Indian voices Listening to Native Americans

Alison Owings

Book - 2011

A contemporary oral history documenting what Native Americans from 16 different tribal nations say about themselves and the world around them.

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New Brunswick, N.J. : Rutgers University Press c2011.
Main Author
Alison Owings (-)
Physical Description
xxv, 363 p. ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references and index.
  • Preface
  • Introduction
  • 1. A Man of the Dawn
  • 2. "Indians 101"
  • 3. A Trio of Lumbees
  • 4. Elders of the Haudenosaunee
  • 5. City Kid
  • 6. The Drum Keeper
  • 7. "How's everybody doing tonight?"
  • 8. Tales from Pine Ridge
  • 9. "Get over it!" and Other Suggestions
  • 10. The Former President
  • 11. Practicing Medicine
  • 12. The Kin of Sacajawea
  • 13. Indian Humor
  • 14. Powwow Power
  • 15. Relearning for Life
  • 16. Eskimo Ice Cream
  • 17. Aloha from Hawai'i
  • Conclusion
  • Notes
  • Acknowledgements
  • Index
Review by Choice Review

Initially, Owings counted herself among the large number of Americans who know absolutely nothing about Native Americans; prior to beginning this oral history project, she had scant knowledge (except that gained for a report she wrote in eighth grade). Many years of interviews and research have resulted in this book, an impressive sampling of contemporary lives of Native Americans. Focusing on 23 individuals from an almost equal number of tribal backgrounds, Owings is an engaging and skillful interpreter of each life story. She arranges her book by geography, moving from east to west in a re-creation of Manifest Destiny, a structure she notes in the preface, apparently without irony. The chapters are also topically based, covering important issues such as tribal economic development, enforced invisibility, governance, substance abuse, violence, appropriation, and the resilience of Native people. It is to Owings's credit that these themes do not overshadow the individual voices. Their stories are powerful and enlightening; their intimate nature probably has as much to do with the generosity of the people who participated in the project as with Owings's formidable skills as a researcher, interviewer, and writer. Summing Up: Highly recommended. General collections/public libraries. K. L. Ackley The Evergreen State College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

Owings, a non-Native, here crisscrosses the U.S. from Maine to Hawaii, listening to Native peoples talk about their daily lives and how they maintain their traditions in the ever-changing world around them. She meets a Passamaquoddy blueberry farmer in Maine who is involved in the effort to repatriate the remains of tribal members. And the Oglala Sioux and Navajo cultural coordinator of the American Indian Center of Chicago, who teaches school groups how, in the 1950s, Native Americans were forced to move off their reservations and relocate to large cities. An Ojibwa woman, manager of the Bois Forte Heritage Center and in charge of repatriation efforts, relates her intricate negotiations with the Heard Museum and museums in Denver and at Harvard. A Pine Ridge woman explains their innovative program aimed at stopping the high incidence of abuse suffered by Native women. In Arizona, the author attends a three-day blessingway ceremony conducted by a Navajo medicine man, struggling all the while to remember Navajo etiquette á la Hillerman. Owings' chronicle is enlightening for all who wish to understand Where is Native America now?--Donovan, Deborah Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Owings (Hey, Waitress!: The USA from the Other Side of the Tray) assembles interviews with Native Americans from across the nation that achieve a remarkable level of intimacy. Subjects address everything from common myths (the Federal government showers Native Americans with "free money") to homosexuality (among many Native Americans, it's not a controversial issue, in fact "homosexuality is...honored in some tribes"). Owings unexplained access is a crucial part of the story, as many Native American communities reject outsiders (in fact, census workers are often kicked off reservations). Owings's descriptions are rich in detail, her stories and statistics captivating. On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, best known for Wounded Knee, the "unemployment rate is over 75%, the alcoholism rate 85%." Many interviewees insist, "We're ordinary people" and wish to be treated as such, but describe discrimination of Native schoolchildren and others. Given the treatment Native Americans have received ("one imposed insult or assault or disaster after another"), Owings is surprised that the people she met are not filled with hatred but, instead, show great accommodation to their situation. They have much to teach the world, Owings concludes, especially when it comes to living a satisfied life. This engrossing, affecting book should be mandatory reading in American history classes. (Apr.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Review by Library Journal Review

Owings (Frauen: German Women Recall the Third Reich) presents a wide-ranging collection of personal stories as told by Native Americans from Maine to Hawaii. She conceived of collecting these oral histories when confronted with her own ignorance about both the historic and the modern lives of native peoples. Each chapter is devoted to an individual or group of individuals from a specific tribe, and Owings wisely lets the speakers tell their own stories, often in their own words. The sum is a rich collection that is poignant, funny, heartbreaking, and very real. The vast diversity in Native America is evident. Each interviewee comes across multidimensionally, strongly and openly identifying with his or her tribe or nation, while balancing tradition, language, heritage, politics, and identity with the day-to-day business of working, parenting, creating, traveling, and living. Similarities are evident, but so are rich differences in perspective, status, circumstance, and outlook. The book is engaging and thoughtfully conceived and effectively communicates Owings's central thesis-that Native Americans are alive, well, and thriving and have much to teach and share with the rest of us. VERDICT Recommended for all readers of nonfiction, and highly recommended for anyone living in or near Native communities.-Julie Edwards, Univ. of Montana, Missoula, Lib. (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.