Wednesday, September 20, 2006


This short list is a quick handout for a panel at the Montana Festival of the Book on the 29 of September in Missoula. I'm white, but these are the NA writers who have impressed me over the past couple of decades.

One of the major issues has been whether non-Indians should or could write about Indians. Because the definition of an Indian is so complex (blood, culture, rez-idence, passion, etc.) the whole matter has kind of died down to embers, but it flares back up now and then, as in the case of Ward Churchill.

The more important issue, to my mind, has been why there was such a storm of writing for a while, but then it all sort of fizzled out. I feel confident that if you read the work of this list of people, you'd just want more and more of it, though one book is not like the next. You'll have to find them online, but that's very possible.

Warning: may contain white men/women

These three writers are known to people who don’t even think of Native American writing, but just like a good yarn. They are best selling and are normally shelved with regular novels. The media loves them and often does stories about them.
Louise Erdrich
James Welch, Jr.
M. Scott Momaday

Both of these men, young, handsome and educated professors, crashed in suicide, giving great pain to the many who loved them, both readers and students.
Louis Owens
Michael Dorris

Not nearly so well known as they ought to be, both writers are professors as well as writers.
Debra Magpie Earling
Sidner Larson

Both of these very popular men do satire with flair and bite. Kinsella is white.

Thomas King
W. Kinsella

Proud and competent, these powerful writers are people you want on your side.

Elizabeth Woodie
Elizabeth Cook-Lynn

Both writers were there and told about it afterwards.

Delphine Red Shirt
Russell Means

Woody was both in Vietnam and Wounded Knee, Phillip was in Vietnam, and Silko wrote the archetypal war-recovery novel.
Woody Kipp
Phillip Red Eagle
Leslie Marmon Silko

Joe and Carter have been guides and encouragers for many NA writers. Joe’s family operated a press for many years. Both are extraordinary writers and people.
Joseph Bruchac
Carter Revard

These guys really come out swinging and land their punches. Churchill turns out to be white but an honorary member of a tribe so he can sell his “Indian” art without being arrested, since it is illegal for whites to misrepresent “Indian” art.
Joe Giago
Vine Deloria, Jr. (Gone now and much missed!)
Ward Churchill

Harjo plays the sax. Susan writes about grass dancing.
Jo Harjo
Susan Power

Everyone knows Sherman. Louis is the author of “Skins,” which became a movie. Few know Marie who often does a stand-up act in Vancouver, B.C., and is wilder than the men.
Sherman Alexie
Adrian Louis
Marie Annharte Baker

Go to Abebooks or Alibris and Google these names. You won’t be sorry!

Compiled off the top of the head of Mary Scriver


Patia said...

I'm going to have to check out those "Divas."

D'Arcy McNickle came to mind. His "Wind From An Enemy Sky" is chilling.

Also, white author but Indian subject: "Coyote Warrior" by Paul VanDevelder about Ray Cross and his legal battles over a North Dakota dam.

Do you know Kate Shanley and David Moore, professors at UM? Both would be a wealth of information for you.

Anonymous said...

I am curious if you have read any of the Mari Sandoz books about the Plains Indians?

prairie mary said...

Of course, I know about Mari Sandoz and have read "Old Jules," but I've been less interested in her writing about Indians. I've stuck to reading mostly books BY Indians, since there are a lot of them. In fact, I really limit myself now to reading about Blackfeet. But since I'm sitting right here with them, I'm more interested in talking to them! Primary sources, you know.

Prairie Mary

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

elizabeth woody came to bend, oregon, for a literary festival last year, she was a powerhouse. I will have to check out the others you list.

prairie mary said...

It's possible that not all these writers will be to everyone's taste, but none of them is trivial and all are worth trying!

Prairie Mary