This is the forward to our new novel(s) in progress. –Duane & Patricia
Some time ago, one of my elders on the Cherokee side of the family told me the story of Uncle Loan. It was the early days of Oklahoma statehood, after the great Cherokee land grab, when the federal government opened up tribal lands for theft by yonega speculators, further breaking up Indian families, who had already been decimated by the Trail of Tears and the aftermath of the Civil War. Family was scattered to the far corners of the Cherokee Nation, and James Loan Morgan, brother of my ancestor, Mark Morgan, took it upon himself to be a kind of circuit rider, traveling the many miles on horseback, from Hulbert and Tahlequah, to Warner in the south, and the Kansas border in the north. Grandma Hedrick, who was Uncle Loan’s niece, would put on a big stew, and Uncle Loan would share news of the extended family. Perhaps, unconsciously, Loan was making a vain attempt to hold together the ancient clan. Perhaps he was simply a lost spirit in search of a warm meal and warm conversation.
But, for whatever the reason, he carried on a tradition which goes back to the first humans to use language, the telling of stories. Stories are the strands of the web which hold families, clans, tribes, cultures together, and help us to define ourselves in relationship to others. The oral storytelling of Uncle Loan is dying out everywhere in the world as the monoculture of western hegemony is broadcast into the most remote village. Increasingly, World Culture becomes identical to American Culture. And what is this American Culture, but the voice of an ever concentrated Market, a machine designed to make wealth for its few owners?
Meanwhile, we people of the Americas, north and south, languish in the face of looming disaster. We are paralyzed by our divisions, by race and class and sex and ideology, and by the knowledge of the horrible mistakes we have made as a species, and the immense dislocation that will now be required to correct our course. But the planet will not wait for us. The problems ahead must be ameliorated and strategies invented or resurrected for our continued existance. A new culture of survival must come out of the pieces of the past. This is the inevitable lesson of history and anthropology.
What will this culture look like? Who are we, and what do we want to become? What is the real America? Where are our stories of resistance? How will they be told? Are the tales of our ancestors still relevant to us today?
These are the questions we, the authors, want to grapple with. We have decided to tell the epic story of my family, real and imagined, a family history which in some ways illustrates the legacy of the New World. From the early settlers in Martinique and Quebec, to the Cherokee natives and the Moravian Brethren who sought to introduce them to the wounds of Christ, this is not the story of Europeans or Indians or Africans. We are their children, but we are not them. This is a story of a multi-culture, mixed-blood, Metís – Creole America, struggling for self-identity and to free itself from the legacy of continuing oppression and imperialism.
Our story is, of course, largely fictional and speculative, populated with ghosts and magic. We hope that we have conveyed a story which our ancestors might be proud to pass on, and that, in the tale, some truths have been told. That it will be helpful, perhaps, in finding the way forward.
In the words of the Martinican, Edouard Glissant,
“The poet chooses, elects in the world mass what he needs to preserve, what his song accords with. And the rhythm is ritual force, lever of consciousness. It leads to these powers: prosodic richness, guarantor of choice, guardian of conquests; the knowledge of the world in its thickness and its spread, the enlightning obverse of History.”
This has been our goal.
Now, as Cyparis might say, we will tell you this story which was told to us when we were just a tiny specks of dust under a cassava leaf. It is just a tim-tim, yes?