Transcript:

Speaker I'm Dr. P. Period, Jane Halfan from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, professor emerita, which means I've retired. I am from the Task Pueblo Nation in New Mexico. And I was at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, for 24 years teaching American Indian literatures.

Speaker And what's your connection to the coalition? Thank goodness. Um, sorry.

Speaker Could you. Sounes Bonnot?

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker Um, well, when I finished my Ph.D., I had the opportunity to go to the Newberry Library with a friend sociology fellowship, and I needed a historical project.

Speaker Um, my dissertation dissertation research was in contemporary American Literature and Louise Erdrich. So I had to come up at night with a project.

Speaker And I remembered from when I was a graduate student at BYU, I had come across the Sundance Opera. So I did some very basic research, pitched the proposal and, uh, went to the Newberry Library to study about the culture or Gertrude Simmons Spolin and what I found there. Um, the Newberry Library has some of the greatest holdings of American Indian research and scholarship up until about 1920. But I learned that most of the primary documentation for Gertrude Bonnen was actually at the BYU library.

Speaker So when I came back to BYU and did research there, we're just introducing ways like Chicago, OK, make sure my archivist has been in touch with them. But if not, I'm going to make sure she does. See if you remember to look at me.

Speaker Yeah, you're kind of fuzzy because of your glasses, but I'll just remember to look OK. Yeah, we can both because I'm with you.

Speaker So why did you pursue a career as an academic and specifically English literature?

Speaker Um, well, the truth of it is I had three children in three and a half years and my daughter was the third and she screamed all the time and my good husband, uh, thought I needed some sort of distraction. And so I started going to graduate school one night a week and it just kind of steamrolled from there. So I say that my academic career is my daughter's fault and I have my last son just before I finished my master's thesis.

Speaker And up to did you face many challenges in your career as a woman and specifically in.

Speaker Oh, yeah, tell me.

Speaker Yeah, I did, um, well, I taught part time at BYU as a graduate student and as a part time faculty for nine years, and it was a really good avocation. But it was made pretty clear to me that I would not have an academic career by staying there.

Speaker And then we moved to Nevada.

Speaker I did my Ph.D. at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Speaker And I would say that there are, uh.

Speaker Oh, my field of study was recognized as necessary, but not taken seriously.

Speaker It meant I meant affirmative action requirements by being an Indian woman, but I worked with colleagues who did not respect my work. Is that ambiguous enough?

Speaker It sounds really harsh.

Speaker Well, and it's one of the you know, it's one of the reasons I retired is because the atmosphere was so toxic. So we yeah, we had it was the last few years I was there was pretty or pretty terrible and to do it, have you heard from other colleagues that the well, the institution, um, yeah.

Speaker Other Indian women who have been discriminated against in their teaching evaluations.

Speaker I had a teacher evaluation where a student said I hated all white people, but that kind of thing is is pretty routine in my field.

Speaker Well.

Speaker So how did you. It is what it is. Yes, it is. So how did you overcome the beyond, obviously retiree?

Speaker Well, after after I received that evaluation, I started every semester by saying to my students, I received an evaluation that said, I hate all white people, but I do not hate all white people. And you need to understand the difference between constructions of whiteness and colonization and how those oppress Indian peoples versus how I feel personally about you students. And once I made that separation, I didn't have that sort of problem.

Speaker And actually, I run a university teaching award 2014 or something and another one in 2010.

Speaker So, as you know, this project's title is unladylike because the women were fully trained and did not behave in ways that US society at the time for the ladies should behave. What does that word mean to you? How would you define it?

Speaker And do you think it's well, I'm sure you're using this by if that's her. Well behaved women seldom make history. And she's a she's a wonderful role model for for many of us.

Speaker Yes, that's that's one of the origins of the fact that in and you may know Louise Bryant, who was a journalist during the Progressive era.

Speaker Yes. Called before a congressional hearing because she had traveled to Soviet to Russia on the other side, Russia did just during the revolution and.

Speaker I'm told by the congressman, we're trying to treat you like a lady, but you're not behaving. And she said, I don't want to be treated, that's OK. I want to be a human being. So anyway, so, yeah, those two are the origins of.

Speaker But I don't. But yes, I'm curious what your how you would define that term.

Speaker Well, I, uh, I continued my association with the Newberry Library, and in nineteen ninety eight, I think 96 or 98, I participated in a seminar called Gender Studies, which was led by Dr. Beatrice Madison, who was a Lakota scholar. And we all had to produce papers at the end.

Speaker And, um, I remember one of my fellow participants who later became the president of Haskell Indian Nations University, uh, the title of her paper was I Never Knew I Was Oppressed Until a feminist told me.

Speaker And so for Indian women, uh, gender constructions are tribally based and the idea of female gender roles and responsibilities are very different than mainstream roles and responsibilities.

Speaker For.

Speaker All 17 years, I helped run the Native American Literature Symposium, and we called ourselves the Grandmothers because they were female Indian academics, and we took this symposium away from American Literature Association because they didn't understand Indian issues. And we created a space for Indian scholars to promote each other. And I think we were very successful in raising up a generation of native and non-native scholars who understood the and the tribal basis of.

Speaker Indigenous scholarship.

