Simon Ortiz

INTERVIEW

Words Woven in Stone
Gabrielle David
phati’tude Literary Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 2

CAN ONE SINGLE WRITER make such an impact on a whole literary genre of writers? Simon J. Ortiz appears to have done so. By the time he published his poetry collection, A Good Journey (1977), which exemplified Ortiz’ journeys literally (he traveled throughout the country to teach and share his voice), as well as figuratively (his journey as it relates to Acoma culture), Ortiz’ role of traditional Acoma Pueblo storyteller became firmly established.

Since then, with numerous collections of poetry, numerous critical essays, short stories, and novels under his belt, Simon Ortiz has become one of the most important writers in American literature, recognized by writers, critics and scholars in both Native American and non-Native communities alike. Yet, as talented and accomplished as Ortiz is, he is still not largely known to the public at large.

Still, Ortiz, the consummate teacher and cultural philosopher, has grown to become one of the leading figures in the struggle to preserve and continue traditional Native American themes and forms, which has become the mainstay of his work.

Ortiz’s commitment to preserving and expanding the literary tradition into which he was born – the oral tradition of the Acoma Pueblo people – accounts for many of the themes and techniques which characterize his work. Even when his work addresses social and Third World concerns, the poetic melodies of traditional Acoma Pueblo oral narrative and song shines through.

This voice is reflected in his burgeoning body of works. The theme of survival at the communal level is the major focus of his works collected in Fight Back: For the Sake of the People, for the Sake of the Land (Institute for Native American Development (INAD) at University of New Mexico Press, 1980). Woven Stone (University of Arizona Press, 1992), an omnibus of three previously published works: Going for the Rain; A Good Journey; and Fight Back, offers old and new readers an appreciation of the fruits of his dedication. After and Before the Lightning (Sun Tracks: University of Arizona Press, 1994) was inspired by a winter spent teaching at Sinte Gleska University in South Dakota on the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Reservation. As Ortiz faced the reality of a prairie winter, he confronts the political reality for Native communities and cultures in a journal format, which is presented as ‘one’ poem. The collection parallels the winter’s brutal weather and sacred beauty to that of Native culture and the stark realities being constantly challenged.

Speaking For the Generations: Native Essays For the Sake of the Land and the People (University of Arizona Press, 1998), is an anthology, compiled and edited by Ortiz, of Native writers from the U.S., Canada and Guatemala. Speaking for the Generations is a tight, well-selected anthology, which makes traditional connections with Native American culture and sovereignty. Through the works highlighted in this collection, the authors make it clear that they do not seek individual expression as much as they fulfill an ancient social role of storytelling. Men on the Moon: Collected Short Stories (Sun Tracks, v. 37) (University of Arizona, 1999) contains stories drawn from Ortiz’s Acoma Pueblo experience, yet focuses on situations common to Native people, whether living on the land or in the cities. In From Sand Creek: Rising in This Heart Which is Our America (Sun Tracks v. 42), Ortiz provides a powerful vision about the Sand Creek Massacre which is alternately personal, social-political, historical and even hopeful. This book, which was out of print for several years, was reissued by University of Arizona Press in 2000.

Ortiz has two other books coming off the press: Out There Somewhere (Sun Tracks v. 49), a new collection of Ortiz’s prose and poetry, is due for release this November 2001, and Beyond the Reach of Time and Change, a book that explores early photographs taken of Native people, which is due for release in the immediate future. Both books are being published by University of Arizona Press. In addition, Ortiz has written a number of children’s books, notably, The People Shall Continue (Children’s Books Press, 1977), which offers perhaps the single best overview of Native history for younger children written in clear and concise text. The book is so popular that it has been reprinted several times over. Currently, Ortiz is working on a nonfiction collection called Wanting To Know You.

Ortiz has won numerous awards throughout the years, from being honored at the White House in 1980 in the President’s “Salute to Poetry and American Poets,” the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Writer’s Award, award recognition from the NEA, and The Returning The Gift Lifetime Achievement Award. To support his writing career, Ortiz has spent much of his time teaching at San Diego State, the Institute of American Indian Arts, Navajo Community College, the College of Marin, Lewis & Clark, the University of New Mexico and Sinte Gleska University. He recently relocated to Canada and is currently teaching Creative Writing, Native American Literature and Aboriginal Studies at the University of Toronto.

