Wasn't sure where to post so I'll post this here. The poems by Qwo-Li Driskill were different in comparison to a lot of the other readings we've had before. Poems show the artistic side of a people in comparison to essays and critical readings. The poem "Map of the Americas" by Driskill was a very intimate look inside the culture of the Native culture. The story being told was that of the loss of a people and the creation story. The body becoming the land just as in our earlier reading we read about the falling woman with the earth on the back of a turtle. This poem goes into intimate detail involving touch and reaction making it romantic but then it becomes sad when the narrator talks about genocide. It's as if the author of this poem is discussing and telling this story from beyond the grave. As a reader of this poem we become the person doing the exploring of the narrator's body. The poem makes us as reader's feel a sense of guilt for doing what we are doing.
Native American Lit.
September 29, 2013
In reading the essay “Double Weave” by Qwo –Li Driskill I felt an understanding for Driskill’s perspective in many ways. One particular passage brought me right back to how I was feeling while doing my map project. In this section Driskill states, “If you are reading this in the United States or Canada, whose land are you on, dear reader? What are the specific names of the Native nation(s) who have historical claim to the territory on which you currently read this article? What are their histories before European invasion? What are their historical and present acts of resistance to colonial occupation? If you are like most people in the United States and Canada, you cannot answer these questions. And this disturbs me” (Driskill 71). Indeed it is disturbing that even in the 21st century, with all of our technology; I still greatly struggled to find information about the native peoples that once inhabited the places that I now reside in. It also fascinated me how Driskill incorporated the idea of New Queer Studies into Native American studies, as I would not have thought of this. I was interested in the idea of Queer of Color studies, but am not sure I entirely grasp it. It seemed to me, though, as if Queer of Color studies involve recognizing gender and sexuality differences in minorities or people of color (75) although I feel there is much more to this concept than I might be understanding.
Looking now to the Driskill poems I found these poems to be very moving. In “Letter to Tsi-ge’-yu” I found Driskill’s use of Native American words to be very powerful. This particular poem captures the violence that the natives faced so long ago and how the natives of today still have to feel the pain of a lost culture. Driskill’s use of words such as “giga” and “tsuko:li” for blood and bones are very effective in showing a knowledge of the past and forcing the reader to think about the blood and bones of those natives that were mercilessly slaughtered (lines 32 & 44). I also loved Driskill’s poem about the spiders weaving their webs. This poem seems representative of the idea of double-weave as it discusses not only Native Americans in modern culture, but queer Native Americans. I really loved the line toward the end of the poem in which the speaker points out the “miracle spider alive four stories up” (lines 13 & 14). I love the idea of the grandmother’s weaving being similar to that of a spider weaving its web. While the narrator worries about residing in their current society, the grandmother states that she has been though long enough and is still surviving (line 11). In a way, the grandmother, perhaps representing all surviving Native Americans, has woven her way into society as the spider weaves its web wherever it can. This message appears uplifting as it displays that although the native peoples have survived a series of atrocities, as a people they still live on and move forward in our modern world, and that may be a miracle in itself, just like the spider spinning a web so high up.
At the heart of these three pieces from Driskill is, I think, a discussion about identity. The concept of identity itself is immense to ponder, bit I believe Driskill narrows his examination down to that of Gay Native people in the twentieth century. He emphasizes the twentieth century, too, and I think this works to help establish a sense of newness and individuality for the “Two-Spirit” distinction. Accompanying his writing is a feverish tone of passion, which feels very well placed, as he is representing a virtually unheard of minority within a larger minority. The GLBQ community has grown- albeit very slowly- in the United States within the last twenty years. There seems to be a much more accepting perspective of homosexuality within the millennial generations. Of course, they still face an overwhelming amount of social turbulence, and it is interesting to hear the voice of someone who embraces their identity.
