The creative psyche of the Romantic poets of the nineteenth-century United States was shaped by the idea of the American continent as a far-reaching wilderness now within perceived possession, with identifiable and reachable frontiers. The blossoming of U. S. literature is often seen as a landscape composed of such well-known poets as Emerson, Longfellow, Bryant, Whittier, Dickinson, and Whitman. But a host of other writers, some with very different perspectives on the physical landscape, were also contributing to the cultural and literary landscape of the United States during this time.
It was a century of western expansion, of so-called manifest destiny; it was also a century of sweeping, violent change for Indian people. Starvation, government-induced disease, massacres, and forced removal decimated millions. From the Trail of Tears to the massacres at Sand Creek and Wounded Knee, it was a brutal century of government-sanctioned attempts at first extermination, then assimilation, confining surviving populations to restricted areas and setting up schools to convert children to not only Christianity but to a new U. S. identity, which saw Native cultures as inferior—a crucial emblem for colonialism’s “New World” pastoral imagination.
The settler-colonists found a home for the pastoral tradition, stemming from Hesiod and, later, Theocritus and Virgil, in the “new world” landscape of the Americas. The traditional pastoral invocation of innocence, and its imagination of Arcadia as a realm of leisure and play, was transposed onto the colonists’ imagination of their “America.” The extensive space of the new country’s map was perceived, by the aggressive and powerful new U. S. government, as a playground for the grand project of nation-making. In this imagined pastoral space, the idea of the Native American as shepherd was a convenient means of dual wish fulfillment: as silhouetted figure within which one could imagine oneself in a more “pure” and idealized state; and as a means to deny native inhabitants of the new “American” space a continued existence—the Indian / shepherd could be romanticized out of reality, relegated to the fantasy of Arcadia, and thereby ceasing to be in the way of the progress of the United States.
This matrix of thought infused nineteenth-century Romantic writers as they worked to define what “America” could mean, and in this, what a distinctly U. S. literature could be. But what about the Native poets? (I will use Native here to refer to people of Native American nations.) For those Native poets of the nineteenth century who were reading and writing poetry, and who were also influenced by the contemporary English Romantic themes, how did this pastoral configuration, which marginalized the figure of the Native American as a voiceless “innocent,” play out in their poetics? How did these poets’ sense of identity contend with the hypocrisy of the stereotype they were burdened with, and, more so, with the reality of brutal treatment their people were confronted with?
Reading Jane Johnston Schoolcraft has offered me an insight into the challenges Native writers (and Native women) faced during this time—as well as a different version of the pastoral, one I’m more aligned with in my own writing.
Reading Jane Johnston Schoolcraft has offered me an insight into the challenges Native writers (and Native women) faced during this time—as well as a different version of the pastoral, one I’m more aligned with in my own writing. Schoolcraft, who was Anishinaabe, was primarily known through her marriage to Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, one of the first U. S. ethnographers. While both were writers—and Henry’s papers take up twenty-eight feet of shelf space in the Library of Congress, as Robert Dale Parker notes in the 2007 compilation The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky: The Writings of Jane Johnston Schoolcraft—Jane’s work was effectively erased from the landscape of nineteenth-century literature. It wasn’t until 2002, when a hand-bound manuscript of her poetry was discovered in a box in the Illinois State Historical Library and taken up into serious scholarly study by Parker, that the scope of her writings and influence became evident. He gathered her work, for the first time, into a book form, and prefaces her poems with an extensive biography.
Jane Johnston Schoolcraft was born Bamewawagezhikaquay (meaning Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing through the Skies) in 1800 in Saulte Sainte Marie, just before colonists named the region the Michigan Territory. Her father was an Irish fur trader, and her mother, Susan (Ozhaguscodaywayquay), was the daughter of an Anishinaabe chief and locally respected storyteller, Waub Ojeeg. Jane was educated at home with her siblings by their father, John Johnston, who had an extensive collection of Classical and English literature. John was himself a poet and encouraged his children to write. Jane’s mother, who in her lifetime refused to speak English, taught the children Anishinaabe language, history, and customs, and educated them in the traditional Anishinaabe and Métis world that comprised Sault Sainte Marie and the Great Lakes. Between John’s success as a fur trader and Ozhaguscodaywayquay’s knowledge of gift-giving and kinship networks, they ran a successful trading post at the Sault, as Parker notes in the introduction to The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky. The family sent Jane to Ireland in 1809 to complete her education, but homesick and also sickly, she returned home within months.
