Synopses & Reviews
The founding idea of “America” has been based largely on the expected sweeping away of Native Americans to make room for EuroAmericans and their cultures. In this authoritative study, David L. Moore examines the works of five well-known Native American writers and their efforts, beginning in the colonial period, to redefine an “America” and “American identity” that includes Native Americans.
That Dream Shall Have a Name focuses on the writing of Pequot Methodist minister William Apess in the 1830s; on Northern Paiute activist Sarah Winnemucca in the 1880s; on Salish/Métis novelist, historian, and activist DArcy McNickle in the 1930s; and on Laguna poet and novelist Leslie Marmon Silko and on Spokane poet, novelist, humorist, and filmmaker Sherman Alexie, both in the latter twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.
Moore studies these five writers stories about the conflicted topics of sovereignty, community, identity, and authenticity—always tinged with irony and often with humor. He shows how Native Americans have tried from the beginning to shape an American narrative closer to its own ideals, one that does not include the death and destruction of their peoples. This compelling work offers keen insights into the relationships between Native and American identity and politics in a way that is both accessible to newcomers and compelling to those already familiar with these fields of study.
Long before the Boston Tea Party, where colonists staged a revolutionary act by masquerading as Indians, people looked to Native Americans for the symbols, imagery, and acts that showed what it meant to be “American.” And for just as long, observers have largely overlooked the role that Native peoples themselves played in creating and enacting the Indian performances appropriated by European Americans. It is precisely this neglected notion of Native Americans “playing Indian” that Native Acts
explores. These essays—by historians, literary critics, anthropologists, and folklorists—provide the first broadly based chronicle of the performance of “Indianness” by Natives in North America from the seventeenth through the early nineteenth century.
The authors careful and imaginative analysis of historical documents and performative traditions reveals an intricate history of intercultural exchange. In sum, Native Acts challenges any simple understanding of cultural “authenticity” even as it celebrates the dynamic role of performance in the American Indian pursuit of self-determination. In this collection, Indian peoples emerge as active, vocal, embodied participants in cultural encounters whose performance powerfully shaped the course of early American history.
About the Author
Joshua David Bellin is a professor of English at La Roche College. He is the author of several books, most recently, Medicine Bundle: Indian Sacred Performance and American Literature, 1824-1932. Laura L. Mielke is an associate professor of English at the University of Kansas and the author of Moving Encounters: Sympathy and the Indian Question in Antebellum Literature.