The Native novel
A Cherokee fugitive fantasizes about a bloody rampage against land thieves. A Creek suffragette dreams of becoming a white Christian woman. These two narratives form the first Native American novels, and they stand at the extreme reaches of resistance and assimilation to North American society. The first novel by a Native American—Cherokee newspaperman John Rollin Ridge’s Life and Adventures of Joaquin Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit (1854)—remains the goriest tale of armed reprisal for the theft of indigenous land, and the first novel by a Native woman—Creek writer Sophia Alice Callahan’s Wynema, a Child of the Forest (1891)—remains the unparalleled story of Native American cultural shame and wholesale conversion to white Christian America. Since the publication of these first two novels, Native writers have used the form to test various responses to North American colonialism, from violent resistance to passive acceptance. The Native American novelist seeks to mediate, often subversively, between the “novel of resistance” and the “novel of assimilation.”
By 1836 the Cherokee Nation had been invaded and terrorized by Georgians, and some Cherokees felt its removal was imminent. John Rollin Ridge’s father, John Ridge, and a minority of Cherokee citizens signed a treaty to trade ancestral homelands for land west of Arkansas. For selling land without consent of the nation—by Cherokee law a capital offense—a band of men impaled John Ridge in front of his son. John Rollin Ridge vowed revenge and eventually killed a man he suspected to be one of his father’s assassins. Fleeing to the California gold fields, he endured his nation’s removal and his own banishment by imagining himself the California bandit Joaquin Murieta, the Hispanic folk hero who on being routed from his home robs the wealthy to support the weak throughout the land. As a fugitive with fairer skin, a beard, and a western education, Ridge could have assimilated into the North American mainstream as a journalist in California. Instead he wrote behind his Indian name of Yellow Bird both to disguise his identity and, ironically, to declare his Indianness. Murieta briefly reveals his true self: “He dashed along that fearful trail as he had been mounted upon a spirit-steed, shouting as he passed: ’I am Joaquin! kill me if you can!’ ” Here only for a moment, the Cherokee rides a “spirit-steed” with “his long black hair streaming behind him.” As author of the first indigenous novel of resistance, Yellow Bird was indeed far ahead of his time.
A Creek woman, Alice Callahan shares with John Rollin Ridge a similar history of dispossession and removal from the Southeast to Indian Territory, but in Wynema she does not question federal plans to displace nations and erase culture in order to “civilize” Native Americans. In this novel the white Methodist teacher Genevieve Weir, working in the Creek Nation, finds in the Creek woman Wynema all the promise of a wealthy Southern lady. Genevieve largely remains at the center of this sentimental novel of women’s rights, and Wynema herself dreams of fulfilling Genevieve’s suffragette visions of virtue: “we are waiting for our more civilized white sisters to gain their liberty, and thus set us an example which we shall not be slow to follow.” Unlike Ridge, Callahan seems to accept the injustices of Indian removal and the ongoing destruction of culture as the unavoidable, even fortunate consequences of the advancement of North American industry and society west into indigenous lands. Her hope is that Native people may cast off their outmoded cultural ways to achieve full citizenship in settler nations in this first Native American novel of assimilation.
Few Native novels submit so willingly. Instead, Native American novelists, while rupturing colonial narratives, on the one hand, have cultivated indigenous social consciousness, on the other. To do so through the generations the Native novel of resistance has had to accommodate a spectrum of responses that ramify the most apparent forms of colonial challenge. Though resistance may include alternative narratives of tribal homecomings and cultural revivals, the portrayal of Native American resistance has shifted in the contemporary Native novel: no longer must Native Americans reject all western culture and return home to their reserves to fight their colonization. Instead, those activities viewed as assimilation in the early twentieth century—moving to the city, attending college, wearing a suit, traveling to Europe—now may appear as resistance to dominant assumptions that Indians cannot do such things.
Historians recognize the turn of the twentieth century as marking the depth of Native American populations and cultural vitality in North America. After centuries of state-sponsored destruction of indigenous cultures and economies, most indigenous nations and their governments had been reduced to utter dependence on colonial governments and their social planners, who saw the originary ways of Native people as impossible to maintain and even as the cause of their malaise. By the early twentieth century white and Native American leaders committed to “Indian uplift” through organizations such as the Society of American Indians (SAI) sought to prepare Native people for citizenship by eradicating the last of their traditional cultures. Native American writers no doubt felt the blows of this desperate era and some likely succumbed to the prevailing view that the only hope for Native survival was to forego ancestral ways and to assimilate into North American society. Such novelists offered plots that place white culture at the center, which marginalized Native Americans aspire to reach.
