Indigenous futurity

Native American Literature: A Very Short Introduction - Sean Teuton 2018

Indigenous futurity

Cherokees traditionally planted “white eagle corn.” On each differently colored kernel there appears a white shape resembling an eagle in flight. In 1838 they carried these seeds west during the removal, and in 2014 the Cherokee Nation distributed the kernels from its seed bank to citizens to help them revive their ancient diet. The Cherokee Nation decided to restore its time-honored corn crop not because it came from the pre-contact past but, rather, because it may help to secure its indigenous future.

Such indigenous revivals might be viewed as expressions of “futurity,” operating in resistance to those assumptions that consign Native American peoples and lifeways to the past. From their first arrivals in the Western Hemisphere, explorers envisioned that new land and its people as outside of history. For America did not exist in the Christian Bible and was thus beyond the reach of time itself. Columbus for instance informed Ferdinand and Isabella that he had discovered Eden. Inheriting this perspective, settlers often viewed their landing in the New World as a preordained return to a prelapsarian moment. Europeans bound for the future thus were destined to supplant Indians trapped in the past. Yet even though Native people did not see themselves as anachronisms programmed for extinction, they still shared no divine destiny to expand with American “progress.” Instead they planned a sustainable future, a future that was disrupted by conquest. On the reemergence of Native American literature in the 1970s, N. Scott Momaday finally revived this futurity. He beckoned Native people to imagine a new life, a life closer to the land and to the stories. In so doing they would embrace their indigenous futurity.

In the 1950s the United States increasingly pressured Native Americans to leave their communities for urban centers. But by the early 1960s, with the emergence of the National Indian Youth Council, Native communities sought futures on their own terms by reaffirming what Ponca intellectual Clyde Warrior called their “worthiness.” This worth was proclaimed in 1969 with the publication of Momaday’s mixed genre work, The Way to Rainy Mountain. In this work the author imagines a “way” home for Native people wherein Kiowas return to their oral histories and adapt ethnography to reconnect with ancestors and plan a future. Progress may lead Native Americans off to cities, but it occurs just as much at home among members of the community, revitalizing ceremony or recording story. With the passing of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act in 1988 and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act in 1990, federal legislation promoted Native economies and repatriated ceremonial objects and burial remains to homelands. In viewing this pattern of return and revitalization in Native nations, one discerns an alternative model of advancement: progress as directing material and creative resources not toward growth but toward persistence. Here ceremony, economy, and literature offer life within valued community patterns for present and future generations. It is progress as sustainability.


9. The Apache leader Geronimo was released briefly from prison to pose for this photograph in 1904. Perhaps the photographer wished to juxtapose what he considered symbols of America’s past and future.

Since buttressing the sovereign status of indigenous nations in the 1970s, settler governments have seen Native communities attract the dollars of tourism, gaming, or industry, for instance. The Pequots now operate the most profitable casino in the world, and the Cherokee Nation is one of the largest employers in Oklahoma. Native American communities often direct those new profits to infrastructure: housing programs, nutrition and fitness campaigns, scholarships, indigenous language revitalization, national museums, even the purchase of ancestral lands.

It is the same new song

The most voluminous of all Native American literature remains the song. Indigenous songs vary widely in their content and purposes from nation to nation, but most all of them recognize the power of language to address and even alter the universe. Enchanted words can divert a storm, bring a harvest or a child, heal an illness, repel an enemy, or win a lover. Native American poets invoke this ancient power of song, at times even offering a poem as a “song.” For these reasons indigenous oral literatures readily adapt poetry, and poetry enjoys widespread popular appeal in Native communities. Native American youth enter “poetry slams,” perhaps as a continuation of long-standing patterns of communal performance. As a young writer Sherman Alexie won three poetry slam championships, and Santa Fe Indian School’s Slam Poets yearly compete in the Brave New Voices International Youth Festival in Washington, DC. Native American poetry today promises a populist futurity.

