Beth Brant also known as Degonwadonti belongs to the Turtle Clan which is a Bay of Quinte Mohawk from the Theyindenaga reserve in Deseronto, Ontario. Brant grew up in Detroit, Michigan were she married and had three daughters. After divorcing her husband, Brant decided to write.
In Brant’s writing she often refers to the white assimilation that occurred in the 1890’s. In her story, A Long Story Brant discusses the removal of thousands of Native American children from their home,
“It has been two days since they came and took the children away. My body is greatly chilled. All our blankets have been used to bring me warmth. The women keep the fire blazing. The men sit. They talk among themselves. We are frightened by this sudden child-stealing……It is good for them, the agent said. It will make them civilized, the agent said. I do not know civilized” (834).
During the 1870’s the Protestant Church was thought to have lost control of the Native Americans. The Government therefore thought to put into a new act that would help them gain control of this type of culture that they were not familiar with. The Americans put together a Reform Policy that was used to help “civilize” Native Americans but suppressing their culture and communities. The Policy therefore often discouraged any act of participating in their previous culture, for fear that it would disrupt the cohesive process.
The Dawes Act followed, the Reform Policy between the years of 1887 and 1933. A US philanthropist once stated , “safely guided from the night of barbarism into the fair dawn of Christian civilization”. This quote helps to explain the idea that the Native Americans should have to speak English American, be of the Christian faith, and basically act and dress in American ways. Because of the Dawes Act, most of the land was split up into plots and were sold to US citizens.
By assimilation cultures, Americans were hoping to create a melting pot of different cultures together. But realistically Americans were more interested in the idea of having just people all become Americans and be a part of the American culture of being white and partake in Christianity.
Going back to Brant’s idea, Brant uses the oppression of the Native Americans in her story, A Long Story. Brant discusses two different women from different time periods. As stated earlier, Brant uses a heterosexual Native American woman point of view when discussing the assimilation that is decided for her. The other woman Brant discusses is the a homosexual female who’s family is being oppressed because they are not the culture norm,
“He took her hand and pulled her to the car. The look in his eyes of triumph. It was a contest to him. I know he will teach he to hate us. He will!” (840).
For the reader, Brant provides a moving story that allows for connections between two different cultures that have faced oppression because they are not of what is accepted of them. Brant is an excellent writer to strives to get her message across but achieves so much more.
“When I use the enemy’s language to hold onto my strength as a Mohawk lesbian writer, I use it as my own instrument of power in this long, long battle against racism.” -Beth Brant (from her essay “From The Inside Looking At You” in Writing as Witness: Essay and Talk)