I recently fell in love with American Indian poetry.  I’ve appreciated American Indian writers and American Indian prose for a while, but some of the stuff I’ve read recently has been truly great.

Today in my English class we discussed Simon Ortiz’s book From Sand Creek.  The puns, the sense of imagery, and the use of history and tragedy are all well articulated and beautiful.  The collection was first published in 1981 and much of the work is a personal reflection on Ortiz’s time spent at the Veteran’s Administration Hospital (VAH) in Fort Lyon Colorado.  Just down the road is the site of the Sand Creek Massacre of November 29th 1864.  This is, of course, where he gets the title of his book from.

There were a number of events that led up to the Sand Creek Massacre.  I will briefly mention two: gold and the Treaty of Fort Laramie.  Gold was discovered in Colorado in the 1850s, which led to a gold rush and an influx of white settlers into the territory.  This caused a need for more land, which leads us to the second event; the treaty.  The treaty that had guaranteed the Arapaho and Cheyenne large areas of land (which, prior to the discovery of gold was viewed as worthless) were now renegotiated to take away large chunks of it for white settlement.  But this still wasn’t enough.

On that fateful day in November 700 Colorado militia slaughtered between 100 and 150 Cheyenne and Arapaho.  Most of the casualties were women and children.  Many of the bodies were scalped, tortured, and mutilated.  There were a few white casualties, but most have been attributed to friendly fire (a number of the militiamen were drunk).  Why did the militia attack these people?  Because they were there.  Chivington, the commander of the militia, received no condemnation for his actions.  Prior to the attack Black Kettle, a chief of the Cheyenne, flew the American flag over his lodge.

Fun stuff!  Ortiz does a great job of incorporating this history into his work.  He makes it come alive.  He makes it part of the present.  I’d give you an excerpt but I left my book at the office.  You should read the whole thing for yourself anyway.  I could say a lot more, but I’ll leave it at that.

I am also reading Sherman Alexie’s book, First Indian on the Moon.  I’m only a few pages into it, but I’m already loving it.  I have to present on Alexie’s book, Indian Killer, in a few weeks and I thought I would do some background reading to prepare (I have 4 more Alexie books on my shelf to read after this one).  Alexie is brilliant and funny.  He takes horrible situations and makes you laugh about it.  He makes tragedy humorous.  Here’s Alexie talking about boners:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwiQb8OQ6dY

End of blog post.

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