Volume XIII, Number 1, Spring 2017

"Other Monuments, Another Authority: Heid Erdrich’s National Monuments" by Christopher LaLonde

Christopher LaLonde is a Professor of English and Director of General Education at the State University of New York at Oswego. He has published numerous essays on Native American literatures. The author of two books, his most recent research focuses on Native American and First Nations filmmakers.

With "True Myth," the opening poem in her first volume of poetry, Heid Erdrich puts the mixedblood before us, "Tell a child she is composed of parts / (her Ojibway quarters, her German half-heart)" (Fishing for Myth 13), and asks that we see her, believe her, and learn from her and how her presence and her stories can provide us with a ground, and a grounding, how they can serve as a vehicle to take us past the tired and damning figure of the half-breed. Referencing European fairy tales and Greek mythology as well as particulars of her native culture, "True Myth" would have us "Believe her Indian eyes, her sly French smile / her breast with its veins skim milk blue— / She is the myth that is true" (13).

Heid Erdrich could be describing herself, of course, a writer of mixed-blood ancestry: Anishinaabe by way of the Turtle Mountain Chippewa band and German. In poetry, fiction, drama, essay, and criticism, Erdrich offers in texts such as "True Myth" telling examples of "hybrid potential," to use language that shapes and informs this collection, and critiques of the still-prevailing way of seeing the “Indian”.1 But it is clear that Erdrich recognizes that that potential is unrealized if the dominant society has its way. Indeed, she devotes much of her award-winning second volume of poetry, National Monuments (2008), to those constructions that thwart Natives, mixed-blood and full, whether they are writers or not.2 The "problem" to again invoke the project’s call, stems not from "mixed heritage" but the structures of the dominant society. In keeping with the spirit of what White Earth Anishinaabe writer and theorist Gerald Vizenor terms the crossblood, his celebratory phrasing of mixedblood identity, and with the call made by fellow White Earth Anishinaabe writer Kimberly Blaeser and others to be aware and mindful of specific native traditions and worldviews, what follows brings both poststructuralist thought, especially deconstruction, and Anishinaabe culture and worldview to an examination of a number of poems in National Monuments in order to make clear both what Erdrich is writing against and the Anishinaabe ground for her poems.

To open, let us turn to the beginning, before any poem: the title of Heid Erdrich’s 2008 collection. National Monuments succinctly phrases a link between a nation and objects constructed in the name of collective memory, memorial, and memorialization in order that the nation might become recognizable to itself, its people, and others. This is ground traversed by thinkers whose names we recognize: Ernest Renan, Homi Bhabha, Benedict Anderson. For Renan, the link is formed in the name of and response to what he terms a “spiritual principle” or soul (What is a Nation?” 18-19), for Anderson, it is forged in the name and interests of an “imagined community.” For Bhabha, it is rooted in ambivalence and hence “the problematic unity of the nation” (Nation and Narration 5). Whether in the name of soul, imagined community, or problematic unity, monuments contribute to what Anthony D. Smith terms the “territorialization of memory” (“Culture, Community and Territory” 454), for “to become national, shared memories must attach themselves to specific places and definite territories” (Smith 453). Monuments gather: they call to us, and in their call and our reply they endeavor to lay claim to and define both past and present, both place and subject.

While monuments gather, primarily by arresting our vision, they need language in order to have some assurance that they will serve as “rhetorical topoi” (Boyer 321; qtd. In Johnson “Mapping Monuments” 293). In short, it is via inscription that the memory the monument is constructed to reference “preserves itself for a future remembering” (Kamuf 57). In light of the centrality of writing, then, to proceed let us return to the beginning: the title on the cover of the text. One might find the curious mixture of English and Cyrillic, or at least Cyrillic-esque, letters interesting and provocative, or precious and silly, but at the very least it gives us pause. I want to pause on the first letter of the first word of Erdrich’s two-word title: И. That first sign asks a question: what does it mean? Or rather, it asks a related question that can be phrased two ways: how does it mean? how is it possible that it can mean anything? In this case, meaning is achieved via a process of remembering and forgetting that is itself linked to presence and absence. That is, we read the sign as N by remembering the diagonal slash running from a point upper left to lower right, thus making present the line that is absent, and by forgetting, by making absent the line that is present, the diagonal slash that runs from a point upper right to lower left. To have both present would be to produce a completely different sign: IXI. Completely captured by the vertical lines, X marks a particular spot: that already constructed identity of the “indian” as other into which the dominant culture so often tries to place and fix the Native.

