The People and the Word: Reading Native Nonfiction

Nov 15th, 2006 | By | Category: 18-2: Traditional Wisdom Our Strength, Media Reviews

University of Minnesota Press (2005)
Minneapolis, MN
280 pages
ISBN 0-8166-4616-3 (hardcover) $59.95
ISBN 0-8166-4617-1 (paperback) $19.95

Review by Michael Thompson

The latest work by Osage writer Robert Warrior, The People and the Word, is a potent contribution to Native scholarship, especially to criticism of Native non-fiction.

Warrior applies a literary imagination and the notion of “synchronicity” to read anew four particular texts: the unconventional writings of Pequot William Apess from the early 1800s; the Osage Constitution of 1881; subversive boarding school narratives from the late 1880s; and N. Scott Momaday’s seminal essay “The Man Made of Words.”

His thesis considers how contemporary Native American realities, especially political and cultural interactions, have always shaped Native intellectualism, certainly more so than essentialist notions of supposed “Indianness.”

Warrior continues the path blazed by earlier Native intellectuals such as Vine Deloria, Jr., opposing assimilation and accommodation and laying groundwork for richer American Indian studies. His path is a Native critical consciousness that argues for common sense strategies rooted in the real lives of Indian communities.

This book is recommended for tribal college libraries. It is essential reading.

Michael Thompson (Muskogee Creek) is an English instructor and writer with published work in several journals. He resides in Farmington, NM.

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