Here’s a beginner’s guide to great Indigenous literature – press enterprise


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

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

These people lived on the earth, not with the idea of ​​owning paper, but with the understanding that there is a relationship with the earth. The relationship is palpable; the earth has breath and desires, gives gifts and lets us know when it is raped. The land still speaks to us, but we have ignored it and the indigenous peoples who came before us. Mary Lyons (Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe) from Northwestern University informs us, “When we talk about the land, the land is part of who we are. It is a mixture of our blood, our past, our present and our future. We carry our ancestors within us, and they are around us… ”

Although the atrocities of the take-over of inhabited lands took place centuries before we were born, there are things we can do. On the Native Governance Center website, you will find a guide to creating recognition for Indigenous lands. Here is an abbreviation of what is displayed:

  • Learn about the indigenous peoples to whom the land belongs and the history of the land.
  • Learn the names of the indigenous peoples living in these communities.
  • Use the past, present and future. The natives are still there.
  • Focus on the positivity of who indigenous people are today.
  • Land recognition should be a celebration of indigenous communities.

From the guidelines for creating land recognition, we embark on the world of literature, starting with poet Natalie Diaz, 2018 recipient of the MacArthur Genius Fellowship. To quote the MacArthur Foundation, “Diaz draws on her experience as a Mojavian and Latin American to question the mythological and cultural touchstones that viscerally transmit the oppression and violence that continue to plague people. Native Americans in various forms. “

His most recent collection, “Postcolonial Love Poem,” won the Pulitzer Prize in 2021. Those who win this award do so from a Columbia University board of trustees. Publisher, Gray Wolf Press describes the collection: “Diaz defies the conditions on which she writes, a nation whose creation predicted the depletion and ultimate effacement of bodies like hers and the people she loves:” I try my best not to become a museum / of myself. I do my best to inhale and exhale. / I beg: Let me be alone but not invisible. “

It was a year in which the talent of Indigenous writers was recognized. Novelist Louise Erdrich (Chippewa’s Turtle Mountain group) won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for “The Night Watchman”. Pulitzer’s board of directors described his novel as “a majestic, polyphonic novel about a community’s efforts to stop the proposed displacement and elimination of several Native American tribes in the 1950s, rendered with dexterity and imagination.”

Speaking of the Pulitzer Prize, in 1969, N. Scott Momaday of the Kiowa tribe was the first Aboriginal to win it for his novel “House Made of Dawn”. In 1977, Leslie Marmon Silko received critical attention for her first novel, “Ceremony”, which is based on the oral traditions and ceremonial practices of the Navajo and Pueblo peoples. Tommy Orange’s 2018 novel “There, There” was a Pulitzer Prize finalist and PEN / Hemingway Prize winner. Located in present-day Oakland, it’s a must read.

The world of literature includes many award-winning and excellent works by Indigenous writers. (Courtesy of Romaine Washington)

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

Poet, musician, playwright, and author, Joy Harjo (Muskogee, Creek) was named the 23rd U.S. Poet Laureate in 2019. Harjo is the first Indigenous person to hold this position and is currently serving her third term. The Harjo Laureate’s flagship project is Living Nations, Living Worlds, with the aim of introducing the country to more Indigenous poets.

The First Nations Development Institute’s #NativeReads program has a seven-point call to action with the mandate to decolonize our shelves, which aligns with the Land Reconnaissance Guide and the Living Nations mission, Living Worlds by Joy Harjo. Reading books by indigenous authors is not land restoration or reparation, but a way of showing support and a beginning of understanding.

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

About Florence M. Sorensen

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