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Remembering Kin: Constructing Creek Tribal Sites of Memory

McLaughlin, Olena
This dissertation is a tribally-specific study of Creek texts, Alexander Posey's The Fus Fixico Letters, Joy Harjo's memoir Crazy Brave and Sterlin Harjo's documentary This May Be the Last Time, that focuses on manifestations of Creek kinship memory. Kinship memory reflects the complex systems that define belonging in many Indigenous communities and signifies interdependence and relationality that are at the core of kinship for Indigenous nations. It presupposes accountability to past, present, and future, but also focuses on agency of its carriers. By centering kinship practices, it assists Indigenous nations in asserting sovereignty. For each Native nation, kinship memory serves as the core of their national/tribal identity based on what the nation holds important or chooses to remember/include for the definition of their identity. The dissertation investigates three Creek texts as potential sites of kinship memory reflecting tribally-specific past and present and containing tribally-specific worldviews, histories, cultural, political, spiritual, and everyday practices. Close reading of the three texts revealed that most often the narrators presented their individual experiences through the prism of communal/tribal experiences that constitute kinship memory, which then, in its turn, defines Creek identity. Investigation of the texts showed that the narrators and characters that populate the texts define Creekness through their relationship to their community, tribal history, tribal landscape, Creek oral tradition, music, intergenerational trauma, participation in tribal current affairs, cultural realia such as traditional meals, everyday practices and objects of everyday use, etc. The dissertation claims that these works not only reflect the past, but participate in construction of the future; that is, they not only help remember the past, but actively shape the community's cultural present. The recurring use of memory in these works re-examines historic and cultural pasts, inscribes Indigenous peoples into the narrative of contemporaneity, and resists the western mythology of erasure. Both personal and kinship memories offered by Joy Harjo, Sterlin Harjo, and Alexander Posey in their works have the ability to exercise power over the colonial metanarrative.