The text’s transposition of the slash, from \ to /, and the effort to read the word beginning with the transformed first sign of Erdrich’s title succinctly marks and remarks what is at stake with this particular inscription. The danger is that in seeing I\I rather than I/I we keep the legitimizing sign of the nation in play while relegating the indian to the familiar delegitimizing sign of X. Of course, for the West, historically, X marks the spot and the identity of those considered non-literate (Bohaker 16), of those considered Other. To avoid the danger, one must follow where the middle line in the sign points, for it, and thus the sign as a whole, asks us to look at the nation and at national monuments another way, from a different, one might go so far as to say opposing, perspective.

It is with yet another return to the title that we can find the other perspective offered on national monuments; our second return is a turn to the title poem opening the volume3. In seven three-line stanzas and a final single line, “National Monuments” at once reveals the desire of the nation to fix the native in a certain place, a worldview that serves as a defense against such an emplacement, a pan-tribal note, and a commitment to language. My second return, moreover, is meant to conjure Freud’s experience of the uncanny. You likely know the story Freud tells: he is walking in an unfamiliar Italian provincial town when he finds himself on a street where prostitutes present themselves from the house windows. He turns off the street as soon as he can, walks about the town a bit, apparently aimlessly, but soon enough finds himself back on the same street. The prostitutes notice his return and grow animated, likely imagining him a hesitant customer, and he hurries away, likely embarrassed. He finds himself a third time on the street a little while later, his second return, and at that moment, he later writes, “a feeling overcame me which I can only describe as uncanny” (237). For Freud, das Heimliche, homely, becomes das Unheimliche, unhomely, because the “uncanny is in reality nothing new or alien, but something which is familiar and old-established in the mind and which has become alienated from it only through the process of repression” (241). Alla Myzelev holds that for both Freud and Heidegger the uncanny is “connected to the connotation of death” (“Uncanny Memories of Architecture” 59), and while Freud considers neither sculpture nor monument in “The Uncanny” in “The Moses of Michelangelo” (1914), he recognizes and phrases the link between monuments and death with his statement that Michelangelo’s sculpture was created for the tomb of Pope Julius II.

Beginning with the death-heads on its cover, Erdrich’s volume puts death and the Nation before the reader, and with its presentation of grave houses and inscriptions, Erdrich’s “National Monuments” offers its reader an uncanny opportunity to see what the monument and the nation would both prefer we see and rather we not. The title poem begins by emphasizing the relationship between sight and feeling. The joy that comes from seeing a “low house of rough bark, / small enough for a fairy” (3), a joy born of an initial invocation of playfulness and magical possibility in a place where such is not likely to be found, vanishes with the recognition that what she is looking at is a grave house. With that recognition comes in the second stanza a sharp focus on what has been done to it: “until it’s clear it covers a grave / and worse, it’s stained deck-red / shingled with asphalt” (3). The contraction voids the definitive “is,” for what has been done to the structure in some fundamental way produces what the grave house is not. The indefinite pronouns are an indication of what the park officials do not know: “Some park official has kept up / what was meant to moss / and rot and fall” (3). Here too, the poem’s language is striking. The string of monosyllabic words produces a steady rhythm across the final two lines of the stanza, and the combination of repeated consonant sounds, repeated vowel sounds, and doubled consonants leads inexorably to what the narrator knows and the monument covers over.

