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Plateau Indian Ways with Words

Plateau Indian Ways with Words: The Rhetorical Tradition of the Tribes of the Inland Pacific Northwest

Barbara Monroe
Foreword by Scott Richard Lyons
Afterword by Kristin L . Arola
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    Plateau Indian Ways with Words
    Book Description:

    InPlateau IndianWays with Words, Barbara Monroe makes visible the arts of persuasion of the Plateau Indians, whose ancestral grounds stretch from the Cascades to the Rockies, revealing a chain of cultural identification that predates the colonial period and continues to this day. Culling from hundreds of student writings from grades 7-12 in two reservation schools, Monroe finds that students employ the same persuasive techniques as their forebears, as evidenced in dozens of post-conquest speech transcriptions and historical writings. These persuasive strategies have survived not just across generations, but also across languages from Indian to English and across multiple genres from telegrams and Supreme Court briefs to school essays and hip hop lyrics.Anecdotal evidence, often dramatically recreated; sarcasm and humor; suspended or unstated thesis; suspenseful arrangement; intimacy with and respect for one's audience as co-authors of meaning-these are among the privileged markers in this particular indigenous rhetorical tradition. Such strategies of personalization, as Monroe terms them, run exactly counter to Euro-American academic standards that value secondary, distant sources; "objective" evidence; explicit theses; "logical" arrangement. Not surprisingly, scores for Native students on mandated tests are among the lowest in the nation.While Monroe questions the construction of this so-called achievement gap on multiple levels, she argues that educators serving Native students need to seek out points of cultural congruence, selecting assignments and assessments where culturally marked norms converge, rather than collide. New media have opened up many possibilities for this kind of communicative inclusivity. But seizing such opportunities is predicated on educators, first, recognizing Plateau Indian students' distinctive rhetoric, and then honoring their sovereign right to use it. This book provides that first step.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7956-2
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Foreword
    (pp. xiii-xv)
    Scott Richard Lyons

    As far as we know, the first Native American to publish writing in the English language was the Mohegan preacher Samson Occom (1723–1792). Occom is primarily remembered today for his autobiography, “A Short Narrative of My Life” (1768), the first of many Native autobiographies to come, and for hisSermon Preached at the Execution of Moses Paul(1772), the first Native-authored text to see publication. Life writing and death writing: one might suggest that Native writing in English has dealt in serious business from the very start. One might also remark, as many have, purely on the basis of...

  2. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)

    In 1870, in anticipation of the removal of several Plateau Indian tribes to what would become the Colville reservation, the superintendent of Indian Affairs dispatched sub-Indian agent William Parkhurst Winans to northern Washington state to collect census data, among other particulars. At the tribal council, Winans asked his Indian audience if they would like to have teachers and preachers to guide their vocational and religious training. His question elicited this response (excerpted here from a longer speech) from Wee-ah-pe-kum (Okanagan):

    When you see my Boy working for the Whites, ask him, “Did your Father send you?” if he says no,...

  3. 1 “Real Indians” Don’t Rap: Theorizing Indigenous Rhetorics
    (pp. 1-19)

    Let me begin by saying that I am not an Indian, “real” or otherwise. I am a white female English professor whose research focuses on the cultural rhetorics of U.S. minorities. In 2001, I embarked on a five-year collaboration with two schools on a Plateau Indian reservation in Washington state. The project entailed collecting hundreds of papers written by Plateau Indian students, grades 7 to 12.¹ From this collection came the rap poem that I discuss later in this chapter. As a test of an indigenous rhetoric, this rap poem raises several theoretical questions, all of which are foundational to...

  4. 2 Defining Principles of Plateau Indian Rhetoric
    (pp. 20-42)

    In chapter 1, I theorized how and why a rhetoric might be identified as indigenous, situating that discussion within the context of American Indian studies. In this chapter I describe the indigenous rhetoric specific to the Plateau Indians, situating that description within the context of rhetoric and composition. In so doing, I resuscitate the sociolinguistic roots of the field of cultural rhetorics, a move that allows me to reconsider many of the major conversations in rhetoric and composition of the past several decades, such as the debates on orality and literacy and on cognitive orientations. Although those issues have long...

  5. 3 Speaking Straight in Indian Languages 1855–1870
    (pp. 43-74)

    “I am of another nation, when I speak you do not understand me. When you speak, I do not understand you,” Spokan Garry asserted at the Spokane council in 1855.¹ His statement carries multivalent meaning, suggesting that the Indians and the Americans were separated by many kinds of differences—at once linguistic, political, cultural, and rhetorical. His statement also calls to mind the problem of translation on all these levels. It is the problem that the dominant party always seeks to suppress, replacing it with narratives of “mutual intelligibility,” as if the subordinate party had equal footing in controlling the...

  6. 4 Writing in English 1910–1921
    (pp. 75-103)

    In 1915 government rangers caught a band of Yakama shooting and trapping wild game animals in the prohibited area of Mount Rainier National Park. The band was led by eighty-two-year-old Chief Sluiskin, who as a boy had tended Chief Owhi’s horses at the Treaty Council of Walla Walla. When the rangers informed the band they were in violation of state law, Chief Sluiskin produced three documents to show that they had been granted the right to hunt and fish. One document dated 1854—a year before the Treaty of Walla Walla—was a treaty written by Governor Stevens; two other...

  7. 5 Deliberating Publicly 1955–1956
    (pp. 104-127)

    At the General Council meeting of the Yakama Nation on January 13, 1956, council officer Burdette Kent opened proceedings with a summary behind the “squabbling” that had dominated the assembly’s meetings since the previous July:

    We are here today because the progress we have made has been struck a blow. The Democracy we believed in turned into dictatorship. In the past it was a common foe. Now we fight amongst our own people. They are harder to fight. They strike from within. They split our issues. We do not give sufficient thought. The struggle now will be the longest and...

  8. 6 Writing in School 2000–2004
    (pp. 128-156)

    At the Treaty Council at Walla Walla in 1855, U.S. military scribes were not the only ones transcribing the proceedings. Several literate Indians, who had been taught by Presbyterian missionaries how to read and write in English, and in some cases, in their own languages, also took notes.¹ This fact is mentioned twice in the official record itself, as well as in eyewitness diaries and in Gustav Sohon’s artistic renditions, most notably of Timothy and Lawyer (Nez Perce).² All Indian notes have been lost, presumably burned at these authors’ deaths along with their personal belongings, as was Plateau custom.³


  9. 7 Reassessing the Achievement Gap
    (pp. 157-174)

    “Would it not be good if you wanted to talk with my brother, or if you wanted to talk with our Great Chief? If you knew how to write and wanted to talk you could send it to him on paper and he would know your heart. Would it not be good then to have schools among you?”¹ Thus argued General Joel Palmer, superintendent of Indian Affairs for the Oregon Territory, at the Treaty Council at Walla Walla in 1855.

    General Palmer did not have to convince the Plateau Indians of the virtues of literacy and schooling. Like multilingualism, education...

  10. Afterword
    (pp. 175-178)
    Kristin L. Arola

    I grew up in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. This matters deeply to me. On the Euro-sides of my family—mostly Finnish with a dab of Italian, German, and French Canadian for good measure—I’m the fifth generation born within a thirty-mile radius. On the Anishinaabe (also known as Ojibwa, also known as American Indian) side of my family, it looks like about seventh generation, depending on whom you ask. In a lived sense, I understandethnie,what it means to have a connection to ancestral land, a connection that shapes ways of relating and being and writing and speaking and meaning-making....