Speaker So taking that definition, what would you say that someone likes it, Collishaw?

Speaker Was conforming or was not conforming to whatever tribal constructions of gender might have been expected in her area.

Speaker You don't wish to, not even if you don't mess with a few woman and you didn't mess with her? I was going over some of her papers in preparation for this evening and for tomorrow. And you just you don't cross her because she would not have it. And she was very firm in her beliefs and in her standings. And when she was working for Wright, she was working for the rights of Indian peoples, not necessarily Indian women. And I think sometimes her writings and the history around her gets appropriated to feminist causes, or she wasn't thinking that way at all, she was thinking, how do Indian peoples get their rights? And one of her major causes was to help get Indian citizenship for American Indians 1924. And she was writing about that in the American Indian magazine for at least 10 years prior to the passage of that legislation. So it's not a gender issue, it's a race issue.

Speaker Thank you for framing it. I really appreciate it. So tell me briefly if you can talk about, um, what life for for Native American tribes and in particular her tribe, uh, which, if I'm not mistaken, is the native tribe.

Speaker They act.

Speaker And so, yes, the Sioux tribe was like at the time that she would have been growing up.

Speaker Well, late 19th century. I think it's an interesting confluence that she was born the same year as the Battle of the Little Bighorn and the battle of the greasy grass and.

Speaker At that time. Indians were being deprived of their place, of their land.

Speaker And really, the recollection that we have in her memoirs, which are collected in American Indian stories, are shaped to influence her audience to a political point of view. And so you get really obvious tropes like when she hears about the boarding schools, she goes to her mother and says, I want to go to the land of the red apples. Well, of course, that's that's a very obvious allusion to the the Garden of Eden and the temptation of Satan and all the things that that incurs. And so she's writing that in retrospect, but she does go to a boarding school when she's seven. And I meant to tell Jose when I was talking with her about the flight of Red Bird by Doreen, Rappoport is probably the best biographical assessment, even though it's geared toward young adults.

Speaker Thank you. Yes, I believe she's right. Yeah. Yeah.

Speaker And Doreen actually lives in New York and she just published a new book on Wilma Mankiller. And she is so thorough in her research and was very helpful to me when I was doing my research. So that would be a good source to sure she it.

Speaker So before getting into the coalition's life.

Speaker Just give me some background, you know, on, uh, um, what, what rights, if any, native peoples would have had at the time.

Speaker And maybe you could allude to the doors several of 1887 in the federal government's treatment of the parents of their kids.

Speaker Well, the young kids are different from the other two tribes in that they did not have major conflict.

Speaker Also, they did, according to Elizabeth Coughlin, who is a Dakota sculptor, scholar, they did not have, uh, Sundowns. So all the things that Gertrude learned about the sun that she learned from the Utes and because they did have a Sundowns, um. The transitions that we see in American Indian stories, she starts out by living in the teepee, talking about running free, her hair blowing in the wind, she goes to the boarding school, her hair is chopped off. And there's a lot of documentation about boarding schools, how the children were made to wear uniforms and lose their individual identities and look like they were forbidden. The speaking of their native language. And she resisted all of this. They were also Christianized. And it appears from her memoirs that she really resists that. And about that time that she's writing, this is when she writes The Great Spirit or Why I am a Pagan, where she values living in nature over the strictures of Christianity. But part of what I've tried to do as a scholar is say, look, American Indian stories have to put these down because I have to use my hands, American Indian stories, much as study about them as much as written about them. But it's this much representing this much of this life of activism and writing and speaking and campaigning for American Indians to have political rights. So right after those stories are initially published, published in The Atlantic Monthly, um, she goes back to the reservation to gather more stories, and she works very hard.

Speaker To make the disparate parts of her life fit together, and she writes about that too, she writes about the conflicts that she has with her mother, but she also marries Raymond and they both join the Catholic Church.

Speaker And so the things that I was reading this morning were her letters to the Catholic priests about her spiritual life and about the necessity of finding God and practicing your religion and being faithful and seen miracles in your life and how awful it was to live in Utah, where all the whites were Mormons and all the Utes pretended they were Episcopalians, but they still carried on with their own traditional and immoral beliefs. She was very judgmental about the UDS and very strong in her Catholic beliefs. And so there's a lot of transition as she goes throughout her life.

Speaker Thank you so much. That sentence ended up no, but to dig deeper, OK, um, so so you you touched upon the boarding school system, right?

Speaker You know, for someone who's never heard about it, can you kind of give us a summary of what the boarding school system was and was attempting to do?

Speaker The boarding school system was St.George, OK? The boarding school system was an institutional way of trying to erase tribal identity.

Speaker You had children from all these different tribes thrown in together for to speak their native languages, forced to become Christians. And it was a and self-sustaining entity where in the morning they would go to classes and in the afternoon they would do the manual labor that would keep the boarding school going. Like the girls would cook, the girls would sell the clothes, the boys would go work out in the barns and and do the field labor. And the motto of the boarding school was to kill the Indian, save the man. Of course, that's very gendered, but no one knows how many children died in that system. She taught later at Carlisle and she ran head on to Henry Pratt. But there's a large cemetery there of children who were died and who died and were buried. But my own father, he was 13. He spoke his native language in Spanish and he'd never been to school. And he was taken away to the boarding school. He graduated from the new boarding school in Santa Fe when he was 19 years old. And it changed his life forever for them.

