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BATYA WEINBAUM. Native Issue: Editors Notes 1

CANDACE CRUZ. Native Issue: Introductory Overview 4


MARGARA AVERBACH. Technology, "Magic," and Resistance in

Native American Women s Writing 7

SANDRA BARINGER. The Terror of the Liminal: Silko s Almanac and

Klein s Phantasy Paradigm 17

ROSEANNE HOEFEL. Narrative Choreography toward a

New Cosmogony.' The Medicine Way in Linda Hogan s

Novel Solar Storms 33

ROBERT GISH. Voices from Bear Country: Leslie Silko s Allegories

of Creation 48

ELAINE KLEINER and ANGELA VLAICU. Revisioning Woman in

America: A Study of Louise Erdrich s Novel The Antelope Wife 56

TOM MATCHIE. Fighting the Windigo: Winona LaDuke s Peculiar

Postcolonial Posture in Last Standing Woman 66

DELILAH ORR. Bear, Mountain Lion, Deer, and Yellow Woman

in Leslie Marmon Silko s Ceremony 73



Those Indians Sure Are Crafty 88


JANET MCADAMS. Plaza Bocanegra 89




KAlLA SCHWARTZ. Elements of Trickster in the Children s Books

of Louise Erdrich 98

SUZANNE ZAHRT MURPHY. Dream Poet: Marijo Moore 105

ANNIS VILAS PRATT. Review of Life Is a Fatal Disease 113


KAT BALL. Stink of the Future 115


FRANCISCO. Artfrom the "Three Sisters Show, Santa Fe, New

Mexico, June 1999 116

Fighting the Winoigo: Winona LaDuke\1 Peculiar POeJtco[onia[ POeJture in LaJt Stanoing Woman

Tom Matchie

Literarily, we live in an era of deconstruction and reconstruction. Recently I attended a conference entitled "Reinscriptions, Revisions, and Retellings" (Fargo, 1999). If that is the context in which we live, Winona LaDuke's novel Last Standing Woman is a rather perfect fit-with one exception. More than the reconstruction of a text (although this is not excluded, as we shall see), she is interested in the reconstruction of the land, the nation, even the globe. Her book, published in 1997, speaks of a rebirth, a reinvention of a people-her people, the Anishinaabe (Chippewa, Ojibway) in northern Minnesota. Last fall I heard LaDuke talk in Detroit Lakes, which is in Becker County-an area she thinks even today is "in denial" (Marks). LaDuke is an activist, an environmentalist, who ran as the V-P candidate on Ralph Nader's Green Party ticket in the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections. LaDuke believes in the earth, the land, especially her people's land at White Earth-land that was lost a over a century ago to the "windigo plunderers" (the white man). For her, recovering this land is a metaphor for reinventing the whole country, the planet if you will. To this end, she travels the world, speaks to the U.N. on "human rights for Indigenous peoples" ("I Fight" 39), and has now written a novel. For her, this piece is just another way to re-envision that land, the role of women on it, but also what other novelists have said about her people and their history.

The title itself, Last Standing Woman (a common name among the OJ ibway) is misleading. It's not the last of anything-much less a woman. For her, woman is the life-giver, just as is true of the land. In her words, "Women are the manifestation of Mother Earth in human form" ("Our Bodies" 7). This novel is structured on a series of three women who are especially instrumental in regenerating the land at White Earth. Initially, it jumps back in history to 1800, when that land was rich and filled with trees. At that time James Fenimore Cooper was writing Last a/the Mohicans, which takes place in the forests of the Northeast. But Cooper's book assumes that Uncas is the last of a line. America at that time was moving west, displacing Indians through force and so-called treaties, so it well might have appeared to many that Cooper was right. By contrast, LaDuke's Last Standing Woman is about a group of women who take a stand in the Midwest against land grabbers, especially the lumbermen, but including the FBI that gets involved, to help revitalize a reservation in the 1990s. This "last stand" is truly a new beginning.