The second stanza says time passes, things change, action rather than stasis is the order of the day, is the order of all days. The deployment of moss as a verb is a striking reminder of this; it is also linked to Anishinaabemowin, the language of the people; to culture; and to worldview. In the words of Louise Erdrich, Anishinaabemowin “is a language of action” (Books and Islands 82), of verbs and verb forms, which makes sense to her because the Anishinaabe “have never been all that materialistic, and from the beginning they were always on the move” (Books and Islands 82). At the same time, “meant” is an indicator of purposefulness and, because a grave house is a specific cultural practice, repeated activity. This dynamic of change and constancy is at the center of the creation stories of the Anishinaabe (Johnston Ojibway Heritage 12) and their worldview.

It is not the narrator that experiences an uncanny feeling, for the grave house reminds her both of what she is all too well aware and of that which the poem would have the reader see: the site which the nation and the dominant culture have made for the indian and the worldview that underpins it. Onatima in Louis Owens’ The Sharpest Sight offers an apt phrasing: “They have a romance going with death, they love it, and they want Indians to die for them” (SS 216). Small wonder, then, that the park official “kept up” that which serves as the cenotaph for the Native. National monuments such as the one stained so that it cannot be missed are indeed “Grave Markers,” to invoke the title of the section of National Monuments headed by the title poem. They are filled with danger; they do harm. The “sight-line” (Johnson 294) offered to us by the grave house would have us focus on remembering the indian is dead, a thing of the past, while forgetting both that the Native is not dead, not a thing of the past, and that the dominant culture wants them gone.

At the same time, the kept grave house runs the risk of opening up for its viewer the relationship between the nation and the death of the native. This is the uncanny moment, both for visitors to the national monument and for readers. We know this story of course, but that does not mean that we want to think about it or consider how it and the ideology of possession and conquest that underpins it might at once shape one’s actions in the present and cause one to rethink those actions. It is that narrative, that long painful history and contemporary reality, which the Nation and dominant culture would rather its subjects and all others who gather at the monument not see. The Nation is haunted by the indian, moreover, both because of the violence done to those people in the name of the Nation and because that ghost is a reminder that what has happened and happens to the other can also happen to it. “National Monuments” also reminds us that the violence done to the Native is more than corporeal, we are looking at a grave house and not a body after all; it is, crucially, violence done to Native cultures and worldviews as well.

Having crafted the situation that could lead to an uncanny moment for the reader, “National Monuments” then proceeds to educate us, provided we are open to learning. Monuments need inscriptions, Peggy Kamuf reminds us, and it bears noting here that Erdrich’s “National Monuments” does not offer us the inscription that the Park Service uses to fix the grave house to site and national narrative, if any. In its absence, the poem itself serves as the inscription of the grave house. This is writ large with the sign of infinity— ∞ —in its fifth stanza. Far from being redundant or superfluous, the sign calls attention to the monumental inscription that is the poem and indeed the volume as a whole. That inscription unfixes the grave house from the national narrative and affixes it to another, Native, narrative.

The poem moves from a consideration of a single grave house to an articulation of “grave houses” (3) that are clan-marked. Those inscriptions make the grave houses monuments to family, kinship, and worldview. For the Anishinaabe, traditionally both individual identity and social organization were shaped by one’s clan. The three clans identified by and with the inscriptions on the grave houses are equally telling, for clans were associated with particular community roles. Sturgeon and other fish clans were linked to learning and teaching, eagle and other avian clans were linked to leadership, and marten and other clans we might group together as game were linked to sustenance. Like birds, echo-makers capable of having their voices carry over great distances, Anishinaabe leaders were, and I dare say are, known for their oratorical abilities. It is precisely a facility with language, in this case written language, which is on evidence in “National Monuments.” Lake sturgeon have extraordinarily long-life spans, females can live more than one hundred years, and one can read that longevity as indicative of the endurance of the people and their culture in the face of predation. Eastern pine martens are native to the traditional homeland of the Anishinaabe. As is the case with sturgeon, marten sounds a place-based, place-centered, note. Because both marten and sturgeon have home ranges through which they circulate, moreover, the species resonate with the traditional lifeways of the Anishinaabe and the importance of movement and motion that Louise Erdrich and others recognize. Both species also suffered greatly from activities that can be linked to the national narrative and its articulation of expansion, acquisition, and the Nation’s identity: overfishing in the case of the sturgeon and over trapping and the loss of habitat through logging in the case of the pine marten. Eagle, then, should not call to mind one of the symbols of the Nation and its narrative, but rather the Anishinaabe worldview with its emphasis on place and connections.