Speaker He maintained his language and he maintained his his ties to the tribe. But he was the first person from our tribe to receive a college education. And there are ways in which he was alienated from the tribe for the rest of his life. But he also saw the value of education, and he became an educator and saw it as a key for maintaining tribal identity as well.

Speaker So tell me a little bit more specifically about Carlisle and Richard Henry, correct, and I believe his mother was we must kill the Savage to save the man. So it was even worse than what you quote.

Speaker Do it, but if you would prefer not to quote it directly.

Speaker Well, what what I've generally seen is kill the Indian. Save the man.

Speaker Yeah, um, well, Carla was one of the biggest boarding schools, but that's not where Gertrude went.

Speaker She went to White's manual institute and then later she went to Harlem College.

Speaker And after two years of college, she went to teach at Carlyle for Henry Pratt. And they knocked heads quite a bit. And that's when she left. But then they later allied politically in opposition to peyote in the Native American church. So politics makes strange bedfellows.

Speaker And what was the the the thinking around assimilation versus eradication of customs and heritage and identity?

Speaker Well, assimilation was eradication.

Speaker I mean, for politicians, for the colonizers who were greedy for Indian lands. Oh, there were two ways to get it. One is to get rid of the tribes.

Speaker And you did that either by killing people or by making them, not Indians.

Speaker And that's essentially what the Dogs Act of 1887 tried to do, is to turn all Indians into farmers. You give them 160 acres of land and then they don't need to be a tribe anymore because they are individual landowners. But of course, that never worked.

Speaker What else did the DA sect try to.

Speaker Or you're pulling out the cobwebs just to provide context.

Speaker Well, the doors are locked.

Speaker I think the Doors Act was emblematic of the federal government's idea that they could control the fate of Indians.

Speaker And the pendulum swings historically. Let's be nice to them and we'll get them to do what we want. They aren't doing what we want. So let's figure out a way to get what we want anyway. And what did the federal government and the colonizers ultimately wanted? No more Indians, because if there are no more Indians than there are no more obstacles to land acquisition and there are no more conflicts. And what they didn't realize is the perseverance and the persistence of Indians. Gerald Posner calls survivors persistence and survival, and that despite losing their lands, a lot of tribes lost their lands. The SAC and Fox, who have a tribe in Iowa, they bought their land back because all the Indians who lived in what's now the state of Iowa were dispersed and lost their lands. And so you have tribes like the Miami and Ohio who completely lose their language and lose a lot of cultural connection. But there's persistence and resistance and then you have pockets of tribal lands that the government really didn't want. Have you ever driven through the Navajo reservation until uranium was found there? Who wanted to be out there?

Speaker And so they were allowed in a sense of benign neglect to flower. And now they are the largest land mass tribe and they have the largest number of native speakers, although that's changing.

Speaker When I went to college, I had Navajo roommates who whose parents never spoke English and they grew up speaking Navajo. And so Elizabeth Koechlin says that American Indian studies represents land, language and sovereignty. And when the courts started ruling in favor of tribes, then that sovereignty was asserted and Indians were going away. Louise Erdrich talks in a really beautiful essay called Where I Ought to Be a Writer Sense of Place about how there were 200 million maybe American Indians in the continental United States and 49 when nobody really knows.

Speaker There may have been 15 million, there may have been 200 million. There may have been five hundred million.

Speaker Well, what we do know is that in the census in 1910, there were 200000.

Speaker And a lot of that population loss is due to virgin soil diseases, people dying from diseases from which there were no immunities, measles, smallpox and so forth.

Speaker But certainly a lot of it, a lot of the population loss came through death and came through assimilation, intermarriage and people losing their their sense of. Their ties to the tribal community that way.

Speaker So speaking of intermarriage, tell me about Protus parents and how she is of mixed race.

Speaker Actually, I don't think anything is known about her father except that he was not Indian.

Speaker But her mother raised her up as an Indian girl and she saw herself as an Indian. And I think that's a very common thing when you start talking about blood. Quantum's that was necessary for the roles the Indians have their census taken every year, whereas United States citizens have their census taken every 10 years.

Speaker But in order to enforce the treaties, the federal agents took a census every year. And Indians, horses and dogs are the only entities in the United States required to prove their pedigree. So you had to show how much Indian you were to receive the benefits of the treaties. And it thrust a lot of native peoples who had mixed parents into a system of conflict. But I think she reached a point, like many native peoples, where she didn't see that as a conflict. She saw herself as an Indian woman.

Speaker And that kind of fractionalization of Indian identity, a lot of scholars argue, is a way, another way of using assimilation to eradicate tribes.

Speaker Did she ever know? No. She left. Yeah.

Speaker And she took she writes about how she took the name Simmons', even though her father's name was Fulker.

Speaker Might want to check me on that is there is is there any hint about what the relationship between her mother and father were?

Speaker You know, was it really was it.

Speaker I have no idea what relationship. You don't know? No idea.

Speaker You only have Gertrude's point of view about it, and she doesn't mention being mixed race at all in American Indian stories. She talks about it a little bit in her letters, correspondent XOMA.