There comes a time when a person arrives at a “comfortable place” in their life, and Simon Ortiz has seemingly “arrived.” Ortiz has won his bouts with personal demons, survived three marriages and helped raised three children who have been taught to understand a sense of self and other. Although Ortiz has travelled extensively throughout the country – from reservations to bustling cities – he always returns to his beloved New Mexico, where the Pueblos have lived for centuries, where his forefathers began. Even though Ortiz is now living in Toronto, he has recently said that “wherever I am, Acoma is never far from me.” This desire to return to the beginning is yet another theme often found in Ortiz’s works – his desire to have his readers touch the past so that they can understand what the present is and what the future may, or may not hold.

Unlike most well-known writers, Ortiz is not a prima donna, he takes time to connect with all people, Native and non-Native alike, to discuss not only literature, Native and Third World issues, but anything of topical interest, as long as it’s interesting. He is as entertaining a conversationalist as he is an impassioned writer – storytelling is, of course, what Ortiz does best. But most important, Ortiz is an avid listener – it is this telling trait Ortiz transcends into his daily life observations and expresses in his work.

“Listen, I will be using ‘Indian’ and ‘Native American’ interchangeably, which I guess you’ll probably find confusing” explains Ortiz. “In the past ten years from the 1980s, the term ‘Native American’ has become current, but as colonized indigenous people, our terminology too often is not our own. Columbus over-eagerly thought he was in Asia, so the story goes, and he called us “Indios.” The reality is that we are who we are in our own consciousness and the language that we express it in. So, I will use both.”

Simon J. Ortiz, an Acoma, was born and raised in the Acoma Pueblo Community of McCarty’s (called “Deetsziyamah” in the Acoma language), in an Acoma-speaking family. He schooled within the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), and later attended Fort Lewis College, the University of New Mexico and the University of Iowa where he was in the International Writing Program.

When asked how Ortiz identifies himself, he responds, “I am ‘Hidrutsih Dyaamih hanoh sthuh-dah, Aacqumeh sthuh-dah,’ which means in Acoma Pueblo language ‘My name is ‘Hidrutsih, I am an Eagle clan person, I am of the Acoma people.’ I am also a writer and a poet who, for a long time, like most Third World or colonized people, did not know that I had a voice. So I am a combination of both – a human being who is of the Acoma people with a voice who has stories to tell.

As a writer who has used language, mostly English, in poetry, fiction, and essays for many years, it is hard to believe that Ortiz’ native language is not English, but the Acoma language. He began to learn English when he was about six years old. “Reading was fun. I quickly learned how to read. I know it was because I loved language and stories. All my life up to that point I loved the sounds of language and what was being told, and I would listen avidly to just about anything and I eavesdropped a lot, about which my father teased me by calling me a ‘reporter.’ Since I associated reading with oral stories, it was not difficult to learn to read and subsequently to write.”

“My real interest and love of reading had to do with stories. I’d heard stories all my life, ranging from the very traditional to the history of Acoma-Mericano relations to current gossip. Stories were told about people of the Acoma community, our relatives, both living and long ago, and there were stories of mythic people and beings who were wondrous and heroic and even magical. Some stories were funny, some sad; all were interesting and vitally important to me because, though I could not explain it then, they tied me into the communal body of my people and heritage. I could never hear enough stories. Consequently, when I learned to read and write, I believe I felt those stories continued somehow in the new language and use of the new language, and they would never be lost, forgotten, and finally gone. They would always continue. In writing Going for the Rain and later, A Good Journey, I was very aware of trying to instill that sense of continuity essential to the poetry and stories in the books, essential to Native American life, in fact, and making it as strongly apparent as possible. Without worrying about translation, I tried to relate them directly to their primary source in the oral tradition as I knew it. This quality of continuity or continuance I believe must be included and respected in every aspect of Native American life and outlook.”

Ortiz’ influences cover the gamut: Shakespeare, Dante, Flaubert, Tolstoy, Homer, Joyce, Sandburg, Hemingway, Faulkner, Baldwin, Ginsberg and Kerouac, to name a few. He believes that by reading life experiences and stories written by writers, there was a place for storytelling, originally told in the Acoma tradition into an English language format.

