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Ella Deloria (Yankton Dakota): The aim of the old Dakota economic system

Ella Deloria (Yankton Dakota): The aim of the old Dakota economic system
Photo: Blackfoot woman and child. Late 1880s by Alexander J. Ross, Calgary, Alberta.


The aim of the old Dakota economic system and that of the white man's are one and the same, incongruous as that sounds when we compare the two systems for achieving it. Security, that was the aim: food, clothing, shelter, and an old age free from want. All peoples need that; it is what they struggle for in their respective ways.
But the two systems in question are irreconcilable. They go counter to each other. One says in effect: 'Get, get, get now; all you can, as you can, for yourself, and so insure security for yourself. If all we do this, then everyone will be safe.' And it depends on things, primarily.
The other said: 'Give, give, give to others. Let gifts flow freely out and they will flow freely back to you again. In the universal and endless stream of giving this is bound to be so.' And that system depended on human beings- friends, relatives.
(Ella Deloria, Yankton Dakota)



Recommended reading:
'American Indian Literatures: An Introduction, Bibliographic Review, and Selected Bibliography'
By A. LaVonne Ruoff (Author)
Purchase Book:
Brown Ruoff has created in "American Indian Literatures" an essential collection of Native American (or Indian, as Sherman Alexie calls himself) oratories, histories, stories, and written books. While it was published in 1990, and therefore contains none of the more recently-published Indian writers (Alexie, Vizenor, much of Louise Erdrich), "American Indian Literatures" offers a decent overview of 1970s and 1980s writing such as Leslie Marmon Silko, and what precious little criticism appeared in that time period.
What "AIL" does, however, is compile a vast quantity of oral and written stories, fictional and not (although that term is used loosely when discussing Indian literature, that's the beauty of it). The cover advertises that it contains information from 1772, and most of what Ruoff has compiled is in the early and mid-1800s, at least as far as oral tradition is concerned. This is what makes "AIL" absolutely invaluable: this may be the very first time these oral histories were compiled not for historical or sociological interpretation, but for the purpose of examining them critically as literature (which Ruoff mostly leaves to the reader). The Bibliography of Indian oral and written histories is immense, taking up nearly a third of the sum total of the book.
Anyone seriously studying Indian literature needs a copy of this volume, unless he or she relishes spending days combing through hundred-year-old books in the library. The most important pieces are contained here, and the book helpfully tells the reader exactly where to go to find something if it is not published between these covers. "AIL" is a great scholarly tool for the study of Indian lit, which MUST include early Indian literature if it is to be taken seriously and placed in its proper context.

(Jason N. Mical)
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