Speaker So what was life like for her growing up on the agency reservation?

Speaker Well, she writes about the daily chores going to the river to get water, there is a sense in which the basic needs sustenance, you know, food, shelter, security have to be taken care of. And a lot of that comes from the treaties because the government was required to give a certain amount of food, food, goods to the tribes who ceded their lands when the entered society.

Speaker I believe it was in the mid 1980s that if you could get it to complete, the Yankton Sioux made a treaty with the United States in the mid 50s and they weren't caught up with the other two nations. And like the Laramie Treaty or later treaties that were signed, they made peace early on and they were not caught up in the major conflicts that the other three tribes had with the United States.

Speaker Oh, I got it. I can give you a little a little help from my glasses. Yes, thank you. Yeah, she's.

Speaker But Gertrude's having this transition from very traditional tribal life to very contemporary life, and and you see that transition in American Indian stories where the first chapters are about living along the river, living in the teepee, the social practices, imitating her mother, imitating her mother in gender roles and being a hostess and how she flubs that. And then she goes to boarding school and you see the transition when she returns home. It's a log cabin and and things have changed. She talks about the telephone poles and the railroad.

Speaker And you think about her lifetime from 1876 to 1938.

Speaker It's a tremendous amount of change for everybody, but particularly for Indian tribes.

Speaker So, uh, so so you mentioned her studies, was she would you say she was lured off the reservation?

Speaker Like how how how did these missionaries what was the procedure by which they they.

Speaker She kidnapped two well, children.

Speaker We only have her memoir to give us details, and it does make it seem like she was tempted by the going to the land of the red apples, but her cousin was there. A lot of other children were being removed to different places.

Speaker And I don't know if it was to her advantage or not, whether she didn't go to a place like Carlisle, she stayed closer to home. She certainly felt conflict when she returned. But as Doreen's book, The Flight of Red Bird explains more clearly, she goes to.

Speaker The institute for a while, then she comes back and goes to a tribal school, boarding school, and then she goes away again. So in her own narrative, it seems like a linear movement. But when you look historically, there's a lot more change.

Speaker And I that she trained. If I were to see if I said yes about that and her love of music, um, well, obviously she took to it.

Speaker Well, she I don't know when she picked it up, if it was in the boarding schools, probably not. As I explained earlier, the boarding school was an emphasis on manual labor, learning to speak English, those kinds of things, just the rudimentary at Irlam.

Speaker She got a lot of attention for being an orator. She gave the winning speech, which later became the humiliation because the fellow students, uh, mocked her.

Speaker Um, and that's probably where she picked up the music as well. And I should have looked more closely at that part of her life in preparation for this.

Speaker But when she goes to Carlisle to teach, she's teaching music and, uh, different arts there. And then she goes from Carlisle to Boston, and that's when she meets Helen Keller, who endorses her book later, and that's where she performs.

Speaker But when she's at Carlisle, she plans to go with the Carlyle Band to Paris. But that trip never occurred.

Speaker Oh, is that right? Yeah. And she did play at the White House, played the piano and played the violin. Can you tell me about that? I can't.

Speaker I just know that there's a document that that's what she did. We don't know the or be about it or, uh, it was for MacKinley.

Speaker So it would be like nineteen one.

Speaker Wrapping up effort 52 into a complete thought, well, she was musically gifted and she wanted to pursue her studies and she had the opportunity to perform in front of prominent people.

Speaker And that's also where she met the photographer, Gertrude Casaba, who did the very famous photos of her from that time.

Speaker And if you could, research. So this was a moment when she performed in front of President McKinley. Right.

Speaker So so in 1981, as far as we know, she performed at the White House for President McKinley in association with the Carlisle Band.

Speaker Great. Interesting. She didn't go to Paris. No, because of some of the sources I looked at said that she had forgotten that she was at the World's Fair.

Speaker Nineteen hundred, I don't believe so. I corresponded with a guy who was researching it, and we came to the conclusion that she did not actually make the trip.

Speaker OK, great. Um, so.

Speaker So would you say it's at Carlyle that she now is an adult?

Speaker Uh, you know, looking at what's happening to these children, has the, you know, the realization that then leads for to write these extra?

Speaker Was it suddenly a coming to terms with what actually happened to her, did it or did she realized from the beginning that.

Speaker Forcibly stripped away?

Speaker Well, if you look at her speech that she gives when she's called side by side, it's really delivered in high rhetoric.

Speaker But it's very idealistic that Indian people and white people can get along, that we have to respect each other. And then she's immediately disrespected. Even though she wins the prize. Her fellow classmates are very rude to her and they use a word that I'm not going to repeat in making fun of her. And I think at that point she realizes that there is going to be an institutional conflict. And then in order to be properly recognized, she's going to have to tell her story in a way that will gain the sympathy of her readers. And if she can gain the sympathy of her readers, then she can effectively change the way Indians are treated. And so you get these really sentimental stories.

Speaker The Sioux Warrior, for example, that scene in American Indian stories and it's unashamedly sentimental pulls at your heartstrings.

Speaker The young man who's trying to serve his father and ends up killing the cattlemen and goes home to find that his father is starved to death. It sounds outrageously melodramatic and in a way it's presented a melodramatically. But in practical terms, ending people starve to death and they starve to death.