The beginning of the nineteenth century was a time of swift and severe redefinitions under colonialism, particularly in the northern Great Lakes region, which was a French-British-Anishinaabe-American-Canadian middle ground. The Johnston family, in their lifetime, saw the shift from British to U. S. Federal rule, and from Anishinaabe to French-Canadian and finally U. S. dominance in the region. Jane and her siblings grew up occupying both sides of a controversy; they were immediately involved in the War of 1812, with Jane’s father and brothers joining the British forces, and their house and trading post being burned down by American troops. Jane and her siblings were thus, over the course of their youth, Anishinaabe, British subjects, and Americans. While being fluent in French and English and schooled in Shakespeare, Milton, and Virgil, ultimately, they were deeply Métis: fluent in Anishinaabe language and culture, and innately connected to the land and their own cultural histories and family relations. Jane’s poetry emerged from and reflects this complex borderland.
When Jane was twenty-two, she and her family were enlisted by the new Indian Agent of the Upper Great Lakes, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, to help him with his research on Native American history, traditions, languages, and customs. A year after Henry’s arrival, he and Jane married, and with her as his primary source of information, he went on to write numerous books on Native American culture.
Jane’s writings reached a relatively wide audience during her lifetime through The Literary Voyager, or Muzzeniegun, the magazine she and her husband published together from December 1826 to March 1827. The weekly magazine was distributed to Detroit and New York City and included articles on Anishinaabe history, customs, and linguistics, as well as poems and stories, many written by Jane herself under pen names. The final issue, on March 28, 1827, gave notice of the death of Jane and Henry’s two-year-old son, and a series of elegies by Jane lamenting this loss.
While the magazine was short lived, Jane continued to write. Meanwhile, Henry’s ethnographic travels and resulting absences grew longer over the course of their twenty-year marriage. Many of Jane’s letters to Henry reveal her loneliness and depression, as well as a sense of isolation from the literary world in which her husband was engaged, as Parker notes in a section of his introduction on Jane’s personal world. Doctors prescribed laudanum as an antidote to her anguish, leading to an even more painful addiction. Her despair only deepened when Henry decided to send their children away from the Anishinaabe society to study in private schools in the East. The couple moved to New York City at Henry’s insistence, and during his subsequent travels to England, Jane went to stay with her sister, where she died, removed from the beloved homeland of her poems.
I grew up in the borderlands of identity—the daughter of a military diplomat, I spent more of my youth in Europe than in the United States. My father’s family has a deep Dutch New York history dating to the Revolutionary War, as well as German ancestry, which I was able to connect to as a kid living in Austria. My mother’s family is rooted and centralized in Oklahoma’s Muscogee history, which I was connected to every summer when my sister and I were sent home to the U. S. to live with our grandparents and cousins. I grew up understanding what it was to have a conflicted national and cultural identity; I also grew up understanding that homeland is a place of loss as much as it is a place to be found. My family’s stories of our ancestors—on all sides—were always a part of our identity, and I’m grateful for that connectedness. So when I began writing seriously, I sought my own literary ancestors—a concept Joy Harjo has graciously encouraged. I grew up reading Norton anthologies and learning the literary traditions of the United States as a realm occupied primarily by Englishmen, with a few upper-class women dotting the periphery. I did not find my literary ancestors in Whittier or Bradstreet, Whitman or Thoreau.
We now know that Jane had a particular, albeit concealed, influence on a number of these early writers. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, for example, based his The Song of Hiawatha on her stories. Yet until the discovery of her papers in 2002, little was known about her work or her and her family’s influence on Henry’s writings, whose prominence and literary activity inevitably overshadowed (and also absorbed) Jane’s.
