By Sheena Louise Roetman
This past summer, Sovereign Bodies ran criticism of the Taking Back Tiger Lily theme for Four Winds Literary Magazine’s third issue. The criticism was valid in that it was the opinion of its author. It was not a critique of the ‘zine itself, as it had not yet been released, and was rather a statement in which Tiffany Midge disagreed with the idea of the them – she did not feel that the idea of Tiger Lily deserved to be revisited by Indian country. But all of this has been covered already.
One of the more poignant criticisms Sovereign Bodies received in response was that this piece criticizing the idea of Tiger Lily fit within the theme itself – that Midge’s criticism of Tiger Lily was revisiting the idea of her, even if only to arrive at the same conclusion.
So, as a gesture of good faith, I’m here to as-objectively-as-possible tell you what I think about the 22-piece collection of fiction, poetry and personal essays that editor Misty Shipman Ellingburg has put together under the controversial theme.
Even before all the fuss, I had seen the call for entries and was excited because people kept calling it a zine and, in my day, a zine was a black and white, taped-and-glued together, photo-copied booklet someone had hand-stapled in their bedroom in the middle of the night when they were avoiding English papers. So my first impression was, admittedly, one of disappointment because the punk rocker in me still longs for the days of using my lunch money to mail order zines from all over the world, and receive personalized little envelopes full of comics, stickers, music reviews and essays written by people just like me.
But the beauty of the Internet (and sometimes its curse as well) is access for all, and we’ve seen positive proof of this in Indian Country over the past few years. Social media in particular has lead to movements with actual, verifiable results. We have created change by using the tools we have, and this is something at which Indigenous people are particularly adept.
And I think that’s exactly the sort of beauty that Four Winds has shown, in previous issues as well as the current Taking Back Tiger Lily issue. I was genuinely blown away with the variety of the writers themselves, especially since Indian Country can be a rather small world sometimes, and I had never heard of or read half the writers who were included.
The current issue features pieces from Indigenous people from all sorts of backgrounds – different nations, of course, but also different ages, gender identities, experience levels, academic backgrounds, etc. I’ve always said that I want Sovereign Bodies to feature the variety and depth of Indian Country, and I feel whole-heartedly that that’s what Four Winds strives to do as well.
Whether you agree with the idea of the theme or not, I firmly believe that Misty’s goal was to highlight exactly that – that we in Indian Country will not always agree, but giving space to those differing opinions and ideas is what matters.