The powerful voice of Beth Brant
Brant was born in her grandparents house in Michigan to an Irish-Scots mother and a Mohawk father. Tension soon began to rise due to the fact that her mother’s family disapproved initially of her marriage to an Indian, the Brants then went to live with the fathers family in Detroit. The racism experienced from her mothers side of the family seems to have been one of Brant’s first experiences with it. Brant is described as having a “powerful voice” and producing impressive bodies of work. “I am a Mohawk lesbian,” Beth Brant proudly states in Writing as Witness, “These two identities are parts of who I am.” Brant has written powerful fiction documenting a form of cultural genocide which is the destruction of traditions, values, language, and other elements which make one group of people distinct from other groups. Within her short work “A Long Story” we see Brant’s frustrations with culture and race as mothers are described as devastated when their children are taken away from them.
A Long Story first begins with, “It has been two days since they came and took the children away” (839). The theft refers to the removal of thousands of Native American children from their homes to place them in government- sponsored, white-run Indian boarding schools. “Not only were they robbed of their children, their lifeline, but their children were robbed of their culture–given non- Indian names, taught “civilized ways,” made strangers” (839). The mother lost sight of who her children were as they were learning “civilized ways.” She states, “I am afraid of Martha and Daniel. These strangers who know my name… There is no Martha. There is no Daniel” (841). The children were taken away from their homes and turned into “strangers” because of their race, because they were Native Americans. “Brant’s powerful story and revolutionary voice demonstrates the oppression and cruelty towards families by dominant culture through time” (Moorhead).
Listed below are a few stories written or edited by Brant. Addressing racism is one theme that appears often in her writing.
“Since I didn’t begin to write until I turned forty years of age, I look upon my writing as a marvelous gift that has changed my life. I write because I have a great commitment to the communities of which I am a member–Indian, gay and lesbian, working-class–and the larger community of Earth and Her many inhabitants. My work is charged with a political and nationalist consciousness, that of a Mohawk lesbian who believes in the power and beauty of language to heal and to open hearts and minds.”
Click on the link below to understand a little more about the civilization of Native Americans!