This notion of identity seems embedded in his writing, and I find this aspect particularly interesting. Identity has always fascinated me, and it seems like everyone agrees that it is an important, desired trait, but, at the same time, everyone shares a different perspective on what the nuances of identity are. I was pleased to read Driskill refer to Lyons’s idea of “rhetorical sovereignty”, as that idea was directly tied to identity, especially the notion of building identity. The two writers both seemed to be concerned with how the feeling of self-worth gets included into identity. We can see this in Driskills poems, as he prefaces one by stating “Sometimes all we have left are fragments” (Driskill 124). In the accompanying poem, he writes lines like “Some of us have large pieces of the belt / Some of us only have scraps of signed deerskin” (Driskill), and “But we begin to remember the pattern” (Driskill). Here, in these lines, is the sense of loss, but it is coupled with a sense of unity. Inside of this sadness is a hopeful desire to return to something now gone.
It is so interesting that Indigenous Two-Spirit/GLBTQ people are using Native American and tribally centered teachings to help people understand gender and sexuality and to critique queer phobia and racism. I had no clue that this was even a thing. “Radical Two-Spirit cultural work in the United States and Canada during the late twentieth century cleared a path for Two-Spirit people to form our own modes of critique and creativity suited for Native-focused decolonial struggles. While our traditional understandings of gender and sexuality are as diverse as our nations, Native Two-Spirit/GLBTQ people share experiences under heteropatriarchal, gender-polarized colonial regimes that attempt to control Native nations.” These different critiques make an argument for Native American gender and sexuality against colonial powers. I think it is very interesting.
In Shaking our Shells, they talk about stomp dances and the reason behind these traditional dances. The stomp dance is used to create duyuktv; which means balance, truth and justice. Wilma Mankiller tells us, "There is an old Cherokee prophecy which instructs us that as long as the Cherokees continue traditional dances, the world will remain as it is, but when the dances stop, the world will come to an end.” I think that this quote is so cool. Something as easy as a dance can mean something so much more to the Native Americans. I love things that give me happiness in life and are also simple and fun at the same time.
In Driskill’s poems, I found that a lot of the poems made me feel moved. The first poem called “Map of the Americans” I found myself feeling very sorry for the Native Americans. It took us back to their history and culture and the stuff Natives had to go through. His poems were very deep and much different than poems I have read before.
After reading Double Weaving, I realized that I was part of the Eurocentric views of placing Two-Spirit Native Americans as part of colored or black queer studies. I am ashamed of it, but I never give Native people their own group and place them in the one group with anyone of color. I grew up in a society that if you are not white then you are colored and all colored people have the same religious beliefs, skills, political views etc. The only people that seemed to matter were the white people and those were the people we focused on learning about their history. At an early age we need to start learning that not all colored people are from the same places and they don’t have the same languages, religious views, etc. and they are their own people and every culture deserves their own place in history. When thinking about Native American people, I never once thought about the gay community of Native American people or the Two-Spirit Native Americans as they liked to be call, because I have never once heard of this being a part of their culture even though it doesn’t have to be heard of to be a part of their culture but it does not seem to be a common topic. After reading this article, I found out why I did not hear about Two-Spirit people and it is because Two-Spirit people are combined with queer of colored critiques. Race and gender cannot be understood in this country if native people, native nations, and native bodies are “unseen”. Native people need to be another group of color that queer critiques need to include. By not including them, they are receiving a message that they are not of importance and their culture has no impact on current day society. I don’t know what is worse, to belittle someone or act as if they never exisisted to begin with. People of color and Euro-Americans both are complicit of unseeing native people and they forget about native people in the stories they tell or for that matter don’t tell. Being Two-Spirit determines the qualities that define a person’s social role and spiritual gifts, not their genital activity, which is very different with the way our society views it today.
Although Native People and Native Two-Strike people do not have a lot of books and ways they can remember their culture’s history, one way they are able to remember is by stomp dancing. It is a way that Cherokee Two-Spirit people and other native Two-spirit people use to reflect on and imagine what it means to be who they are. Cherokee Two-Spirit people are involved in a complex process of asserting their identities through strengthening memories of our past, committing to who they are in our present and imagining who they want to be in the future. At the stomp dance, the natives were called upon to the fire to sing, dance, and honor Creation. The men were in charge of singing the songs and the women’s responsibilities were shaking the shells. In order for the stomp dance to occur it took both men and women to make it happen. It is easy to realize the importance of women just by knowing that in order for the stomp dance to begin women had be present and shell shake. Not only in stomp dancing are women seen not only as equals to men but even more important than men because without them, natives know, life wouldn’t be possible. I don’t understand how it took the world so long to realize that even though the natives knew of this their whole life. And even though it is much better today than it was in the past, women are still not seen as equals to men as much as they should be. Because of what society thinks of gay or lesbian people that can sometimes play a huge role on the way some native people think of Two-Strike people. Since they have very little of their own critique of the way Native people viewed Two-Strike people in the past it is hard for them to remember their ways and beliefs when they have all these negative views coming from non-native americans. By having Two-Strike people write their own critiques about their way of life it allows their people to understand them and remember they have always been accepted by their own culture. Two-Strike people can change the patterns in their communities that are damaged today by remembering stories from the past that prove it was ok to believe in whatever or whoever they wanted to believe in. I can only imagine how hard it must be to be part of a society that has so many different ways of perceiving something and not forming your own views from those and then forgetting about the way your culture views them.
