Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Iktomi and the Ducks and Other Sioux Stories

The Blurb

In this renowned collection of fourteen Native stories, the noted Yankton Sioux writer Zitkala-Ša (1876–1938) shares tales learned during her childhood in the late nineteenth century. Told for generations, these stories are part of both the heritage and the legacy of the Yankton Sioux, reflecting an active, continually revitalized storytelling tradition.
Power, wonder, and a distinctive understanding of the world infuse these tales. Featured here are the classic adventures of the trickster spider Iktomi, as well as the exploits of formidable animal beings and such legendary characters as Iya the glutton, the giant Anuk-ite, and the hero Blood Clot boy. P. Jane Hafen provides a new introduction for this edition.

My Review
Iktomi and the Ducks and Other Sioux Stories by Zitkala-Ša
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I read a lot of Zitkala-Ša with one of my grandfathers when I was a kid - it's been ages so I've started to collect Zitkala-Ša's work as an attempt to reclaim those memories.

In the forward, Agnes Picotte states "I read Zitkala-Ša's Old Indian Legends with much delight and was extremely proud that they were in print...It was a great personal experience because I remember these legends or ohunkakan (tales regarded as having some fictional elements) as told in my own primary language, Lakota, when only Lakota was spoken in my home." 
The situation was almost the exact opposite for my grandfather and me. My grandfather's birth mother fled to WV when she was not much more than a child, before the Battle of Wounded Knee. She died in childbirth when my grandfather was young (almost five) and he was taken in/raised by his father's family - Melungeons with a strong Romnichal/Manouche base and multiple ties to Native American and Norwegian tribes. His step-mother, who considered herself white, took in my grandfather and lied (multiple times) on paperwork to keep him safe and out of the Indian Schools/government hands. He wasn't allowed to speak any foreign language because it was too risky and he only remembered a handful of words that his birth mother left him (those words made it possible for him to identify that she was Sihasapa Lakota and not Blackfoot Nation because his father's family only remembered that she was "what was called Blackfeet"). My grandfather spent most of his life looking for his mother or her people and never found them so all we had were stories like this, stories written by the people who could have known his mother and the stories she told him. Iktomi was always a favorite because he remembered his birth mom telling stories of the trickster. 
So this read is melancholic. I remember my grandfather crying because the stories made him remember the loss of her, his mother. But, at the same time, stories like this are all I have of my great-grandmother. And I'm extremely grateful that Zitkala-Ša was afforded the opportunity to record the stories so that they could be handed down to those of us who are distant from our ancestral ties. 

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