Nineteenth-century Native poets such as Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and John Rollin Ridge, as well as early-twentieth-century poets such as E. Pauline Johnson, Alexander Posey, Zitkala-Ša, and Iroquois Frank James Prewett, have long turned classical poetic forms toward indigenous content. Audiences especially celebrated Johnson, a Mohawk woman from the Lake Ontario area, for her oral poetic performances; today readers equally value her insightful short stories. Only recently have scholars amassed the body of nineteenth-century Native American poetry from newspapers and archives. By the late twentieth century a number of Native poets received extensive formal training: N. Scott Momaday studied with Yvor Winters at Stanford, and James Welch and Roberta Hill worked with Richard Hugo at the University of Montana. Such poets continued to adapt western poetic forms to express indigenous realities, at times even using rhyme and lyric, sonnets and sestinas. Since the 1970s most Native American poets have worked in free verse, though often altering form and mixing genre. Whatever the form, contemporary Native poets look to oral literature and its long-held understanding of language as a source of change. Such poetry not only frees Native American voices, but also confirms a spiritual awareness of ancestral land and community.

Simon Ortiz offers poems as gifts to embolden not only Native, but also any people to love and defend the land. While he also writes essays and short stories, the poetic form might enable for him a kind of alchemy unavailable in other genres, a rarified space in which to compress image and sound, to juxtapose historical moments or communal memories. In “A Story of How a Wall Stands,” Ortiz narrates a conversation with his father about the construction of an ancient stone wall that supports a cemetery in his ancestral town. The son tells the father it appears ready to crumble but while repairing the wall the father replies: “ ’That’s just the part you see, / the stones which seem to be / just packed in on the outside’…. ’Underneath what looks like loose stone, / there is stone woven together.’ ” Perhaps the son reveals his youth and impatience with the craft of ancestors, but the father asks the son to imagine more than the eye can see, to honor the careful design of a wall meant to preserve and connect the generations. The lines break with the breath of work, of lifting and fitting stone. With gritty sound and warm texture the father also describes the ties of indigenous story: “He tells me those things, / the story of them worked / with his fingers, in the palm / of his hands, working the stone / and the mud until they become / the wall that stands a long, long time.” Here indigenous narrative requires patient labor across the generations as imbricated in stones. For Ortiz, stories carefully mended together will be the design to cement the people. In such “centering” poems Ortiz and other Native American poets claim their futurity.

In “Empty Kettle,” Creek poet Louis Little Coon Oliver declares sustainable values—“I do not waste what is wild / I only take what my cup / can hold”—and celebrates the call to hunt when “the black kettle gapes / empty.” He prepares with a chant: “I chant the deer chant:/“He-hebah-Ah-kay-kee-no!” then on killing the deer seeks balance in the taking: “I open the way for the blood to pour / back to Mother Earth / the debt I owe.” Having fed his children, he sings: “My soul rises—rapturous / and I sing a different song, / I sing, / I sing.” Like “A Story of How a Wall Stands,” “Empty Kettle” proclaims the values that sustain people across generations, and affirms human reciprocal ties to land, here in the hunter’s returning the deer’s blood to the earth. Such poems validate men’s nurturing, to weave stone or hunt meat for the generations. Invoking chant and song such poems enlist the revitalizing potential of language.

Equally often, however, Native American poets call on the genre to confront injustice. James Welch’s “The Man from Washington” recalls the arrival of a federal official to a nineteenth-century reservation, with Native people recently “Packed away in our crude beginnings / in some far corner of a flat world.” With bitter irony the narrator understands the mainstream perception of his people as crowded into a reservation, remote from European ways, primitives with irrational minds who still believe in a “flat world.” Or if from this pre-contact world, they should not even exist. Yet the official is also obscure, a “slouching dwarf with rainwater eyes,” a broken emissary crying improbable tears. Such a man from Washington cannot be trusted: “He promised / that life would go on as usual / that treaties would be signed, and everyone— / man, woman, and child—would be inoculated / against a world in which we had no part, / a world of money, promise, and disease.” The bison eradicated, their lands stolen, all know that life cannot possibly “go on as usual,” and even “inoculation” against European diseases will not protect them from colonial modernity and their “diseased” economy.

Other Native American poets ask us to return to crucial historical moments in the conquest of Native peoples. In From Sand Creek (1981), Simon Ortiz revisits the Sand Creek Massacre when in 1864 “the fighting parson” John Chivington slaughtered Southern Cheyennes camping in southern Colorado. The poet does not shame mainstream readers for inheriting the benefits of the atrocity. Instead Ortiz invites meditation on the land and its own suffering, the minds of white settlers, the hopes of Native Americans. However, he will not downplay the evil of American voters and their leaders, including Chivington’s men, who “deemed / themselves blessed and pure / so that not even breath / became life— / life strangled / in their throats. Blood / gurgled and ran backwards / and swirled them into a whirl / of greed and callousness.” The hunting, the cutting down and cutting out emerge as a dark song in which life-giving breath is now death—the very inversion of indigenous sacred song. Ultimately seeking to heal, Ortiz views other futures written on the land: “but, look now, / there are flowers / and new grass / and a spring wind / rising / from Sand Creek.”

