Your SlideShare is downloading. ×
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×

Thanks for flagging this SlideShare!

Oops! An error has occurred.

×
Saving this for later? Get the SlideShare app to save on your phone or tablet. Read anywhere, anytime – even offline.
Text the download link to your phone
Standard text messaging rates apply

Submission Of Entire 2006 Conference Paper

365

Published on

Presented at the International Conference on Arts and Humanities in Honolulu, Hawaii in January 2006

Presented at the International Conference on Arts and Humanities in Honolulu, Hawaii in January 2006

0 Comments
0 Likes
Statistics
Notes
  • Be the first to comment

  • Be the first to like this

No Downloads
Views
Total Views
365
On Slideshare
0
From Embeds
0
Number of Embeds
1
Actions
Shares
0
Downloads
0
Comments
0
Likes
0
Embeds 0
No embeds

Report content
Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
No notes for slide

Transcript

  • 1. Title: Staging Ethnohistory in Arthur Kopit’s Indians Author: Isis L. Golden Affiliation: University of California, Davis Ph.D Program in Performance Studies Addresses: University of California, Davis Dept. of Theatre and Dance Davis, CA 95616 609 Anderson Rd. Apt #163 ` Davis, CA 95616 E-mail: ilgolden@ucdavis.edu Abstract I begin my discussion of Arthur Kopit’s Indians with a brief discussion of the changes that the term “ethnohistory” has undergone over the last few decades. Throughout the paper, I analyze the extents to which Kopit employs ethnohistorical methodologies to present theatrically, a history Native people and their experiences with colonization, oppression and racism in the United States. In his work, he does this without imposing that his version of “what exactly happened” at the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre is necessarily the right interpretation of that part of Native American history. As a field of study, ethnohistory criticizes the American hero myth and makes use of “attitudinal history” which brings critical perspective to the forces that have perpetuated a long history of colonialism and racism within the United States and in this respect, Kopit’s work serves as a lens through which to think about how Indians is an ethnohistorical contemporary dramatic work. Toward the end of my paper, I reference other various scholars (both Native and non-Native writers) who have been criticized for their misrepresentations of Native Americans to highlight that a writer’s intention toward creative license is a more important factor in talking about issues of historical truth and cultural representation. I argue that interpretations and stories that a writer of any cultural background has to offer to present-day scholarship about Native American history contributes to scholarly understandings about the ways in which to continue to define and think about ethnohistory.
  • 2. Scholars have long questioned ethnohistory as a field of study because as the methodologies used to study Native peoples have changed, so have the definitions of ethnohistory. Generating an ethnohistorical analysis of Arthur Kopit’s (1967) Indians without a brief discussion about some of the controversies that ethnohistory entails would be of little help in understanding this dramatic work. James Axtell (1997) identifies several changes the definitions of ethnohistory that have changed, as the methodologies with which to study Native peoples changed. He describes the following definitions created in the 1960’s and 1970’s as academically and ethically problematic to the scholarly discussion of Native peoples: “original research in the documentary history of the culture and movements of primitive peoples, and related problems of broader scope,…devoted to ‘general culture history and process, and the specific history of peoples on all levels of socio-cultural organization, emphasizing that of primitives and peasantries, in all world areas,…[and last but not least, devoted to]…non-industrial peoples” (12). One problem with the above definitions is that it is often difficult to discern what is “original research.” Documentaries are not necessarily “original,” empirical nor void of the biases entailed with a researcher using his or her privileged access to voice to represent a cultural group. Finally, the reference to Native people as “primitive,” “peasant” and “non- industrial” negatively categorizes Native cultures with respect to academic research. Axtell asserts that “ethnohistory involves “the use of historical and ethnological methods and materials to gain knowledge of the nature and cause of change in a culture” (12). The above definition makes more sense because it avoids the use of words which mistakenly claim any