Speaker Because of the institutional forces that.

Speaker We're changing this country.

Speaker So her audience was always a white audience would.

Speaker She was she made a decision to sort of try to be a bridge builder between.

Speaker Tension in this white audience that had the power to to maybe make life better.

Speaker I think she recognized that.

Speaker But remember, she was a woman and there was part of her that didn't care. She was going to tell her story no matter what. And I think part of her did not really care how people responded.

Speaker The important part was in the telling and unveiling the injustices that she felt.

Speaker And that's consistent through her whole life.

Speaker Her early writings in The Atlantic Monthly, and would it have been unusual for a native woman to be published in these publications?

Speaker Well, it's highly unusual.

Speaker She is Gertrude Bonnen is generally credited with being the first American Indian woman to write without the assistance of an editor or amanuensis. And as told to person, we know that Sarah Winemaker's memoir, Life among the Paiutes, the Wrongs and their Claims was probably highly edited. Jane Schoolcraft writings were her own writings, but they were probably highly edited by her husband, Henry. And you don't have evidence of that with Gertrude Bonnett because you see a consistency in her writing throughout her whole life.

Speaker And tell me about publishing these magazines that, again, cater to a wide audience.

Speaker Well, I think that came because people it's a double edged sword. People were fascinated with her because she was a performer, because she was articulate, because she could tell these stories. And so on one hand, there's a fascination with the exotic other.

Speaker And on the other hand, there's a willingness to create a space for her to tell those stories.

Speaker Going back just briefly to go to these magazines. Monthly and Harper's, how how was her work received and did it accomplish what she hoped it would?

Speaker I think it did. She got a lot of attention, but it was also a lot of stress. Um, let me say here, too, is when she takes the name that Collishaw, she was Gertrude Simmons. My many native peoples receive tribal names, but she would have been in the boarding school during the time when she would have passed through rites of passage in puberty. And that's another way that children are distanced from their tribes.

Speaker So instead of receiving a tribal name, she names herself. And the linguistics of that are kind of interesting because being Jenkins' so she was probably Nakota spoked Nakota growing up.

Speaker But the written language that she was dealing with and the language she wrote in was Dakotah. Oh, but the name that she gave herself was Lakota. So it's that Kalacha instead of Second Ashar or cadastre, which would have been those other two dialects. So I noticed. Sorry for the minor correction in your paragraph about Heard's, you call it the nom de plume, but it's a tribal name, which is really quite different.

Speaker So do you feel that you're pointing out the inaccuracies? It's so important for us to get it right. And what is it called?

Speaker XIKAR and Red Bird. I don't know what its significance was to her in this to use it.

Speaker Do we know around what age she gave herself that?

Speaker Oh, we first see it in her writings when she writes for The Atlantic Monthly and Harper's.

Speaker And then we she continues to use it when she writes poetry for American Indian magazine.

Speaker But on her prose pieces, she more often uses Mrs Gertrude Bonnen and later she uses both. But she uses Mrs Gertrude Bonnet often. And I think Ruth Spack writes about how she flips the names and the way she does.

Speaker So if we can only use one name with our, uh, with our narration, for instance, what would you recommend?

Speaker My books use this as a shower curtain, salmon spawning is the whole thing.

Speaker OK, can can we use the whole thing the first time and then see if it comes from there?

Speaker Yeah, depending on the context.

Speaker Oh, because the content would only be for her writing that she's in college. Right. And the rest of her life.

Speaker Well, she's first Gertrude Simmons and then Gertrude Stein, Gertrude, volunteer your marriage. Mm hmm. OK. Complicated. Yes. I figured I had to pick you up.

Speaker OK, so thank you for that. Uh, so. So does she lose her job at Carlisle in school as a result of this of publishing these stories?

Speaker It's my understanding that she leaves voluntarily. Then the stories are published. She leaves where she leaves. She leaves Carlisle voluntarily.

Speaker Then the stories are published. And then the Carlisle School newspaper really goes after her. And she refers to that, uh, in American news stories later. And what do they say as their criticism that she basically that the criticisms are that she bites the hands that fed her, that she's criticizing the boarding school education, which educated her to write the stories.

Speaker And instead of seeing the education as giving her a voice, she did not stay to the party line. And so if you're talking about a lady like that would probably be at.

Speaker So tell me about the meeting and hearing, because, um, we don't know a lot about that.

Speaker Uh, she was engaged to Carlos Montezuma, who was a physician who lived in Chicago.

Speaker And there there's a lengthy correspondence which is available online.

Speaker Um, and again, Respec has written about this quite a bit.

Speaker Uh, she wants to go back to the reservation to get more stories. In addition to the memoirs, she publishes old Indian legends, which are traditional tribal stories. And she recognizes, I think, that people have a fascination with tribal things. Again, it's an appetite for the exotic. But she also sees herself as being a preserver of those stories. And so she says, I'll go back to the reservation. Carlos, why don't you come join me there? And he we only have her side of the correspondence, but it's pretty clear that he doesn't want to leave Chicago.

Speaker And it's interesting, some people have tried to do detective work where she lists men who were interested in her and say that I chose you, but you don't want to do what I want to do.