One approach to this novel is through the ways that it is new. There are some ways it is not. Thematically, it resembles "the 1973 siege at Wounded Knee" (Publishers Weekly 56) dramatized by Mary Crow Dog in Lakota Woman. It is also structured on four parts, which is not new; James Welch's WInter in the Blood has such a framework. It also moves linearly through time, from the late 19th century, through the sixties, to the present. This schema is not terribly original either. Susan Powers in Grass Dancer and Louise Erdrich in Love

66 FEMSPEC 2:2 • 2001

Medicine do this. They all do it because a proper understanding of Native land problems demands an historical context Like the others, LaDuke works through historical examples, which she then puts into stories. Storytelling is also a part of the Native American way, as one can see in Silko's Ceremony, or her collection entitled Storyteller. Winona LaDuke is a storyteller, too, and a good one. Marks calls Last Standing Woman "a storyteller's tale of White Earth."

What is unique is the way LaDuke tells stories-hard-hitting, provocative tales rooted in "social history and oral myth" (Publishers Weekly), but filled with "humor and compassion" (Wilkinson). She begins by focusing (indeed, re-focusing) on an historical event in Minnesota-Little Crow's War, the Sioux Uprising of 1862. Frederick Manfred's Scarlet Plume dramatizes the terrible violence inherent in this event, but he juxtaposes that horror with a love affair between a Sioux warrior and a white woman, so his account becomes a kind of romantic tale. LaDuke uses the event quite differently. Historically, the Sioux and the Chippewa were "honored enemies" (30)-the Chippewa having pushed the Sioux unto the Plains. Bypassing the violence, LaDuke focuses on a Chippewa woman, Ishkwegaabawiikwe, who takes in a Dakota woman, Situpiwin, or Tailsfeather Woman,just before that woman's husband is hung in Mankato by the white soldiers. What LaDuke stresses is the union of two rival Indian nations in their effort to counteract all the white man was doing to their peoples at the time. Moreover, Ishkwegaabawiikwe, the first of three "last standing women," provides the substructure for the novel which moves through seven generations of Ojibway. Indeed, the title is symbolic of their continuing effort to regain the land taken by the whites through force, treaties, and federal law over a hundred years ago.

In Part I she includes many stories of that usurpation. Other novelists, like Louise Erdrich in Tracks, depict that Chippewa resistance to the lumbermen in northern Minnesota and North Dakota at the beginning of this century. LaDuke's characters, like Erdrich's, are "vital and fully realized," says Bogenschutz, but she does not dwell on "the quiet desperation" oflives as does Erdrich (77). Nor do the Chippewa lose their trees, as in Tracks. More than this, LaDuke includes, in addition to stories of the lumberj acks, tales of the missionaries who destroyed Chippewa spirituality, the anthropologists who robbed Indian graves, the sanitarium at Walker where many Natives lost their sense of being, and the boarding school that took away Native family education. Elizabeth Cook-Lynn, the noted Sioux critic in Why 1 Can't Read Wallace Stegner, is impatient with many Native writers-like Erdrich, but even Momaday, Silko and Welch-for compromising Native tribal sovereignty. By contrast, LaDuke is a purest in her unrelenting attack on the effects of assimilation, be it cultural, political or religious. Though this author works locally with non-Indians (paul 39), and knows

how to compromise internationally ("Tributaries" 43), there is little in her novel that is sympathetic to the windigo.

On the other hand, LaDuke's stories are not harsh, as are Mary Crow Dog's in Lakota Woman, where the author employs street language to sound out the atrocities of her early religious education, together with her aimless drinking and shoplifting as a young rebel. LaDuke is more subtle, coupling tragic happenings with irony and humor. Characters like the arrogant Father Benoit are only too real, as is the young Boodoo Graves, whom the priest forcibly removes to the boarding school. The boy can "feel his (the pnest's) weight" all over as he moves away from the woods, "the smell of birch and popular" (82) that he loves. Because the meaning is "implicit," says one critic, the author "involves the reader in the creation of the novel's meaning" (Strandness). Father Gilfillian is similarly a convincing character, committed to removing "pa-

FEMSPEC 2:2·2001 67

gan ceremonies" from the reservation, contending, "They are whooping and dancing around the drum, very much as savages." Then he and the BIA agent act to outlaw such practices for individuals "under fifty years of age" (52, 54). LaDuke's technique, far different from Crow Dog's, is "to let the tale go," but end it humorously, as two large crows-mimicking the two white men-"landed and seized on a shinny tin piece that had been discarded" tore it "in two and flew their separate ways" (55).