Some novels by Cherokee writer John Milton Oskison perhaps best exemplify the Native American novel of assimilation. Educated at Stanford and Harvard, editor and feature writer of Collier’s Magazine, and active member of the SAI, Oskison wrote such novels as Wild Harvest (1925) and Black Jack Davy (1926). Set in Indian Territory before Oklahoma statehood, these novels treat the arrival of white settlers as pivotal events wherein to negotiate cultural changes. Perhaps most developed of his novels is Brothers Three (1935). The novel uses the struggle of three brothers to keep the family farm as an emblem of the cultural challenges facing Native people, in which the autobiographical third son returns from New York as a writer and investor to help his family. Saving the farm has shaped many plots in the American novel, and here the central Native American characters promote values of hard work and thrift in hard times. To recognize indigenous cultural issues Oskison allows traditional Native characters to make occasional entrances as minor players in the drama.
While many have agreed that Oskison argued for Native American assimilation, a posthumously published 1930s novel, The Singing Bird, might suggest an unknown resistance in the author. The novel portrays life in the 1820s at the Dwight Mission School to the Western Cherokees, but it takes a dramatic turn with the appearance of a fictionalized Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee written language. The mission school narrative frame recedes to foreground a subplot surrounding Sequoyah’s search for the Lost Cherokee in Mexico. Oskison imagines Sequoyah seeking in that fabled land the “sacred symbols” recording ancient Cherokee history. Here Oskison’s missionary Dan Wear considers Sequoyah’s scholarly quest: “…after their loss there was unrest and spiritual discontent amongst the people…. [H]e hopes to restore the faith of the Cherokees in their old god.” Though Oskison still places white missionaries at the novel’s center, Native Americans here seek and believe in their own symbols, literature, “old god,” and sovereign nation. During this time Choctaw writer Todd Downing also looked to Mexico in several crime novels, including The Cat Screams (1934).
In 1928 the Department of the Interior received the Meriam Report, a federally mandated study of social and economic conditions among Native Americans. It revealed the disastrous consequences of allotment and federal bureaucracy on reservations. In response the Franklin D. Roosevelt administration’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs John Collier introduced the Wheeler-Howard Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934, known as the Indian New Deal, to restore Native self-government. As a result, modernity made its way to indigenous communities. While assimilationist novels primarily presented realist plots and characters, other Native American writers employed modernist techniques to question the necessity or even the possibility of Native people entering the mainstream.
The modern Native American novel began around this time with the publication of Osage writer John Joseph Mathews’s Sundown (1934) and Salish writer D’Arcy McNickle’s Surrounded (1936). In Sundown Chal Windsor leaves his Osage reservation to attend university, then becomes an aviator and travels the globe in World War I. Years later he returns home, only to find his community unbearably small. His mixed Osage father advises assimilation into North American society, his Osage mother a return to Osage customs. Unable to reconcile his yearning for discovery abroad with the call to traditional life at home, Chal buckles under depression and alcoholism. Mathews variously inflects Chal’s story with either realist or modernist conventions at key moments. Those spent with his mother or gazing at Osage lands Matthews presents with realistic clarity. When Chal attends college, rushes a fraternity, or encounters the destructive force of alcohol, modernist fragmentation gains full expression. In longing for but foregoing life beyond the nation, Mathews does not resign to assimilation so much as he imagines the possibility of a cosmopolitan, even transnational Native American future.
In The Surrounded, after wandering around Oregon playing the fiddle, Archilde Leon returns home to his Flathead Reservation. Archilde’s white father asks him finally to submit to mainstream society, while his Flathead mother, living in a dirt-roofed log cabin away from her husband, invites Archilde to embrace his people’s originary culture. With this work McNickle set the prototype of the Native American novel most recognized by contemporary audiences, complete with its treatment of colonialism and the power of oral traditions to resist it. Though McNickle’s novels develop complex protagonists to ask difficult questions about ancestral knowledge, cultural identity, and colonial change, he ultimately suggests that Native Americans will either exist in flux between the conflicting demands of two cultures or simply self-destruct. When Archilde visits his mother’s family and observes a traditional dance, he feels somehow embarrassed and out of place: “They were not real people.” During a hunting trip to the mountains he witnesses his mother murder a white game warden, leaving him further disoriented and unmoored. He has thrown off his western culture but can find no comfort or protection on his indigenous road of resistance that leads only deeper into the mountains.
