Mark Rifkin is Director of the Women's and Gender Studies Program and Professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro and the author of several books, including
Ghost Dancing at Century’s End
The most well-known example of Indigenous prophecy is the Ghost Dance. For this very reason, the memory of the Ghost Dance serves as a powerful entry point for considering the work of prophecy, in its challenge to settler narratives of the historical inevitability of Indian subordination and disappearance. In Sherman Alexie’s Indian Killer (1996) and Leslie Marmon Silko’s Gardens in the Dunes (1999), the Ghost Dance emerges in response to everyday forms of relationship and struggle. The texts suggest how such ordinary sensations give rise to prophecy and are intensified by it, commonplace events and dynamics creating conditions for action by entities that likely would be characterized by non-natives as supernatural. Rejecting reproductively-inflected narratives of inheritance and declension, Alexie and Silko’s texts elaborate the intimacy of modes of prophetic reach across time, emphasizing the possibilities for self-determination and Indigenous duration that arise in being out-of-sync with settler time.