By Michelle Mullowney ’17, from St. Catherine University Magazine spring 2022 issue.
On November 17, St. Catherine University was honored to welcome author, artist, and activist Marcie Rendon in conversation with St. Kate’s associate professor of education Dawn Quigley, PhD. Sponsored by the Office for Intercultural Engagement, St. Catherine University Library and Archives, and the Core Curriculum, the evening constituted St. Kate’s fall 2021 Core Convocation and an event in the 2021 One Read for Racial Justice series.
The following is an excerpt from the conversation between Marcie Rendon, Dawn Quigley, and Anh-Hoa Nguyen, MFA, administrative assistant for the Division of Arts and Humanities. The three authors discussed Rendon’s novel Girl Gone Missing in the context of Native women’s knowledge, representation, and resilience.
Dawn Quigley: I think you wrote a heroine for us, for us Native women and for all women, to stand up, get in there, play pool... One of your quotes that I love is, “Native people need to be heard more.”
Marcie Rendon: Unfortunately, so many people raised in a U.S. educational system don’t know that we still exist; in their mindset we’re still like Dances With Wolves and John Wayne killed us all off. We have a voice, we have a story, we exist, we’re here. There’s this woman, Frances Densmore, who was an ethnomusicologist at the beginning of the 1900s. In one of the books that she wrote for the Smithsonian, she said that Ojibwe people were schizophrenic, because we see and hear things that other people don’t. When I read that as a young person, I was so angry that this woman could just make this blanket indictment against my people — and people value her; she’s in the Smithsonian, so why wouldn’t they believe her? Our way of life was seen as crazy or not real, and it’s very real.
Anh-Hoa Nguyen: And I think that goes back to why we need so many more books by BIPOC authors, because there are so many different ways to understand the world. And when you don’t see your experience represented, you do think you’re crazy, or other people want to make you think that. Dawn has been helping me learn about Indigenous research methods — this idea that just because it’s not in a book or a library, or by someone in the Smithsonian, doesn’t mean that that information isn’t true or valid. You’re utilizing your lived experience.
DQ: “Stories handed down, you can’t use those in a paper” — yes, you actually can! It’s called Indigenous research methodologies: songs, poems, art, looking at the world and expressing them in a different way other than a peer-reviewed article. There’s not one way to write a book, there’s not one way to research.
AN: Could you talk a little bit about what it means for you to be in community with other women and the importance of that in your life?
MR: When I came down here to the Cities, I was a single mom, and I knew that it was really important to build a community of women around me. I have friends from the time I got here to the Cities who are still my friends now. We’ve been through kid-raising together, I got a master’s degree, but always having a circle of women for me that I can be connected to and they can be connected to me. I don’t think you should ever forget the importance of women in your life.
DQ: I would agree. All my writer critique friends are Native women, and so there’s this community I feel safe with, because I’ve got their back also. Native women, like you’ve said, have always led and have always helped communities stay together. Another quote from you, Marcie, is, “We need to talk more about resiliency of Native people instead of trauma.”
MR: Are you familiar with the Indian on the horse, who’s all bent over and dejected? “The End of the Trail.” That’s this iconic, stereotypical Native image — and we are so much more than that. Those of us who are alive are the descendants of the 5% who did not get killed off. There was a genocidal policy on this continent to kill us off, and we didn’t get killed off. The resilience that we all have is unbelievable when you think about the oppression that we faced, and so [we need to] write those stories of resiliency — of hope.
Girl Gone Missing by Marcie Rendon
In this second installment of Rendon’s mystery series, set in the 1970s, Anishinabe college student Cash Blackbear starts having dreams of white women in the Midwest being trafficked to larger cities. Girl Gone Missing was selected as the fall 2021 One Read for Racial Justice book, which is part of the 2021–23 Integrated Learning Series focusing on Indigenous Thought Leadership. More about the book, author, and other recommended readings by Native writers: stkate.edu/OneRead