For decades McNickle worked on his most complex novel, Wind from an Enemy Sky, published posthumously in 1978, about two elder Native brothers, one a revered chief and the other an assimilated farmer, who have grown apart over the years but are now brought together by a terrible event. The government has dammed the river that has sustained the Little Elk people for generations; in reprisal, a young member of the camp has killed a worker at the dam. Later an anthropologist claims to have located in a museum the Little Elk people’s invaluable beaver medicine, the power of which promises to save the people. The anthropologist discovers, however, that the bundle had been left to rot in the museum’s basement and so offers the Little Elks a Peruvian artifact instead. Such absurdly sad miscommunications between the Native Americans and the white settlers continue a chain of tragic events in Wind from an Enemy Sky, through which McNickle again shares his conclusions that western and indigenous worldviews are ultimately incommensurable.
One might also credit McNickle with developing the subgenre of the Native American historical novel that asserts a forgotten history to serve resistance. Reared on the early hope that John Collier would return national autonomy to Native people under the IRA, McNickle spent the years 1936 to 1952 working for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). On seeing the federal government begin to terminate its legal relationship with indigenous nations with the 1953 House Concurrent Resolution 108, McNickle resigned. His sense of betrayal and pessimism marks the above novels, and perhaps explains his wish to write historical fiction. A year later, McNickle published Runner in the Sun, a young adult novel. The author imagines pre-contact times in the cliff-dwelling Southwest, when indigenous people faced a different threat. The novel’s elders scold the young hero, Salt, for seeking scientific explanations for their worsening draught and for suggesting their own beliefs on the subject might be superstitious. The banished Holy One sends Salt on a journey to discover a solution to the crisis in Mesoamerica, where Salt finds a new strain of corn and a new religious symbol to ensure their survival. In this final novel, the author offers here a positive vision of crisis, change, and renewal to indigenous communities.
While one could argue that such work of historical fiction is escapist, here McNickle leads Native youths to an earlier time when western invasions were not the source of their crisis. Instead readers see how an earlier indigenous community challenges those who abuse sacred knowledge through fear-mongering and intimidation, and how Native Americans use their scientific minds to identify and solve problems, seeking answers through hemispheric collaboration. Such historical fiction gained Native audiences, and perhaps for the same reasons then as today. Seeking a similar pre-contact history, Sioux anthropologist Ella Deloria’s Waterlily, drafted in 1944 and published posthumously in 1988, returns to nineteenth-century Sioux life for a richly detailed account of camps, kinship, and religious and social customs.
By the 1980s Native American writers shared such returns with a broad audience. In James Welch’s Fools Crow (1986), Blackfeet encounter not only encroaching soldiers and disease, but also generational differences and changing gender relations. Chickasaw writer Linda Hogan’s Mean Spirit (1990) confronts corruption during the Osage oil boom. In later novels, Native American women writers utilize innovative themes of haunting and possession to integrate the present with visions of the past. LeAnne Howe’s Shell Shaker (2001) imagines present-day sisters of the Billy family are drawn to the Choctaw Nation of the middle eighteenth century to witness the loving and gruesome clan sacrifice of Shakbatina, a woman leader who gives her life to restore peace. Sioux writer Susan Power’s Grass Dancer (1995) haunts plains powwows with love potions and entrancing ghosts.