Speaker And then finally, she writes after a gap and says there may be letters missing there, too, that he destroyed. And since I've I've met another and I will be married, this is when she meets Raymond and he writes and says, OK, I want my ring back, and she says, I can't find it. It's a soap opera like stuff in the old Indian legend.

Speaker Excuse me. In English.

Speaker Yes.

Speaker Just explain that for an audience who knows nothing about old Indian legends are traditional Seuss stories where she writes about traditional CEU characters. And I think it's unfortunate that she uses the word legend because it takes away from the truth to where they fit in the tribal culture. But they are cultural stories that she would have heard when she was growing up and she publishes them and she publishes them in English.

Speaker But this is interesting to me. Um, my work when I get to BYU and start going through the archives, um, there are I think there were 13 unpublished stories and I was fortunate enough to edit those and publish them. And one of them we found in Dakota. And so in the book Dreams and Thunders, Stories, Poems and the Sundance Opera, there is a Dakota version of a story and then a contemporary translation of it. And then you see how she shapes that story from the Dakota story to give it a literary arc so we can see her process.

Speaker And where would you go?

Speaker Well, she went back to the Sioux reservation and then that's where she met Raymond, but she's writing those stories when she and Raymond live in Utah. There's no employment for them on the Sioux reservation, but they get Raymond gets employment as issue clerk on the reservation for six hundred dollars a year. And they come out here, this is where their son was born. And he lived here from 1982 to about 19, 16, 15 around there.

Speaker And what was his background?

Speaker Oh, Raymond was a boarding school product.

Speaker He you could sort of reason his father, Raymond Bonnen, was a product of the boarding schools and educated but having no educational opportunities, looked for employment with the Indian service, which later becomes the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Speaker That would that have been a controversial thing to do?

Speaker Not really to be working for the very good. That was repressing.

Speaker No, because it was the only way you could get employment.

Speaker Interesting. OK, what are you going to do?

Speaker My father worked for the U.S. That's why I was born near the reservation. He had a college degree.

Speaker Where's he going to work so that, you know, no other employment opportunities. Everything was segregated, in other words. Right. You were relegated only to working for for that era. Yeah.

Speaker Do you do you mind providing that context for the civilians who may not understand how one of the one of the problems of boarding school is where did graduates of boarding school go for employment? And if they were returned to the tribe, there was often a sense of alienation and there were no employment opportunities.

Speaker And so in that way, many students were assimilated into urban areas and they virtually disappeared as Indians for those Indians who wanted to remain tied to the tribe. There are opportunities are very limited. And that's where Raymond and Gertrude both work for the Indian bureau in Utah has that perfect.

Speaker So.

Speaker So they come to the.

Speaker Until you, Ray, wait until you Ray, you we turn you into you, right? You went to you, Ray.

Speaker Yeah. Thank you. I have to practice it again before tonight. You were a reservation.

Speaker And so what is the coalition, Richard Bannon, doing during the 14 years that were there, during the 14 years that they lived in Utah?

Speaker Gertrude did various things. I did find in the archives her oath of allegiance to the Indian bureau. Was she talking about 1996 where she taught on the reservation but the boarding school closed or I don't know if it was a boarding school or not, but the school on the reservation closed and.

Speaker If it gets complicated, she wrote a lot of letters, some of the letters that she wrote were to the Father Ketchum of the Bureau of Catholic Bureau of Indians.

Speaker Now, that's not right.

Speaker But apparently he was her pastor in South Dakota and she poured her heart out to him while she experienced a lot of things in Utah, which I suppose we will talk about tomorrow when we get to Vernal. It was a difficult time for her. She was raising her son. The one of the persons was teaching a Sunday school class, but it was Episcopalian. She didn't want him to go to the Episcopalian Sunday school.

Speaker But if he didn't go to the Episcopalian Sunday school and he couldn't be included in the childhood activities of the other Indian kids, and there was just a lot of conflict going on here.

Speaker I don't know how much detail you want about this, but she was not happy. They traveled back and forth to South Dakota. Occasionally, they went to Washington, D.C., but she hooks up again. And I think this is what's pertinent. She hooks up again with Carlos Masuma, who is one of the founders of the Society of American Indians.

Speaker The Society of American Indians meets first in Columbus, Ohio, in 2011, I'm sorry, in 1911. And she's not there. But subsequent meetings she attends and she becomes involved with them and then she starts writing again.

Speaker And her published writings include an article about a year's work among the Utes, where she uses the Society of American Indians to create a structure to help educate Indians there.

Speaker And she writes very favorably of them. But in her personal letters, she is very judgmental of the U.S. and considers them immoral.

Speaker So I think she's very aware of her audience most of the time. And it's through these connections with the Society of American Indians that she and Raymond decide to leave Utah. Also some personal conflicts.

Speaker We'll definitely go back to this activism. But first, before we leave, you to tell me about the Sundance Opera.

Speaker Oh, gosh.

Speaker She also writes, well, here. What was it? Well, first of all, what is Sundance and why was it on?

Speaker Um, the Sundance is common among the tribes on the plains, and it is a dance of personal devotion and sacrifice. And when anthropologists first encountered it, they only focused on the the male aspect of it because the male has often performed such sacrifice and mutilation. I hate to use that word because it's got a negative context.

