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To The Best Of Our Knowledge
January 26, 2019
Listen to This Week's Show

"There Is No One Quintessential Native Person"

The IAIA campus

Jason S. Ordaz (Institute of American Indian Arts)

I'm on the phone with Jamie Figueroa at the Institute of American Indians Arts, a call after several email conversations about how we might feature the schools creative writing MFA students in this week's show on Native American writers. Very diplomatically, she stopped me to let me know something important: when it came to talking about Native Americans, I needed some language lessons. She then sent me a lot to read.

It wasn't a problem of who I was speaking to. Award-winning novelist Tommy Orange, a member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes. Best-selling memoirist Terese Mailhot, a member of the Seabird Island Band.  Ojibwe novelist and historian David Treuer.

It was an issue of a lack of care in how I was describing who they were. So often we put Native Americans in a box as, well, Native Americans. A monolith. These are unique and different people of an expansive group, citizens of nations, member of tribes, and yes, Native American.

So here’s a shout out to groups represented in this show:

Ojibwe, Nooksack, Muscogee (Creek), Sault Ste. Marie Chippewa, Saponi, Iñupiaq, Diné, Hidatsa, Paiute, Cahuilla, Cupeno, Lower Tanana Athabascan, Cherokee, Cheyenne, Arapaho, Sea Bird Island Band, Boricua, Afro-Taíno, Zacateco, and Anishinaabe.


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The New Voices Of Native American Literature

Person at the Institute for American Indian Arts.
A wide range of writers — now celebrated with commercial and critical success — work to celebrate an evolving literary canon without limiting it.
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The Unheard Stories of the "Urban Indian"

A powwow in 2015 at the Institute for American Indian Arts.
Tommy Orange's debut novel “There There” was one of the big breakout books of 2018. He told Steve that with his novel, he hoped to better represent modern Native Americans that have grown up living in cities.
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Loops, Dance-Offs and Ojibwe Verse: Native Creators Remix Old And New

Paul Wendell Jr.
Rapper Tall Paul uses hip-hop to reclaim his Native language—and he's not the only musician remixing Native culture.
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How to Read the Classics in the Modern Age

Writer, classicist, and stand-up comic Natalie Haynes makes a strong case for reading ancient Greek and Roman literature in the modern age.
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Romare Bearden’s 'Circe,' Black and Powerful

Circe, the all-powerful goddess from Homer’s “The Odyssey,” is known for turning men into swine, and for her mastery of potions. The artwork “Circe,” imagined by Romare Bearden, is a black woman surrounded by mystical animals and a skull, wearing West African garb with a calm but defiant look on her face.
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