Showing 21 - 30 of 48 annotations tagged with the keyword "Native-American Experience"

Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

With some 70 characters and a wide array of events spanning 500 years and several continents, the plot of this novel is less a linear plot than an elaborate web of events. Peopled with addicts, alcoholics, corrupt judges and politicians, unscrupulous and greedy land speculators, and a host of other unsavory characters, the novel also tells the story of resistance to Euro-American oppression and a growing effort of indigenous people and their allies to retake the land and ultimately to become agents of its healing. Woven throughout the novel are folk stories of the past, pronouncements on the present and predictions of a dire future for the offspring of the European conquerors.

Spatially, Tucson, Arizona functions as a focal point, with much of the action radiating away from, or towards, the city. Arizona is about to go belly-up from the effects of a declining economy and devastating drought and growing civil unrest in Mexico. As the prophecies have foretold, the narrator reminds readers, the inexorable movement of the people is North, and while it may take 500 or 5000 years, the indigenous and their allies will reclaim the diseased and corrupted land (and presumably become instruments of its healing).

Into this milieu Silko inserts a host of characters who work as part of the resistance. Among them are twin sisters Lecha (a demerol-addicted psychic who helps police locate the bodies of murder victims and has a lucrative profession as a talk show guest) and Zeta (who has made a fortune running drugs and guns across the North and South American borders with the help of Lecha’s son and his sometime lover Paulie); twin brothers, Tacho (a chauffeur for the wealthy Menardo who also functions as a spy for the indigenous resistance movement), and El Feo (who heads that movement in the far South of Mexico). Both brothers commune with spirit macaws for advice.

There is an "army of the Homeless" who plan to retake "stolen" goods and land from the wealthy. The Barefoot Hopi organizes incarcerated prisoners for an uprising against the U.S. Government. Many of these and other characters converge at novel’s end at the International Holistic Healer’s Convention where "German root doctors" and "Celtic leech handlers" join with "new-age spiritualists" and the Green Vengeance eco-warriors.

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Tracks

Erdrich, Louise

Last Updated: Dec-12-2006
Annotated by:
Stanford, Ann Folwell

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Set in the 1920s, Tracks is the chronicle of the Anishinabe community in North Dakota and the struggle for land and the continuance of their tradition and beliefs that undergird the heterogeneity of their tribal society in the face of shifting U.S. policies. Told in the counterpointing voices of Nanapush, a tribal elder, and Pauline Puyat, a mixed-blood member of the community, the novel describes the intertwining lives of Fleur Pillager, Nanapush, Pauline, and their families; the horrible losses from epidemics, as well as the powerful love circulating among the community, and their resistance to cultural and political domination.

While these issues occupy much of the story, Pauline’s decline into an excessive and destructive religious asceticism is also a central part of the plot. Pauline’s internalized racism (she "would not speak our language" [p.14]) takes its shape in her hatred of her own body and her fascination with death ("I handled the dead until the cold feel of their skin was a comfort, until I no longer bothered to bathe once I left the cabin but touched others with the same hands, passed death on" [p. 6]). She ends up in a convent inventing new ways to torture herself as she listens to Jesus tell her she is not really Indian.

In contradistinction to Pauline are Nanapush and Fleur, who resist dominance and claim their identities in magnificent ways. In one scene, Nanapush refuses to allow a doctor to treat his granddaughter’s severely frostbitten foot with amputation, knowing that "saving [her] the doctor’s way would kill [her]." Nanapush nurses her himself, saving the foot and telling her stories as a way to walk her through the pain of healing.

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Tear

Hogan, Linda

Last Updated: Dec-05-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The narrative voice (probably female) links the ancestral past of a Chickasaw heritage with the present and future, "remembering" a long, forced march to Oklahoma under military surveillance. The women sewed tear dresses "because settler cotton was torn" but the miserable circumstances generated tears "so they were called / by this other name, / for our weeping." She sees herself as the reason for their survival, and at the same time, her ancestors ". . . walk inside me." The poem is cleverly constructed to give a strong sense of the continuity of generations and of the impact of a people’s history on individual lives.

