Glass Tepee

Description

94 pages
$12.95
ISBN 1-894345-47-9
DDC C811'.6

Publisher

Year

2002

Contributor

Reviewed by Joan A. Lovisek

Joan Lovisek, Ph.D., is a consulting anthropologist and ethnohistorian
in British Columbia.

Review

This collection of poems contains themes, as the title Glass Tepee
evokes, of transparency and exposure, reflection and fragmentation,
brittleness and brokenness, brightness and light among Native peoples.
The poems reflect a critical consciousness of the social reality of
Native peoples from the mythical past to contemporary society. The
author, Garry Gottfriedson, is able to voice through the poems
often-critical observations about Native society, especially involving
band politics, that would be difficult if not impossible for others to
communicate in other genres. Gottfriedson is a band councilor for the
Kamloops Indian Band (a Shuswap band in central B.C.), an instructor at
the University College of the Cariboo, and a rancher.

The poems are organized into three categories. The “Horsechild”
poems are based on themes mediated by the horse which acts as a guiding
spirit to a mythological landscape. The “Glass Tepee” poems are
eclectic in theme and introduce the Native to the landscape in the form
of contact with white culture. The “Reservation Dogs” poems
excoriate the modern reality of government, which includes the Indian
Act and band politics. In these latter poems, the author characterizes
band chiefs as “hobby chiefs” and “rent-a-wreck chiefs.”
Attorneys who act as Indian experts are portrayed as “sly pens” with
“briefcases full of diamond words.” In his final poem, “Boogey Man
Is Gone,” Gottfriedson takes the view that Native peoples cannot
continue to blame white culture for every problem, since they have
appropriated from this culture.

The author’s poetry expresses a fundamental conundrum for Native
culture (and writers): that of incorporating what is often considered a
utopian past while appropriating or denouncing elements of white
culture. The poems, particularly the Horsechild poems, adopt a mythic
past but do not romanticize it. This image is counterbalanced by sharply
nuanced observations of contemporary Native life, particularly directed
at politics and innercity street life. Through his poetry Gottfriedson
offers the reader an empathetic if not critically grounded glimpse into
the contemporary and traditional Native perspective that is compelling
in its sensitivity, simplicity, and directness.

Citation

Gottfriedson, Garry., “Glass Tepee,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed May 28, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/10171.