This article focuses on race, gender, sexuality, colonization and decolonization. It has an interesting view of “bringing Native studies and queer studies into critical conversations, or what Malea Powell calls “alliance as a practice of survivance,” Our hope for these emergent critiques lies in the thought that perhaps a turn in queer studies to articulate more carefully issues of race and nation, (Qwo-Li Driskill, 70). I thought this was interesting because we discussed the meaning of survivance last week, surviving while trying to resist. Native American simply want to survive, just as any culture does. At the same time they want to hold on to that culture, thus they might practice something in private, trying ever so hard to hold on to themselves.
The author’s main goal appears to express that the land we are standing on if you are in the U.S. or Canada was once Native land. The author wants you to be aware of whose land it once was, who invaded that land, what are the current and past acts of resistance on that land? I think many of the articles have made it clear that this land is not ours; it is something we invaded and claimed for ourselves, without even considering that it belongs to other people.
I think when thinking about Native American we do not associate the GLBTQ community with them. We have a notion of what we believe a Native American is and should be. As we have learned in this class that is very wrong. Though I never went further to associate the Native people with the queer community, and I think that shows that I still have a lot to learn. Native Americans are the same as everyone; there is no difference on the inside. The author uses the word “two-spirt”, as an umbrella term for Native queer. “Two-spirit, on the other hand, places gendered identities and experiences at the center of discussion,” (Qwo-Li Driskill, 73). I think that it is interesting that she uses this term to explain the homophobia, misogyny, and transphobia we have in America. The author brings these issues to the center focus to discuss and explain, instead of hide behind them. She goes on to use the word “double weave” as a metaphor. It is two completed baskets weaved together. I like this metaphor because one cannot exist without the other, which I took from it on the outside it appears as a normal basket but the inside is different. Overall the two-spirt Native people are a foreground of Native culture. They are part of the term survivance, and look at the struggle of nationalist and decolonial.
Of the readings, I chose to begin with “Double-Weaving: Two Spirit Critiques.” Now, considering I myself am a gay man, I thought delving into the concept of two-spiritedness might be interesting. What I got from it, however, was quite the opposite. The author argues a very dull point over a vast number of pages. He/she is trying to assert that the LGBTQA Natives have been completely looked over as a people, and need to be more strongly addressed in queer studies. They manage to tie all of this back to rhetorical sovereignty, as do a lot of our texts. In my opinion, I don’t think queer studies focuses on or should focus on racial inclusion/exclusion, as the author hopes for. Rather, I feel as though queer studies focuses on being queer, and not so much being of a certain ethnicity. Overall the article was kind of whiney and very much redundant, not something I expected nor hoped for in reading this article.
We were also asked to read a collection of poems, “Walking With Ghosts,” by Qwo-Li Driskill. Overall, these poems were very somber, hopeless, and depressing. The poems make you feel as though you understand the struggle of the present-day Native American, whether it be for the Nativeness and other reasons. The writer feels the pain of his ancestors, and sees it in the life he leads in the Americas now. In “Map of the Americas,” the speaker describes the feelings of his ancestors being slaughtered still being remnant in his own existence. He lacks trust for other people, and has to let people in to his world, which resembles, in his mind’s eye, the Americas.
In “For Marsha P..” the speaker describes a horrific crime taking place following NYC Pride in 1992. The body of a drag queen was found floating in a river. The police brush it off, claiming it suicide considering all drag queens must be dealing with some sort of depression considering the life they choose to lead. But the speaker knows, and feels for Marsha P. He praises her existence and her memory will live on, in the very least, within him.
