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The Red Land to the South

The Red Land to the South: American Indian Writers and Indigenous Mexico

James H. Cox
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    The Red Land to the South
    Book Description:

    The forty years of American Indian literature taken up by James H. Cox-the decades between 1920 and 1960-have been called politically and intellectually moribund. On the contrary, Cox identifies a group of American Indian writers who share an interest in the revolutionary potential of the indigenous peoples of Mexico-and whose work demonstrates a surprisingly assertive literary politics in the era.

    By contextualizing this group of American Indian authors in the work of their contemporaries, Cox reveals how the literary history of this period is far more rich and nuanced than is generally acknowledged. The writers he focuses on-Todd Downing (Choctaw), Lynn Riggs (Cherokee), and D'Arcy McNickle (Confederated Salish and Kootenai)-are shown to be on par with writers of the preceding Progressive and the succeeding Red Power and Native American literary renaissance eras.

    Arguing that American Indian literary history of this period actually coheres in exciting ways with the literature of the Native American literary renaissance, Cox repudiates the intellectual and political border that has emerged between the two eras.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8270-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION: American Indian Literature and Indigenous Mexico
    (pp. 1-26)

    The publication of choctaw author Todd Downing’sThe Mexican Earthin late March 1940 inaugurated an exciting few weeks in American Indian literary history. Fans of Downing’s detective novels set in Mexico could read Philip Ainsworth Means’s lavish praise of his first book-length work of nonfiction in theNew York TimesMarch 31 issue, and a week later theater aficionados could attend the premiere of a new play from Cherokee dramatist Lynn Riggs.A World Elsewhere, a drama set in Mexico and completed by Riggs while there in 1937, opened April 8 at the San Diego Community Theater. One week...

  5. CHAPTER 1 Dreadful Armies: Indigenistas and Other Criminals in Todd Downing’s Detective Novels
    (pp. 27-64)

    Todd downing, one of the most prolific and most neglected American Indian writers of the twentieth century, began his career as an author of detective fiction after working as a tour guide in Mexico during the summer months of the late 1920s and early 1930s. Like the other American Indian authors under consideration in this study, Downing traveled in a postrevolutionary Mexico that was in the process of incorporating indigeneity into a unified national identity. In eight of the ten novels that he published between 1933 and 1945, Downing appropriates and refigures this indigenismo—the official celebration of Mexico’s indigenous...

  6. CHAPTER 2 ¡Indian Territory! Lynn Riggs’s Indigenous Geographies
    (pp. 65-106)

    In the mid- to late 1930s, as Todd Downing was establishing himself in New York as a professional author of detective fiction, Cherokee dramatist Rollie Lynn Riggs was enjoying a celebrated career, earning mention as a contender for Pulitzer Prizes, working on screenplays in Hollywood, and writing two plays set in Mexico,A World Elsewhere(ca. 1934–37) and its companion playThe Year of Pilár(ca. 1935–38).¹A World Elsewhereis a satire of a failed counterrevolution by hacendados longing to recover the haciendas that the government of President Lázaro Cárdenas returned to indigenous people in the 1930s....

  7. CHAPTER 3 “Mexico Is an Indian Country”: American Indian Diplomacy in Native Nonfiction and Todd Downing’s The Mexican Earth
    (pp. 107-150)

    The period from the 1920s to the 1960s was an era of diplomacy in American Indian literature and politics, and the work of this era’s diplomats, in literary and political circles, prepared the ground for a more politically assertive generation of writers and activists. While Lynn Riggs was not involved in organized political efforts on behalf of American Indians, Todd Downing, Will Rogers, and many of the authors from this period model and document in their writing the diplomacy in which they engaged. John Oskison was an active member of the Society of American Indians (SAI) in the 1910s and...

  8. CHAPTER 4 The Red Land of the South: Indigenous Kinship in D’Arcy McNickle’s Runner in the Sun
    (pp. 151-172)

    D’arcy mcnickle was a tireless advocate for American Indian self-determination as an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and a founding member of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) in the early 1940s. In the early 1950s, he also raised funds for and founded American Indian Development Inc. (AID), a community development organization. Dorothy Parker describes the AID approach: “Participants devoted the first week to a discussion of basic problems encountered by everyone who lived on Indian reservations. They were often surprised to discover how many difficulties they shared with other Indian groups. [...] During the second...

  9. CHAPTER 5 The Return to Mexico: Gerald Vizenor and Leslie Marmon Silko at the Quincentennial
    (pp. 173-196)

    Greater indian territory, an indigenous American homeland that subsumes the settler-colonial nations of the United States and Mexico, makes a dramatic return to American Indian literature in 1991 and expands into Canada, the Caribbean, and Central and South America with the publication of Gerald Vizenor’sThe Heirs of Columbusand Leslie Marmon Silko’sAlmanac of the Dead.¹ As celebrations of and protests against the Columbian quincentennial approached, their novels converged in an indigenous Mexico with the same revolutionary potential that captured the imaginations of Todd Downing, Lynn Riggs, and D’Arcy McNickle. McNickle’s story of Salt, intratribal conflict at the Village...

  10. CONCLUSION: Revolutions before the Renaissance
    (pp. 197-204)

    While prominent scholars such as Robert Warrior, Jace Weaver, and Craig Womack have challenged the exceptionalism of the post-1968 era within the long history of American Indian writing, the renaissance continues to stand as a formidable creative and intellectual border between 1968 and the mid-twentieth century. In his foreword toThe Singing Bird, Weaver observes, “Native authors who toiled prior to 1968 have been swamped and submerged in the wake of the dreadnaught Momaday and the many fine authors (Silko, Welch, Vizenor, Ortiz, Harjo, and others) who saw print after him. The problem with the so-called Native American Literary Renaissance,...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 205-246)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 247-262)
  13. Index
    (pp. 263-276)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 277-277)