In “Indian Boarding School: The Runaways,” Louise Erdrich gives voice to Native American children who endured residential and boarding schools. The adult children remain haunted by the brutality: “Home’s the place we head for in our sleep.” As children they flee to hop a train home, in which their very mode of escape paradoxically is also their abuse: “The rails, old lacerations that we love, / shoot parallel across the face and break / just under Turtle Mountains.” Scars of trauma never fade, but they recur in nightmares: “The worn-down welts / of ancient punishments lead back and forth.” Navajo poet Laura Tohe also revisits the boarding schools in No Parole Today (1999).

In her book-length return to personal, family, and indigenous national trauma, A Map to the Next World (2000), Creek poet Joy Harjo draws on multiple genres to find a path to healing. At the end of that path is a “next world” where enemies are vanquished and the body and spirit can thrive. Harjo’s map is global: some poems describe a view from above the Southwest, others travel across the world. Whirlwinds and whorls recur, suggesting a climbing, spiraling quest for the next world’s aperture. The project calls for a search that enlists all senses, especially touch, and declares bodily pleasure to heal memories of abuse: “In the dark I travel by instinct, / through the rubble of nightmares, / groaning of monsters toward the crack of light / along your body’s horizon.” While this search requires a communal self, Harjo also celebrates the portable power contained within the individual: “Your skin is the map.”

Eric Gansworth returns to an impoverished reservation childhood. In poems such as “Dream House” the narrator, like the boarding school runaways, is haunted nightly by a dream of his childhood home that is anything but a “dream house.” He peers through his bedroom window, “pane shrouded / in cloudy winter plastic / a cataract obscuring life / beyond the barrier / where we all dreamed awake / of some other existence / beyond the reservation.” The plastic weatherproofs the window in a drafty, poorly heated house, but comes to stand for a better world flaunted forever out of reach. The “shrouded” “pane” of this window homophonically evokes the “pain” of viewing with poor vision another life. Though the narrator finally overcomes that transparent barrier, as an adult in a well-heated home he still has nightmares. One day years ago the “dream house” burned to the ground and the narrator wonders in his sleepless nights if he could “reform” his dreams “support by desperate / support,” as he seeks to end the trauma by rebuilding that dream house of the mind.

In “No Pie,” Ojibwe poet Mark Turcotte recalls a boy’s trip with his white mother off the reservation to get a slice of pie. “And I remember my mother’s pearl-white hands / twisting the lid from her secret Mason jar.” Seated at the counter of a diner, the boy “knocked / together the dangling toes of my tattered sneakers.” As the boy gazes at “the fat pies lined up neatly behind the glass,” his mother asks for two pieces of pie, one apple, one pumpkin, but the waitress replies that they sell only whole pies. Unable to afford a whole pie they depart feeling the irrational shame of poverty. On the drive home he sat “staring at my small brown fists” and “turned / to watch the world speed by, both our mouths / filled with tears.” Here Turcotte redeems the worn image of apple pie as a symbol of America, of pumpkin pie as an image of Thanksgiving, the Indian holiday. Like the obscured window in “Dream Home,” the partitioned pies offer the inaccessible promise of a middle-class life. He cannot have only a piece of the pie in a system where the winner takes all. The boy learns this hard lesson about class and is silenced by the crisis, stalled as the “world speeds by,” his mouth filled not with pie but tears.

Acting out

When in 1914 the photographer Edward Curtis traveled to Vancouver to produce a film on the island’s indigenous people, he found that cast members were already well-trained actors. Local Kwakwaka ’wakws had been performing their own grand ceremonies, complete with stages and sets, costumes and masks, for centuries. Across Native North America such ritual performances, from Navajo beautyway ceremonies and Hopi kachina dances in the Southwest to sun dances and sacred arrow ceremonies on the Great Plains to Iroquois midwinter ceremonies in the East and green corn ceremonies in the South, enact the very oral literatures that explain the origins and confirm the values of Native American peoples. Such ancient performances re-create the universe. While Native songs can effect change, these are often included within Native ritual drama as it embodies an entire indigenous world. In its profound capacity to sustain Native Americans, centuries-old performance finds a close affinity with modern theater. Today’s Native people may find a healthier venue for “acting out,” not as Freud’s defensive tantrum but to root themselves in land as a community and enact their future.