  • 3. research to be entirely “truthful” and is void of derogatory terms about a culture. However, current interpretations of ethnohistory continue to be contested; overall, what is certainly important is that the methodologies must suit the aspect of Native cultures being studied. As I further detail, Arthur Kopit’s criticisms of the national hero myth and the 19th century portrayals of Native Americans that coincide with the myth are a basis on which to consider the problematic underpinnings of these definitions. Donald Fixico (1997) lists for the reader the various methodologies with which researchers have experimented in order to better understand and write about Native peoples’ cultures and history: “As scholars strive to internally analyze native communities, a variety of methodologies have been used, and new ones can be applied or combined. Categorically, several current methodologies include oral history, environmental history, biographical history, ethnohistory, women’s history, quantitative history, agricultural history, demographic history, and narrative history. Some works illustrate these different methodologies better than others. Yet all of them have moved beyond narrative history, beyond simply telling a good story” (119). Because dramatic literature and theatrical performance by and/or about Native Americans have engendered very little academic discussion, what is worth analyzing are the extents to which playwrights for instance, employ ethnohistorical methodologies to write and teach about underrepresented groups and their experiences with colonization, oppression and racism. In studying works that have raised controversy about the ways in which Native peoples have been studied and written about, I became interested in the fact that Arthur Kopit presents an aspect of the 19th century in the U.S., with regard to Indian and White relationships through a distortion of historical facts. Arthur Kopit’s Indians is applicable to the field of ethnohistory, because it is one representation of American Indian history in the U.S. that does not necessarily focus on
  • 4. historical accuracy. Kopit both employs and avoids ethnohistory to represent the history of Native peoples in the United States during the latter part of the 19th century. Regardless of the degree to which many scholars prior to and after the 1960’s (which I will later discuss) sought to study and write about Indigenous cultures and appropriately represent them, they were nonetheless biased in their interpretations. Current scholars, such as Devon Mihesuah1 (1998) contend that many secondary resources are filled with fantasies and therefore are biased and exaggerated (2). However, while it is true that Kopit conducted a certain degree of secondary research about American Indians, he purposefully refrains from imposing upon readers and audiences, his own lines of reasoning about the historical underpinnings of Indian and White relationships in the late nineteenth century. Kopit uses to his advantage the fact he was not present during the nineteenth century, in order to justify his lack of need to be historically accurate. His ability to conduct some degree of research as well as use artistic license allows him to write about an aspect of U.S. history, with little concern about correctly representing history for the sake of claiming himself to be the ultimate authority on U.S. history. Crucial to his artistic license is his ability to “play with language” in comical ways, while he distorts historical facts throughout Indians. Michael O’Neill (1982) brings attention to Kopit’s dramatic concept for Indians, in which he intentionally fabricates this particular era in American history: “Indians examines the predominant myth of the West which was created and sustained by a public and its leaders to justify America’s role at home and abroad. By distorting historical fact, Kopit imitates the method of fabrication which the originators of the myth first discovered and never abandoned…Kopit purposefully dilutes history, and, like Buffalo Bill, makes what happened into a fiction. The essential question becomes not “What really happened?” but “What does the past mean for us now?”... “The historical facts are reinterpreted, discarded or changed in Indians.” [And] by using 1 See Mihesuah’s Introduction in Natives and Academics.
  • 5. poetic license with history, Kopit makes an equation between the American past and the American present, while simultaneously placing Indians in a realm beyond the confines of documentary drama, or the so-called “theatre of fact” (497-498). Kopit’s lack of attention to ethnohistorical accuracy entails not promoting himself as the ultimate authority figure on stories about historical figures, such as Sitting Bull. However, what he proposes, is a recreation of history—much in the way that Suzan-Lori Parks recreates history through theater when she says “…I’m working theatre like an incubator to create “new” historical events. I’m remembering and staging historical events which, through their happening on stage, are ripe for inclusion into the canon of history” (4-5). Kopit similarly uses theater to ask audiences about what the events of the past mean for how we understand the present. Kopit avoids the controversial underpinnings associated with claiming to represent the “truth” about American Indians and their history. Therefore, he purposefully refrains from creating a documentary type of theater about Indians and their history. Kopit’s Indians invites readers to account for many possible versions of U.S. and