Lastly, in the Driskill writing “Shaking our Shells,” he refers to the two-spirited Natives of today and how they held such an important role in their past. It’s interesting to think that the idea of hetero-normativity and such were developed through colonization and the oppression of Cherokee and other two-spirited Natives by the Europeans. Two-spirited people were central to their world and thus to think that someone could just come in and topple that world because they weren’t used to the idea is rather depressing.
In “Double Weave”, Qwo-Li Driskill explores the relevance of GLBTQ people within a tribal community. This piece is interesting because it explores yet another aspect of native life that the white men exploited. The author employs the word “Two-Spirit” in order to represent the native concept GLBTQ people have within them the power of both the female and male spirit. He states that this term “is a challenge not only to the field of anthropology’s use of the word berdache, but also to the white-dominated GLBTQ community’s labels and taxonomies.” (72-73) This is a concept I never considered before, although I think it is very relevant. I understand that homosexual/trans people go through many difficulties and obstacles throughout their lives, but racial differences among this group can also deeply affect the way others look at them. I had never heard of accounts of native homosexual groups or of this term at all. I never considered that since Native Americans and their historical significance and identity are typically not well represented, Native American “queer” groups would be ignored on an even larger scale. The image of the double-woven basket represents the differences and unique elements of native culture. Therefore, the author is establishing the significance of the Two-Spirit identity within the culture of the Indigenous.
29 September 2014
Critical Response - 9/25
I started today’s reading by looking at Driskill’s poetry. I do not know what I was expecting before the reading, but what I found was tragic. The poems he writes are somber pieces, poems that reflect who he is as a Native American and how he feels about what has been done to his people. The first poem in particular was heartbreaking. In it, Driskill talks about families being torn apart and entire villages being broken up by men with rifles. The scene is, unfortunately, one that is instantly identifiable to anyone who has an understanding of American history. In his poem, one can almost see the violence that native people were forced to endure as they were displaced and threatened off their native lands. At the end, the speaker makes a beautiful point about how he is the map of America. In him, and his native features, one can see history and trace it back hundreds and hundreds of years. I thought the poems, the first in particular, to be poignant. They spoke volumes about how some Native Americans may see themselves in the modern United States.
The next two readings were very much tied to the same idea, and I chose to look at them together. They both speak of “two-spirit” natives, men or women who have both a male and female spirit inside them. It was a fascinating look at gender studies in the Native American community and a concept of which I knew must have existed, although I had never really spent much time thinking about it in the past. In the readings, both writers outline the struggle of native people in the gay and transgender community and how they struggle to find an identity for themselves. They are seen as “different” and “other” and Driskill argues that much could be gained of spending more time looking at how race plays a role in queer studies. It is an interesting idea and one that I never spent much time thinking about. I would imagine that people who are gay or transgender must deal with all sorts of hardships in their own lives, and this could be compounded exponentially when race comes into play. Not only might they feel alienated because of their sexual orientation or gender, but also having to fit into society in more than one minority group cannot be easy for anyone.
As I stated before, it is an interesting issue to have brought to light. I do not know much about queer studies, but the argument that Driskill makes seems to be sound. If what he is arguing for is more understanding on the part of society and that we all do a better job of being inclusive, to anyone and everyone, than I can wholeheartedly agree with that.
September 30th, 2014
One of the readings that really intrigued me were the Driskill poems. A specific poem that stood out to me was the poem titled Grandmother Spider’s Lesson for an Urban Indian Queer. The meaning of the poem I believe ties into the readings from previous classes when we discussed how Native Americans tried to obtain and hold onto their sovereignty in regards to their culture. The poem talks about how grandma is four stories up, when this was mentioned by the narrator (who is related to grandma) I took it as grandma being in Heaven and the daughter is praying/confiding in her grandmother. She is discussing how “Indians have their noses broken by skinheads, where Queer kids sell their bodies to eat tomorrow. We have no reflections here. They think we should be ghosts.” (Driskill). Here, I believe the narrator is trying to convey to her grandmother that Native Americans are still being treated unfairly. She is saying that the Native Americans here have no identity, and their “superiors” believe they are inferior and should remain invisible or “...should be ghosts”. I really loved the grandmother’s response to her daughter, where she essentially says that they can try to eradicate us by building skyscrapers on top of their homes, but their spirit still remains and will live on. Just like the narrator’s grandmother is doing, her spirit still remains through the narrator/grandchild. I also really liked at the end when the grandmother says “Keep weaving. Life will stick.” when she says this I believe she is telling the narrator to keep trudging through life and the hardships these people will give you, life will work out eventually. In my opinion this was a beautiful poem.
