LITR 5731 Seminar in Multicultural Literature
American Minority Literature

Lecture Notes



Midterms are all read but not reviewed and graded.

LITR seminars = consortiums of individuals, hard to generalize

some familiar problems with writing advanced scholarship, but also some impressive surprises of sophistication, subtlety


Look for individual email sometime Sunday


What you'll see in email:

midterm grade + responses to web review, essay


Instructor's note emphasizes writing, how to accomplish better what you're attempting.


No internal marks--in a few cases I corrected surface errors on web post (indicated in notes)


How to respond?

Most students don't, but usually a good sign if you do.


grad student / prof relation: professor still has grading power, etc., but more like a dialogue between professional equals

It's good to talk b/c that's how professions work


Transition from undergrad to grad

undergrads minimalize contact with prof, 2 distinct orders of being

graduate students are declaring a professional interest; after your BA, we're all grownups.


Part of graduate instruction is to confer, but at this level it's all worked out individually.


Reply to email, or

in-person conference, or phone conversation.


Or if you don't care to talk with me, find the professor you do want to talk to.


Research proposals: received reply w/ email acknowledging receipt of midterm

Welcome to confer with me re research

but also consult reference librarians at UHCL Neumann library

Casey Roberson

MLA = Modern Language Association, largest organization of literary and language scholars

standard bibliography for seeking secondary criticism of literary texts




Literature comprehensive exams fall 2012-13

(for MA LITR students completing the coursework-comprehensive CPS this semester

Friday November 2 Ė Sunday November 4

Friday November 30 Ė Sunday December 2


What to learn about American Indians: 1. You never stop learning

Indians not monolithic group

300 different cultures / groups

mostly grouped by languages > dialects


What to call? What name?

Compare to African Americans, blacks, negroes, colored people, etc.

Naming as essential and evolving indicator of status


"American Indians" and "Native Americans" both have problems

"Indians" based on Columbus's mistaken assumption he had reached India.

"Native Americans" can also be used in reference to any American who is born in the United States.

I use the terms interchangeably, and Indians grant some acceptance of these names as terms of convenience.

Occasional pan-Indian names: "American Aborigines" > "First Peoples"


simple but difficult answer: call by Tribe names:

but so many!

Cheyenne, Cherokee, Powhatan, Lumbee, Wampanoag, Nipmuc, Hopi, Navajo, Zuni, Apache, Comanche, Pequot, Delaware / Lenape, Chinook . . . .

Are these even the right names? Often names from enemies or mistranslations.



5 Civilized Tribes





need to overcome two contending and equally dehumanizing images from past:

early North America: Indians = terrorists

Romantic era (late 1700s, early 1800s) = noble savage (Last of the Mohicans, Dances with Wolves)

2nd is kinder, but maybe as dehumanizing as first

Both images have negative implications for dominant culture


American Indian identity elusive b/c essentially so different

"American Indian" doesn't mean one ethnic culture but many; however, some "pan-Indian" qualities . . .


spoken culture X written culture of dominant culture (compared to African American minority literature, American Indian literature is slower to emerge in print; native languages persist longer than African languages)


traditional, past-modeled culture X modern or revolutionary, future-modeled culture


identification with place, land X time, history, immigration


world or nature in perpetual creation X Biblical Creation as finished, completed, final (though evolution differs)

implications of last:
Anglos idolize or fantasize Indians who might have been long ago, but ignore Indians of today. (Houston has 4th largest urban population of census-identified American Indians, but who knew?)

Indians respect the past but don't expect to stay there.


















The Sioux Peoples

Black Elk an Oglala Sioux 

Sioux among most important Indian peoples in American imagination, history, and literature

Language group widespread in northwest, encountered at various stops by Lewis and Clark Expedition

Sioux subdivided to local groups: Yankton, Oglala, Miniconjou, Brule, Wapehton, others


Sioux represent Indians for dominant culture's visual Imagination--esp. feathered bonnets, horseback riders:



Great Sioux leaders include Sitting Bull, Red Cloud, and Crazy Horse.

