|Birgit Hans writes book on classic Native American writer|
A lifelong passion for Native American culture began for Birgit Hans during her youth in Germany. Hans, chair of Indian Studies, built on the basis of that passion a well-deserved reputation as a sensitive and dedicated scholar of Native American culture.
Her latest endeavor is a new book titled, “D’Arcy McNickle’s ‘The Hungry Generations’: the Evolution of a Novel,” published recently by the University of New Mexico Press, well known for its books about Native American society, culture, and literature.
“I’m excited about this book because it brings to light again a very special Native American writer,” says Hans. “D’Arcy McNickle was an early pioneer of the Native American novel, a Native American writer who, in many ways, anticipated the Native American Renaissance in writing.”
William D'Arcy McNickle was born in 1904 in Montana of a Scottish-Irish father and a Cree mother. Although the family was Cree, they were adopted into the Salish-Kooteni (Flathead) tribe.
“He is widely regarded as one of the founders of Native American literature and ethnohistory,” says Hans. “He also worked in the U.S. Bureau of Indian affairs, but resigned in protest of federal assimilation policies following World War II. I’d say he was recognized as a leading authority on government policy concerning Native Americans.
In his writing, McNickle — who traveled, studied, and taught widely here and abroad — deals with many crucial issues facing Native Americans, including what happens when a Native person tries to assimilate into the dominant white culture. Hans explains that McNickle believed that the survival and renewal of Native cultures depended on a keen community understanding of tribal life, traditional ceremonies, and indigenous literatures.
Hans discovered an original hand-written manuscript for McNickle’s novel “The Surrounded” and immediately noticed that it was significantly different from the previously published version of the novel.
“The story was substantially changed in tone from the manuscript,” Hans notes. “This is what made this such an exciting project for me, to tell his original story, which focused much more closely on the Native American experience.”