Films to books and back to film

When I began my adventure in my “major project” for Contemporary Indigenous Rhetoric I was at a bit of a loss. If my very first post is any indication, I like having clear demarcations in my life and this class and its work treading closely to the “territory” that I had determined was my mother’s. To her credit, she has remained comfortably distant when it comes to this class, though I can sense her wanted to discuss some of my reading with me.

I lent her the Moonshot graphic novel to sate her for the time being.

Mother issues aside, my first thought for my project would be a film blog, looking critically at indigenous film and hopefully, highlighting work that flies so far under the radar that perhaps sonar would be a better way to pick up the signals. Yet as I started thinking clearly about the work, I understood that it wasn’t the right project for me. I have little training in film studies, not that being steeped in film theory is a prerequisite for a film blog. The other nagging doubt was less easy to admit, I did not feel it was my place to be critical of indigenous work. Perhaps I was limiting myself to film reviews that I’ve read, leaning heavily on the quality of the story, acting, directing–all the pieces of a film, taken apart and examined. I could not see myself deconstructing films that were basically invisible, that needed exposure. I did not want to write a bad film review.

Working on this problem, I found myself staring at my mother’s bookshelf that housed her Native American books. The next idea hit immediately. Having known a bit about her journey in discovering Native American spiritualism as connected to the New Age movement, I could take some of her more “suspect” books and discuss the rhetoric used to appropriate that spiritualism for a largely middle-class white audience. I was excited about the project, not only did I have a ready source of material, but the natural skeptic in me could have a field day parsing out the language of appropriation that had to be inside.

Thanks to my mother it all went to hell.

Apparently I had misjudged her, and found not a collection of “red spirit” empowerment books or guides to creating a sweat lodge in your own bathroom, instead I found Bury My Heart at Wounded KneeNative American Folk Tales and historical books detailing the less-often told history of the United States. My mother took the mickey out of my idea but her determination to be sophisticated in her book choices.

I still think there was a secret purge of material when she got wind of my project.

I still liked the New Age angle and when I began doing research, found the appropriate target to inject the buckets of snark that I had been building up from the beginning: Dances With freakin’ Wolves. The rest, as they say, is revisionist history and I thoroughly enjoyed the presenting the material in class. I hope the subsequent articles contain the same spirit. As for my mother’s book collection, I will continue to examine it with a critical eye, waiting for the day some of those “empowerment” books make their triumphant return.

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Writer, teacher, PhD student, former web developer, jerk

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