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Mediating Indianness

Mediating Indianness

Edited by Cathy Covell Waegner
Copyright Date: 2015
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  • Book Info
    Mediating Indianness
    Book Description:

    Mediating Indiannessinvestigates a wide range of media-including print, film, theater, ritual dance, music, recorded interviews, photography, and treaty rhetoric-that have been used in exploitative, informative, educative, sustaining, protesting, or entertaining ways to negotiate Native American identities and images. The contributors to this collection are (Native) American and European scholars whose initial findings were presented or performed in a four-panel format at the 2012 MESEA (Society for Multi-Ethnic Studies: Europe and the Americas) conference in Barcelona. The selection of the term Indianness is deliberate. It points to the intricate construction of ethnicity as filtered through media, despite frequent assertions of "authenticity." From William "Buffalo Bill" Cody's claim, extravagantly advertised on both sides of the Atlantic, that he was staging "true-to-life" scenes from Indian life in his Wild West shows to contemporary Native hip-hop artist Quese IMC's announcement that his songs tell his people's "own history" and draw on their "true" culture, media of all types has served to promote disparate agendas claiming legitimacy. This volume does not shy away from the issue of evaluation and how it is only tangential to medial artificiality. As evidenced in this collection, "the vibrant, ever-transforming future of Native peoples is located within a complex intersection of cultural influences," said Susan Power, author ofSacred Wilderness.

    eISBN: 978-1-60917-436-1
    Subjects: Sociology, Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xxx)

    • “You Have Liberty to Return to Your Own Country”: Tecumseh, Myth, and the Rhetoric of Native Sovereignty
      (pp. 3-26)

      Two monumental artworks of the nineteenth century focusing on the death of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh tellingly reveal ways in which native American historical experience has been instrumentalized in the construction of national identity. Two decades after Tecumseh’s death at the 1813 Battle of Moraviantown, the German artist Frederick Pettrich was commissioned to create a sculpture titledThe Dying Tecumseh; this work was displayed in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., until 1916 and now resides in the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It is an imposing sculpture that offers an ostentatious representation of its subject, which, according...

    • “IndiVisible” Identities: Mediating Native American and African American Encounters and Transethnic Identity in A Thrilling Sketch of the Life of Okah Tubbee
      (pp. 27-44)

      Bringing historical and contemporary interactions between Native Americans and African Americans to the center of public and scholarly attention, the Smithsonian Museum of the American Indian featured the exhibitionIndiVisible: African Native American Lives in the Americasfrom November 2009 to March 2010. The exhibition portrayed African American and Native American history as one of shared struggles for liberty and autonomy, and African Native American culture and identity as contested—one could think of the Cherokee-Freedmen debate—but also as thriving.¹ The exhibition brochure pointed to the relevance of presenting to the public this intricate yet often unknown transethnic history...

    • “Buffalo Bill Takes a Scalp”: Mediated Transculturality on Both Sides of the Atlantic with William F. Cody’s Wild West, from Show to Hollywood and YouTube
      (pp. 45-72)

      Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show¹ achieved unprecedented (inter)national popularity, creating paradigms that deeply influenced the world’s image of the encounters on the pre–Wounded Knee American frontier. The powerful film genre of the western arose from the scenes portrayed again and again for more than three decades (1872–1908) on both sides of the Atlantic in the grandiose Wild West show, both billed as and largely perceived as “authentic”—whooping and war-painted Indians attacking a settler’s home or a stagecoach, for instance.² Numerous films and countless books have chosen Buffalo Bill (William F. Cody) and his show as their subjects,...

    • Native Postmodern? Remediating History in the Fiction of Stephen Graham Jones and D. L. Birchfield
      (pp. 73-90)

      Native postmodern. The phrase risks sounding like contrivance, an Atlantic fashioning foisted upon Native authorship. The suspicion hovers of a species of fiction too discrepant or modish for the writing-in of Indian Country, its actualities and cultures, its geographies and eras. Well may postmodern hold for a Nabokov or Beckett, or under their penumbra, American metanarratives by, say, Kurt Vonnegut, Thomas Pynchon, William Gaddis, John Barth, William Gass, David Markham, or Kathy Acker. But can it claim legitimacy in story-work generated from Native lives, Native history and memory? Given the intractably “real” of tribal legacy, each live ongoing cultural tradition,...

