Paula Gunn Allen, from Pat Smith, Her Long Time Friend in Albuquerque

Paula Gunn Allen, b.1939, Laguna Pueblo/Sioux/Scots/Lebanese New Mexico native, passed away peacefully on the night of May 29, 2008 at her home in Fort Bragg, California, after a long and courageous battle with lung cancer. Family and friends were at her side.

This poet, philosopher, scholar, and teacher grew up in Cubero, New Mexico. She received her doctorate in American Studies from UNM in 1976; that dissertation evolved into The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions(1986), a pioneering work in Native American , feminist, and GLB studies. She also edited the benchmark book for the MLA about teaching Native Studies: Studies in American Indian Literature: Curriculum and Course Designs. She was also a prolific writer of poems, fiction, essays; her last scholarly book, on Pocahontas, was a nominee for the National Book Award. She retired from UCLA in 1999, but always checked back into New Mexico, never stopped being a teacher and mentor, never stopped cracking and appreciating outrageous jokes and bad puns. (The last one she and I shared, about 3 weeks ago, was "Well, you know what they say: What happens in the Zuni Mountains stays in the Zuni mountains,,,"---oh, my, her laugh. )

Her posthumous volume of poems, America The Beautiful, will be published by West End Press within the year.


Paula Gunn Allen

Born Oct. 24, 1939, Albuquerque, N.M.,
Died last night in Fort Bragg, CA at 10:40 PM after a struggle with lung cancer.

Fly free.

More later.


MNN Column May 2008

I got home from the road and crashed. I crashed flat and hard, like a cartoon. I’d traveled back East several times in one month. I finished a new CD of music, and then drove up to Colorado to have it mastered. (The final cut, “Goin’ Home” features our one and only: Julian B! Mvto Julian! He can sing. He has that deep cut Mvskoke soul.) I’ve learned how to teeter on the edge of exhaustion, and then resurrect myself with eating right, lots of water, and taking time. This time, for energy, I downed a half a bag of crunchy cheese crisps. This junk overload took me over. My body gave in to a sickness that was floating nearby, looking for a place to land. It couldn’t handle the crush of trash. The cheap energy did not come for free. Now, like a cartoon, I’m unrolling myself from the steamroller and standing up. Whew!
Have the food shortage scares hit Oklahoma yet? Out here in Hawaii we’re in between Asia, the Mainland U.S., the rest of Polynesia and Alaska so we get the pulse from several directions. The word went out recently that because of the strange weather at work all around the world there are and will be real food shortages. Costco and Sam’s had to limit the number of bags of rice per person. Yesterday, my friend Candyce from Alaska said that there’s a run on food up there, too. Everyone’s buying up those big bags of rice and flour. She’s been talking to the old ones who predict famine. The consensus is, there will be one long winter, first. In Eagle River, where Candyce lives, the sky just dumped several feet of snow, and it’s almost May. We need to pay attention.
And finally, in my flattened state, I tagged along with a couple of videographers on a short trip to Kauai last week. They are telling the story of a Hawaiian men’s warrior society. Hawaiian men who have lost their place in a colonized world find it again here. As members of the pa, they are learning to control their anger, take care of their families and their communities. There’s ripple effect in the community. Ua, the brother of the leader of the society, Nakulu, told me as we drove to lunch, that these warriors from his brother’s pa have been cleaning up the local beaches of drug dealers. Nakulu tells them they cannot hurt anyone. There are strict rules. The warriors wrap their weapons and aren’t allowed more than five hits per person. The beaches are now opening up for community use. People have been coming up to the young men, thanking them for their assistance. It’s truly beautiful to see a group of about 150 men radiating self-confidence and pride as they meet, and work together. Because I was crashed out at the cottage, I missed the sham battle, where the men line up on two sides and practice different formations. I also missed the ha’a (the Maori’s call it the haka) the pre-war ritual to put fear into the enemy. It’s a very powerful. All of this has empowered the men, and has made them better husbands and fathers. They have taken their place.
Please feel free to email me with any comments, questions, or column ideas at nativesax@mac.com.


Some Things I Thought I'd Never Do

1. Jump into the deep moving ocean from a boat, swim to and climb into a moving towards you canoe, and paddle. Yesterday I did it, because I took part, as a canoe paddler, in the Hui Nalu 100th anniversary around the island paddle.

2. Sell fundraiser tickets for huli huli chicken. I have seven tickets to sell at $8.50 apiece to benefit the club.

3. If you buy a ticket I'll send you a preview copy of my new song "No Huli".


How do we come to know?