When my mother gave me Joy Harjo’s poetry as a young teenager and told me this was a poet from our same Nation, I knew the story of “American” literature was incomplete as I had learned it. I knew there were other Mvskoke writers. Other Native women writers. So many literary ancestors hidden in the poems, under the palimpsest of writers who had erased them. When I came across Jane’s poetry, I knew this was one foundational ancestor. It is in her in-betweenness that I find myself. And also in her lonesomeness: the melancholy of her private poems, the solace she found in the land. Despite her in-betweenness, she always found herself whole in the land, as she tells us in her poem “To the Pine Tree”:
The pine! The pine! I eager cried, The pine, my father! see it stand, As first that cherished tree I spied, Returning to my native land. The pine! the pine! Oh lovely scene! The pine, that is forever green. (1–6)
What struck me most when I first started reading Jane’s work was how fluidly she wrote among genres and languages. Her prose reflects the Anishinaabe oral tradition, and relates the stories passed down to her by her mother and grandfather in Anishinaabe. She wrote at least eight Anishinaabe stories in English prose, as well as a number of nonfiction prose pieces, and translated and transcribed many Anishinaabe songs and oral texts. In addition, she wrote at least fifty poems (which have survived in her manuscript) in both English and Anishinaabemowin between 1815 and 1842.
Jane’s poetry embraces conventional romantic and pastoral themes, paralleling those of her Euro-American and British contemporaries, including William Wordsworth and Lydia Sigourney. Many of her poems both celebrate and elegize the natural world, and oscillate between a traditional Anishinaabe ethos and Christianized themes. While asserting her cultural identity and perspective, Jane could be considered in many ways a Romantic lyric poet. Her verse is highly metrical, as was the convention at the time, and generally took the form of iambic pentameter or tetrameter couplets. But her body of poetry, in addition to its elegies, sonnets, and odes, also encompasses a number of poems in Anishinaabe using original verse forms.
Like many other Native writers of the nineteenth century, her dismissal from the literary landscape has largely been the result of anthropologists’, scholars’, and writers’ attempts to “preserve” their idea of authentic “Indianness.” Even today, the poetry that remains in favor by non-Native audiences as the most “authentically Indian” are transcribed translations (by non-Natives) of tribal chants, songs, or ceremonial poetries; such idea of Native poetry supports, also, the public’s preferred idealization of the illiterate Native as the country figure in the city man’s pastoral.
We can find some of the early origins of the pastoral in the Idylls of Theocritus (316–260 BCE), a nostalgic poetry written about the shepherds of the poet’s native Sicily. This version of the simple life of shepherds was written not by or for the shepherds, but by the poet explicitly for the court at Alexandria. The word idyll is derived from the Greek eidyllion, meaning a short, picturesque poem describing an idealized scene. Thus, in addition to the mood of nostalgia, the tension between idealization and realism—innocence and experience—was established as a key element of this poetic form.
Pastoral conventions further developed by Virgil (70–19 BCE) included the idea of Arcadia: a retreat set in the Golden Age of the past and at a significant remove, in both time and locality, from the city and its complex profanities. Later, in the seventeenth century, Edmund Spenser used the pastoral frame in The Fairie Queene as a social critique of Elizabethan England, thus furthering Virgil’s social / political criticism as a pastoral convention. These pastoral contradictions—idealization and social critique—continued into the American colonial vision of landscape as both a frontier, with social and political implications, and a utopia of Arcadian, Edenic innocence.
As the pastoral traditionally attempted to speak for the shepherds, the twenty-first-century postpastoral attempts to take into consideration the multiplicity of voices that people our landscape, and to thereby interact with our collective ecosystem.
The pastoral poem thus can be considered a lyric mode by which to explore complex tensions and contradictions. It is a poetics that depends on binaries—nature / culture, noble / savage—and often recasts the urban-rural dialectic into and those of human making (industrial, technological, and the like). In keeping with this paradigm, non-Native writers of the nineteenth-century United States generally included the figure of the Indian as a pastoral element in their poetry. But in poetry written by Indian people—both Jane Johnston Schoolcraft and her peers as well as contemporary poets—we can find a distinctly different pastoral, one that I would argue is postpastoral. As the pastoral traditionally attempted to speak for the shepherds, the twenty-first-century postpastoral attempts to take into consideration the multiplicity of voices that people our landscape, and to thereby interact with our collective ecosystem. The postpastoral lyric, thus, is not a single voice, but has become multivocal and multifocal, negotiating the borderland(s) between human and nature. Indeed, the postmodern pastoral poem becomes the border itself. This space in between the binaries is where the poems of Jane Schoolcraft reside.
We can read the conflict of the changing world and the poet’s positioning in between the old ways and the new in Schoolcraft’s poem “The Contrast.”
