Abstract

This article provides a comparative close reading of Ella Deloria’s and Stephen Riggs’s translations of the ancient and sacred Dakota creation story “Fallen Star.” Although Deloria, a fluent Dakota/Lakota speaker, published several books on the Dakota oral storytelling tradition, Riggs is often viewed as the expert on Dakota culture, language, and literature. The impulse to privilege Riggs is problematic, because it is a new iteration of settler colonialism and patriarchy that further oppresses the Dakota nation and delegitimizes its rich and complex literary traditions. As an ethnologist and linguist, Riggs transformed the rich and complex Dakota oral storytelling tradition into a static cultural artifact. This article examines how Deloria corrected Riggs’s work to incorporate tribally specific beliefs, values, and worldviews into a new interpretation of “Fallen Star.”

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