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Animal Dreams

Kingsolver, Barbara

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Cosima Nolinas (Codi) trained as a physician, but decided during her residency to give up medicine. As the novel opens, she is returning to her hometown, Grace, Arizona, to teach high school biology and care for her physician father, Doc Homero, who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. Her younger sister, Hallie, has just left for Nicaragua to help with agricultural development. Codi's journey back to where she grew up reinforces a sense of aimlessness which she attributes to the death of her mother when she was three years old, to the miscarriage of an unwanted pregnancy when she was fifteen, and to her father's remoteness. She intends her stay to be temporary.

But gradually she is drawn into the community. She restarts a relationship with Loyd [sic] Peregrina, the Native-American father--though she never told him--of the child she lost in high school. She joins the town's struggle against a mining company that has polluted the town's water supply and now plans to dam the river. As her father's condition deteriorates, she learns more about the history of his connection with the town and, by examining the results of a life-long study he has done on a genetic anomaly affecting children born to second-generation inhabitants of Grace, she learns that her own hereditary background is far more deeply rooted in the town than she had known.

Codi's narrative is interspersed with her father's confused but illuminating memories of her childhood, and with the letters she receives from Hallie, who has always been the motivated and determined sister. When Hallie is kidnapped and then murdered by the contras, Codi's first response is to run away once more, but in laying her sister to rest and telling Loyd about their lost child, she realizes that she has found her home and--in her fierce and practical education of the new generation of Grace adolescents--her purpose.

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Homeland

Kingsolver, Barbara

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Short Story

Summary:

This story is set in the 1950s. Gloria St. Clair's great grandmother, Great Mam, is a displaced Cherokee--one of the Bird Clan's "Beloved Women" who "keep track of things"--who moved from her tribal home in Tennessee to Kentucky with the white man whose children she bore. Gloria's father, a coal miner, decides that the family should take Great Mam back to Tennessee for a last visit before she dies.

The journey is a disaster, revealing that remnants of Cherokee life have been reduced to poverty and tawdry tourism. Gloria realizes, though, that Great Mam's heritage has survived, not in the place she came from, but in what she has passed on to her great granddaughter: Great Mam has given Gloria the nickname "Waterbug" after the creature that, according to Native American myth, retrieved the earth from the bottom of the sea, and in remembering this and all the other stories Great Mam told her, Gloria becomes the next one whose task is to retrieve the past, to "keep track of things."

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Annotated by:
Nixon, Lois LaCivita

Primary Category: Performing Arts / Film, TV, Video

Genre: Film

Summary:

As this highly original and provocative film once again demonstrates, John Sayles is not a traditional storyteller. Audiences are caught in the detective story focusing at one level on murders and abuses committed more than 20 years ago; but the filmmaker guides their attention to the survivors, the current and very ordinary folks inhabiting the small border town where secrets are closely kept.

Imagine a blank canvas on which seemingly unrelated splotches of paint appear; then imagine those splotches as members of various ethnic groups inhabiting Frontera on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. First, we have custodial white men who hang around the local coffee shop or fish on previously-owned Indian land transformed recently, and with some controversy, into a lake by the construction of a dam. Then we have Mercedes Cruz (Miriam Colon), a successful business woman and council member who curiously shows little compassion for "wetbacks" and those relapsing into the Spanish language. Her daughter, Pilar (Elizabeth Peña), of whom she is a constant critic, is a school teacher and single mother of two teenagers, a figure whose importance will increase as the composition develops.

Also, there is Otis Payne (Ron Canada), the African-American owner of the town’s black bar, a refuge for that minority group; and there is his estranged son, a rigid and unyielding colonel at the nearby base. Finally and less developed, are the Indians whose land has been claimed by the town’s ruling forces.

As fragments from the past and present provide dimension and meaning, increasingly the disparate colors are transformed into a representational form with clear connecting lines. Shapes and textures gradually become familiar and palpable. Within the context of good and evil, narrative lines blur and thicken. With tantalizing flashbacks, past and present fuse, allowing puzzle pieces to fit together; then engaged audience members realize that the narrative threads have twisted to expose unimagined patterns of sacrifice and love.