The bear tracks appearing in the sixth stanza are another link to the nature of monuments given they are not the thing itself, but the trace of the thing. Here, the tracks are a mark of presence on the land as well as the presence of a mark on the land. As an index, the bear tracks are a trace that also point; doing so, they stress the importance of context to readability and meaning. The context is rooted in culture, for in pointing to where the tracks are and to the place where the person or other-than-human person ranges, the index emphasizes place and time. Moreover, in “map[ping] land and tongue and history / to crane’s stick legs and turtle’s shell” (3) they tell a genealogy that remarks the interconnectedness of things to and in place. What the bear tracks are mapped to is revealing, for with crane and turtle’s shell we have references to a principal leadership clan of the Anishinaabe, the origin story of the People, and medicine and healing. Anishinaabe historian William Warren writes in his 19th-century History of the Ojibway People that members of the crane clan are recognized and acknowledged as great orators and that the clan can “claim, with some apparent justice, the chieftainship over the other clans of the Ojibway” (Warren 47). Turtle offered up his back so that a weary Sky Woman would have a place to land and rest in the watery world. Thanks to Turtle’s sacrifice, the efforts of muskrat, and the breath of Sky Woman, the earth was formed (Ojibway Heritage 14-15). Turtle is also one of the clans associated with healing. Given that bear is a defense clan, traditionally, the “mapping to” reveals that the People’s first, best line of defense is born of words used well to both connect and bring together past and present.

Those words run contrary to the monumental inscriptions of the dominant society. Just such an inscription on Jane Johnston Schoolcraft’s headstone troubles the narrator of the poem entitled “In Search of Jane’s Grave”—and should trouble the poem’s reader as well. In identifying the deceased in relation to her husband with the phrase “wife of Henry R. Schoolcraft, Esq.” (26) rather than with either her native name in Anishinaabemowin or that name in translation, the inscription affixes the woman Erdrich recognizes as “our literary Sky Woman” (27) to Schoolcraft, the west, and the appropriation of the Native and the re-inscription of the native as indian rather than affixing her to the Anishinaabe and their worldview, to native writers, and to place. It remains for the poem to engage in such an act of unfixing and re-fixing. “Bamewawagezhikaquay,” we read, is what “her headstone should have said” (26), “Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing through the Sky.” Such a marker should have been placed “nearer to your girlhood home / where you were known and loved as / Woman of the Sound the Heavens Make” (27).

The poem becomes the new marker, one that puts Bamewawagezhikaquay in her proper place in relation to the land, her people, Anishinaabe worldview, and the Native writers for whom she is a “Literary Grandmother” (26). Its final stanza inscribes the layered cosmos of the Anishinaabe and reveals borders between the parts of the cosmos are fluid is articulated in the stanza with the description of Lake “Michigan / beating blue and flecked, / rushing like stars to the shore” (27). Water, earth, sky all come together, and the “Mother poetess” is she who is at once of the sound the stars make as they move and able to articulate in and with words that sound and what it signifies. With the final stanza, then, what had been lost, Bamewawagezhikaquay’s identity as a native Anishinaabe woman writer, is found.

“In Search of Jane’s Grave” concerns more than Jane Johnston Schoolcraft, her poetry, and its importance to Native writers, of course. Erdrich’s poem shares with others in the volume a recognition of the appropriation of the native as indian by canonical American writers. Heid Erdrich is well aware of the monumental nature of the canon, telling her readers in the "Author’s Note" that closes the volume, "This collection of poems began first as a response to monuments of literature that use indigenous figures as metaphor" (94). Longfellow takes the stories of Johnston’s people and “Hiawatha-ed the heck out of them” (26). Here the poem’s language serves to undercut Longfellow’s poem and the indian stereotypes it perpetuates.4 Both “Some Elsie” and “Elsie Drops Off the Dry Cleaning” re-imagine the Elsie of William Carlos Williams’ “To Elsie” by first recognizing that this young woman, with “perhaps . . . a dash of Indian blood” (Williams 29), has “some truth she’d like to express, / broken brain or not” (18) and then revealing that it is with and through first reading and then writing that she is able to “straddle . . . a canon” and in so doing “make . . . a name” (37), express some truth.