“I know that I have to write in a language that most people understand, in this case, the English language, and so I speak and write in English. But,” continues Ortiz, “the early language from birth to six years of age in the Acoma family and community was and continues to be the basis and source of all I would do later in poetry, short fiction, essay, and other works, as a storyteller and as a teacher of creative writing and Native American literature.”

When Ortiz left Acoma, he felt like a minority. He says in his autobiographical statement in Woven Stone, that “up to then, I don’t think I’d ever heard terms like ‘segregation’ or ‘discrimination’ or even ‘minority.’ But the feeling of being physically outnumbered was there, feeling like a minority in an American world was definitely not a good feeling. It meant feeling that you were looked at differently or feeling excluded, which did take place from time to time. There was something else, though, which didn’t have much to do with race and culture. It had to do with being poor.”

When asked what other important changes Ortiz faced when he left Acoma, he says, “Change is taking place all the time, but if there was any other significant change I felt when I left the Acoma community, it was my own realization that I have a voice. Knowing, realizing and accepting that I have a voice and learning to love my voice – and that it is important to me, to my people, to my parents, to my children, and to the people who are around me. I think that if I did not know this, that if I did not come to this realization that I have a voice and acknowledge this voice as a writer and a poet, I would not have much of anything. I think that corporate-capitalist-imperialist America sometimes wants us to be stuck without a voice, and that would amount to nothing. However, we are something – the Indian, the African American, the Latino and Asian – and we are our voice. We are who we are and it is important to know that. For me, it is important to articulate it as an Acoma person who is writer and a poet. Without one, there cannot be the other.”

Ortiz has always had a love for storytelling, reading and writing. As a child, he kept journals, something he would continue to do intermittently throughout his life and, in most instances, the foundation of many of his works. “I don’t think I saw myself as a writer until I was pretty much into high school. Even though I didn’t see any Indian people writing at all, I knew that I had something to say and I wanted my voice to be heard. So, I was a journalist for a while . . . it was important for me to have people read the things that I was writing. Of course, I wasn’t writing just for myself, I was writing to inform people about certain things I observed, usually about Indian people or Indian circumstances.”

During the 1960s, Ortiz began to write poetry and stories. As any fledgling or established writer knows, when you send your work to publishers, you are more than likely to get rejections than anything else. “By the late 1960s, my poetry began to get some attention, and I began developing a small audience,” says Ortiz. “I think that the Civil Rights, the Red Power, Mexican-American and Chicano Power movements – the Third World liberation struggles in the United States – was very, very important. We did not want to live in the conditions that we were living and continue being neglected as a group of people – we all wanted to be heard, we had to be heard. This paved the way for new voices to come forward in the Third World community, First, we developed an audience within our own communities, and then it spread throughout the Third World community. And after years of sharing and exchanging ideas and viewpoints, the white community has finally taken notice and has become aware of our voices. As a result, I think that there are more people reading American Literature, which contains the works of Indian, African American, Hispanic/Latino and Asian voices, simply because we’ve insisted on being heard.”

When asked who Ortiz writes for, he responds: “Well, generally, I will say that I write because I have a voice and I need to share that voice with the public. Now, who is it directed to? I think that my immediate audience are other Indian people and myself. Then there is the audience that is just beyond Indian people — other indigenous people like Mexicans, Latinos, African Americans, and Asian Americans — people who are oppressed. I also direct my voice to those of the poor working class as well as to non-Native people who are primarily white because I want to ‘sensitize’ and educate them.”

The best way to describe Ortiz and his impact on the Native American literary community is to parallel him to what Langston Hughes meant to the black literary community, yet he is not well-known in the mainstream media. When asked how he felt not being a “famous” literary figure, Ortiz replied, “All writers want to be read and heard by as many people as possible, but I think there is a price to pay when that happens. I think the ‘mainstream’ encourages one to compromise his or her own cultural individuality. If going mainstream means diminishing one’s responsibility to one’s self and one’s own way of life which is in a way that is humanistic, compassionate, sensitive, and aware of life all around, I don’t think it’s a good way to go. It is important to recognize that we have differences, and like bio-diversity, this is what really creates a healthy and fun life, and that the more variety there is, the more vigorous and vital life is. Going mainstream often times is simply a way of levelling out those very differences, which is essential in order to have a vigorous and healthy life.”

