Dawnland Voices: An Anthology of Indigenous Writing from New England Dawnland Voices discussion


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message 1: by Meg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meg I happened to read the Narragansett section of Dawnland Voices the morning of Thanksgiving, which started the holiday at a distinctively different note than previous years. I could feel as soon as I read the introduction that there is a great deal of pain for the Narragansett people, and I'm sure that being involved in this anthology dug up some old wounds for those involved.

As I read through the authors, one which stood out to me was Ella Wilcox Sekatau and her poems. I think what stood out to me most here was how her poetry has a distinct feeling of hopefulness. I feel that it provided a really unique look at an author from this tribe, and provided a very different feeling from Dawn Dove's intro: "Why would one share one's deepest feelings with those who have massacred, enslaved, indentured, and generally terrorized one's people?"

I really enjoyed in this section the poem "Life and Seasons Must Surely Change" and I think Ella Wilcox Sekatau is able to say so much in these three stanzas about changes in one's life, about good and about bad, and I like to image it provides a really hopeful feeling for the Naragansetts, with a poem like this coming from its tribal elder.

I think another reason her poetry stood out to me was because poetry felt rather sparse in this section. Though there were definitely some other poets here, much of the writings from the Narragansetts was political in nature and really stood out to me as sort of dominating the section, as there were often layers of passion and anger within.

Julia Ella Wilcox Sekatau's poetry also struck me because of her hopefulness in contrast to the many powerful yet painful writings of the Narragansett. One of my favorites was "Sometimes I Wish I Could Rage Like You," for its irreverent energy and her different attitude towards rage and "unsavory" emotions of pain. There's a great amount of strength and will that you can see in other Narragansett writings in the section.

Another section I particularly enjoyed was the writings of the Nuweetooun School. After reading about the school and how it served the Narragansett community, it felt very special and important to read the poems of the students there. It reminded me how important creativity is and I was comforted by the fact that this school existed and supported these children in ways the public schools were not.

The Narragansett writings were among the most difficult to read, but the political calls to action and the demand for their pain to be recognized and rectified made me grateful to have the opportunity to be exposed to their writing and become aware of their current struggles.

message 3: by Chris (last edited Dec 01, 2015 08:52AM) (new)

Chris Mulhern The poetry in this section didn't stand out as much for me when I read this section as much as the periodical articles. The articles for the Narragansett Dawn I thought brought a lot their ideas to the for front of readers minds. Though I found it even more interesting that this were published just after the Great Depression. Usually Native Americans and their culture I feel are usually delegated to either before the American Revolution, white settlers moving west or presently with people acknowledging the horrors that were afflicted on them in the past. Along with the section of speeches of Paulla Dove Jennings, which presents some of the challenges that have occurred in more recent history. Showing that some of these horrors aren't so distant as people like to imagine they were.

message 4: by Meg (new) - rated it 4 stars

Meg @Julia: I likewise also enjoyed "Sometimes I Wish I Could Rage Like You." I like the way it nods at nature in a rather different way from some of the other nature-centered poems in the anthology. And I agree about the children's writing. I can't recall if there were other areas in the text that included writing by children so young and I was really glad to see it here. It makes me think of the question on having a dictionary in this text; writing from children in second or third grade also feels like it's in that "does it belong" / "yes, it is necessary" category.

@Chris: Really good points there. Those were definitely powerful sections. Paulla Dove Jennings likewise stood out to me. The beginning of her speech is really powerful, and I loved how she essentially uses bullet points for different years/decades on these "surprises." It really accentuates, like you say, how not-so-distant these are.

message 5: by Meghan (new)

Meghan Hill As Julia says above, the “political calls to action and demand for their pain to be recognized” made the Narragansett section both emotionally charged and compelling. One of the things that stood out to me most prominently is the way in which the American government has forced Native Americans into an unmeasurably difficult cultural position. Placed into social purgatory, Native Americans are robbed of their land, rights, and cultural capital while they are simultaneously ostracized within American culture. The American government has continuously tried to eradicate Native American culture by removing it from history books, re-appropriating Native land, and by killing the people themselves. The response to this cultural, legal, and physical attack can be clearly seen in the Narragansett section of Dawnland Voices, particularly in Paulla Dove Jennings’s piece “Speeches.” The section that details the “surprises” that Jennings faced through the years 1946-1980 show how pervasive this cultural theft and exclusion have been: “After 35 years—a period when history has recorded Sputnik, men on the moon, heart and liver transplants, a cure for polio, commercial jet travel, TV dinners, E.T., civil rights, Narragansett tribal recognition, and the return of tribal lands—the racism, attitudes, and history books still have not changed” (522). Despite the amazing advances of the last several decades, Native Americans are still denied their complete rights and recognition. As Chris said above, “these horrors aren't so distant” as we might like to think they are.

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