At the time of Curtis’s production, Native Americans playwrights had little control over the mainstream stage. By the 1930s, however, Cherokee dramatist Lynn Riggs wrote twenty-one full-length plays, including Green Grow the Lilacs (1931), which Rogers and Hammerstein adapted to become Oklahoma! Riggs considered as most important his only play with entirely Native content, The Cherokee Night (1932). In this work the playwright displays a keen understanding of the conflicts facing Native Americans wishing to retain their cultures but fearing persecution and poverty. In one exchange, sisters Viney and Sarah debate acculturation; Viney has thoroughly westernized while Sarah remains closer to her indigenousness. Sarah attacks Viney: “You’ve turned your back on what you ought to a-been proud of.” Viney fires back: “Being part-Indian? What would it get me? Do you think I want to be ignorant and hungry and crazy in my head half the time like a lot of ’em around here?” Clearly Riggs was aware of the psychological cost of being Native in a world that punishes it.

Not until the Native American movements of the 1970s did Native theater fully emerge. In 1972 Kiowa and Delaware playwright Hanay Geiogamah founded the first long-standing Native American theater company, what came to be known as the Native American Theater Ensemble (NATE). In 1975 Muriel Miguel and other women created the Brooklyn-based Spiderwoman Theater, which became the longest running women’s theater in the United States. Central to their company is their concept of “storyweaving,” a process that melds nonhierarchical feminist narratives with indigenous oral literatures. Their name invokes Grandmother Spider, the deity who in Hopi oral literature taught Hopis to weave. In Winnetou’s Snake Oil Show from Wigwam City (1988), Spiderwoman Theater plays with stereotypes and spiritual appropriations, then ends with serious statements on Native women’s identity. Native American theater often focuses on indigenous oral narratives or contemporary social issues and readily infuses the stage with song and drum music, for instance, but, like other forms, it is often challenged to reshape the genre to meet the formal needs of Native narratives. Much of western literature relies on opposition; the novel, for example, must have characters and plot, and plot relies on conflict. Native American dramatists such as Drew Hayden Taylor, who is Ojibwe, argue that such conflict is often foreign to indigenous oral literatures.

During the 1980s several other Native theaters appeared, and for the first time theater about Native Americans was Native written, cast, and run. These theaters produced plays by Assiniboine and Sioux dramatist William Yellow Robe, Comanche playwright Terry Gomez, and LeAnne Howe, among many others. Geiogamah envisioned a Native American theater movement adapting the stage to indigenous models of performance, including ritual drama, song, and chant, but also addressing Native social issues. Navajo company members Geraldine Keams, Robert Shorty, and Timothy Clashin developed Na Haaz Zaan, an adaptation of Keams’s grandmother’s telling of the Navajo creation, which on an evening in 1972 they staged in Navajo with English translations on various set levels to dramatize the layered Navajo worlds. For their second performance the same evening NATE staged Geiogamah’s best known and most controversial play, Body Indian, in which several Native Americans in a messy Oklahoma City apartment spend allotment lease money on wine. Having lost his leg while inebriated on some railroad tracks, Bobby Lee limps into his uncle’s apartment, a bag of wine bottles under one arm. The bottle passes while Bobby slurs a wish to enter rehab and his “relatives” ridicule his plans. After Bobby passes out, they nervously search him for his allotment money, removing his prosthesis to discover his hidden cash. In this troubling image Bobby’s dismembered body evokes the railroad’s role in westward expansion and the concurrent fracture of communal land relationships consequent to the Dawes Act. He is literally severed by the railroad, figuratively severed from his land. Bobby is inadequately compensated through the allotment money that he uses to seek wholeness by literally stuffing the cavity of his prosthesis with the dollars, and he fills his Indian body with the wine the allotment money buys.


10. The Miguel sisters of Spiderwoman Theater pose in character for Reverb-Ber-Ber-Rations (1994), a performance about growing up Native American and building a spiritual community through the generations. Spiderwoman Theater is the longest running women’s theater in the United States.

