Conversations with Remarkable Native Americans

By Joëlle Rostkowski

Subjects: Indigenous Studies, Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series, Native Traces
Paperback : 9781438441740, 195 pages, January 2013
Hardcover : 9781438441757, 195 pages, March 2012

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Table of contents


PREFACE. Tragic wisdom and survivance

INTRODUCTION. From forgotten Americans to Indigenous rights

PROLOGUE. Conversation with Gerald Vizenor, series editor, poet, novelist, and art critic

1. N. Scott Momaday, poet, novelist, painter, and UNESCO Artist for Peace

2. Suzan Harjo, policy advocate, journalist, essayist, and poet

3. Richard West, lawyer and founding director of the National Museum of the American Indian

4. Emil Her Many Horses, curator, National Museum of the American Indian

5. Sven Haakanson, director of the Alutiiq Museum, Kodiak, Alaska

6. Veronica Tiller, historian, consultant, and writer

7. Erma Vizenor, tribal chair, White Earth Reservation, Minnesota

8. Louisita Warren, elder of Santa Clara Pueblo, New Mexico

9. Tony Abeyta, painter and sculptor

10. David Bradley, painter and sculptor

11. Darren Vigil Gray, painter and musician

12. E. Jill Momaday, actress, model, and former chief of protocol, state of New Mexico

13. Rulan Tangen, dancer and choreographer

14. Robert Tim Coulter, lawyer, founder, and director of the Indian Law Resource Center

15. Kenneth Deer, journalist, educator, and UN Indigenous representative

16. United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

EPILOGUE. In memory of Deskaheh


Entertaining and enlightening interviews with some of today’s most important Native Americans.


In these lively and informative interviews, noted ethnohistorian and international consultant Joëlle Rostkowski brings to light major developments in the Native American experience over the last thirty years. Overcoming hardships they have experienced as the "forgotten" minority, often torn between two cultures, these prominent native writers, artists, journalists, activists, lawyers, and museum administrators each have made remarkable contributions towards the transformation of old stereotypes, the fight against discrimination, and the sharing of their heritage with mainstream society.

Theirs is a story not so much of success but of resilience, of survivance, with each interview subject having marked their time and eventually becoming the change they wanted in the world. The conversations in this volume reveal that the assertion of ethnic identity does not lead to bitterness and isolation, but rather an enthusiasm and drive toward greater visibility and recognition that at the same time aims at a greater understanding between different cultures. Conversations with Remarkable Native Americans rewards the reader with a deeper understanding of the Native American Renaissance.

Joëlle Rostkowski is an ethnohistorian who teaches at the School of Higher Studies in Social Sciences in Paris. She is also a consultant at the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. Her books include The Incomplete Conversion: North American Indians and Christianity and Native American Renaissance: A Century of Reconquests, winner of the 2002 French Academy History Prize.


"By presenting an array of successful leaders, the book encourages those who still feel the weight and pressure of centuries of oppression to let go of some of their negative feelings and see the promise of the future. " — Native American and Indigenous Studies

"A book of interviews is only as good as the interviewer, and in this Joëlle Rostkowski excels. She has developed personal relationships with each individual interviewed, has a keen sense of what to ask each of them, and draws them out skillfully … This is an engaging and informative volume that offers personal glimpses into the lives of important Native Americans, each of whom has contributed to the processes of renewal and survivance that have helped to shape the direction Native American peoples have taken in the last forty years. " — Great Plains Quarterly

"…Rostkowski provides an interesting glimpse into the thoughts of prominent indigenous writers, activists, and artists, each speaking to the centralized theme of the work—survivance … Highly recommended. " — CHOICE

"Through this series of skillfully structured conversations, Joëlle Rostkowski elicits a succinct and engaging portrait of contemporary Native American intellectuals. They include a wide diversity of writers, artists, museum specialists, and political activists, many of whom have gained international recognition. Together, their lives represent the florescence of Native American identity in the modern world. " — Raymond J. DeMallie, Chancellor's Professor of Anthropology and American Studies at Indiana University, Bloomington

"Conversations with Remarkable Native Americans is itself a remarkable book. Joëlle Rostkowski brings a deeply informed international perspective to the table here. Her profiles with some of the most talented, accomplished Native American leaders of our times demonstrate an understanding of the richness and significance of their tribal histories, communities, and traditions—all of which had nurtured their contributions and informed their worldviews. The Native Americans showcased in Rostkowski's book have made their marks at the highest levels of diverse fields as leaders, advocates, orators, poets, lawyers, musicians, and visual artists. This book showcases the power of each individual's story, and serves as evidence of the profound and significant contributions of Native Americans to a contemporary global discourse. " — John Haworth (Cherokee), Director, George Gustav Heye Center, National Museum of the American Indian

"With her well-informed and sympathetic ear, French anthropologist Joëlle Rostkowski has listened to a range of American Indian voices telling of creative and political experiences. What makes this collection of interviews with an indigenous elite from different tribal nations so unique is that most are cross-cultural explorers on the threshold between local tradition and global modernity. " — Harald E. L. Prins, University Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Kansas State University, and Research Associate, Smithsonian Institution