    • Flight Times in Gerald Vizenor’s Blue Ravens: White Earth Mediating History
      (pp. 91-94)

      An Anishinaabe postmodern gamester and, in his own term,storier, and a Hartford insurance executive and, at the same time, modernist versifier who made his debut withHarmoniumin 1923—Gerald Vizenor and Wallace Stevens might not be a pairing that immediately jumps into mind. But given Vizenor’s latest novel, with its early twentieth-century setting (the subtitling calls it a “historical novel”) and emphasis upon how the painter’s coloring or storyteller’s flight gives new possession to ground-zero reality, it would be far from out of order. IfBlue Ravenscan be said to have any one overall end in view,...


    • ᏣᎳᎩ ᏗᎪᏪᎵ Cherokee Writing: Mediating Traditions, Codifying Nation
      (pp. 97-106)

      Commonly found at Cherokee Nation gift shops, a black-on-white license plate reads ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ. At first blush, this might be seen as evidence of Cherokees capitalizing on the symbolic uniqueness of the Cherokee syllabary, the reading and writing system developed by Sequoyah and presented to the tribal council in 1821. Most people who would purchase this plate and put it on the front bumper of their cars probably do not know how to read this. Here is one step:

      ᏣᎳᎩᎯ ᎠᏰᎵ

      /tsalagihi ayeli/

      This phonetic transliteration allows English readers to be able to pronounce roughly the sounds of the Cherokee...

    • “We Can Tell Our Own History, We Can Tell Our Own Future”: Quese IMC, Culture Shock Camp, and an Indigenous Hip-Hop Movement
      (pp. 107-126)

      Near the end of the filmDead Man, as William Blake’s eye wanders through the Makah village and toward the longhouse into which Nobody has entered, Jim Jarmusch’s camera lights and lingers upon a sewing machine on the ground. The initial lap dissolve inFour Sheets to the Wind, the first feature-length film from Seminole-Creek filmmaker Sterlin Harjo, merges a shot of trees with one of a phonograph, the needle scratching as it rides the final groove of a spinning record. The two machines are telling, and today, at least, we would do well to consider how they are linked....

    • Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man Revisited: Still Thwarting All Cultural and Cinematic Notions of Alterity
      (pp. 127-144)

      These are Nobody’s words, yet they can be quoted. Subsequently, somewhere, a certain Nobody must exist. But how can you be somebody and Nobody at the same time? At first glance, this seems to constitute an oxymoron. This contradictoriness introduces the idea of opposition, of difference and antagonism; the evoked “greatest enemy,” for instance, is the ultimate opposition. But however adverse, contradictory, or perhaps harmonious any specific relation between two elements might be, what remains is the need to negotiate the terms of the relation.

      The quoted words come from a Native American film character in Jim Jarmusch’sDead Man...

    • Mediating the Native Gaze: The American Indian Youth’s Cinematic Presence in Chris Eyre’s Films
      (pp. 145-162)

      Chris Eyre (Cheyenne/Arapaho) is the director of films that have changed the representation of American Indian cultures and have advanced Indigenous viewpoints in the film industry. Three of his most significant works—Smoke Signals(1998), based on fiction by Sherman Alexie;¹Skins(2002), an adaptation of Adrian C. Louis’s 1995 novel of the same name; andThe Edge of America(2003), written for television by Willy Holtzman—center on or include young characters whose perspectives on themselves and the world around propose a fresh understanding of Indigenousness on screen. The young people in these three films, Victor and Thomas in...

    • Refraction and Helio-tropes: Native Photography and Visions of Light
      (pp. 163-196)

      Whether in daguerreotype, on glass plates, in stereoscopic images, or in the pictorialist tradition, the majority of the historic images of Native Americans bear the imprimatur of imperialism and Manifest Destiny. When we remember that photographs result from manipulating light and reflection, the problematic nature of the early photographic representation of Native Americans becomes more understandable. Through subject pose, camera position, staging, focus, sepia toning, and other techniques, the subjects were rendered into time-bound, romantic stereotypes of primitive warrior, noble savage, tragic half-breed … vanishing Indian. Native filmmaker Beverly Singer comments on the way the photographic documentation works to “foster...


