Did you know there are “562 federally recognized Indian tribes, bands, nations, pueblos, rancherias, communities and Native villages in the United States”? I didn’t. I had no idea there were so many. I also had no idea they had their own flags – but they sure do! So, basically, that’s 562 individual nations.
And I thought my North American reading was just going to be the US, Canada, and Mexico 0.o
So, I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll mention it again in case you’re new here: I’m basing this entire project off of Ann Morgan, a fellow blogger who came up with the idea to read a book from every country in the world, in order to make herself better read. I thought this was a REALLY COOL idea, and wanted to follow suit with my own list. And here I am!
But, I noticed something about Ann’s list. As cool (and important) as this idea is, she didn’t have a single Native nation on her reading list. I mean, they’re countries too, right? They have their own land, laws, and sovereignty. So don’t they deserve to be on a world reading list? It’s like…OK, this is going to sound a bit dramatic, BUT – it’s like their absence from a world reading list meant their total absence from the world. In a very real way, actually. Like they weren’t a part of the world anymore. Like they didn’t exist.
And that made me sad, because Native people DO still exist! It’s not like they disappeared with the wagon trains and dysentery and saloons and randomly roaming buffalo.
And I get that her list was chosen from the 196 independent, UN-recognized countries in the world. I suppose that’s way to help narrow it down so this reading project doesn’t take you the rest of your life.
It just didn’t sit right with me. It feels…I don’t know, it often feels like American society today acts like there are not more Native people left. Like they did disappear with the wagon trains and dysentery and saloons and randomly roaming buffalo. Maybe I’m saying that because I live in a state where there are no reservations or Native populations to speak of. But…if you look at some of our literature today – what’s currently being published, what’s available at our libraries and bookstores, etc. – there’s…not a lot from Native people. And I know everyone reading this is thinking “But what about Sherman Alexie! I read his book! Part-time Indian or something!” AND YES! That is a FANTASTIC book that I just finished reading and will be talking about in a separate post! Buuuuuuuuut I bet that’s the only piece of Native literature that you can name. Unless you’re a Native person. Then you can probably name more.
So that’s why I wanted to add at least SOME of the 562 nations to my reading list. The titles I’ve chosen can be on my North America Reading List. If you have any suggestions, PLEASE LET ME KNOW! I’m relying solely on heavy Googling right now!
And so, in my longest blog post ever, I would like to talk about How we Became Human, a collection of poems by Joy Harjo.
I read this during April, which is National Poetry Month, completely by (happy) accident, and it turned out to be awesome. There were so many poems that I had to stop and re-read, and re-read, and re-read. One of them really stuck with me. It is called For a Hopi Silversmith:
he has gathered the windstrength
from third mesa
into his hands
and cast it into silver
i have wanted to see
the motion of wind
for a long time
for showing me
So elegant and simple all at once. No capitalization needed. When I close my eyes after reading this, I see wind being magically swept up and captured in silver. Beautiful. And powerful.
Some of Harjo’s other poems are more energized, such as the poem She Had Some Horses – possibly her most well-known poem. She also writes music and has a couple prose out, too, the most recent being her memoir, Crazy Brave.
Joy Harjo is from the Muscogee, or Creek, Nation.
***Update: Sorry guys – when I posted this yesterday, I forgot to add the book cover and map! My bad! The Muscogee (Creek) Nation is located in Oklahoma, near Tulsa.