In The Master's Maison: Mobile Indigeneity in The Heartsong of Charging Elk and Blue Ravens

John Gamber

Abstract


This essay looks at a pair of the few extent novels that portray Native characters outside of the United States: James Welch’s The Heartsong of Charging Elk (2001) and Gerald Vizenor’s Blue Ravens (2014), both of which feature Native protagonists settling permanently in France. Each novel portrays a character relocating on a temporary basis, but ultimately choosing to stay—albeit under profoundly different circumstances.

Charging Elk’s (the protagonist of Welch’s novel) adaptation to France is often read as extremely positive. However, I argue that his transition is in fact quite complicated and ambivalent at best. Specifically, Charging Elk represents an always-already (temporally) diasporic subject, removed from what he perceives to be home not only in space but also in time—even when he dwells in the Oglala Stronghold. The Beaulieu brothers of Blue Ravens remain remarkably unchanged over the course of the novel in regard to their move to France. However, as Vizenor’s text establishes White Earth as a traditionally cosmopolitan space, it renders their movement and relocation to be a part of, rather than apart from, their communities and cultures. In light of these related circumstances, I look at the vexed and vexing portrayals of Native masculinity within these novels, each of which confronts warrior stereotypes and ideologies as deeply incomplete representations of Native people and cultures. Ultimately, I argue, these novels when read together portray the possibilities for Native movement and relocation. Such movement is not without incident, they suggest, but it is not as inherently damaging or liberatory as some might suggest.


Keywords


Native American; Masculinity; Transmotion

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