Favorite Class: Native American Literature
I am entering my last semester at Mount and I have made it through a lot of classes. When it comes to choosing my favorite, I would have to say that Native American literature, taught by Dr. Olin-Hitt, was one of the most engaging and interesting courses I’ve experienced. I was always interested in Native American culture, which perhaps stemmed from my dad’s questionable claims that I am part Cherokee or my childhood crush on Lou Diamond Phillips in Young Guns, and I wanted to learn more about a culture that, at a glance, I found very intriguing.
Dr. Olin-Hitt did two things on the first day of class that made me feel comfortable; he had us sit in a circle and he took time to learn our names. These things allowed us to have meaningful discussions, starting with comparing Native American creation stories to Judeo/Christian stories. When conversations got heated and beliefs began to clash, Dr. Olin-Hitt said something that I now keep in mind in my own writing – even though it may have not really happened, the story holds truth.
We also read contemporary Native American stories, and it was there that I fell in love with boys like Victor Joseph and Thomas Builds-the-Fire. The writer who created them, Sherman Alexie, is my go-to author when I read for pleasure; so when some swanky professional asks me, “What are you reading?” I can give them an answer that shows my appreciation for humor. Writing just one thing as funny as Alexie is very high on my bucket list.
We were lucky enough to hear from Dr. Olin-Hitt’s friend from Montana, Red Tail, who has been adopted by the Shoshone tribe. He is a gentle-spoken presenter and an all-around great guy, and he told us about his perspective on Native Americans.
Dr. Olin-Hitt also shared the Lakota Pipe Ceremony with us. He began the ceremony by honoring the four directions, the sky and earth and explained that it embodied Mitakuye Oyas’in, meaning “All my relatives” or “We are all related.” It was optional to smoke the pipe, and students could hold it to their hearts and talk about what they were grateful for. I was one of the few students, and the only female, who chose to smoke it. It was difficult to light the tobacco and pull smoke through the long stem of the pipe with the autumn wind, but the ceremony ended up being very beautiful.
Through this class, I have gained insight on a culture full of depth and lovely ideology, as well as strengthened my writing skills by reading a variety of Native American authors. Dr. Olin-Hitt has taught the course for 21 years and it is his favorite, too. The class is usually offered every other year, and if you get the chance I recommend you take it.