TWAIN-L Archives

Mark Twain Forum


Options: Use Forum View

Use Monospaced Font
Show Text Part by Default
Show All Mail Headers

Message: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Topic: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]
Author: [<< First] [< Prev] [Next >] [Last >>]

Print Reply
Sharon McCoy <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Fri, 7 Jan 2011 16:13:50 -0800
text/plain (219 lines)
Okay, well, I didn't mean for my response to go to the list, but in for a penny 
in for a pound, just in case anyone else is interested.  

As I said, I'm far from expert, Michael, but Alan's choice of the word "Indian" 
to replace "Injun" makes sense on a lot of levels, both historical and current.  

Popular novelist and author Sherman Alexie's position is far from PC, and his 
take on tribalism and his particular use of "Indian" makes a  lot of Native or 
First Nations people angry.  There are numerous online interviews where you  can 
learn about Alexie's rather pugnacious attitudes on this question--and the 
largely negative Native reaction to it.  

So far as I know, all of these other authors you mention--Erdrich, Silko, and 
Welch--self identify with their tribal affiliation over other terms.  Tribal 
affiliation is a political and national identity, not just an ethnic or cultural 
label, and therefore, the use of the word "Indian" or "Native" omits the aspect 
of identity that comes from being a citizen of an independent sovereign nation.  
Also, there are huge differences in culture, language and history among the 
hundreds of tribal nations, so both terms are sweeping generalizations anyway.  
As such, the use of "Indian" rather than "Injun" in the context of Twain's work 
will still carry some level of punch, depending on one's perspective.  

Of the writers you list, Silko (who is Laguna Pueblo, Mexican, and white) is the 
least ambiguous on the question of the word "Indian."  Usually, in her work, 
"Indian" is a pejorative term, an epithet used when an outsider doesn't give a 
damn what a person's name is, let alone his or her tribal affiliation:  he is 
just "Indian."  To Silko, too, the struggle is over the power and agency of 
storytelling:  too many allegedly "Indian" books and poems were not, in fact, 
written by people with any tribal heritage or affiliation.  For someone like 
Silko, I imagine that the change from "Injun" to "Indian" in Twain's work would 
be a distinction without a difference:  both are offensive and carry the weight 
of dehumanization.  But again, not all people feel that way.

Erdrich is Turtle Mountain Chippewa and German, and she uses tribal designations 
because they are most accurate and natural, but she does also use "Native," 
"Native American," "Indian" or American Indian" (apparently interchangeably) as 
adjectives when speaking more generally.  

James Welch was Blackfeet/Gros Ventre.  He died in 2003, but his work seems to 
come down more on the side of Erdrich than Silko in terms of this question.

Hope this helps a little.  This whole discussion certainly stirs some waters.


PS--By the way, here's a great interview with Erdrich on _Faces of America_ that 
addresses many issues of identity and history: .  

----- Original Message ----
From: Michael MacBride <[log in to unmask]>
To: [log in to unmask]
Sent: Fri, January 7, 2011 7:25:02 AM
Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Good points.  And, I didn't realize that about Sherman Alexie.  I wonder
where Louise Erdrich, Leslie Silko, James Welch and others come down on the
subject.  Not to suggest that "Indian" is in the same camp with the
"n-word", but that's one of the problems with attempting to be PC.  What is
safe for one person, might be offensive  to another.

