Native Peoples of Oklahoma – Literary Traditions – 5.0.1 Introduction


>>Dr. Swan: You know, Joshua, one of the things
that I think is, is important that we discuss in this unit on the expressive culture of
Native peoples of Oklahoma is that, you know, many people are well-versed in the performative
arts: dancing, music, Native American fine art traditions. We’ll visit about all of these
in more detail. But I think one, one aspect of the expressive culture of Native peoples
is, are the literary traditions.>>Dr. Nelson: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah.>>Dr. Swan. I think that people are probably
less aware of the incredible depth and richness that comes out of, out of those forms.>>Dr. Nelson: Yeah, I think you’re absolutely
right. Even as we’ve been teaching in here for a long time, we’ll hear from Alan Velie
soon who’ll tell us about what we think is maybe the first college course on American
Indian literature.>>Dr. Swan: Mmhmm.>>Dr. Nelson: I still oftentimes find most
of my students come in and, and they don’t know that Indians write. A lot of our Indians
don’t know about Indians writing.>>Dr. Swan: Mmhmm.>>Dr. Nelson: I remember when I first found
Sherman Alexie. It was, you know, a real turning point for me. Kind of opened my eyes to all
the wonderful things that I’d been experiencing from other cultures’ writing. So it was a
fantastic moment, I think. And I hope that we can maybe provide a moment like that for
people out there too. As it turns out, Oklahoma is in many ways kind of a cradle for American
Indian writing, even though it wasn’t necessarily the birthplace. And it’s maybe a weird cradle
[both laugh] because a lot of people kind of, depart from it in some ways. This is the
home to a lot of literature. Going back to the, the first American Indian novel, the
guy who wrote it, John Rollin Ridge–>>Dr. Swan: Mmhmm.>>Dr. Nelson: –was from Cherokee country.
He wrote it out in California amongst the kind of forty-niners, you know. But… for
a very long time now American Indians have been producing literature out of here. Will
Rogers is a standout case. You know, this guy is perhaps the most prolific of American
Indian writers.>>Dr. Swan: Oh, absolutely. Mmhmm.>>Dr. Nelson: You know, his weekly articles,
and his books, and his daily telegrams. You know, he was kind of a, a literary superstar.>>Dr. Swan: Mmhmm.>>Dr. Nelson: He may have been passed recently
by Robert Conley, another Cherokee historical fiction writer. I heard a story that Bob Conley
told about how he stacked up his books next to the books that he had of Rogers and he
had just edged him out. [both laugh] So, you know this is in addition to great poetry by
folks like Joy Harjo, you know, a Creek poet and and jazz musician. And that’s one of the
things too that we’ll be able to do in this unit is talk not just about literature, which
I could go on about at some length, you might’ve gathered, right? [both laugh] But we’ll get
to talk about fantastic music, music like Joy Harjo’s jazz, that maybe in some ways
grew out of some early stomp dance styles of music. We’ll talk about contemporary powwow
singing and the changes that are happening there. We’ll get to talk about indie folk
rock. You know, there’s just sort of no end to it. We’ll get to do the same thing with
dance, right? We’ll get to do the same thing with film, and we’ll get to do a little with
art, which maybe you can lead us through a little better than me.>>Dr. Swan: Absolutely. I I think that again
this speaks to the fact that, that Native peoples are engaged in virtually every genre
of expressive culture that’s out there. Not just in their own sort of domain but, but
impacting mainstream media and literature and film in really significant ways.>>Dr. Nelson: Yeah. Rogers, again, of course,
is another guy who stands out in this way.>>Dr. Swan: Mmhmm.>>Dr. Nelson: You know, he was a real superstar
early on, did several films with folks like John Ford. You know, he in many ways kind
of set a pattern for American Indian film to come. And by the time we’re all done here,
I think we’ll wrap up with one of our newest filmmaker’s pieces. And we’ll look at something
by Sterlin Harjo. And we’ll see again how it is that American Indians are are living
in a very vibrant place, and they’re giving vibrant expression to the richness of, of
their cultures and their lives here.>>Dr. Swan: Mmm, absolutely. It’s a, it’s
a great part of the story and one that I think people are really going to enjoy.>>Dr. Nelson: Yeah, this should be a lot of
fun.

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