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Bad Medicine

Querry, Ron

Last Updated: Dec-04-2006
Annotated by:
Belling, Catherine

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

This novel is based on the facts of an actual hantavirus outbreak that took place in the southwestern US in 1993, retelling the events as medical mystery, as ghost story, and as meditation on the relationship between rationalist western medicine and the beliefs of local indigenous cultures.

Dr. Push Foster is part Choctaw and part white, raised in Oklahoma. He returns to Arizona as an Indian Health Services physician at the time an outbreak begins of what is later identified as Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Western medicine and traditional health beliefs and practices overlap in the investigation and response to the illness as it infects and kills Navajo people.

Querry presents us with a convincing epidemiological investigation into the virus, but also suggests an alternative, or complementary, etiology for the outbreak: an archaeologist has stolen a sacred stone from the Hopi people with the help of a Navajo witch, or shape-shifter, the title's "bad medicine" practitioner. This theft, the novel suggests, is the reason that only Navajo, and one white person (the archaeologist's partner) become ill.

The climax of the story is a showdown between the shape-shifter, a Hopi village headman, and the ghost of a woman killed trying to save her people from the 1805 massacre of Navajo by Spanish troops at Muerto Canyon. (The virus, when first identified, was named Muerto Canyon Virus.) This woman becomes a figure of both vengeance and reconciliation, an uneasy meeting of cultures that echoes and informs the work of Push Foster and his colleague, Sonny Brokeshoulder: both are men of Indian blood with a "white" upbringing and who return to their culture bearing Western medical training, but do not deny the traditional knowledge either.

Unlike most medical thrillers, this book does not offer reductive explanations and answers; instead, we are left with the certainty that traditional and western thinkers must collaborate, not only to care for patients, but to take care of the natural environment on which all our health depends.

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Love Medicine

Erdrich, Louise

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Aull, Felice

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

The author tells the story of two Native-American (Chippewa) families whose lives interweave through several generations during the years 1934-1984. The primary setting is a reservation in North Dakota. The main characters, Marie and Nector Kashpaw and Lulu Lamartine, are colorful, sympathetic people caught in a love triangle that endures for most of their adult lives. "Love medicine" represents an attempt by a Kashpaw grandson to assure once and for all that his aging grandfather will love and be true to his wife and cease "hankering after the Lamartine." The plan ends in disaster when corners are cut and the authentic old Indian customs for preparing the "love medicine" are circumvented.

There is a strong sense of the blending of cultures--religion, medicine, commerce, education all take on the distinctive qualities of an evolving mixed culture. Displacement and disenfranchisement are a fact of life, taken almost for granted, with humor, but not without a response. "They gave you worthless land to start with and then they chopped it out from under your feet. They took your kids away and stuffed the English language in their mouth . . . They sold you booze for furs and then told you not to drink. It was time, high past time, the Indians smartened up and started using the only leverage they had-federal law." (p. 326) So begins an initiative to establish a gambling casino; "gambling fit into the old traditions . . . . "

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Weight Bearing

Goedicke, Patricia

Last Updated: Dec-01-2006
Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

A Kiowa Native-American, so obese he looks "like a grand piano in soft sculpture," visits the narrator's office. The Kiowa is a teacher and lover of words, but back home on the reservation, the old sources of inspiration are gone--"the old stories disappear"--and he knows "at the center of himself he is starving." (The obesity comes from this desperate need for feeding!) The narrator, who is probably a writer and teacher herself cannot help him.

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Annotated by:
Donley, Carol

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The poem presents a Native-American woman hanging by her fingers from a window ledge 13 floors above the street. As she tries to decide whether or not she'll let go, she thinks of all the reasons that have led her to consider suicide: she feels broken in "several pieces between the two husbands she has had"; here in a crowded Chicago tenement, she is out of her natural native place in the north; she is poor; she suffers from racial discrimination; she hears voices; she cries "for lost beauty." She considers her three young children and remembers her own childhood. The poem ends with the either/or choice still not made--either she will fall to her death or she will climb back in the window and reclaim her life.

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