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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Here’s a Beginner’s Guide to Outstanding Indigenous Literature

James Truslow Adam, author of “The Epic of America,” coined the term American Dream in 1931 during The Great Depression. Home ownership was a cornerstone of that dream, but before America was “discovered” and American Dream Homes were put in place, there were already people living here.

Romaine Washington is an educator and author of “Sirens in Her Belly” and “Purgatory Has an Address”. (Courtesy of Marcus Moscato)

These people lived on land, not with the mindset of owning paper but with the understanding that there is a relationship with the land. The relationship is solid; The land has breath and desires, gives gifts and tells us when it is violated. The land still speaks to us, but we have ignored it and the indigenous peoples who came before us. Mary Leone of Northwestern University (Ojibwe’s Leach Lake Band) informs us, “When we talk about the land, the land is part of who we are. It is our blood, our past, our present and our future. There is a mix. We keep our ancestors inside us, and they are around us…”

Although the atrocities of taking inhabited land occurred centuries before we were born, there are things we can do. On the Native Governance Center site, there is a guide to creating Indigenous land acceptance. The following is an abridged form of what has been posted:

  • Learn about the indigenous people who owned the land and learn about the history of the land.
  • Learn the names of the living indigenous people of these communities.
  • Use past, present and future tenses. Indigenous people are still here.
  • Focus on the positives of who indigenous people are today.
  • Land acceptance should be a celebration of indigenous communities.

From the guidelines for creating land acceptance, we enter the world of literature with poet Natalie Diaz, the 2018 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Grant, beginning with poet Natalie Diaz. To quote from the MacArthur Foundation, “Diaz draws on her experience as a Mojave American and Latina to challenge mythological and cultural touchstones that explicitly address the oppression and violence that afflict Indigenous Americans in various forms. expresses from.”

His most recent collection, “Postcolonial Love Poems,” won a Pulitzer Prize in 2021. Those who receive this award do so from a board of Columbia University. The publisher, Gray Wolf Press, describes the collection: “Diaz defies the circumstances under which she writes, a nation whose creation predicted the degradation and eventual extinction of a body like her and the people she loved.” is: ‘I’m doing my best not to be one. Muse / Myself. I’m doing my best to breathe in and out. / I’m begging: Let me be alone but not invisible.'”

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It was a year where the talents of indigenous writers were acknowledged. Novelist Lewis Erdrich (Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa) won the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction for “The Night Watchman”. The Pulitzer Board described his novel as “a majestic, polyphonic novel about a community’s efforts to prevent the proposed displacement and extermination of several Native American tribes in the 1950s, presented with dexterity and imagination.” Gone.”

Talking about the Pulitzer Prize, in 1969, Kiowa tribe’s N. Scott Momade was the first indigenous person to win it for his novel “House Maid of Dawn”. In 1977, Leslie Marmon Silko gained critical attention for her first novel, “Ceremony”, which draws on the oral traditions and ceremonial practices of the Navajo and Pueblo peoples. The 2018 novel by Tommy Orange, “There, There”, was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and a PEN/Hemingway Prize winner. Set in present day Oakland, it is a must read.

Here's a Beginner's Guide to Outstanding Indigenous Literature
The world of literature includes many award winning and outstanding works by indigenous authors. (Courtesy of Romain Washington)

In 2019, “Black Indians:’ Identity, Ethnicity, Landscape and Loss,” a program presented by Inlandia Institute’s Conversations at the Culver, invited award-winning poet and educator Shonda Buchanan to talk and read her memoir “Black Indians.” hosted for Wayne State University Press says, “‘Black Indian’ is Searing & Raw, Amy Tan’s ‘The Joy Luck Club’ and Alice Walker’s ‘The Color Purple’ meets Leslie Marmon Silko’s ‘Ceremony’ – only This is not fiction.” The event was sponsored by the UC Riverside Center for Ideas and Society.

Poet, musician, playwright and author, Joy Harjo (Muscogee, Creek) was named the 23rd United States Poet Laureate in 2019. Harjo is the first indigenous person in this position and is currently serving his third term. Award-winning Harjo’s signature project is Living Nations, Living Worlds, with the aim of introducing the country to more original poets.

The First Nations Development Institute’s program, #NativeReads, has a seven-point call-to-action to free our bookshelf from colonization, which aligns with the Land Acknowledgment Guide and Joy Harjo’s Living Nations, Living World mission . Reading books by indigenous authors is not a restoration or repair of the land, but a way of showing support and beginnings of understanding.

Romaine Washington is an educator and author of “Sirens in Her Belly” and “Purgatory Has an Address”.

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