Indian Country

Professor: Martin Padget
Institution: University of California, San Diego
Course Number: 149

Martin Padget, U. of California, San Diego

In this course we will read texts that dramatize the natural environment
and human landscapes of the Southwest. To come to terms with the
geographical and cultural diversity of the region we will examine the
representation of wilderness, rural, and urban environments by Native
American, Hispano, and Anglo writers across the last 120 years.

Our focus is on the representation of “Indian Country” — the Four Corners
region where Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah meet. For many
writers this is the heartland of the Southwest; it is a region
characterized by a rich variety of natural landscapes and a long human

We start by reading John Wesley Powell’s Exploration of the Colorado
River and Its Canyons (1875). After leading his survey team’s successful
navigation of the Colorado River in 1869, Powell went on to become one of
the most infuential scientists in the nation as head of both the U.S.
Geological Survey and the Bureau of American Ethnology. Powell’s text
(which served as both an official report to Congress and as a popular
travelogue) represents the wilderness in the process of being tamed. We
will pay particular attention to the tension in the text between
controlling wild nature and becoming abandoned to it — one of the most
persistent themes in American literature.

After Powell, we read Charles Lummis’s Some Strange Corners of Our
Country (1892), which introduces us to the promotion of tourism in the
Southwest. We shall also discuss the nascent environmentalism of two of
Lummis’s contemporaries, John Muir and Mary Austin. Our link between
turn-of-the-century and contemporary representations of the Southwest
is provided by Mabel Dodge Luhan’s Edge of Taos Desert (1935). This text
introduces us to the Taos and Santa Fe Artists Colony of the 1920s and

Through reading Leslie Marmon Silko’s Ceremony (1977) we discuss the
impact of Anglo exploitation of the land and indigeneous peoples of the
Southwest. The novel, which takes us to Laguna Pueblo, New Mexico in the
immediate aftermath of the Second World War, dramatizes the return of
Tayo, a war veteran, to his home community. Silko records the individual
and the community’s struggle toward cultural recovery in the midst of
mass destruction. (The uranium used for atomic bombs exploded over
Hiroshima and Nagasaki has been mined on Laguna land.)

Simon Ortiz’s Woven Stone (1992), an omnibus edition of three previous
collections of poetry, takes us from the poet’s home, Acoma Pueblo in New
Mexico, to “Indian” countries throughout the U.S. In tandem with Ortiz’s
representation of the Southwest, we will read Hopi/Miwok poet Wendy
Rose’s new collection of poetry, Bone Dance. We conclude the course by
returning to New Mexico for Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Black Mesa Poems
(1989), a volume which represents the land and Hispano community in and
around Albuquerque.

Throughout the course we will make reference to the growing popularity
of the Southwest with tourists and attempt to assess the impact of
tourism on the natural environments and indigenous peoples of the region.
To facilitate discussion, we will refer to a number of essays in the
volume Discovered Country: Tourism and Survival in the American West
(1994), edited by Scott Norris. During the quarter we will also view two
films about the Hopi Indians: Hopi: Sonqs of the Fourth World and Victor
Masayeva’s Itam Hakim Hopit.

Course Requirements: Two five-page essays, or one ten-page essay, a
mid-term, and a final.

Copyright © 1996. This document may not be reproduced in whole or in part, in any form, without written permission from its author(s). This document has been edited for electronic publication and does not appear in its original form.