American Indian history which are important for studying ethnohistory. In LeAnne Howe’s (2002) essay, “The Story of America,” she tells us that “…America is a collection of stories [and]…one thing is certain: the landscape of Native stories may remain just beyond the grasp of the reader if the stories are pressed into narrow categories of what is fiction and what is historical truth.” (46). The fact that the United States is a collection of stories as Howe states, bears relevance to the fact that Kopit’s work is one of many representations of historical events in the United States. Kopit creates a dramatic work that adds to the stories that have been previously created in other genres of writing, but not necessarily for the purposes of telling readers and audiences about “what exactly happened” between Indians and Whites during the nineteenth century.
  • 6. Regardless of whether Kopit’s intention is to tell a good story about “what exactly happened” in U.S. history is of little relevance to analyzing Indians. However, if his intention instead, is to create an interesting dramatic story by using humor, it is true that Kopit employs moments of humor by “playing with language” in the process of creating distortion of historical facts. For instance, he brings forth a very comical portrayal of Buffalo Bill, the Grand Duke, the President and First Lady and the Italian and German actors playing Native American characters. In scene three, he makes fun of the Grand Dukes’ admiration for Buffalo Bill’s sadistic desire to kill Comanches as well as the Duke’s Russian accent. Scene seven features the play within-the-play approach that Kopit employs to further ridicule the hegemonic bourgeoisie of the U.S. government. Kopit uses what Homi Bhabha (2004) calls “mimicry” (Carlson, 198) in his depiction of Native characters by the European actors in the play within-the-play, by problematizing the racist underpinnings of the actors’ portrayals. What Kopit brings to the reader’s attention are the some of the contemporary critiques entailing the notion of “performing race.” In this scene, he critiques the racist underpinnings associated with the idea of European actors playing Native people. In other words, Kopit suggests a reverse- mimetic strategy in this scene, in which the actors represent the hegemonic forces, depriving Native peoples of their own sense of portrayal and cultural voice. Equally interesting, is the fact that Kopit creates a presidential character, whom he names “Ol’ time President.” Through naming the character in this manner, he further creates a parody of and ridicules the U.S. presidents and their representations of the traditional American national character, which contributed to the prolonged oppression of Native peoples and other historically marginalized groups throughout American history. Much like the
  • 7. television actor, director and political playwright, Larry Gelbart2, writer of Mastergate, Kopit “plays” with language; he uses elements of comical dialogue and character portrayal to bring forth humor to criticize some of the historically disturbing aspects of the traditional and mythologized American national character. For Kopit, however, creating comical dialogue is a significant part of his intent to distort history, in order to avoid creating a documentary drama. Also important is Kopit’s use of ethnohistory as a means toward commenting on the devastating aspects of contemporary America (via his reference to the Vietnam war) by criticizing the American hero myth that has long prevailed in historical social consciousness. Crucial to understanding the mythological aspects of the American national character entails the role of the U.S. government played in their destruction of the lives of Native peoples. One can argue that part of studying ethnohistory is to critically analyze the problematic aspects of the American hero myth. Therefore, a discussion of Kopit’s criticism of the American hero myth is viable to thinking about ethnohistory in Indians. Kopit’s continues to comically portray certain historical figures within the U.S. government. In his “play” with language, he creates dialogue in which certain characters stereotype Native Americans as homogenized peoples. For instance, Senator Dawes refuses to recognize that Sitting Bull has a tribal leadership position, “We do not recognize difference between you and other Indians” (Kopit, 60). Also, Senator Logan accuses Sitting Bull of insulting the U.S. government in a previous part of the dialogue in scene eleven, “You are on an Indian reservation merely at the sufferance of the Government. You are fed by the Government, clothed by the Government, and all you have and are today is because of the 2 Larry Gelbart wrote Mastergate as a comical commentary on the role the U.S. government played in their corruptive practices during the Iran-Contra affair during the early 1980’s.
