Chinnubbie and the Owl: Muscogee (Creek) Stories, Orations, and Oral Traditions

Chinnubbie and the Owl: Muscogee (Creek) Stories, Orations, and Oral Traditions

Chinnubbie and the Owl: Muscogee (Creek) Stories, Orations, and Oral Traditions

Chinnubbie and the Owl: Muscogee (Creek) Stories, Orations, and Oral Traditions

Synopsis

Though he died at the age of thirty-four, the Muscogee (Creek) poet, journalist, and humorist Alexander Posey (1873–1908) was one of the most prolific and influential American Indian writers of his time. This volume of nine stories, five orations, and nine works of oral tradition is the first to collect these entertaining and important works of Muscogee literature. Many of Posey's stories reflect trickster themes; his orations demonstrate both his rhetorical prowess and his political stance as a "Progressive" Muscogee; and his works of oral tradition reveal his deep cultural roots. Most of these pieces, which first appeared between 1892 and 1907 in Indian Territory newspapers and magazines, have since become rarities, many of the original pieces surviving only as single clippings in a few archives. nbsp; While Muscogee oral tradition greatly influenced Posey's prose, his work was also infused with the Euro-American influences that formed much of his literary education. As this collection demonstrates, Posey used his knowledge of Euro-American literature and history to help write works that championed his own people at a time of profound oppression at the hands of the United States government. Posey's vivid literary style merges rich regional humor with Muscogee oral tradition in a way that makes him a unique figure in American Indian literature and politics. Chinnubbie and the Owl brings these works of great literary, cultural, and historical value to a new generation of readers.

Excerpt

In Alexander Posey’s story “Chinnubbie and the Owl,” the character Chinnubbie Harjo proclaims that “a good story, however ancient, is always new, and the more frequently it is told, the more attractive it becomes, and is destined to never be obliterated from the memory in which it lives.” Sadly, a century after Posey wrote these words, many of his own stories were in danger. Many of his works remained buried in archives, often as yellowed, fragile clippings from long defunct Indian Territory newspapers. in some cases only one copy of a work existed, and in two instances all we have left are the titles of lost stories (“Chinnubbie Harjo, the Evil Genius of the Creeks” and “Chinnubbie’s Courtship”).

Along with the loss of those two stories, the physical inaccessibility of Posey’s prose was a significant detriment to both American Indian and Euro-American literary scholarship. Though many of the pieces resided safely within archival collections, they were still available only to those who could physically visit those collections. Physical accessibility is only the beginning, however, and one of the main goals of this collection is to increase the interpretive, cultural, and pedagogical accessibility of Posey’s prose.

Though Posey’s work shares the literary concerns of many of his contemporaries, such as Sarah Orne Jewett, Joel Chandler Harris, and Mark Twain, it differs dramatically from these non-Indian writers in its multicultural complexity. Virtually all of Posey’s work draws heavily from Muscogee (Creek) oral tradition, while also reflecting the Euro-American conventions that formed much of his literary education. the result of this cultural mixture is Posey’s rich literary style, a style that draws together nineteenth-century American Indian concerns, especially those pertaining to the destruction of cultural traditions, with a brand of Indian Territory wit that relies upon the specialized cultural knowledge of the reader to be properly appreciated.

Even though Posey’s poetry and satirical Fus Fixico letters were . . .

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