For Ortiz, the term “Literature” refers to both oral and written works. “Literature, that is, as we know it today, was not always stories written with visual symbols. When you look at history, today’s literature is relatively new, and especially new to Indian people because our common language has always been an ‘oral language,’ which, unlike written visual symbols and written stories, is really the most immediate, intimate and most dynamic use of language. So you must understand that before the development of a written language, before English was imposed on us, before we learned it and acquired it, before the popular phrase ‘Native American Literature,’ Indians have always had their own source of ‘literature.’ Our oral language has always been part of an oral tradition of storytelling which has been passed on from generation to generation.”

“Even today,” continues Ortiz, “it is this ‘oral language’ that most Indians still speak, and it continues to influence the written works of contemporary Native writers. It is what we know to be ourselves, our cultural strength, our cultural spirit, our knowledge of ourselves, what we do, how we work, and how we love our families. So it’s not just merely a simple matter of just speaking and listening, but living that process as well. As a result, ‘oral language’ can be found in our written language. But I think this goes beyond Indian people and it applies to everyone — that is, the very essence of literature are experiences that are lived by and known as an expression of our selves.”

“Most people think of the term ‘Native American Literature’ as a single entity which is often identified as coming from Indian people as a whole. Well, Indian people are not just one people, there are many, many hundreds of different tribes which contain a vast number of cultures determined by a land base, where they live, the language spoken, and the means of livelihood — all of that and more which makes up a subculture. For example, Indian people in New Mexico are different from Indians in South Dakota, because our cultural philosophy has always been derived from our immediate living situation and condition. Traditionally, the Cherokee, Choctaw, Creek and Pueblo people were agrarian and their life was built around farming; whereas, in other parts of the country, the Yurok and Klamath were fishermen, as opposed to the Great Plains tribes: Sioux, Comanche, Arapaho and Cheyenne, who were hunters because the buffalo and other animal games were available for livelihood. These ways of life determine our cultural philosophy. A person’s way of expressing himself is determined by how he responds culturally to his environment, and so, as long as it’s important for us to be alive as human beings, as part of a community of all kinds of life in this world, I think that it’s important to be who we are and this is an ongoing process. And so in order to understand the elements of ‘Native American Literature’ is to understand or at least acknowledge the different cultural identities found in Native culture. It is not uncommon for Indian writers to identify themselves by their heritage and/or tribe . . . it immediately explains which culture their stories come from.”

When asked if Native American writers will ever be able to write without Indian elements and just be a writer who happens to be Native American, Ortiz says, “As long as we, as human beings, care for our lives and our lives are connected to the land, culture and community with very specific ways; as long as we keep that alive, and know its source, especially in Native or Indian culture philosophy, then I think that it’s necessary to write as Indians. I do not think that we can become homogenized. Because part of what homogenization does is diminish those qualities of being connected to the earth, with very specific responsibilities, because not everyone is the same.”

One important issue raised with Ortiz is that “we” the non-Natives, particularly ethnic minorities, don’t see Natives in the mainstream, whether its the news, or even literary readings designed to celebrate multi-ethnicity. Says Ortiz, “Well, I think that you will find that there is a literature and a cultural voice out there that is not publicly present because of historical reasons. I mean to say that the Indian people have supposedly vanished because we were ‘conquered.’”

“Well, let’s look at that,” continues Ortiz, “you know, the non-Indian and primarily white population has insisted for centuries through western cultural attitudes and traditions that it ‘conquered’ this hemisphere of North and South America. And what does it mean when you say ‘conquered?’ It simply means that there is a winner and a loser, and since the popular myth is that the Indian was the loser, we are invisible and no longer exist. But here I am! I exist! There are Indian people everywhere throughout the United States. Look at Mexico, most of Mexico is Indian, and the greater part of South America is Indian, yet we don’t often see or hear them identified as Indian people.”

“While a great part of the United States, culturally, is Indian, we are often left out because we are not represented in the numbers. But then,” emphasizes Ortiz, “how can you count us if you do not see us?” Ortiz’s point is a legitimate gripe. For many years, the Federal government would not recognize people who ‘claimed’ to be Indian unless they could prove their blood quota. The government established this quota system as a means of getting even more control over Native lands. Even today, while there is no pure race to speak of, one wonders how and who the government defines as “Indian” on its Census records.