  • 8. Government…” (Kopit, 61). Senator Logan’s implicit assertion that Sitting Bull and his tribes people should be grateful for the presence of the U.S. government in the lives of Native peoples, is a disturbing reference to the fact that the U.S. government viewed themselves as having a “moral responsibility” to control the cultural existence of Native peoples, for they were considered unintelligent and incapable of controlling their own lives. By exercising what they viewed as their “hero-like” right to control Native peoples, the U.S. government ultimately contributed to the destruction of Native cultural ways, language, and forms of economic subsistence. For instance, in scene three, Buffalo Bill takes pride in the fact that he has eliminated their buffalo supply, when he says, “I did it, I did it! No one believed I could, but I did it! One hundred buffalo—one hundred shots…”, to which the Interpreter retorts, “I’ll tell the Grand Duke you did what you said. I know he’ll be pleased” and Buffalo Bill replies, “Well he oughta be! I don’ give exhibitions like this fer just anybody!” (Kopit, 18). Kopit’s Wild West show in scene nine also features Buffalo Bill as an American hero, however in a critical manner. During the announcement of Buffalo Bill, the Voice says, “… here he is—the star of our show, the Ol’ Scout himself; I mean the indestructible and ever- popular—…BUFFALO BILL” (Kopit, 49). The ethnohistorical fact to which Kopit brings attention are the abuses that Native American performers encountered during their participation in the Wild West shows of the late nineteenth century. Sarah Blackstone (1995) details, among other instances of exploitation, the following instances of abuse to which Native performers were subject: “The Wild West shows simply carried on the well-established practice of marginalizing and simplifying Native American cultures into the single category “Indian,” and helped to reduce that image to include only the Northern Plains tribes.
  • 9. Such “Indians could be viewed as noble or barbaric but not as complex human beings from diverse cultures” (16). Furthermore, David Moore (2001) notes the prevailing existence of the national myth of the Buffalo Bill image, especially in the entertainment industry and thereby, encoded within contemporary national consciousness, “In the pop cultural hands of dramatist Buffalo Bill Cody, in the hands of novelists Zane Grey or Louie L’Amour, or in the hands of Hollywood from D.W. Griffith to Kevin Costner, the buffalo is the sign of America’s self contradictory fantasy: both to possess and to destroy the American land and its original peoples” (63). By making a ridiculous spectacle of Buffalo Bill in this scene, among others, Kopit does not feature through dialogue, “truthful” documentary evidence of the mistreatment of Native Americans in the Wild West shows. On the contrary, he draws attention to the fact that historical national consciousness, portrayed and glorified Buffalo Bill as a national hero, for the sake of maintaining the traditional American national character. The United States government also exercised their so-called “moral responsibility” of maintaining national character, by assimilating Native peoples into mainstream American life through the education system. The United States governmental policies also forbid them to speak their Native languages at the boarding schools created to separate Native children from their families and assimilate them into the corruptive abuses of the schools. Native Americans were also forbidden to observe their ceremonial ways, and if they failed to abide by this governmental policy, they were executed, as was the case at the Wounded Knee3 Massacre of 1890. For instance, scene nine features an imitation of the Sun Dance rituals, in which Buffalo Bill says, “Since the Government has officially outlawed this ritual, we will merely 3 Kopit details this information in the chronology of events he provides for the reader, prior to the beginning of the play.
  • 10. imitate it. And no one will be hurt” (Kopit, 52). Later on, the Colonel comments to the First Reporter about his perspective on the massacre, “Of course it was harsh. And I don’t like it any more than you. But had we shirked our responsibility, skirmishes would have gone on for years, costing our country millions, as well as untold lives. Of course innocent people have been killed. In war, they always are…” (Kopit, 70). The Colonel’s comment is an obvious reference to the fact the government included as a part of their “moral responsibility,” murdering those who refused to convert and abide by their Anglo-Saxon and Christian cultural ways of belief, both of which were characteristic of maintaining traditional national character. Indians makes significant use of “attitudinal history.” Attitudinal history is a significant component of ethnohistorical studies because attitudinal history can be employed to bring critical reference and perspective to the forces which have often justified the glorification of U.S.-inflicted oppression and racism. Kopit strategically makes use of “attitudinal history,” especially through the dialogue of Sitting Bull, as a tool toward fighting the hegemonic forces of colonization. Nabakov (2002) identifies several categories of humorous storytelling as a form of Native American resistance against oppression. He mentions that there are genres of storytelling such as memorates, in-jokes and remodeled folktales “which allow people to ponder and editorialize about the histories they have suffered through…[and these types of reflections consist of] “attitudinal history,” “historical commentary,”…[and] “projective dramatization” (107-108). An example of attitudinal history and historical commentary that Kopit employs in his work is in scene six, between Senator Logan and John Grass. In this scene, John Grass is arguing with Logan at the senate committee about the fact that the U.S government (also known as the Great Father) broke their treaty promises. When Senator Logan tries to trick