But if religious figures serve to subdue the Anishinaabe on the reservation, it is the land itself and the people on it that most concern LaDuke. The old woman Mindemoyen, for instance, is fully believable when she tells her grandson, Mesabe, of her lending money to a white landowner named Walker, who later claims she gave him the money to buy the land. Walker belongs to the Knights of the Forest, holdovers from Little Crow's War who are still angry at the Indians and anxious to take their land. What comes through in such instances is the woman's humanity, her "desire for dignity and self-determination" (Publishers Weekly 57) in spite of injustice and personal loss. Mesabe, by the way, knows what is happening overall. He is an old drummer with a dream who hides that drum in the Episcopal Church balcony, as though "in the ribcage of the beast" (103). Such images undercut even the most tragic stories. A further irony, says Bogenschutz, is that overall LaDuke's chronicle "moves to the beat of the drums that symbolize Native culture and its survival despite the odds" (77), as with Mindemoyen and her lost land. In the end Native music and dancing will prevail.

Part II takes us from the 19th to the mid-twentieth century, where the author does something else unique. Here noted males, like Jim Nordstrom, lose their souls through playing Indian in the white man's Indian films. Thomas King plays on this theme in Green Grass, Running Water, though he reverses the myth in a humorous fashion so that the Indians win. LaDuke deals more with the tragic consequences of such acts and her compassion for the men who suffer them. She does the same with George Ahnib, who loses his mental capacities from sniffing gas-a reality that destroys his mind and by extension his whole extended family, whom the Health Service treats only as statistics. Still, there is one man, Mesabe (whom we met in Part I) who with his drum and a dream is the ceremonial connection between past and present. He is old, traditional, and anti-colonial; LaDuke uses him as a vehicle through whom the women will rise. He has a daughter who was needlessly killed by a white man's car, but his granddaughter Elaine Mandarnin (along with several other women) keeps the dream alive and begins to implement it. In fact, in a less-than-subtle way the women's activity seems to resonate with the music.

Later in Part II-the time is the 1960s to the late 80s- Lucy St. Clair, the second of three "last standing women," emerges in a context of land disputes. One must remember that of the 873,000 acres of Indian land in 1867, 93 percent had been taken over by non-Indians (Paul 38). In the 60s, however, white men were becoming nervous about deeds to their farm lands which the government was starting to question, thus generating a wave of Indian hating. In this context Lucy, attractive and noted for her "jackrolling" (146), is assaulted by several landowners, but she slashes their leader, Bob Grist, with a knife and escapes, leaving him to explain the scar to his wife. Together Lucy and Elaine, Mesabe's granddaughter-you'll remember it was his grandmother who lost her land-then begin a movement to regain the land in dispute. In an unusually aggressive role for women, when the corrupt White Earth Council "suddenly signed some big leases with a logging company" (164), they put sugar in gas tanks and start using the white man's sexual prowess to take his money to

68 FEMSPEC 2:2 • 2001

finance their political opposition. All this leads up to taking over the BrA Office, thus setting up the 1993 Standoff at White Earth. And it is the women who lead the charge; indeed, these are "pieces" of a host of women LaDuke actually came to know over the years at White Earth (Marks).

The novel climaxes in "The Occupation," or Part III, with several women at the helm. Another Minnesota writer, Will Weaver, dramatizes a similar confrontation in the 70s at Red Lake, Minnesota, in his novel Red Earth, White Earth. His account centers on a triangular love affair between a white man and an Indian sister and brother. Weaver includes certain mythic backdrops, but the book goes nowhere, supposedly because the author was given a substantial advance to finish the piece. Not so with LaDuke. This standoff, designed and orchestrated by women to prevent lumber men from cutting more trees, simply works. And it's told through stories. There's a wonderful event included here wherein Lucy St. Clair uses gill nets to snag a coterie of FBI troopers. Ironically, it is a non-violent trick which forces the U.S. Government to negotiate, and in this sense the Anishinaabe win their case. Indeed, they win this reservation war!

