Fort Marion Prisoners and the Trauma of Native Education

By Williams, Steven | American Studies, April 1, 2015 | Go to article overview

Fort Marion Prisoners and the Trauma of Native Education


Williams, Steven, American Studies


FORT MARION PRISONERS AND THE TRAUMA OF NATIVE EDUCATION. By Diane Glancy. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 2014.

Diane Glancy's remarkably imaginative and gripping text, Fort Marion Prisoners and the Trauma of Native Education, leaves an indelible imprint on the reader. Interlacing history, oral traditions, and personal experience, Glancy provides a compelling narrative of the experiences of the Kiowa, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Comanche, and Caddo forcibly moved by the US military in 1875 from Fort Sill, OK to the Fort Marion prison in Florida. Fort Marion Prisoners weaves the author's discussion of her own experiences as a Native American growing up and working in the mainstream educational system throughout the text connecting those experiences with the traumatic educational experiences of these earlier native prisoners. Glancy poignantly notes, "To write about my education was to begin speaking of others-those earlier voices coming and going, convening from the past. To speak with one's voice was to let others speak first...How to operate as an individual in a tradition that centers on community was the gap in one's thinking that had to be covered" (89).

Glancy utilizes a range of sources-from archival documents from the prison, to Native "texts" such as ledger drawings and prisoner carvings on cellblock walls, to material objects like the life casts of the prisoners. Although previous scholars have devoted attention to many of these sources, Glancy effectively expands the archive by making this documentary evidence of the Native prisoners' experiences legible in new ways. Bringing together the "fragments of history" (45) contained in the multiple narratives of the prisoners and the other "variant texts" (44), Glancy makes a critical intervention through her focus on historical memory which she characterizes as the "interior landscape of tribal voices and events that come over the lanes of traffic...as I re-drive their space" (60). By incorporating her own intellectual and emotional "journey" taken in the process of traveling across the same physical spaces as the prisoners, Glancy's personal narrative becomes a powerful "vehicle" for an imaginative engagement with the spaces and texts of the Native prisoners. This imaginative re-creation of a well-known but little understood history gives powerful new voice to the interior landscapes of Native agency and subjectivity that have been largely erased in historical narratives and hidden within archival sources. …

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