For this response paper I chose to first focus on the poems of Qwo-Li Driskill. One reason being that we have yet to approach Native culture through poetry (with the exception of a few other poems) focusing mainly on native stories or essays. For me, there is a different emotion given when reading a story through a poem-its makes you feel the emotions being portrayed deeper.
These poems include and touch upon the themes of violence, as seen in the poem “Letter to Tso-ge’-yu”. This poem draws to and depicts the suffering of the Natives to protect themselves. Words such as “guns” and “bloodies” are words that are used in a context to, not represent the Natives in the savage, stereotypical way in which history portrays them, however, they are used to show what the natives had to protect themselves from. The poem also states, “we are still trying to escape soldiers hide our babies hold on to clods of earth as they grad us away by our feet” (Driskill 34). This speaks to natives struggle, even today, to reclaim their name and move away from the stereotypical images of savage, barbaric Indians.
The other poem that stood out to me as a reader not only for it’s meaning but also it’s structure was “Map of the Americas.” At first glance, without even reading, it is a clear that it is about the land of the Americas because of it’s title and it’s appearance. The words of the poem are lined up to, what appears to me, create a map of North and South America. The poem begins with loss and death, which as a reader really pulls at my heart strings-showing what the Natives had to endure; not only did they have to defend their land but they also had to deal with the loss of their family and children. Violence and fear are also represented in this poem, such as the lines “It is not without fear and memories awash in blood that I allow you to slip between my borders.” Through using the body to represent the land, the author shows how invested the natives were to their land- a very important entity to the Native culture. The respected it so much that in a sense they often became one with it.
While reading “SHAKING OUR SHELLS: CHEROKEE TWO-SPIRITS REBALANCING THE WORLD” by Qwo-li Driskill I learned about the Cherokee tradition of stomp dances. It stood for balance and justice and keeping the world in order. If the tradition wasn’t upheld it was believed that the world would end for the Cherokees and this meant they treated the tradition very seriously. This sort of devotion made me respect the stomp dance more so than just a simple dance routine. Driskill goes one to talk about the “two-spirit” as well as the unbalance between the genders. It felt to be to talk a lot about queer theory, similar to what I have learned in past classes. I wouldn’t have thought that Native Americans would have encountered such problems yet they seem to have done so. Driskill related this back to the stomp dance and how the role of men and women in this tradition can help mend the gap between genders. Driskill made a great point: “We must weave the pieces of our story back together.”. Another Driskill reading was “Walking with Ghosts” and it contained a wide variety of poems. One of my favorites was “What You Must Do” because of its graphic and dark tone, it appealed to my tastes as a reader and writer. It also has a very ominous ending that left a lot to be questioned. It makes me wonder what the poem was alluding to.
Leslie Marmon Silko’s “Interior and Exterior Landscapes” contributes a wealthy amount of insight to these ongoing themes of identity, storytelling, and land. Her examination of land is particularly intriguing. She details an arresting understanding of the ways we think about land. The word land itself feels immensely weighty, as it represents not only physical ground, but everything else that comes with it. Land includes everything, from the ground to sea or to a tree. Accompanying this is the overwhelming amount of sentiment and importance that we as human creatures attach to it, and I think this is what Silko is briefly exploring. She writes “The dead become dust, and in this becoming they are once more joined with the Earth Mother” (Silko 27), and that “A rock shares this fate with us and with animals and with plants as well” (27). It is a basic sentiment, but she serves to remind us of the significance of our own mortality and its connection to land. This conversation of land seems guided by the theme of connection, or attachment. We are literally beings of the land around us, and this bond is inseparable.
