Saturday, March 21, 2009


In Sherman Alexie's novel, Indian Killer, Marie is a college student enrolled in a Native lit course taught by Dr. Mather. She is Native. He is not. Because it's a Native lit course, she hopes there will be other Native students in the class. That was not the case. Here's an excerpt from page 58:

While Marie was surprised by the demographics of the class, she was completely shocked by the course reading list. One of the books, The Education of Little Tree, was supposedly written by a Cherokee Indian named Forrest Carter. But Forrest Carter was actually the pseudonym for a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan. Three of the other books, Black Elk Speaks, Lame Deer: Seeker of Visions, and Lakota Woman, were taught in almost every other Native American Literature class in the country and purported to be autobiographical, though all three were co-written by white men. Black Elk himself had disavowed his autobiography, a fact that was conveniently omitted in any discussion of the book. The other seven books included three anthologies of traditional Indian stories edited by white men, two nonfiction studies of Indian spirituality written by white women, a book of traditional Indian poetry translations edited by a Polish-American Jewish man, and an Indian murder mystery written by some local white writer named Jack Wilson, who claimed he was a Shishomish Indian.

Marie approached the professor:

"Excuse me, Dr. Mather," Marie said. "You've got this Little Tree book on your list. Don't you know its a total fraud?"

"I'm aware that the origins of the book have been called into question," said Mather. "But I hardly believe that matters. The Education of Little Tree is a beautiful and touching book. If those rumors about Forrest Carter are true, perhaps we can learn there are beautiful things inside of everyone."

Those "beautiful things" are stereotypical ideas... If you are interested, I wrote an essay about it in 2006: Forrest Carter's EDUCATION OF LITTLE TREE.

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