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Trickster’s Gamble: Capitalizing Indigenous Discourse in Vizenor’s The Heirs of Columbus and Erdrich’s The Bingo Palace

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Abstract

For the good as well as the ill, the wholesale penetration of market capitalism into local indigenous economies has created ideal conditions for the emergence of plural sovereignties at the dawn of the twenty-first century. At least for now, there is no other game in town. As economic subjects of an increasingly capitalized modernity, indigenous peoples can seek to effect meaningful changes in their communities as agents using capitalist tools even while being harnessed to a system they may, at times, reject or even abhor. In descriptive terms, this is the balancing act the pluralism inherent in plural sovereignties requires of indigenous writers and the subjects of their novels.

Keywords

Indigenous People Indigenous Community Language Game Flexible Accumulation Indigenous Individual 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    Gerald Vizenor, “Trickster Discourse: Comic Holotropes and Language Games,” in Narrative Chance: Postmodern Discourse on Native American Indian Literatures, ed. Gerald Vizenor (Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press, 1993), 188.Google Scholar
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    See Arnold Krupat, “‘Stories in the blood’: Ratio- and Natio- in Gerald Vizenor’s The Heirs of Columbus,” Loosening the Seams: Interpretations of Gerald Vizenor, ed. A. Robert Lee (Bowling Green, OH: Univ. Popular Press, 2000), 166–77.Google Scholar
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    Aldona Jonaitis and Richard Inglis, “Mowachaht Whalers’ Washing Shrine,” South Atlantic Quarterly 91.1 (Winter 1992): 206. This more nuanced layering of authenticity nevertheless risks repositing, in literary terms, modernist palimpsest. The palimpsest, by definition, produces the desire in the reader to glimpse a “core” or “center” of truth.Google Scholar
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    Gerald Vizenor, “Socioacupuncture: Mythic Reversals and the Striptease in Four Scenes,” Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Culture, ed. Russel Ferguson, Martha Gever, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Cornel West (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990), 412. Emphasis added.Google Scholar
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  11. 18.
    See Richard E. Clark, Point Roberts, USA: The History of a Canadian Enclave (Bellingham: Textype Publishing, 1980), 41.Google Scholar
  12. 26.
    Vizenor has gone on record criticizing the long-term impact of tribal gaming, stating that “[C]asinos have distracted the lost and lonesome, and with some humor, but not with a native vision that heals…. The Supreme Court might hear a case over taxation on treaty land, the rights of states and native casinos, and rule against the idea of native sovereignty.” See Gerald Vizenor and A. Robert Lee, Postindian Conversations (Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1999), 92–93.Google Scholar
  13. 40.
    Paul Pasquaretta, Gambling and Survival in Native North America (Tucson: Univ. of Arizona Press, 2003), xii.Google Scholar
  14. 42.
    For her part, Erdrich distinguishes between two kinds of love: one being the fraught individualized expressions of the self when routed through a love object; and the other being those “romantic notions” that “categorize a people” rather than acknowledge that indigenous lives (like any other) are “complex and unpredictable.” The trickster plot of the The Bingo Palace ben-efits from an operating conflation between these. See Nancy Feyl Chavkin and Allan Chavkin, “An Interview with Louise Erdrich,” in Conversations with Louise Erdrich and Michael Dorris, ed. Allan Chavkin and Nancy Feyl Chavkin (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1994), 231.Google Scholar
  15. 44.
    Jeanne Rosier Smith writes that Erdrich’s novels “embody [anishinaabe trickster’s, Nanabozho’s] changeability: the stories contain contradictory and alternative truths; they go past their boundaries.” See Writing Tricksters: Mythic Gambols in American Ethnic Literature (Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1997), 99–100. For a discussion of Erdrich’s treatment of micipijiu, see Victoria Brehm, “The Metamorphoses of an Ojibwa Manido,” American Literature 68.4 (1996): 677–706.Google Scholar
  16. 47.
