Womack (2016). Introduction: American Indian Literary Self-Determination.

Womack, C. (2016). Introduction: American Indian Literary Self-Determination. In D. Reder & L. M. Morra (Eds.), Learn, Teach, Challenge: Approaching Indigenous Literatures (pp. 239–255). Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

[Adams, 1995, p. 45 …]

“‘Without an Indigenous consciousness, Indians, Métis, and Inuit [page break] peoples’ only claim to Aboriginality is race and heritage. That is not enough to achieve true liberation. To accomplish self-determination, we need more than racial pride. We must have Aboriginal nationalism, an understanding of the state’s capitalist ideology and its oppression, and, ultimately, a counter-consciousness.'” (p 243-244)

“Radical Native viewpoints, voices of difference rather than commonality, are called for to disrupt the powers of the literary status quo as well as the powers of the state — there is a link between thought and activism, surely. Such disruption does not come about by merely emphasizing that all things Native are, in reality, filtered through contact with Europe, that there is no ‘uncorrupted’ Indian reality in this postcontact world we live in.” (p 244)

“Another example of the colonized state of Native literature might be the way in which teaching jobs in the field are often advertised as ‘ethnic literature’ slots, or housed in ‘ethnic literature’ departments, calling for academics who have broad comparative backgrounds rather than training in tribally specific cultures.” (p 245)

[“mainstream” vs “dominant”? (p 246) — oki]

“… does the frontier for fiction serve partially to deny Native peoples a place in the nonfictional world, in the arena where sovereignty, religious freedom, treaty rights, land claims, language retention, tribal education, and many other elements of culture continue to affect the daily destinies of tribes?” (p 248)

“In looking at Creek literature, I want to emphasize ‘innovat[ion] on tradition’ and ‘initiat[ion of] new ways of life’ rather than ‘the world created by contact.’ European contact is a given; toward the purpose of contributing something toward Native studies, however, I am more interested in what can be innovated and initiated by Native people in analyzing their own cultures, … I am assuming that it is just as likely that things European are Indianized rather than the anthropological assumption that things Indian are always swallowed up by European culture. I reject, in other words, the supremacist notion that assimilation can only go in one direction …” (p 249)

“Native literature, and Native literary criticism, written by Native authors, is part of sovereignty: Indian people exercising the right to present images of themselves and to discuss those images; and tribes recognizing their own extant literatures, writing new ones, and asserting the right to explicate them constitute a move toward nationhood.” (p 250)

“… Kelly Morgan makes an impassioned plea for national literatures. She argues that imaginative literature — fiction and poetry — is a more accurate gauge of cultural realities than the ethnographic, anthropological, and historical record …” (p 251)

“The aforementioned Mayan codices, written in Mayan pictoglyphic symbols before contact, and in Mayan in the Latin alphabet afterward, are a fascinating study in these regards because recent scholarship has shown that these books were used as a _complement_ of oral tradition rather than a _replacement_. The books were recited and even read in precontact schools to educate the young in the oral tradition.” (p 252)

Selected References

  • Adams, H. (1995). A tortured people: the politics of colonization. Theytus Books, Limited.
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