<i>Two Old Women</i>: An Example of Gwich'in Stewardship
This project analyzes Two Old Women by Velma Wallis, which provides insight into how an Indigenous writer has engaged in cultural reclamation in Alaska. Based on a traditional Gwich’in story, the novel is a cautionary tale about respect for Elders and strength in community. Through theories of survivance and stewardship, I examine how Wallis’s writing preserves cultural literacies, promotes cultural survival, resists colonial pressures to fully assimilate, and mediates dominant literacies. In particular, I examine how Wallis uses stories of subsistence and survival; place-specific language about animals, landscapes, and place-based activities in interior Alaska; and translanguaging between English and Gwich’in. Together, Wallis’s use of story, place-based language, and translanguaging demonstrates potential tactics of stewardship as a means of preserving and promoting Gwich’in culture. Overall, Wallis’ efforts of cultural revitalization align with movements toward decolonization and survivance.
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