Late summer night on the Spokane Indian Reservation. Ten Indi-
ans are playing basketball on a court barely illuminated by the
streetlight above them. They will play until the brown, leather ball
is invisible in the dark. They will play until an errant pass jams a
finger, knocks a pair of glasses off the face, smashes a nose and
draws blood. They will play until the ball bounces off the court
and disappears into the shadows.
This may be all you need to know about Native American literature.
from One Stick Song, Hanging Loose Press, 2000:
The salmon swim
So thick in this river
that Grandmother walks
across the water
on the bridge
of their spines.
from Crow Testament
Cain lifts Crow, that heavy black bird
and strikes down Abel.
Damn, says Crow, I guess
this is just the beginning.
The white man, disguised
as a falcon, swoops in
and yet again steals a salmon
from Crow’s talons.
SHERMAN ALEXIE is an author. He won the PEN/Faulkner Award for his 2009 novel, War Dances.