form and presentation is not scholarly, yet I would argue it challenges the shape of scholarly discourse. It reminds me of what Lee Maracle has said (to paraphrase) there is theory in every story—the difference is that Indigenous peoples have known that. One only needs to look at Awiakta’s discussion of Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony to understand further. Not only does Awiakta tell us that “through poetry, we make a quantum leap into the essence of the story” (161), but she takes us into a theoretical discussion of story, of how these ideas are “unsettling” and disturbing” causing a critical engagement of the person (mind and body) with the text. This is important when confronting Native writing.
6/2/2014 01:26:34 am
I really enjoyed reading "Rhetorical Powwows," by King and Awiakta. The overall concept and supportive points were very interesting and made me view approaches to teaching in various ways. I like how the author started off by giving credit to the ancestors because if it wasn't for the ancestors setting traditions and discovering things, there would be nothing to teach and continue with today.
6/2/2014 11:41:48 pm
Awiakta is an award-winning poet, novelist, and essayist and in her reading she attempts to create harmony and healing through pointing out the connections that we all have with the world and with each other. She explains how her heritage is made up of Cherokee and Celtic or Scot-Irish. On the second page of this reading, she states what these have in common; "From fi rst contact centuries ago the Celt and the Cherokee
6/2/2014 02:45:20 am
“Rhetorical Powwows” strongly impacted the way I view artifacts and cultural objects because Powell shatters the belief in seeking written text as the only source of meaningful cultural discussion. Viewing wampum and basket weaving as texts in their own right is reminiscent of Jill Lepore’s definition of a ‘document.’ Documents should not be limited to literary texts, but should include a variety of artifacts, pictures, maps, and the like. A much richer, more in-depth understanding of the world’s diverse cultures can come from seeing that a basket “is MADE of story, it IS story” because it “provoke[s], create[s], and prompt[s] the stories that tell us who we are in relation to one another” (10). A woven basket having stories infused and interwoven through each piece of its substance is a beautiful thought. The basket becomes so much more than just an object because it takes on cultural significance. What an amazing experience it would be to unravel the stories held within the basket. Overall, this article has taught me that the ‘making’ of rhetoric is equally important to the ‘writing’ of rhetoric.
6/2/2014 12:52:30 pm
King begins his piece by discussing the creation of the earth making reference to the turtle analogy. His point here was that even though different aspects of a culture can change over time, there is one common factor: each culture shares a common ground. This common ground is ultimately what helps to create a foundation for our world, one story at a time. I really appreciated the line, “The truth about stories is that that’s all we are” (2) simply because of it’s accuracy. It’s true- for much of our world’s history we don’t have any formal proof that even half of the things happened the way that we believe they did. Creativity is something that never tires, as is spoken word and literature. We are indefinitely a bunch of stories, and much like the turtle analogy, we share a continuous base. King then goes on to mention An Okanagan storyteller names Jeannette Armstrong.
6/2/2014 11:41:01 pm
6/3/2014 01:04:17 am
Thomas King’s book, The Truth About Stories: A Native Narrative, really spoke to me and I couldn’t stop reading it. The way that he uses indigenous stories and his past experiences to highlight important issues is remarkable. I loved the native creation story because it shows a lot about the native people and how they perceive the world. This story is one of teamwork and selflessness, drastically different from the Christian creation story that I have grown up with. The way that the natives are always respecting and taking into consideration the nature and world around them is something that most of us are not used to. Another story that King tells is one of the ducks and coyote. This is a story that expresses the dangers of giving too much trust to a stranger and the consequences of that. This directly represents the initial relationship of Indians and Englishmen. King tells these stories, not only because he wants to share them, but because he wants to educate on the act of storytelling, reading, and writing. King states, “For once a story is told, it cannot be called back. Once told, it is loose in the world. So you have to be careful with the stories you tell. And you have to watch out for the stories that you are told” (10). This statement is very powerful because it encompasses a lot of meaning. Most people take stories for granted, we are accustomed to reading stories and watching stories from such a young age that we begin to lose sight of what a story is. The native people tell stories to warn or educate about a certain subject. This is why most native stories are oral, because it is the act of telling the story that is most important, and as King mentions, writing them down and reading them does not nearly do them the justice they deserve. The whole point of King’s book is to enlighten the reader to a broader spectrum of what stories are. King writes:
6/3/2014 01:25:05 am
The introduction to American Indians Stereotypes and Realities by Devon A. Mihesuah, really opened my eyes to all of the stereotypes there are for American Indians all over the world. I knew there was a controversy in the news recently saying that some people were pushing to get the name of the Redskins changed because of its racist nature against American Indians. This introduction also made me think about when I was in elementary school learning about Indians and pilgrims. We had a big Thanksgiving lunch at school with some dressed as pilgrims and some as Indians. This is the kind of thing that Mihesuah rejects about curriculum and teachers in grade school. She says that teachers aren’t educated enough about Indians to incorporate them correctly into the curriculum so they revert back to what they were taught in grade school so that the cycle never ends. I agree with Mihesuah that teachers should be fighting for a more inclusive curriculum. That way we can get rid of a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions.
6/3/2014 03:00:10 am
The differences between Westerners’ view of life and Native American’s views on life became quite clear through Malea Powell’s “Rhetorical Powwows” and Awiakta’s poems and her recorded commentary. Powell argues against “the war of the alphabet” (7) in her article and offers an alternate outlook she calls looking for the “rhetoricity of things” (6). Awiakta, an award-winning writer, discusses her feelings of the world through her poetry which recognizes the world has become unbalanced. Both writers can arguments that intertwine with each other’s. Westerners look to categorize everything and search for economic gains in things like the land and artifacts instead of appreciating it the way Native Americans do.
6/3/2014 03:39:02 am
“I love you, God could have said, but I’m not happy with your behaviour. Let’s talk this over. Try to do better next time.” (King 27)
6/4/2014 04:23:49 am
In Malea Powell's reading “Rhetorical Powwows: What American Indian Making Can Teach Us About Histories of Rhetorics,” She confronts a common neglect for broad conceptualization of Native American practice. Practice is definitive of the improvement in the art of discourse; in reference to the American Indians rhetoric is utilized to strengthen the connectivity that can result from a variation of discourses. Because it has been propagated that only one story, the perseverance of Europeans colonizers in over coming the obstacle that was the indigenous people of America, many are inclined to textualize objects that are not intended to produce articulation. American Indian “making,” more specifically basket weaving, pertains to a rhizome philosophy that maintains imagery in thought as being infinitely interconnected; thought being the result of image (or “thing”) and image being the result of thought.
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