Continuing with this line of thought, she later writes “Landscape thus has similarities with dreams” (38), and that “Both have the power to seize terrifying feelings and deep instincts and translate them into images- visual, aural, tactile- and into the concrete…” (38). Silko invokes a more psychological tone for a moment, and her insight is accurate. Dreams are shaded in mystery from our own understanding, and dreamscapes are similarly attached to us like land, in the sense that we all experience the same phenomena. Since we are of the land, and its attachment to our lives is massive, we can experience the sublime through it as well.
I turned a hard copy of this in, but just wanted to post it to make sure I keep up with my online postings.
In the reading selections by Qwo-Li Driskill assigned for this week, there is much to be learned about the importance of studying native Two-Spirit literature. Native Two-Spirit people are what some people might consider members of the “LGBT” community. In contemporary American culture, people are usually expected to identify themselves sexually according to basic LGBT terminology, treating sexuality, spirituality, and gender all as separate entities. The Native American term “Two-Spirit” however is commonly used amongst American Indians who recognize their sexuality, spiritual life, and gender as one interconnected body. Driskill writes in his works about the idea that native Two-Spirit people are believed by many American Indian cultures to be those people who possess within their bodies spirits from both a male and female. Two-Spirits do not see themselves as falling into strictly defined sexual categories or gender roles, but rather as free spiritual beings whose outward characteristics and identifications are directly tied to their inner life.
Driskill makes it very clear that Native American Two-Spirit people are not meant to automatically be associated with other queer people of color. His essays argue that a valuable, specific perspective may be lost forever if native Two-Spirit people are ignored or blended in with other activist groups and categories. Two-Spirit people have a unique experience, and have much to offer on the subject of decolonization, gender, heterosexual patriarchy, and American and postcolonial culture. What makes native Two-Spirit people different from other queer people of color fighting for equality in literature, politics, and arts? Two-Spirit people are thriving today in the United States, living through years of colonization that is still occurring. The ideas that have been imposed on Two-Spirit people about heterosexuality, gender identification, and patriarchy are still thriving while native Two-Spirits continue to live in the United States each day.
The essay “Shaking our Shells” by Driskill was specifically touching to me because he uses his writing to call other native Two-Spirits like himself to action. Driskill is saying in this essay (which is written in the form of a stomp dance which calls people to join as the dance progresses) that Two-Spirit people need to stake a claim to their identities before they are completely erased or overcome by other categories garnering more attention in the scholarly world. The voice of the native Two-Spirit is unique and colorful, and has such a unique gift to offer the intellectual community. It is of extreme importance that all people, not only queer people or native people, read Driskill’s work and understand that action must be taken to keep the native Two-Spirit and his or her ideologies thriving and moving through the world we live in today, which is unfortunately so quick to lash out against any cry for understanding, tolerance, or equality.
Upon completing the assigned readings for today, my favorite piece – the piece that stuck out to me more than the others – would unquestionably be one of Qwo-Li Driskill’s poems: “Map of the Americas.” Through the evocative use of language, imagery, and emotional allusions, Driskill creates a strong paralleling bond between the land and its history. She even utilizes concrete (or shape) poetry within this piece, in which the typographical arrangement of her words on page 10 is arranged in such a way that it visually represents North and South America. This was a beautiful way to further tie her body to the land – visually and figuratively. In this portion of the poem, she exquisitely describes the arrangement of her body curled up and sleeping upon a bed, and how each part of her body represents a different geographical feature of the Americas.
As a reader, it was captivating to read Driskill metaphorically map the land onto her body. ”When your hands travel / across my hemispheres / know these lands / have been invaded before,” or “When you taste my lips / think of maize / venison / perfect wild strawberries,” and “Notice the way my breath smells of cedar / my sweat flows like slow Southern rivers / and my flesh burns with history” (Driskill 10). Through the use of her handsome language and vivid vocabulary, readers are able to visualize, understand, and recognize the evident emotional understory to this poem.
I think this poem, “Map of the Americas,” would immediately be recognized as having been written by a Native American writer; the tone, the constant references to nature, and the prevalent connection between the woman’s body and the land simply radiate Native American culture. I loved that about this poem – the unmistakable traces of Native American beliefs that were intertwined with Driskill’s words and literary style.
Space to comment on the readings for each class...