As early as 1927, with the publication of Mourning Dove’s Cogewea, the Half-Blood, Native American authors harnessed the novel to engage problems of maintaining indigenous identities in the face of European colonization. Mourning Dove, a Salish, worked as a migrant laborer and wrote Cogewea in her tent at night. An Indian enthusiast named Lucullus McWhorter edited her manuscript, and eventually helped her publish the novel with his embellishments and in a very different form. McWhorter probably had much to do with changing Mourning Dove’s work into a popular western romance, complete with villains and woeful pleas of half-breeds in distress, with epigraphs to each chapter taken from Longfellow’s “Hiawatha,” among other works. The novel opens on a Montana cattle ranch on the Flathead reservation where the cowboys are Indians of mixed ancestry. The young woman Cogewea lives with her Native family—her European father has left for the Alaska gold fields—and must decide among white and Native American suitors: the dastardly easterner Densmore or the silent hero, “breed” James LaGrinder. While this novel bears all the inconsistencies of an invasive editor at odds with its author, Cogewea displays the actual challenges facing mixed-race Native Americans at times barred from either culture when, for instance, Cogewea enters a horse race dressed as a white woman and wins. On discovery she loses her prize, the judge calling her a “squaw.” And on entering a race for Native girls, she is told it is a race for Indians, not “breeds.”
Red power novel
The Native American movements of the 1960s and 1970s provoked a new awareness of Native lives and possibilities. Settler governments soon shared this new consciousness. In the United States this drove passage of the 1975 Self-Determination Act to advance tribal self-governance, and in 1978 the Indian Child Welfare Act and the Religious Freedom Act to protect Native American families and customs. Such Red Power plans for the recovery of Native identity awakened the Native American novel. While McNickle and Mourning Dove treated mixed ancestry as evidence of cultural erosion, new writers saw indigenous identity, even mixed ancestry, as a solution to their colonial situation. Native writers adapted the novel to express the experience of political awakening on reconnection with indigenous land, community, and oral literature. Whereas the American novel tends to celebrate leaving home to develop one’s character, the Red Power novel often relies on the opposite movement. Here Native Americans have already left home, and their stories begin on the cultural regeneration that marks their return. Still written today, such novels often actively enlist the alternative narrative practices of oral literature to reinterpret damaging colonized conclusions to recover indigenous identity, tribal experience, and cultural knowledge.
The title of N. Scott Momaday’s first novel, House Made of Dawn (1968), refers to a Navajo healing ceremony to reintegrate community members as dwellers in the land. Momaday’s protagonist Abel, home from World War II and estranged from his land, cannot recover his sense of place until he reimagines his own body belonging to home. In novels such as James Welch’s Winter in the Blood (1974), authors broaden their interests from the individual to the community, using characters’ vexed relationships to their environments as vehicles to discuss historical identifications with land. There a young Blackfeet man recovers an oral history about the ethical decisions of his ancestors, when he regains his masculinity and cultural identity. In Leslie Silko’s Ceremony (1977), the Red Power novel engages political struggles to protect indigenous lands, as the protagonist Tayo recovers from a war that has damaged his ability to understand himself as a spiritual visionary.
By the 1980s some Native American novels began to question the pan-tribalism of the 1970s that sought to express a general Native cause at the expense of a distinct indigenous national experience. That redirection to community is explored in Okanagan author Jeannette Armstrong’s Slash (1985). In Spokane and Coeur d’Alene writer Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues (1995) three Spokane men start a blues band they call Coyote Springs and attempt to land a New York City record contract, but they fail. When asked about his community, Thomas Builds-the-Fire, the community’s unofficial and unappreciated storyteller, remembers the layers of poverty they have all suffered: “Thomas thought about all the dreams that were murdered here, and the bones buried quickly just inches below the surface, all waiting to break through the foundations of those government houses built by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.” The visceral suggestion of bone piercing skin introduces readers to the colonial wounds Spokane people continue to feel “just inches below the surface,” for their dispossession is rather recent in the U.S. history of conquering Indians. The federal government hides these murders beneath cheap HUD concrete. From the novel’s beginning, Thomas understands the source of Native American poverty, but he wonders how his people can even begin to dig through such layers, to dress the wounds, to lay the bones to rest.
While Alexie is firmly rooted in his Native community, many consider that Anishinaabe author Louise Erdrich perfects the art of writing about one’s nation. In more than a dozen novels she approaches a single community from multiple viewpoints and historical periods. In her best-loved novel Tracks (1989), Erdrich asks readers to confront the devastating consequences of the Allotment Act, not only for Native American landholdings, but also for the social harmony of the community. Onondaga writer Eric Gansworth’s Smoke Dancing (2004) shows the power of originary song and dance to weave Native people into communities.