Michael MacBride
Minnesota State University, Mankato

On Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 11:31 AM, Sharon McCoy <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Interesting question about "Indian"  --   I don't feel confident enough
> about
> this to post on the list, but I'll offer three speculations:
> --It is closest to "Injun" and therefore makes the change seem minor
> --Either of the other two choices would be anachronistic as well as
> euphemistic
> --The most well-known and widely read "Native" author today is Sherman
> Alexie
> (Spokane-Couer d'Alene), who prefers and uses the term "Indian."
> Just possibilities . . . .
> Sharon
> ----- Original Message ----
> From: Michael MacBride <[log in to unmask]>
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Sent: Thu, January 6, 2011 11:20:37 AM
> Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
> I suppose, if nothing else, it will make for some good classroom
> discussions... particularly for those of us teaching Huck Finn this
> semester.  Effectively, I have several pre-fab discussions ready to rock.
> In related matters:
> Does anyone know why they chose "Indian" instead of "Native American" or
> "Amerindian"?
> I was a little surprised to open Where the Sidewalk Ends randomly at a book
> store and to find that Shel Silverstein's work has also been edited
> (though,
> with little fanfare).  His poem "The gypsies are coming" has been changed
> to
> "The googies are coming".  Weird.
> I will admit to being made uncomfortable by the n-word in Huck Finn, but
> that uncomfortableness just makes it that much more challenging to teach,
> and to ensure that we have thoughtful discussions about language, rhetoric,
> and the like.  Of course, I'm not teaching the novel at a high school
> level,
> so I can't vouch for how successful it is in that setting.
> In either case, thanks for all the material and the lively discussion.
>  I've
> enjoyed it.
> Michael MacBride
> English/Humanities
> Minnesota State University, Mankato
> On Thu, Jan 6, 2011 at 12:27 AM, <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > I am pleased to learn that you gave up on the Politically Correct (but
> Wre=
> > cked) version.  The snippet you have given makes it clear that your
> transl=
> > ation goes from the unforgettable to the unreadable.
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > -----Original Message-----
> > From: Kent_Rasmussen <[log in to unmask]>
> > To: [log in to unmask]
> > Sent: Wed, Jan 5, 2011 10:33 am
> > Subject: Re: a new Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
> >
> >
> > Like that of many others posting on this subject, my first reaction to
> thi=
> > s
> > news was one of astonishment. However, after giving the matter further
> > thought, I wonder if it wouldn=E2=80=99t be better to carry the revision=
> >  of
> > _Huckleberry Finn_ even further. And, I=E2=80=99m happy to report,
> I=E2=80=
> > =99m ready to
> > help. About sixteen years ago, just for fun, I started to rewrite the
> book
> > myself, with the idea of publishing it as _The Politically Correct (but
> > Wrecked) Adventures of Huckleberry Finn_. To provide some of the flavor
> of
> > my 100% non-offensive text, here=E2=80=99s my version of Pap=E2=80=99s
> dru=
> > nken diatribe.
> > (Note, by the way, how neatly it handles the uncomfortable matter of
> > substituting =E2=80=9Cslave=E2=80=9D for the uncomfortable word that
> begin=
> > s with the letter
> > following M in the alphabet.)
> >
> > "Oh, yes, we have wonderful institutions! How's this for an example: I
> hea=
> > rd
> > of a free African American from Ohio who dressed better than any European
> > American in town. He even had a gold watch and chain and silver-headed
> can=
> > e.
> > Oh yes, he was quite the dandy. What's more, they said he was a
> multilingu=
> > al
> > college professor with a vast repertoire of knowledge. That was bad
> enough=
> > .
> > When they said he could vote in his home state, that was too much. What,=
> >  I
> > wondered, is our country coming to? Well, it happened to be election day=
> >  and
> > I would have gone to vote myself, if I been in a condition to get there
> > safely, but when I heard that there's a state which actually lets a
> person
> > of color vote, I stopped and said that I would never vote again. Those
> are
> > my exact words--everyone heard me. Why, the country can founder for all I
> > care. And to think of the presumption of that man--why, he wouldn't have
> > conceded my right-of-way unless I pushed him aside! When I asked why he
> > wasn't sold back into involuntary servitude, do you know what people
> said?
> > That he couldn't be sold unless he spent six months in the state. How's
> th=
> > at
> > for an example of our government institutions? Pretty sad, if you ask
> me."=
> > =20
> >                                =20
> >
> > =20
> >