American Indian Heritage Month: Commemoration vs. Exploitation
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Rose, Wendy

A noted poet and anthropologist with over twelve books to her credit, Wendy Rose, of Hopi, Miwok, and European ancestry, is also a visual artist. Rose was born Bronwen Elizabeth Edwards on May 7, 1948, in Oakland, California. She grew up with her mother, brother, and stepfather in the San Francisco Bay Area. A high school dropout, she became involved in San Francisco's bohemian culture in her teens and began writing.

Rose attended Cabrillo and Contra Costa Junior Colleges and the University of California at Berkeley from 1966 to 1980, taking a master's degree in cultural anthropology at Berkeley in 1978 and completing coursework for a Ph.D. in anthropology. From 1978 to 1983, Rose taught in the Native American studies and ethnic studies programs at Berkeley, then at Fresno State University in 1983–1984. Since that time, she has served as head of the American Indian studies program at Fresno City College. She was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in poetry in 1980.

Ranging in themes from personal and cultural identity to activism to indictments of genocidal acts, her writing has been anthologized widely. Her first volume of poetry, Hopi Roadrunner Dancing, was published in 1973 and contains several poems that refer to the occupation of Alcatraz Island by an inter-tribal group of Indians in an attempt to raise public awareness of Native issues. Long Division: A Tribal History (1976) and Academic Squaw: Reports to the World from the Ivory Tower (1977) both include poems that chronicle Rose's ongoing issues with the conflict between anthropological methods and respect for the people and cultures studied. "Academic Squaw" is written from the perspective of a Lakota woman murdered and dismembered along with her infant in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890. It is preceded by an epigraph from the Plains Indian Art Auction Catalog, chronicling prices for the items stolen from the men, women, and children slain there. This is a common technique of Rose, and this particular poem has been often reprinted. Lost Copper (1980), which contains the shorter "Builder Kachina: A Home-Going Cycle" and was originally printed as a twelve-page chapbook in 1979, further explores Rose's quest for a sense of connectedness to her people and asserts an association with the earth from a personal and cultural perspective.

What Happened When the Hopi Hit New York, published in 1982, focuses on landscapes and investigates the graffiti of contemporary culture using an anthropological method. Going to War with All My Relations (1993) and The Halfbreed Chronicles & Other Poems (1985) contain many strong poems protesting injustice on the behalf of oppressed people, who include such diverse figures as Truganinny, the last full-blooded Tasmanian, a woman whose body was put on display in museums for over eighty years despite her protest at seeing her husband's remains defiled in this way prior to her death, and Julia Pastrana, a Mexican woman who was put on tour as a curiosity because of her facial deformities and a medical condition that caused excessive hair growth.

Rose's subsequent books of poetry include Now Poof She Is Gone (1994), Bone Dance: New and Selected Poems, 1965–1992 (1994), and Itch Like Crazy (2002). Her poetry continues to explore her earlier themes as well as feminism from a Native perspective. Rose also authored a monograph entitled Aboriginal Tattooing in California in 1979. "Neon Scars," an autobiographical essay published in 1987 in Brian Swann and Arnold Krupat's collection, I Tell You Now: Autobiographical Essays by Native American Writers, recounts her personal experiences as a survivor of abuse and its impetus for her poetry. Rose has served as an editor for American Indian Quarterly, one of the most noted scholarly journals in the field of Native studies, and remains involved in community and academic projects.

Kimberly Roppolo


Further Reading
"Wendy Rose." Voices from the Gaps: Women Writers of Color. Available at: http://voices.cla.umn.edu/newsite/authors/ ROSEwendy.htm. Accessed March 29, 2005.; Champagne, Duane, ed. 1994. The Native North American Almanac: A Reference Work on Native North Americans in the United States and Canada. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.; Johansen, Bruce E., and Donald A. Grinde, Jr., eds. 1997. The Encyclopedia of Native American Biography: Six Hundred Life Stories of Important People, from Powhatan to Wilma Mankiller. New York: Henry Holt.; Malinowski, Sharon, ed. 1995. Notable Native Americans. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.
 

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