Redskins, The Hollyhocks Trail, Watonka

Feb 15th, 2002 | By | Category: 13-3: Sustaining Our Future, Tribal College News

REDSKINS COVERRedskins: Racial Slur or Symbol of Success
by Dr. Bruce Stapleton
Writers Club Press, 2001
191 pages
ISBN 0-595-17167-2

The Hollyhocks Trail
by Bruce Stapleton
Writers Club Press, 2000
90 pages
ISBN 0-595-12458-5

Watonka
by  Bruce Stapleton
Writers Club Press, 2001
81 pages
ISBN 0-595-12926-9

Reviews by Barbi G. Lehn

The author of these three books uses his educational title only for Redskins, which is a scholarly treatise while the other two are fictional novellas.  All three works have in common a sincere respect for Indian culture.  The events in the Hollyhocks Trail center around the removal of the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears. Quotes and references to historical documents (e.g. Order 34) are educational and will assist readers in understanding historical events. Stapleton attempts to introduce a philosophy of religious reconciliation via a character’s musings while visiting a church. This detracts from the central storytelling. The viewpoint is sympathetic to Indians. Tribal children, especially those living on reservations and those who are Cherokee, may feel the story was not told sympathetically enough.

Watonka is set in Oklahoma in the late 1800s. The story evolves around the Ghost Dance: preparations leading up to it and a description of the dance. Culturalisms abound: costumes, plants, ceremonies, so much so that the respectful Indian reader might prefer that an Indian had written it.

Redskins discusses the issues surrounding the controversial use of Indian-themed mascots. The extensive list of references, including Internet resources, is a valuable tool for readers who are researching the topic. The author reports on the genesis and development of both the pros and cons of the issue, which leads readers to greater awareness and understanding. Stapleton presents the case of traditional Indian spirituality, successfully conveying the depth of the feelings involved in the controversy.

Two of the books share a weakness related to their publishing and editing aspects. Watonka and Hollyhocks Trail suffer somewhat from difficult vocabulary and sentence structures and from the lack of illustrations. The author, when publishing stories like these, needs the services of a good editor. Tribal college libraries on tight budgets could select Redskins and pass on the others.

Barbi G. Lehn, Santee Sioux, served for three years (1996-99) as library director at Sinte Gleska University.  She now serves as library director at Wheeling Jesuit University.

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