  • 11. John Grass into believing that the government bought the Black Hills from the tribes people, John Grass demonstrates that he is not easily fooled. To bring forth the element of “attitudinal history,” Kopit creates the following line for John Grass, “If you bought the Black Hills from us, where is our money? (Kopit, 31). In scene eight, the case continues between Senator Dawes, Senator Logan, Senator Morgan, Buffalo Bill and John Grass. When Senator Morgan tells John Grass that “…the Great Father does not like his Indian children getting drunk!,” John Grass replies with final humorous sarcasm to the racist implications existing within Morgan’s reference to Native peoples as “children.” John Grass says, “Then tell the Great Father, who says he wishes us to live like white men, that when an Indian gets drunk, he is merely imitating the white men he’s observed” (Kopit, 48). Clearly, John Grass has shown how Native peoples see White people, as a result of their racism and abuses toward Native peoples. In her essay, “Native American Literatures,” P. Jane Haffen4 (2004) provides for the reader, a detailed analysis of the various types of oral and written literatures that have been created by Native writers over the last couple of centuries. Much like LeAnne Howe, Haffen also argues in her article that “histories and geneaologies can never be truly created in print” (235). Written sources such as 19th century American novels and history books are applicable to the stories created about upholding traditional national character and the critical contentions that current interpretations of ethnohistory hold against biased representations about Native cultures in the United States. Kopit’s writing is relevant is that it serves as a medium to critique the ways in which previous writers who considered themselves scholars, portrayed Native Americans. Various 4 Haffen’s commentary on Native literatures is quite relevant to the discussion of Indians because 19th and early 20th century writings about Native Americans have influenced the ways in which contemporary writers, Indian or non-Indian have created dramatic and other literary texts that talk about Native peoples and their histories.
  • 12. nineteenth century writers include, but are not limited to William Hickling Prescott, Francis Parkman and George Catlin (4-8), whom Peter Nabakov (2002) criticizes for their depictions of Native Americans. James Riding In5 (2002) cites 19th century novelist James Fenimore Cooper as an example of a writer whose works depicted “good” Indians as those who were loyal to White Americans and “bad” Indians as those who engaged in extreme acts of violence (20). Part of the problem in recreating histories truthfully is that many sources of print, such as the above cited ones have often lacked historical truth. Additionally, the writers often upheld racist representations of Native American groups to promote racist Anglo-Saxon ideologies within the traditional national character. Western mainstream culture has long emphasized the use of writing as a primary means of communication and education. Therefore, one can not completely ignore that writing permeates many aspects of daily social communication and modes of education. Most especially with respect to theater, writing is important for reaching larger masses of audiences. Though writing has been historically rendered as being “more civilized” than other ways of learning, writing has served its positive purposes with respect to the ways in which we learn about other cultures. It affords people the chance to critique and discern for themselves, what sources of writing are true, thereby contributing their knowledge to currently existing written scholarship. Indeed, Kopit demonstrates that writing can be used to critique some of the negative ways in which writing has historically been used to “educate” people. To assume that Kopit’s use of writing “speaks for” Native Americans, takes for granted issues pertaining to claiming any printed source as historically correct and truthfully 5 See In’s “American Indians In Popular Culture” in Mann’s and Zatz’ in Images of Color, Images of Crime 2nd ed.