“There are Indian people out there,” continues Ortiz, “not only as writers and poets, but in all the professions – lawyers, teachers, doctors, and so on. I think part of the reason why people don’t see us and identify us as Indian, is a fear of being designated a racist by concentrating too much on cultural identity. But the real reason is that people have a fixed image on what an Indian is ‘supposed’ to look like. Lots of times people like to mistaken us as ‘Spanish,’ which is ironic as it is ridiculous, because the Spaniards were one of the conquerors and colonialists of the Southwest. Spanish people are Indian!”

“So,” continues Ortiz, “I think that when we look at the United States as an imperialist conquest country, it doesn’t really want to see the Indians, and so besides making us ‘invisible,’ they use stereotypes to put us down. We’ve become mascots to sports teams like the ATLANTA BRAVES, CLEVELAND INDIANS and WASHINGTON REDSKINS. We have been constantly portrayed in books and movies as either ‘drunk and weak,’ or ‘primitive savages.’ But this is all really part of a greater scheme to keep Indian people invisible and powerless, because of the socioeconomic factors involved. Our land is worth billions and billions of dollars. We have been and continue to pose a threat because this (the land) represents too much power and resources for any indigenous people to control. Indian people are everywhere.”

“But this goes beyond Indian people, this goes back again to how ethnic minorities are treated in the United States. Our society is very, very racist. I think that this is what has helped make ethnic minorities invisible to each other. I believe that in order for Indian people to really exist, I think we have to be willing to recognize each other, tribally, within our own Native American communities before we can embrace our ethnic-minority brethren.”

“We have always been aware of ethnocentrism, among ourselves as Indian people in a ‘community’ of diverse cultures. I think we often find ourselves at odds with each other. There are many Indian people who come from Mexico, who work here in the United States, and I sometimes find Indian people saying, ‘Well those people aren’t Indian, they are Mexican.’ No. They are just as Indian as I am. They are Spanish and they may happen to practice a different culture, but that doesn’t make them really different. And then there are Indian people who are blonde, blue-eyed and very light-skinned, and some Indian people will not accept them in the community or in traditional cultural events because of that. That’s wrong. Indian people are very mixed – we come in all colors from white to very dark. I have three children, and they are mixed: my son, who is my oldest, is half Navajo and half Acoma; my middle daughter is part Creek and part Acoma; and my youngest daughter is part Acoma and part white. I don’t think that makes them less Indian. But I also identify this, not only as a color problem, but a ‘class’ problem as well. So much of what makes white a power and white a dominant acceptable feature is because of class. And I think you find this true in the African American and Latino communities – that light skinned ethnic minorities, in general, are more acceptable in America, yet resented by others in their own race. This is a class status which has and continues to be perpetuated by white people. So all of us, including Indian people, must realize these differences, understand the source of these differences, and respect those differences within our own communities.”

“I cannot stress how important it is for the Third World community to see each other. By doing so, we will all be seen. I was really glad when Tiger Woods claimed publicly that he didn’t want to be known only as an African American, but that he is also Native, Asian, and part white. While his statement caused a lot of controversy, particularly in the African American community, I do not think he was trying to downplay that he is predominantly African American – he simply recognizes the reality of what his ethnic heritage is. I think this is a great assertion of self. But Tiger is not the first black person to talk openly about his multi-ethnic ties, there are plenty of Asians, African Americans and Latinos who do this also. We do, however, need to see more of that from Third World people because we need to establish those ethnic ties between us. But I also think we need to see white people admit their cultural ties to the indigenous population as well.”

“You almost never hear a white person claim they are part Indian, Black, or Asian. When you hear white people identify themselves, they have sort of an arrogance – expecting people to assume that because they are ‘white’ that is their only qualification for a cultural existence. But ‘white’ is not a cultural or ethnic designation, it is a skin color which represents a form of power. But I think it goes further . . . I think in a way white people may even be resentful towards ethnic minorities because so many of them were forced to give up their ethnicity to become ‘American,’ whereas indigenous people could not. I think it makes you less of a person if you don’t know yourself, your heritage and where you come from.”

