American Indian Autobiography is a kind of cultural kaleidoscope whose narratives come to us from a wide range of American Indians: warriors, farmers, Christian converts, rebels and assimilationists, peyotists, shamans, hunters, Sun Dancers, artists and Hollywood Indians, spiritualists, visionaries, mothers, fathers, and English professors. Many of these narratives are as-told-to autobiographies, and those who labored to set them down in writing are nearly as diverse as their subjects. Black Elk had a poet for his amanuensis; Maxidiwiac, a Hidatsa farmer who worked her fields with a bone-blade hoe, had an anthropologist. Two Leggings, the man who led the last Crow war party, speaks to us through a merchant from Bismarck, North Dakota. White Horse Eagle, an aged Osage, told his story to a Nazi historian.
By discussing these remarkable narratives from a historical perspective, H. David Brumble III reveals how the various editors’ assumptions and methods influenced the autobiographies as well as the autobiographers. Brumble also—and perhaps most importantly—describes the various oral autobiographical traditions of the Indians themselves, including those of N. Scott Momaday and Leslie Marmon Silko. American Indian Autobiography includes an extensive bibliography; this Bison Books edition features a new introduction by the author.