“Indigenous-Authored Publications”

The book’s title is long enough and the paperback version is heavy enough to put some people off, but I want to tell you that Resilience Through Writing: A Bibliographic Guide to Indigenous-Authored Publications in the Pacific Northwest before 1960 is a gem.

I have been meaning to write this post for months, from the time its editor, Darby Stapp, sent it to me. I wrote to him immediately, saying that I could pick it up at any place and read it like a novel.

I open it randomly now, and find “Heck, Silas (‘Lone Wolf’),” and learn about the speech the “well-known Indian Shaker leader” of the Chehalis Tribe delivered at the 64th annual meeting of the Pioneer Association of Washington in Seattle in June of 1948. Heck apparently worried, in the full speech, which is not included in the bibliographic guide, that the sun is our chief, that gives life, and scientists are taking the sun’s energy to make bombs. “Someday,” he says, “we will have to pay for that, brothers and sisters.”

I don’t know much about the Indian Shakers, but a Nez Perce friend told me that his mother had three funerals, one of them Shaker, because the Shakers at Yakima had helped her once when she was sick. Someday I want the rest of that story, although I’ll have to go to the Seattle Public Library, to U of Washington Special Collections, or to the Washington State Historical Society to find Lone Wolf’s speech.

The book’s author is Robert Wells, who was, at the time of publication, teaching at Notre Dame. Stapp is an editor at The Journal of Northwest Anthropology, and this is number 20 in a “memoir series” they are publishing.

You are obviously not getting a full review here, but to whet your appetite (along with the reference to Shakers and Lone Wolf), I’ll tell you that the book has maps and a bibliographic key, and that the main content is divided by geography: 1. Coast Salish and Neighboring Tribal Authors and Publications; 2. Canadian Coast Salish and Neighboring First Nation Authors and Publications; 3. North Pacific Coast Native Authors and Publications; and 4. Plateau Native Authors and Publications.

In that fourth section I find Ralph Armstrong, of Nez Perce and Delaware descent, writing editorials in the Enterprise Record Chieftain in 1929 and 1930, and a “Letter and petition (signed by 160 unnamed Nez Perce)” to the Secretary of the Interior in 1904, “requesting the removal of Indian Agent McArthur because of his ‘irascible temperament,’ mismanagement of leasing fees, and refusal to allow Nez Perce children to attend public schools.”

There was for some time  an assumption, fostered by the government’s assimilation polices and societal attitudes from the 1880s to the 1950s, that Indians had in fact vanished in our country, that assimilation, whether one promoted it or objected to it, had been largely successful.

A few pages in this marvelous compendium will tell you that most of our white ears might have been closed, but Indigenous peoples of the Northwest were talking all the time. And now Walls and Stapp and company, in one long-titled three-pound book, show us how wrong we have been.

# # #

Leave a Reply