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Sherman Alexie - This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

PSTL 1371 Group Teach In

Alyssa Woodard

on 5 December 2012

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Transcript of Sherman Alexie - This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona

Phoenix, Arizona Nevada Spokane Indian Reservation Demographics: Population: 2,570 (2009)
Avg. Income: $37,255 (2008) History: "We are all given one thing by which our lives are measured, one determination. Mine are the stories which can change or not change the world" (72). "The mining industry began making a large contribution to the local economy in 1954 when a large uranium deposit was discovered." (Wynecoop 19) Sherman Alexie "I'm a poet who can whine in meter. " (xxi)

His vivid works are derived from his experience as a Native American grown up on the Reservation and matured off the Reservation. Some of his focuses are reservation life, relationships between family members and tensions between whites and Indians, Binary Pairs and Dualism Victor is modern and Thomas is traditional
Victor is popular and Thomas is not
Storytelling = traditional way of learning
Thomas' dreams lead to his stories
Stereotypes = modern Brother's Keeper Theme "I can lend you the money you need, but you have to take me with you." - Thomas, page 62
"I never told you I was sorry for beating you up that time." - Victor, page 67 Significance in Native American Culture Reservations make up quarter of AZ land w/ 21 tribes.
Majority is the Navajo Nation
250,000 Native Americans This is What it Means to Say Phoenix, Arizona by Sherman Alexie the bond between Victor and Thomas in past (bad) and present (good)
helping each other out "I heard it on the wind. I heard it from the birds. I felt in it in the sunlight. Also, your mother was just in here crying." - Thomas, page 61 Relationship between Victor and his Father - Resolution
Thomas' role in both Victor and Victor's Father Epiphany "But I didn't imagine my father looking anything like a salmon." - Victor, page 75 "Your dad was my vision. Take care of each other is what my dreams were saying. Take care of each other"
- Thomas, page 69 Phoenix is a mythical flying bird.
Primary noticeable features of the bird in
most cultures:
Fiery body
Ability to be reborn.

In Native American culture, fire symbolizes purification as well as individual and communal rebirth. Symbolism The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Mission Statement:
"… enhance the quality of life, to promote economic opportunity, and to carry out the responsibility to protect and improve the trust assets of American Indians, Indian tribes, and Alaska Natives." Oldest bureau of the United States Department of the Interior (est. 1824)
Provides services to approximately 1.9 million American Indians and Alaska Natives
566 federally recognized American Indian tribes in US today
Responsible for administration and management of land
55 million surface acres
57 million acres of subsurface minerals The Bureau of Indian Education Mission Statement:
"… provide quality education opportunities from early childhood through life in accordance with the tribes’ needs to cultural and economic well being in keeping with the wide diversity of Indian tribes and Alaska Native villages as distinct cultural and governmental entities. The Bureau considers the whole person (spiritual, mental, physical and cultural aspects.)" Provides education services to approximately 42,000 Indian students
provides services directly or through contracts, grants, or compacts
183 schools and dormitories
28 tribal colleges, universities and post-secondary schools Tribe originally consisted of three bands
1853: Washington becomes a territory
Pre-1900: Smallpox epidemic
1924: American Indians become U.S. citizens
19:67: Tribe awarded $6.7 million of land claims Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven. New York: Grove Press, 2005. Print.
http://www.spokanetribe.com/reservation Sources In the story, Victor’s father moves to Phoenix, Arizona. The story gives no details as to why his father chose Phoenix particularly, but there is reason to believe he was fleeing his family. In one of his stories, Thomas says to Victor, “Your father’s heart is weak. He is afraid of his own family. He is afraid of you. Late at night he sits in the dark. Watches the television until there’s nothing but that white noise. Sometimes he feels like he wants to buy a motorcycle and ride away. He wants to run and hide. He doesn’t want to be found.”

The story depicts most Native American Indians as poor, with very little money to spare. However, Victor’s father manages to buy a truck, maintain a savings account, and house himself in a trailer. This gives us reason to believe he may have went to Phoenix for work. The story describes Nevada as being dead and lifeless. On their journey back to Spokane, Thomas runs over a jackrabbit while behind the wheel. Following the incident, Thomas say, “The only thing alive in this whole state and we just killed it.”

The narrator shows Victors reaction by saying, “Victor looked around the desert, sniffed the air, felt the emptiness and loneliness, and nodded his head. ‘Yeah, it had to be suicide.’” "First of all, they're not really true. They are the vision of one individual looking at the lives of his family and his entire tribe, so these stories are necessarily biased, incomplete exaggerated, deluded, and often just plain wrong. But trying to make them true and real, I am writing what might be called reservation realism. " (xxi) About the book His own brand of humor has contributed to his literacy works and has been a writing and performing technique of him. About Writing What Alexie thinks about the book:
A thinly disguised autobiography and memoir
A poor Native American raised in an alcoholic family on an alcoholic reservation
A young and angry version of himself
An epidemic problem of alcoholism and poverty ”I think laughter opens up the brain in a way that seriousness does not."
- Alexie, interview with C&I "As someone who grew up on a reservation, I'm tired of it. No, I'm exhausted."
- Alexie, interview with the Atlantic The focuses of his writing varies throughout time from
Reservation life to urban Indian life. Significance in Story The state of Nevada is a harsh desert environment with limited natural resources. One must possess a great deal of skill to survive and maintain residence in the state.

Prior to Euro-American settlement, many Native American tribes were able to settle in the state by adapting to the environment. However, new Euro-American settlers depleted and manipulated the natural resources in ways that disrupted the tribes adaptions.

This led to tribes having to leave the state, which could explain why Victor and Thomas describe Nevada as lifeless. Spokane
Falls Significance in the Story Significance in Native American Culture
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