"Western education predisposes us to think of knowledge in terms of factual information...By contrast, within the indigenous world the act of coming to know something involves personal transformation."

from F. David Peat, Blackfoot Physics: A Journey Into the Native American Universe

This brings up a quandary I always have when teaching within a western system: how do I bridge this?


Professor X's

name: joyce rain anderson
Query: dear joy,
i thought you might be interested in a recent article in the atlantic monthly in which "professor x" discusses how he needs to be the one who destroys the dreams of students, in this case a forty-something woman, who return to college or come to college through means other than the traditional route including high sats or excelling in numerous extra-curricular actiivities. he claims he works "at colleges of last resorts." he suggests these students don't belong in college at all.
i write in frustration, as i teach english at colleges in the northeast, but i am also one of the students who returned to college as did his case study ms l. i also faced professors like "x" as a student and as a teacher.
in seeking justice, i feel the need to widely discuss the attitudes of one like "x" and to cry out for ms l and the many others like her. i fell we need to hear her story and the stories of many who face the elitist attitudes of "x" and his ilk. as a teacher, i have been blessed to hear the many stories of struggle, of the need to have a chance. thanks for listening.
for justice,
joyce rain

(reprinted by permission)

I haven't read the article yet. I have known many professor x's, through personal experience and through the experiences of others.
A prominent native woman poet and professor recently changed departments in a midwestern university, a university known for fostering the careers of many noted international scholars and writers, because a professor x there severely undermined her to students because she is native and female. For many, native people, especially native women have no place in the university.

And the non-traditional student, especially older women with children do not fit into an elite ideal. In the Euro-Christian mode, the university is a distinctly male space. Women belong in the house. There is no female power in the elite trinity of Father-Son-Holy Ghost. That assumption is still the root of most educational institutions, and the root has not been pulled up. Even women buy into this. A female professor in my department has been blogging her distaste for children and those who have them and teach. She has been bullying another female professor who has several children. I don't believe she is the progeny of a virgin birth.

The first day of my first tenure-track university of position in Colorado a professor x greeted me by attacking my poetry as simplistic. It was important for him to make the distinction of his refinement versus my dirty wildness. He circled me to let me know he was watching me, made sure that I knew  that I had intruded into a space that didn't belong to me.

And recently I've had to deal directly with a professor x. That is a long, sad story that is still in the making. He's been a tool of great destruction. I imagine he feels that he has been a righteous warrior.

Many of these professor x's hold power no place else. They clench their hard won doctrine with bared teeth. They are born of a culture in which predominate images of the female are images of degradation. Aging women are disappeared women, and those who give birth and/or do any work involving children are paid less and given the least respect of any other position. 

Those images don't work anymore, they never did. They create an illusion of a dysfunctional power. We need fresh images of power for both men and women, for all of us. We need images that embody the heavy with the light, joy with sadness, male with female, the Sun and the Moon. These fresh images will have natural roots in ancient images: Buffalo Calf Woman, the Peacemaker, the Virgin de Guadalupe...

It is up to us whether or not these professor x's have power holds in our collective and personal imaginations. This statement may seem on the surface, simplistic. It may not appear to hold the vast complexity of perceptual injustices. However one simple image, or song can revolutionize the thinking of nations. The NASA image of the Earth as a bright and beautiful being signaled the environmental movement. I'm sure you can think of others, or even imagine them.

Get to work!



by Carl Sandburg
I asked professors who teach the meaning of life to tell me, what is happiness. And I went to famous executives who boss the work of thousands of men. They all shook their heads and gave me a smile, as though I was trying to fool with them. And then one Sunday afternoon I wandered out along the Des Plaines River And I saw a crowd of Hungarians under the trees with their women and children and a keg of beer and an accordion.

I read this and relaxed a little. (Thanks to Richard Vargas for the send.)

Been on a hard run for a few weeks. Several minefields which usually prove to be "mind"fields. The big one for all of us is family. I finally had to accept that there is mystery in family members I will never understand, even as some patterns become absolutely clear. I have come to realize that even though I might see what is going on and may even believe I have something to say that would be helpful, that if they don't want to hear it they won't--. I've stepped back.

Can't grab a keg of beer because I can't handle alcohol. I get sick anymore, even if I try a sip. So how about a keg of fresh water from unpolluted springs?! And accordions? Okay. But there have to be guitars, saxophones, ukuleles, singing, some dancing...bring it on! I've learned that I have a huge family of the heart. Some are Hungarians, Russians, Bengalis, Hawaiians, Americans....Thanks Joan for checking in. Some happen to be blood family members too.

So I'm happy thinking about Carl Sandburg's revelation of happiness.