Ogimawke Mitigwaki (Queen of the Woods)

Feb 9th, 2012 | By | Category: 23-3: Technology and Culture, Media Reviews

OGIMAWKE MITIGWAKI (QUEEN OF THE WOODS)By Simon Pokagon
Michigan State University Press (2011)

Review by Ryan Winn

One of only nine fiction books attributed to American Indian authors before 1969, Ogimawke Mitigwaki was originally written in Pokagon’s Native language, Potawatomi, and then transcribed to English for its 1899 publication.

Now more than a century later, this multigenre work is back in print with both contextual and critical essays to illuminate the importance of the text and Pokagon’s legacy in American Indian literacy scholarship.

The book itself is equal parts autobiography, allegory, romanticism, and melodrama, but at the heart of the text is the story of a man who was both beloved and despised by his Native and non-Native contemporaries. Like its original publication, this edition includes pictures, personal accounts, and speeches from Pokagon’s life.

It also includes three new critical essays that expound upon the author’s problematic cultural politics, the text’s possibilities for language and literature pedagogy, and whether Pokagon’s English translation actually employed a ghost writer or if his work was edited before publication.

Regardless of the level of literary colonization imposed upon Pokagon’s work, this edition reaffirms the necessity of including texts like Ogimawke Mitigwakiin in American Indian literature courses.

Ryan Winn is the Humanities Department chair at College of Menominee Nation in Keshena and Green Bay, WI.

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