By Karen L. Kilcup
The Memoirs show a desirable and intricate 19th-century woman—an artist, tune instructor, storyteller, accomplice slave proprietor, Washington socialite, spouse of a white railroad government, widow, and mom of the 1st local American U.S. Senator, Robert L. Owen, Jr. Her writings interpret the heritage of the tribe and describe the cultural upheaval of the Cherokees relocating west. They additionally supply a glimpse into antebellum, Civil struggle, and Reconstruction American life.
This version offers a wealth of historical past info together with a biographical preface, chronology of Owen's lifestyles, family tree, and textual footnotes. additionally, an introductory essay areas the Memoirs within the context of Owen's predecessors and contemporaries, together with Cherokee cultural and literary culture, the bigger Indian historical/literary context, and women's writing of the overdue nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Read or Download A Cherokee Woman's America: Memoirs of Narcissa Owen, 1831-1907 PDF
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Additional info for A Cherokee Woman's America: Memoirs of Narcissa Owen, 1831-1907
It is important that we begin with this genre because of the strong strand of orality within all or virtually all of the Cherokee literary production up to and including Owen. In traditional terms, oratory refers to “speeches addressed to Euroamericans in defense of Indian life, property, and liberty”;8 such speeches, which resist Anglo dominance, often combine the virtues of political intervention on behalf of the community with the aesthetic sophistication and beauty so prized in modernist-influenced Western literary tradition (although this distinction is again Western).
The next sentence is remarkable for what it elides: here Winnemucca jumps from an uncertain birth to an equally uncertain childhood, which she remembers for one extraordinary event, the arrival of white settlers in traditional Paiute lands. It is here that she signifies her difference from her ostensibly “primary” audience—”white people,” like those who arrived in her childhood—and asserts her participation in a collective self defined in part by its location (“our country”). By invoking the image of the small, vulnerable child—and the sentimental conventions surrounding that image—Winnemucca already, however subtly, implicates the arriving whites in the exploita- Contexts, Contemporaries, and Narcissa Owen’s Political Aesthetics 23 tion of her people.
In the period between the writing of Keys’s and Owen’s narratives, the Cherokees in Indian Territory had seen the results of the General Allotment Act and the Wounded Knee Massacre, and they had continued their commitment to education via Cherokee schools, including the Male and Female Seminaries. Moreover, Owen herself had become a teacher at the Female Seminary in 1880, where she worked for four years as a music teacher and informally as a nurse, and she tells us about setting bones, sewing wounds with a needle and thread, and, during one frozen winter, cleverly preparing a poultice requiring earth using soil from a dead house plant (121, 120).
A Cherokee Woman's America: Memoirs of Narcissa Owen, 1831-1907 by Karen L. Kilcup