Red Land, Red Power

Grounding Knowledge in the American Indian Novel

Red Land, Red Power

New Americanists

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Book Pages: 312 Illustrations: Published: June 2008

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism, Native and Indigenous Studies

In lucid narrative prose, Sean Kicummah Teuton studies the stirring literature of “Red Power,” an era of Native American organizing that began in 1969 and expanded into the 1970s. Teuton challenges the claim that Red Power thinking relied on romantic longings for a pure Indigenous past and culture. He shows instead that the movement engaged historical memory and oral tradition to produce more enabling knowledge of American Indian lives and possibilities. Looking to the era’s moments and literature, he develops an alternative, “tribal realist” critical perspective to allow for more nuanced analyses of Native writing. In this approach, “knowledge” is not the unattainable product of disinterested observation. Rather it is the achievement of communally mediated, self-reflexive work openly engaged with the world, and as such it is revisable. For this tribal realist position, Teuton enlarges the concepts of Indigenous identity and tribal experience as intertwined sources of insight into a shared world.

While engaging a wide spectrum of Native American writing, Teuton focuses on three of the most canonized and, he contends, most misread novels of the era—N. Scott Momaday’s House Made of Dawn (1968), James Welch’s Winter in the Blood (1974), and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony (1977). Through his readings, he demonstrates the utility of tribal realism as an interpretive framework to explain social transformations in Indian Country during the Red Power era and today. Such transformations, Teuton maintains, were forged through a process of political awakening that grew from Indians’ rethought experience with tribal lands and oral traditions, the body and imprisonment, in literature and in life.


Red Land, Red Power provides convincing arguments for why an American Indian epistemology rooted in experience and politics has greater pertinence to American Indian social realities as well as scholarship; further, it cogently argues for a tribal episteme with strategies and language that have legitimacy in traditional academe.” — Penelope Kelsey, Great Plains Quarterly

“Scholars who are interested in trickster theory and epistemological studies will benefit from Teuton’s analysis. . .” — Michael Terry, Western American Literature

“Teuton provides an historical perspective that will bolster the efforts of Native Americans to restore and enhance both their tribal and individual identities. . . . Native American scholars will find Teuton’s meticulous historical research and contemporary literary analysis valuable in the search for a practical means to evaluate the future of Indian country.” — Jason Waterman, Australasian Journal of American Studies

“Teuton’s useful and engaging study. . . . offers powerful incentive to both turn back and reread the Red Power texts and to turn forward to the new writing that is giving us new, expanded ways to understand tribal histories, communities, and people. His book is a most welcome addition to a newly energized body of Native criticism.” — Lucy Maddox, American Indian Culture and Research Journal

Red Land, Red Power is an exciting and important book. . . . It is an important book for students invested in how the written word and real-world politics connect, including those in Native studies, (anti-)colonial studies, postcolonial studies, third-world studies, and ecocriticism. Red Land, Red Power also celebrates just how much literature and literary studies can do in understanding and resisting colonization—in the book, in the classroom, and in material places where marginalized voices are still trying to be heard.” — Melinda DiStefano, Contemporary Literature

“[Teuton’s] work is a powerful text that debunks old myths and creates a framework for seeing the world for what it is. Red Land, Red Power is a must-read.” — Lee Maracle, Times Higher Education

“His interpretive work will be particularly valuable to historians considering the use of these red power novels, because his approach is carefully grounded in historical context and deeply informed by prior criticism. . . . Teuton offers tangible evidence of not only red power, but also the power of literary language in the indigenous struggle with a legacy of colonialism that remains visible throughout Indian country.” — Michael A. Elliot, Journal of American History

“Informative from the start, [Teuton] interrogates essentialist critiques of Native literary culture by Native intellectuals, problematizes trickster critical discourse, and parries the vocabulary of Native studies while acknowledging how Indians have transformed English, achieving pantribal meanings manifest in prose. . . . Philosophically challenging yet reader friendly, this book is a must read. Essential.” — R. Welburn, Choice

“Teuton has a keen ability to convey how tribal relationships that are based in kinship and that have endured long histories of colonial confrontations with the United States are essential to understanding these novels’ characters and dramatic tensions.” — Kendall Johnson, American Literature

Red Land, Red Power is a terrific book. Sean Kicummah Teuton offers a critique and reconstruction of current theoretical discussions in literary studies about identity and experience as they affect the reception and production of Native literature. He argues for a ‘tribal realist’ approach as the critical framework that allows for a sophisticated, nuanced, and empowering analysis of American Indian literature.” — Paula Moya, author of Learning from Experience: Minority Identities, Multicultural Struggles

“Sean Kicummah Teuton offers a powerful vision of American Indian literary studies and its dialogue with contemporary literary criticism. He understands how to connect theoretical discussion to the practical politics of Indian culture and literature. Every scholar in the field will want to read this book.” — Robert Dale Parker, author of The Invention of Native American Literature


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Sean Kicummah Teuton is Associate Professor of English and American Indian Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments xi

Preface xiii

Introduction: Imagining an American Indian Center 1

Part I. Red Land

1. Embodying Lands: Somatic Place in N. Scott Momaday's House Made of Dawn 43

2. Placing the Ancestors: Historical Identity in James Welch's Winter in the Blood 79

Part II. Red Power

3. Learning to Feel: Tribal Experience in Leslie Marmon Silko's ` 119

4. Hearing the Callout: American Indian Political Criticism 157

Conclusion: Building Cultural Knowledge in the Contemporary Native Novel 197

Notes 235

Bibliography 257

Index 281
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4241-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4223-6
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