July 15, 2009

Alice Walker's Native connections

Author Alice Walker wrote the introduction to Dennis Banks's book The Ojibwa Warrior. Here are some excerpts:

Introducing The Ojibwa WarriorThe First Time I Saw Dennis Banks
Ojibwa Warrior Introduction

By Alice Walker

The first time I saw Dennis Banks I was struck by how merry he seemed. It was at Evergreen State University in Washington in the early Seventies; I was there to read poetry and talk about my life in the Southern Freedom Movement in Mississippi, and I suppose he was on campus talking about the creation of The American Indian Movement, AIM, of which he was a founder. I remember being struck by his lightness of spirit, believing as I do that happiness is already victory.

Many years later, after moving to the West Coast, I became involved in the American Indian Movement: Reading poetry with John Trudell, hosting fund raisers with Nilak Butler, Bill Wahpepah and his sculptor wife, Carol. Celebrating Un-Thanksgiving Day at Alcatraz Island, praying-in on top of Black Mesa in Arizona, and joining demonstrations and vigils for Native American rights whenever I could. However it wasn’t until a decade had passed that I once again saw Dennis. This time handcuffed, on trial for a list of crimes designated by the court, having voluntarily returned to face sentencing after leading the FBI on a chase that lasted eleven years.
And:I was able to slip a copy of The Color Purple to him before I returned to California. Years later, when we reconnected in Cuba, where we had gone to deliver medicines and to meet with Fidel Castro, who seemed to know as much about Indian concerns as we did, Dennis told me how he had read the novel and passed it around the prison to other inmates until the pages were like onion skin. Years later, over dinner at my house, he would laugh as he told me how the men in the prison always returned the book, but that when it was shared with the women in the prison it disappeared for good.

There we were a couple of decades after his sentencing, and after the amazing and sometimes horrific events described in this incredibly important book, laughing. He had experienced a healing from my work, and I had experienced what seemed to me a miracle: from the moment I left South Dakota, having given all that I had in the way of spiritual energy to Dennis’ well being, my own health began to improve.
And:What finally sinks in, when one is of African Amerindian or Native American descent is that our battle for our lives is real. It is not a game. It has never ended, since the moment Christopher Columbus landed on our shores. Commenting as he studied us, how friendly, generous and good-natured we were. But this awareness of our uphill struggle need not make us gloomy. In fact, when I consider my own bloodlines, African, Native American, European (from the British Isles, no less) I am filled with an almost frisky sense of curiosity. How will this unusual drama unfold? Who are Americans eventually to be?Comment:  The Color Purple is a great book. Rob's rating: 9.0 of 10.

For more on the American Indian Movement, see Debate Over Wounded Knee and Controversy in Wounded Knee.


dmarks said...

"Years later, when we reconnected in Cuba, where we had gone to deliver medicines and to meet with Fidel Castro, who seemed to know as much about Indian concerns as we did"

A "concerned" man whose underlings instituted genocide against the Miskito (Natives) in eastern Nicaragua during the 1980s?

I wonder if Walker overlooked that Cuba, which is mostly black by some accounts, has blacks entirely shut out of power by an absolute dictatorship that is now sort of a hereditary monarchy: led by two white brothers.

Rob said...

True, Walker sounds naive about Castro's crimes against his people. But as I said in the comments on US = "Nation of Cowards" on Race, Cuba's racial situation is more complex than you're making it out to be.

dmarks said...

I did allow for some ambiguity as to whether or not Cuba is mostly black. Last time I researched it, there were different ways to count it.

I read "Color Purple" years ago. I remember that I liked the movie more than the book, and that the big blank underlines in the book were distracting during the reading experience.

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rob said...

As for your comments, Stephen...no, I won't let you answer my comments on another posting here. I deleted them and moved them to their proper place.

In other words, I won't let you hijack this posting to bolster your right-wing ego. Post your comments on the original posting or don't post them at all.

Stephen said...

"In other words, I won't let you hijack this posting to bolster your right-wing ego."

I'm not right wing seeing as I support such things as gay marriage and drug legalization but okay I'll post them over there.

dmarks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.