Waiting for Wovoka: Envoys of Good Cheer and Liberty

Wesleyan Univ Mar. 2023. 120p. ISBN 9780819500427. $55. F
In the early Sixties, near Spirit Lake, MN, sits the Theatre of Chance, a roomy, ramshackle cabin serving as a crucial refuge for abused and lost young Indigenous runaways from government reservation schools or poverty-stricken homes. Here they find humor, solace, and courage from a nonspeaking puppeteer named Dummy Trout, an opera buff and well-read elderly Indigenous woman. She guides the youngsters in creating dream songs, poetry, and hand puppets to perform puppet parleys. These creative diversions counter 300 years of treacherous federal agents, well-meaning missionaries, and the mercenary fur trade slaughtering their totemic animals. An Indigenous troupe based in Paris sends Dummy Trout a postcard alerting her to their return to the United States, asking to meet up in Seattle at the World’s Fair. Arriving in an old, brightly painted school bus, the troupe attends a performance of Waiting for Godot and, influenced by Beckett’s themes of absurdity and nihilism, prepares a puppet parley between Sitting Bull and Samuel Becket with overtones of a powerful Paiute shaman Wokova to mock authority.
VERDICT Of the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, the award-winning Vizenor (Native Provenance) here fictionalizes his great-uncles as he constructs a powerful portrait of the Indigenous condition through innovative setting and characters.
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