McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts
The Native American literary Renaissance of the 1970s and 1980s created a web of American Indian voices interpreting the past, indicting America’s imperialism alongside Christianity for its participation in conquest, and renegotiating the cultural possibilities and losses resulting from colonial takeover. In contemporary Native America, Christianity is both the subject of controversy and a widely practiced religion. This dissertation explores representations of Christianity in works by four contemporary female Native American authors, Linda Hogan, Louise Erdrich, Diane Glancy, and Joy Harjo. The study’s theoretical framework privileges indigenous voices by relying on a paradigm of reconciliation mapped by Native American activist and attorney Walter Echo-Hawk and by employing ethnographic research methods including an interview study with American Indian women. Gender, story, land, and multiethnic identity surface as major themes throughout the study.
Hogan, Erdrich, Glancy, and Harjo each engage in or resist cross-cultural reconciliation v in the wake of Christianity’s involvement in colonization and assimilation. Hogan focuses on strengthening communities within Native America; Erdrich explores the possibilities and pitfalls of community building between American Indians and Catholic German-Americans; Glancy creates community by giving voice to both Native and non-Native Christians who have been silenced in the past; and Harjo calls for an expansive community that grows across cultural and religious boundaries, resulting in enemies becoming family members. I ultimately argue that imaginative writing makes space for dialogues of reconciliation that are otherwise stifled in the midst of complex and historically tense cultural and socioeconomic circumstances. Together, these writers perform an act of reconciliation that is neither total nor insignificant. Individually acting out aspects of Echo-Hawk’s paradigm for reconciliation, works produced by Hogan, Erdrich, Glancy, and Harjo can be read in tandem as simultaneous expressions of anger, consternation, and indignation over the ravages of colonization and Christianity’s participation in it. The same texts offer creative expressions of possibility and hope for a future marked by distinctive Native American cultural contributions and a revised and repentant Christianity stripped of its institutional sins and characterized instead by the peace and love that persists at the heart of its teachings.
Luckenbill, R. (2016). Conflict and Reconciliation: Representations of Christianity in Contemporary Native American Literature by Women (Doctoral dissertation, Duquesne University). Retrieved from https://dsc.duq.edu/etd/1823