Both pan-tribalism and national specificity found their way to the city, where they led to tension but also strength. Navajo writer Irvin Morris’s From the Glittering World (2000) engages a restless movement away from and back to Navajo homelands. Morris’s narrator leaves the safety of reservation territories to gain new perspectives of “my mother, the earth,” and of the powers that threaten both his people and their land. At rock bottom in Gallup, he considers the source of his depression, addiction, and homelessness, and he finds fear at the heart of his reluctance to go home: “I am afraid to face my own life. I am Indian. I am minority. I am dark and I am powerless.” Significantly, the narrator suggests that his experiences of the world beyond his nation have led him to “know too much,” a condition that fuels his despair. In departures to the city the narrator discovers his life, best available to him at a safe distance from home, where “the sirens welcome me,” but where he may also read “the tribal newspaper.” Throughout From the Glittering World, the narrator learns to live with an ironic tension between reservation and city, between lived experience and read experience, where Native American life often makes more sense when seen from a distance.
In Pomo writer Greg Sarris’s Grand Avenue (1994), Native people contend with life in a poor mixed black, Indian, Mexican, and white neighborhood on Grand Avenue in Santa Rosa, California. Native Americans here live in renovated army barracks where space is crowded but social relationships are strong. Like the Red Power writing of the 1960s and 1970s Sarris engages the Pomo past without denying the urban Native present in which oppressive conditions impede historical and personal knowledge. One day Nellie, a medicine woman, finds a curious girl in her garden. Nellie names various plants for the girl and notices “something old-time about this girl, maybe just the way she identified herself, telling her family line.” The relationship that grows from this encounter links generations of Pomo people now living in the city. As the old and young women weave baskets together, they untangle and re-braid the old stories, and in the process come to understand their colonial pain. In the city kinship obligations endure and keep youths learning from elders to maintain an urban traditionalism.
Because the Native American urban novel grows from a desire for cultural and social exchange in cosmopolitan spaces, it has become a vehicle for Native writers who seek to address the lives of Native American women or of gay and lesbian Natives. Paula Gunn Allen’s Woman Who Owned the Shadows (1983) imagines lesbian life in San Francisco, while Coeur d’Alene author Janet Campbell Hale’s Jailing of Cecelia Capture (1985) has a protagonist gain a Berkeley law degree and discloses the legal control of low-income women. In Native women’s novels such as Betty Louise Bell’s Faces in the Moon (1994) or Louise Erdrich’s Love Medicine (1984), Native American women are not always anchored to the earth by readily available female ways of knowing; rather, they might find themselves in cities far from home and dominated by men. In such cases, as depicted in Cecelia Capture, Native women remember their social training or undergo a process of self-discovery, in which they disclose the reality of their gendered lives and find freedom. In jail for a DUI, Cecelia recounts how the past thirty years of her life have led her to her present bouts with alcohol and thoughts of suicide. Cecelia shares her cell with Velma, who notices Cecelia’s wedding band and declares: “The only difference between a married woman and a whore …is that they fuck just one dude and get paid a lot less.” Here Velma introduces a central political claim in the novel: in this sexist world, autonomy for women in one area of life often comes in exchange for submission to men in another. Though demonized for selling sex, Velma justifies her work with an ethic that does not endanger lives or submit to men in marriage. In this novel a woman’s crime is often just refusing to assimilate into North American masculinist culture.
While homosexual longing appears in Morris’s From the Glittering World and Sarris’s Watermelon Nights (1998), it receives full treatment in Craig Womack’s Drowning in Fire (2001), in which historical fiction concerning the pre-statehood Creek Nation informs a modern coming-out narrative. In an innovative invocation of oral literature, the protagonist Josh realizes the awesome creative potential of indigenous story. Like the ancient earth diver, Josh has submerged to the depths of homosexual possibility but fears to emerge, for “what would I first utter?” He also imagines himself “flying” through the Native national past, but he realizes that he also must discover the courage to land. Finally his Aunt Lucille shows Josh how to search Creek history for language that will communicate his experiences.
