I have been traveling allot the last few weeks. One of the places that I have been, and which I am returning is the Oklahoma Sovereignty Symposium in Oklahoma City, OK. This is my first year going and it was well worth the drive. I was blown away by the Parade of Nations, in which the tribal nations of Oklahoma entered the arena. I was captivated by the conversations and found myself wishing I had more to contribute. But on a certain level that seems to be appropriate when we are talking about Native Americans and the law doesn’t it. Our narrative history (I am Choctaw) chants a song that is only heard by some, but when heard is a testament to our life, our struggles and our status as a people.
This years theme was “as long as the grass grows.” How fitting a phrase for Indian law itself. As long as the grass grows beneath our feet, Indian law will continue to whisper the remnants of our past.
While I was sitting in the panels and listening to the rich dialogues that of themselves gave birth to the peoples and their stories, I began to think about what types of texts might fit in a law and literature course.
Of course Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote about Indians: we have talked about Roger Malvin’s Burial and Lovewell’s fight in the French and Indian War here; however, Indians in Hawthorne’s tales are mostly in the background — setting for the action of the european settlers. This is in contrast to his contemporary James Fenimore Cooper who romanticized the American Indian (Last of the Mohicans remains a favorite (book and movie).
Another book that looks at the Indian as confronted with modernity, is Sundown, by John Joseph.
A modern piece of literature that struggles with identity, family, and modernity is The Bean Trees by Barbrara Kingsolver. I keep meaning to read her follow up to that book Pigs in Heaven, though perhaps this summer. Animal Dreams is also a good read.
Perhaps though the best book is Robert William’s The American Indian in Western Legal Thought. William’s historical and cultural sensativity make this volume a must for anyone contemplating Indian Law.
What other works by or about Native Americans should be included in a Law and Literature Course?
Video and Song: Ghost Dance by Robbie Robertson