Calm, tranquil—far from Fashion’s gaze Passed all my earliest, happy days Sweetly flew the golden hours, In St. Mary’s woodland bowers . . . (5–8)
This poem is defined by the nostalgia for childhood and its location in an idealized place. The “golden past” of this childhood era could almost be a Virgilian Arcadia—but this Arcadia is in a very recent past for the author and has faced actual destruction:
But ah! how changed is every scene, Our little hamlet, and the green, The long rich green, where warriors played, And often, breezy elm-wood shade. How changed, since full of strife and fear, The world hath sent its votaries here. (35–40)
The personal and cultural past becomes linked to a state of innocence and peace that the adult, profane world (tainted by consequences of colonialism) has indefinitely spoiled.
To gain one sordid bit of gold By trade’s o’er done plethoric moil, And lawsuits, meetings, courts and toil. (44–47)
The influence of the pastoral, likely from Jane’s extensive readings of British literature from her father’s library, is evident here: the court and the hamlet become oppositional social designs; warriors and lawyers are contrasted as occupying entirely different paradigms. Interestingly, the pastoralism of this poem foreshadows the contemporary American postpastoral concern for environmental degradation: “The tree cut down—the cot removed” (41).
The pastoral space is, in Schoolcraft’s vision, a threatened space; and the pastoral poem exists as a flare of warning, a confrontation with the forces of threat. But beneath this politics is also a personal poem, a lament for the loss of childhood, a confrontation with the toils of adulthood. For Jane, her adulthood became especially complicated, as her marriage to a white ethnographer of Native American culture placed her in the curious position of being both a subject of national fascination and a complicit narrator in this national objectification of an oppositional identity.
In Schoolcraft’s poem “On the Doric Rock, Lake Superior,” we can see this contradictory depiction and inhabitance of her “Indian” identity. The speaker in this poem could be both a colonist and one colonized. The idea of the Indian presented speaks of romanticization from a colonial perspective:
The simple Indian, as the work he spies, Looks up to nature’s God above the skies And though, his lot be rugged wild and dear, Yet owns the ruling power with soul sincere . . . (23–36)
While the simplicity is figured here as powerful, the poem also refers to the colonial project with deference, placing the “simple” in contrast with “knowledge.” Note the “native” as “dwellers . . . in indolence and ease.” Yet while the poem manages to occupy a contradictory politic, it is ultimately a poem in veneration of nature’s forms: “Where nature’s forms in varied shape and guise / Break on the view with wonder and surprise . . . ,” Schoolcraft writes (11–12); and “But far more wondrous,—for the fair design / No architect drew out, with measured line . . . ” (17–18).
The particular site of the poem, Doric Rock, becomes exemplary of nature’s “grandeur.” Nature, thus, is the ultimate beauty that art, failingly, attempts to mimic. In this poem, the “simple Indian” becomes the more knowledgeable of the divinity of nature, while those who roam the seas are still “surprised” by the “wonder” of natural beauty. Perhaps, then, while this poem may be read as servile to the conventional ideas of noble / savage, it is actually a poem that is complicating these ideas.
Jane’s vision embodies the pastoral’s simultaneous pull of retreat—seeking escape or refuge, usually within an idealized nature or childhood—and return—using the retreat as a frame to address the “real” society’s concerns. The anticolonial sentiment in her poems is often communicated as a criticism of the urban, social worlds that stand in contrast to the natural landscape of Jane’s Great Lakes region. For Jane, this natural landscape is a place of both retreat and return: it is her place of childhood innocence and also the place she returns to as a frame through which to evaluate self and society. One example of this can be found in the poem “Lines Written at Castle Island, Lake Superior”:
Here in my native inland sea From pain and sickness would I flee And from its shores and island bright Gather a store of sweet delight. (1–4)
Jane was also often ill, and went to nature to find physical, emotional, and spiritual respite: nature is a bountiful “store” of delight and also healing in its “bright” light. The contemporary social ills resulting from America’s political expansion are sometimes conflated with her own physical ailments. Still, the poem draws a clear pastoral dualism and political commentary, referring directly to the unjust treatment of her people under the new laws:
Ah, nature! here forever sway Far from the haunts of men away For here, there are no sordid fears, No crimes, no misery, no tears No pride of wealth; the heart to fill, No laws to treat my people ill. (11–16)
In Jane’s pastoral vision, her people are aligned with life-giving, easeful nature, and located in contrast to the crimes of the colonists.