“Right now, the world is going crazy,” continues Ortiz, “and it seems that once again we are revisited with Malcolm X’s statement, ‘the chickens are coming home to roost.’ The terrorist attacks in Washington and New York are tragic, but it is important we recognize that while the victims are innocent, the United States itself is not one-hundred percent innocent. We also need to recognize that it was not the people that were attacked – it was the symbols of capitalism, military power and money that were targeted by way of the Pentagon and the World Trade Center. Unfortunately, we are seen as the ‘enemy’ by many countries around the world, especially by Third World people, so we need to ask ourselves ‘why did this happen?,’ but it would require dealing with painful truths about ourselves and how the United States achieved its identity, beginning with living on stolen land and its treatment toward Indians and ethnic minorities. And while the government and the military will continue its policies of denial, betrayal and oppression, we the people, right now have an opportunity and the power to come to grips with ourselves, which means acknowledging our true cultural heritage, even if it means dealing with issues that make us feel uncomfortable. It all goes back to what I have been saying all along – it is important for you to learn about yourself and your true identity.”

“As I mentioned earlier, tribe and heritage is an important identifying factor for Indian people, it explains who we are. If more people openly talked about their heritage, including ‘non-Native people,’ many would more than likely find a blood tie with an Indian tribe. Imagine, if the indigenous people of this country could get together, and if white people could become culturally aware of their ties to indigenous people . . . one can only hope.”

A growing phenomena in the Native American community is non-Natives writing about Native culture. This, of course, is not news to any ethnic-minority – African Americans, Latino and Asians have had their battles against those who insisted on representing their voices. In recent years, especially as more Native people have grown disillusioned about non-Natives, known as ‘Indian experts,’ who write about their culture and it has now become a hot issue between Natives and non-Natives. When asked about this growing debate, Ortiz says, “There are many ‘Indian experts’ who write, perhaps out of their own self-interest, and if it comes from a self-interest that is from a white perspective, and/or a power perspective, then it’s going to be very limited and is intended to speak for only a certain viewpoint.”

“While it’s true that there are many, many oppressive situations, socially, politically, in any culture, it is yet another instance of invisibility that is forced on the public, not just Indian people, but on the public, as if Indian people are not capable of writing about their own oppression. People who are in the academic field are very famous for writing about Indians, because they want a certain picture.”

“For example, my book Beyond the Reach of Time and Change, has to do with photographs taken in 1898. Now, most people are familiar with the ‘noble red man,’ the ‘noble red savage’ or the ‘beautiful Indian maiden.’ Many of these photographs were taken during a period of time when the U.S. had established itself as an international power and was celebrating its 100th anniversary. It’s clear in these photographs that they wanted the image of ‘conquistador’ and Indian people on this continent were obviously that symbol of what had been conquered, so they photographed Indian people as trophies. The Indian experts at that time were photographers and anthropologists from the Bureau of American Ethnology who were beginning to gain a solid foothold in the U.S. as an academic study. The photographs that Edward S. Curtis and other photographers took were very purposeful and intentional because again, it’s part of being the ‘invisible Indian.’ So today’s Indian experts continue this tradition as authority figures of the Indians.”

“We need to insist on Native American self-sufficiency, our heritage of cultural resistance, and advocacy for a role in international Third World de-colonizing struggles, including recognizing and unifying with our indigenous sisters and brothers in the Americas of the Western Hemisphere. A major source of this language comes from the work of writers, such as myself. Since the late 1960s, Native writers and thinkers have addressed such serious concerns and ideas to some extent, advocating ethnic cultural expression, describing Indian ways and thought, analyzing and criticizing Western civilization, and promoting indigenous heritage and language. But unfortunately we are also easily distracted and diverted. We have not yet thoroughly and honestly focused on critical issues that are related directly to our identity and existence as human beings who are Native Americans, citizens of the United States, carriers of a unique cultural heritage, who are faced with ethnocentrism among ourselves as well as the non-Native world. Since coming into and forming consciousness is the source of coming into existence as who we are and maintaining it, it is critical to deal with these issues.”

When asked if what we are experiencing is merely a renaissance of Native American literature, Ortiz answers carefully, “First of all, I am a little bit leery when the term ‘renaissance’ is used. Native voices have always been here. I will agree that recognition of Native voices in American literature have existed since only the 1960s, and in that regard, a renaissance is taking place. But, I don’t like the term ‘renaissance’ if it is being used to diminish the fact that Indian people’s voices and culture has always been here. Native American intellectual and literary voices are essential to this country, and the future of American literature is really the future of Native literature. America will always be in denial of its true spirit if it continues to not recognize Native culture as the foundation of American culture. Without recognizing the core of Native people, Native cultural awareness and the Indian soul, there really is no United States, there really is no America.”

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Source: Gabrielle David

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