  • 13. representative of Native American perspectives on American history. Instead, his play is an example of a printed source that problematizes 19th century writers who have written about Native cultures from one-tracked and culturally degrading perspectives. Certainly, his written work problematizes the glorification of the national hero image as a positive one, thereby questioning the unrealistic presentations of such an image as portrayed in many contemporary films created by Hollywood. Sitting Bull’s sarcastic comment to Senator Logan about the abuses that the U.S. government imposes upon him and his tribal people serves as a theatrical lens through which to understand one of many perspectives that Native peoples held about the leaders of their country, particularly in the American past, “…I am looking always to the benefit of my children, and so, want only to please the Great Father…Therefore, tell him for me that I have never yet seen a white man starving, so he should send us food so we can live like the white man, as he wants” (Kopit, 59). Through his dramatic dialogue between Sitting Bull, Buffalo Bill and other characters, Kopit contributes to the field of ethnohistory that drama, like other printed sources can be a legitimate means toward studying the history of Native American and White relationships in the U.S. from an ethnohistorical perspective. Conclusion In sum, I argue that Kopit’s theatrical contribution to ethnohistory creates a bridge between two fields of study which people who are not familiar with its connections, would consider two “very” separate and different fields. Kopit’s Indians makes an exception to the notion that ethnohistory and theater are therefore, not applicable to one another. He shows that dramatic writing and theatrical presentation are both interesting and legitimate methodologies to employ in talking about the history of Indian/White relations during the 19th
  • 14. century. Additionally, he shows that “attitudinal history” does not necessarily have to exist only in folktales and memorates—it can be presented in contemporary dramatic works such as Indians. He creates possibilities for understanding attitudinal history through his comical and sarcastic “play” with language. Furthermore, the ways in which Kopit distorts facts and criticizes the American hero myth affords him the artistic license not to take too seriously, placing heavy emphasis on historical accuracy and truth. His distortion of facts also perhaps, serves as a critique on past writers who have purposely distorted historical facts by means of racist cultural misrepresentation. As I argue earlier, his dramatic work is one of many existing stories and interpretations about United States and American Indian history that deserves attention in the field of ethnohistory. He highlights the importance of teaching about the need to represent ethnohistory from a lens that presents a degree of truth, even though representing the truth presents a series of academic and artistic challenges for many writers. Therefore, Kopit is careful not to portray his dramatic work as being the only “truthful” interpretation on ethnohistory. Kathryn Shanley (2001) brings attention to what has long been a highly controversial issue, regarding the degrees to which a Native or non-Native writer can present a truthful lens with which to discuss the culture and history of Native Americans. In doing so, she brings forth questions about the notion of who has more right to the “privileged access,” “voice” and “agency” of creating literary or academic discourses, especially when a non-Indian writes about Native peoples. Among other questions pertinent to understanding the depictions of Native peoples and non-Native peoples, Shanley asks: “Can a non-Indian utilize Indian history and myth in creative writing as effectively as an Indian can?” Would such literature, regardless of who writes it, be Indian
  • 15. literature? Third, how do the above questions reflect the political agendas of various Indian groups or individuals? How do they affect Indianists of dominant cultural institutions such as universities?” (29). Shanley begs the reader to consider for instance, if Kopit is necessarily in violation of cultural barriers by writing a play in which he distorts historical facts about Whites and Indians through his use of ethnohistorical comedy for the stage. By extension of this question, I also beg the question if a Native American writer is within any more right than the non- Native writer, to depict a culture, about which he or she may not know much information. Kopit’s work is one of many types of works that contribute questions entailing what is ethnohistory, and overall, American Indian history. Indeed, I think that his work serves an example to show that dramatic text and theatrical performance are useful ethnological methods with which to analyze how the perceptions of writers have changed from era to era, with respect to talking about the histories of Native peoples. Kopit bridges cultural boundaries, by contributing to the various compilations of stories about the U.S. by writing Indians. The fact that both Susan Miller6 (1998) and Elizabeth Cook-Lynn7 (1998) are equally and particularly critical of Indigenous writers who misrepresent Native cultures, problematizes the essentialist notion that a writer has to be Native American or Indigenous in order to properly represent Native cultures. Neither Miller nor Cook-Lynn exclude Indigenous writers and artists from academic criticism. Specifically, Miller expresses her dislike for Ramon Gutierrez’ (1990) historical scholarly work When Jesus Came, the Corn Mothers Went Away in part, because of his stereotypical depictions of Pueblo people in New Mexico (104-110). Similarly, Cook-Lynn disagrees that American 6 See Miller’s “Licensed Trafficking and Ethnogenetic Engineering” in Mihesuah’s Natives and Academics. 7 See Elizabeth Cook-Lynn’s “American Indian Intellectualism and The New Indian History” in Mihesuah’s Natives and Academics.
