Intro to American studies

1. James Vukelich is Anishinaabe and an Anishinaabemowin linguist and cultural teacher. Words rarely translate evenly between languages. In this talk, he shares the word Niigaanizi (s/he leads, is first, prepares for the future). Listen to: to an external site. Links to an external site. (9min in length)

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A. What resonates with you from this talk (provide specific examples from the talk to support your answer)?

2. EGOcentric and ECOcentric perspectives. Recently, a student sent me this video because he said it reminded him of what he was learning in this class. I am thankful he did. Although the speaker is non-Native, I believe he is making a point I have been trying to convey, a message that I think will prepare you well for the novel and the film you will watch this week. Listen to:

Novel, Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie. As you read this story, I want you to know that, although labeled as ‘fiction,’ this is actually the autobiography of the author. Read ATDPTI.

A. I have met Alexie and he is a very interesting person, someone who I might describe as one who can stir feelings in others as a form of cognitive dissonance. Almost like magic, in this book, you will find yourself laughing at something that is very sad. That conflict of emotion disrupts our thinking to make us re-think how we imagine the world to be. Give examples from the book of things that disrupted your thinking on how you imagined the world to be, specifically related to how Native Americans may experience it differently that you?

B. How might the telling of this story be related to what David Foster Wallace discusses in his teaching about “This is Water” that you heard in question 2?

C. Last week many of you commented on your surprise that Europeans who had been denied religious freedom came to this continent and perpetuated that onto Native Americans rather than creating a society that remedied that injustice. It is no mystery; people learn to be people from other people. It is only when we are critically aware of what we have been taught and take for granted that we can heal and begin to live in a different way. Children are sacred in all Native American cultures and were never physically or mentally abused as a form of teaching; this was learned by Native people through being separated from their families and abused in residential schools as a form of correction. It is a trauma we need to see and acknowledge for what it is and be bravely committed to healing before we pass it to another generation. Give an example from the book of violence or abuse that may have stemmed from this source.

D. How might this story relate to the Niigaanizi that James Vukelich spoke of in what you listened to in question 1?

4. Film,Urban Rez. The director of this film, Larry Pourier, is one of my uncles. He won an Emmy for this work. It is a film about the“Indian Termination Policy” and how it impacted Native people through their real-life experiences. I mentioned this policy before because it was what had relocated Wilma Mankiller to San Francisco as a child. Remember, that it lasted from the mid-1940s through to the mid-1960s. It was a last attempt to remove Native people from their homelands and scatter them in unfamiliar settings in large cities throughout the United States to attempt to assimilate them. This was largely done so the dominant culture could ‘encroach’ or begin occupying designated Native lands and to exploit the resources they held. It was hard on many and had lasting impacts on Indigenous identity and solidarity. However, in true Indigenous style, Larry tells of this time in history in a non-binary way—he does not tell you if it was good or bad, but rather just lets people tell their first-hand stories of how they experienced it; Larry trusts you as a sense-maker to construct your own ideas and meaning. Additionally, creating this film was part of Larry’s healing to understand where he came from to get to the present so he could understand where he was going. That is, contained in this story is the story of his parents and how this policy impacted his parents differently causing them to begin traveling along divergent paths. Watch: to an external site. Links to an external site.(56min in length)

A. What are some stories that stood out to you in this film?

B. How might this story resonate what you read in the novel, Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian