Settler Colonial Memoirs
Bernard Flaman (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada)
Ready-Made Farms on the Canadian Prairie Through the Lens of Reconciliation
In the 1980's, my father added the last plot of land to our family farm in Saskatchewan and it came with a compelling abandoned house. It was a ready-made farm constructed circa 1912 by the William Pearson Co of Winnipeg. The company archive consists only of maps, marketing brochures and several boxes of glass slides. This material was used to market property via "land seeker" excursions originating in Minneapolis to mainly American settlers, in a voracious pursuit of land and profit. This presentation will review these items in the light of reconciliation and as an illustration of what was mistakenly construed as terra nullius. What might be portrayed as a triumphant settlement story, must now be viewed as one that came at great expense and suffering to indigenous peoples.
Lily Nagengast (Georgetown University)
Heartland and Plains Women
Sarah Smarsh's Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth is the latest work in the burgeoning genre of rural memoir. Published in 2018, Smarsh's memoir recounts her upbringing as a fifth-generation Kansas wheat farmer and the child of generations of teenage mothers. Alongside her family's narrative of struggle on the Great Plains, Smarsh maps out the destruction of the working class wrought by public policy. Despite Heartland's success, no scholarship exists on it, and little scholarship exists on rural literature in general. This presentation situates itself in this significant gap in American literary studies. Instead of casting rural women's memoir as a subgenre of women's memoir, I place the two side-by-side to see where they intersect, rub against each other, and where they vastly differ.
Tom Lynch (Professor, UNL)
Eco-memoir, Bioregionalism, and Uncanny Settler Belonging in Jerry Wilson's Waiting for Coyote's Call
Environmentally attuned people of settler ancestry often feel they lack a deep belonging to place. Bioregionalism developed out of such circumstances. This paper examines the role of the bioregional eco-memoir as a sometimes problematic settler colonial response to this condition. Early bioregional thinkers drew inspiration from Indigenous peoples and bioregional texts evince a palpable envy for the deep connections Indigenous people have, and these members of settler cultures wish they had, with their local ecology. At the same time as these memoirs seek a form of settler belonging that is environmentally responsible, however, they nevertheless often recirculate tropes of pioneering settlement and often struggle to meaningfully engage with the Indigenous displacement from the very lands to which they themselves are seeking to belong.
(Moderator: Melissa Homestead)
Part of the Reckoning & Reconciliation on the Great Plains summit
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[00:00:05.545]All right, everybody.
[00:00:07.020]Hello, I'm Melissa Homestead.
[00:00:09.200]The panel chair for this virtual panel,
[00:00:15.120]and I will introduce the speakers one-by-one,
[00:00:19.050]not all together in the order that they'll be speaking.
[00:00:22.190]And I think everybody is already most everyone's doing what
[00:00:25.180]Margaret Jacobs was just suggesting that during the talk,
[00:00:27.720]you'll want to turn off your camera
[00:00:29.878]and your mic
[00:00:33.290]while each person is speaking and we'll hold
[00:00:35.500]questions for the end.
[00:00:36.570]So our first speaker will be Bernard Flaman?
[00:00:40.543]Is that you pronounce it Bernard? Or Flaman?
[00:00:44.780]The second one, you got it perfectly.
[00:00:47.173]Bernard Flaman, who is,
[00:00:51.910]he holds degrees in history
[00:00:53.110]from the University of Saskatchewan,
[00:00:55.580]Architecture from the University of Toronto,
[00:00:57.920]and he is a fellow
[00:00:58.790]of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada,
[00:01:00.860]although he's not representing them today.
[00:01:03.430]He works as a conservation architect
[00:01:05.210]for the Government of Canada.
[00:01:06.780]His publication and curatorial work focused
[00:01:08.850]on Canadian modernist architecture
[00:01:11.220]and his book "Architecture of Saskatchewan" received
[00:01:19.090]the 2014 Distinguished Book Prize
[00:01:20.920]from the Center for Great Plains Studies.
[00:01:23.650]He has worked on multiple contemporary conservation projects
[00:01:26.880]and his current interest focuses on the connection
[00:01:29.470]between conservation and sustainable design
[00:01:31.860]and an inclusive approach to heritage conservation.
[00:01:35.450]He will be talking about ready-made farms
[00:01:38.330]on the Canadian Prairie through the lens of reconciliation.
[00:01:44.770]Thank you, Melissa.
[00:01:48.050]So if I can share my screen here.
[00:01:57.480]You have to be made...
[00:02:02.750]Does he have to be made co-host in order to share screen?
[00:02:06.610]I think that may be no.
No, I don't think-
[00:02:07.630]No, I don't think so.
[00:02:09.290]Okay, you got it? All right.
[00:02:10.863]I got it. You should be able to see it.
[00:02:13.812]I'm just gonna.
[00:02:14.645]No, you have to select as well.
[00:02:15.860]Sorry, it's not up yet.
There you go.
[00:02:19.460]There we go. Okay.
[00:02:21.800]And I'll start that. How's that?
[00:02:24.604]It should be good. Okay.
[00:02:31.080]I'm gonna introduce myself just a little more fully here.
[00:02:34.290]And I think also just get a timer running,
[00:02:40.000]'cause I do tend to go on and on.
[00:02:46.470]And I will offer an acknowledgement
[00:02:48.610]just a little further
[00:02:49.600]into the talk when I have a diagram up on the screen
[00:02:53.060]and that can show everybody actually where I am.
[00:02:56.320]I should start off by saying
[00:02:58.610]that I'm not an Indigenous person.
[00:03:01.590]I was raised in a settler culture and I'm also not
[00:03:04.620]a historian or an academic.
[00:03:07.270]And this work in stems entirely from a desire to know more
[00:03:10.670]about what is right in front of me.
[00:03:13.160]It is also work that is done off the side of my desk
[00:03:16.130]in the context of a very busy job.
[00:03:18.060]So please forgive me if it looks like I have just scratched
[00:03:21.810]the surface of this story, as it is indeed true.
[00:03:27.167]It does put me in somewhat of a state of discomfort,
[00:03:29.670]not only the difficult nature of the story,
[00:03:32.050]but also that I'm pushing the boundaries
[00:03:35.030]of my own professional expertise
[00:03:37.440]where I may not have enough experience.
[00:03:42.510]And this is, I think, echoing something that I've heard
[00:03:45.920]from other people speaking at this conference.
[00:03:49.870]I learned very little in school about Indigenous people,
[00:03:52.840]about the Indigenous people that we saw around us.
[00:03:56.130]And this continued at university
[00:03:58.110]through an art history degree and an architecture degree,
[00:04:01.470]both focused on European art and architecture.
[00:04:06.080]Now this training did put me in good stand to produce
[00:04:11.900]this book that, as was mentioned
[00:04:13.730]in the introduction, did receive
[00:04:15.690]the Distinguished Book Prize in 2014.
[00:04:19.650]And I just wanna say that that experience
[00:04:23.340]will go down as one of the highlights of my life.
[00:04:26.490]It was fantastic.
[00:04:27.660]And it also was partly on the strength of that book
[00:04:34.421]and the award that I was invited
[00:04:36.250]by the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles
[00:04:39.870]to help produce "Managing Energy Use in Modern Buildings,"
[00:04:43.760]this time in a co-editor role.
[00:04:47.310]It just came out last year.
[00:04:50.350]And also this is a current project of mine,
[00:04:54.490]or one of I'm working on with a large cast of players.
[00:05:00.790]It's a rehabilitation
[00:05:01.960]of the Lester B. Pearson Building in Ottawa.
[00:05:04.330]It's a heritage designated building and it's going
[00:05:08.300]through a multi-year $900 million rehabilitation.
[00:05:12.570]And so this shows you the sort of core of my work.
[00:05:17.600]Now I'm not gonna be speaking about any of that today.
[00:05:25.660]I'm gonna be telling a story about this little house,
[00:05:29.050]and hopefully it will illustrate the real estate intentions
[00:05:32.700]of colonial settlement,
[00:05:34.670]the massive change to the environment and the impact
[00:05:37.520]on Indigenous people.
[00:05:40.330]This work has started to teach me that the heroic stories
[00:05:43.500]of settlers conquering conquering a hard harsh land,
[00:05:48.030]a story I encounter often working
[00:05:49.970]in heritage conservation, is not the full story.
[00:05:55.490]The title "Through the Lens of Reconciliation"
[00:05:57.970]has a double meaning,
[00:05:59.450]indicating a desire to tell a broader story
[00:06:02.100]and also acknowledging that the archive for this project is
[00:06:07.800]almost entirely photographic.
[00:06:12.650]Now I've been staring at this house for years and I thought
[00:06:15.610]maybe it was a catalog house,
[00:06:18.160]but I couldn't find the pattern.
[00:06:20.340]And there were houses
[00:06:21.690]that I came across that looked similar,
[00:06:24.850]but they weren't quite right.
[00:06:27.090]Until I came across a really,
[00:06:29.490]a quite obscure publication by Parks Canada.
[00:06:34.940]And I believe this is a photo of that very house.
[00:06:40.950]And this startled me.
[00:06:43.620]It claims to be a ready-made farmhouse
[00:06:47.790]developed by the Winnipeg-based William Pearson company.
[00:06:52.250]And oh, also the archive
[00:06:56.580]is here in Regina.
[00:07:03.400]I went to access some of the photographs and I was really
[00:07:06.560]surprised by what I found.
[00:07:09.540]It's almost like I pulled a thread on an old sweater,
[00:07:14.988]and as I say, I think it's this very house.
[00:07:21.890]Now what is a ready-made farm?
[00:07:25.470]And I would love to hear later on,
[00:07:28.710]maybe at the end of the talk,
[00:07:30.360]if anybody knows about these existing in the United States,
[00:07:34.000]because they were somewhat common here in Canada,
[00:07:38.900]built by the Canadian Pacific Railway.
[00:07:42.260]This was, was an early attempt in 1882.
[00:07:44.670]This is the Bell Farm,
[00:07:46.230]but this was really more of a corporate farm
[00:07:48.400]than anything else.
[00:07:50.040]The notion of the ready-made farm leveraged the land
[00:07:55.440]that was given to the railways
[00:07:57.110]as subsidies to build the rail lines.
[00:07:59.510]And in the case of the Canadian Pacific Railway,
[00:08:02.120]they received $25 million
[00:08:04.960]and 25 million acres of land
[00:08:09.070]in the 1880s as subsidies to build the railways.
[00:08:15.500]These were in alternate sections,
[00:08:17.400]24 miles deep on either side of the railway
[00:08:20.170]bearing uneven numbers,
[00:08:22.590]and the section where the house is
[00:08:25.300]was indeed granted to the Canadian Northern Railway and does
[00:08:29.970]indeed bear the uneven number.
[00:08:32.570]And these showed up in British Columbia, Alberta,
[00:08:36.390]And in the case of the CPR,
[00:08:38.530]they were marketed mainly to British settlers.
[00:08:41.770]And the idea was that the CPR would,
[00:08:46.980]or the developer in the case of this little house
[00:08:49.390]that I'm showing,
[00:08:50.340]the William Pearson company would build a house,
[00:08:53.050]a barn, dig a well, break and plant 50 acres of land,
[00:08:57.370]and basically it was a kind of move-in situation.
[00:09:02.420]The Canadian Pacific Railway marketed
[00:09:06.900]almost entirely to British settlers,
[00:09:09.890]and William Pearson marketed almost entirely
[00:09:14.440]to American settlers,
[00:09:16.760]which is one of the things that makes this story
[00:09:19.010]so interesting for the Great Plains Study Center,
[00:09:22.410]as it offers this kind of cross-border story.
[00:09:29.560]This is an example in southern Alberta.
[00:09:31.870]Now, I thought that's where they all were.
[00:09:34.850]I didn't think there were any
[00:09:37.150]close to where I live and indeed this story was
[00:09:41.770]taking place all around me as I,
[00:09:44.570]all around the place that I grew up.
[00:09:51.010]And this is some of the marketing material.
[00:09:54.400]One of the things here that's interesting,
[00:09:58.010]employment guaranteed to farm hands and domestic servants.
[00:10:00.970]So people that may have been in the lower classes
[00:10:05.440]in the UK, they could sort of jump the social ladder
[00:10:11.030]by acquiring land in Canada.
[00:10:15.810]And this one was interesting, just for the language,
[00:10:19.790]the notion of a land seeker,
[00:10:22.310]and also this fellow who is the colonization agent
[00:10:27.600]And it's just an example of the language of colonialism.
[00:10:36.820]When I started looking at this,
[00:10:38.350]I decided to just have a look
[00:10:42.160]at the Truth and Reconciliation website here in Canada,
[00:10:46.480]and I was again, overwhelmed by what I came across.
[00:10:53.290]There are many documents on the website.
[00:10:55.140]There's the Indian Act, the Davin Report.
[00:10:59.580]We see Egerton Ryerson's name on an 1847 report.
[00:11:04.140]Both Davin and Egerton supported, their documents
[00:11:08.130]supported the creation of the in Indian industrial schools.
[00:11:14.960]The whitepaper of 1969 that supported the Sixties Scoop.
[00:11:20.750]And people like Ryerson, you know, he's commemorated
[00:11:24.510]in the name of Ryerson University
[00:11:26.410]and his name has since been removed.
[00:11:31.636]So, and also looking at the calls to action.
[00:11:35.320]And this is something we've heard in previous presentations.
[00:11:41.460]Call to action 45 is particularly interesting.
[00:11:45.290]It relates to the repudiation
[00:11:51.260]of things like the papal bulls
[00:11:55.060]of 1455 and 1459.
[00:11:58.437]And indeed there's a delegation that was from Canada
[00:12:01.690]that was in Rome just weeks ago,
[00:12:05.030]meeting with Pope Francis
[00:12:07.020]and these papal edicts supported
[00:12:12.552]what is known as the Doctrine of Discovery
[00:12:16.320]and included the concept of terra nullius,
[00:12:19.420]the notion that the land belongs to nobody.
[00:12:22.840]And I was quite interested
[00:12:27.160]in this because this photo archive
[00:12:29.500]of William Pearson's,
[00:12:31.490]I think really illustrates this of this empty landscape,
[00:12:35.280]this terra nullius.
[00:12:39.330]Here's the map.
[00:12:41.170]And here we see Winnipeg, Regina,
[00:12:47.680]and then the connection down to Minneapolis.
[00:12:50.900]So that was where he organized his
[00:12:54.250]so-called land-seeking excursions,
[00:12:56.880]and they would come up this railway line.
[00:13:00.450]And this is the area that they were focused on.
[00:13:02.687]And the little house is around up here.
[00:13:07.660]You can see some of the First Nations illustrated here,
[00:13:11.440]and we're talking about this area right here.
[00:13:18.940]Here's the Center for Great Plains Studies map,
[00:13:22.120]and the red dot is where the house is.
[00:13:26.610]I'll offer land acknowledgement here.
[00:13:28.670]I'm on Treaty 4 territory
[00:13:32.610]in what is known as Saskatchewan, Canada.
[00:13:34.760]And these are the ancestral lands of Cree, Soto,
[00:13:38.650]Dakota, Lakota, Nakota and the homeland of the Metis Nation.
[00:13:45.470]But you can see in relation
[00:13:46.670]to the Great Plains Study Center area of study,
[00:13:50.660]where this is, and this is just a diagram I love.
[00:13:53.080]This is Chief Pasqua's pictogram.
[00:13:55.900]It's a representation of Treaty 4
[00:14:00.230]from an Indigenous perspective
[00:14:02.830]at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum.
[00:14:05.550]And the slides we're looking at are early glass slides
[00:14:08.140]by the Viopticon company of Davenport, Iowa.
[00:14:16.200]This is my hometown and where I went to school.
[00:14:20.350]This is the mustering in 1911 to go off
[00:14:23.820]on one of these land-seeking excursions.
[00:14:26.690]And again, this illustrates this myth of terra nullius.
[00:14:31.160]The bison had been kind of exterminated by this point
[00:14:36.360]and it was empty.
[00:14:39.680]And this is a party of land buyers
[00:14:41.670]from the Tama & Marshall company of Iowa,
[00:14:45.740]who purchased land in the area.
[00:14:49.990]This was interesting.
[00:14:51.140]I thought, you know,
[00:14:52.650]every real estate agent needs a nice car.
[00:14:55.080]And apparently even at the time, that was being showcased.
[00:15:00.510]This was included in the archive.
[00:15:02.220]And usually these were used, and the CPR used these kind
[00:15:05.400]of slides for comparative purposes.
[00:15:07.980]You know, you don't want the sod shack,
[00:15:09.990]you want our nice tidy house.
[00:15:14.220]And this is one of the CPR slides from Elsa Lam's
[00:15:19.630]thesis at Columbia.
[00:15:20.850]She's now editor of Canadian Architect.
[00:15:27.000]Typical wagon that was used to haul wheat,
[00:15:30.470]state of the roads at the time.
[00:15:31.930]Now, this was very interesting.
[00:15:36.190]I think this shows a group of kids
[00:15:37.990]at one of the residential schools,
[00:15:40.210]Indigenous children with priest.
[00:15:42.730]And I think this is in Lebret.
[00:15:45.110]And Adrian Stimson mentioned this earlier,
[00:15:48.030]'cause I think this is the Capel Valley in the background.
[00:15:51.670]This is Lebret today,
[00:15:54.350]and this is what faces it.
[00:15:57.970]The stations of the cross apparently were used as punishment
[00:16:02.040]for the children.
[00:16:02.970]They were made to crawl up them
[00:16:04.280]on their hands and knees.
[00:16:06.160]And that hike is being reclaimed now
[00:16:09.290]by many Indigenous people.
[00:16:11.110]And this is the grounds of the school where the school was,
[00:16:15.210]and that's actually the contemporary school there.
[00:16:19.360]And of course,
[00:16:21.606]a lot of work with ground penetrating radar to discover
[00:16:24.755]those unmarked graves at the moment
[00:16:26.930]that we've all heard about.
[00:16:29.040]We heard about this story this morning.
[00:16:30.690]Of course, the bison were exterminated.
[00:16:33.480]I would think with 40 million of them around,
[00:16:36.500]you would see them on the landscape,
[00:16:38.760]but we didn't see them in those photos.
[00:16:41.440]This is a startling photo where you see sheep
[00:16:44.940]at the railway siding in Maple Creek, 1889,
[00:16:49.680]with bison bones stockpiled to be shipped out,
[00:16:53.570]probably to be used as fertilizer.
[00:16:57.200]Sir John A. Macdonald
[00:17:02.293]and his policy of starvation
[00:17:05.330]towards the First Nations to force them onto the reserves,
[00:17:11.010]and confirmation in James Daschuk's
[00:17:14.057]"Clearing the Plains" of 2013.
[00:17:18.220]Ironically it received the Sir John A. Macdonald prize
[00:17:22.810]And this is just a few blocks from where I live
[00:17:25.120]and something I walk past almost every day,
[00:17:28.940]statue of our first prime minister, Sir John A. Macdonald.
[00:17:32.660]And you see,
[00:17:33.493]he's gotten into trouble over the years here,
[00:17:36.560]and tree blew down after a wind storm.
[00:17:41.450]I thought that might solve the problem, but it didn't.
[00:17:47.230]And he's finally been removed.
[00:17:50.670]So I'm running just a bit over time,
[00:17:53.070]but I'm gonna click through these slides
[00:17:54.600]of the house very quickly.
[00:17:58.293]there were renovations that were done quite early and they
[00:18:01.580]all seem to be related to kind of, you know,
[00:18:06.590]keeping the heat in.
[00:18:07.570]There was no basement. There was no furnace.
[00:18:10.360]There would've been just a stove in the kitchen.
[00:18:13.480]Not many windows on the north side,
[00:18:16.950]and you know, gutters,
[00:18:19.060]they could have maybe had a rain barrel.
[00:18:21.970]So there was some recognition of the place.
[00:18:25.670]Paper use to try and keep out the wind,
[00:18:27.830]but all of the interventions here,
[00:18:33.640]you know, relate to just kind of,
[00:18:35.350]I think keeping out the wind
[00:18:37.600]and the porch being closed,
[00:18:40.480]this window being partially blocked off.
[00:18:43.700]So it didn't quite look like that anymore.
[00:18:46.730]And you know,
[00:18:49.800]this is the kind of colonial ideal,
[00:18:52.530]the notion of the portico or the porch.
[00:18:56.390]It was actually near the Muscowequan Residential School,
[00:18:59.790]although this is much later 1930s,
[00:19:02.720]this school ran all the way up into the late '90s.
[00:19:06.490]And you can see the kind of artificial landscape here
[00:19:09.628]on the road of leading up to it.
[00:19:12.940]And I'll stop here.
[00:19:17.740]And I think what this house does,
[00:19:19.940]it really highlights the settlers' lack of knowledge
[00:19:22.760]and lack of understanding of place
[00:19:25.817]and asks the simple question
[00:19:27.110]of what it means to live on a hill
[00:19:28.550]in the Canadian prairies in both winter and summer.
[00:19:31.720]And I think that Indigenous knowledge would've helped solve
[00:19:35.160]some of those problems.
[00:19:36.420]And indeed these are still contemporary issues
[00:19:41.180]in architecture as well.
[00:19:43.420]And I'll stop right there. Thanks very much.
[00:19:49.960]Thank you, Bernard.
[00:19:51.550]So I will move on to introducing our second speaker,
[00:19:58.650]Lily is a graduate teaching assistant
[00:20:00.230]in the English Department of Georgetown University,
[00:20:03.260]where she's earning a Master's degree in English.
[00:20:06.730]And I understand that she's going to be in a PhD program
[00:20:09.680]in American studies at UT Austin.
[00:20:12.270]She's from Bloomfield, Nebraska,
[00:20:14.550]and graduated from Boston college in 2018 with a degree
[00:20:17.500]in English and Gender Studies.
[00:20:19.770]And she will be talking about "Heartland" and Plains women.
[00:20:24.370]Do you need to share screen Lily or are you just talking?
[00:20:26.200]Yes. And I will do that right now.
[00:20:39.640]Okay. Thank you so much.
[00:20:43.620]My presentation is called
[00:20:44.927]"Recovering the Rural: Deconstructing the Heartland
[00:20:48.260]in Sarah Smarsh's 'Heartland'" and this project,
[00:20:52.660]or this presentation rather really stems from me reading
[00:20:56.260]these memoirs about rural America,
[00:21:00.180]such as "Hillbilly Elegy,"
[00:21:01.510]such as "Educated" by Tara Westover
[00:21:05.710]and such as "Heartland" by Sarah Smarsh.
[00:21:09.990]So Sarah Smarsh's "Heartland,"
[00:21:12.520]a memoir of working hard and being broke
[00:21:14.940]in the richest country on Earth is the latest work
[00:21:18.000]in this burgeoning category of American memoirs
[00:21:21.380]that foreground parts of the country
[00:21:23.820]associated with the rural cultural myths,
[00:21:26.140]like the west, Appalachia and the Great Plains.
[00:21:30.367]"Heartland" was published in 2018,
[00:21:33.690]and it recounts Sarah Smarsh's upbringing
[00:21:36.830]as a fifth generation Kansas wheat farmer
[00:21:40.010]and the child of generations of teenage mothers.
[00:21:43.620]Alongside her family's narrative,
[00:21:45.830]Sarah Smarsh maps the destruction of the working class
[00:21:49.770]brought by public policy.
[00:21:51.847]"Heartland," much like "Hillbilly Elegy,"
[00:21:54.400]much like "Educated,"
[00:21:55.990]was an instant New York Times bestseller.
[00:21:59.650]So I refer to the genre of "Heartland" as rural memoir.
[00:22:08.840]While this chat or this presentation inserts itself
[00:22:11.550]into the intersection of rural studies and literature,
[00:22:14.830]it doesn't try to establish an overriding definition
[00:22:17.990]of rural memoir that accommodates all texts
[00:22:20.460]that foreground rural people and places.
[00:22:23.600]Instead, this presentation focuses on aspects of "Heartland"
[00:22:27.850]that transcend the popularity of the genre,
[00:22:30.370]that challenge idea of what it means to be rural.
[00:22:35.550]So at the core of rural memoir is identity as defined
[00:22:42.500]Whereas most critical studies of literature that focus
[00:22:45.230]on place emphasize the connection between where people are
[00:22:48.900]placed physically and politically
[00:22:50.920]and where they're placed geographically,
[00:22:53.270]I avoid such oversimplifications by exploring place
[00:22:58.160]through Gioia Woods and Kathleen Boardman's concept
[00:23:01.220]of a trio of locations.
[00:23:03.360]And that is physical, rhetorical and political locations.
[00:23:08.970]As I will demonstrate,
[00:23:11.030]Sarah Smarsh identifies with multiple landscapes
[00:23:14.100]and cultures throughout "Heartland" and in doing so,
[00:23:17.380]she refuses to cast place as a tangible,
[00:23:20.720]definable and stable location,
[00:23:22.730]or like simply the backdrop or setting
[00:23:25.000]for her life were counted.
[00:23:28.890]So I will begin with the discussion of physical place
[00:23:32.370]before turning to Smarsh's rhetorical
[00:23:34.840]and political locations.
[00:23:37.150]So throughout "Heartland,"
[00:23:38.490]Sarah Smarsh struggles to place herself physically,
[00:23:42.860]she views place as essential to her identity.
[00:23:49.520]In "Heartland," she narrates the memoir
[00:23:52.220]to her unborn child, whom she refers to as August.
[00:23:56.670]She writes on the opening pages,
[00:23:58.917]"What defined the relationship between you and me
[00:24:01.960]wasn't the forces at work on my body,
[00:24:03.900]but where my body stood on this Earth."
[00:24:07.220]Smarsh uses geographic descriptions to underscore her
[00:24:11.100]and her family members' emotions,
[00:24:13.220]such as her mother's profound sense of isolation.
[00:24:16.890]She writes, "My mother Jeanie had a four-year-old daughter
[00:24:20.157]and a newborn son in the middle of the countryside
[00:24:22.780]she never wanted.
[00:24:24.120]The lake was on one side,
[00:24:25.660]the wheat was on the other, and Jeanie was in the middle."
[00:24:29.450]At other moments,
[00:24:30.360]we see Sarah Smarsh marvel at the physicality of the place
[00:24:33.270]that molds her into, quote,
[00:24:35.217]"a Kansas farm girl with wanderlust,"
[00:24:37.800]such as Kansas' thunderstorms and funnel clouds that quote,
[00:24:41.967]"menace us each spring and summer,
[00:24:43.700]that came from the most mesmerizing sweet-smelling sky."
[00:24:47.870]Smarsh especially highlights her family's physical location
[00:24:51.450]in the chapter titled "A Stretch of Gravel with Wheat
[00:24:54.850]on either Side."
[00:24:58.500]She writes, "The popular image of Kansas
[00:25:03.590]is a monotonous level expanse.
[00:25:05.900]If you drive through without getting
[00:25:07.260]off the interstate highway,
[00:25:08.640]that might be all you see for hundreds of miles,
[00:25:11.290]but some corners of Kansas are made of modest hills, woods,
[00:25:15.240]red rock formations, slight cliffs.
[00:25:18.260]Still my family fit the stereotype as both the people
[00:25:21.510]and the place: farmers on a flat earth."
[00:25:25.380]In describing both
[00:25:26.250]the nuances and the stereotypes of the Kansas landscape,
[00:25:29.690]Smarsh attests to the influence of physical location
[00:25:32.610]on her and her family's identities.
[00:25:35.410]She challenges the idea of physical place as fixed
[00:25:39.220]in the place of Kansas in the national imagination
[00:25:41.990]as environmental and cultural homogeneity.
[00:25:45.950]Although she acknowledges that her family fits
[00:25:48.460]the stereotype of Kansas and Kansans,
[00:25:51.030]she nevertheless expounds on quote,
[00:25:53.567]"the beauty in that Earth that people heading west toward
[00:25:56.280]the Rocky Mountains seem to miss."
[00:25:59.480]In her final chapter called
[00:26:01.327]"The Place I was From," Smarsh reflects on leaving and later
[00:26:05.520]returning to rural Kansas.
[00:26:08.230]While the chapter title suggests a past identification
[00:26:11.760]with Kansas, her response to the oft-asked question
[00:26:15.077]"how did you get out" challenges
[00:26:17.200]the idea that rural Kansas symbolizes a certain period
[00:26:20.680]in her life.
[00:26:22.860]She writes, "If there is something to get out of some place
[00:26:26.670]or class, in many ways I am still there
[00:26:29.470]and perhaps always will be.
[00:26:31.580]I did not leave one world and enter another.
[00:26:34.550]Today, I hold them both simultaneously.
[00:26:37.720]Mine isn't the story about a destination that was reached,
[00:26:40.690]but rather about sacrifices I don't believe anyone,
[00:26:44.330]certainly no child should have to make."
[00:26:47.570]Smarsh therefore does not view place as stable
[00:26:50.040]or discreet and is therefore unable
[00:26:52.480]to place herself culturally,
[00:26:54.110]politically and economically in one world or another.
[00:26:58.410]However, despite this struggle,
[00:27:00.360]Smarsh repeatedly emphasizes how place is intrinsic
[00:27:03.250]to her sense of self.
[00:27:04.950]She insists that she is not from a place,
[00:27:07.390]but is of a place.
[00:27:09.320]She writes, "And we were of a place,
[00:27:12.190]the Great Plains, spurn by the more powerful corners
[00:27:15.430]of the country as a monolithic cultural wasteland."
[00:27:20.640]In addition to locating herself physically, Smarsh places
[00:27:24.030]herself rhetorically throughout "Heartland"
[00:27:26.420]by using many familiar with Midwestern gestures.
[00:27:30.370]Woods and Boardman define rhetorical location
[00:27:32.960]as of the writer's linguistic choices,
[00:27:35.180]which are made with respect to traditional notions
[00:27:37.610]of rootedness, along with important histories of mobility,
[00:27:41.390]diaspora and displacement.
[00:27:45.560]Most directly, Smarsh locates herself rhetorically
[00:27:48.970]through the book's title, "Heartland."
[00:27:54.730]The Midwest is considered the nation's heartland,
[00:27:57.570]our regional label that associates geographical centrality
[00:28:01.460]with a defining role
[00:28:02.560]in national identity and emotional responses to place.
[00:28:06.740]As you can on the cover of the book's paperback version,
[00:28:09.770]a crack texture overlays
[00:28:11.550]a painting of the bucolic wheat field.
[00:28:13.940]The works title floats in the sky in large red font,
[00:28:17.960]read together the title and the cover produced a commentary
[00:28:20.740]on the pastoral notion of Heartland,
[00:28:23.960]which Smarsh writes, quote,
[00:28:25.737]"doesn't tell you much about the life."
[00:28:30.720]Smarsh also locates herself rhetorically by code switching
[00:28:34.800]from her first language to standardized American English.
[00:28:39.080]She does this for the first time
[00:28:40.470]in the book's opening pages.
[00:28:43.510]She writes, "But it's the way of things
[00:28:45.710]that environment changes outcomes.
[00:28:48.160]Or to put it in my first language:
[00:28:50.640]the crop depends on the weather, dudnit?
[00:28:53.059]It a good seed'll do'er job'n'sprout,
[00:28:54.860]but come hail'n'yer plumb out of luck, regardless."
[00:28:58.010]Smarsh therefore locates herself in multiple spheres,
[00:29:01.330]that of rural Kansas and that of literature.
[00:29:03.950]By placing the two side-by-side,
[00:29:06.000]she emphasizes her compatibility.
[00:29:09.120]Furthermore, Smarsh locates her cell in the Midwest
[00:29:12.940]through her directness
[00:29:13.810]about the stereotypes of Midwestern people.
[00:29:16.830]She writes, "Fly over country,
[00:29:18.710]people called it, like walking there
[00:29:20.770]might be dangerous if people were backward rednecks,
[00:29:24.010]maybe even trash."
[00:29:26.610]In the chapter titled "The Shame a Country Could Assign,"
[00:29:30.130]Smarsh writes of the rhetoric surrounding
[00:29:31.950]poor whiteness in the United States through the caricature
[00:29:36.060]of the white trash woman.
[00:29:38.740]She describes this caricature as having, quote,
[00:29:42.007]"a smoke hanging out of her mouth, a baby on one hip,
[00:29:45.210]the screen door to her trailer
[00:29:46.610]propped open with the other."
[00:29:49.620]John Hardigan Jr. analyzes whiteness
[00:29:51.890]through terms like hillbilly,
[00:29:53.740]redneck and white trash.
[00:29:56.590]John Hardigan argues that like blackness
[00:30:00.699]whiteness has many dimensions, and a stratification of power
[00:30:04.040]and privilege within whiteness "hinges upon rural versus
[00:30:06.930]urban identity and the relative degrees
[00:30:09.430]of education versus 'backwardness.'"
[00:30:12.055]He theorizes the term "white trash"
[00:30:15.350]as the most loathsome brand, and one that is quote,
[00:30:19.147]"Primarily a distancing technique before it is an identity."
[00:30:23.520]Sarah Smarsh explains that her family
[00:30:25.210]was frequently called white trash.
[00:30:27.610]However, she recognizes that she did not naturally challenge
[00:30:30.680]the rhetoric surrounding
[00:30:31.750]rural working class whiteness and said
[00:30:34.190]she was taught to do so by her mother.
[00:30:36.800]For instance, she describes a pivotal experience
[00:30:38.900]riding in the car with her mother,
[00:30:41.060]listening to the radio young Smarsh
[00:30:43.370]sings along with the lyrics
[00:30:44.610]to a then-popular country song called
[00:30:46.877]"Trashy Women" by Confederate Railroad, in which
[00:30:49.920]the male singer went on about how he was raised
[00:30:53.750]in a sophisticated well-to-do household,
[00:30:56.020]but was turned on by poor women.
[00:30:58.780]Smarsh's mother scolds her and changes the radio station.
[00:31:03.100]Reflecting a on her mother's rejection
[00:31:04.760]of this representation of rural working class women,
[00:31:08.410]Smarsh writes, quote,
[00:31:10.347]"We might have been poor and we might have been female,
[00:31:13.150]two strikes against a body in the world.
[00:31:15.760]Mom might have looked like something men wanted to possess.
[00:31:18.460]And I might have been an unwanted child.
[00:31:22.030]One more strike in an already perilous life,
[00:31:24.450]but mom knew she wasn't trash,
[00:31:26.100]and she knew her daughter wasn't either."
[00:31:28.650]Thus, Sarah Smarsh's mother refuses
[00:31:30.990]to allow a reductive stereotype to represent
[00:31:33.360]herself and her daughter.
[00:31:35.120]In this way, through her rejection
[00:31:36.570]of the white trash woman identity,
[00:31:38.780]not only does Smarsh make visible the term to police
[00:31:41.980]the unmarked status of whiteness,
[00:31:43.950]but she also unearthed the way
[00:31:45.340]rural working class identities are shaped in relation
[00:31:48.090]to the rhetoric surrounding them.
[00:31:51.060]So the final aspect of Smarsh's trio of locations is
[00:31:56.470]And this location is just as unfixed as her others.
[00:32:00.440]Woods and Boardman define political location
[00:32:02.700]as the ground on which the writer bases an eye.
[00:32:08.780]While Smarsh's ground is identifiable,
[00:32:11.940]her political beliefs do not follow
[00:32:13.710]a predictable trajectory.
[00:32:15.710]For instance, both she and her family
[00:32:17.070]initially vote Republican.
[00:32:19.710]However, her and family's political beliefs
[00:32:21.960]change shortly after the turn of the millennium.
[00:32:25.150]And she writes, "Like the rest of my close family members,
[00:32:28.050]we ended up progressives who agreed
[00:32:29.820]on just about everything."
[00:32:32.130]However, although Smarsh identifies as progressive,
[00:32:35.780]she still expresses pessimism about America and does not
[00:32:39.210]think, quote, "she had been wrong to be suspicious
[00:32:42.530]of government programs."
[00:32:44.750]On the final page of "Heartland,"
[00:32:47.060]Smarsh writes to her unborn daughter, August.
[00:32:50.447]"This country has failed its children, August,
[00:32:52.740]failed all its own claims about democracy and humanity.
[00:32:56.240]The American dream in particular sometimes seems more like
[00:32:58.960]a ghost haunting our way of thinking than like
[00:33:01.550]a sacred contract worth signing to some future."
[00:33:04.990]Thus, despite "Heartland's" Midwestern cadence,
[00:33:08.360]there's a sense of urgency underlying it as demonstrated
[00:33:12.010]by Smarsh expressing sentences about America.
[00:33:16.710]So further theorizing
[00:33:19.300]rural memoir requires filling a gap that exists
[00:33:23.010]within literary studies and between the disciplines
[00:33:25.860]of literature and geography.
[00:33:28.340]To theorize memoir, we must address place.
[00:33:32.120]To understand place, I think we should turn to memoir.
[00:33:36.620]Feminist geographer Pamela Moss argues
[00:33:39.270]that for scholars to engage in important locational issues
[00:33:42.640]of subjectivity, identity and subject,
[00:33:46.150]they need to consider autobiography.
[00:33:49.010]Indeed, memoir can help us explore meanings
[00:33:51.030]of place shaped by culture, gender and class,
[00:33:54.210]and place can help us help us understand
[00:33:56.370]subject, identity and subjectivity.
[00:33:59.760]By theorizing not only memoir,
[00:34:01.570]but also other sub genres of life writing, such as diaries
[00:34:05.740]or testimonial, through the lens of place,
[00:34:08.560]we can begin to explore how place and life writing
[00:34:12.350]constitute one another.
[00:34:17.770]Thank you, Lily. All right, moving on.
[00:34:20.220]Since we're a little behind.
[00:34:22.250]This is going to be Tom who did finally manage to log in.
[00:34:26.330]Tom Lynch is a professor in the English Department
[00:34:29.380]at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
[00:34:31.440]His areas of teaching and research are eco-criticism,
[00:34:34.820]bioregionalism, and settler colonial studies
[00:34:37.240]and Lauren Isley.
[00:34:38.910]He's interested in researching places in the US west
[00:34:42.407]and the Australian Outback,
[00:34:44.130]and for seven years he was editor of the journal
[00:34:46.767]"Western American Literature."
[00:34:48.840]So Tom, are you gonna, where are you?
[00:34:53.490]I don't have any pretty pictures. I'm just gonna talk.
[00:34:56.900]Okay, so, but Tom will be presenting on
[00:35:01.277]"Eco-memoir, Bioregionalism, and the Uncanny Settler
[00:35:05.350]Belonging in Jerry Wilson's 'Waiting for Coyote's Call.'"
[00:35:09.640]All right, this is an a shameless plug here.
[00:35:12.410]This is an excerpt from my forthcoming book
[00:35:14.627]"Outback and Out West:
[00:35:16.480]The Settler-Colonial Environmental Imaginary"
[00:35:19.040]available for pre-order
[00:35:20.360]from the University of Nebraska Press or Amazon,
[00:35:23.870]if you're so inclined.
[00:35:26.557]"Environmentally attuned people of settler ancestry often
[00:35:29.810]feel they lack a deep belonging to place.
[00:35:33.130]The environmental concept of bioregionalism,
[00:35:35.730]with its mantra of becoming "Native to Place,"
[00:35:38.200]the title of a famous book by Wes Jackson,
[00:35:41.030]and its emphasis on belonging developed
[00:35:43.580]out of such circumstances.
[00:35:45.830]This paper examines the rule of the bioregional eco-memoir
[00:35:49.340]as a sometimes problematic or colonial response to the need
[00:35:53.970]to belong to place.
[00:35:56.170]Early bioregional thinkers
[00:35:57.730]drew inspiration from Indigenous peoples,
[00:36:00.110]and bioregional texts events
[00:36:02.480]a palpable envy for the deep connections
[00:36:04.980]Indigenous people have
[00:36:06.920]and these members of settler cultures wish they had
[00:36:10.050]with their local ecology.
[00:36:13.050]At the same time as these memoirs seek
[00:36:14.880]a form of settler belonging
[00:36:16.220]that is environmentally responsible, however,
[00:36:19.170]they nevertheless often recirculate tropes
[00:36:21.660]of pioneering settlement and often struggle
[00:36:24.430]to meaningfully engage with the Indigenous displacement
[00:36:27.870]from the very lands to which
[00:36:29.340]they themselves are seeking to belong.
[00:36:33.090]This paper examined some of these themes by applying
[00:36:35.670]a settler colonial analysis
[00:36:37.860]to a bioregional re-inhabitation memoir located
[00:36:41.560]in Eastern South Dakota, Jerry Wilson's 2008,
[00:36:45.587]"Waiting for Coyote's Call:
[00:36:47.680]An Eco-memoir from the Missouri River Bluff."
[00:36:51.500]Wilson's book is situated in a celebrated
[00:36:54.040]settler colonial landscape where frontier ideologies
[00:36:57.170]continue to predominate.
[00:37:00.609]His rural Southeastern South Dakota setting is not too far
[00:37:03.750]from DeSmet, the location of the homestead
[00:37:06.130]made famous by Laura Engels Wilder
[00:37:08.250]in the Little House books.
[00:37:10.260]Ole Rolvaag's novel of 19th century Norwegian pioneers,
[00:37:13.987]"Giants in the Earth" is also set nearby.
[00:37:17.500]That is, Eastern South Dakota
[00:37:19.150]is a region with a strong tradition
[00:37:20.950]of settler colonial literature,
[00:37:22.807]and many of the region's residents continued to promulgate
[00:37:25.880]a social and personal identity aligned with that tradition.
[00:37:30.590]In various ways,
[00:37:31.470]Wilson's text simultaneously resists and reanimates
[00:37:35.010]these prevailing settler frontiering
[00:37:37.710]and homesteading themes.
[00:37:40.200]The book describes his experience of 25 years settling onto
[00:37:43.580]and restoring an Eastern South Dakota farmstead perched
[00:37:46.560]on a bluff above the Missouri River.
[00:37:49.320]As the numerous quotations may clear his book is heavily
[00:37:52.300]influenced by Aldo Leopold's "Sand County Almanac,"
[00:37:55.710]which serves as both a practical guide and a source
[00:37:58.560]of philosophical inspiration.
[00:38:01.120]Much like Leopold's project at the shack in Wisconsin.
[00:38:05.120]Wilson is seeking to restore a damaged land.
[00:38:09.670]His is a re-inhabitation narrative
[00:38:12.880]that negotiates the complex territory where a discourse
[00:38:16.110]of belonging to place intersects
[00:38:18.430]with a discourse of a potent settler colonial imaginary.
[00:38:23.110]One notable feature of his book is how
[00:38:24.950]it punctuates its mostly prosaic descriptive narrative
[00:38:28.500]with occasional passages of what we might think of as
[00:38:31.030]a heightened settler eco-poetics.
[00:38:34.210]These eco-poetical passengers begin the moment Wilson
[00:38:37.310]and his wife commit to life on their chosen patch of land.
[00:38:41.760]When they had originally moved to South Dakota,
[00:38:43.920]they lived in Vermilion, near the college where he taught
[00:38:47.160]but they soon began looking for a place in the country.
[00:38:50.720]One evening out for a casual drive,
[00:38:52.850]they visited a farm they had heard is for sale.
[00:38:55.880]At first, they just stood at the barbed wire fence
[00:38:58.250]by the side of the road, Wilson toting
[00:39:00.710]their new baby, Walter, in a backpack
[00:39:03.310]and surveyed the farm from a distance.
[00:39:06.010]But soon they felt compelled to investigate, an experience
[00:39:09.240]Wilson describes in the passage,
[00:39:11.087]"that begins mundanely enough, but that becomes increasingly
[00:39:15.140]charged with what I refer to as
[00:39:16.740]a sensuous eco-aesthetics of belonging."
[00:39:20.990]The passage is worth quoting at some length
[00:39:23.060]in order to note the gradual transition towards
[00:39:25.410]a transcendent climax.
[00:39:28.637]"We climbed the fence.
[00:39:30.580]We had planned an evening drive, a chance to look and dream.
[00:39:34.460]I was prepared for nothing more.
[00:39:37.190]My feet were shod in flimsy sandals,
[00:39:39.380]not ideal for a trek through pasture and brush
[00:39:41.930]and perhaps spurs, but we plunged ahead regardless.
[00:39:45.900]Halfway across the 40 acres,
[00:39:47.490]we paused on the southern slope
[00:39:49.060]to watch Venus define itself in the Western sky.
[00:39:52.550]We sat down in the grass,
[00:39:53.900]surrounded by blooming prairie roses.
[00:39:56.570]From atop of box elder in the draw,
[00:39:58.690]a whippoorwill sang the first bar of his nightly serenade.
[00:40:02.650]Dusk deepened and in the distant valley,
[00:40:04.980]a farmyard light flickered on.
[00:40:07.210]A rosy aura enveloped Yankton,
[00:40:09.610]the old capital capital of Dakota territory.
[00:40:13.390]A great horned hooted from up in the Cottonwood
[00:40:16.090]on Clay Creek, somewhere along Turkey Ridge,
[00:40:19.210]a pack of coyotes greeted the hunt with cacophonous calls.
[00:40:23.580]'Yes,' Norma whispered.
[00:40:26.810]We lingered too long on the hillside.
[00:40:29.140]The grass in which we lounged lost its resolution,
[00:40:32.210]but in the sky, uncountable points of light emerged.
[00:40:35.580]We rose and stumbled westward picking our a toward
[00:40:38.260]the boundary line.
[00:40:40.420]When we hit the fence,
[00:40:41.340]we followed it south into the draw toward the subdued
[00:40:44.090]babble of a spring.
[00:40:46.040]We followed a deer trail to the edge of a bog,
[00:40:48.980]then the trickle to its source.
[00:40:51.140]I knelt, cupped my hands and drank.
[00:40:54.800]We climbed back to higher ground and picked our way east
[00:40:57.850]through a thick of drooping sumac heads
[00:40:59.890]and over-ripe plums.
[00:41:01.990]Fruit fell into our hands at the lightest touch.
[00:41:05.310]We bit the bitter skin and sucked sweet meat and juice.
[00:41:09.170]Then we climbed again the sloping hill below Venus."
[00:41:13.740]As Wilson stood, savoring the landscape
[00:41:15.990]and all its sensuous dimensions,
[00:41:18.160]drinking from its springs and sucking its fruits
[00:41:21.210]as they fell unbitten into his hand, his wife remarked,
[00:41:25.647]"You look so good here. I think we should buy it."
[00:41:29.920]Wilson then draws the scene to a close.
[00:41:32.917]"Walter stirred from his baby nap
[00:41:34.870]and murmured what seemed to be ascent.
[00:41:37.500]Had we been chosen by this land?
[00:41:39.940]It seemed that we belonged."
[00:41:43.680]Here, we witness a quintessential and numinous moment
[00:41:46.500]of settler belonging.
[00:41:48.220]This is the place and we haven't chosen it,
[00:41:51.590]rather in a wonderfully clever trope
[00:41:53.610]of the settler colonial imaginary,
[00:41:56.020]the land has chosen us.
[00:41:58.630]Few things could more assert
[00:42:00.070]the settler's right to belonging regardless
[00:42:02.470]of a prior Indigenous claim
[00:42:04.600]then the idea that the land itself chooses the settler.
[00:42:09.170]The land's beauty and fertility has cast a spell,
[00:42:13.110]a rosy aura on the author.
[00:42:16.900]K. Wayne Yang describes the meaning of this sort
[00:42:19.550]of recurring scene in settler colonial texts.
[00:42:22.640]These kinds of moments, Yang asserts,
[00:42:25.170]express a futuristic settler vision of land
[00:42:27.990]that includes the fact that indigeneity is metaphorized
[00:42:33.540]to the settler's own adoption of, and by the land,
[00:42:37.350]this adoption results in a process by which settlers rewrite
[00:42:40.860]them ourselves as ecological stewards with the final goal
[00:42:45.340]being re-inhabitation a sustainable settler future,
[00:42:50.460]such as certainly the case in Wilson's narrative.
[00:42:54.680]Wilson is aware of course,
[00:42:56.140]of the pioneering and homesteading tradition
[00:42:58.210]that he is mimicking.
[00:42:59.500]And he is at times troubled by his conflicted relationship
[00:43:02.780]to that tradition.
[00:43:04.310]He notes, for example,
[00:43:05.810]that it is too late for me to tell a pioneering story
[00:43:08.610]of going back to the land or of discovering principles
[00:43:11.840]by which we might sustain Earth.
[00:43:15.050]In spite of this disavow,
[00:43:16.470]however, his is indeed a kind of pioneering story.
[00:43:20.570]Although one with re-inhabitory bioregional inclinations
[00:43:25.040]towards Yang's sustainable settler future,
[00:43:29.060]like the typical bioregional re-inhabitant,
[00:43:32.100]Wilson builds his own home,
[00:43:34.270]and as is common, his is redemptively off-grid,
[00:43:38.120]geo solar, thermal.
[00:43:40.600]Likewise in a classic bioregional effort,
[00:43:43.450]Wilson restores native vegetation and he imbibes the place
[00:43:47.250]and learns the features of the local ecology.
[00:43:51.000]I have rehabilitated over 20 acres of native prairie.
[00:43:54.310]I have slept under meteor hours and wandered
[00:43:56.760]the woods by moonlight.
[00:43:58.270]I have grown acquainted with a hundred species of birds.
[00:44:01.420]I have learned to watch listen and learn.
[00:44:05.710]As yang proposes, the indigenizing settler
[00:44:08.450]has become the ecological steward,
[00:44:10.870]and this stewardship grants entitlement to belong.
[00:44:15.660]In spite of what Wilson's claim that it is too late to tell
[00:44:18.440]a pioneering story,
[00:44:20.060]the motifs of homesteading circulate throughout his book.
[00:44:23.940]The building of his own home is a common trope in both
[00:44:26.750]earlier pioneering and in newer re-inhabitory narratives
[00:44:30.460]and seems designed to enhance clean to belonging.
[00:44:33.800]Indeed, the book's first section is titled
[00:44:36.237]"Rehomesteading the Prairie."
[00:44:38.510]The first chapter quoted from above is titled
[00:44:41.287]"Chosen by the Land," and the chapter opens
[00:44:44.670]with an epigraph from Cather's "My Antonia,"
[00:44:48.597]"That is happiness to be dissolve into something
[00:44:51.330]complete and great."
[00:44:53.630]This passage is one of the classic expressions
[00:44:55.960]of the settler colonial imaginary's eco-poetics
[00:45:00.700]The problem with this humble expression of oneness
[00:45:02.970]with the land, however, is that as Cather's narrator,
[00:45:05.810]Jim Burden, is proposing in his grandmother's garden,
[00:45:09.040]the something complete and great into which
[00:45:11.210]he wishes to be dissolved is land recently taken
[00:45:14.520]from Indigenous people, though,
[00:45:16.610]you will never learn this from him.
[00:45:19.340]Such knowledge would undermine this classic moment
[00:45:21.850]of transcended settler belonging.
[00:45:25.000]Though it may seem churlish to remind readers
[00:45:27.100]that Jim's enchanting moment
[00:45:28.480]takes place on land only recently cleansed of the Pawnee,
[00:45:32.070]those are the historical facts.
[00:45:35.420]Unlike the earlier pioneers,
[00:45:37.370]such as Cather's characters who set out to replace
[00:45:39.890]the prairie with crops, Wilson's plan is to remove exotic
[00:45:43.760]vegetation and to restore portions of the prairie
[00:45:46.270]to something approaching its original state.
[00:45:49.440]He goes to great pains to remove invasive plants and restore
[00:45:52.650]native grasses and forbs.
[00:45:54.750]All this is standard by a regional re-inhabitation,
[00:45:58.440]but he can't quite let go of certain impulses
[00:46:01.380]of the settler imaginary.
[00:46:03.140]And so he engages
[00:46:04.710]in the common settler activity of tree planting.
[00:46:10.010]The species of trees Wilson plants as part of the ritual
[00:46:12.870]of possession include native varieties,
[00:46:15.220]but also, surprising to me, many non-Natives,
[00:46:18.360]including Russian olive, lilac and honeysuckle bushes,
[00:46:21.730]Austrian and Ponderosa pines.
[00:46:25.680]Unlike the authors of most bioregional memoirs
[00:46:28.640]who ignore Indigenous presence,
[00:46:30.430]Wilson struggles to reconcile his bioregional
[00:46:33.310]becoming native to place imaginary with his awareness
[00:46:37.830]of Indigenous occupancy.
[00:46:39.960]In one passage, he explicitly engages
[00:46:42.270]with the issue of land ownership and belonging.
[00:46:44.950]Again, growing increasingly poetic as the passage evolves
[00:46:48.070]from a dry discussion of county records
[00:46:50.820]to an ecstatic celebration of the whole planet.
[00:46:54.440]And he quoted, "An entry in a record book
[00:46:56.720]at the courthouse says
[00:46:57.720]in legal terms that this land is our land,
[00:47:00.560]but we know that is not true.
[00:47:02.840]In a profound sense, the land belongs to nobody.
[00:47:05.990]And even in legal terms,
[00:47:07.670]one might argue that it still belongs to the Yankton Sioux,
[00:47:10.880]from whom it was extorted at the price of a dime an acre.
[00:47:14.940]So the land belongs to the Yanktons, to the Seversons,
[00:47:17.970]the Rices, the Oaklands, the Ourslands the Paulsons,
[00:47:20.990]the Austins, the Jensens, the Johnsons, and to every man,
[00:47:24.310]woman and child who sweated, planted and harvested here.
[00:47:27.640]It belongs to everybody who slept on the land
[00:47:30.040]and ate the bounty it produced.
[00:47:31.860]It belongs to the foxes, the coyotes,
[00:47:34.110]the raccoons, the deer, and the myriad other creatures
[00:47:37.010]that know nothing of deeds,
[00:47:38.800]but ultimately it belongs to Earth.
[00:47:41.330]And we, and our fellow creatures that inhabit it are,
[00:47:44.040]but a brief blip in the vastness of time."
[00:47:49.710]A disorienting concern for the theft of Indian land is soon
[00:47:53.460]tempered by an eco-poetical metaphysics that reorients
[00:47:57.880]our settler moral compass and returns us to a satisfying
[00:48:01.820]and expansive sense of transcendent belonging.
[00:48:05.440]Wilson's recognition that the land on which he resides was
[00:48:08.280]extorted from the Yankton,
[00:48:10.060]if carried to its logical conclusion has dire implications
[00:48:13.880]for his own re-inhabitation project.
[00:48:16.810]For justice would require a restoration of stolen property.
[00:48:21.340]That will not do, so instead he waxes metaphysical.
[00:48:25.240]Who in the fullness of time can really own the land?
[00:48:28.740]It belongs to the Earth and all its creatures, et cetera,
[00:48:34.000]Even as he employs settler rhetorical strategies and tropes,
[00:48:38.040]however, it is only fair to note that Wilson
[00:48:39.900]is much more engaged
[00:48:40.950]with his Indigenous neighbors than are most Americans
[00:48:43.780]who write similar memoirs in ways
[00:48:46.130]that I think ultimately can
[00:48:47.930]serve as a model for hire to negotiate
[00:48:50.010]this difficult territory.
[00:48:51.970]Indeed, he begins this book
[00:48:53.290]with an informal land acknowledgement
[00:48:55.210]in which he expresses his thanks to the Yankton Sioux people
[00:48:58.587]"for the land on which my family
[00:49:00.090]and I live, for the environmental ethos
[00:49:03.030]that we inherit from American Indian traditions,
[00:49:05.700]and for the inspiration to live in harmony
[00:49:08.660]with the natural world."
[00:49:11.360]Wilson also participated a number of activities
[00:49:14.710]in support of Native rights,
[00:49:16.540]working, for example, with the Black Hills Alliance,
[00:49:19.280]a coalition of ranchers,
[00:49:20.910]American Indians and South Dakotans,
[00:49:22.880]as he says to stop a planned uranium mine,
[00:49:26.440]one of the goals of the Alliance he notes was to restore
[00:49:29.230]Indigenous ownership to the Black Hills.
[00:49:32.260]Such efforts as a political ally
[00:49:34.150]do much to mitigate the settler colonial dimensions
[00:49:36.910]of this project.
[00:49:38.920]Wilson's book concludes with a monthly Almanac modeled
[00:49:42.280]on the opening section of Leopold's "Sand County Almanac."
[00:49:46.630]For each month, a few pages are devoted
[00:49:48.840]to descriptions of seasonal activities.
[00:49:51.680]Among these activities,
[00:49:52.910]we glimpse neighborly engagement
[00:49:55.700]with the nearby Lakota community.
[00:49:58.930]For example, "As summer solstice approaches,
[00:50:01.270]prairie grasses and forbs
[00:50:02.820]define themselves in delicate hues.
[00:50:05.330]On a slope of unplowed native prairie,
[00:50:08.210]we gather sage with the Turtle Woman's Society,
[00:50:11.130]Lakota women and friends.
[00:50:13.200]Sage smoldering in an abalone shell will purify participants
[00:50:17.330]to commence the sun dance and other sacred ceremonies.
[00:50:21.000]Before we gather the herb, elder Patty Wells seeks
[00:50:24.000]the blessing of the Great Spirit.
[00:50:26.030]A young woman sets out a plate of spirit food
[00:50:28.630]for the ancestors and the living share a meal."
[00:50:32.960]These sorts of passages coming at the end of the book
[00:50:36.460]take the reader by surprise.
[00:50:38.930]Very little foundation had been laid for them previously
[00:50:41.760]in the narrative,
[00:50:42.593]which to this point has made minimal mention
[00:50:45.120]of contemporary Indigenous people.
[00:50:47.840]It is curious that so much of this intimate engagement
[00:50:50.590]with the Yankton is isolated in this section.
[00:50:53.480]And one might prefer to see these sorts of encounters more
[00:50:56.200]fully integrated throughout the memoir,
[00:50:58.550]rather than tack on as a sort of addendum.
[00:51:01.840]But perhaps this is telling.
[00:51:04.510]One might interpret this marginalization
[00:51:06.760]of his descriptions of relations with Indigenous neighbors
[00:51:10.000]as a sign of the continuing difficulties
[00:51:12.390]of reconciling settler bioregional belonging with acceptance
[00:51:16.500]of Indigenous presence.
[00:51:18.480]Engagement with Indian people is
[00:51:20.330]included yet can't be fully integrated into the overall
[00:51:24.350]belonging to place bioregional narrative.
[00:51:27.550]It's included, but its meaning is attenuated
[00:51:30.280]in a separate section.
[00:51:32.530]Nevertheless, these narratives do offer
[00:51:35.180]one element of a corrective.
[00:51:37.170]In these passages,
[00:51:38.570]Wilson shows himself to be not a new Native
[00:51:42.040]replacing the old, but a friend, neighbor, ally,
[00:51:45.650]and so however tentatively offers some suggestion of how
[00:51:49.290]settler colonial bioregional re-inhabitants can belong
[00:51:53.200]to a place without denying
[00:51:55.330]the rightful presence of its original inhabitants.
[00:51:59.640]That's my conclusion.
[00:52:03.640]Okay, so we started a little late.
[00:52:07.210]I don't know we're gonna be
[00:52:08.060]cut off in the three minutes remaining.
[00:52:11.340]If or of anybody you can put questions in the chat or you
[00:52:15.000]can unmute yourself and offer a question.
[00:52:20.760]We won't cut you off. (laughs)
[00:52:23.000]There's time for questions and discussion.
[00:52:40.140]I got one quick question.
[00:52:45.458]I really appreciate the presentations.
[00:52:48.090]Is there some way we might be able to coalesce efforts
[00:52:53.600]across the Great Plains that would sort of help
[00:52:59.520]and expediting some of these efforts at reconciliation?
[00:53:08.550]Like a grant body maybe or some tribal oversight?
[00:53:16.150]I wonder if that isn't a question for the director
[00:53:18.570]of the Center for Great Plains Studies.
[00:53:20.560]Or it's even, I mean,
[00:53:21.420]I would just even think that the US federalism,
[00:53:25.860]the international border between Canada
[00:53:28.490]and the United States would make that kind of an interest,
[00:53:33.510]it would make that a difficult proposition except as
[00:53:37.110]a purely voluntary,
[00:53:39.000]and like you could think about it,
[00:53:41.850]but I'm not sure that any action could be instituted
[00:53:45.200]in that framework.
[00:53:46.790]I don't know if any else has any other ideas.
[00:53:50.670]I was just even thinking of Walter Echo-Hawk's opening talk,
[00:53:54.310]and he talked about how Canada has incorporated
[00:53:57.270]the UN resolutions about the human rights
[00:54:02.220]of Indigenous people into law.
[00:54:05.140]And the US has not done that.
[00:54:07.900]So that there's even,
[00:54:09.080]if you're talking about Canada and the United States
[00:54:12.030]incorporating them, that would be,
[00:54:13.540]that's one key difference.
[00:54:20.810]I just add, Clint, that I think
[00:54:23.457]this whole summit we're having and the year-long series
[00:54:27.181]is aimed at trying to bring together people who are
[00:54:31.440]interested in these efforts and hopefully build networks
[00:54:36.310]and coalitions of people.
[00:54:38.900]We hope to have a lot of follow up events to this summit
[00:54:42.750]where we reach out to you, all of you again,
[00:54:45.920]and find ways to connect
[00:54:48.536]and build on what we've started here today
[00:54:52.000]or this last three days.
[00:54:59.420]Thank you, Margaret. I look forward to that.
[00:55:02.560]I have a quick question for my fellow presenters.
