Monday, October 09, 2006

Jimmy Durham's "Columbus Day" poem

Durham is not Cherokee. I removed his poem.

Details at Indian Country Today

Dear Unsuspecting Public, Jimmie Durham Is a Trickster

Jimmie Durham’s indigenous identity has always been a fabrication and remains one

The The traveling retrospective Jimmie Durham: At the Center of the World and its accompanying catalog has launched a new conversation about Durham’s claims of being Cherokee, American Indian, and a person of color. Now art writers, museum staff, and scholars are making these claims on his behalf. These false claims are harmful as they misrepresent Native people, undermine tribal sovereignty, and trivialize the important work by legitimate Native artists and cultural leaders.
Durham is neither enrolled nor eligible for citizenship in any of the three federally-recognized and historical Cherokee Tribes: the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, the United Keetoowah Band of Cherokee Indians of Oklahoma, and the Cherokee Nation.
Self-determination of citizenship is a basic tenant of any sovereign nation including tribal governments. The three Cherokee tribes, whose history is thoroughly documented and accessible, stem from a history of self-governance that predates the establishment of the United States.


Anonymous said...

Debbie, I can't access this FUUSE website...and I would like to...can you help? Karen Stearns (prof. SUNY Cortland)

Anonymous said...

Columbus Day seems to me to be at a pivotal point in 2006. There are fewer and fewer students these days who aren't aware of the varied opinions which arise in discussion of Columbus' voyages to the Western Hemisphere.

The poem is very simplistic in its message; I feel like a far greater discussion of the era of exploration and colonization is warranted than is covered in this poem fragment. Columbus was one of the "filthy murderers", perhaps. Or, he was simply the first one of his era to arrive in this hemisphere. In using polemical language, no one benefits, and ignorance compounds ignorance.

Anonymous said...

I think the concern of anonymous may be partly based on a conflation of poetry with essays. A poem is not generally written for the purpose of discussion of an era.

For that matter, factually-based discussion of the "era of exploration of exploration and colonization" is, to my mind, far more grim and unpleasant than the most polemical language of Jummie Durham's poem. "Filthy murderers" seems mild language when I've just read of the dogs of war used by Columbus, Cortez, or De Soto. Words usually fail me when I try to discuss the practices of so many of the "explorers".

It is good of anonymous to remind us, though, that Columbus was "simply the first" of those filthy murderers to arrive in this hemisphere.

Jimmie Durham's poem brings breathes life into those who died so long ago (and those who continue to die as a result of the ongoing invasion/colonization of indigenous nations), reminding us that they were people, as real, as full of life as anyone alive now, and reminding us that they are still here with us, in each murmuring field of grass, each singing stream.

Anonymous said...

I hate to break it to you, but there were a lot of filthy murderers on this continent before Columbus came. The only difference is that he was white, so I guess we expect him to behave better than the indigenous people.

Anonymous said...

speaking of typos--I'm just checking: "every creek HAS accepted the responsibility"?

Debbie Reese said...

Thanks for the heads up on the typo ("as" instead of "has"). I've fixed that error.

Anonymous said...

What actually happens, in my experience, is that Columbus Day simply isn't taught about anymore. Certainly not in high school and I don't think much in elementary. What is in the school history texts I've seen is Columbus wrapped into the story of a dozen other explorers. History is taught in such a compressed way that I'd be surprised if many kids could pick Columbus out of a lineup.

Anonymous said...

Also speaking of typos, is the "t" in "Laughting Otter" really supposed to be there?

Interesting poem, though. Thanks for posting it. As Karen said, poems are not for discussing an era, though they can certainly generate discussion. I would be interested in knowing more about some of the people he mentions in the poem.

Ruth said...

Thank you for this poem. I shared two with my seventh graders on Friday in honor of Columbus Day. One was "Columbus," by Joaquin Miller, where Columbus is presented as a hero. The other was "Lament of an Arawak Child," by Pamela Mordecai. We talked about different ways of looking at the same person. Now I want to share this one with them. My favorite part is, "And nothing can stop the wind from howling those names around the corners of the school."