That Dream Shall Have a Name: Native Americans Rewriting America

By David L. Moore | Go to book overview

PREFACE

Over decades of trying to help college students of all backgrounds read Native American literatures, I gradually saw patterns in their questions. Thus I came to recognize five areas of understanding necessary for listening and responding to Native voices, and those five areas form the circle and the center of this book. Collecting and addressing the underlying questions as a set, I have chosen from time to time to engage classroom issues directly as an entrée into grounding thematic questions and as a link to those audiences in classrooms and communities. Native and non-Native students and their teachers are one intended audience, and I address scholarly readers as well, because I find that maintaining practical connections to classroom and community refines theoretical inquiry.

In that process the themes of this study emerge. Whether in high school and university classrooms, in Indigenous communities, or in professional conferences and publications, wherever conversations about Indians may turn on historical perspectives, cultural values, legal relationships, political dynamics, economic issues, or spiritual understanding, the following five underlying themes almost invariably come into play: authenticity, identity, community, sovereignty, and humor, or more generally irony.

A number of Native writers and scholars have shared with me how tiresome the persistence of elementary questions about Indians can get, questions that can sometimes mask an automatic posture of disrespect—“Are you a real Indian?” “Why don’t you just become Americans?” “Why do Indians get special privileges?”—even while vital issues remain far from resolved.

-xi-

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