But Part III is loaded with irony that sets off Last Standing Woman as a revisionist text. After the men, led by Moose Hanford, barricade the place with old cars, Alanis Nordstrom, a reporter for the Rocky Mountain News and sister of Jim (whose tragic end was detailed earlier), comes home to become part of the operation. Subsequently, she sends faxes to her newspaper so the world will know their view of the event. It is the connection between characters like Jim and Alanis that tie the whole narrative together, as though her actions restore his lost honor. The same is true of other events, as when the gas-sniffer George Anhib, whose mind was destroyed by reservation life, enters the scene. "Mimicking the style flaunted by Lucy"-who earlier polluted the gas tanks-he drenches the logging machinery with gas and "set them ablaze" (150). In his retarded condition he takes his cue from a woman he admires in order help his people, and they can't prosecute him because he "has a few cards missing" (150). In the end Alanis will marry and give birth to a girl, whom Lucy (who by then will have established a mid-wife program at White Earth) names with her own name, Last Standing Woman. Significantly, this third woman, like LaDuke herself, has "the gift of story and word" (295). But that comes after the war.

During the standoff this group, along with deer rifles, showcases one AK- 47; it is a weapon with a legendary history related to the occupation at Wounded Knee (181) that they use to dramatize their cause. An interesting contrast can be made to the first rifle encountered by the Sioux in the late 1700s, a disarming yet mystical event captured by Joseph Marshall III in Winter of the Holy Iron. Here he tells of the beginning of the rifle's long evolutionary history in the hands of American Indians. LaDuke stands at the end of that development, using it symbolically to connect White Earth to Wounded Knee, to defending one's people and land from windigo aggression. Ironically, Indians are not into large-scale war, and LaDuke gives such violence a non-violent twist when the Woman Warrior's Society returns the GIs captured in the gill nets-no guns involved-because the men were so young. One thinks of Ella Deloria's Waterlily, written in 1940 but set in the 1830s; it is about early Native women, where the tribe embraces rather than kills an enemy warrior-an event that is ironically juxtaposed with the first sounds of the white soldiers' cannons. LaDuke is different from Deloria, however, in one significant regard; Kway Dole, asking her Creator to forgive her, kills Ken Bennert-the arrogant deputy who had abused many Indian woman and kept the murderer of Hawk Her Many Horses, who was killed during the siege-from being brought to trial. She "drops him

FEMSPEC 2:2 ·2001 69

with a clean shot through the temple" (258). Bennert is modeled on "a former Mahnomen deputy accused [ ... J of numerous felonies, including sexually as-

saulting Indian woman" (Marks). .

The last section, Part IV of the novel, is fraught with amazing stories told in a more gentle tone, complete with music and myth. They depict everyday life beyond war, where land rights and women's rights must be won over and over again. There is the story of Moose and reclaiming the water, the world of leeching-which is again about the earth and making a living. There is also the Women's Warrior Society formed to protect women. In the context of the Full Moon Ceremony (231), K way Dole brings to light the abuse of Georgette Graves by her father which the men "pretended did not exist." But Kway, Lucy and Elaine wage "a second war party" (235) to free the sobbing girl from her family "net," after which there is music amid the beat of the drum. LaDuke compares the whole event to a "net" which Kway notices on the frosted window, whereupon one of the women says to K way after the grueling quest and trial of Georgette's father, "There's a lot of spirits here now. They've come inside to keep company with us and stay warm" (239). It is a heartwarming statement juxtaposed with the ugly story that it follows.

