A new wave of Native American writers and artists are creating works that reflect the realities of what it means to be Native American today.
Up-and-coming authors Tommy Orange and Tommy Pico have moved off reservations to urban settings where, according to the Urban Indian Health Institute, 70 percent of Native American and Native Alaskans now live. Orange pulls no punches in his highly acclaimed debut novel, There There. Each chapter is told from the perspective of a different character, all urban Indians living in Oakland, Calif., as they all head toward a climatic meeting at the Oakland Pow Wow. Pico's Nature Poem follows Teebs, "a young, queer, American Indian (or NDN) poet—who can't bring himself to write a nature poem. For the reservation-born, urban-dwelling hipster, the exercise feels stereotypical, reductive and boring. He hates nature. He prefers city lights to the night sky. He'd slap a tree across the face."
In her memoir Heart Berries, Therese Marie Mailhot tackles the subject of intergenerational trauma experienced by many Native American woman. According to the Indian Law Resource Center, four in five Native American/Native Alaskan women have experienced violence, and one in two have experience sexual violence. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health's report "American Indians/Alaska Natives and Mental Health," suicide is the leading cause of death for Native American/Native Alaskan girls 10 to 14. In the chapter "Indian Sick," we learn of Mailhot's descent into bipolar disorder and the suicidal thoughts that caused her to commit herself to a hospital. While Mailhot's writing style can be challenging at times, but that seems to be exactly the point: The Native American experience, specifically that of this Native woman, often does not follow a linear path.
James Beard Award-winning chef Sean Sherman is striving to return to the foods eaten by Native Americans prior to colonization. Post-colonization, many Native Americans were forced to subsist on government commodities. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health's report "American Indians/Alaska Natives and Obesity," Native American/Native Alaskan adolescents are 30 percent more like to be obese than their white peers, and Native adults are 50 percent more likely to be obese. Sherman dispels outdated notions of Native American fare—no fry bread or Indian tacos here. Contemporary, healthful and authentic, his dishes feature cedar-braised bison, griddled wild rice cakes, deviled duck eggs, roasted corn sorbet and hazelnut-maple bites. The Sioux Chef's Indigenous Kitchen is a rich education and a delectable introduction to modern indigenous cuisine of the Dakota and Minnesota territories, with a vision and approach to food that travels well beyond those borders.