Writing by Aboriginal Women: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United States

English 513.04
Winter 1998

Aruna Srivastava
office hours: Monday 4:30-5:30, Tuesday 2-3 (or by appointment)
phone: X4663

e-mail: asrivast@acs.ucalgary.ca
homepage: www.ucalgary.ca/~asrivast

Class research sites

You will be expected to read at least eight texts, including at least one on the anthology list and at least one from the critical/political perspectives list. You may substitute as many of these texts as you like from the supplementary list below. You may also select texts based on your own research (as long as you consult with me first). At least two of the texts you read should be by aboriginal women in Australia and/or New Zealand. If you wish, all or most of the texts you choose can be by aboriginal Australian or Maori writers. You will also be expected to attend readings both in and out of class (I will let you know the schedule of readers this term as soon as I know myself: we are expecting Marilyn Dumont, Sharron Proulx and Lenore Keeshig-Tobias to be coming to read this term).

Lenore Keeshig-Tobias, ed. Into the Moon
Jeanne Perreault and SylviaVance, eds.Writing the Circle
absinthe magazine, Writing Brings Healing Close: an aboriginal issue (available from me)

Critical/political perspectives:
Janet Acoose, Ikswewak: Kah' Ki Yaw Ni Wahkomakanak—Neither Indian Princesses Nor Easy Squaws
Jeannette Armstrong, ed. Looking at the Words of Our People
Give Back: First Nations Perspectives on Cultural Practice

Poetry, Fiction, Life Writing, Drama, Storytelling:
Maria Campbell, Stories of the Road Allowance People
Chrystos, Dream On
Marilyn Dumont, A really good brown girl
Louise Erdrich, Tracks
Patrica Grace, Potiki
Louise Halfe, Bear Bones and Feathers
Keri Hulme, The Bone People
Isabelle Knockwood, Out of the Depths
Lee Maracle, Ravensong
---, Sojourner's Truth
Monique Mojica, Princess Pocahontas and the Blue Spots
Sally Morgan, My Place
Leslie Marmon Silko, Almanac of the Dead
Glenyse Ward, Wandering Girl

Other writers and texts:
Most of the above writers have a substantial body of work; in addition, you may wish to select from the following: Ruby Langford, Kath Walker, Joanne Arnott, Donna Goodleaf, Kateri Akiwenzie-Damm, Beth Cuthand, Beth Brant, Beverly Hungry Wolf, Mourning Dove, E. Pauline Johnson, Janet Campbell Hale, Vickie Sears, Wendy Rose, Dorothy Mesher, Diane Glancy, Linda Hogan, Ella Cara Deloria, Joy Harjo, Paula Gunn Allen, Beatrice Culleton, Ruby Slipperjack, Marie Annharte Baker, Rita Joe, Alice French, Connie Fife, Minnie Freeman, Pauline Johnson, Cyndy Baskin, Joan Crate, Maria Campbell, Sharron Proulx, Kimberly Blaeser, Labumore (Elsie Roughsey). Anthologies: In a Vast Dreaming (Brant, ed.). Gatherings (any of 6 volumes, Theytus Books), Colour of Resistance (Fife, ed.). He Wai. A Song: First Nation's Women's Writing, a Waita Koa Collection.

Reference texts:
If you are unfamiliar with the extent and inaccuracy of the white construction of aboriginal people in Canada, please read Daniel Francis' The Imaginary Indian. Olive Dickason's Canada's First Nations is a thorough reference history. Check also Comparing the Policy of Aboriginal Assimilation : Canada, Australia, New Zealand (Armitage). Women of the First Nations: Power, Wisdom, Strength (Miller and Chuchryk, eds). We Got Our Living Like Milk From the Land (Armstrong, Derickson, Maracle, Young-Ing). Colonialism on Trial (Monet and Skanu'u). Aboriginal Mythology (Mudrooroo). From Our Eyes: Learning From Indigenous Peoples (O'Meara and West, eds.). A Tortured People: The Politics of Colonization (Adams).
I have copies of some of these texts if you are unable to find them in the university and public libraries. I will place some of them in the reading room. Please let us know of other texts through the e-mail discussion group.

Reading and film journal 25%
Group web page/research project 25%
Group presentation 15%
Class participation 20%
E-mail work 10%
Peer evaluations 5%

Class participation comprises attendance, participation in class discussions, small group discussions, facilitation and notetaking in group work, facilitation in the larger class discussions, internet and e-mail work, web-page design. The reading journal reflects your responses to at least seven of the texts on the course, and may include other reactions and reflections on class work, library and web research, films, videos, television, readings etc. The portfolio consists of a minimum of one term assignment and a maximum of three, which should be distinct from your journal. The portfolio should also include 3 journal entries. Towards the end of term, an interview with me about your journal/portfolio work is mandatory; you will not receive an assignment grade until you come for this interview.

Internet and e-mail work, including a group-designed web page, is a requirement of this class; however, I am aware of and will make allowances for the usual problems with access to lab time, learning new technologies, technical difficulties, etc.

JOURNALS: The first part of the process is to ask what are the elements of my response?: reactions to the texts, issues, films, the class. The next part—personal critique—asks you to examine: why is it that I am reacting in this way? Why am I choosing the words, phrases, concepts that I do, articulating particular beliefs, especially those that come most naturally to me, that I haven't given much thought to? And finally, the third, most important as well as most difficult part of the journal—cultural critique: what is it about my culture that makes me react this way?what do my responses, my attitudes, thoughts, rhetoric, structure, style, and assumptions say not only about me as an individual (which is what the personal critique does), but about the dominant culture and other cultures I inhabit? What cultural values are in conflict, which ideologies are changing, which belief systems carry the greatest cultural power and agreement? Collaborative journals are welcome.

PORTFOLIOS can range all over, as long as you can show that your project is in some way connected to the course. Remember to keep all of the work you attempt. Remember that product is not as important as the process, that you must check with me before writing an essay for your portfolio. I also ask that you include a minimum of three pages of description, discussion of process and your intent, your own evaluation of what went well with the project, what didn't and what you would do differently. Include personal and cultural critique in this process. In addition, for your own sake, keep an ongoing log or diary of what you are doing throughout the term, and remember that you should be critical of the process, the product, your assumptions, and so on. Let me know before the reading break what you have done so far for your portfolio, what your ideas are, and so on. Don't leave these until late in term. Group portfolios are welcome—some combination of individual/group portfolio is also perfectly acceptable. I encourage collaboration with other students in all facets of this course.

GROUP PRESENTATIONS will be some innovative, interesting presentation of the work of a writer your group wishes to persuade others in the class to read. If you plan well, this can also be part of your ongoing group web page project. The presentation will also include facilitated class discussion, so be sure to prepare for that part of the presentation as well. Presentations will be scheduled for shortly after the reading break.

GROUP WEB PAGES will be your major research project for the entire term. By early February, each group should have a web page up and linked to my homepage—at this stage, it does not matter how rudimentary it is. By mid-March, your group's web page should include a focussed topic on a political or cultural issue, as well as information and discussion about at least one writer on the course. There will be in-class and out-of-class labs during the term and plenty of help and instruction. This is not a project that can be left until late in term. All members of the group will receive the same grade, so allocate and distribute tasks well. I make exceptions to this in only the rarest of circumstances.

DON'T PANIC! I will be providing more complete instructions for all of these assignments throughout the term. All assignments will be posted to the mailing list and to my homepage.

Assignments should be handed in directly to me: secretaries in the department cannot take assignments. Always make a copy or make sure your assignment is handed directly to me in my office.