Sunday, June 01, 2008

Passing of Paula Gunn Allen

We received this news from Feroza Jusawalla, now teaching at UNM, about the passing of Paula Gunn Allen.

Paula Gunn Allen, b.1939, Laguna Pueblo/Sioux/Scots/Lebanese New Mexico native, passed away peacefully on the night of May 29, 2008 at her home in Fort Bragg, California, after a long and courageous battle with lung cancer. Family and friends were at her side.

This poet, philosopher, scholar, and teacher grew up in Cubero, New Mexico. She received her doctorate in American Studies from UNM in 1976; that dissertation evolved into The Sacred Hoop: Recovering the Feminine in American Indian Traditions (1986), a pioneering work in Native American, feminist, and GLB studies. She edited the benchmark book for the MLA about teaching Native Studies: Studies in American Indian Literature: Curriculum and Course Designs.

She was also a prolific writer of poems, fiction, essays; her last scholarly book, on Pocahontas, was a nominee for the National Book Award. She retired from UCLA in 1999, but always checked back into New Mexico, never stopped being a teacher and mentor, never stopped cracking and appreciating outrageous jokes and bad puns. (The last one she and I shared, about 3 weeks ago, was "Well, you know what they say: What happens in the Zuni Mountains stays in the Zuni mountains,"--oh, my, her laugh. )

Her posthumous volume of poems, America The Beautiful, will be published by West End Press within the year.

1 comment:

norma landa flores said...

I am one fourth California Gabrielino/Cahuilla
through my father's Native American mother. She died of tuberculosis, in 1924. I wasn't born until 1937. So, I didn't get to hear her words.

As a Chicana poet, writer and speech communication teacher, I often struggled to see the world from my grandmother's perspective.

Why, for example, have mainstream American publishers, editors, curriculum committees and students dismissed Native American people's philosophy,comments and constructive criticism on American society? Do we not have hearts, minds, and souls? Why doesn't our opinion count?

In Paula Gunn Allen's collection of traditional tales and contemporary writing by Native American Women, "SPIDER WOMAN"S GRANDDAUGHTERS," 1989, Ballantine Books, the gifted editor and author
gave me many grandmother's perspectives. But above all, through her story, "Deep Purple," I came to realize that Native people and the grandchildren of Native people DO have a right to comment on and critique American society!

Thanks for this measure of empowerment, Paula. I will add it to my Chicano rights. And, thanks to you, pass through these difficult times, weaving our Native American heritage into the mainstream American society's tapestry.