[00:55:08.710]Tom, you mentioned like the informal land acknowledgement
[00:55:12.270]that you found or that you were like writing about.
[00:55:16.630]Could you talk a little bit more about that and then also
[00:55:19.180]Bernard, like, have you in your archival work,
[00:55:22.270]have you encountered anything that you would consider like
[00:55:24.260]an informal land acknowledgement or anything like similar,
[00:55:29.452]if that makes any kind of sense?
[00:55:31.870]Well, in Wilson's book, in the acknowledgement section,
[00:55:35.090]he has what we now think of, for the United States,
[00:55:38.630]it was in 2008,
[00:55:39.750]it was pretty early to be doing that sort of thing.
[00:55:42.980]It was being done in Australia and other,
[00:55:45.070]maybe some other places by then.
[00:55:46.620]But so it was kind of interesting
[00:55:48.960]to see it in the actual land acknowledgements
[00:55:51.060]where usually you think your friends and,
[00:55:52.900]you know, colleagues and editors or whatever
[00:55:55.260]that he did that there.
[00:55:56.781]And I give him some kudos
[00:55:59.640]for having sort of made that gesture.
[00:56:02.880]What I found curious so that I talked
[00:56:04.390]about it is that he's got that at the beginning
[00:56:06.840]and then he's got this sort
[00:56:07.990]of Almanac section at the end,
[00:56:10.300]but there's very little about Native people.
[00:56:13.076]There's a few mentions.
[00:56:14.480]I don't wanna say none,
[00:56:15.350]but there's very little, but then when you get to the...
[00:56:19.015]So he's made the acknowledgement,
[00:56:21.170]but he hasn't maybe contemplated
[00:56:24.120]the land back gesture quite yet
[00:56:26.610]that, you know, like from acknowledgement,
[00:56:29.770]from land acknowledgement to land back,
[00:56:32.440]hasn't really maybe thought about that yet.
[00:56:34.780]Well, Tom, it's interesting when you read that language,
[00:56:37.190]it struck me that it sounded like even
[00:56:40.690]like the language of inheritance, it did seem to be,
[00:56:44.730]you know, even though there was an acknowledgement
[00:56:47.170]of an indebtedness to Native people,
[00:56:49.280]it put them as much in the past as "My Antonia" does.
No, it sort of did, like,
[00:56:55.260]it certainly reading it critically,
[00:56:57.520]which I sort of put him in,
[00:56:59.900]I look at some memoirs quite critically
[00:57:03.000]and others quite positively,
[00:57:04.260]and his is kind of in the middle here
[00:57:06.770]in my sort of thinking about it there,
[00:57:09.170]where he definitely does,
[00:57:10.420]he sort of acknowledges them for having taken care
[00:57:13.300]of the land that he now possesses, (laughs) right?
[00:57:20.290]Bernard, did you have any?
[00:57:26.213]The archive I was looking at, I mean, firstly,
[00:57:28.520]it's all from the early part of the 20th century
[00:57:33.990]and it's all entirely photographic, plus some maps.
[00:57:39.190]They do include some of their sales brochures as well.
[00:57:43.780]There's nothing there except hyperbole
[00:57:47.480]about how wonderfully fertile and verdant the land is.
[00:57:55.420]There is a brief mention of Indigenous people
[00:58:02.220]and how they might be actually,
[00:58:05.390]it's interesting how they might be consulted for, you know,
[00:58:09.760]tips on where to hunt or things like that.
[00:58:13.910]It's like, we've rounded them all up,
[00:58:15.900]but you know, they're there,
[00:58:17.720]you could ask them about things, right?
[00:58:20.151]There's an odd sentence in there.
[00:58:22.070]I'd have to find it.
[00:58:24.900]The other thing is the photo of the children at the,
[00:58:29.430]what I think, you know,
[00:58:30.870]that's a group of Indigenous children
[00:58:32.560]at the Lebret Residential School and, you know,
[00:58:36.510]these slides were used for marketing purposes.
[00:58:40.400]And so I question why they have this slide,
[00:58:44.590]this particular slide in with this group.
[00:58:49.550]It doesn't have any writing on it.
[00:58:51.930]So maybe they didn't use it.
[00:58:53.590]I don't know,
[00:58:54.423]but I'm one can speculate that they may have put it up
[00:58:58.360]on the screen and said, you know, look,
[00:59:00.080]here are the lovely Indigenous children and they're being
[00:59:03.070]taken care of and they'll be, you know,
[00:59:05.410]God-fearing citizen soon, right?
[00:59:09.080]And they're out of your way.
[00:59:10.360]Yeah, they're out of your way. Yeah.
[00:59:12.037]But I don't think that's what we now think of
[00:59:15.760]as a land acknowledgement,
[00:59:19.590]but I guess they did figure somewhat
[00:59:24.100]into really what was a kind of massive real estate deal.
[00:59:32.390]Lily, I actually had a question for you,
[00:59:34.630]since I very rarely read any books by people who are alive.
[00:59:39.180]You know, I have a t-shirt that says,
[00:59:40.357]"I read dead people."
[00:59:42.300]You know, I've read a lot about the blow back
[00:59:46.600]against "Hillbilly Elegy."
[00:59:48.680]And you did sort of talk about the politics
[00:59:50.850]of Smarsh's book,
[00:59:51.683]but I was wondering if you could say a little more about its
[00:59:54.430]politics in relation to the kind of reactionary politics
[00:59:59.800]that people have found in Vance's book?
[01:00:09.060]Right, we all are aware of like the reactionary politics
[01:00:11.760]to Vance's book, and I think, you know,
[01:00:15.200]Smarsh's book in many ways is like responding
[01:00:18.550]to that reaction
[01:00:21.630]in that I think she's writing,
[01:00:24.980]as much as she's writing for people
[01:00:27.030]who aren't from the Heartland,
[01:00:29.880]who aren't from the Great Plains, I think she also is,
[01:00:33.990]at least that's like how I understand it.
[01:00:37.660]And yeah, I think just,
[01:00:40.980]that's sort of like my response is that like her spending
[01:00:45.170]so much time, I think on like the place
[01:00:48.257]and the physicality of the place of where she's from,
[01:00:54.960]and locating herself in that place,
[01:00:57.200]even though she maybe no longer lives exactly
[01:00:59.400]where she grew up, but still saying like,
[01:01:01.390]she is of like the Great Plains.
[01:01:04.530]And I think also just really spending time articulating
[01:01:07.110]her family's like working class,
[01:01:09.870]rural circumstances and like that lineage
[01:01:13.790]that she's a part of.
[01:01:16.560]And just like that quote
[01:01:17.393]I put up about like how she's like, you know,
[01:01:18.880]like people who ask me, like, how did you get out?
[01:01:21.390]Like it's not getting out of somewhere.
[01:01:23.690]Like I will always hold like both world simultaneously,
[01:01:27.760]I think by her framing her work
[01:01:30.400]in that like with that kind of like framework,
[01:01:33.410]I guess really does, I think,
[01:01:37.910]what "Hillbilly Elegy" just really failed to do.
[01:01:41.250]'Cause his is more of like
[01:01:42.140]a transcendence sort of narrative or like I was here,
[01:01:44.810]but now I'm here and very like othering in that way.
[01:01:47.330]And she manages to not do that by acknowledging
[01:01:49.670]that she holds both places simultaneously,
[01:01:51.910]and spending a lot of time talking
[01:01:53.722]about just like the physical place that she grew up in.
[01:01:57.170]Say, if you, when you're back home
[01:01:59.260]and visiting in Nebraska,
[01:02:00.420]if you ever to get to Red Cloud,
[01:02:01.620]you need to meet Tracy Tucker,
[01:02:02.960]who's the education director
[01:02:04.980]at the national Willow Gather Center,
[01:02:07.250]who is from rural Kansas,
[01:02:09.300]and who did her master's degree at UNL in English,
[01:02:11.900]and who's really...
[01:02:13.450]I'm sure you would have a lot to talk about
[01:02:15.410]with Tracy Tucker if you had an opportunity.
[01:02:17.030]Okay, great. Thank you. (laughs)
[01:02:20.920]Any other questions from anyone in the audience?
[01:02:30.240]Well, I guess that is it then.
[01:02:32.410]Thank you, everyone for Zoom over lunch. (laughs)
[01:02:37.544]Margaret, you wanna say anything before we?
[01:02:39.240]Oh, just thank you to everybody for attending
[01:02:41.780]and to all the presenters.
[01:02:43.510]And I hope you've enjoyed the whole summit.
[01:02:47.120]And as I mentioned earlier,
[01:02:48.660]we will be doing some follow up because I think one
[01:02:52.080]of the downsides of doing everything on Zoom
[01:02:54.450]is that we haven't had
[01:02:55.480]time to talk much about and interact much
[01:02:58.630]about what we've been hearing.
[01:03:00.020]And I think there's just been so thought-provoking
[01:03:03.230]and stimulating sessions.
[01:03:04.950]So look for some future follow up efforts from us.
[01:03:08.800]And again, thank you all for attending.
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