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Miko Kings: An Indian Baseball Story (LeAnne Howe)

April 11, 2010

This is the second time I’ve read Miko Kings, and this time I was reading it with a specific focus in mind. I’m presenting a paper on this book at the NAISA conference this May, and was thinking about two main ideas as I read the book this time: the way Howe addresses history and the way she incorporates ideas of science into her story. I’ll elaborate.

Okay, so with regards to history, I was thinking of two things. First, I was thinking about how she reappropriates baseball — America’s so-called pastime — and grounds its origins in Native American culture. She explains how baseball was a cultural game played as a way to welcome one tribe to have transactions with another tribe. She also talks about stickball and how it served many purposes — training young men to be warriors by bringing them endurance, etc. — and looks at how certain elements of baseball are not coherent with western traditions or ways of thought. For instance, she focuses on how baseball is a game without limits; she also talks about how the pitcher stands on a mound (making him the connection between the earth and the heavens) and how the players move counterclockwise. There’s more, but this is the basic stuff. Well, this reclamation of the sport is one way of addressing history — the way that it has been told by one culture at the expense of another. She also brings up another idea that is really important, and will likely feature prominently in my paper later this spring: written history (legal documents, newspaper clippings, etc.) cannot be trusted. Histories that are put onto paper can lie, but in Howe’s novel the histories that are told are not only much different than the ones that are written, but they’re more honest, more accurate. The value placed on written histories is misplaced, while oral histories are increasingly important but also overlooked. There’s more, but for now that’ll have to do.

Okay, on to science. So Ezol and Hope Little Leader are able to transcend the limitations of time, shifting back and forth between the past, present, and future. Ezol has elaborate theories about time, and often has to deal with Lena’s ideas of how Native Americans aren’t using science or math when in fact, as Ezol points out, they have a long history with these technologies that western science fails to recognize as valid (an idea that has clearly permeated Lena’s mind). She explains her theories at times, and Lena also reads about them in Ezol’s papers. She discusses the connections between Choctaw language and the movement of bodies in time and space, articulating ideas about how the language one speaks opens up possibilities that other languages may not allow for. She also talks about the incompatibility between English and Choctaw, and explains that the verb tenses in English shut down temporal possibilities. In many ways, Ezol is far more advanced than western scientists and mathemeticians (after all, she has mastered the art of time travel) and has developed greater insights into complicated theories of time and space than western theoreticians and philosophers.

For more detailed analysis, you’ll have to attend this May’s NAISA conference in Tuscon. 😉

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