Their outstanding literary figures include 

Black Elk


Zitkala-Sa (Gertrude Bonnin)

American Indian Stories


Dr. Charles Eastman (1858-1939), Santee Sioux


Vine Deloria Jr. (1933-2005), Yankton Dakota


Paula Gunn Allen (1939-2008) Sioux + Laguna, Scottish, Lebanese



Reading Notes


John G. Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks (1932)




Xi our species

Progress, assembly line


Xii overly romantic but simplistic dominated


Xiii new sacred hoop


Xiv theological canon

Devoid of trail-court paradigm

ō  sacrifice

it is enough



Xv holy man, priest (cf. Sandy

Xvi knowledge = sacred

Xvi certainly supernormal

Xvii Sioux; no English

Xviii "You were sent to save it"



1 x-only story of my life > all life

3 [mother earth]

5 star nations

5 may not have happened but true

6 Mother Earth

6 a relative I am . . . . to all that is



7 b. (1863) x traditional time)

8 Wasichus without number; they are many

9 yellow metal worship, crazy

9 relatives: 2 & 4 legs

little islands

dreamed what was to be

12 arrows > bullets; contrast 16 new guns

14 dragonfly totem

18 treaty x voices



20 not a story

iron road x bison herd


22 [vision separation]

clouds > mountains

25 cloud > tepee

25 old men: powers of world

27-28 [transforming]

28 circles

29 crossed 2 roads

30 growing backwards into youth

myself with years

36 [generations back]

+ baby faces

37 myself a spotted eagle

39 bison > another strength

44 rainbow / tepee

46 tepee > mountain



48 sick for 12 days

48 afraid to tell

50 12 days (again)

55 because the bison was sacred and gave us both food and shelter

56 order, obey; great honor for young men

60 endurance x women


61 Crazy Horse nothing to do with Wasichus

62 bison > sled

63 Wasichus looked sick

63 chopped flagpole down (cf. Totem) [resistance?]

64-65 offerings

VI High Horse's Courting

VII Wasichus in the Hills

79 yellow metal: Wasichus crazy x not good for anything

79 a voice that went everywhere

83 Crazy Horse fight x safe with Wasichus

84 seemed greater than before; sacred power (x-Crows)

85 the real world that is behind this one

87 a queer man

91 They only wanted to be let alone

VIII The Fight with Three Stars

92 have to fight from then on . . . to keep our country

96 when the growing power of the world is strongest

97-98 daughters the mothers of great men

100 Crows with the soldiers

104 [pillaging graves; cf. 131]

104 black Wasichu

IX The Rubbing Out of Long Hair

105 let alone, our country

108 hairy chin cf. Bear

115 red bird totem

121 "The Earth is all that lasts!"

X Walking the Black Road

131 [desecration of holy place; cf. 104]

135 sell their Mother Earth

138 before he went over to the Wasichus, fat with Wasichu food

139 Crazy Horse would not fight again

XI  The Killing of Crazy Horse

140 Spotted Tail chief b/c would do what Wasichus wanted

141 Crazy Horse would not make himself into a Wasichu

144 not tell where body

XII Grandmotherís Land

146 Wasichus told us we must move

going to pen us up in little islands and make us be like Wasichus

146 not ready for the winter

148 [hears warning voice] showed that my power was growing

150 liked cousin, didnít feel like crying, hard work


156 started for our own country where we used to be happy

161 Black Road: Nephew . . . You must do what the bay horse in your vision wanted you to do. You must do your duty and perform this vision for your people upon earth

180 wish and wish my vision could have been given to a man more worthy

182 nobody there but the old man and myself and the sky and the earth. But the place was full of people; for the spirits were there

183 thought of the days when my relatives, now dead, were living and young, and of Crazy Horse who was our strength and would never come back to help us any more

188 heyoka ceremony, everything backwards

194 no power in a square; everything the Indian does is in a circle; cf power of the world

196 look at our boys and see how it is with us

213 last of bison herds slaughtered by Wasichus

men who did this were crazy

214 sacred hoop broken and scattered

214-15 learn some secret of the Wasichu that would help my people somehow

215 traveling the black road, everybody for himself and with little rules of his own, as in my vision

216 very big town > much bigger town; compare my peopleís ways with Wasichus, made me sadder than before

217 could see that the Wasichus did not care for each other the way our people did before the nationís hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds had nothing at all and maybe were starving.  They had forgotten that the earth was their mother.

217 prisonerís house on island: animals in a cage; cf. People penned up in islands

220 throwing away part of the power of my people

220 Grandmother England

222 if she had been our grandmother, better for our people

230 another treaty to take away half land left

231 away from home, my power was gone [place; cf. Josiah 75 + 36]

232 save the Indian people and make the Wasichus disappear and bring back all the bison and the people who were dead and how there would be a new earth

233 Jack Wilson, Wovoka

233 ghost dance; if they did this, they could get on this other world

234 Everything good seemed to be going away [loss]

235 people said it was really the son of the Great Spriti who was out there; that when he came to the Wasichus a long time ago, they had killed him; but he was coming to the Indians this time

240-1 maybe this land of my vision was where all my people were going, and there they would live and prosper where no Wasichus were or could ever be

245 cf. Jesus; arms spread wide; not a Wasichu and not an Indian

249-50 great mistake, followed lesser visions