Speaker But what many people fail to realize and what's not in the opera either is that the Sundance doesn't occur without the permission of the Sacred Valley woman.

Speaker And there's a little bit of that in the opera, but it's not clear.

Speaker And so we were talking earlier about gender defined by tribes in this sacred ritual does not occur with about without both genders being involved.

Speaker So what happens with Gertrude is that she's stuck out here in Utah. She has a piano, she plays her violin, and there are parlor gatherings.

Speaker And this is where she encounters William Hanson. And it's almost like the Muppets go to Hollywood, let's write an opera.

Speaker And they first talk about writing an opera about to Peter, who is the widow of the chief curator who was the primary chief of the Utes. And then they decide against that and they go with the Sundance and they run with it. It's a romance. It's a triangle. She plays the tunes on her violin. He writes them down. He gives them supporting harmonies. It's important to see the opera in the context of performance arts in Utah who where theater was encouraged, those kind of performances. And so what I argue is that the opera gave a space for the U.S. to perform their sacred dances and songs in a public setting where it was legal, even though they did not perform the actual rituals. But it prevert preserved those songs. And so when you look at the score, there are grand pauses where it says Indians perform and it gets a lot of attention in Utah. William Hanson goes on to become a professor at BYU music professor and one of his former students revives the opera in New York, where it's almost laughed out of the theater. It's panned because the music, quite frankly, is not very interesting, but it's a cultural representation of what she's trying to do and how she is resisting the denial of religious ritual, how she's resisting colonizing influences to assert the value at the pinnacle of art, which is grand opera, where you have this combination of stagey music, drama, all of this. And with the Sundance Opera, she is trying to elevate these tribal aspects to what she knows is respected in Western society.

Speaker And you can contrast that to the areas like cowboys and Indians, the Buffalo Bill, Wild West shows which which was the popular, very stereotypical representation of Indian life. Other one is coming into that. Well, what's the cultural context that she created?

Speaker Well, uh, L.G., Moses writes about the Indian performance shows about being a show Indian and about how the participants in the Battle of Little Bighorn then become performers.

Speaker And they kill Custer again every night and audiences flock to see it. And again, I think it's I know this is repetitive, but it's part of the appeal to the exotic. How can we know Indians? What can we know about Indians?

Speaker And I think I don't know if this was intentional or not, but Gertrude elevates it beyond the public entertainment to grand opera, which is high art. Great.

Speaker And and just so that I have it on tape with us, so she if correct, she's known for writing the very.

Speaker Native American, oh, yeah, I think that's how she's often. Yeah, yeah, you can say that, please. Have there been other Native American grievances? Um, well how do you define Native American offers?

Speaker There are parts of Native American topics.

Speaker There are Native American musics which are of represent tribes. But trying to do this in a Western context. For example, there's an oratorio, uh, which has a libretto by Laura tohe which was performed in the last 10 years. Brent Davidson is a contemporary composer who writes opera native composer.

Speaker So there there are others.

Speaker But is it fair to say she was the first?

Speaker Yeah.

Speaker Yeah, she was the first to do what she did there.

Speaker But I'm not you know, why is that important?

Speaker Good point. Thank you. Mm hmm. So this, uh.

Speaker I'm sorry, just one more point of view and her role in creating the uproar was to to write the violin and she would use the libretto, she would write the tribal songs, and Hansen would transcribe them and fill in the harmonies.

Speaker She would also write parts of the libretto.

Speaker It's unclear, but by the time it's performed in New York and if she dies in January 1938 and has performed a couple of months later, Hampson's no longer mentioning her.

Speaker He pretty much takes it over his head. So because he goes on to do this career of staged performances based on Indian topics, that becomes his career.

Speaker And what was he at the time?

Speaker It was just a music teacher out all.

Speaker OK, um, so get into her political activism, so starting in the early teens, um, she she turns to political activism on the national stage. Why why does she make this protest movement that inspires.

Speaker To start looking at its citizenship, well, this is once you reconnects with the Society of American Indians, and so she is playing at a game level with Indian activists and she has the writing voice. She has the oratorical voice. She has the experience that a lot of these people do, and she fits right in.

Speaker But there's immediately conflict.

Speaker And so Arthur Parker, who had been editing the Society of American Indians, she and he clashed.

Speaker She's elected treasurer of the Society of American Indians and he's editing the magazine.

Speaker And basically she says to him, if you don't come back to edit it, I'm going to start editing it. And that's what she does. And so she's the editor for the last few years.

Speaker It's published and her influence there.

Speaker A lot more CEU related topics, but she takes on her hobbyhorses. She's antipode. She wants citizenship for the soldiers. Raymond is quartermaster in the Army in Washington, DC. So they get employment. They're.

Speaker And and what with those four not being. Where what form does it take?

Speaker She gives public speeches, she writes editorials. This is when she becomes affiliated with the General Federated Women's Clubs. And a lot of people think, oh, we have the Superman who's coming to do this. She's a feminist now. She's an Indian advocate. She's using them rather than them using her.

Speaker And that's how it pretty much always is.

