Red Matters: Native American Studies

Red Matters: Native American Studies

Red Matters: Native American Studies

Red Matters: Native American Studies

Synopsis

A work marked by theoretical sophistication, wide learning, and social passion, it is a contribution to the imperative effort of understanding the indigenous presence on the American continents. It offers a set of reasons why red - Native American culture, history, and literature - should matter to Americans more than it has to date.

Excerpt

The title I’ve chosen for this book is neither original nor, strictly speaking, adequately descriptive of what the reader will find here. Nonetheless, I’ve chosen Red Matters because red has not much mattered as yet, not in the aura of the postcolonial, gender and race, borderlands, cultural, or subaltern studies. Although there exists at present a solid body of criticism demonstrating the importance of Native American literature in its own right and in relation to ethnic, minority, or difference literature of a variety of kinds, Native materials still continue to be badly neglected.

This is not the place to elaborate on just why this might be, although I do want to offer a few brief remarks. That Native people are largely ignored as part of the political and social fabric of American life results from a persistent inattention to them in the media. And media inattention, I believe, is the consequence of the fact that Native people, in particular the most traditional Native people, have generally avoided the sort of confrontational or performative politics on which the media thrive. That Native people and their cultural expression are ignored in the academy results from a lack of numbers, of both students and professors, on the part of Native people (and of others interested in Native culture).

Exceptions to the first of my generalizations were provided by the takeover, in the late 1960s, of Alcatraz Island and the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, and as well by the violent events at Wounded Knee in 1973, actions we shall consider further in the final chapter of this book. But Native American protest against treaty violations and broken promises did not usually take such visible and vocal forms in the last quarter of the twentieth century. As for academic mass, given the horrendous situation of Indian peoples in terms of health, jobs, and education, one can readily understand why young persons, Native and not, interested in American Indians would choose to enter the fields of public health, medicine, and nursing, substance abuse and employment counseling, early . . .

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