Like “In Search of Jane’s Grave,” “National Monuments” knows that monuments are linked to death, knows that monuments need inscriptions, and with its penultimate stanza seems also to know that the language of inscription is tied to questions of power and authority. In The Division of Literature, or The University in Deconstruction (1997), Peggy Kamuf calls attention to the significance of two of several reports written to the National Convention by Henri Gregoire. In one, Gregoire called for the elimination of patois and the instituting of a common French language. Patois were harmful to a new French Republic because, “The feudalism that later came to divide up this beautiful country carefully preserved this disparity of idioms as a means of recognizing and recapturing fugitive serfs and of riveting their chains. Still today the territorial space in which certain patois are used is determined by frontiers of the former feudal domination” (qtd. in Kamuf 60-61, her translation). As a result, “Patois ties the speaker to a memory of the land divided and differentiated, rather than to the new undivided nation that has renamed the territory” (Kamuf 61). In recalling the past, patois troubles the nation. The same holds for toponyms that call to mind a past that the nation would rather not remember. In Kamuf’s succinct summation, “As in the report on the patois, it is a matter of erasing one memory, one language by another, of standardizing and of purifying language memory” (Division 61). Countering efforts to erase the particular, “National Monuments” offers the Anishinaabemowin word for clan in the penultimate stanza: doodem. That sign, like the poem as a whole, inscribes a different national marker.

Language and translation forge the link between the title poem and the poem later in the section that asks us to see and think about a particular national monument in Minnesota: “Grand Portage.” Like “National Monuments,” “Grand Portage” consists of seven three-line stanzas followed by a concluding single line. The formal similarity tacitly asks that we see and think about the poems in relation to each other. In the latter poem, too, the sign as index plays a significant role. “Grand Portage” stresses the pointing nature of the index with the opening word of the first seven stanzas, “Here,” and the first word of the last stanza, “There” (12). The repetition of the shifter “here” stresses place and context even as it sounds a connection to oral tradition. That repetition makes sense given that the poem concerns itself with a particular national monument, as opposed to national monuments in general.

One can look here and there without success for a recognizable monument at the Grand Portage National Monument, located in far northeastern Minnesota, for the entire site is the monument. Erdrich’s poem begins by drawing attention away from any of the buildings on the site or historical reenactments that take place there throughout the course of any given day; instead, the poem first draws attention to the grand portage itself, the eight-plus mile-long portage from the shores of Lake Superior to the Pigeon River on the United States-Canada international border, and, particularly, the fact that the narrator’s people walked it. While the “re-enactments and regalia / keep history current, preserve trappers’ / ways, traders’ wares, all the era conveys” (12), the portage itself conducts the narrator, and the reader, to an understanding of connection between her, her people, and the past.

In a reversal of what we have come to expect given the history of Euroamerican-native relations in this country, the reconstructed warehouses that once stored the furs brought in from the deep woods and the trade goods that were given to trappers in exchange for the pelts are “ghostly” (12) rather than the indians. The warehouses are the site where desire, accumulation, commerce, and capital are made manifest. The story of European and then Euroamerican expansion across the continent and the concomitant story of the United States and its boundaries are being memorialized with the monument, its warehouses, and its enactments. The warehouses are “full of [a] meaning” beyond the pelts once stored within them, however, and that meaning is not simply the painful fact that, as Gerald Vizenor has noted, the economics of peltry served to rupture the natural rhythms between the Anishinaabe and the land. As a reminder of that rupture, the warehouses haunt the narrator, to be sure. In yoking the fur trade to the recently opened Northwest Passage, the poem suggests, too, that the transformation of the Arctic ice cap is bound up in the West’s acquisitive drive. This inconvenient truth is what haunts the Nation and indeed the West.