    For a detailed overview of the rise of indigenous gambling in the United States before 1995, as well as the roll-out of the IGRA and contemporary impacts on indigenous communities, see Steven Andrew Light and Kathryn R. L. Rand, Indian Gaming and Tribal Sovereignty: The Casino Compromise (Lawrence: Univ. Press of Kansas, 2005); andGoogle Scholar
  17. Franke Wilmer, “Indian Gaming: Players and Stakes,” Wicazo Sa Review 12.1 (Spring 1997): 89–114. For a focused analysis on the 1998 California tribal gambling initiative, Proposition 5, seeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Carole Goldberg and Duane Champagne, “Ramona Redeemed?: The Rise of Tribal Political Power in California,” Wicazo Sa Review 17.1 (2002): 43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 48.
    See Colin S. Campbell, Timothy F. Hartnagel, and Gary J. Smith, “The Legalization of Gambling in Canada,” Proceedings of the Law Commission of Canada (July 6, 2005), 26. Since 2001, provincial governments have typically reached working agreements with Native gaming commissions.Google Scholar
  20. 49.
    In Nevada v. Hicks (2001), a unanimous U. S. Supreme Court upheld the right of states to investigate tribal members for crimes allegedly occurring off-reservation. By contrast, in the spring of 2003, the Federal Court of Appeals (Ninth Circuit) upheld the sovereign immunity of the Bishop Paiute-Shoshone tribe from a state-issued search and seizure warrant issued against the tribally owned casino in Inyo County v. Bishop Paiute Tribe. On May 20, 2003, a Supreme Court majority reversed and remanded the lower court’s decision, arguing that tribal governments cannot use federal legal-rights protections understood to protect individuals to initiate legal claims against states for damages. See http://www.indianz.com/News/show.asp?ID=2003/04/01/scourt for an overview of recent and relevant court rulings pertaining to Indian gaming; Kristan Sarvé-Gorham, “Games of Chance: Gambling and Land Tenure in Tracks, Love Medicine, and The Bingo Palace,” Western American Literature 34.3 (1999): 277–300; and, also, Wilmer, “Indian Gaming” for treatments of what nontribal jurisdictions stand to gain in the way of down-slope benefits from indigenous gambling enterprises, even as these same nonindigenous constituencies all too often dismiss incremental gains made by the tribes as unnecessary “privileges.”Google Scholar
  21. 53.
    While being among the more visible sectors of indigenous commercial enterprise, the concentrated media emphasis on “boom or bust” ventures such as organized gaming often (and unfairly) obscures other efforts indigenous communities are making to diversify and sustain community capital investments in alternative ventures, ranging from land and energy resource management to business-to-business and private-public entity partnerships. See Robert B. Anderson, Bob Kayseas, Leo Paul Dana, and Kevin Hindle “Indigenous Land Claims and Economic Development: The Canadian Experience,” American Indian Quarterly 28.3&4 (2004): 634–48;CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Kevin Hindle, Robert B. Anderson, Robert J. Giberson, and Bob Kayseas “Relating Practice to Theory in Indigenous Entrepreneurship: A Pilot Investigation of the Kitsaki Partnership Portfolio,” American Indian Quarterly 29.1&2 (2005): 1–23. Nor are such market-enterprise alternatives uniformly welcomed across all ranks of indigenous stakeholders whose notions of exercising sovereignty remain uneven and therefore contested. SeeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Tracylee Clarke, “An Ideographic Analysis of Native American Sovereignty in the State of Utah: Enabling Denotative Dissonance and Constructing Irreconcilable Conflict,” Wicazo Sa Review 17.2 (2002): 43–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. 58.
    John Purdy, “Betting on the Future: Gambling against Colonialism in the Novels of Louise Erdrich,” in Women in Native American Literature and Culture, ed. Susan Castillo and Victor M. P. Da Rosa (Porto, Portugal: Fernando Pessoa Univ. Press, 1997), 37–56.Google Scholar
  25. 70.
    See Jeffrey J. Williams, “Against Identity: An Interview with Walter Benn Michaels,” Minnesota Review 55–57 (2002): 127.Google Scholar
  26. 72.
    Louise Erdrich, The Bingo Palace (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 37–39. Subsequent references to the novel will be made parenthetically in the text.Google Scholar
  27. 77.
    Karl Marx, “The Fetishism of Commodities and the Secret Thereof,” in The Marx-Engels Reader, ed. Robert C. Tucker (New York: Norton, 1978), 319–20.Google Scholar

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© Stuart Christie 2009

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