Perhaps the most delightful story after the war, however, is that of old Claire St. Clair, buried in Catholic spirituality until she has a surprising confrontation on the road with the Deer Woman. Then she witnesses a tornado that destroys her Church, as though it were an act of God. When she wins the lottery, one of three "miracles" (together with the deer woman and the tornado), she uses the money not for the priest, but-guess what?-to buy back land at White Earth. This story is an amazing summary of the revisionist nature of this novel-the recovery of land and one's spiritual relationship to it. For some critics such stories in the latter part of the book are too didactic (Wilkinson). LaDuke certainly stands in contrast to writers like Jon Hassler, whose novel North of Hope depicts the life of a priest working on a northern Minnesota reservation. It is a rather powerful story about a priest's fruitful relation to Native people and the land they live on. But he is a white man, and LaDuke has little patience for priests or their presence among her people.

In the end LaDuke projects into the future, into the next century, when Chippewa bones are brought back to the reservation. Some find this section "tendentious" (Publishers Weekly 56), a lengthy reversal of the archeological dig and removal of those bones to Washington D.C. in Part 1. What one might miss is that it is also a serious contrast with an earlier, hilarious story where the old priest, Father Gilfillian, gets together some boys; he wants them to help, along with his "fine team of Percherons" (95), to move Native tombstones from under a tree back to the Catholic graveyard so the "unconverted" (101) can partake in the resurrection. But LaDuke is deadly serious about the later recovery of those bones. What's important here is that it takes place in the future-2000 and beyond-so the event becomes apocalyptic, For the author it is another, indeed profound, connection to the land which the windigo plunders in their blindness had abused.

All this is not to say that LaDuke is unrealistic about the nature of contemporary Native life. One might compare her to the young Spokane writer, Sherman Alexie, and the pop culture behind Reservation Blues, since both authors describe in detail the loss of Native dignity today, and both temper their stories with music. Alexie's novel is about a Native jazz band, Coyote Springs, that fails to succeed in the white world, after which one of the players drowns the dream in drink: and finally commits suicide, though other members of the band survive. Because of such episodes, one Spokane critic considers Alexie's char-

70 FEMSPEC 2:2 • 2001

acterizations stereotypical, indeed "an exaggeration of despair" (Bird 47). LaDuke, not sOfopular as Alexie, is aware of these problems too, for she includes stories 0 sexual abuse, alcoholism, mental breakdown, and even suicide. Naytahwaush, a World War I vet, after suffering from a white man's disease for which there was no cure, hangs himself in a Fergus Falls mental insti-

tution (93).' ,

What separates LaDuke from Alexie's realism is that she counters, indeed reverses such instances, which she associates with the taking of land and misuse of women. What Lucy does with the gill nets is a reversal, not a stereotype. It is a creative act by a woman who stands in opposition to the business of war. Afterward she works to found the Woman Warrior's Society to expose and prevent sexual abuse because this is what her society needs. Later, Lucy forms the Woman's Health Clinic to aid midwives. Unlike Alexie, she roots her cause in more than survival. That is what the standoff is about, and afterwards they cerebrate, not with a guitar, but significantly with singing and dancing to the drum-traditional, not Americanized forms of music. In her own life LaDuke heads the White Earth Recovery Project, about which she says, "Despite our meager resources, we are winning many hard-fought battles on the local level" ("Tributaries" 3 8). In a recent interview she says of the Chippewa, "We have tenacity, and a great sense of energy, and our people are committed. Ifwe don't attend to our own needs, no one will" (paul 37). Last year LaDuke published a non-fictional account of Native land struggles in every section of the United States; its title, All Our Relations, reverberates on many levels.

In truth, there is little that is stereotypical about LaDuk.e's novel, for she is a revisionist in every sense. "My mission," she says, "is to make us look. at (that history) and get past it" (Marks). In the end Alanis's child, Lucy St. Clair, Ishwegaabawiikwe, a third generation woman dating back to the Sioux Uprising, writes a letter summarizing the effect of all these tales taken together. She says time is cyclic, not linear, and Last Standing Woman is not the last, but only symbolic of the rebirth of her people, something that is indigenous to White Earth. LaDuke's story is about a successful standoff where several women act overtly to accomplish their ends. Indeed, they save the trees, for the windigo plundering is halted. In reality, of course, regaining land is no easy matter; LaDuke says there have been "400 years of building empires" or "taking what doesn't belong to you" (paul 39). 'While in reality her White Earth Land Recovery Project, which she founded, has been successful because "we attack problems practically"; still she says it is almost impossible nationally to get "any favorable legislation" (39). That is why as an activist she talks before the U.N. and travels globally to get people involved ("I Fight" 39).

