IAH 221C Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Urban Indian, Native American Identity In The United States, Pow Wow

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24 Feb 2020

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Davis 1
Megan Davis
Dr. McCleese
IAH 221C
Response Paper 3
29 April 2019
Understanding Urban Indian Identity Through Technology
Tommy Orange’s novel, There There, explores the twenty-first century reality of Native
American life in the United States. The novel is comprised of several separate narrations
following the characters who eventually attend a powwow in the urban setting of Oakland,
California. The literary term setting is made up of the geographical location, historical time
period, and social milieu of the literary work. In this urban setting, the narrations include
backstories that reveal the characters’ complex relationships to their Native American
backgrounds and to each other. Through technology, it is shown how many of these Urban
Indian characters’ pasts are connected to the historical trauma suffered by Native Americans and
how events in their lives may have led them to the choices they make. Overall, by examining
why Orvil can’t tell his story in Part IV “The Powwow”, we can see the struggle to connect to his
Urban Indian identity and how the performance of historical trauma works in There There.
To begin, Orvil is a prime example of an Urban Indian teen who is struggling to feel
connected to his Native American heritage. For instance, this is seen when he finds a ceremonial
outfit in his grandmother’s closet and begins to try on the clothing. Orange vividly describes this
experience by explaining that “Orvil stands in front of Opal’s bedroom mirror with his regalia on
all wrong. It isn’t backward, and actually he doesn’t know what he did wrong, but it’s off. He
moves in front of the mirror and his feathers shake. He catches the hesitation, the worry in his
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