Words And Places native literature from the american southwest
 

A Conversation With Vine Deloria, Jr.

For Comment and Discussion

Cycles Those of us who believe that American Indian literature was a discovery of the late 1960s should consider Deloria's comments on our American interest in native Americans carefully. He suggests that interest runs in twenty-year, generational cycles. What are they, and why, what was the public climate? Answering Deloria's questions and following out his suggestions might help us begin to understand native American literary history.

The cyclic nature of publication of writing by American Indians is discussed in greater detail by Geary Hobson in "Round Dance: Native American Writing at the University of New Mexico," New America, 2 (1976), pp. 4-16, and Larry Evers in "Cycles of Appreciation," in Paula Gunn Allen, ed., Studies in Native American Literature (NY: Modern Language Associa-tion, forthcoming).

World View Professor Deloria says that if he had it to do over he would attempt "to attack the fundamental beliefs of the white world view." In attempting to understand just what he means it may be helpful to look at how Deloria goes about this in his study God is Red (NY: Delta, 1973). His chapters contrasting Indian and non-Indian concepts of time, space, religion, history, and creation are particularly helpful. The chapter on "Folklore and Cultural Worldview" in Barre Toelken's text The Dynamics of Folklore (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1979) is also useful in understanding differences in world view.

Audience The relation between a writer and his editor is always a delicate one. Note Deloria's comments on the problems he has faced getting his work into print. Consider to what extent these problems may be related to the differences between Anglo-American and native American world views. Consider also the question of audience. In this regard, it may be helpful to contrast Vine Deloria or Leslie Silko's audience with that of one of the oral performers in this series, say Helen Sekaquaptewa or Rudolph Kane. Who is it that a native American writer writes for? How is that audience different from the audience a performer reaches in an oral tradition? What difference does it make?

The controversy surrounding the publication of Hyemeyohsts Storm's novel Seven Arrows (NY: Harper and Row, 1972) is a good example of the problems of audience, world view, and literary history Deloria raises on this videotape. Contrast Deloria's defense of Seven Arrows with the negative opinions of the book expressed in Rupert Costo's review '"Seven Arrows' Desecrates Cheyenne," The Indian Historian, 5 (1972), pp. 41-42. The Costo review has been reprinted in Abraham Chapman's Literature of the American Indians (NY: New American Library, 1975), pp. 149-51.

Related Readings

Vine Deloria's writings include Custor Died for Your Sins (NY: Macmillan, 1969), We Talk, You Listen (NY: Macmillan, 1970), Of Utmost Good Faith (San Francisco: Straight Arrow Book, 1979), Red Man in the New World Drama (NY: Macmillan, 1971), Behind the Trail of Broken Treaties (NY: Delacorte Press, 1974) and Indians of the Pacific Northwest (NY: Doubleday, 1977).

Most of the ideas he works with in this videotape are more completely developed in God is Red (NY: Grosset and Dunlap, 1973) and his most recent book, The Metaphysics of Modern Existence (NY: Harper and Row, 1978).

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