Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of Early American Indian Poetry to 1930

Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of Early American Indian Poetry to 1930

Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of Early American Indian Poetry to 1930

Changing Is Not Vanishing: A Collection of Early American Indian Poetry to 1930

Synopsis

Until now, the study of American Indian literature has tended to concentrate on contemporary writing. Although the field has grown rapidly, early works—especially poetry—remain mostly unknown and inaccessible. Changing Is Not Vanishing simultaneously reinvents the early history of American Indian literature and the history of American poetry by presenting a vast but forgotten archive of American Indian poems. Through extensive archival research in small-circulation newspapers and magazines, manuscripts, pamphlets, rare books, and scrapbooks, Robert Dale Parker has uncovered the work of more than 140 early Indian poets who wrote before 1930.

Changing Is Not Vanishing includes poems by 82 writers and provides a full bibliography of all the poets Parker has identified—most of them unknown even to specialists in Indian literature. In a wide range of approaches and styles, the poems in this collection address such topics as colonialism and the federal government, land, politics, nature, love, war, Christianity, and racism. With a richly informative introduction and extensive annotation, Changing Is Not Vanishing opens the door to a trove of fascinating, powerful poems that will be required reading for all scholars and readers of American poetry and American Indian literature.

Excerpt

Popular culture has no place for an American Indian in 1854 writing at all, let alone writing words like these. This book sets out to help change that way of thinking about American Indians. It sets out to make visible the mostly unknown landscape of early American Indian poetry, offering a wide selection of poems written by American Indians up to 1930 and, in the process, providing a dramatically changed picture of early American poetry at large. Indian writers did not have access to the networks of publication, publicity, and readers that might lead to a wide audience for their writing, and they rarely sought a wide audience. As a result, most of these poems remained unknown to readers of American poetry in general and even to readers of American Indian literature. A legacy was almost lost, and this book sets out to recover that legacy.

In the garden of the mind that these poems offer, readers will find an exciting variety of styles, forms, ideas, regions, cultures, and purposes. These poems invite us to enlarge our historical sense of American Indian literacy, aesthetics, and imagination. They were written in a time when the United States government and many non-Indian Americans focused on driving Indian people away from their lands and traditions, expecting that Indian people would mostly die off or assimilate. It didn’t work out that way, but the myth of the vanishing Indian and the last of the Mohicans achieved such dominance that many Americans still suppose that most Indians long ago rode their horses over the horizon and into the sunset, and that Indians who haven’t vanished yet will surely vanish soon. On the contrary, millions of Indian people live in the United States, more than lived in the same area at the time of Columbus, and most of the people in the American hemisphere are Indians or descended from Indians. The history of Indian literacy and art is not, therefore, an obscure curiosity. It is, instead, central to the cultural and literary history of the United States and the American hemisphere.

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