Sherman Alexie Interview

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By Patti Tanewasha

Wednesday March 7th 2012, Haskell was visited by Indian countries own Sherman Alexie. He’s the author of, “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian”,which is the winner of the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature. Sherman Alexie is a member of the Spokane Indian Tribe, from Wellpinit, Washington. Sitting down with Alexie we start the interview, and aquaint ourselves, and then I ask, “how do you feel about the Tucson banning your book?’

Photo By Patricia Tanewasha

Just a slight pause and Alexie replies, “Book Banners don’t actually realize how it makes our books more important, and it sells more copies, now every kid in Tucson will want to read the book.”A student would feel rebellious to read Alexie’s book, or any other book on the banned list, and to ban a book would encourage an act of curiosity and investigation. Alexie mentions “If you’re banning me because of sexual mentions I can understand that, but to ban a racial studies program, an ethnic studies program that’s just pure racism.” When you are here at Haskell, or in Indian Country, there is an abundance of Native Pride. But when you to go outside of Indian country how do things change in regards to acceptance and diversity in those settings today?

The next question I asked was “How would you motivate young native scholars to stay educated, and engaged in our modern learning environment?” Alexie replies, “Natives and the internet; this new technology we just started doing it, back when I started, there where many writers, and poets. Today there isn’t many. There should be an international powwow of online of Native scholars, and academics, I should do it!” Pow-wows during the summer are seasonal but an online Pow-wow filled with scholars and academics calls for frybread full of knowledge and dances of success.

Alexie states “I have three Nieces here at Haskell currently, and I’m glad they all came together (because) their chances of staying are so much higher; it’s really about having someone close toyou so you feel that support”. Throughout any Native’s survival situation, someone will always be there to help or encourage you to finish.

If you were to ask any student here at Haskell what is one Native classic Movie, the top reply would be Smoke Signals, written and co-produced by Sherman Alexie. I asked “What are your new and current projects?” Alexie stated, “I’m working on a new book of poems What I’ve Stolen What I’ve Earned, that will be out  this fall,  and working on another sequel it’s  TheAbsolute True Diary of Part time Indian: Sophomore year magic and tragic year of my broken thumb.” Alexie has more books to follow and new surprises on every page. He mentions, “Also Thomas Buildsafire and Victor Joseph are back after eleven years of not being written about, on another road trip they’re back older and fatter. Victor is a blackjack dealer; Thomas is still going around and still telling stories.”

During Alexie’s presentation students, faculty, and staff came together to hear what Alexie brought to share with us. Alexie said,” Knowledge is Tradition,” a prominent quip which to the audience was thought provoking. Laughter and learning took place at Haskell in our Auditorium that night. His night at Haskell accentuates his career, yet again making history in Indian Country.