This poem was written originally in Anishinaabe, but that version has not survived. Three translations have been found, all in Henry’s handwriting. This does not mean the translations were not Jane’s, as he often transcribed her poems in his own journals. The version chosen by Parker for inclusion in The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky, and reprinted here, is clearly Jane’s own translation, and is written in sixteen lines of rhyming couplets, demonstrating her formal skill.
The European Romantic themes and styles of Jane’s poetry may, for some, make her more Euro-American than Anishinaabe, but why would a poet of that era not exercise the prevailing, popular forms she is versed in? The Romantic melancholy of the late eighteenth century was a suitable tone for Schoolcraft’s subjects—the loss of her son, her personal and physical afflictions, and her enduring love of her homeland of the Great Lakes—just as the pastoral was an appropriate mode for her work.
“By an Ojibwa Female Pen” is notably pastoral, as it beckons its readers to an idyllic garden being returned to a state of innocence:
But soon the cool and balmy air, Shall dry the gems that sparkle there, With whisp’ring breath shake ev’ry spray, And scatter every cloud away. (7–10)
The poem follows in the tradition of Andrew Marvell’s “The Garden” in its rhyming couplets and balladlike meter—but not in its positionality or rhetoric. The poem’s first stanza, part of which is quoted above, is simply an invitation into a scene, while the second stanza compels through metaphor: the speaker is urging the sisters out of the darkness, invoking the “the breeze of hope” to part “sorrow’s clouds.” While some metaphor is used to convey the power of the natural scene, the elements themselves—rain, leaves, clouds—are animate; air becomes a “whisp’ring breath.” Throughout Schoolcraft’s work, nature’s animation speaks to both an Anishinaabe ethos and the pantheism of Romantic and Transcendentalist Euro-American poetry. The lyrical celebration of the natural world fits into the Euro-American Romantic conventions of the time, but also arises out of the author’s own cosmology, where land and people are inextricably connected. Jane’s attunement to the land is especially acute given her experience as an Indian / Métis struggling against loss of land to a barrage of invading forces. The land is alive and central to everything, in contrast to the Euro-American pastoral frame of landscape as a humanly determined and controlled “other” place.
Poems that lament the loss of homeland echo the pastoral elegy. But in most Native American poetry of the nineteenth century, the homeland, while idealized, is still real.
An important consideration in reading land in nineteenth-century Native American poetry, including Jane’s, is the deep loss associated with it—and with that loss, loss of people, culture, and humanity. Poems that lament the loss of homeland echo the pastoral elegy. But in most Native American poetry of the nineteenth century, the homeland, while idealized, is still real. The binary of imaginary (ideal) and real that constituted most pastoral poetry since Theocritus does not exist in these works. The homeland is still linked to childhood and innocence, especially in that it has not yet been touched by the lies and violence of white encroachment. But it is not an Arcadia; it is a real place and a very recent memory struggling for survival. This overlapping of idealized and real becomes a characteristic element of what I am calling a “Native” American pastoral. Similarly, the retreat and return are not set in opposing locations. Each side of the binary, while acknowledged, overlaps. If dualism is invoked, it is not fixed. As we see in “By an Ojibwa Female Pen,” the “realms of light and peace” are transitory; “life’s mix’d scene” only seems to cease, and briefly.
Jane wrote the poem “To The Pine Tree” in recollection of her journey home from Europe as a child. She remembers how the pine trees of her native land “greet” and “hail” her “with a friend’s delight.” As with the “whisp’ring breath” in Jane’s garden in “By an Ojibwa Female Pen,” while a Euro-American ethos might call this personification, one can argue that this poetic articulation of an animate, pantheistic nature is not figurative but actual.
As with many of Jane’s poems, “To the Pine Tree” was written first in Anishinaabe. The English version takes on the characteristic rhyme and tetrameter of poetry published during her era, which is distinctly different from her writing of Anishinaabemowin verse. While the English version has three six-line stanzas that each conclude with a repeating couplet—ababCC—the Anishinaabemowin version also uses repetition across its three stanzas. Each of the last three lines of the first stanza appears again at the conclusion of either the second or third stanzas. The English version, therefore, is a close translation of the original’s form. One interesting change in the English translation is the addition of England and Ireland in the third stanza—the comparison between where the poet came from and where she is going:
Not all the trees of England bright, Not Erin’s lawns of green and light Are half so sweet to memory’s eye, As this dear type of northern sky. (13–16)
The Anishinaabemowin version pays no attention to the other place, as if there is nothing else but this one “mother land” (10) that has always been with the speaker: “Mii sa naa azhigwa dagoshinaang,” she writes; in Margaret Noodin’s literal translation, “So we already have arrived” (7). While the speaker has returned, the place of return /arrival is “forever green.” This ideal is not the imaginary but the real. The speaker is not taking what was learned in an idealized Arcadia and returning home to reflect upon society. The writer herself is returning “home” to her pastoral retreat. The literal, and Schoolcraft’s own, translation of the line “Dagoshinaan neyab, endanakiiyaan”—“I return back, to my homeland” and “Returning to my native land,” respectively—highlight this different kind of pastoral return. It is not a return from the pastoral, but to the pastoral, which is the motherland. The retreat and return are to the same place.
