Wynema: A Child of the Forest

Wynema: A Child of the Forest

Wynema: A Child of the Forest

Wynema: A Child of the Forest


Originally published in 1891, Wynema is the first novel known to have been written by a woman of American Indian descent. Set against the sweeping and often tragic cultural changes that affected southeastern native peoples during the late nineteenth century, it tells the story of a lifelong friendship between two women from vastly different backgrounds-Wynema Harjo, a Muscogee Indian, and Genevieve Weir, a Methodist teacher from a genteel Southern family. Both are firm believers in women's rights and Indian reform; both struggle to overcome prejudice and correct injustices between sexes and races. Callahan uses the conventional traditions of a sentimental domestic romance to deliver an elegant plea for tolerance, equality, and reform."Callahan takes on the role of a 'woman word warrior,' creating 'strong-hearted,' intelligent heroines and sensitive heroes who educate her audience about Muscogee culture, Indians' and women's rights, and the mutual respect between the sexes essential to happy marriages." -A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff, from the introduction.S. Alice Callahan (1868-94) was a mixed-blood of Muscogee descent. She attended the Wesleyan Female Institute in Staunton, Virginia, and became a Methodist teacher for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma. Wynema was her first and only novel. A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff is professor emerita of English at the University of Illinois, Chicago, and the author of American Indian Literatures: An Introduction, Bibliographic Review and Selected Bibliography.


In offering "Wynema" for your perusal, reader, the publishers have no apologies to offer for what literary critics may term the crudeness or the incompleteness of the work. the fact that an Indian, one of the oppressed, desires to plead her cause at a tribunal where judge and jury are chosen from among the oppressors is our warrant for publishing this little volume.

Honest opinions which come from careful thought and deep study are worthy of respectful consideration even though they be the opinions of an Indian, and whoever reads these pages will be convinced that this protest against the present Indian policy of our government is sincere, earnest, and timely.

The Red Men have not been without champions and defenders in the relentless war which the white man's greed has waged unceasingly against them since the landing of Columbus, yet never before, so far as we can learn, have our Red brothers had their story told by the pen of one of their own people. We shall claim then, for this little volume this: It is the Indians' side of the Indian question told by an Indian born and bred, and told none the less potently because the author has borrowed the garb of fiction to present the cause of truth. Her picture of the home-life of this simple people, of their customs and ceremonies, of their aspirations for higher life, of their inherent weaknesses, of their patient endurance of injustice, oppression and suffering, of their despair and hopelessness, of their last defiance of governmental authority, and of the magnificent results accomplished by those who have gone among them to teach and to preach is worthy of the reader's most careful attention.

Chicago, April I, 1891 . . .

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