Native American innovation
Leslie Silko’s Almanac of the Dead (1991) draws its force from Native American women in cities. The novel overturns romantic assumptions of Native women as caregivers with an opening scene of elder sisters Leche and Zeta cooking up drugs in their kitchen: “The old woman stands at the stove stirring the simmering brown liquid with great concentration…. She glances up through the rising veil of steam at the young blond woman pouring pills from brown plastic prescription vials.” Yet in its hemispheric scope combining historical events with indigenous prophecy, Almanac of the Dead is also a Native American novel of supreme innovation. In Linda Hogan’s Power (1999), women are also at the center of a cataclysmic storm that threatens to destroy and reform human and animal relationships. Using experimental prose, the author presents a distressing ethical debate on Native sovereignty versus animal rights.
Indeed, from its inception and by necessity the Native American novel has been experimental, attracting and modifying subgenres to seek Native cultural survival and development. In the phalanx of political movements during the past century, Native writers have made the novel their place of both formal and social innovation. In formal terms Native American authors experiment with plot formulae, self-conscious narration, or novelistic expectations; in cultural terms they place Native people in unexpected conversations that discover new possibilities for indigenous lives. Authors such as Gerald Vizenor made the novel a place to imagine the relationship of intellectual health to Native American cultural health, what he calls “survivance.” In his sexually violent and controversial fantasy novel of apocalyptic pilgrimage, Bearheart (1978), Vizenor offers a message on dogmatic thinking. Belladonna Darwin-Winter Catcher is simplistic about her indigenousness. So when she encounters “the hunter,” he executes her with a poison cookie, declaring that she “is a terminal believer and a victim of her own narcissism.” These Native American novels are difficult to place in part because they refuse to surrender explicit meanings. In Monkey Beach (2000), Haisla and Heiltsuk author Eden Robinson loses us in the island communities of her homeland in British Columbia, where a troubled young woman searches for her missing fisherman brother. The land’s misty silence and the novel’s dreamy language lull readers into imagining orcas and sasquatch and to accept their many mysteries.
As calls for greater autonomy from settler governments are increasingly answered, Native American authors will continue to expand the artistic and cultural reach of the Native novel. James Welch imagines the ethical consequences of Native people achieving advanced degrees and entering politics in The Indian Lawyer (1990), only further to test Native American travel narratives in The Heartsong of Charging Elk (2000). Here Sioux warrior Charging Elk sails to France to perform in a Wild West show, where he falls ill, remains behind, and decides to stay to form a new family. Cherokee writer Thomas King’s Truth and Bright Water (1999) offers two eponymous towns, one Native and the other white, that straddle the U.S.-Canada border in an internationally boundary-busting novel. Mesquakie writer Ray Young Bear’s Remnants of the First Earth (1996) explores the power of including poetic imagery in prose, where fantasy cannot be distinguished from reality, and whole passages appear in Mesquakie untranslated.
The Native American novel has become increasingly aware of itself as an art with real-world consequences for Native lives. David Treuer’s Hiawatha (1999) seizes the power of uncompromising plot devices and traumatized language. Set in post-relocation Minneapolis, this novel is a dirge for assimilation, offering resistance in language itself, or in acts of violence. Such violence, no matter how literary or its colonial causes, remains an unsettling trend in some Native American novels. In James Welch’s Death of Jim Loney (1979) Loney sees no possibility of resistance and kills himself; and in Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer (1996) a Native serial killer is said to stalk the city streets taking white men’s scalps. Ojibwe writer Richard Wagamese invites reflection on the Native American novel and its creation and purposes not with dead-end force but with the care of family, elders, and community in his Keeper ’n Me (1994). At three years Garnet Raven was taken from his Ojibwe family by the state and given to a white family. When he is twenty and in prison, his birth family discovers him and calls him home. It is an unassuming story of family forgiveness, cultural revival, and spiritual cleansing. Thomas King teaches with similar self-mocking humor. In Green Grass, Running Water (1994), white tourists visit the community’s Dead Dog Café to see “real” Indians and to taste what they believe to be traditional dog meat hamburgers. Throughout, the narrator even reprimands the oral traditional Coyote figure (and presumably the rest of us) to “pay attention” and “forget about being helpful”; just “sit down and listen.”
In writing the first Native American novel, John Rollin Ridge likely sought social refuge and intellectual health as much as artistic discovery or celebrity. With returns to tradition, but also innovation and travel, the Native novel continues to serve colonial resistance. Perhaps in the spirit of Yellow Bird, today’s Native American writers have awakened, rekindled their fires, and breathed into the novel an indigenous voice for national autonomy, cultural persistence, and social pluralism.