    • RefleXions: A Creative Essay
      (pp. 199-206)

      During and after the mesea conference in June 2012, my three companions and I rented an apartment on Passeig de Gracia, 115, located in the posh fashion district of Barcelona. There, I began reading Diné/Laguna Pueblo novelist A. A. Carr’s manuscript, “Pleiades Man.” Coincidentally, or maybe not, the novel addressed the issues under discussion at the conference: Migration. Transnationalism. Transglobalization. Carr’s characters, two Native American cousins/lovers/skinwalkers, have migrated from North America to Europe and are engaged in the business of selling Native American spirituality to gullible Europeans in Bordeaux, France. The protagonist struggles with a sense of displacement he feels...

    • Festa de Sant Joan: June 23, 2012, Barcelona, Spain
      (pp. 207-210)

    • “The Bear Is Our Protector”: Metaphor and Mediation in the Northern Ute (Nuche) Bear Dance
      (pp. 213-230)

      Based on years of fieldwork with the Utes and attendance at numerous annual Bear Dances, this study focuses on the symbolism and mediated meanings of the twenty-first-century Northern Ute Bear Dance. A uniquely Native American spring social dance, the Bear Dance has largely retained its parameters and functions through the ages. Arising from a mythical encounter between a she-bear and a male hunter, the Bear Dance includes music, dance, storytelling, joking, and courting. The Utes say they have been Bear Dancing for millennia, and the dance may indeed be well over 1,000 years old. Gradual developments in language, religious connection,...

    • Eric Gansworth’s Theatrical Productions: “Indianness” Mediated through the Juxtaposition of Cultural Capital and Performance
      (pp. 231-250)

      As a novelist, poet, playwright, and visual artist, Eric Gansworth (Onondaga) is a storyteller. But what exactly does this mean? Does it mean he is a peddler of Native American cultural capital and identity to audiences primarily composed of children? As both the main character in and the playwright ofRe-Creation Story, Gansworth works through the play to address this very question. In scene 2 of this play, Gansworth discusses with his niece how he plans to fulfill his obligation to talk about the Haudenosaunee Creation story for three hours as a featured lecturer of a literary speakers’ series at...

    • Eric Gansworth’s Re-Creation Story: Mediation and Remediation
      (pp. 251-260)

      In his recent bookImagine: How Creativity Works, Jonah Lehrer attempts to identify exactly what happens when the human mind produces something new and remarkable for our world. He draws upon the work of scientists who combined the use of magnetic resonance imaging (mri) and electroencephalography to try to pinpoint the activities that take place when creativity happens, and his argument is that when confronted with seemingly unresolvable dilemmas, the human mind will first try to reason a way through complex problems to discover a solution. When this does not work, and the frustration builds accordingly, the dilemma will then...

    • Mobile Indians: Capitalism, the Performance of Mobility, and the Mediation of Place in Minda Martin’s Documentary Free Land
      (pp. 261-278)

      In the opening credits of Minda Martin’s documentary Free Land,¹ her father assures his daughter—and us as the viewers—that “there hasn’t been any free land here for decades.”² The promise of “free land” has been crucial for the self-perception of the United States and has been a vital part of the promising lure that continues to attract immigrants by the millions. The American West has especially lived off the—deceitful—idea of an abundance of space available for building a life that can support a newcomer with family. Martin’s film explores the complex relationship between space/place, ideas of...


    • An Exposition of Virtual Exchanges
      (pp. 281-308)

      A two-year creative roundtable discussion, presented at the 2012 mesea conference in Barcelona

      Gordon: singsFour Directions Song

      Bindiigin, welcome to the Crow Commons.IndishneekawsDr. Gaween,¹Anishinaabe endao, endao, endao, endaoa practitioner of postmortem Western theory, a songmaker, an artist—I know some of you will disagree—of adjacent possibility, a grandfather in the Great Anishinaabe Commung.

      Kim: Demonstrating our ongoing conversations over the past four years, our roundtable discussion today will center on the continuous ways in which we understand connective imagery in Anishinaabe poetry, and the connections made between us—members of the Crow Commons—because...

    • Envoy: Response to “Crow Commons”
      (pp. 309-312)

      Frances Densmore recorded and translated “The Song of the Crows,” a dream song restored by Henry Selkirk, in the early 1900s at the White Earth Reservation. Selkirk told the translator that a “young man heard the crows in the trees and imagined that he learned this song from them.” The crow became hismanidoo, the presence of a native spirit or totemic favor of the crows, because the boy “understood the language of the crows.”

      The first to come

      I am called

      Among the birds

      I bring the rain

      Crow is my name¹

      My introduction to haiku and imagistic poetry,...

  9. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 313-318)