Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Native Americans in F&SF

Here's an article about (mostly problematic) representations of Native Americans in speculative fiction. Well, yeah, that's what you get if you read only or mostly wasicu history books. If you grow up on Naya Nuki and Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee ...

Let's see, I have Ash, who is the Navajo-Witchita computer programmer of Schrodinger's Heroes.

On the Serial Poetry page I have Los Conquistados: see the Spaniards get their asses kicked by the locals.

Fledgling Grace features an extensive tour of ethnic and cultural groups around the world. One poem focusing on Native American tribes is "Dancing Down the Sky." Notice that each tribe's bird is one native to their homeland and/or sacred in their faith, typical of manifestations in this setting and drawing on extant resources about those cultures. Much of the dancing comes from my own powwow observations.

Over in Polychrome Heroics, I have:
* Abelina Baker, a part-Shoshone caterer (ordinary)
* Anaïs Okoye, African-Canadian with a little Wendat, an ice skater newly come into Healing and Empathy
* Fireheart (Atka Lecoeur), primarily Native Canadian (Inuit and Anishinaabeg) with a little French and British ancestry; he works as a wilderness guide and a counselor, and has Fire Powers and Phasing; new father of the superbaby Aurora
* Greasemonkey (Sheridan Gauge), all-American mutt, with heritage including British, Scottish, Polish, Cuban, and Cherokee; she can communicate with machines
* Ivorybill, a Choctaw with Flight
* Katsina, a Hopi, power unspecified, trying to keep genetically engineered corn from contaminating his people's traditional seed stock
* Melazo (Renaldo Neri), Puerto Rican with primarily Spanish and African heritage and a little Taino, sign language translator and supernary hero alongside the deaf Silencio
* Thingamabob (Roberta Steele), mechanic and super-gizmologist; no tribe listed due to assimilation, but she has the copper skin, straight black hair, and black eyes of Native American heritage

Two groups make up entries unto themselves:
* The Iron Horses -- an intertribal superpowered motorcycle gang, each with a different totem and another superpower, all sharing the Torn Between Two Worlds flaw. Their leader Joseph Elkdog is Blackfeet.
* The Hand of Sedna -- Native Alaskan girls of assorted heritage, all of whom can shapeshift into arctic sea animals and have another superpower. Their leader Naartok has super-strength and is sometimes a blue whale.

Oh, and I still have Rapid City in my crosshairs.  Haven't gotten to it yet, but I owe them a whacking for that No Indians sign.

The Steamsmith notes include observations about the major political powers in the world, of which the British Empire and China are the superpowers. Spain barely still exists after clashing with the Meso-American empires. Notable in the Midwest are the Cahokian Empire and the Iroquois League (or Haudenosaunee). The Sioux hold much of the plains in the Missouri watershed, while the Osage hold the Arkansas-Red-White watershed, rather sparsely populated. The Pueblo peoples hold the southwest in scattered settlements; they are a loose alliance of a couple dozen tribes. The Meso-American territory is held by the great empires: Aztec and Mayan. South America is dominated by the Inka Empire in the Andes mountain range. These notes include the technologies favored by each nation; for instance, the Blood Plague that all but wiped the Spaniards off the map came from the Aztec mastery of sanguis (blood). While the series hasn't focused on those places, the repercussions are tremendous, because in historic-Earth Spain was a significant power during Victorian times and in nether-Earth it's a partly-quarantined mostly-avoided wasteland with a population hanging on by its fingernails. Call it background parity of national agency.

Turtlekiller from my main SF setting I remember from something I wrote before I was even posting things online. His name is handed down from a Navajo windtalker ancestor. "Turtle" was the code for "tank" so it meant someone who destroyed a tank.

Another early-early reference from my main fantasy setting Hallelaine, the Deep Plains Nomads have the best archery technology on the central continent, things like triple-decker compound crossbows. They included both human and centaur tribes. I had a whole series of myths from there too, about Coyote and Jackalope, somewhat inspired by the many Trickster tales of Turtle Island, and yet with its own unique flavor. Plus there was that one story about Shot-in-the-Ass and the magic cat.

I will also lay partial claim to John Good Road, created when I asked [personal profile] kajones_writing for a Lakota vampire, and she did a standup job with him. I have since written about him myself in "Twilight Memories."

These characters and plotlines are based in a lot of issues that tribal people have or are facing in our world. Some have a very strong tribal identity still. Many struggle with the conflict between tribal and mainstream cultures. A few have assimilated. In particular, there's a pesky tendency for native characters with special powers to have something shamanistic or animalistic. You almost never see anything else. Those are real tribal values, so they are represented in my writing. But other folks have powers or ordinary professions that are totally different. The assimilated ones, you might not even notice that they have native heritage without me telling you. I write it down if I spot it, because it matters to me. Some of these are past, some present, some future. It's about saying, "We exist. We matter. We survive." And mitakuye oyasin, we are all related.

This is the kind of thing that led a black college friend to describe me as, "Yeah, you can pass for white ... until you open your mouth."


So, anyone else have favorite representations of Native Americans in spec-fic that don't suck?
Tags: ethnic studies, fantasy, fiction, history, networking, poetry, reading, science fiction, writing

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