A place name in Anishinaabemowin marks the turn in the poem to a fuller reading of place, time, and culture: Gitche Onigaming. In rendering Grand Portage in the language of the Anishinaabe, “Grand Portage” both undoes the totalizing tendency of the monument and the nation and suggests its supplement. In short, the move to a Native inscription constitutes a re-territorialization of the site and of memory. As is true of the ghostly warehouses, Gitche Onigaming is full of meaning, necessary, and contested; there, though, the similarities end. Gitche Onigaming is the route, the conveyance, which past and present links the Anishinaabe of the area to the “North and territories beyond” (12). It is, in the words of the culminating line of the poem, “the true path, the mark, the monumental” (12). The portage connects and in doing so it gives the lie to the border, at least from an indigenous perspective. The poem’s identification of the portage in the language of the People highlights its nature as that which connects people and place. As Vizenor, Louise Erdrich, and others have long known and noted, Anishinaabemowin is connected to place. Early in The People Named the Chippewa, for instance, Vizneor tells us that “The words the woodland tribes spoke were connected to the place the words were spoken” (24). Erdrich’s meditation on Anishinaabe country, identity, and nations tells the reader that Anishinaabemowin “is adapted to the land as no other language can possibly be…[that] it is a language that most directly reflects a human involvement with the spirit of the land itself” (Books and Islands 85). Given this, it is no wonder that the White Earth Land Recovery Project’s efforts in language restoration, part of its sustainable communities initiative, brings Anishinaabe youth and elders together for “adult/family language immersion retreats…into the woods, the sugar bush, the corn fields, and the heart of cultural practice” (All Our Relations 130).

The last line of “National Monuments” emphasizes writing: “Your last word etched, kept, engraved” (3). Such an emphasis makes sense, of course, given the Anishinaabe “tradition of inscription” (Bohaker 12) on Midewewin scrolls and graphic communication via pictographs. Moreover, because Anishinaabeg signees on treaty and legal documents made their mark with a representation of their clan, the “Doodem signs” did not and do not signify an end. Rather, they are a declaration of what is conclusive and of utmost importance. The sign is kept in the possession of the People thanks to acts of inscription that mark and remark identity and connection. The last line of “Grand Portage” opens with a shifter that points both to the first line of the poem, where the grand portage is, and, crucially, to that which lies beyond the “here” of the dominant culture and its national narrative. “Black and White Monument, Photo Circa 1977,” the poem immediately preceding “Grand Portage,” opens by phrasing a beyond as well: Everything that ever happened / lies outside the white border / of this photo taken in the late 1970s” (8). The poem is haunted by what is beyond the border, returning to border and beyond in both its second and third sections, and not simply because, as it asks rhetorically, “Don’t we always know more or less than what a photo can show?” (10). Rather the troubling truth beyond the border is that there there are those “who would too soon die sick / or senselessly, or go unrecognizable / in a life both dark then slashed with too bright light” (10). Erdrich’s afterword makes clear that at least some of those lost, unrecognized, and unrecognizable are young Native men, particularly, “whose life expectancy is still very far below other ethnic groups” (95). In light of that fact, in that troubling light, Erdrich offers up poems in National Monuments which offer, to return to and reiterate, “There the true path, the mark, the monumental” (12). What is monumental is the presence of the People, their mark on and with the land and on and with writing; this is what is of great significance, the poem subtly declares, this is what is enduring.

