Caskey Russell, Program Director
Ross Hall 114
Dept. 4297, 1000 E University Ave
Laramie, WY 82071
Phone: (307) 766-6520
firstname.lastname@example.org • (307) 766-3166 • Hoyt Hall 426
I teach and write about American Indian Literature because this experience enriches me. I began learning about the field from my students, after I moved to Laramie, WY from Buffalo, NY. Some of my students were Northern Arapaho, Cherokee, Blackfoot, Crow, or Lakota.
They taught me complicated, different ways of seeing from the Western perspectives I had absorbed. In turn, I refigured my own understanding of "American literature" and constructed new syllabi for my classes. From the writings of American Indians, I have learned new, surprising definitions of "community," "land," "freedom," "dignity", "alienation," "poverty", and "power."
The writings of American Indian women such as Zitkala Sa, Leslie Marmon Silko, Linda Hogan, Joy Harjo, Paula Gunn Allen, nila northSun provide portraits of suffering, survival, darkness, and triumph. Reading their works makes me consider the social construction of my own white identity as well as the social constructions of Native American ethnicity.
At present, I am researching the poetry and fiction of Adrian Louis, a writing which pulls no punches, poetry which makes its own genre. Louis concludes his poem "Statue of Liberty" in Vortex of Indian Fevers this way: "When I listen closely I don't hear/ the midnight ride of Paul Revere/ but ghosts of dead tribes/ bonesinging under concrete." Out of the Chiefs playing the Redskins and Ford Thunderbirds and good friends and sex and tears and liquor and bad jokes, Louis weaves what it's like to be a Brown-educated Paiute writer, teaching at Pine Ridge, living at the end of the twentieth century in America. His work is disturbing and unforgettable.