Today the University Press of Kansas officially launched my book Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American (CultureAmerica series).
I am grateful for the support of so many people over the years who have encouraged me as I completed this project. I thank my family and friends, past and current students, colleagues at the University of Illinois, and numerous scholars here in the United States and abroad. I also thank the wonderful staff at the press, and of course, readers of this blog!
Last week, Craig Chamberlin of the University of Illinois News Bureau published a story about the book. You can access the story here. If you are interested in purchasing a copy of Hopi Runners, you can do so through Amazon or the publisher’s website.
Below is an excerpt from the book’s Introduction titled “To the Fence and Back.” The excerpt comes from a section of the Introduction where I describe Hopi runners who competed at federal off-reservation Indian boarding schools:
While Hopis participated in several sports, including basketball, football, and even boxing, their greatest success came as members of track and cross-country teams. Sports at off-reservation schools provided Native athletes opportunities that did not exist for them on their reservations. When Hopis joined cross-country teams at Sherman Institute, or the Indian school at Carlisle, they experienced for the first time different regions of the country, life in modern cities, and a new way of running footraces. And Hopis used these opportunities to learn and interact with people from other parts of the United States and the world. While competing in marathons, Hopis ran with runners from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, and Japan, and although from vastly different cultures, they spoke a common – and perhaps universal – language of competitive running.
Having come from a society that valued long-distance running for ceremonial and practical purposes, Hopi youth transferred this cultural mindset with with them when they entered these faraway schools. Hopi runners who competed at Indian schools had come from a tribe of racers. While none of these athletes needed to be taught the essence of long-distance running, coaches nevertheless trained them in modern running techniques and rules to compete effectively in American track and cross-country events. The dirt trails on the reservation did not resemble the paved roads or clay tracks used in many American running competitions. And so, in their first year on a school’s cross-country team, Hopis learned about running in different locations, climates, and elevations. And they had to develop mental and physical strategies for running in cities, on mountain roads, or in front of thousands of cheering spectators in a stadium.
When Hopis ran on trails back home, they did so in a relatively quiet and peaceful environment, far from the sounds of locomotives arriving and departing towns such as Winslow. Running on or near the mesas, Hopis became attuned with their bodies and surroundings, becoming one with their environment. They listened to their own breathing, the sound of their feet tapping the trail as they danced on Mother Earth. They felt the rhythmic pounding of their heart telling them to adjust or steady their pace. And they listened to birds singing and the sound of the wind cutting through the canyons. And often they ran alone, experiencing physical ailments that all distance runners endure. “He was alone and running on,” Kiowa poet N. Scott Momaday writes of a Jemez Pueblo runner named Abel. “All of his being was concentrated in the sheer motion of running on, and he was past caring about pain.” In the high desert of Arizona, Hopi runners also beheld beautiful landscapes , greeted majestic sunrises and sunsets, and had unobstructed views for miles in all directions. Running with no distractions from the outside world, Hopis ran with “good hearts,” prayed silently for the well-being of their people, and sang songs to the katsina spirits to entice the rain clouds to follow them home to their villages.
However, the tranquil environment that encompassed the trails back home did not reflect the fast pace and at times chaotic life in large modern American cities…
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert, Hopi Runners: Crossing the Terrain between Indian and American (University Press of Kansas, 2018), 8, 9, 10.
The California Indian Education (CALIE) organization recently launched a new website on American Indian boarding schools. The website is managed by Ernie C. Salgado, Jr., of the Soboba Indian Reservation. Jon Allan Reyhner, Professor of Education at Northern Arizona University, has written the Forward for the web page. In addition to giving a history of Indian boarding schools, Reyhner has provided brief commentaries on numerous books and authors of Indian boarding school studies. If you have a minute, be sure to make your way over to the CALIE website. This is a great resource for those interested in the American Indian boarding school experience.
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
Stephen Kent Amerman, an associate professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University, has published a book entitled Urban Indians in Phoenix Schools, 1940-2000. His book is part of the Indigenous Education Series with the University of Nebraska Press. Various studies have been written on the educational experiences of American Indian people. However, much of this literature has tended to focus on the Indian boarding school experience during the so-called assimilation period. Recent studies, such as Taos/Dine scholar Glenabah Martinez’s monograph, Native Pride: The Politics of Curriculum and Instruction in an Urban Public School and Amerman’s book, fill a major gap in the literature on the experiences of Native students who attended public high schools. Amerman also writes about Hopis who went to Phoenix urban schools, which is a topic not often examined by scholars of Hopi and Indian education history. Below is a brief synopsis of the book from the University of Nebraska Press website.