Jane’s work has been more criticized than celebrated, and its artistic merits diminished, by many writers and critics I’ve been in conversation with, as either too sentimental or “inauthentic.” Mostly, she has been criticized by twentieth-century scholars and readers as being too absorbed with white canonical themes and styles, reflective more of an English romanticism than Anishinaabe life and culture. Before this, she was further criticized by her husband, Henry, who made statements depicting Jane “as an emblem of assimilation and as liaison between Indians and non-Indians more than as a writer and intellectual,” as A. LaVonne Brown Ruoff writes in an essay, “Early Native American Women Authors,” in the anthology Nineteenth-century American Women Writers, edited by Karen L. Kilcup. In the mid-nineteenth century, due to her husband’s representation of her and the circulation of The Literary Voyager, Jane acquired the public reputation as the “northern Pocahontas,” as Kilcup notes in another volume, Native American Women’s Writing 1800–1924. All of these conceptions of Jane, none of which acknowledge the accomplishments and originality of her poetry, speak to a general devaluation of women and Native Americans (along with other minorities) in the nineteenth-century literary and intellectual landscape.
Identified as the first American Indian “literary” writer, the first published American Indian poet, and the first published American Indian woman poet, Jane and her poetry carry a heavy burden of representation. As she is, at the moment, one of the few published Native voices from that time, readers today would likely expect her work to be representative of Native American people in the early 1800s, and particularly representative of women’s experience of that era. But Jane’s poetry, stories, and written correspondence reveal her to be a complex character who is at once Anishinaabe and also an Irish-American Christian. As Parker notes in The Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky, “In her poems…she was capable of referring to Indian people from a superior distance, as ‘the simple Indian,’ while also capable of referring to Indians as ‘my people.’ ” Her representation of herself in her poetry is far from a singularly defined self.
Parker writes that Jane’s writing, after The Literary Voyager, was not created with an expectation of audience or public censure; so it’s likely she was not concerned with writing a poetry of political or social representation as we would think of it today. She wrote generally for herself, responding to personal and intellectual topics and exploring a range of styles. One can read, in Schoolcraft’s poems, a vibrant rewriting of the literary materials available to her through her father’s library, and an incorporation of her Anishinaabe oral literature and culture into a unique poetics. The categorization of Schoolcraft’s poetry as anything other than an original body of work would diminish it to artifact.
Contemporary readers looking for a unified understanding of early Native American literature must acknowledge the pursuit as one insistent on categories of representation, which is the same process that has left Native writers out of the canon. By insisting that a literature be representative of a large group that is itself diverse, one is, in effect, denying the literature, and its writers, of its originality and diversity. Jane Johnston Schoolcraft is representative only in that she reminds us that a singular notion of Native American literature cannot be represented; and of the enduring ingenuity, diversity, and creativity of people who were categorized by the dominant culture as candidates for extinction. By existing in such a paradox of representation, in such a violent borderland, Schoolcraft’s poetry can be read as a poetry engaged in a very postpastoral perspective.
In our era, the pastoral has experienced a significant evolution in its paradigms of nature / culture, urban / rural, worker / rural, noble / savage, and other binaries upon which the mode has long depended. In this cultural evolution, the view of the landscape—our engagement with land and with the landscape of our literary “memory”—is also changing. It is my hope that we can endeavor new readings of our U. S. literary heritage that allow literature by Native people its rightful place in our ecosystem of writers. This will take a wide-scale willingness to reconfigure the United States’ deep-reaching pastoral imagination. Perhaps we can turn to the Native American writers of the nineteenth century, such as Schoolcraft, to learn more about the twenty-first-century postpastoral. As a post position, after all, it is not new—only a reflection of a version of modernity.