  • 16. Indian artists should get away with misrepresenting their cultures and histories because their art is “for art’s sake” (132). As Miller and Cook-Lynn demonstrate, there are Native and non-Native writers who have produced writings and art with questionable misconceptions of Native peoples. Kopit shows that writers who write about Native Americans do not necessarily have to be Native American in order to have the artistic or scholarly ability or right to write about them. If Suzan Lori-Parks can recreate history in her works, so can Kopit and other writers, while doing so with academically and artistically beneficial intentions. Finally, in his creation of a staged ethnohistory, Kopit asks readers and viewers to consider that theater serves as a useful contribution to already existing compilations of stories and interpretations about American history. Kopit’s theater is also useful to interpretations about the ways in which the mythologized notions of the American hero prevail in many arenas of contemporary American society.
  • 17. Acknowledgements First, I would like to thank Dr. Steve Crum of the UC Davis dept. of Native American Studies for teaching the Fall 2004 graduate seminar on ethnohistory. Without this course, I would have never previously thought to connect these seemingly different fields of study. I would also like to thank Dr. Larry Bogad of the UC Davis dept. of Theatre and Dance for teaching the Spring 2005 American drama course and encouraging me to express my thoughts on Arthur Kopit’s dramatic work through a different lens. Both professors inspired me to pursue what is both an exciting and challenging topic for me. Works Cited Axtell, James. “The History of Native America.” In Rethinking American Indian History. Ed. Donald Fixico. 1997. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico Press. Blackstone, Sarah. “Simplifying the Native American: Wild West Shows Exhibit the Indian.” In Staging Difference: Cultural Pluralism in American Theatre and Drama. Ed. Marc Maufort. 1995. New York: Peter Lang Publishing, Inc. Carlson, Marvin. 2004. Performance: A Critical Introduction. New York: Routledge. Cook-Lynn, Elizabeth. “American Indian Intellectualism and the New Indian History.” In Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing About American Indians. Ed. Devon Mihesuah. 1998. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press. Fixico, Donald. “Methodologies in Reconstructing Native American History.” In Rethinking American Indian History. Ed. Donald Fixico. 1997. Albuquerque: U of New Mexico Press. Gelbart, Larry. 1994. Mastergate and Power Failure: Two Political Satires for the Stage. New York: Applause Books. Howe, LeAnne. “The Story of America: A Tribalography.” In Clearing A Path:
  • 18. Theorizing The Past in Native American Studies. Ed. Nancy Shoemaker. 2002. New York: Routledge. In, James R. “American Indians in Popular Culture: A Pawnee’s Experiences and Views.” In Images of Color, Images of Crime. 2nd ed. Ed. Coramae Richey Mann & Marjorie S. Zatz. 2002. Los Angeles: Roxbury Publishing Company. Kopit, Arthur. [1969] 1997. Indians: A Play. New York: Samuel French, Inc. Mihesuah, Devon. “Introduction.” In Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing About American Indians. Ed. Devon Mihesuah. 1998. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press. Miller, Susan A. “Licensed Trafficking and Ethnogenetic Engineering.” In Natives and Academics: Researching and Writing About American Indians. Ed. Devon Mihesuah. 1998. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press. Moore, David L. “Return Of The Buffalo: Cultural Representation as Cultural Property.” In Native American Representations: First Encounters, Distorted Images and Literary Appropriations. Ed. Gretchen M. Bataille. 2001. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press. Nabakov, Peter. 2002. A Forest of Time: American Indian Ways of History. United Kingdom: Cambridge UP. O’Neill, Michael C. 1982. “History As Dramatic Present: Arthur L. Kopit’s Indians.” Educational Theatre Journal. 34:4, 493-504. Parks, Suzan-Lori. 1995. The America Play and Other Works. New York: Theatre Communications Group. Shanley, Kathryn. “The Indians America Loves to Read: American Indian Identity and Cultural Appropriation.” In Native American Representations: First Encounters, Distorted Images and Literary Appropriations. Ed. Gretchen M. Bataille. 2001. Lincoln: U of Nebraska Press. Isis Golden is a 3rd year graduate student in the Dept. of Theatre and Dance, Ph.D Performance Studies program at the University of California, Davis.

×