News & Events
Discover Mid-America October 2004
Trickery and morality combine for great reading
Totkv Mocvse: New Fire: Creek Folktales by Earnest Gouge, edited and illustrated by Jack B. Martin, Margaret Mauldin, and Jaunita McGirt, Forword by Craig Womack, University of Oklahoma Press, 2004, paperback, 160 Pages, 5 b&w illus., $29.95. www.oupress.com
The oral tradition of the Native American
forms a rich literary design that has been lost to most modern Americans
until recently. Thanks to the work of a few native authors and ethnologists
working at the beginning of the 20th century, some of these oral tales
have been written down, catalogued and translated.
While frequently quirky, awkward and often ill translated, some works
stand out from the emerging mass of native literature appearing in university
presses and small presses in the United States. Of these, New Fire
in particular, deserves attention, not merely for the historical merit
of the text all of these works have inherent historical importance
but for the intricacy and compelling nature of the 29 readable
tales compiled in the book.
After the Indian Removal Act had forced the removal of the Five Civilized
Tribes the Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole
west of the Mississippi River into what would become Oklahoma, this literary
tradition continued. But only recently has it entered the discourse of
Native American studies and the teaching of native literature and language.
When they reach the hunting ground, they put the man ashore to rest.
The sick man theyd brought had begun to get around a little,
the tale goes, and the dogs were very happy...The man had once been
a hunter, and was ably killing deer. Soon, the dogs drive a bear
to man, which he kills and upon which the dogs and their owner feast.
The dogs, being wily, knew there was something afoot with the hunters
wife and another man. When the man becomes healthy enough, they tell him
about the affair and take him to the adulterous couple. The oldest of
the hounds says to the man, (The text uses commas and capitals to mark
quotations.) The young dogs are saying, if he says to apply the
law, We will carry it out, so whatever you think of what theyre
saying [well do, the dog] said.
In the end, the man offers food to the man with the daughter and finds
a new wife, one whom has a much longer memory, it seems, and of whom the
Patrick Dobson is a journalist, poet, and freelance writer and editor based in Kansas City, MO. He publishes and edits the online literary magazine, the poetrysheet. His award-winning columns, editorials, and articles have appeared in PitchWeekly, eKC, and Discover Mid-America. His poetry and short stories have been published in the pages of The Kansas City Star, Review, Friction Magazine, Mid-America Poetry Review, The Same, and Thorny Locust. He is now pursuing a doctorate in history at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.
> Reflecting History Archive - past reviews