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert
In the latter half of the twentieth century, tens of thousands of Native American families moved to cities across the United States, some via the government relocation program and some on their own. In the cities, they encountered new forms of work, entertainment, housing, and education. In this study, Stephen Kent Amerman focuses on the educational experiences of Native students in urban schools in Phoenix, Arizona, a city with one of the largest urban Indian communities in the nation. The educational experiences of Native students in Phoenix varied over time and even in different parts of the city, but interactions with other ethnic groups and the experience of being a minority for the first time presented distinctive challenges and opportunities for Native students.Using oral histories as well as written records, Amerman examines how Phoenix schools tried to educate and assimilate Native students alongside Hispanic, Asian, black, and white students and how Native children, their parents, and the Indian community at large responded to this new urban education and the question of their cultural identity. Reconciling these pressures was a struggle, but many found resourceful responses, charting paths that enabled them to acquire an urban education while still remaining Indian.Stephen Kent Amerman is an associate professor of history at Southern Connecticut State University. His articles have appeared in American Indian Culture and Research Journal, American Indian Quarterly, and Journal of Arizona History.
On Monday of this week the University of Nebraska Press released my book Education beyond the Mesas. My book examines the Hopi experience at Sherman Institute in Riverside, California, from 1902 to 1929. It is a story of resistance, accommodation, and ways Hopi pupils navigated within their village communities, U.S. government policies, and an institution that was designed to destroy their identities as American Indian people. Furthermore, my book is a story of agency, and it demonstrates how Hopi students used their culture to succeed at school, and examines the challenges the pupils faced when they returned to their homes on the reservation.
Thirty one years ago historian David Wallace Adams remarked that a “ study on the federal Indian boarding school system does not exist.” Today the field of Indian boarding schools has grown substantially with contributions from scholars such as Adams, K. Tsianina Lomawaima, Brenda Child, Clyde Ellis, and many others. Recent studies have focused on Indian health, literature, education policies, and the ways Indian pupils “turned the power” at schools originally designed to destroy American Indian cultures. A term used by historians Clifford E. Trafzer, Jean Keller, and Lorene Sisquoc, “turning the power” describes the ability of Native students to turn their educational experiences to their advantage, which often included bringing helpful knowledge and skills back to their indigenous communities.
In my book I examine the ways Hopis “turned the power” at Sherman Institute, and I build upon the work of several scholars including those who have written about the mandatory enrollment of Hopi students at U.S. government schools. While many books on Indian boarding schools examine the experiences of Native students who came from several communities, Education beyond the Mesas is a community specific book that seeks to understand the Hopi experience at Sherman Institute through a Hopi historical and cultural framework. In the book’s Introduction, I argue that a community specific book on the Hopi places
the history and culture of the Hopi people at the focal point of the narrative. It asks how a student’s culture and tribal history influenced their experience at an Indian school, and builds upon the contributions of other scholars to uncover the complex ways that Hopi history and culture intersected with U.S. government policies. Apart from providing the reader with a historical narrative, this book challenges the notion that a study on the Indian boarding school experience must be understood primarily through a defined framework of Indian education policies. Community-specific books begin with the history and culture of Native people and attempt to determine how students understood their unique experiences at Indian boarding schools as Zunis, Navajos, Apaches, or other Indian people. [Education beyond the Mesas, p. xxix]
I would not have been able to complete this book without the help and support of many individuals. I am especially thankful to my wife, Kylene, and our daughters Hannah, Meaghan and Noelle, and other family members. My colleagues at the University of Illinois, in both the American Indian Studies Program and the Department of History, have provided me with tremendous support since I arrived at Illinois in Fall 2006.
I further extend appreciation to the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office, the Hopi Education Endowment Fund, and the Hopi Tribe Grants and Scholarship Program who so generously made available resources for me to pursue an education beyond the mesas. There are also many Hopi and non-Hopi scholars, students, and community members who have helped and encouraged me along the way, which includes the incredible editorial staff at the University of Nebraska Press. Finally, I wish to acknowledge my grandfather, Victor Sakiestewa, Sr. from Upper Moencopi, who gave me the inspiration and reason to write on his alma mater, “dear ole Sherman.”
Matthew Sakiestewa Gilbert