April 2, 2019
In March, I attended the annual Native American Literature Symposium, which was held on the Shakopee Mdewakanton Reseravation near Minneapolis, Minnesota. I have attended this conference each year since 2003, not long after I joined the faculty of the English Department at CSUN. I was especially happy to attend this year, since going with me was Katie Wolf, a CSUN graduate student in the English who minored in American Indian Studies as an undergraduate. She plans to start a doctorate program in the Fall.
I organized and chaired two panels on Cherokee literature, history, and culture at NALS (I am a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma), and I presented a paper on a panel devoted to contemporary American Indian art. My presentation was titled "The Semiotics of Kent Monkman's Queer Frontier," and I discussed the work of Monkman, a Canadian First Nations painter, that depicts homosexual encounters between cowboys and Indians to satirize some of the dominant myths of the Western frontier. The images I discussed are from the early 2000s, and Monkman has since moved on to large-scale murals that are filled with allusions to classical art as well as Canadian history. You can view his work at https://www.kentmonkman.com/.
Wolf presented a paper titled "Historical Trauma and Narrative in Louise Erdrich's The Plague of Doves." In that novel, several characters suffer from a traumatic event that can be overcome only if it is relived through stories -- but the characters are reluctant to tell those stories since they are painful. She wrote an earlier version of her paper for a class I taught on the novels of Louise Erdrich.