Speaker Um, and and specifically interested in taking in the fact that she becomes, you know, an Indian, she's really looking to try to unify tribes, to lobby together.

Speaker Yes. Right. Is that really the work that, in fact, the society was doing?

Speaker It is the work that society was doing. A lot of people reject that idea of Pan Indian ism because it races erases tribal sovereignty. And ultimately it becomes a problem, too, because she is a woman who is ultimately working for civil rights, even though she working for Indian rights.

Speaker One of the downfalls of the American Indian magazine was the HSU issue, which featured all HSU writers, all HSU topics, and there was a lot of criticism of her for that.

Speaker So tell me about Indian Citizenship Act was passed in 1924.

Speaker She lobbied for it, she testified before Congress and it was supposed to give her argument was that 10000 Indian soldiers fought in World War One without the benefit of citizenship.

Speaker And that was her key point.

Speaker Would you say she plays a significant. In its passage, she's one of many.

Speaker Yeah, um, and then she and her husband created the National Council on American the National Council of American Indians.

Speaker Right.

Speaker Uh, well, she was trying to do the same thing that the Society of American Indians was doing, but the Society Society of American Indians straggles on for years, even though it doesn't really have a strong supporter of participation.

Speaker And there are a lot of other groups out there who are concerned about Indian welfare and Indian rights.

Speaker The American Indian Defense Association, uh, some of them are historically much older than what was, uh, what Gertrude was doing.

Speaker Her claim was that it was the only all Indian organization. And to be a member, you had to be an Indian. You could be an ally if you were not an Indian, but it was to be run by Indians and her phrase was helping Indians help themselves.

Speaker And so, again, it goes back to the idea of sovereignty, the idea that Indians needed their own voice and different ways of doing that.

Speaker How are we on time? Yeah, OK. Um, so just tell me about her, you know, at the end of her life, um, OK.

Speaker What you would say her legacy is.

Speaker Well, I don't know if you or your researcher read the intro to the book that I have coming out in the fall. In her diary, she wonders what she'd lived her life for and she, quite frankly, I think, dies in despair. Uh, she's ill. She's had to raise her grandchildren because her son is six. She had four grandchildren.

Speaker Um, she and Raymond are impoverished. It's during the Depression. There are a lot of conflicts, uh, political conflicts. John Collier is the commissioner of Indian affairs. And she and he had a big row and then he had a row with Raymond over who has the rights to represent tribes. Raymond had gone to law school, but he had never taken the bar. And Collier said that only lawyers could represent tribes.

Speaker And so Raymond had thousands of hours of work representing tribes for the Indian Claims Commission, and he had the contract with a legal firm to represent those tribes, even though he had done the work. And that's where the Eutaw connection comes back in, because he's representing the Utes and she's ill.

Speaker Uh, they had to pawn some of their belongings.

Speaker It's really very tragic. And she dies in Washington, D.C. The law firm that they contracted with, uh, the primary lawyer was Ernest Wilkinson, who was a Mormon, or I should say was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints.

Speaker And she has a Mormon funeral and is buried at Arlington. Was she knew she was eligible to be buried there because Raymont was a soldier, because he was there during World War One when he was a quartermaster, and then he is buried there as well.

Speaker So so what inspires you about her?

Speaker Sometimes she makes me really mad because she was so headstrong. That she alienated a lot of people and then I think, you know what she's like a lot of Indian women, I know she wanted what she thought was right.

Speaker And I think that that's a good thing. What I think it's not such a good thing is that what she thought was right was the only thing that was right.

Speaker And it was that failure to compromise that made her life challenging.

Speaker But she stood up for what she believed in, even though she believed that different things, different phases of her life, she was a very religious person, even though she called herself a pagan.

Speaker And she firmly believed that the answer to Indian issues lay in Indian people themselves.

Speaker And she was a constant reminder of that she spoke at the dedication of the Washington Monument and she told this wonderful traditional story and then she turned it into this elaborate metaphor about George Washington and all this stuff.

Speaker But she took a representation of the United States of America and its founding father and inserted the Seuss story about the founding ideals of each of us to have the rights that were promised.

Speaker And she was consistent with that.

Speaker Why would you say your story is important and relevant today, because Indians are still fighting for the rights?

Speaker And that was she was a superb example. We talked earlier about missing and murdered indigenous women.

Speaker You can talk and they'll probably talk about this tonight to you about the theft of Indian land, failure to protect a new land, and you look at what's happening in Utah with bears, ears, bears, ears, monument. You look at voters rights in North Dakota where people who live on the reservation don't have street addresses so they cannot be eligible to vote. Indigenous people can't vote in North Dakota.

Speaker It's outrageous. And that's where her voice is important.

P. Jane Hafen
Interview Date:
2019-04-22
Runtime:
1:16:53
Keywords:
None
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
N/A
MLA CITATIONS:
"P. Jane Hafen, Unladylike2020: The Changemakers." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 22 Apr. 2019, https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1038
APA CITATIONS:
(2019, April 22). P. Jane Hafen, Unladylike2020: The Changemakers. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1038
CHICAGO CITATIONS:
"P. Jane Hafen, Unladylike2020: The Changemakers." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). April 22, 2019. Accessed January 23, 2022 https://www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/archive/interviews/1038

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