- Issues of translation and authenticity are important when reading and critiquing American Indian discourse from the nineteenth century. Native speeches were interpreted by translators – either Native or (U.S.) governmental – and were then recorded in writing. What are the problems with this process? Does the way you think about the process change depending on whether the translator is Native or governmental? If authenticity is rarely a certainty when reading these texts, how do we go about studying them ethically and thoroughly.
- Develop classroom debates over the following propositions:Resolved: The Ghost Dance was a justified movement.Resolved: The U.S. government has a right to intervene when a religious/spiritual movement threatens separatism from the government.
- Discuss Kicking Bear’s audiences. Is he addressing hardcore members of the Ghost Dance Movement, American Indians indecisive about joining the movement, people hostile and opposed to the movement, or any combination of the above? Does Kicking Bear seem to address the U.S. government or European Americans as an audience? What language does he use to address these different audiences?
- Identify the social, economic and political pressures that might have motivated U.S. leaders to intrude on the Great Sioux Reservation in order to disband the Ghost Dance Movement.
- Discuss pan-Indianism–the idea that diverse Native nations can band together in the face of adversity–and identify the advantages and disadvantages of such a union.
- How important is it for protest discourse to rely on the past to make its point? Think about the ways Kicking Bear employs memory to encourage his audience to organize against the U.S. government. Do other movements that you are familiar with employ a similar rhetorical strategy?
- Use four different research tools (web sites, academic articles, newspaper archives, speeches, books, audio-visual media, etc.) to learn about nineteenth century U.S-American Indian relations prior to the Ghost Dance. What are some key moments of dispute, controversy, outrage, or confrontation that may have motivated Native resistance?
- What is the relationship between “good” and “evil” in the speech? How are heroes or villains constructed around this duality?
- Using an appropriate textbook or academic article/s, look up the term “social movement” and prepare to discuss whether you think the Ghost Dance fits into the definition’s parameters. Do your findings affect the way you perceive of the speech’s impact?
- Locate two pieces of nineteenth century discourse from American Indians that demonstrate strategies of building community similar to Kicking Bear’s call for the Ghost Dance Movement. How do these calls for community compare to or contrast with Kicking Bear’s speech?
- Locate two pieces of nineteenth century discourse from U.S. government officials responding to the Ghost Dance Movement or other American Indian movements for community. What are the arguments made? How are the American Indians and their movements constructed by the governmental discourse?
- Remembering Kicking Bear’s discussion of the dualities of “good” and “evil,” find other instances of this construction in social movement speeches from other social change groups like the Abolitionist Movement, the Suffrage Movement, the Farm Workers Union Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, the La Raza Movement, the GLBTQ Movement, the Pan-Asian Movement, and other movements. How do these movements’ use of the binary compare or contrast to the Ghost Dance Movement as represented by Kicking Bear’s speech?
- Recalling Kicking Bear’s use of familial metaphors and the enactment of memory, find other instances of these facets in social movement speeches from other social change groups like the Abolitionist Movement, the Suffrage Movement, the Farm Workers Union Movement, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Power Movement, the Women’s Rights Movement, the La Raza Movement, the GLBTQ Movement, the Pan-Asian Movement, and other movements. How do these movements’ use of family and memory compare or contrast to the Ghost Dance Movement as represented by Kicking Bear’s speech?
- View Russell Means’ 1980 speech “For America to Live, Europe Must Die.” Write a brief essay comparing the invention, style and arrangement of Means’ and Kicking Bear’s discourses.
- Do an Internet search for contemporary American Indian movements. Identify their primary issues, their arguments, the ways they build community, and the ways they establish credibility.
- Review a web site of an archival depository like the National Archives, the Library of Congress, state archives, or local archives and identify the ways that these locations provide resources and direction for the study of American Indian discourse.
- Visit a local museum, gallery or exhibit dealing in American Indian issues or U.S.-Native relations. What are the arguments (visual and written) made by these displays? How are Native nations and the U.S. government constructed?
- Locate the web sites of senators and representatives in states that support large American Indian populations (i.e., Oklahoma, South Dakota, New Mexico, Arizona). What issues related to Native culture and U.S-Native relations do they discuss? What types of legislation have they proposed (or are they currently sponsoring) regarding American Indians?
- Visit http://www.nativeweb.org, a national web site that links thousands of indigenous people in the United States in an on-line community and provides forums for the discussion of health care, politics, economics and nearly every other public issue vital to American Indians. Access a forum and read postings, concentrating on the arguments being made and the rhetorical strategies being used.
- The issue of “agency”–that is, who can speak for and about indigenous people–is a vital topic in the field of American Indian Studies. Some believe that non-Natives should not research or write about Native issues. Others feel that the area of American Indian Studies is too important to limit its engagement by scholars’ ethnicities. Find an article in such journals as American Indian Quarterly, American Indian Research and Culture Journal, Wicazo Sa or Studies in American Indian Literatures that grapple with this issue. Be prepared to discuss both sides of the “agency” debate based on what you have read.
- Access the American Indian Movement’s live radio feed on its web site http:///www.aimovement.org. (If not live, then you can access the feeds that are archived). What are some of the topics being discussed? What the arguments and rhetorical strategies employed?
- American Indian tribal universities and colleges are vital to teaching Native people about their cultures and life-ways while simultaneously offering mainstream collegiate study. Visit a tribal university or college web site (i.e., Haskell Indian University or Diné College) and identify the curricula and programs the schools offer. How is Native heritage and community discussed? How is assimilation into the American mainstream discussed? How are U.S.-Native relations discussed on the web site?
- Watch a Native-centered film or documentary (i.e., Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee or 500 Nations) and discuss how U.S.-Native relations are represented. What are the arguments being made in the film or documentary? Which Native leaders are spotlighted, and to which issues are they responding? How are issues such as religion, language, economy, land, etc. discussed? Which governmental leaders are spotlighted, and to which issues are they responding? How are issues of public policy dealing with Native issues discussed?
Last updated March 24, 2016