Tuesday, September 25, 2007

A Note from LeAnne Howe (author of MIKO KINGS)

I got this note late last night, in response to yesterday's post about "The Indian Show" episode from I Love Lucy. I blogged about LeAnne's new book, Miko Kings, a few days ago. It is available from Aunt Lute Books. I've spent a lot of time with LeAnne, and have heard her use "Fred and Ethel" many times...

Debbie, I love Lucy. In fact, so much so that I often use the terms, "Fred and Ethel," my invisible friends, when I want to make a point about binaries and metaphor. My new novel's working title is: The Adventures of Fred and Ethel in the Middle East: A Choctaw Travelogue. It's all about sex and a love triangle run amuck, and of course, espionage and the CIA, and well, Indians caught in the middle of the Iraqi civil war. Thanks for posting this delicious segment. What fun.

LeAnne Howe

PS: I'm not kidding.

Monday, September 24, 2007

"The Indians crept closer and closer...."

A student in one of my classes shared a YouTube clip from an episode of the I Love Lucy show. The episode "The Indian Show" was episode #59, and aired May 4, 1953. The line I've used as a title for this post "The Indians crept closer and closer" is from the script for that episode.

In it, Ethel laughs at Lucy being so engrossed in "Blood Curdling Indian Tales" that Lucy screams when Ethel comes in the room. One might say the writers/producers were making a point that the book Lucy reads from is not to be taken seriously. Ethel, in fact, says sarcastically that Lucy is "reading more sophisticated things these days." Here's what Lucy reads aloud to Ethel. She prefaces her reading by saying that she's glad she didn't live in those days.

Then the silhouettes of the Indians appeared on the horizon. The pioneer men pushed the women and children back into the wagons. The Indians crept closer and closer. Fire-tipped arrows pierced the canvas of the first wagon. Women fainted. Children screamed. The Indians were almost upon them. They could see their fiendish faces, hideously painted, grotesque in the light of the leaping flames. There was a lull as the last groans of the dying men faded. Suddenly to the ears of the cowering women, out of the stillness of the night, broke the sound of an Indian war cry.

That text could have come right out of... Let's see... Little House on the Prairie? Or, Caddie Woodlawn? Matchlock Gun?

I wonder how teachers talk about those particular passages in those popular, award-winning, "classic" perhaps, books? I doubt most teachers characterize them as "unsophisticated," as Ethel did of Lucy's book.

By the way.... does anyone know of such a book?! Lucy holds it in her hands as she reads, and you can see the cover. In my cursory search, I was unable to find a book with that title. Here's the link to the YouTube clip, and here's one from later in the episode, when Lucy and Ricky sing.

Update: March 27, 2009: The clip is no longer available on youtube. The entire show is available
on veoh.

Watch the indian show in Comedy | View More Free Videos Online at Veoh.com


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Durango Mendoza's "Summer Water and Shirley"

On this blog is a list of recommended books and resources. The list was compiled by myself and my friend and colleague, Jean Mendoza. Jean has written for this blog, and I've referenced her many times. On that list is a story by Jean's husband, Durango.

That story is the subject of today's post.

"Summer Water and Shirley" was first published decades ago, and is available in an anthology used in high schools, Connections: Reading and Writing in Cultural Contexts, edited by Judith A. Stanford, and more recently in Writing the Cross Culture: Native Fiction on the White Man's Religion, edited by James Treat. Or, you can read the story on-line (link below).

The story is on my mind today because Tol Foster, a post doc here at UIUC, sent me a link to a website with an on-line lecture about Durango's story. The lecture itself is by Craig Womack, a leading scholar in Native literary criticism.

Both--Durango and Craig--are Creek. The webpage says that Womack "introduces the little-known, but remarkable short story" but when you watch the video, you'll see those words fall short. The story is more than just 'remarkable' to Craig.

The webpage includes the entire lecture, titled "Baptists and Witches: Multiple Jurisdictions in a Muskogee Creek Story" in four segments. It also includes a link to the story and a 1970/1971 article from The Chronicles of Oklahoma about a church that has significance to the story, and a list of resources that includes a link to the constitution of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

If you teach Durango's story, take a look. If you don't, take a look! There's so much depth, beauty, and power here...

Thanks, Tol, for sharing the link. We're fortunate to have Tol with us this year. He is Mvskoke Creek.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More info: "I am part Native American"

Last October, I wrote about the statement "I am part Native American." I indicated I'd write more about it another time. I didn't realize nearly a year had passed since then! Time often moves faster than we'd like it to...

Here at UIUC's Native American House, one of this year's post docs in our American Indian Studies program is Jill Doerfler. She's Anishinaabe from the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota. Jill writes for her tribal newspaper, Anishinaabeg Today. On April 18th, 2007, she began a series of columns about sovereignty and citizenship.

Today, I point you to Jill's work on those topics. It is important that you---readers, writers, reviewers, editors, buyers---of children's books about American Indians learn all you can about who we are, and what it means to make a statement like "I am part..."

To read Jill's column, go to the homepage of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe. Click on the fourth button "Anishinaabeg" and then click on April 18th. Jill's column is on the second page.