The twenty-first-century Native American stage often defiantly refuses colonial borders, and indigenous playwrights in Canada, such as Daniel David Moses, Monique Mojica, and Tomson Highway, see their works performed throughout North America as they empower Native communities toward a sustaining and satisfying future. Cree dramatist Highway was born in 1951 in a tent on his father’s trap line on an island in northern Manitoba. He spoke only Cree until entering a residential school and later living in foster homes. In college he studied to be a concert pianist before becoming a playwright. Rez Sisters (1986), the staging of seven reserve women who hope that bingo is their ticket to freedom, won best play in Toronto that season and toured Canada. That play’s companion, Dry Lips Oughta Move to Kapuskasing (1989), revisits the imaginary Wasaychigan Hill Indian Reserve, this time focusing on seven men. Each embodies the different wounds to Native masculinity haunted by colonialism and Christianity, alcoholism and rape. Unlike many mainstream men’s narrative, women oversee and intervene in this indigenous drama; the women even form a hockey team that threatens but also enlivens the men. At the core of both plays is the trickster figure found in oral literature. In Dry Lips, the Ojibwe trickster Nanabush is female and appears as various “Wasy” women in stage productions that include a hovering Nanabush and a honky-tonk jukebox.

A new indigenous experiment

D’Arcy McNickle’s Surrounded (1936) ends tragically when Archilde Leon sees his mother murder a white game warden and, confused and afraid, flees into the wilderness. McNickle, in fact, began his novel with a different title; Native Americans were not “surrounded” but were “hungry generations.” In The Hungry Generations Archilde actually finds happy resolution. After the murder he even travels to Paris where he experiences the expatriate literati and falls in love with a Frenchwoman. Like other Native American authors, McNickle had to negotiate with a 1930s white readership who harbored a view that Native people should not travel abroad, explore European art, and, above all, pursue romance with white women. In the years since The Surrounded appeared, however, Native American writers in all genres increasingly resist publishing venues still wishing to see the Vanishing Indian. Today they express an indigenous world in all its complexity, denying readers the colonial narratives and stereotypes that damage not only Native people but all of us. No longer will Native Americans be an “experiment” in civilization. Instead Native poets and playwrights, essayists and novelists initiate their own experiments with literary meanings and forms, plots and devices.

In The Lesser Blessed (1996), Dogrib writer Richard Van Camp places his indigenous protagonist far from ancestral lands in an impoverished all-white town in the Northwest Territories, Canada. Larry carries a dark secret but reveals little to us, aside from his hidden scars and fleeting memories of cousins, gasoline, and fire. His friend’s little brother hides cigarette burns on his hands. Van Camp refuses to indulge the desire of some readers to dwell on Native dysfunction, and he even insists on a measure of privacy—or sovereignty—within the public genre of the novel. Larry lives in the comfort of his Dogrib culture when he is at home, but readers do not see Dogrib ceremony, custom, or practice. Instead, Van Camp credits young Natives with consciousness of cultural threats and class warfare that here begin in the white high school classroom:

One day we were having this huge debate about whether it was environment or upbringing that creates a criminal. I looked around. Wasn’t it fucking obvious? With the quiet bleeding labour of shellfish in our lockers. The sweet rotting flesh of our feet. The fluorescent lights making me weakdizzydemented. The crab cream two desks over. The gum under my desk. The spits on the floor. The silverfish. The crunch under my runners. The bleeding badge of the sun. The crunch under my runners. My father’s teeth. The crunch under my runners. Kevin Garner was selling drugs in the back row. Clarence Jarome was jamming his HB pencil into the primer of a 12-gauge slug. Everybody in the room, as their bodies cooled out, had their eyes fusing shut.

While the scene evokes other “blackboard jungles,” one discerns a Native youth fully aware of the colonizing press of institutions. Ironically the students in their resignation answer the question for Mr. Harris. However here Larry displays a gift in language—surreal escape to sea, sound of snow underfoot—that promises his survival in this mean town.

Other Native American writers direct their work toward Van Camp’s newer generation of readers, who seek narratives that appeal as much to the ear as to the eye. More and more Native illustrators are teaming up with Native American writers to imagine narratives that harness the richness of visual culture. In Tom Pomplun’s Native American Classics (2013), ten indigenous illustrators give pictorial life to the central works of Native American literature, such as those by Charles Eastman, E. Pauline Johnson, Alexander Posey, and Zitkala-Ša. In Trickster (2010), nearly two dozen Native oral trickster stories from across North America find graphic illustration.