While national monuments help a people to recognize themselves, be the monuments of mortar and stone or word and image, they can also serve as monuments to misrecognition and absence. "Slashed with too bright light," that is to say with the light emanating from the sign made when a slash links two parallel lines to form the N of Nation and National Narrative, the people suffer, the people die. Erdrich plays with the slash, turning it around both to undo the nation and narrative that has done so much harm to natives and the land and to suggest its necessary supplement: indigenous nations and the worldviews that underpin them. Still, for all that Erdrich is unwilling to dismiss the mixedblood. She will take as the epigraph for "Infinite Progression" a quotation from Choctaw-Cherokee-Irish writer and scholar Louis Owens’ Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place: "If the mixed blood is a tragic mirror for Euroamerica, giving back a disturbing reflection, then the Euroamerican in turn would seem to offer no reflection at all for the mixedblood who gazes back" (Mixedblood Messages 38). Owens closes the paragraph by noting that, despite the seeming lack of reflection, the absence, "contemporary mixedblood authors continue to celebrate their freedom, in the words of Vizenor’s Manifest Manners, to ‘oust the inventions [of the dominant society] with humor, new stories, and the simulations of survivance’" (Mixedblood Messages 39). Erdrich follows Owens’ lead in the epigraph and closes the gap between mixed and blood in her work. In "Infinite Progression" this means imagining Williams’ mixedblood Elsie avoiding mirrors that distort, but also imagining her, recouped by Erdrich, unwilling to give up a part of herself, to let any of her ancestors go. Rather, she and we catch sight of how from a certain angle a mirror "gives back another" mirror and reflection, and another, and another "until dozens reflect in one frame. / That, she thought, is me: // Connected in all directions, a walking picture of infinity" (25).


Works Cited

  • Anderson, Benedict. Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1983.
  • Bhabha, Homi. The Location of Culture. New York: Routledge, 1994.
  • —-. Ed. Nation and Narration. New York: Routledge, 1990.
  • Bohaker, Heidi. “Reading Anishinaabe Identities: Meaning and Metaphor in Nindoodem Pictographs.” Ethnohistory 57.1 (Winter 2010): 11-33.
  • Erdrich, Heid. Fishing for Myth. Minneapolis: New Rivers Press, 1997.
  • —. National Monuments. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 2008.
  • Erdrich, Louise. Books and Islands in Ojibwe Country. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society,2003.
  • Freud, Sigmund. “The Moses of Michelangelo.” The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press, 1953-1974.
  • —-. “The Uncanny.” The Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud. Trans. James Strachey. London: The Hogarth Press, 1953-1974.
  • Frost, Robert. “The Gift Outright.” The Poetry of Robert Frost. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 1969.
  • Johnson, Nuala. “Mapping Monuments: the Shaping of Public Space and Cultural Identities.” Visual Communications 1.3 (2002): 293-298.
  • Johnston, Basil. Ojibway Heritage. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1976, 1990.
  • Kamuf. Peggy. The Division of Literature. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997.
  • LaDuke, Winona. All Our Relations. Boston: South End Press, 1999.
  • Myzelev, Alla. “Uncanny Memories of Architecture: Architectual Works by Rebecca Horn and Rachel Whiteread.” Athanor XIX: 59-65.
  • Owens, Louis. The Sharpest Sight. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.
  • —-. Mixedblood Messages: Literature, Film, Family, Place. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998
  • Renan, Ernest. “What is a Nation?” in Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi Bhabha. New York: Routledge,1990. 8-22.
  • Smith, Anthony. “Culture, Community and Territory: the Politics of Ethnicity and Nationalism.” International Affairs 72.3 (1996): 445-458.
  • Vizenor, Gerald. Fugitive Poses: Native American Indian Scenes of Absence and Presence. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press, 1998.
  • —-. The People Named the Chippewa. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1983.
  • Warren, William. History of the Ojibway People. St. Paul: Minnesota Historical Society Press, 1984.
  • Williams, William Carlos. Selected Poems. New York: New Directions, 1968.



1 In italicizing indian I echo Gerald Vizenor’s use of that sign to name the construction created and perpetuated by the dominant culture. It bears noting that the link between construction and authority is writ large in the three names for the people deployed in the first three sentences: Ojibway, the name the Canadian Government uses to identify the people; Chippewa, the name the United States Government uses to identify the same group of people; and Anishinaabe, the people’s name for themselves.

2 National Monuments received the 2009 Minnesota Book Award for poetry.

3 An emphasis on returning is fitting, for the poems return to monuments, to ghosts, and to writing itself throughout National Monuments.

4 It bears noting that in “Butter Maiden and Maize Girl Survive Death Leap” indian stereotypes, commodities and commodification, and national monuments are linked when the poem’s narrator recalls a childhood playmate “showing me her doll from Mount Rushmore” (38).