Gerald Visenor, another Chippewa novelist, has written a perceptive, though seldom read, allegorical novel entitled Bearheart about the rebirth of the Chippewa, or "bear people." He sees the Anishinaabe as a group of new pilgrims moving south, not west, reinventing America. Winona LaDuke, though less well known than Visenor, is also a member of the bear people. But unlike him she is far more readable, more down-to-earth (excuse the pun) if you will, for one can identify with her characters as they can with events taking place, even in the 1990s. In taking a new stand for the land, her sex, and her people, she revises, retells, reinscribes, not only what the white man has done historically to the land and women on it, but what a host of novelists, red and whiteincluding Visenor+-have said about her people. In contrast to the others, she is not just a 'writer, but an activist-s-a "doer" who "walks her talk." Her first novel, which hopefully will not be her last, is but the creative extension of a truly remarkable, committed human being.

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Alexic, Sherman. Reservation Blues. New York: Warner Books, 1995.

Bird, Gloria. "The Exaggeration of Despair in Shennan Alexie's Reservation Blues." Wicazo Sa Review (Fall 1995): 47-52.

Bogenschutz, Debbie. Rev. of Last Standing Woman, by Winona LaDuke.

Library Journal. 15 Nov. 1997: 77.

Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. Why I Can't Read Wallace Stegner & Other Essays: A Tribal Voice. Madison: U of Wisconsin P, 1996.

Cooper, James Fenimore. Last of the Mohicans. London: Oxford UP, 1826, 1983.

Crow Dog, Mary. With Richard Erdoes. Lakota Woman. New York:

HarperPerennial, 1990.

Erdrich, Louise. Love Medicine. New York: HarperCollins, 1984. ---. Tracks. New York: Henry Holt, 1988.

Hassler, Jon. North 0/ Hope. New York: Ballantine Books, 1990.

King, Thomas. Green Grass, Running Water. Boston: Houghton Mifflin,


LaDuke, Winona. All Our Relations. Cambridge, MA: South End, 1999. ---. "I Fight Like a Woman." Canadian Dimension. April 96: 39-41.

---. Last Standing Woman. Stillwater: Voyageur, 1997.

---. "Like Tributaries to a River: The Growing Strength of Native Environ-

mentalism." Sierra. Nov.-Dec. 1996: 38-46.

---. "Our Bodies, Our Communities, and Our Self-Determination." Canadian Dimension. Feb.-Mar, 1996: 7-10.

Manfred, Frederick. Scarlet Plume. Trident. 1964. Sioux Falls: Center for Western Studies, 1981.

Marks, Jamie. "'Last Standing Woman': A Storyteller's Tale of White Earth."

Becker Country Record. 30 Sept. 1998: 1A.

Marshall III, Joseph. Winter of the Holy Iron. Santa Fe: Red Crane, 1994. Paul, Sonya and Robert Perkinson. "Winona LaDuke." Interview. The Progressive 59.10 (Oct. 95): 36-40.

Powers, Susan. Grass Dancer. New York: Berkeley Books, 1994.

Rev. of Last Standing Woman, by Winona LaDuke. Publishers Weekly 20

Oct. 1997: 56-7.

Si1ko. Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. New York: Penguin, 1977. ---. Storyteller. New York: Arcade, 1981.

Strandness, Jean. Rev. of Last Standing Woman, by Winona LaDuke. The Shining Times (Spring 1998): 15.

Visenor, Gerald. Bearheart: The Heirship Chronicles. Minneapolis: U of

Minnesota P, 1978, 1990.

Weaver, Will. Red Earth, White Earth. New York: Pocket, 1986. Welch, James. Winter in the Blood. New York: Harper & Row, 1974. Wilkinson, Joanne. Rev. of Last Standing Woman, by Winona LaDuke.

Booklist 1 Nov. 1997: 455.

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