Often Native American writers proclaim their futurity by appropriating western genres or the treasured symbols of American progress. Sioux poet Tiffany Midge enlists frontier mythology for Outlaws, Renegades, and Saints (1996). Here Midge’s parents are “fighting like cowboys and Indians” while she explicitly defies “tradition”: “Forget your rules and tradition, / your social teas, religion and pearl / colored linens, I ain’t like all the rest / of your sisters, ’cuz I’m a rodeo queen, / a cowgirl, a bulldogger. Whatever propriety I lack / is your problem, ’cuz I always knew that I’d go far!” Eric Gansworth’s Breathing the Monster Alive (2006) faces his childhood dread of Bigfoot, the mythic primate of indigenous lore. The poet allows the mystery of this beast to consume him, plumbing the recesses of his imagination, its irrational fears and fascinations, where some settlers in Arkansas discovered “there was something / odd in the woods, down near the bottoms / where we’d built our first house.” Gansworth fills his book with illustrations to bring visual culture to the poetry. In exploring the psychological depths of American popular culture, Gansworth inserts indigenous people within a contemporary world.

Other Native authors simply defy their genre. In Up from These Hills (2011), Leonard Lambert delivers a bluntly honest account of poverty and survival in a Cherokee town. A contrarian throughout his memoir, Lambert refuses to portray the Indian whose spiritual purity and commitment to community and cultural values carry the day. Instead, Lambert blames his parents for not supporting his education and holds other relatives accountable for their misdeeds. When his people oppose their casino on religious grounds, Lambert candidly declares that not Native American beliefs but Baptist religion leads the opposition. From end to end Lambert provides the truth of his Native world, no matter the disappointment of some readers.

The science fiction fantasy genre seems made for indigenous futurity. In Field of Honor (2004), Choctaw writer D. L. Birchfield imagines Choctaws have escaped settlers’ rapine by building their own civilization—deep underground in southern Oklahoma. There Choctaws develop technologies to grow corn in immense greenhouses and to play their ancient game of stickball in vast stadiums. When social crisis threatens, Choctaw P. P. McDaniel, a Vietnam War veteran with Stockholm Cowardice Syndrome Dysfunction, emerges to save the day. In Cherokee writer Blake Hausman’s Riding the Trail of Tears (2011), Georgians take a computer-simulated tour of the Cherokee removal. Novels imagining removal continue ironically to contribute to indigenous visions of futurity, as readers appear more and more comfortable returning to the atrocity. Some surmise that the Trail of Tears narrative offers struggles considered heroic by many North Americans, such as family separation and reunion, wagon trails west, and settling new lands. While Native Americans continue to recall such events with solemn resolve, in other minds they invite attractive, romantic longings. Perhaps only the futurist novel can break us free of them, as it seems to in Riding the Trail of Tears.

One day at the Trail of Tears virtual ride a group of anthropology students, sorority and fraternity members, and a Jewish family find themselves highjacked by ancient Cherokee wood nymphs, “little people” who have taken over the system and increased the programmed violence threshold. Though the participants die, one by one, at bayonet point on the way to stockades, they never even reach the trail west. Demanding Cherokee futurity, Hausman denies the desire of readers to experience the exodus. Instead, we discover that computerized Cherokees from different eras and walks of life have hidden within the computer program. These “Misfits” band together and plot to end the trail before it ever begins.

Like plains Indians of the frontier imagination, they descend on the cyber tourists and Cherokees slogging through the Cumberland Gap, but they soon find their ultimate enemy in the game’s “stock Cherokees”: “These stock Cherokees are scared and visibly trembling. They are professional victims …unaccustomed to sudden emancipation. Some tremble. Some whimper. Many want to flee. Deer Cooker, his face long and fallen, turns away from the Misfits.” When the predictable victim Deer Cooker cannot bear the thought of freedom without a Trail of Tears, he bolts to warn others. Fish, a Misfit leader, takes action and “walks to the frontline of the Misfit collective, his obsidian crossbow luminous in the sun. He nonchalantly aims his weapon at Deer Cooker and shoots the tragic Cherokee in the back. Deer Cooker falls limply on the ground. The boy walks a few steps closer to the dying Indian and shoots him again, in the center of the head. Blood bubbles from Deer Cooker’s body like water boiling over the edges of a full pot.” In this daring passage, Hausman calls for the destruction of tragic Indian victims who, on the one hand, continue to colonize the minds of Native people and, on the other, serve the desires of those North American readers wishing to consume tragic Indians. For this author and for a growing number of Native American writers, that death promises a new indigenous person with, yes, futurity.